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Freight on Manhatten Island

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Freight on Manhatten Island
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, May 13, 2002 12:06 PM
Is there any Railway freight at all that gets onto Manhatten in New York City? I know of a few express boxes on Amtrak to Penn Station. I know the NYC used to be busy on the West side where Amtrck now runs. Is there any freight in Harlem?
Just wondering.
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Posted by eolafan on Tuesday, May 14, 2002 6:23 PM
Oh yes, there are definetly freight cars that get into Manhattan, some via Amtrak, some via ferry from Brooklyn and Queens. Some comes in on the old NYC (now NS) line on the west side of the Hudson, and some from New Jersey, but whatever the source, they are definetly getting onto the island (mostly on the west side of the island).
Eolafan (a.k.a. Jim)
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, May 14, 2002 7:34 PM
What kinds of freight goes there and terminates there.
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, May 25, 2002 8:45 PM
I don't believe any freight directly goes into Manhattan except by truck. No freight goes into Manhattan from the Penn Station tunnels except for express carried by Amtrak (and I believe Amtrak trains pick up their freight in Philadelphia) or over Amtrak's west side line, and the carfloat service connects Brooklyn and Port Elizabeth. The last RR freight came down the west side line to the New York Times plant on W 59 St, and when that closed, the Penn Central abandoned the line where it sat dormant until Amtrak revived it in the early ninties.
John Kelley, Manhattan, New York City
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, May 28, 2002 9:30 PM
To ammend my previous comment, I traveled on the NEC yesterday and Amtrak long-distance passenger trains do carry a small amount of express into Manhattan from the south, though I'n not sure if they get taken off in Manhattan or go to Sunnyside yard in Queens for unloading. If it's the former, it probably would be mail for the post office, though I don't know if they are still equipped to receive mail directly from the trains.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 10:21 PM
It would surprise me to find any "freight" as we railroad types understand the word, on Manhattan Island. There is not a place that comes to mind where freight cars might go. While Manhattan's West Side had lots of freight action many decades ago, that was to conventional ships, and all those ships are long since gone, replaced by container ships that go elsewhere in New York Harbor. The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens see freight train action.
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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, November 9, 2020 1:48 PM

I realize this is an old thread, very old, but I was wondering if it could be revived.  I suspect that there was once lots of rail freight moving to and from Manhatten.

In the early 1980s, I was at the "Fish Market" on the lower east side.  My friend and I were wandering around the neighborhood and I personally saw many old tracks in the street which appeared as though they had no been used in years.  Some areas had been paved over.  These did NOT look like streetcar tracks but like railroad tracks.

Obviously if they were they were not physically connected to the rest of the North American rail freight system.  Equipment must've arrived and left on barges.

Does anybody have any more information on this?

Regards,

Fred M. Cain,

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Posted by 54light15 on Monday, November 9, 2020 1:53 PM

From what I recall, the lower east side got freight cars by barge. I don't know of any connections to the upper west side. Rail cars by barge was huge in NYC. Did any other east coast ports like Boston, Norfolk or Philly have carfloat service? Just wondering. 

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Posted by MP173 on Monday, November 9, 2020 2:11 PM

Wow...this is an old thread.

Here is a question...I regularly see trash moving on CSX train Q635 with a drop off at Fostoria for final delivery south of Fostoria at a landfill.

Does this trash, which is usually 70-90 cars DAILY originate from New York City?  I seem to recall an article earlier this year which dealt with freight originating from the NYC area and trash was a regular commodity moved.  

Does all of that trash on Q635 originate in NYC area?

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Posted by chutton01 on Monday, November 9, 2020 3:00 PM

So of the new questions...
First, let's trot out a link to the Industrial, Offline Terminal Railroada & Marine Operations of...) which should answer many questions of the history (in rough terms for Manhattan freight railroading in the olden times, the main freight spine was the NYC West Side "high" line, which had freight yards around 30th and 65st, plus there was a number of small car-float yards all aound the lower waterfront of Manhattan served by PRR, CNJ, B&O and so on - peruse the link I posted above for more, lots more. By 1980 the highline was, well, mothballed by ConRail (and you know the rest of the history leading to that now "linear park").  Don't think there was any active street trackage down to street level from the NYC West Side line after the 1934 project was completed, certainly not south of 32nd or so.. I also don't believe freight trackage ever penetrated more than 2-3 blocks inland, although I would not be stunned if some wonky such line did exist.  The Javits convention center was built on the former site of the PRR 37th St freight station/maine transfer yard.

Philly & Baltimore had some very small scale marine transfer operations, but nowhere near the level of New York (Philadelphia had floating operations from Port Richmond to Camden, and I think from South Philly to Camden also) and Baltimore had marine operations around Fells Point, probably other areas as well.

Train trains do originate in NYC, some from Staten Island (Arlington), some from Fresh Meadows, and some from Long Island (not NYC). Should be containers for the MSW, gondola w/ coverings for C&D debris.

 

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Posted by Ulrich on Monday, November 9, 2020 5:02 PM

There was a car ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan but I'm not sure when that ended.. probably in the early 70s sometime. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, November 9, 2020 5:58 PM

chutton01
Don't think there was any active street trackage down to street level from the NYC West Side line after the 1934 project was completed, certainly not south of 32nd or so.. I also don't believe freight trackage ever penetrated more than 2-3 blocks inland

The high line replaced street level running on 10-11th Avenue but not right away.   I believe it lingered around until post World War II     So there was no real need to connect the high line to street level as New York Central had both until after World War II I believe.    Pictures from the era do show spurs from the street level lines heading off in one direction or another.

Additionally don't forget that Manhatten was also populated with EL trains at one point as well as a trolley line over the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

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Posted by samfp1943 on Monday, November 9, 2020 10:41 PM

Remember that in NYC and other East Coast Ciities...The Prr, NYC, and I think B&O, just after the turn of the 20th Century: they used a rubber tyred switching truck to move freight cars to customers who were on [paved tracks.  The Buckwalter was originally,(about 1910, or so?) a battery operated unit, that were later converted to gasoline powered switchers.

Here is a link to a site that has photos, and some history on the Buckwalter Units. @ http://prr.railfan.net/RubberTiredSwitchers.html

 

 

 


 

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 12:21 PM

chutton01

So of the new questions...
First, let's trot out a link to the Industrial, Offline Terminal Railroada & Marine Operations of...) which should answer many questions of the history (in rough terms for Manhattan freight railroading in the olden times, ....

<SNIP>

 

Thanks for the link to that fascinating site!  However, I couldn't find anything about rail freight dock railroads on the lower east side of Manhattan.

I distinctly recall seeing tracks in the street in the vicinity of the Fulton Fish Market in the 1980s.  I did some exploring on "Google Earth" (I no longer live in the Northeast) and couldn't find or see anything.  Much of the area has been redeveloped in the last 40 years and streets rebuilt or repaved.

I sent an e-mail to the author of that website and asked him about this.  We'll see if he responds.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 1:13 PM

There was plenty of freight to the Lower East Side before about 1908.  Looking at early pictures you will see some of the evidence.

However, the East River is relatively narrow and extremely tidal, so lighters coming from the Jersey yards (of which there were many, from Edgewater/NYS&W south past Weehawken) would have far less of a 'window' to dock there than on the West Side (IOW the Hudson/North River) where it is also tidal, but with so much volume that ferries and tugs can dock relatively easily.  There were a great many cross yards in that area, which I remember as a child being told was part of what the West Side Highway was intended to span over.  Much of the 'through' freight, though, was lightered across the Harbor to more direct routes, particularly Bay Ridge which well past the completion of the Hell Gate Bridge was still the 'primary' destination on maps of the New Haven's Harlem River Branch.  So basically only the freight that would go north on the West Side (and across Spuyten Duyvil to the NYC&HR north, or various connections east to go north) would be leaving Manhattan after arriving by carfloat there -- the rest would go more or less as the 'union' bridge would have carried them, or the B&O Narrows tunnel would have, through the NYC area to New England or other 'points east' including the Island.

I was never able to determine how much 'originating' freight traffic was carried across the lower Hudson from Manhattan to either SI or NJ.  Had to be a lot.  Once you had road trucks and the Holland Tunnel, of course, no rail lighter service either to street trackage or small yards could compete very well ... to Manhattan.  There were of course some facilities that held on (Jay Street in Brooklyn being famous for operating steam into the 1960s, IIRC, although I never got to see it) but I think most of the actual Manhattan traffic that needed quick 'in or out' (like A. Salmon Wholesale Meats, one of the model-railroad-humor names that was real) would be shipping via the West Side Line up the east bank of the Hudson, perhaps crossing at Poughkeepsie but more likely choosing east or west at the Castleton Cutoff or near Troy to the B&M.

One of the last of the 'rubber-tired switchers' (from the '60s order, with what I recall as a 4-cylinder Detroit and the large low-pressure 'tractor' tires) survived at least into the '70s, derelict near the Lackawanna Terminal.  I certainly hope it was preserved.  Interestingly, it had a New Jersey road-legal license plate...

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Posted by chutton01 on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 1:33 PM

Fred M Cain

 

I distinctly recall seeing tracks in the street in the vicinity of the Fulton Fish Market in the 1980s.  I did some exploring on "Google Earth" (I no longer live in the Northeast) and couldn't find or see anything.  Much of the area has been redeveloped in the last 40 years and streets rebuilt or repaved.

I sent an e-mail to the author of that website and asked him about this.  We'll see if he responds.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

 Hmm, fair enough. I was going to college in  NYC during the mid-1980s, and definitely roamed around that area some, although the seaport didn't have all that much interest for me at that time. Actually I was kinda more interested in that great hulking elevated rail structure way over on the west side of Mid-Town, which eventually I found out was the West Side Line (history was a bit harder to research pre-web period), and everyone and their grandfather had yet to try to model the highline.

Anyway, back to the Offine page, look at this section on Pier 21 - this was a pier station, car-floats loaded with boxcars in LCL service were moored and unloaded there, so no need to bring them ashore. Look at the first image of the pier station land-side looking East, right in front you can make out tracks embedded in the cobblestones (well, more Belgian blocks than anything else) running parallel to the front of the pier station. Definitely looks like tracks to me, not gutters or drain. Now, whether these tracks were used for freight (I don't think so, pier stations were just that) or whether they were say horse-car tracks or whatever other combination usage they could be, I cannot say.  It's a start, I guess. I don't recall seeing anything that would be considered freight tracks in that area, which would have been only a few years after you were there, but I do recall seeing a few instances of buried streetcar trackage sticking out of the well worn pavement even then.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 1:46 PM

Hint: Look up New York Central Shays.  

Slaughter on 10th Avenue (as opposed to 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue'.  Eleventh aka Death Avenue.

https://www.livinthehighline.com/the-original-urban-cowboy/

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 3:45 PM

I've seen pictures of steam locomotives sheathed like a boxcar so as not to spook the horses.  You can see one or two in the film.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 7:40 AM

chutton01
 

Hmm, fair enough. I was going to college in  NYC during the mid-1980s, and definitely roamed around that area some... <snip> 


Anyway, back to the Offine page, look at this section on Pier 21 - this was a pier station, car-floats loaded with boxcars in LCL service were moored and unloaded there, so no need to bring them ashore. Look at the first image of the pier station land-side looking East, right in front you can make out tracks embedded in the cobblestones (well, more Belgian blocks than anything else) running parallel to the front of the pier station. Definitely looks like tracks to me, not gutters or drain. Now, whether these tracks were used for freight (I don't think so, pier stations were just that) or whether they were say horse-car tracks or whatever other combination usage they could be, I cannot say.  It's a start, I guess. I don't recall seeing anything that would be considered freight tracks in that area, which would have been only a few years after you were there, but I do recall seeing a few instances of buried streetcar trackage sticking out of the well worn pavement even then.

 
Thanks for your response.  Another gentleman that I contacted off list who is an expert on industrial and waterfront railroads in the New York City area also suspects that what we saw were streetcar tracks. 
 
What puzzles me, though, is that they appeared to me to  be railroad tracks.  Streetcar tracks look different from railroad tracks.  RR tracks tend to have heavier rails.  Streetcar tracks also tended to use “grooved” or “girder” rails (but not always).
 
I found an interesting picture of the area that was taken about 80 years before I saw the tracks clearly showing a track running down the middle of the street:
 
 
You’ll notice that there are no overhead wires evident so that proves that the track had to be either railroad or horsecar.  By zooming in, I’d expect a groove to be worn between the rails from the horse shoes.  I can’t see that, however.  So, I wonder.
 
What really has me the most puzzled is I thought I remembered an article either in TRAINS Magazine or some other magazine an number of years ago that described just such an operation.  But my memory is far from perfect.  Perhaps the operation I recall reading about was actually on the West Side, not the East
 
Side.
Regards,
Fred M. Cain
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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 8:10 AM

All Class I Railroads serving the New York City Area except the LIRR itself (PRR freight huses sufficed) and the NYNH&H and the O&W had Manhattasn freight houses connected their system via car-float barges to piers in New Jersey or, for the B&O, Staten Island.  This included the PRR. The Central had both car-float to Weehawken and its own ex-NY&HR West Side Freight Line.  And eventually the modern St. John's Park Freighthouse.

Some loaded and unloaded on the barges; others did have tracks, including tracks in the street, and one or two switchers stationed and were very early applications of oil-products for freight railroad power.

The NYNH&H's Oak Point The Bronx facility served its Manhatttan needs, and I believe CSX uses it to some extent today, reached by a recent connection to the Hudson River, now Metro North line.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 9:44 AM
Dave,
 
Thanks so much for your response and the information.  The one-time existence of waterfront freight railroads on the West Side has been reasonably well documented as the Brooklyn waterfront rail systems also have been.
 
I guess prior to around 1960 or so there was a complicated and intricate spider web of tracks on the West Side that were connected by barges to New Jersey.
However, what I am wondering, was there a similar albeit much smaller rail freight switching operation on the East Side in the vicinity of the South Street Seaport? 
 
I’m thinking that perhaps there was but am no longer sure.
I am finding some anecdotal evidence of this but no hard, cold facts.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by timz on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 10:18 AM

The track in your South St pic doesn't look standard gauge.

Freight cars on barges went to East River piers in Manhattan, but I doubt the cars ever got off the barges. Were there any floatbridges anywhere along the east side of Manhattan?

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Posted by Convicted One on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 11:27 AM

Fred M Cain
Obviously if they were they were not physically connected to the rest of the North American rail freight system.  Equipment must've arrived and left on barges. Does anybody have any more information on this?

If you look at the 1919  Sanborns for the area, you see freight piers for the New Haven, the NYC,  the B&O,  and even Central of Vermont,...all along South Street.

From the Library of Congress start here at page 97 out of  106,  and work your way up using the little page selector widget in the upper left.  Be sure to use the zoom controls as well, so you'll be able to read it all.

page 97 features the Fulton Fish Market, which I guess is the one you went to?

https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3804nm.g3804nm_g06116190501/?sp=97

 

I'm guessing, but with limited shelf space at the pier, the freight company must have sent a telegram or similar to the recipient notifying them that their freight had come in?

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Posted by Backshop on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 11:40 AM

Morning Sun books has a couple of really good volumes on the NYC harbor railroads.

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Posted by chutton01 on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 12:06 PM

timz
Freight cars on barges went to East River piers in Manhattan, but I doubt the cars ever got off the barges. Were there any liftbridges anywhere along the east side of Manhattan?

According to the Marine and Offine Termina; site I keep refererncing, almost everything along the East River was a pier station with no transfer bridges, just piers to dock the barges to...except for one "Bar-Bet question" special, the float bridge at the IND 207th St. subway yard
When you peruse that terminal website you realize just how many danged float bridges and transfer yards were around NY Harbor back in the day, tucked in all around the place. Now pretty much all gone except Greenville yard in Jersey City and 65th St. in Brooklyn (and I guess 50th in Brooklyn as well, although after Sandy they salvaged the good bridge from that yard to use at Greenville), mostly replaced by waterfront tower blocks and offices. 
Hmm, with the continuing drop in NYC population and the work-from-home outlook reducing the need for office space, maybe we can reconvert some of those conversion back to cheap storage space and warehousing - CSX rides again on the High Line! (not intended to be a factual statement...or is it?)

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 12:24 PM

Chutton,

In my own personal, honest & humble opinion, I think the abandonment of these older systems was a darn shame.  Look at what we've got now? Too many big trucks on the road!  It's gotten to the point that I dread traveling anywhere over an busy Interstate highway.  The loose boxcar/delivery system seems more attractive from today's standpoint.

I'm afraid what might have happened was that in today's super fast-paced world, that older kind of a system was just too slow.  A lone boxcar of widgets might have taken a week or more to get from a shipper's dock in the Midwest to the receiver's dock in Manhattan.  Today a trucker can probably do that in 20 hours or less.

Of course, rail freight rates were lower than truck (sometimes much lower) but time is money, too, I'm afraid.

It'd be swell to have it all back again.  Perhaps that can be done with the use of some kind of newfangled, high tech rail car delivery system.  Not in my lifetime, though.  I guess I'll have to just live with the trucks.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 2:41 PM

Go back in time far enough and you will find a number of locations where freightcars did leave the barges for tracks on Manhattan Island.

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Posted by chutton01 on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 4:13 PM

daveklepper

Go back in time far enough and you will find a number of locations where freightcars did leave the barges for tracks on Manhattan Island. 

You don't have to go that far back Dave, the PRR (well, PC) floated cars to their 37th St West Side yard till 1970, the EL floated to their 28th St. yard till 1971 or so. the LV to the 27th St. yard till the mid-1960s, and the B&O floated cars to their 26th St. yard till 1973 or so.  Yes, for Zoomers that's ancient history for for us Gen-X, its within our lifetimes.

What's kind of interesting is that several buildings like the Starret Leigh building and the erstwhile Liggett Building, which used to recieve LCL freight via trackage entering the buildings, still stand today, although repurposed of course.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 4:19 PM

In the book Where Rails Meet the Sea there is a Port Authority 1949 map showing the following docks/car load & LCL delivery along the East River on the lower east side: DL&W just north of the Brooklyn Bridge; NYC/NYO&W just north of the Manhattan Bridge; and CV(?) midway betwen the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge.

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Posted by chutton01 on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 4:37 PM

MidlandMike

CV midway betwen the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. 

The Offline Marine site concurs that the Central Vermont (Zounds!) did in fact use facilities at Pier 29 (Market Slip). Now what exactly they handled there and how they did it Phillip didn't say (nor did he have images), but I'm reasonably certain they weren't sending car-floats down the Connecticut river...wait, this is old school NY Marine operations, they might well have been sending floats down the river...

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