Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Harlem Line in the Bronx

The history of New York is closely linked to the development of the city’s transportation system because it grew along with the construction of roads, tunnels, bridges and railroad tracks. At first, it was just a well-placed port that the Dutch planned to use for trade with the surrounding Indian tribes. Then a city began to develop and eventually became part of British territory in the New World. After the American War of Independence, New York became one of the largest cities of the USA and further development of the metropolis was unstoppable. At the end of the 19th century, the Bronx was added to New York and after a while a subway was built in this part of the city. Even earlier, starting in 1831, a railway began to be built in the direction of the Bronx, which is now called the Harlem Line. The tells about it in more detail.

What kind of railway is this?

According to, the Harlem Line is over 82 miles or 132 kilometers long. It consists of 38 stations. Its beginning is in Manhattan, then it passes through Harlem, crosses the Harlem River and stretches through the Bronx in the direction of Wassaic, Dutchess County.

History of the Line

New York was actively developed in the first half of the 19th century. Therefore, there was a need to quickly deliver residents of Manhattan from one end of the borough to another. That is, between lower Manhattan and Harlem. The New York and Harlem Railroad Company, which previously laid tram tracks and was related to the transport sector, started the construction. In 1831, it received the right to build a railway between these parts of the city. The railroad was planned to be steam-powered but the city insisted on using horses to pull the cars. The planned route must run along Fourth Avenue from 23rd Street to the Harlem River. The first section of this 0.85-mile (1.37 km) long railway was opened in 1832. During the ceremonial event, a demonstration of brake work was made. However, there was confusion because one horse-drawn car ran into another. There was no serious damage, so no attention was paid to this case. The price of the ticket was 12.5 cents. Trains ran every fifteen minutes from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Builders reached Harlem in 1837. Then the railway was launched in this small suburb of New York.

In 1840, it was decided to build the railway further to the territory of Westchester County, which today makes up a large part of the Bronx. In the same year, the railroad reached Westchester County and in 1844 it was in White Plains. In 1847, it was already built to Mount Kisco and Croton Falls. In 1852, the railroad was connected to the Boston and Albany Railroad lines and thus extended far beyond New York.

How Manhattan and the Bronx were connected

The Harlem Railway is designed in such a way as to utilize the most useful space in the city, which is difficult to develop due to its proximity to the river. The rail line lies along the riverbed, then moves three lines north to the Bronx River Parkway, then to the Saw Mill River Parkway and the 684 highway.

The railway line originates from the Grand Central Terminal on Park Avenue. In this section, the railway passes underground. On 97th Street, it begins to climb the high viaduct, which reaches the highest point near 102nd Street, Manhattan. Then follow a series of stops in Harlem, 125th Street and the line crosses the Harlem River to get to the Bronx. This happens over the Park Avenue Bridge. Here the railway runs along an open surface. This continues until 144th Street.

In the Bronx, the railway runs along 162nd Street, under the Cross Bronx Expressway, 177th Street, 190th Street, Fordham University, 200th Street, a street along the Bronx River Parkway and near Woodlawn Cemetery. 241st Street ends the Bronx section of the Harlem Line.

The Bronx Swamp and the Harlem Line

Altogether, this line is very old and some of its parts are not used now. Thus, we are talking about a branch of the road called Port Morris. Now this station is abandoned and the authorities cannot determine who owns the land on which it is located. Homeless people live there among the garbage, rats, birds and other animals.

This station was used until the end of the 20th century. But then the accident happened here. This branch had many turns and a low tunnel under St. Mary’s Park. That is why there was no possibility to drive fast here or to run high and long wagons. Therefore, the construction of the Oak Point Link began. It was built on a pontoon bridge located on the shore of the South Bronx. This would allow freight trains to run unhindered, bypassing Port Morris. After all, earlier, a freight train that was supposed to go through this station had to cross all the tracks. On September 18, 1988, an accident occurred here, which showed that the idea of building a new railway branch was timely. A daily freight train with several cars crashed into an overbridge near Yankee Stadium. It blocked the way for many North Hudson Subway passenger trains. The tail of the train was at Mott Haven and the head was already at Port Morris station. Moreover, it happened during rush hour. Tens of thousands of passengers were late for work. Thus, the use of the Oak Point Link was launched. Due to this situation, the Port Morris station ceased to be used and turned into a swamp. Today, you can see heaps of garbage thrown there by residents of neighboring houses, homeless people and drug addicts. There were attempts to clean this place. They failed because people continue to litter. The trains that ran here for some time even attached buckets to their locomotives to clean the tracks from snow. At last, the company tore out the rails and gave up ownership of that section of the railroad.

Mott Haven

A similar situation is observed near 138th Street in the Mott Haven area. There was a swamp here. The Department of Environmental Protection drained it. With the help of special equipment, 625,000 gallons of stagnant water were pumped out in 2009. In addition, 45 tons of junk were removed including mattresses, cars, construction debris and household waste. It was even on the surrounding trees. The work cost $350,000. Now the Department of Environmental Protection is looking for the owners of this land to pay for the works. The latter was done because locals complained about the water and dirt.

Thus, the Harlem Line of the suburban railway in the Bronx began to be built at the beginning of the 19th century, even before the Bronx joined the city. Today, it is of great importance to the residents of this New York borough. Although there are problems here, the city promptly solves them.

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