• West Side Freight Line/St. John's Terminal

  • 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 railfan365
Back when the High Line was a working railroad, was there any turn around provision at St. John's Terminal? If not, and after the line was cut off at Bank street, did they change directions by double ending the trains or did they just run the engine(s) around each train? Thanks.
  by Tommy Meehan
The tracks in the new elevated St. John's Park Terminal were stub-ended (and used mostly for LCL). Below is an old NYC photo taken in 1934 when the terminal was about to open.


I think by the time the line was cut back to Bank Street in the 1960s (a 1962 NYC ETT I have shows the end-of-track was already Bank Street) I think train service was very sporadic. I don't know how they turned locomotives (they were all bi-directional) but they may have just shoved south when they had a load for a consignee with a facing point siding switch. If it was a trailing point switch they could've gone engine-first. Back in the 1960s operating a drill with an engine on each end was pretty rare.

Bank Street is where the line went "through" the Bell Labs building and from photos it appears to be double-track. It was also within yard limits.

Btw, when it was a working railroad line it was known as the 30th Street Branch or the West Side Freight Line. I never heard the name High Line until the preservation effort began. None of the former New York Central employees I've asked ever heard it called that either.
  by railfan365
Interesting bit of insight.

Meanwhile, it's a shame that the use of such a cleverly contrived urban line trailed off so badly.
  by Jeff Smith
Google's new NYC HQ: dezeen.com
Google opens New York headquarters built on renovated 1930s train terminal

Google has opened a building serving its North American operations in New York City that is housed in a 1930s rail terminal restored and adapted by architecture studios CookFox Architects and Gensler.
Design architects on the project CookFox Architects adapted a 1930s railway terminal called St John's Terminal, which served as an end-point to the rail line that is now the High Line, to create the office building. The studio added nine floors on top of the restored original three floors.

CookFox Architects also sliced away part of the old terminal south of Houston Street, which runs parallel to the new entrance, exposing the building's structure.
"We cut the historic structure south of Houston Street, removing a dark tunnel and restoring the pedestrian connection between the Hudson Square neighbourhood and the westside waterfront," said CookFox Architects. "This strategic slicing exposes the rail beds and reveals the terminal's history to the public."

The building's original rail beds were left exposed on the facade and then covered in plantings, creating a linear overhang at its entrance.
  by Jeff Smith
And, under things I did not know, there was a previous St. John's freight terminal, when the West Side line had not yet been grade-separated:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John% ... t_terminal
Immediately after acquiring the property, Vanderbilt put up a one-story train shed as a temporary measure[27] to terminate the new West Side Line, but soon, in 1867, construction of a state-of-the art 4-acre (1.6-hectare), $2 million "St. John's Park Freight Depot"[5] began when 200 trees were cut down in the square.[12][28] The three-story red brick terminal, designed by John Butler Snook with Romanesque details,[27][29] featured a bronze statue of Vanderbilt, which diarist George Templeton Strong called "bestial", on a 150-foot pediment.[30] The pediment, unveiled in November 1869, depicted various components of Vanderbilt's life, including his steamships and trains.[31] It was moved to Grand Central Terminal in 1929.[32]

The fireproof terminal, which could accommodate 96 cars on 8 tracks and was an important shipping point for goods heading west, employed 30 office clerks, and as many as 300 laborers who dealt with up to 140 cars that might pass through in a week. There were two platforms for the transfer of goods, and the top two stories of the terminal were the Frederick C. Linde warehouse, for both general and cold storage. The terminal was well sited to handle dry goods and groceries from wholesale merchants in the surrounding area. The line of carts waiting to load or offload backed up West Broadway to Canal Street, and was present around the clock.[27]

The advent of the terminal transformed the lower West Side into a hodgepodge of "bonded and general storage warehouses",[33] stockyards, abattoirs, grain depots, and stables where cattle, sheep and hogs were bought, sold, slaughtered and shipped.[30] This transition started even before the terminal was constructed – in 1866 the American Express Company Stable was built at 4-8 Hubert Street – but picked up in speed once the depot was in operation.[33] The redevelopment of the area, predicted by the Times in 1867, did not occur, possibly due to the economic depression of the city in the 1870s. By 1893, a reporter wrote that the terminal had "crushed the region utterly, so far as its fitness to be an abiding place of polite society was concerned." She reported that the local population was largely "longshoreman, laborers and teamsters" of Italian and German descent, living in mansions turned into tenements, some of which had as many as 800 residents.[34]

The name "St. John's Freight Terminal"[35] was retained when the New York Central Railroad, successor to the Hudson River Railroad, built a new terminal at 550 Washington Street when it raised its tracks above street level[5] to alleviate the problem of the numerous accidents caused by the combination of trains, traffic and pedestrians. The new depot – which opened in 1934 – served as the terminus of the elevated High Line.[36]
  by Jeff Smith
"New" terminal now owned by Google: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John%27s_Terminal
Rail terminal
St. John's Terminal was built by the New York Central Railroad as the southern terminus to the High Line, an elevated segment of the West Side Line on the west side of Manhattan. Prior to the development of the High Line, the West Side Line terminated at a ground-level structure at St. John's Park.[2] By the early 20th century, there were frequent collisions along the street-level route,[3] leading the New York Transit Commission to order in January 1929 that all grade crossings on the West Side Line be removed.[4] The street-level route was to be replaced with a viaduct as part of the West Side Improvement Project, which the Interstate Commerce Commission approved in December 1929.[5][6]

By early 1930, the NYCR was acquiring land for the elevated Spring Street freight terminal, which would replace the old ground-level St. John's Park terminal.[7] Plans for the new terminal were announced that July. The building was to measure 1,250 feet (380 m) long between Clarkson Street to the north and Spring Street to the south, and it would have an average width of 250 feet (76 m) between West Street to the west and Washington Street to the east. The terminal would replace eighty-eight existing tenements, which were already being demolished. Though plans for the above-ground section of the terminal had not been finalized, it was expected to be either four or seven stories tall based on subsurface conditions.[8][9] Preliminary designs for a 12-story structure, designed by Edward A. Doughtery, were filed with the New York City Department of Buildings in March 1931.[10][11] According to a later New York Times article, there were plans for the building to be 17 stories tall.[12] By that November, the site had largely been cleared.[13]

The NYCR had hoped to rent out the space on the higher floors for commercial purposes.[12] The structure would have contained 3.6 million square feet (330,000 m2) had it been built to that size. The plans called for tracks on the second floor, capable of accommodating 190 railcars, as well as loading docks at ground level. The work entailed closing off King, Charlton, and Spring Streets and a bridge over Houston Street.[14] In February 1932, the NYCR requested a $7.5 million loan to fund the West Side Improvement, including the new freight depot. Initially, $10 million would be spent to build a portion of the terminal to meet "current needs".[15] That November, revised plans were filed for a three-story building with a projected cost of $2.5 million. According to a contemporary New York Times article, the reduction of size was due to cost, as the original structure would have $12.5 million.[16] However, a later Times article cited opposition from brokers as a reason for reducing the building's height. The building would serve only the NYCR's own direct purposes as a rail terminal; the structure had pilings capable of handling a larger building should the situation change.[12]

The Spring Street Terminal and the elevated rail viaduct were dedicated on June 29, 1934, with ceremonies at the terminal building.[17][18] With the opening of the new terminal, the NYCR filed plans to abandon the nearby Franklin Street station, which was being used to make local deliveries.[19] The terminal quickly became known as St. John's Park Terminal because the old terminal had been so well known.[20] The building was noted for its unusually large floor areas compared to other Manhattan buildings, where properties are usually subdivided more narrowly.[21] The floors, measuring 205,000 square feet (19,000 m2) each, were the largest in New York City at the time of their construction. Each story could accommodate a load of 300 pounds per square foot (14 kPa).[22] The terminal itself was large enough to accommodate 227 train cars.[23][24] The third floor was leased in 1937 to the Borden Company, which used that space as a warehouse for refrigeration equipment.[25][26]
  by Jeff Smith
Another article: FastCompany.com
Google repurposed a 1930s train station for its fancy, new office

Since 1934, the train station St. John’s Terminal helped shape New York City as we recognize it today. Presently situated at the end of the High Line, which was then an operational elevated freight line, St. John’s was a hub for large deliveries of building materials—a pivotal resource during one of the city’s most defining construction booms. It has been more than 60 years since the train station was decommissioned, but the building is getting a new lease on life as Google’s New York headquarters.
Local architecture studio COOKFOX handled the core and shell of the new St. John’s, while the San Francisco-based firm Gensler designed the space’s interior. COOKFOX joined the project more than a decade ago, before Google had even entered the picture. Beyond revitalizing St. John’s, COOKFOX also worked with the developers Atlas Capital and Westbrook Partners to restore the nearby Pier 40—one of the most popular areas for exercise and play in Lower Manhattan—and improve access to the Hudson River Park. To do so, they sliced away part of the original St. John’s that blocked views of the river and sky, revealing elevated track lines on the building’s facade where loads of cargo were once delivered. Now, COOKFOX’s founding partner Rick Cook says St. John’s feels much more in sync with the nature and community surrounding it.

“We thought that we could restore the three story St. John’s Terminal building, expose the rail beds, connect people to the history of the place, and at the exact same time, connect people to nature,” Cook says.
  by BR&P
Now to dress it up with a stuffed-and-mounted old NYC switcher and wooden caboose on display. :-D
  by AllenPHazen
There at least used to be (I couldn't find it the last time I was in New York) a "stuffed and mounted" NYCRR switcher (an Alco S1? S2? S4?) in the former 72nd Street yard, at about 70th Street, a hundred feet or so from the Hudson River and closer than that to the Amtrak line.
  by BR&P
AllenPHazen wrote:There at least used to be (I couldn't find it the last time I was in New York) a "stuffed and mounted" NYCRR switcher (an Alco S1? S2? S4?) in the former 72nd Street yard, at about 70th Street, a hundred feet or so from the Hudson River and closer than that to the Amtrak line.
I had forgotten about that but recall something of the sort. IIRC that one was not originally NYC, but painted to look the part? That would sure be acceptable.
  by bostontrainguy
Does anyone know the clearance or plate for the West Side Freight Line?