Trains.com

Freight on Manhatten Island

5626 views
59 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 6:22 PM

The map symbol said car load.  Maybe they were handled by NH via New London.

  • Member since
    December 2008
  • From: Toronto, Canada
  • 2,280 posts
Posted by 54light15 on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 7:32 PM

there is a movie called 'The Brain" from 1969 which is based on the infamous Ronnie Biggs Great Train Robbery. Near the end, David Niven and crew are leaning over the rail of the SS France in New York harbour and look at an Erie-Lackawanna baggage car on a barge, plotting to rob it. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 18,280 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, November 12, 2020 3:34 AM

While under CN wnership, CV had a New London - New York City coastal  ship operation, with freight transferred between freightcars of all types and the ship transfer to and from New York City.

And CN had a complimentary shipping operation between Vancouver and LA, Long Beach, Oakland, SF, and San Diego, and offered the very lowest freight rates between New  York and California, lower than all-rail.  Did not take much longer, either.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 18,280 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, November 12, 2020 3:39 AM

And at one time Southern Pacific also had a freight house in Manhattan and ran a NYCity - New Orleans steamship operation for freight to and from California.

In 1937, age 5, rode the overnight NYY-Boston boat both ways with my parents.

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 450 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Thursday, November 12, 2020 6:24 AM

MidlandMike

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.

 

 
Mike,
 
I'm not sure what you mean by this.  Did they actually pull cars off the barges and onto rails on Manhattan soil?  Or, were the boxcars unloaded on the barges without taking them ashore?
 
Phillip does have several photos showing boxcars at East River piers but it doesn't look like they came ashore.
 
Regards,
Fred M. Cain
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 3,021 posts
Posted by chutton01 on Thursday, November 12, 2020 8:32 AM

I am pretty sure the convention being used (by Phillip and others) is that a pier station doesn't have a transfer (float) bridge, the freight cars just remain on the car float and are loaded/unloaded from there (Phillip does include a diagram of the types of car floats specialized for this service, include "station or platform floats", with a unloading platform in the center, as well as the "Centerpipe" float which was used for service to the Schaefer brewery in Brooklyn.
Must have been interesting for the station staff unloading freight when the water was a bit rough, I can't image tying up the barges that tight to prevent any rocking (you have to allow for the tides after all) and the weight distribution on the float will change as you load/unload.
I recall within recent history that a business in Brooklyn was unloading cocoa from covered hoppers via a car-float, in the old pier station style, but one day the car-float sunk - the image with the articlde showed the ends of said cover hoppers sticking up thru the water (Of course, I can't find that article now).

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 450 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Thursday, November 12, 2020 9:08 AM

Chutton,

I had some off list correspondence with Phillip and he doesn't believe that any kind of a freight switching operation ever existed on the Lower East Side as I'd remembered reading about it and my memory of the tracks in the street.

Dave from the nycsubway site told me that the tracks I saw were almost certainly old Third Ave. Railway System tracks that had been abandoned for a long time.

So, I guess I'm gonna have to eat crow and admit that I was probably wrong about this.

As for the barges getting unloaded at the piers, that must've been really dangerous work when it was rough, as you said.  Also, it would be tough unloading that stuff in the rain especially if it was freezing rain and icy.  Sheesh !

I have long wondered if the advent of forklifts may have contributed to the decline of loose boxcar traffic.  Truck trailers lend themselves much better to unloading by forklifts than boxcars do.  Especially if the boxcar happens to be sitting on a barge like that.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

 

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,957 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Thursday, November 12, 2020 11:04 AM

MidlandMike
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.

Is this that map, by any chance?

 

https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/3z587b/new_york_harbor_terminals_port_authority/

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 450 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Thursday, November 12, 2020 11:39 AM

Mike,

Most interesting.  Thanks for that link !  You'll notice that the freight terminals on the East River for the NYC, NYO&W, the DL&W and the B & O do not indicated any trackage which is kinda what we thought.

BUT!  No trackage is indicated for the terminals on the West Side, either, and yet THOSE terminals DID have trackage according to Phillip Goldstein's website.

So, this map fails to prove that there was no freight trackage connected by barge on the East Side.  Nevertheless, I am going to take Phillip's word that there almost certainly wasn't.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 3,021 posts
Posted by chutton01 on Thursday, November 12, 2020 1:50 PM

Fred M Cain

As for the barges getting unloaded at the piers, that must've been really dangerous work when it was rough, as you said.  Also, it would be tough unloading that stuff in the rain especially if it was freezing rain and icy.  Sheesh !

I wonder how much material was lost overboard during such weather, or did they just not unload when conditions were bad. also did that loss exceed the natural "shrinkage" of goods (look, it was the New York waterfront in the early/mid 20th century - the "Families" had to their cut of the action...) 

I have long wondered if the advent of forklifts may have contributed to the decline of loose boxcar traffic.

I'm guessing you are referring to LCL traffic, which in relevant terms is most of what these waterfront terminals were handling. Rail handled LCL was declining after the late 1940s (according to "Jeff Wilson's Express, Mail, & Merchandise Service" - actually it started before then, as railroads replaced their peddler/wayfrieght boxcars (which used to drop off lots at each station along a line) with trucks (to load goods at a large freight station and then drop off lots at each station) by the 1920s - it's hard to disagree than trucks are pretty flexible for short distance transport like that.
Now, most boxcars built from the 1950s onward have door widths which can accomodate forklift operations (in general forklifts can be 4-7ft, but the pallets can be wider), so that's not really a concern. Nope, these wonderful multitude of waterfront transfer yards/piers were a) rather inefficent b) costly to service with the need for piers, barges, tugs, and that lot c) rather inflexible in siting - you need to be on navigable waters for a start, as opposed to siting a freight yard out in North Jersey on cheaper land and short-haul trucking it  across the bridges (or thru the Lincoln tunnel if not flammable).

  • Member since
    October 2014
  • 729 posts
Posted by Gramp on Thursday, November 12, 2020 2:25 PM

This is Bronx across the Harlem River. Jersey Central, but maybe can help fill in blanks. 
http://members.trainweb.com/bedt/indloco/crrnjbxt.html

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, November 12, 2020 8:03 PM

Convicted One

 

 
MidlandMike
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.

 

Is this that map, by any chance?

 

https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/3z587b/new_york_harbor_terminals_port_authority/

 

Basically yes, it's a condensed version of the map in the book.  The linked map is a little fuzzy at the CV dock, which is the last one before the Williamsburg Bridge.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, November 12, 2020 8:12 PM

Fred M Cain
As for the barges getting unloaded at the piers, that must've been really dangerous work when it was rough, as you said.  Also, it would be tough unloading that stuff in the rain especially if it was freezing rain and icy.  Sheesh !

The station floats had a covered platform between the 2 tracks.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, November 12, 2020 9:22 PM

Fred M Cain

Mike,

Most interesting.  Thanks for that link !  You'll notice that the freight terminals on the East River for the NYC, NYO&W, the DL&W and the B & O do not indicated any trackage which is kinda what we thought.

BUT!  No trackage is indicated for the terminals on the West Side, either, and yet THOSE terminals DID have trackage according to Phillip Goldstein's website.

So, this map fails to prove that there was no freight trackage connected by barge on the East Side.  Nevertheless, I am going to take Phillip's word that there almost certainly wasn't.

 

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

 

The linked map is slightly condensed.  It's hard to see, but the small red rectangles south of the PRR line to Penn Station on Manhattans west side are the yards of the Erie, LV, and B&O.  They also show up on older topo maps:

https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/viewer/#14/40.7689/-74.0205

Type in Weehawken as the search location, select one of the first 1:24000 maps, and look in the lower right corner of the map.  Look below 29th Street.  The tracks above 30th Street are NYC

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,957 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Thursday, November 12, 2020 10:45 PM

MidlandMike
Basically yes, it's a condensed version of the map in the book.  The linked map is a little fuzzy at the CV dock, which is the last one before the Williamsburg Bridge.

The image that opens after you  first click on the link is a thumbnail image.  From that point Click on the image twice, in two separate clicks a couple seconds apart, and a full sized image should open for you. Downloadable too.

If one looks at the legend, it describes orange rectangular areas as "Terminals and yards"

So, I think that is consistent with the orange rectangular areas along the west side line. Depicting rail on dirt connecting to the piers and the hi line.

In contrast, only the rail owned piers on the lower east side are orange. I believe this is intentionally accurate, as such.

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 2,038 posts
Posted by timz on Friday, November 13, 2020 11:32 AM

Far as anyone knows, there was never a floatbridge in Manhattan south of 23rd St. Only way a freight car could get on land south of there was on NY Central track. which extended to St John's Park terminal a block or two south of Canal St. New York Central had a small yard on the west side of 10th Ave between 17th-18th St; after that closed in 1941, no NY Central surface freight trackage south of 30th St?

It seems NY Central quit running to the south end of the High Line about 1960. Wonder when the last car ran south of 30th St.

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • 3,021 posts
Posted by chutton01 on Friday, November 13, 2020 1:29 PM

timz
Far as anyone knows, there was never a floatbridge in Manhattan south of 23rd St.


Never is a pretty long time: there was a CNJ float-bridge and yard on West 15th St. but it likely only lasted till 1909 at the latest.

As for St. John's Freight Terminal, Pacemaker LCL service ended around 1957, and by 1960 NYC was really starting to push their Flexi-van service for LCL (and anything else - I can't seem to find if NYC had Flexi-van service to 60th St, or did they just dray the trailers/containesr from Jersey thru the Lincoln Tunnel).

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, November 13, 2020 6:52 PM

Convicted One

 

 
MidlandMike
Basically yes, it's a condensed version of the map in the book.  The linked map is a little fuzzy at the CV dock, which is the last one before the Williamsburg Bridge.

 

The image that opens after you  first click on the link is a thumbnail image.  From that point Click on the image twice, in two separate clicks a couple seconds apart, and a full sized image should open for you. Downloadable too.

If one looks at the legend, it describes orange rectangular areas as "Terminals and yards"

So, I think that is consistent with the orange rectangular areas along the west side line. Depicting rail on dirt connecting to the piers and the hi line.

In contrast, only the rail owned piers on the lower east side are orange. I believe this is intentionally accurate, as such.

 

Thanks for the tip on expanding the map image (which I never would have guessed was a "thumbnail").  I see the dock that I thought was CV on my book map, was actually LV.  However, the link map was evidentally earlier 1940s, and I see there was a Cen Vt facility closer to the Manhattan Bridge, and the lack of the triangle symbol indicates it didn't handle carload, and it probably was the costal ship dock that others cited.  Also the earlier map showed a B&O facility by the Brooklyn Bridge.  I agree that I never saw evidence on these maps that there were rails on the ground on the lower east side at that time.

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,957 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Friday, November 13, 2020 7:40 PM

Not until discovering the "Hudson & Manhattan" as shown on that map, did I ever realize what is commonly referred to as "the tubes" was separate and distinct from MTA.

 Only been there once, and just took it for granted that it was all part of one master system. Never until just now realized that "BMT" was anything more than a sandwich,..lol! 

 NEVER safe to assume, I suppose.

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,957 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Friday, November 13, 2020 8:02 PM

MidlandMike
However, the link map was evidentally earlier 1940s,

It is noteworthy that the blurb for the thumbnail lists the map's date as "1940". Which we know has to be in error, because even the thumbnail map shows East River Drive rechristened with it's new name as Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, November 13, 2020 10:18 PM

MTA is a New York entity.  The Hudson Tubes are run by the Port Authority, which is a New York/New Jersey agency.  They pretty much have a lock on all bridges and tunnels between NY and NJ.  The PRR tunnels to Penn Station preceded the creation of the Port Authority.

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 12,568 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, November 14, 2020 10:05 AM

The Hudson Tubes also predate the Port Authority and were originally the Hudson & Manhattan RR.  The line went into bankruptcy proceedings in the late 1950's and the Port Authority was somehow persuaded (think Robert Moses) to buy the system as the Port Authority Trans Hudson Corp.  I rode the line in 1982 while on vacation and the equipment was quite similar in layout to the CTA.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, November 14, 2020 9:06 PM

H&M also had a joint operation with PRR over their Newark line, and there were PRR owned cars.

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 450 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, November 16, 2020 10:39 AM

MidlandMike

H&M also had a joint operation with PRR over their Newark line, and there were PRR owned cars.

 

Mike, Yes, that's right and if I'm not mistaken, the original H&M was actually a Pennsy subsidiary, was it not?

The automatic block signals on the above ground portion of the Newark line had classic Pennsy position light signals.  Not sure if they're still there or not.  I haven't ridden the line since the mid 1980s.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,501 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, November 16, 2020 8:47 PM

Fred M Cain

 

 
MidlandMike

H&M also had a joint operation with PRR over their Newark line, and there were PRR owned cars.

 

 

 

Mike, Yes, that's right and if I'm not mistaken, the original H&M was actually a Pennsy subsidiary, was it not?

The automatic block signals on the above ground portion of the Newark line had classic Pennsy position light signals.  Not sure if they're still there or not.  I haven't ridden the line since the mid 1980s.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

 

The H&M was started independently, and the PRR became involved when they started running over Pennsy tracks on the line to Newark.  I'm sure that's why that section has PRR signals.  My information is that they had some joint operations rather than a subsidiary relation.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 18,280 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 2:07 PM

From Mike

Google the internet company plans to buy a building they seem not to know was once called St. John's Park

(New York Central Freight Transfer House)

 
  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 18,280 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 2:28 PM

Trains west of Jounal Square  were PRR trains.  It was a joint through operation, and the tracks west of Jornal Square were never owned by H&M.,.PATH bought the line from the PRR (or PC?)

11000V AC catenary was on the line and PRR MUs used it to Exchange Place.  So did K4 Pacifics, the Sharknosed Baldwins, from the Jersey Shore.   Lehigh Valley trains also used it to Eschane Place or to the next-door Jersey Central Terminal.  Of couse tis was a seperate RoW at Jounal Square and east to Exchange Place.

There were 100 Tuscan-Red DC MUs assigned to the Newark - Hudson Terminal (much much later WTC) service.  They were the same design, but half were owned by the PRR and half by the H&M.  Legally, the H&M was a ralroad and had to report to the ICC.

At the Hudson Terminal H&M station, you could by PRR tickets to anywhere, incuding Pullman acommodations and interline.  Tickets from NY to anywhere on the PRR system except Newark itself were honored on the H&M for thee connections to main-line PRR trains at Newark.

Still, the PRR continued to run ferry boats from Exchange Place to lower Manhattan, and monthly commuter tickets cost less that way than to-and-from Penn Station, or via the H&M.

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 2,038 posts
Posted by timz on Thursday, September 23, 2021 12:43 PM

daveklepper
a building they seem not to know was once called St. John's Park

Did anyone call the Houston St terminal St John's Park?

St John's Park was the park between Hudson-Varick and Laight-Beach, where the Holland Tunnel ramps are now. https://goo.gl/maps/d6x3tfJapr9zaefN9

The Hudson River RR (or whatever it was) built their freight terminal on that block -- dunno how long NY Central continued to run freight that far south. Not after the tunnel opened in 1927, presumably. Maybe the Houston St elevated terminal was called St John's, but did anyone call it St John's Park?

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 2,038 posts
Posted by timz on Friday, September 24, 2021 6:58 PM

daveklepper
PRR continued to run ferry boats from Exchange Place to lower Manhattan, and monthly commuter tickets cost less that way than to-and-from Penn Station, or via the H&M.

I'm guessing the fare to downtown was the same via H&M as via the ferry (the PRR ferry quit running around 1950).

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy