• Passenger service on West Side Freight Line (30th St Branch)

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Port Jervis
Someone in another forum posted this interesting photo of a 10 car NYC EMU train running through the Bell Telephone complex at Bank & Washington Sts in 1934. It indicates that there still was passenger service AFTER the High Line was opened. I had no idea that this was even possible, as the 30th St terminal was demolished 3 years earlier. Can anyone shed some light on this? Was there still passenger service south of Spuytin Duyvil as late as the mid 30's? If so, where did it terminate?

http://westbeth.org/wordpress/wp-conten ... 4train.jpg
  by Tommy Meehan
That's a nice photo. I think I read a story about that train, either in the New York Times or New Yorker magazine. Written at the time, by someone who was on it. I think it was a New York Chamber of Commerce special train, run from Grand Central up the Hudson Division to Spuyten Duyvil, then down the West Side. Not sure if the third rail was already in between Spuyten Duyvil and W. 72nd Street but it definitely wasn't installed between W. 60th Street and W. 30th Street. Those tracks still ran down the middle of Eleventh Avenue and would do so until about 1937. A tri-motor unit took the train to St. John's Park, the southern terminal of the West Side Line.

At any rate, as the photo below shows, the track below 30th Street to St. John's Park was not electrified, so the MU cars couldn't have been running under their own power in any event. In fact I think this is the same train snapped moments ahead of the first photo. Note the same vehicles are parked along the curbs?

  by Noel Weaver
While trying to find an answer for another question here, I dug out the Electric Division employee timetable no. 38, dated September 24, 1933 and this particular timetable shows two scheduled passenger trains between Spuyten Duyvil and 30th Street stopping at Inwood, Fort Washington, 152nd Street and 130th Street. It showed a time at 60th Street but did not indicate it as a station stop. These two trains terminated and originated at 30th Street. Their home terminal appears to be 30th Street. These two round trips only operated between 30th Street and Spuyten Duyvil and made connections at Spuyten Duyvil (not necessarily good connections) for those passenger wishing to continue west. The same timetable showed several mail, express and milk trains on this line too.
Noel Weaver
  by Tommy Meehan
Very interesting that New York Central's West Side passenger train service was still running in September 1933. To my knowledge no one has ever been able to find the exact date the service was discontinued but 1933 had to be close to the end. I have seen comments by someone I consider pretty reliable that the trains were still listed in a June 1934 ETT as well. ETTs from 1939 do not show it.

The station area around the old 30th Street station was leveled during the mid-1930s in order to build the modern yard there as part of the West Side Improvements project. I think by 1933 the old stationhouse might've been gone but probably not the platform area. In the teens Central operated four or five trains each way between 30th Street and Spuyten Duyvil, but in December 1917, under federal control, the West Side passenger service was discontinued. It was reinstated at some point (the railroads were restored to private ownership on March 1, 1920) but I think only scheduling the two trains each way as Noel posted.

Below is a scan I made of a West Side 30th Street Branch schedule from a 1921 NYC ETT. It was listed in an Electric Division ETT for "information only" and is why none of the stations are listed, just the end points.


Passenger service south of 30th Street was once operated to a small terminal on Chambers Street (at Broadway I believe). However early on -- like in the 1850s -- the City of New York began to limit the service Central could run below 30th Street (it was actually the Hudson River RR back then) and at first it was limited to trains pulled by small dummy engines (shrouded 0-4-0s). By the Civil War era the service was operated separately and used horse cars. I'm not sure when it officially ended.
  by Tommy Meehan
I found several articles about the World War One interruption of the West Side local passenger service. All agreed the announcement was made on January 8, 1918 by federal officials (the railroads having come under USRA control in late December 1917). Pasted below is an article from the New York Evening Telegram. The trains were reinstated after the war. When was the 'final' final run in the 1930s? The search goes on! :-)


  by ExCon90
Tommy, thanks for posting -- that clipping is worth reading in its entirety. I like the lighthearted, sardonic tone: "the best passenger train which ran on the west side of Manhattan" -- "Exclusive it might have been, but there was seldom any undue crowding ... " And no byline; it reads as though it's somebody's regular column.
  by Tommy Meehan
You're welcome ExCon90, I was happy to have found it. I also liked the way it said, "the best passenger train which ran on the west side of Manhattan," taking pains NOT to add, "also the ONLY passenger train which ran on the west side!" Did you notice the phrase, "Good-bye Dolly?" Recall the hit Broadway play in the 1960s, "Hello Dolly?" Hmmm. :-)

Back in 1916-1917 when the City of New York and New York Central were trying to come to an agreement on how best to get the West Side tracks off Tenth and Eleventh Avenues and relocate them to a grade-separated right-of-way, one stipulation the city insisted on was the continuation of passenger train service, to which Central agreed. In principle anyway. There were various civic groups and west side politicians who were insisting Central should provide expanded passenger service on the west side. Luckily for the railroad, the City of New York never seemed too interested in that, and none of that was ever put into any of the agreements. Obviously when the final West Side Plan was agreed upon in 1929 the city accepted that the passenger service would not be continued.

I went over to the W. 72nd Street overpass in April 1991 on the first morning Amtrak began running on the West Side Line. I was too late to see the first train; I think I saw the third (and there were half a dozen other people there too). Then I went for a ride. When we emerged from Penn Station onto the old right-of-way above W. 34th Street I felt almost as if I was dreaming!