Let’s take an imaginary trip on the West Shore at some point before the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when the West Shore started to disappear:
Two ferry routes connect to Manhattan; one goes to 42d Street and the other downtown to Cortlandt Street.
The New Jersey Junction Railroad, a five-mile long New York Central affiliate, provides connections for interchange between the various railroads in the Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken area. From Weehawken to National Junction is classified as yard limits. There is a grain elevator and a pier originating carloads of bananas. Floats destined for the many ports of the New York harbor originate and terminate here.
Up until 1957, Ontario & Western trains share the line between Cornwall and Weehawken. Diesels replaced steam on the West Shore in 1952. The ferry service and commuter runs will be gone by the end of 1959, ending a decline begun by the 1931 opening of the George Washington Bridge. Just above Weehawken, the Palisades crowd the river and force servicing operations to be located in North Bergen. Four miles west by operating direction, but north by geographic orientation, is the New York, Susquehanna & Western interchange at Little Ferry.
The road is mostly four track until Dumont, where several commuter runs terminate, their trains laying over in an adjacent yard. Beyond Dumont, the line is double track to Selkirk. After the commuters leave, the second track will be torn up. Above Dumont, there are ten commuter stops before West Haverstraw, where other commuter runs lay over. Just beyond West Haverstraw the road reaches the river and winds its way to Newburgh, where long-distance commuter runs terminate. A few passenger runs continue to Kingston and Albany, mostly serving local passengers as train times are exceedingly slow compared to New York City/Albany on the Hudson Division. All told, between freight and commuters, this is a busy line. Kingston is the next major city, and both the Wallkill and Catskill Mountain branches are still active. Beyond Kingston, huge cement plants originate countless carloads.
The West Shore from Weehawken joins the Boston & Albany at the south end of Selkirk Yard. The Castleton Bridge, a high, mile-long span carries Selkirk traffic into the Hudson Division and the Boston & Albany. Tower SK controls this point. Selkirk Yard was originally developed in the 1920’s to ease the strain on West Albany. It was rebuilt in the late 1960’s as the Alfred E. Perlman Yard. A branch runs from Selkirk into Albany (11 miles). Access to the Albany station is over the Delaware & Hudson trackage from Kenwood Junction to the north end of the station at street level.
After leaving Selkirk heading west, the line crosses the D&H’s Albany-Delanson line and Voorheesville and crosses the Normanskill on a high bridge. At Fullers the tracks cross on an overpass and operation is left-hand running. The Carman Cutoff leads into Schenectady. Next, the West Shore crosses over the D&H main on a pair of bridges near Burdeck Street. Rotterdam Junction is the interchange with the Boston & Maine as well as a bridge to the New York Central main line at Hoffmans.
Most freight from the west leaves the main at Hoffmans and follows the West Shore to Selkirk. RJ Tower is located on the river bluff just west of the town. It will disappear when the area goes under CTC control from Utica.
West of this point is little used and portions will be among the first to be abandoned. At Fultonville is an old West Shore station with “NYWS&B” stenciled under the eaves. Proceeding west through scenic territory, the Mohawk River is almost always in view. The line passes nearby the home of General Nicholas Herkimer of Revolutionary War fame. At Little Falls the track goes by the river and canal lock at the bank. Near Mohawk, the New York State Railways interurbans shared the track for several years. A connection with the main line is at Schuyler Junction.
The West Shore proceeds through South Utica to near New York Mills, where both the Lackawanna’s Utica branch and the Ontario & Western’s Utica branch cross it at grade. There is a short branch serving the textile mills in New York Mills. At Clark Mills, the Rome branch of the O&W crosses. The main line of the O&W crosses at Oneida Castle and the Lehigh Valley crosses at Canastota. At Kirkville Junction there is a crossover to the New York Central main line, and a few miles further the Chenango Branch joins the West Shore. Traffic is light on this branch and soon Earlville to Manlius will be ripped up. The section from Utica to Rome was electrified for several years. West Shore passenger trains ran on the main line from Syracuse to Utica and left the “direct” route to the NY State Railways interurbans.
From Syracuse to Buffalo (don’t forget, the West Shore bypasses Rochester), the West Shore and New York Central weave across each another several times. The West Shore goes slightly north of Syracuse, while the Central goes right through town. At Lyons, there is an interchange with the Pennsylvania Division. Before reaching Buffalo, there are crossings with the Pennsylvania, Erie, R&D and Lehigh Valley. Waynesport to Chili Junction and Byron to Buffalo will survive as branches to serve local industry after the West Shore as a through route is eliminated as redundant by 1961. The West Shore terminates in East Buffalo with connections to the immediate world.
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