OldNYC.com (Old New York City) is a web page that explores some of the many facets of New York City's transportation infrastructure. OldNYC.com takes the visitor on a tour of city's transportation past, by way of several virtual tours.  This site examines the abandoned and little used railroad lines in New York City.  The web site also examines the routes of planned but never constructed expressways that were to serve the New York City area.

 
What tour would you like to take today?
The LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch Virtual Tour:

Take a tour of the abandoned Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way, located in Queens, New York.  Along the tour, you will learn about the history of the former Rockaway Beach Branch, and enjoy the personal stories pertaining to the branch told by several OldNYC.com contributors.

Photo: This is the beginning of the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch.  The line diverged off of the LIRR main-line tracks in Rego Park, Queens.

 

The New York Central High Line Virtual Tour:

In the Manhattan's neighborhood of Chelsea, there exists an old, decrepit railroad viaduct that refuses to let the elements of weather and politics take it down.  The railroad viaduct is known as The High Line.  The High Line was built during one of New York City's largest infrastructure projects: The West Side Improvement project, presided over by Robert Moses.  The project took place in the early 1930's during the Great Depression. The resulting infrastructure that emerged from the project would change the face of the West Side of New York City forever.  In Riverside Park, the railroad right-of-way was covered and the park was expanded.  In Chelsea, a viaduct was constructed that would carry freight trains high above the surface. It is in Chelsea where we will spend most of the virtual tour, as we look at the various buildings, spur routes, sidings, and tunnels that were built in order to accommodate the High Line.

Photo: A section of the High Line viaduct, as it winds its way through the neighborhood of Chelsea in Manhattan.

The LIRR/New York and Atlantic Railway Bay Ridge Branch Virtual Tour:

In the summer of June of 2000, The New York Connecting Railroad Society held the New York Connecting Railroad/New York and Atlantic Railway tour.  Tour Chairman Bernard Ente ran the event where train enthusiasts, historians, and urban explorers were able to ride a New York and Atlantic diesel train from Fresh Pond Yard in Queens to the Bay Ridge Yard in Brooklyn.  The LIRR abandoned passenger service on the Bay Ridge Branch in 1925, and there have only been a couple of times when the public has the opportunity to ride on this branch.

Photo: Members of the New York Connecting Railroad Society board the New York and Atlantic diesel in Queens.

 

The Route of the Planned Cross-Brooklyn Expressway Virtual Tour:

The Cross-Brooklyn Expressway was a controversial highway project that was recommended by New York City arterial coordinator Robert Moses.  The Cross-Brooklyn Expressway took on many forms in its various route designs during the planning stages. OldNYC.com examines the routing of the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway from the its starting point at Gowanus Expressway in Bay Ridge Brooklyn to the interchange at the Belt Parkway by JFK Airport in Queens.  This tour attempts to trace the route of the planned Cross-Brooklyn Expressway, utilizing planning facts gleaned from Steve Anderson's excellent nycroads.com web site.  We examine such aspects as route planning, route design, and engineering aspects of the proposed expressway.  Along our tour, we encounter rough terrain, vestiges of an old freight railway line, and even some wild dogs!!  

A special note to railroad fans: Since the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway was to follow much of the route of the LIRR Bay Ridge Branch right-of-way, there are many pictures of the LIRR Bay Ridge Branch ROW included in this tour!!

Photo: The LIRR Bay Ridge Branch has a narrow ROW along much of it's route.  Moses' engineers would have had to come up with some very creative solutions in order to build an expressway thru much of these areas.

LIRR/NYA Bushwick Branch Virtual Tour:

The Bushwick Branch was built by the South Side Railroad (SSRR) of Long Island in the late 1868 for passenger and freight service within the surrounding communities of Brooklyn and Queens.  A subsequent buyout of the SSRR by the Flushing and North Side railroad caused the branch to change ownership.  Over time, the Long Island Rail Road bought out many of their competitors, which resulted in the Bushwick Branch being placed under the LIRR's control.  By the early 1920's, the Long Island Rail Road abandoned passenger service on the line, and instead focused on providing freight service to the industries located along the right-of-way.  As rail freight traffic seriously declined in New York City post-World War II, the Long Island Rail Road would slowly discontinue freight service along the Bushwick Branch, and they let the line fall in to a state of disrepair. Although the Bushwick's mainline track can still handle freight cars and locomotives, many of the spurs and sidings have become unusable as they continue to be overtaken by weeds, trees, and other plants.  Even after years of decay and neglect, it really is amazing that the Bushwick Branch's main right-of-way still is in-tact for much of the route.

Photo: A view of the Bushwick Branch right-of-way, just southwest of Flushing Avenue and 56th Street.  This little-used railroad line once provided passenger service for the LIRR, but is now used for freight operations by the NYA.

New York Cross Harbor Railroad Virtual Tour:

On a blustery afternoon in December 2001, OldNYC.com visited Sunset Park Brooklyn in order to tour the New York Cross Harbor Railroad.  Harry Hassler, Chief of Police for the New York Cross Harbor Railroad, provided your webmaster and several other tour participants a unique opportunity to explore the Cross Harbor Railroad yard, right-of-way, and surrounding facilities.  The Cross Harbor Railroad is an active freight railroad, and the railroad is unique in that it is one of the few railroads that continues to operate on New York City's surface streets.  At one time in New York City's transportation history, small freight railroad companies such as the Cross Harbor helped to provide local businesses with rail freight services for transporting their products.  Although the glory days of freight train transportation in New York City are long gone, the Cross Harbor still provides rail freight service for their customers.

OldNYC.com also examines sections of the South Brooklyn Railway in the neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  The South Brooklyn Railway's rail infrastructure is still being used today by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as we will see on the tour.

Photos: Top Left: A New York Cross Harbor locomotive passes through a factory on 2nd Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn circa 1990 [Photo courtesy of Bernard Ente].  Bottom Right: The right-of-way of the South Brooklyn Railway runs parallel to the Gowanus Expressway's 39th Street exit ramp.

 

Jay Street Connecting Railroad/BQE in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights Virtual Tour:

In late September 2001, Bernard Ente hosted the Jay Street Connecting Railroad (JSCRR) tour in Brooklyn, New York City.  The tour offered participants a chance to walk the streets of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, and see relics of the long-gone Jay Street Connecting Railroad.  As you will see when you take the virtual tour, there are many instances of old and decaying tracks, switches, and other pieces of train infrastructure.  The Jay Street Connecting Railroad once served various forms of commercial industry along its right-of-way.  The growing use of trucks for shipping helped to kill small freight railroads such as the JSCRR.  Little freight railroad companies such as the JSCRR added to New York City's vast transportation network.

As an added bonus, OldNYC.com examines sections of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) in the neighborhoods of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights.  Like many of Robert Moses' New York City expressways, the BQE had to slice its way through densely populated areas.  The engineering feats that made this all possible are incredible in their own right, and the resulting characteristics of the BQE's infrastructure makes this expressway one of the most unique highways in the country.

Photos: Top Left: Former railroad tracks of the Jay Street Connecting Railroad still grace the cobblestone streets of DUMBO, Brooklyn.  Bottom Right: The cantilevered section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278) in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.

 

The Route of the Planned Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX) Virtual Tour:

In the late 1950's to early 1960's, highway construction was all the rage.  During this time, New York City's powerful arterial coordinator Robert Moses was in the mist of completing several highway projects, and he had several highway projects on the drawing board.  One of the projects on the drawing board was the Lower Manhattan Expressway, nicknamed LOMEX.  The LOMEX was also part of the grand vision of "I-78 Through New York", a plan to provide a highway route from Manhattan to JFK Airport in Queens.  Unfortunately for Moses, the time that LOMEX was going to move from the planning stages to the construction stages was during the mid-1960's.  It was a time when the political, environmental, and community-based groups turned against the construction of new urban highways.  The Lower Manhattan Expressway, as well as several other New York City interstate highways, were officially killed in the early 1970's.  

OldNYC.com attempts to trace the route of the planned Lower Manhattan Expressway, utilizing planning facts gleaned from Steve Anderson's nycroads.com web site.  We examine such aspects as route planning, route design, and engineering aspects of the proposed expressway.  We will also review some of the political and community issues that the LOMEX had brought forth.  Along our tour, we encounter many historical buildings as we pass through some of Manhattan's most famous neighborhoods including SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side.

Photo: Several buildings line the north side of Broome Street.  The LOMEX's planned alignment was to be situated on the north side of Broome Street, which would have resulted in the razing of many of these historically significant buildings in order to make way for the LOMEX's right-of-way.

Manhattan's Hudson River Piers Virtual Tour:

In June 2001, Bernard Ente hosted The New York Harbor Railroads Cruise aboard the M/Y Jacana.  The cruise offered participants a chance to view the Port of New York from a unique vantage point.  As you will see when you take the virtual tour, there are many instances of old and decaying piers, docks, railroad lighterage piers, float bridges that helped define the Port of New York's transportation infrastructure.  The Port of New York was once home to several forms of commercial industry ranging from ferries, tugboats, barges, railroad carfloats, and steamships.  The Port of New York was once the busiest port in America.  The growing use of large container ship technology has moved much of the port traffic from New York City to other cities in America, but the infrastructure remnants that line the banks of the Hudson River help to illustrate that New York City's ports once constituted a vast transportation network.

Photo: Once part of the facilities of New York Central Railroad's 60th Street Freight Yard, the mangled steel skeleton of a lighterage pier continues to decay in the Hudson River.

Newtown Creek Virtual Tour:

OldNYC.com explores Newtown Creek, a waterway that once provided industry a vital transportation link for industry that was operating along its banks.  During the creek's heyday, large boats brought in raw materials and fuel and took out finished products such as glue, oil, fat, varnish, chemicals and metals.  Much like the freight railroad system that once served New York City, the ship industry experienced a massive decline after the Interstate Highway system was built, as industry utilized trucks to transport their goods and raw materials.

The Newton Creek virtual tour also explores the Long Island Rail Road Montauk Branch and train yard in Long Island City and looks at remnants of the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal railroad.  Bridges such as the Pulaski Bridge, Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and the Kosciosko Bridge are also examined.

Photos: Top Left: A view of Newtown Creek looking west from atop the Pulaski Bridge.  Bottom Right: A section of The Long Island Rail Road's Montauk Branch.

 

The B&O Railroad West 26th Street Yards Virtual Tour:

Like many railroad companies in the 1900's, the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad once served the Port of New York with a diverse freight transportation network and infrastructure.  As businesses and industrial concerns in Manhattan turned to utilize trucks as their primary method of moving freight,  railroad freight operations slowly slipped in to oblivion on the island.  However, there are some remnants of this once great infrastructure that can still be found in Manhattan. OldNYC.com examines one such piece of infrastructure - the B&O Railroad's former West 26th Street Yards.  We will examine some of the remnants of this once great freight system, and we look at the area as it exists today.

Photo: A view of an old float bridge that once allowed freight trains to be transferred from the carfloats to the railroad yards.

 

Links to other Transportation Web Pages:

If you enjoyed your stay at OldNYC.com, you may want to check out some of these other transportation and NYC-focused websites!

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