OLDNYC.COM--> Virtual Tour --> High Line --> W 34th Street to W 49th Street Picture Gallery #1

Although technically not part of the High Line, the railroad cut that runs between West 36th Street and the area around West 71st Street was used in conjunction with the High Line for freight railroad activity.  The cut was built as part of the West Side Improvement project in the early 1930's.

A question to ponder: Why was a cut constructed in this area as apposed to a viaduct?  My best guess is that the viaduct construction was more beneficial to the businesses that were along the route, as was illustrated by the several buildings that the High Line cuts through in Chelsea.  Sidings were more easily constructed with the viaduct design.  The cut through Hells Kitchen and the Upper West Side may have just been designed so that a quick run could be provided for trains going to Chelsea.  Since the area which the cut runs through may have been more residential then commercial, a viaduct design was not needed.  It would be interesting to see if anyone knows why the change of design was implemented in this area.

James Guthrie, a frequent contributor to OldNYC.com, provides us with his unique perspective about the cut: "The short answer on the reason for the different ways the line was constructed:

1. North of 72nd, it was simply a matter of being part of the Moses grand Scheme for the Henry Hudson Parkway and the rebuilding of Riverside Drive. The area was filled with hobo and squatter camps -- Moses could eliminate all of that be putting the line under Riverside Drive and snuggling it against the Parkway.  Grades were important here, as the line sported long freight trains (and at the beginning still had a daily commuter train). Trains were blocked for 30th Street and various places further south at 72nd Street.

2. The cut was expedient in midtown for a variety of reasons, including air rights and the new Lincoln Tunnel approaches.

3. The line had to reach surface for the 30th Street yard -- a major Team facility. My grandparents had their office at 437 Eleventh Avenue -- the "other" New York Central Building.  There were several platform tracks in the basement; several railroads had offices there as well as Steelcase Office furniture. All their office furniture shipments came via high boxcars from Grand Rapids Michigan.  Routing was via Chatham, the Harlem Line to Brewster, the Put to High Bridge and then to 72nd Street and on down to 30th Street because clearances were too low on the Hudson line North of Spuyten Duyvil.
The Pu could handle "anything" in the way of high/wide shipments in those days, and had daily through freights to the West Side.

4. From 30th Street south, there were a whole lot of railroads to cross.  The PRR, the Lehigh Valley, and B&O all had facilities with car floats (The Starrett-Lehigh Building is an example).  The New York Central could forever preclude having direct track connections with these lines by making it physically impossible to do so -- the grade up from the river and then to the high line was impossible -- while a cut two blocks up the incline would have been a straight shot. The city also agreed that it was undesirable for other railroads to have much street running -- so, voila! -- the elevated line to the "new" St. Johns Park."

The cut is quite deep at this West 35th Street location.  An electric signal tower traverses the railroad ROW, and an eighteen wheeler tractor trailer sits parked along the western part of the ROW.  Notice the wall of rock on the western part of the ROW.  Blasting and digging in this area must have been difficult in this area, and it probably added a lot of expense to the project.

A couple of dogs watch over their master's property.  The railroad cut is situated behind the fence.  Amtrak trains still utilize the railroad cut for connections at Pennsylvania Station.

The railroad cut at West 43rd Street.  The two track rail configuration runs north and south at this location.  The West 44th Street overpass consists of steel with a concrete facade.  A lone stanchion, consisting of four steel beams, provide support for the middle of the overpass.

Map Scan Courtesy of James Guthrie.

[Image is 370KB - takes a couple of minutes to load]

James Guthrie provided OldNYC.com with this picture of a 1928 Hangstrom map.  The route of the New York Central is illustrated by the black lines along Ninth and Tenth Avenues, and then as it cuts behind the buildings in the neighborhoods of Chelsea and SoHo.  Since the map dates back to 1928, the map represents the route of the New York Central before the High Line was constructed.  The High Line was built in the early 1930's.

James adds: "Note the 9th Avenue El, the 8th Avenue "Under Construction" and that the 14th Street Canarsie Line ends at 6th Avenue (where there isn't a hint of a subway -- just the El).  I'm told that the Canal Street trolley and the New York Central actually shared trackage for a short stretch across the Holland Tunnel approach. I don't know that to be true -- but if so -- 'Take That, FRA!'"

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