West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

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West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby The Tenth Legion » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:34 pm

Can anybody elaborate on the operations of the High Line in Manhattan from the 1968 formation of Penn Central, to the 1976 formation of Conrail to the last run in 1980? During that time period, how often was the line serviced, usual motive power, what made up the last train out, etc. Thanks.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby NellieBly » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:32 am

At one time, New York Central used to originate a mail train (with E units) from the Post Office on the west side of Manhattan. A friend of mine rode it (I think early in the Penn Central era), but it disappeared shortly thereafter when the Post Office took mail off trains.

Other than that, there was local freight service only. Photos I have seen show a single hood unit (usually a GP9 or something similar) peddling a few cars. Freight traffic gradually dwindled to nothing as condos and apartments replaced the warehouses and factories in the Meatpacking District and farther south. St. John's freight terminal in Greenwich Village was demolished in 1968 or shortly thereafter, and several blocks of the lower end of the "High Line" as well.

When I was working in New York in the early 1980s, I and a friend walked part of the West Side Line north of 42nd Street, where it is briefly at grade and then in an open cut for a few blocks. It was clearly out of service even then (1983).

As a child I recall driving into New York City from Westchester with my family, and looking at the West Side Line from the West Side Highway. This would have been the early 1960s, and the long ties that had formerly supported third rail were still clearly visible (although the third rail had been gone for a decade or so at that point). I later saw the "R" moters that had been bought by NYC to work the West Side Line (among other places) working on local freight on the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend. I believe the third rail went only to 34th Street, however. The lower end of the line was always worked with steam or diesel.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Sir Ray » Wed Jul 01, 2009 1:23 pm

NellieBly wrote: St. John's freight terminal in Greenwich Village was demolished in 1968 or shortly thereafter, and several blocks of the lower end of the "High Line" as well.

Hold on there - while several blocks of the south end of the High Line were indeed removed over the years, St. John's freight terminal is still there, in fairly good shape - you can see it on LiveLocal (or is that Bing?), and I posted to it's image in another thread...somewhere. The 2nd floor rail access entries were blocked off of course, but the terminal still looks roughly the way it did in several NYC photos from the period (including the one from that NYC Phamplet online introducing the High Line/West Side improvements)

When I was working in New York in the early 1980s, I and a friend walked part of the West Side Line north of 42nd Street, where it is briefly at grade and then in an open cut for a few blocks. It was clearly out of service even then (1983)
I think the Highline itself was last used for Freight in 1980 (hence the title of this Thread), and so that portion of the line north of Penn (34th St, say) was probably out of service (since the float yards were inactive then) - however, Amtrak's west side connection (Empire Connection) would restore service (albiet Passenger) in the early 1990s...
Hmm, the wiki article seems to indicate that some freight service continued north of Penn into the 1980s...but to who?
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby NellieBly » Wed Jul 01, 2009 1:41 pm

Sorry, I knew a few blocks of the High Line had been demolished, and I assumed that included the St. John's Park freight terminal as well.

As for the north end of the line, Conrail sent a switcher down from somewhere (probably Croton North Yard) across Spuyten Duyvil Creek and down the West Side Line to serve whatever traffic remained until 1980. I believe there were still a few customers south of 34th Street. Not sure if anyone was left around 72nd Street Yard.

As a point of interest, when the Penn Central merger was being planned in the 1960s, the construction of a link from the West Side Line to Penn Station was planned as part of the merger, so that PC could get out of Grand Central Terminal and turn it over to the state for commuter rail use. But passenger service declined even faster than expected, and PC of course was short of capital, so the work was never done until Amtrak did it in (IIRC) 1991.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Sir Ray » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:39 pm

Here's one view of the north side of St. John's Terminal from back in the day (you may recogonize the image hosting site :P ), and one 'contemporary' (give or take a year or two) view from bing
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Otto Vondrak » Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:29 pm

I have heard two stories, one that the last movement on the West Side Line was a delivery of newsprint for the New York Times, another was a carload of frozen turkeys... either took place in 1980.

When did 72nd Street Yard close as a crew reporting point?

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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Noel Weaver » Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:55 pm

Otto Vondrak wrote:I have heard two stories, one that the last movement on the West Side Line was a delivery of newsprint for the New York Times, another was a carload of frozen turkeys... either took place in 1980.

When did 72nd Street Yard close as a crew reporting point?

-otto-


I heard that the New York Times was the last customer on the line. I can't tell you just when 72nd Street was finally closed
as a yard and when that happened, they would send a job out of Oak Point over there with the cars from time to time.
GWK might be able to help you out on this one.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby SooLineRob » Fri Jul 03, 2009 3:26 pm

Otto Vondrak wrote:When did 72nd Street Yard close as a crew reporting point?


While not a concrete answer ... this gets pretty close.

Looking through Conrail freight schedules:

72nd Street was noted as having 2 assignments, on duty 07:55 (old KD-1/WVNY-1, off Sunday) and 20:00 (old KD-2/WVNY-2, off Friday), reporting for duty in July 1981.

As of September 1981, 2 assignments reported for duty at Oak Point (WVOP-3, on duty 09:30, off Sunday; WVOP-4, 21:00, off Friday) with working limits which included 72nd Street-Tarrytown and return to Oak Point.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jul 03, 2009 4:00 pm

SooLineRob wrote:
Otto Vondrak wrote:When did 72nd Street Yard close as a crew reporting point?


While not a concrete answer ... this gets pretty close.

Looking through Conrail freight schedules:

72nd Street was noted as having 2 assignments, on duty 07:55 (old KD-1/WVNY-1, off Sunday) and 20:00 (old KD-2/WVNY-2, off Friday), reporting for duty in July 1981.

As of September 1981, 2 assignments reported for duty at Oak Point (WVOP-3, on duty 09:30, off Sunday; WVOP-4, 21:00, off Friday) with working limits which included 72nd Street-Tarrytown and return to Oak Point.


This sounds very reasonable to me. I know the bridge at DV wasn't taken out of service immediately after the service
ended.
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Re: West Side Freight, 1968-1980

Postby timz » Fri Jul 03, 2009 4:43 pm

That single-track connection from ground level up to the High Line at 33rd St-- that was built to make room for Javits north of 34th St, but service ended before it was ever used?
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Allen Hazen » Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:44 am

I railfanned the south and north ends of Riverside Park a bit in the late 1970s. As I recall there was still often a switcher (black) parked at about 71st street, near the derelict carfloat pier. And the daily freight didn't ALWAYS have a GP-9: I remember (in what was probably late Spring or Summer of 1977) seeing the northbound (late afternoon/early evening) where it emerged from the tunnel under the park (a bit south of 125th street) with a Conrail blue U25B.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby FL9711 » Sat Jul 04, 2009 10:11 pm

When were the track taken up at the 72nd street yard? Also does anyone have pictures of the Hight Line/72nd street yard between 1968-1990.

Thanks
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Otto Vondrak » Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:30 pm

Here's an infamous photo that has made the rounds:

http://railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=171855

Here's the site of 30th Street Yard as used by the LIRR...

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=151854

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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby The Tenth Legion » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:36 am

With regard to that head-on collision, what were the circumstances? Were there fatalities? Were the locomotives involved scrapped? Thanks.
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Re: West Side Freight Line Operations, 1968-1980

Postby Allen Hazen » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:19 pm

W.r.t. the "infamous photo": looks like about 140th street, not far from where there is now a footbridge to a small park on the roof of a Sanitation Dept facility on a pier. Don't remember hearing about that wreck: given the involvement of a GP35, it was no earlier than 1964.

W.r.t. the photo of the 30th street yard: the building at the "handle" of the "fan" of tracks with the odd profile (inward slope probably an effort to game the New York City zoning regulations, which at one point specified a percentage of sunlight that could be blocked by any new building) is an apartment building. The other side faces the "light well" where Westbound trains leaving Penn Station briefly experience daylight before plunging into the tunnel under the Hudson. I've long thought it would be an ideal place for a railfan to live in Manhattan!
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