Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

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Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby zablocki22 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:56 pm

Greetings,

Was the last commuter train on the New York Central's West Shore Line (River Line) on January 31,1959?

If so, did it have a stop at Blauvelt, NY?

If not, does anyone know when the last train stopping at Blauvelt was?

Thank you for any responses,

Vincent Zablocki in Dumont, NJ
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:27 am

The last regularly scheduled passenger trains on the West Shore were discontinued on or about December 11, 1959. I do not have anything from the railroad on this but I do have the newspaper clipping. At the end there were 11 round trips between Weehawken and West Haverstraw. The ferries came off earlier and there was no connection at Weehawken except for bus service. All 11 of them stopped at Blauvelt at that time.
The last employee timetable showing passenger service was no. 5, dated April 26, 1959. Supplement 1, dated October 26, 1959 covered the last runs later that fall.
The last passenger trains west of West Haverstraw came off effective effective June 30, 1958 when supplement 1 of timetable no. 3 took effect.
The ferries came off sometime between October26, 1958 and April 26, 1959 as per the timetables.
When I worked this line in the 70's and early 80's there were still a number of people who worked the passenger trains and they provided me with much information on how it was operated.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby scottychaos » Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:25 am

Why *was* commuter service dropped on the west bank of the Hudson?
it seems there must be a ton of people living in those areas who could use a train to the city..

did NYC want to make the West Shore "freight only" and they got their way?
there must have been a lot of unhappy commuters in 1959! ;)

Today of course its probably no longer an issue..because if people require commuter service, they will simply buy a house where the trains run.
but it seems an odd decision back in the day..
or was it really a "light commuter" zone back then? not a lot of customers?
anyone know the story?

Scot

*edit*..
ok..looking at maps, I guess the "pascack valley line" isnt that far away! ;)
I was thinking it was 10-15 miles from the river! its actually only about 5 miles away..
So I guess "river bank" commuters wouldnt have been that inconvienced afterall..

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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:25 pm

I think there were several reasons why passenger trains came off the West Shore rather early. One was the horrible tax structure in the State of New Jersey when it came to railroads in the 50's. It was once said that there was not one railroad that made a profit on their operations in New Jersey during that period.
Commuter service on the West Shore never had the volume that the service had on say the Harlem and Hudson of the 50's and there was big time competeting bus operations everywhere there too. The ferry operation required a change at Weehawken and a loss of time sometimes as well. Often the bus could make the trip as fast and as comfortable and a direct connection with other bus lines and subways in Manhattan.
The ferry service was very expensive to operate, labor intensive, old boats that required a lot of tender loving care just to keep them operating and old terminals that were expensive to operate and heavily taxed in both New Jersey and New York City as well.
There was still rail passenger service not too far from the West Shore both to the east and the west at that time, some of that service is still available today.
Finally the need to maintain much trackage for the benefit of the rush hour service, stations and other facilities all of which contributed to the loss.
All of the railroads in New Jersey faced the same problems when it came to their commuter operations, the big difference was that the New York Central in 1959 had only one line and was very early in the process when it came to doing something about it.
New Jersey finally woke up concerning their ridiculous tax policies regarding their railroads but by the time they did, it was too late to save the West Shore and it cost the state an absolute fortune to save the rest of the service and they paid big time for their earlier policies.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby ExCon90 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 4:46 pm

As to the last date for the ferries, I can narrow down the time frame a little. I first started working in Manhattan in January 1959, and I rode the ferry from Cortlandt St. to Weehawken on the last day (not necessarily the last boat). I boarded the first one I could get after leaving the office at 5, and it was still daylight at Weehawken, and the weather was rather balmy, as I remember, so it would have had to be March or April; maybe the service ran right up to the April 26 time change, but it was definitely in 1959.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:10 pm

This sounds very reasonable to me. I remember one of the conductors whom I worked with in through freight there in the mid 70's saying that the railroad kept the ferries ready for immediate use the next day if a glitch occurred in their discontinuence but of course that did not happen.
Once the ferries came off it cut the heart out of the trains, what was a relatively easy and short ferry ride to Manhattan became a long bus ride through traffic and the Lincoln Tunnel.
If only New Jersey had realized the importance of commuter trains in the 50's like they finally did some years later, maybe this service could have been saved.
I think the "wake up call" for New Jersey finally came when the Erie Lackawanna made some big cuts in commuter service in 1965 or so.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:29 am

Per press reports, the end of West Shore ferry service was on Tuesday March 24, 1959. This was a result of the ICC ruling the service could be discontinued under provisions of the Transportation Act of 1958. The US Supreme Court upheld the decision after New Jersey challenged the Transportation Act as unconstitutional.

Stony Point was said to be the last ferry on the rush hour only downtown route, departing the Cortlandt Street boathouse at 5:35 PM with an estimated 500 riders. Utica made the last trip from 42d Street (this was a 24/7 service carrying probably as many or more non-railroad passengers as West Shore riders) just before midnight, with about 70 news reporters and railfans greatly outnumbering revenue riders. At Weehawken the fans and the media hurriedly boarded the Weehawken (I believe Central briefly held the boat so fans and the reporters could get back to New York) for the very last ferry run, eastbound to 42nd Street..
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Otto Vondrak » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:26 am

Las timetable issued for River Division commuter trains was October 25, 1959. There was a stop at Blauvelt, 11 trains in both directions daily, except Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Otto Vondrak » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:40 am

The cross Hudson ferry service to Weehawken was shut down on March 24, 1959. The last train was December 10, 1959.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby goodnightjohnwayne » Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:53 pm

I don't think there were too many commuters left to inconvenience. I can't find the scanned articles online anymore, but by the end of operations, daily passenger total were in the hundreds.

In any case, the ferrys in question seem to have been turn-of-the-century relics by the end of service. I'm not sure about the rate at which the car float business declined, but by 1959 the New York Central must have been eager to get out of the tugboat and ferry business. The construction of Selkirk Yard came later, although the trends that lead to its building were very evident.

Noel Weaver wrote:If only New Jersey had realized the importance of commuter trains in the 50's like they finally did some years later, maybe this service could have been saved.
I think the "wake up call" for New Jersey finally came when the Erie Lackawanna made some big cuts in commuter service in 1965 or so.
Noel Weaver


I'm inclined to say that the West Shore commuter service needed to go one way or another. The current status quo, with the West Shore as a freight line and the East Shore devoted almost entirely to passenger service, makes sense both in terms of population demographics and practical considerations.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sun Jan 16, 2011 8:26 pm

ExCon90 wrote:I boarded the first one I could get after leaving the office at 5, and it was still daylight at Weehawken, and the weather was rather balmy...


I have a New York Times story from the day after the end of Central ferry service which includes a muddy photo of the last boat leaving Cortlandt Street. The story mentioned it was a very mild early spring day. Many of the male passengers removed their suit jackets.

Btw, in a statement released to the press, Central said on the last morning the ferries ran a conductors' head count showed some 3700 passengers had boarded eastbound trains. The following day -- with no ferry -- the morning head count was 529.

This press release was carried by the New York Times and was the basis for a story. A day or two later an anonymous Central employee sent the Times the head count as turned in by crews to the stationmaster at Weehawken. It was about 1,000 riders higher. This tended to lend credence to West Shore riders who claimed that the railroad had consistently fudged the numbers on actual ridership.

At any rate, by the end of summer '59 ridership on the West Shore trains was barely a hundred riders a day. New York and New Jersey had no choice but to allow the train service to be discontinued.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby zablocki22 » Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:37 pm

Thank you for all information on this question I had.

Mr.Otto Vondrak provided me with info from this same post that I put on the 'New York State Railfan' page that the last trains ran on December 10, 1959.

Thank you again,

Vincent Zablocki
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Otto Vondrak » Mon Jan 17, 2011 3:02 pm

When the ferry was running, passenger counts were 5,000. With no ferry connection, the numbers dropped to about 200 daily riders in six months. NJPSC "ordered" NYC to build a connection to begin service to either Exchange Place or Hoboken that would afford passengers a connection to the H&M (later PATH). Of course, the NJPSC order had no weight as only a ruling from the ICC would have made the NYC take action. NJ finally offered a subsidy program to keep the trains running, but it was too little, too late, and NYC was glad to be rid of the service...

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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby njmidland » Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:19 pm

Otto:

On the locked thread on the New York Forum you stated the last timetable was dated October 29, 1959. I have one dated October 25, 1959. Were you mistaken on the date or did they issue a revised timetable 4 days later? EL had two 14 days apart in 1969, revising it to add the "Petition to Discontinue" notice.
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Re: Last NYC commuter train on the River Line (West Shore)

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:14 am

The last employee timetable to show passenger service on the River Division was the supplement no. 1 dated October 25, 1959 to timetable no. 5 which was dated April 25, 1959.
My inventory also shows a public timetable for this line dated October 25, 1959 so I would have to assume that October 25th represented the last timetabe date for passenger operations.
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