Passenger Trains on NY City’s West Side Freight Line

Image1861. The Abraham Lincoln family pulled into New York City’s 30th Street Station at about 3:00 p.m. on February 19. 1865. Lincoln’s funeral train left on the journey from Washington to Springfield. That was the terminal for the Hudson River RR. When Vanderbilt bought it as well as the NY & Harlem RR, they built the connection between Spuytin Duyvil and Mott Haven and routed most Hudson River RR trains into Grand Central Depot.

The NYC&HR local passenger service was pretty much a connection at Spuyten Duyvil arrangement from the opening of the original Grand Central from the timetables I’ve seen ( See June 26, 1921 Employee Timetable). The opening of the Elevated reduced traffic considerably; the opening of the IRT finished off most ridership; the trolley and El, Trolley/IRT was quite a bit cheaper. A Nickel could get you all the way downtown from 125th St (especially on the IRT) — without the change at 30th, for example.

Somewhere along the line, I had understood that this limited passenger service was eliminated in 1918 during WW1. However, that was a temporary measure as seen by the 1921 timetable. One mystery solved. Tommy Meehan sent me a newspaper article from January 13, 1918 that explains it to be only temporary.

There was a passenger train called the “Dolly Varden”, a local train leaving 30th Street station on the west side going to Spuyten Duyvil. “This train became such a symbol both to railroaders and West Siders that for years it was continued on the time-table after it actually ceased to operate.”

I don’t know for sure why NYC kept those passenger trains on the West Side up to the 1930’s, but there were probably several reasons:
1. To carry employees down to 60th and 30th Streets, at least until the subway was put into service.
2. NY State Public Service Commission would not approve discontinuance.
3. Some U. S. Mail might have been handled locally, and maybe some company mail.
4. After they quit hauling passengers, and even into Penn Central, there were first class trains running between 30th St and Spuyten Duyvil for mail and express. No’s. 3 and 13 went to Chicago, and the 800 series trains ran to and from Harmon with head-end traffic to and from the west.
5. To preserve the franchise for passengers on the West Side. From a story that was in the June 15 1931 edition of the New York Times. The occasion was the final use of steam on the line. The final paragraph mentions the West Side passenger service, though it doesn’t seem very accurate. It sounds like what the reporter actually saw was a milk transfer run with a rider car attached for the crew. I do believe it is accurate insofar as the Tri-power units were probably used to haul the passenger trains. I’d be very surprised if they used MU cars, even to tow them, but of course it’s possible.

From a September 2007 discussion in TRAINS Magazine:
Daily except Sunday in 1934,
lv 30th St (0.00 miles) 0700
pass 60th St (1.66) 0715
depart 130th St (5.24) 0726
depart 152nd St (6.31) 0731
depart Fort Washington (7.48) 0737
depart Inwood (9.08) 0742
arrive Spuyten Duyvil (10.06) 0747 and the other three trains are similar.

Read a whole lot more on the West Side Freight Line.

 

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