“IT IS CONTEMPLATED TO AMALGAMATE”
Extending the elevated system
The elevated railways of Manhattan were not yet completed when extensions beyond the Harlem River were proposed. At first it was real estate developers and other civic boosters who wanted to ‘improve’ the countryside out to the city limits, namely the Bronx River and the Yonkers line. But it was also railway capitalists who began to take interest: the New York City and Northern with its route to Westchester and Putnam Counties, and then some with larger plans.
Unlike dreamers who just draw more lines on a map the Manhattan Railway directors realized that their elevated railway service was nearing its natural limit. From South Ferry the trains took 45 minutes to reach 129th St on the east side and 155th St on the west side. There were only two main tracks on each route and they were so clogged with local trains that faster trains could not be scheduled between them.
One strategy was to take advantage of the somewhat redundant Second Ave El to act as third and fourth express tracks for the Third Ave El. As opened the Second Ave El had only three stations north of 65th St. More stations were added over the next two years, but they were substandard wooden structures, giving the impression that they would be removed when routes north of the Harlem River opened and began feeding longer-distance riders into the el. But this plan was not carried out.
The plan adopted was to add a third track for express trains in the peak direction only. Third track was not authorized in the franchises although incidental turnouts and switches were allowed. Possibly for this reason company officials rarely commented on continuous third track, and added it gradually in short sections. But the Metropolitan routes on the Upper West Side and Second Ave were certainly built with capacity for third track, and so was the new Ninth Ave El. On the Third Ave El and the similar structure on the Upper West Side (59th St to 83rd St), the space between the tracks with the graceful iron arch may have also been a provision for third track, although a more expensive one, because to build it the cross beams all had to be replaced. Third track was not officially sanctioned until the twentieth century and until then the company made do with short segments of passing track to provide fairly tedious connecting service for local railways north of the Harlem.
In comparing the elevated system to the underground railway proposals one should consider the difficulty of adding track to completed structures— or perhaps what must be considered is the difficulty of hiding built-in provision for more tracks.
The Rapid Transit Commission of 1881
The last Rapid Transit Commission that produced lasting results was that appointed in June 1881.1 Residents of the Annexed District had complained that the routes laid out by the previous Rapid Transit Commission went in a hap-hazard way through fields, farms, woods, ‘across country’, and everywhere except where it will be of benefit to the people.2 That is, they wanted an elevated railway in Third Ave, the plan that had been rejected.
The proposed route was from the end of Third Ave, along 129th St to the end of Second Ave, across the Harlem River, north in Lincoln Ave to its junction with Third Ave at 138th St, up Third Ave to Fordham, and through grounds of St John’s College (later called Fordham University) and Bronx Park to the Bronx River, there to meet a rapid transit railway proposed for the City of Mount Vernon. José Navarro had expressed interest in building this route in connection with the Metropolitan Elevated.3 The first part of the route, 129th St and a bridge at Second Ave, was also part of the New York Elevated franchise granted in 1875 as a connection to the New Haven’s Harlem River terminal, and New York Elevated owned property at the end of Second Ave.4 The Rapid Transit Commission approved the route on August 23.5
The type of construction was to be elevated railway as far as Fordham, with columns in the roadway outside the streetcar tracks. The rest was to be on ground level.6 The commissioners called for the organization of the New York, Fordham and Bronx Railway, and announced the sale of stock as of October 22. It was said that trains would run through from the Second Ave El.7
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The Metropolitan Elevated people were not prepared to undertake the project at this time, and the stock did not sell. The Rapid Transit Commission waited.
The West Side and Yonkers Railway
The first northern rapid transit route to be built was part of the West Side and Yonkers Railway. The route had been granted in July 1879 from the 155th St elevated terminal to the city line, and continued to Getty Square by a grant from a Rapid Transit Commission in Yonkers in June 1880.
The middle portion from High Bridge to Van Cortlandt coincided with an abandoned railway project called the New York, Boston and Montreal. Its owners reorganized as the New York, Westchester and Putnam Railway in July 1877, but only to hold the property. They then organized the New York City and Northern Rail-road on March 1, 1878, to lease the property and make a working railway out of it.8 This was during the time that the elevated railways had finally resolved the great lawsuits and were building. Under any of its incarnations this railway was to be competitive with the New York Central and New Haven lines, so it needed to find its own way downtown. The N Y B & M had taken an interest in the Gilbert Elevated in 1873, and most people now assumed that some deal with the Metropolitan Elevated had been made or would be made.
The New York City and Northern took a mortgage of $1,800,000 in July 1878 to raise funds for construction. Unnamed officials of the N Y C & N allege that it is contemplated to amalgamate with one of the elevated roads as soon as possible but officials of both elevated companies denied it.9 A year later the Rapid Transit Commission designated the West Side and Yonkers route starting at 155th St and Eighth Ave, and when the elevated railway opened to that point in December 1879, some observers predicted through service in the near future not only to Yonkers but points beyond.10 Predictably, the N Y C & N leased the West Side and Yonkers on May 1, 1880. On the same date the company executed a mortgage with the Central Trust Company for $4,000,000.11 All of the railway was still under construction. The West Side and Yonkers bridge at 158th St was being built by the same contractors who had built the later elevated railways and like them it was constructed with Phœnix columns. An accident report in November records the fall of two fifty-foot trusses and the death of one workman.12
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The New York City and Northern was finally opened for a test trip on December 3, 1880, over the entire length from High Bridge to Brewsters (now Brewster), 52 miles. Among the directors who took the trip were Metropolitan Elevated directors José F de Navarro and William R Garrison.13 At the annual company meeting on March 1, 1881, new directors were added including Cornelius K Garrison, and it was said that the control of the road has been secured by the New York Loan and Improvement Company.14 On March 10, the company’s bonds were listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the remark, This road is intended to be run in connection with the Metropolitan Elevated Railway, and will be ready for traffic by about the beginning of next month.15
Passenger service began on May 1, 1881, from 155th St to Brewster. Running time was still restricted where long wooden trestles ran over valleys yet to be filled. The eventual time was planned to be 90 minutes, and another 45 minutes to the Battery by elevated railway, for which through tickets were sold.16
At 155th St station, Manhattan Railway constructed one additional track for the N Y C & N on the east side of the structure just north of the elevated station, and agreed to handle through passengers and baggage.17 Passengers did not transfer directly across the platform. After leaving a Manhattan elevated train, they walked north along the platform with the Manhattan track on their left, and down a few steps to a rail-height platform, where they found the connecting N Y C & N train on their right.
There was nothing distinctive about the portion built under the West Side and Yonkers rapid transit franchise. The Manhattan Railway might have provided true rapid transit service over the W S & Y to High Bridge, where the companies could have built a small but perfectly adequate joint terminal. Instead the N Y C & N had to use a makeshift single track at 155th St. During the summer of 1881 there were ‘High Bridge Specials’ shuttling from 155th St to High Bridge on an irregular schedule two or three times an hour every day including Sundays.18
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Jay Gould in control of the Manhattan Railway
In 1881 the financier Jay Gould turned his attentions to the Manhattan elevated railways as a money-making investment and also as a part of a railway network he was building. In retrospect Gould’s plans to build a major railway system out of second-rate routes, failed companies and expensive proposed roads seem impossible, as if he could not have believed in them himself but was conning other people into investing. It was already a late date to add a major new railways in the northeastern states. But while Gould was never known for plain speaking, he put plenty of his own money into the projects.
On April 16, Robert M Gallaway was elected president of the Manhattan Railway, replacing William R Garrison. Gallaway was also president of the New York City and Northern and the West Side and Yonkers. At this time rumors were afloat that Russell Sage, a close associate of Gould, had offered $1,000,000 in cash for $2,000,000 of Manhattan Railway preferred stock.19
Later in the month, Gallaway asked the city for tax relief because the Manhattan company was losing money, about $500,000 for the year ended September 1880 and an expected $200,000 in the current year. During the first year, built and run only to about Fifty-ninth-street, they fairly astonished the managers by their large profits. Then the cost of repairs was trifling, and the portions of the road operated were the best of the whole lines. During the year 1879-80, in obedience to the public clamor for an extension of the lines, they were continued on up to the Harlem River on both sides of the City. A very short experience proved to us that increased facilities for the public had been provided in advance of their needs, and at a large expense to the company. It was hoped, however, that paying business would come in the succeeding year. During the third year, 1880-81, we find that these hopes are not realized : for, while the gross receipts are gratifyingly large and quite equal to expectations, the expenses have increased in even greater proportion, leaving the net income much less than the year before. The price of coal had nearly doubled, wages had gone up fifteen per cent, and the amount of maintenance was more than predicted.20
In saying this Gallaway was describing not the balance sheet of the group of companies but only that of the Manhattan Railway. He said nothing of the intercorporate payments that guaranteed profits to the New York Elevated Railroad and the Metropolitan Elevated Railway. The deficiency resulted mainly from the operation of the Metropolitan lines, the New York company having a much greater earning power at that time, recorded the Documentary History in 1913.21 In the middle of 1880 it was estimated that the New York Elevated lines earned 14 per cent on investment and the Metropolitan only 6 per cent.22
The Attorney General appeared at the Supreme Court on May 18 stating that facts had come to his knowledge which, in his opinion, made it necessary that action should be commenced forthwith against the Manhattan Railway Company, a corporation under the laws of this State, by the people of this State, to procure a judgement dissolving the corporation and forfeiting corporate rights, and vacating and annulling the charter and existence of said corporation.23 After a few steps, this action led to the appointment of receivers July 15.21 Operation continued for the time being.
At the same time, attorneys representing two bondholders of the two companies began action to stop the Manhattan from paying dividends to stockholders of the two companies. The Court of Common Pleas granted an injunction on July 1 stopping the payments. One of the bondholders was represented by Jay Gould’s broker’s attorney, and the other by José F de Navarro’s broker’s attorney. It was later considered that the purpose of both suits and the Attorney General’s action was to lower the price of Manhattan Railway stock.23
Jay Gould owned the World at this time, and in its columns there appeared many remarks from the editor and from unnamed sources critical of the Manhattan Railway Company. An editorial remarked that the Manhattan Railway was a stock which has nothing behind it but a general potentiality of rickety iron bridges.24 Another editorial asked, what can be expected of a company which borrows money, not to repair and strengthen the structure of a railway which is simply an enormous iron bridge without piers or buttresses, exposed to an unexampled daily strain upon its strength, but to pay the stockholders, who really borrow the money, imaginary dividends out of the money borrowed?25
On June 17, the World denied the rumor that Gould, Sidney Dillon, Washington E Connor, and Sage wanted to buy into the Metropolitan.26 But at the Metropolitan Elevated’s annual meeting on July 8, their interest was made plain. Russell Sage was named president, and Gould, Dillon and Connor were added as directors, although they owned very little stock in the company. Gould said later that he did so in order to help extricate it from its difficulties.23 Sylvester H Kneeland, a director not allied with Gould, explained in court testimony in 1883 that Gould had promised to build it up and that Gould had discussed with him who the receiver of the Manhattan should be, that Gould wanted a person who could be lifted out whenever it became desirable to get rid of him, as if Gould were making the decision.27
Cyrus Field brought suit to extract the New York Elevated from the lease agreement. The petition stated that the net earnings of New York Elevated were more than enough to pay the interest on its bonds and a 10 per cent dividend on its stock, but that the net earnings of the Metropolitan Company have been barely enough to pay its bond interest. Because of the unequal earning power the effect was that money earned on the New York Elevated lines was flowing to Metropolitan stockholders. Likewise the Manhattan Railway was spending New York Elevated earnings to maintain the Metropolitan structures.28 Field had been outspoken about New York Elevated not getting its fair share ever since merger talks had broken down the year before because of Field’s insistence that New York Elevated shareholders get more per share of the consolidated company.29
The World continued its campaign. An unnamed broker in July thought that it seems perfectly ridiculous that the stock of a corporation which owns no property whatever was still selling so high. There was reckless mismanagement. The stocks show weakness, some broker said, owing to the character of the report that the receivers are expected to make in about 10 days. Field’s suit would probably succeed, it was claimed, and the two companies would take back their roads, leaving the Manhattan with no property and heavy debt.24
The receiver reported in September that the Manhattan Railway did not have enough income for its expenses. He remarked pointedly that on any other railway in the area the fare for just over eight miles, the distance from Rector St to 125th St, ranged from 15 to 30 cents, while the elevated charged 10 cents and only 5 cents in commission hours.25 The report still addressed only the Manhattan’s financial situation and not the guaranteed payments to the two owner companies.
On September 29, the receivers asked the court for permission to issue $1,000,000 in certificates of indebtedness to creditors who had been owed payments on July 1. The court conducted the hearing in Jay Gould’s office. Counsel for New York Elevated stated that Manhattan Railway now owed $2,644,000 and was losing money as it continued, while New York Elevated’s properties were profitable separately.30 Cyrus Field insisted that he would accept no promises to pay, and Russell Sage promised to join with him to get back the Metropolitan Elevated too.31 Gould wrote in an affidavit, In my opinion the Manhattan Railway Company is hopelessly and irretrievably insolvent and the certificates … will be utterly worthless.23 The court allowed the certificates to be issued, but no one bid on them.27
By now the Manhattan’s stock price had dropped enough to suit Gould, and he and his associates began to buy, but carefully, not enough to raise the price on any day. Just before closing time on Saturday, October 8, Gould appeared at the transfer office loaded down with Manhattan stock. Some was entered in Gould’s name, but more in the names of his son, his clerks and other of Gould’s dependents. He had been buying for at least a week if he had bought every share traded. Together with the stock owned by Russell Sage and others, Gould’s group now had majority control of the Manhattan Railway.23 Wall-street was surprised, reported the World.32 Gould had bought at least 70,000 shares below 20, some at 16, and by November 9 Manhattan Railway sold at 55, a paper profit of about two and a half million dollars.23
Cyrus Field ostensibly had a change of heart as well and was now seen visiting Gould’s office on a few occasions. The boards of directors of the three companies named a joint committee to settle their differences.33 A deal was quickly made to provide stock dividends of 6 per cent instead of 10, and to give New York Elevated guaranteed payments but to pay the Metropolitan stockholders only from actual profits.34 The companies entered into the new agreement on October 22, but without a vote by the Metropolitan’s stockholders. With this, the court terminated the receivership on October 25.21
On November 9 the stockholders of the Manhattan Railway elected new officials. Jay Gould was president, former president Robert M Gallaway became vice president, and the new board of directors included Russell Sage, Washington E Connor, Sidney Dillon, George J Gould (son of Jay), Cyrus Field, Edward M Field (son of Cyrus) and long-term member William R Garrison.23
Some of the Metropolitan stockholders started lawsuits over the agreement, so many that the Manhattan applied for an injunction against any more suits until the courts could determine the cases. A permanent injunction was granted in June 1882 but vacated in February 1883.21 In 1882, the stockholders revolted, led by Sylvester H Kneeland. The directors were able to postpone the annual meeting from July to November, but when the time came a large group of stockholders arrived in force to cast their votes personally. Gould, Sage, Dillon, Connor, de Navarro, Field, all were voted off the board by about 27,000 to 5,000 voting shares. One of the new directors was Rufus H Gilbert, reinstated in his old company. Kneeland was the new president.35 In December 1882, the Metropolitan company sued the Manhattan and New York Elevated over the agreement of 1881, and finally in April 1884 it was ruled that the agreement was invalid.21
However the three companies needed each other, and they concluded a new operating agreement in July 1884, and agreed in August to merge. It took a few years to put all the ducks in a row. The Manhattan Railway Company merged the New York Elevated Railroad Company in February 1890, and the Metropolitan Elevated Railway Company in May 1894.21
The crossing at Chatham Square
Chatham Square, the great changing-place, where no passenger is quite sure whether he must sit still or get out, climb over the bridge and take another train36 : of the up-town passengers who utilize the Second-avenue line below Chatham-square only a very small percentage continue the trip on this line. The remainder, and by far the largest number, leave the cars at this station, climb the bridge, and resume their up-town trip on the Third-avenue line.37
This was the situation created in March 1880, when to avoid grade crossings all Third Ave trains were routed to City Hall and Second Ave trains to South Ferry.
As early as February 1881 it was proposed that Second Ave trains should end at Chatham Square, if that was what was necessary for Third Ave trains to run to South Ferry. Eight months later a company official said only that the change would be made in good time,38 which proved to be eight months more.
Finally on June 19, 1882, Second Ave service was cut back to Chatham Square, and with the assistance of an interlocking system, Third Ave trains began running alternately to City Hall and South Ferry during the commission hours. Off-peak, the City Hall branch was worked by a shuttle that came into the Third Ave station at Chatham Square and turned in the center tracks to the north. Second Ave service still ended at 8:00 in the evening, and the City Hall branch at midnight.39
Second Ave trains stop a few feet from the junction of the up track in Division-st with that of the up track of the Third-ave line. The platform where the passengers land is built over the down track in Division-st and extends along it about 100 feet.39 Service frequency was thus limited to what could be dispatched from a single track terminal. As each train left, its inbound engine ran light to a point past the switch outside the station, and waited to pull out the next set of cars in turn.
The platform for the Second Avenue passengers and the bridge connecting with the Chatham Square Station are as yet uncovered by any roof. On this account occurred the greatest distress among the women passengers, and the most complete exhaustion of patience and profanity among the men. During the earlier part of the day the sun beat down powerfully on the waiters on the platform ; in the afternoon the rain drenched alike the just and the unjust who were waiting to go up Second-ave … they were wet with perspiration or rain as the case happened all the day.39
It was the first day of operation with the interlocking system. Four switchmen stood watch at the tower overlooking the station and pulled a bewildering array of levers backward and forward. With each motion the track switches beneath shot to and fro, a bolt shot out and back again fastening the rails in place, and signals were displayed. This new manœuvring on the roadbed did not work satisfactorily at first, and delays resulted.40 Nonetheless it provided a degree of safety not before seen on the elevated railway.
The Third Ave trains carried colored disks and lamps to indicate the services: white for City Hall, green for South Ferry, and in rush hours also red for trains ending at Chatham Square.39 The South Ferry trains ran past the now-abandoned center platform that had been used by the Second Ave trains.40
Two months later on September 18, a separate platform was opened for the City Hall shuttle trains, located on the uptown side in the point between the City Hall and South Ferry branches, and running for about 200 feet to Worth St. From it passengers will be obliged to cross a long bridge for trains going up Second or Third avenue.41 This helped the company more than it helped passengers. It meant that the interlocking did not need to be operated when the shuttles were running. The company’s spin on it was avoiding all possibility of collision.41 The only known photograph does not show a bridge from the shuttle platform to the Third Ave platform, so the bridge must have gone to the abandoned platform. This meant passengers had to take a minimum of two footbridges to get to Third Ave trains or to the street, and one more footbridge for Second Ave trains.
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The Manhattan Railway proposed the idea of a completely separate southern terminal for the Second Ave El in 1884. At this time preparations were being made for the Suburban Rapid Transit route Bnorth of the Harlem River that would bring passengers to 129th St and Second Ave. The Rapid Transit Commission appointed in December 1883 designated a route from Division St down Catherine St (one block east of Chatham Square) to South St and from there along the docks to South Ferry,42 but this Commission fell apart before they completed their work, three of the five resigning because of disagreements.43 By June the Manhattan Railway had prepared plans calling for a similar route using Market St (a block east of Catherine St) with stations at Catherine Slip, Roosevelt St, Peck Slip, Fulton St, Wall St, and South Ferry, all of which were at ferry terminals. A company director said it would cost about $600,000.44
The Manhattan Railway called for another Rapid Transit Commission in 1887 and presented plans for the Second Ave El extension to it in April.45 The route was adopted on May 14,46 but the Manhattan Railway directors objected to provisions as to taxes and fares.47 When the Commissioners tried to organize the Connecting Elevated Railway Company,48 the Manhattan Railway people ignored it and the plan was dead.
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While this was going on, the interlocking plant at Chatham Square was upgraded in 1885. In January, City Hall shuttle trains began running to the main Chatham Square station once again in the midday hours although not in the evening.49 From April 12, Second Ave trains once again ran to South Ferry, together with alternate Third Ave trains.50 This was made possible by routing enough Third Ave trains to City Hall or the Chatham Square pockets to open paths for the less frequent Second Ave service. It still limited the number of trains that could be run on Second Ave. The Chatham Square problem was not solved until 1914, when the junction was completely rebuilt with separate pairs of tracks for each route to City Hall and a flyover for Third Ave trains going to South Ferry.
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Gould and the New York City and Northern
Gould’s plans for a national railway system involved the Manhattan Railway and the New York City and Northern as the entrance to Manhattan.
In May 1881, the month the railway opened, the N Y C & N spent $135,000 for a lot at Ninth Ave and 56th St for a passenger station and freight depot after failing to acquire other sites nearby. However upon examining the lot, de Navarro told a reporter, I was really sorry that we had secured the property, when I first walked through the street, for I knew at once what the property-owners would suffer by it … The company will build a station there, but it is doubtful if it can be completed within a year.51 It is hard to say what use a single lot would have as a railway terminal unless it was solely for a building adjacent to a new side platform on the elevated railway. Nothing else is known of this plan.
Under the agreement of April 1881 with the N Y C & N, Manhattan Railway operated baggage trains between 155th St and the station at Eighth Ave and 53rd St. During the day an engine and baggage car make frequent trips between this point and the terminus of the Northern Railroad. The trains changed ends by dropping the baggage car in the center track at the station and running the engine around. Since there were only the usual two side platforms, the baggage was somehow handled there, and fast, between passenger trains running at least every five minutes. The baggage was then transferred again at 155th St.52 The baggage station at 53rd St was operated to some date after 1893.
An important segment of Gould’s New York and New England .Railroad opened from Brewster to Hartford on July 25, 1881. Riders willing to change at 155th St, Brewster and Hartford could now ride from South Ferry to Boston on an inland route.53 In September officials of the New York City and Northern and the New York and New England found it necessary to deny that they would soon be operated under one management.54
Gallaway announced in December that among the many schemes in contemplation by the elevated railroad managers is the project of a new track on the Ninth-avenue road to bring suburban travelers into the city. The Ninth-avenue structure, it is claimed, was built with such a purpose in view … The third track will be laid between the present tracks, the space being sufficient. Trains will run over it and will be faster than are others, and will stop at but few of the stations, the main object being to hurry passengers down to the business centres of the City with all possible speed … The lower terminus for the fast trains will probably be Rector-street. Travelers from Boston to this City over Mr Gould’s New-York and New-England Road, via the New-York and Northern, will be accommodated with these fast trains. The route was via Sixth Ave, stopping at Grand St, 53rd St (Eighth Av), 125th St and 155th St. By Ninth Ave he meant the route north of 59th St.55
The New York City and Northern was not so important a road as this might make it sound, and it was not making money. Its winding path through Westchester and Putnam Counties missed all the larger villages and forced slow running. The company started borrowing from the New York Loan and Improvement Company in February 1882, eight loans in three months, to be paid on demand with interest. When New York Loan and Improvement requested the $91,934.74 on May 1, the company could not pay, and following suit, a receiver was appointed on May 24, 1882.56
A reorganization plan was proposed in May 1883. The old company had two mortgages outstanding, $4,000,000 to Central Trust and $2,000,000 to New York Loan and Improvement. These would be foreclosed and refinanced, in the process bringing in enough to build the rapid transit line to Getty Square, Yonkers, that had been authorized in 1879 and 1880. The branch was to be three and a half miles of which one and a half in Yonkers would be elevated.57 The plan was not acceptable to all, and Central Trust sued in September.58 New York Loan and Improvement challenged Central Trust and opposed foreclosure.59 And so it went for four years more. The existing road continued to operate but no progress was made on the Yonkers Rapid Transit.
The Suburban Rapid Transit and the New York, Fordham and Bronx
While the Commissioners of 1881 waited for the New York, Fordham and Bronx plan to take life, the Suburban Rapid Transit, granted routes by the previous commission, began to act. They petitioned to build the bridge at the head of Second Ave in December 1881. They had to request it of the Parks Department, which had been given jurisdiction over the Annexed District. The company agreed to build a passage for the special convenience of foot passengers.62 Overruling objections by the Second Avenue Railroad (the street railway), the Park Commissioners approved the bridge on March 15, 1882. It was to be an iron swing drawbridge for two tracks, with a free footpath.63 It was further approved by the Common Council in June and by the Board of Docks in April and June 1883. The Suburban then made an exclusive agreement with Manhattan Railway in April 1883 to connect to their tracks at the head of Second Ave.64 This secured rights to build the bridge and the connection. Now things began to happen.
A group of investors formed a New York, Fordham and Bronx Railway under the Railroad Law, incorporated November 30, 1883, and on June 10, 1884, petitioned the commissioners of June 1881 to build a route ‘coinciding’ with the route that they had laid out. The company proceeded to get consents of property owners and on July 14, 1885, reported having consent of two-thirds in value of the property, the legal requirement.60 Finally on December 8, 1885, the commissioners certified the incorporation of the rapid transit company of the same name, backdating it as if it had started November 1, 1881. The owners were business associates of Jay Gould and Cyrus Field.61 It was during these same years that the Manhattan Railway improved the Chatham Square interlocking and sought a separate southern terminal for the Second Ave El, as if preparing to handle increased ridership.
With the New York, Fordham and Bronx now secure, a few months later in 1886 Suburban Rapid Transit leased and then merged the two New York, Fordham and Bronx Railway companies, forming a single viable company to build rapid transit lines in the Annexed District.64
The road as built followed the original Suburban Rapid Transit route across the river and through private property up to a point near 143rd St where the Suburban’s Central Route crossed Third Ave. From there the constructed road ran over Third Ave using the New York, Fordham and Bronx charter. The first section opened was the all-important bridge from 129th St and Second Ave to 133rd St, May 17, 1886, and on to 143rd St five days later. A new joint station was built over the east side of Second Ave at 129th St with the Manhattan and Suburban trains using opposite sides of the same platform, but no through service was offered.65
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In November 1886, a very short branch was opened running down to the New Haven’s right of way. At this time the New Haven cut back its service from the old Harlem River terminal to a new joint station that became known as Willis Ave. The branch was worked with a shuttle to 129th St over which New Haven railroad fares were charged.65
The main line reached 149th St on the elevated over Third Ave on June 16, 1887, and extending one or two stations at a time it reached 169th St by September 1888.65 The route was ahead of its time. For 1887, income was $43,000 while operating expenses were $62,000, and $476,000 was spent for construction and equipment.66 Topography was against it as well. At present, although Third-avenue has been declared open to Fordham, the operations of the road above One Hundred and Seventieth-street are checked effectually by masses of rock for some distance above this terminus. Contracts are out for the removal of the rock and for suitable grading. Until that shall be done the road cannot be built any further.67
Early in 1891 arrangements were made for Manhattan Railway to buy Suburban Rapid Transit. Reportedly the Manhattan would exchange $3,000,000 to $5,000,000 of its stock for the stock and bonds of the Suburban— pretty good for a company not even bringing in its operating costs. Jay Gould and Russell Sage were said to have furnished a large share of the money to build the Suburban Road, which explained it.68 Manhattan Railway leased the Suburban on April 1 and merged it on June 30.64
Service was extended to 177th St, Tremont Ave, on July 20, 1891. After a ten year interval the route reached Fordham Road in 1901 and the Bronx Park terminal in 1902. Through running to Manhattan was begun in 1896 and the former Suburban Rapid Transit was fully integrated into the city transit system.65
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The Yonkers Rapid Transit and the Putnam Division
The litigation of the New-York City and Northern, which has hampered the Yonkers Rapid Transit Company ever since its organization, has now been settled and an agreement has been completed by which the latter company yesterday put 100 men to work commencing to build the road. The people of Yonkers are very jubilant about this, as they have been waiting patiently for this road for the past five years.69 This word in May 1887 signalled that a reorganization plan had finally been agreed upon and that investors were willing to put enough money into the business to build this branch into populated territory. The merger of the West Side and Yonkers into the New York City and Northern on July 16 also indicated preparations.70 The first mortgage was finally foreclosed on July 22,8 and the property was sold on August 17 for $2,000,000.71
The new owners incorporated the similarly-named New York and Northern Railway on October 11. The next day the new company leased the Yonkers Rapid Transit, and merged it on November 11.72 The essential feature of the new corporation is the construction of a double-tracked branch railroad from Van Cortlandt station to Getty-square in the city of Yonkers … It will furnish to the citizens of Yonkers rapid transit facilities connected directly with the elevated system at One Hundred and Fifty-fifth-street.73
The Getty Square branch opened on March 10, 1888.74 Trains operated about every half hour on schedules that allowed only two to five minutes dwell time on the single track terminal at 155th St.75 By the standards of the day, this was rapid transit service. The branch spurred real estate development of a large property called Park Hill by the American Real Estate Company, not affiliated with the railway, in the same year.
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Unlike the Suburban Rapid Transit, the Getty Square rapid transit was never integrated into the city transit system. It came close in January 1893 when J Pierpont Morgan concluded two years of negotiations and arranged for the Manhattan Railway to take control of the New York and Northern by acquiring about $3,000,000 of of stock and bonds with in exchange for Manhattan Railway stock.76
Bearing especially on the new purchase are some of the propositions made last week by the Manhattan Elevated to the Rapid Transit Commission. One of these schemes provides for a line which will enable the Manhattan to continue its present Suburban Railroad, now running to Tremont [177th St and Third Ave], up to a connection with the little line crossing Jerome Park, and from that to a near-by connection with the New-York and Northern tracks. This plan is close to the heart of some of the most important people in the Manhattan management, including Mr J Pierpont Morgan.76
According to an analysis in the Times, Gould had been trying for years to depress the stock price of the New York and Northern.76 This helps account for the actions of Gould’s New York and New England in denying freight interchange traffic at Brewster from 1890 to 1892, when the United States Circuit Court ordered it restored.77 Gould died on December 2, 1892, after a brief illness.78
And now the next month, Gould’s heirs and associates finally had the New York and Northern. The purchase could have easily resulted in elevated service to Yonkers, but the plan did not go through. Manhattan Railway had applied to the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners on January 19, 1893, for new routes and connections, but could not reach an agreement with the board. The major sticking point was the board’s insistence on a single fare of five cents all the way to the city line.79 This board was the ‘Steinway Commission’ established in 1891, who proposed a subway in December 1892 but could get no bidders.80
George J Gould (son of Jay) and Russell Sage vetoed the deal a day after it was announced, because of the fare issue, because the prices were regarded as extravagant and because the extension was too far into the country for an urban road to undertake. Morgan was the only Manhattan director strongly in favor of the plan.81 He did not wait but brought the deal to his fellow board members at the New York Central and the New Haven, and the New York Central completed a deal with the New York and Northern security holders by April.82
The New York and Northern, mortgaged and hit hard by the financial crash of 1893, was sold under foreclosure on December 28, 1893, to Morgan and others. They incorporated the New York and Putnam Railroad on January 12, 1894,72 and on January 30 they leased it to the New York Central and Hudson River Rail Road, thus bringing it into the national railway network and permanently out of the city transit system.83
The railway’s role in the national network had reached its peak on December 5, 1892, when a through overnight Pullman train began running between 155th St and Boston. It lasted only until May 1, 1893, done in by corporate politics and of course limited patronage.77 It was the great age of unusual and short-lived through services. Day travel to Boston by changing at Brewster continued for a few years longer. But by 1900, the trains were strictly for local passengers.
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The railway was known as the New York Central’s Putnam Division for the rest of its operating life. The inadequate one-track 155th St terminal was finally replaced in 1918 by a better terminal called Sedgwick Ave at the Bronx side of the bridge, when elevated service was extended across the bridge and beyond to the city-owned Jerome Ave route. The New York Central laid third rails from Sedgwick Ave to Getty Square in 1926 and began electric operation, but it was not a convenient service— why did it not run to Grand Central?— and ran for only 17 years. The Getty Square branch was abandoned in 1943. The property was sold off and much of it has since been built on. Passenger service on the main line ended in 1958.84 Today the main line within Westchester County is a walking trail.
The death of Rufus H Gilbert
Rufus H Gilbert died on July 10, 1885, in his house on 73rd St near Riverside Dr. He was an invalid in his last few years. On Monday July 6, William Batman, a friend who had once been a guard on the elevated railway, called at his house. Getting no answer, he entered by the basement door and found Gilbert unconscious in his bed. Batman called Gilbert’s physician and his uncle, who was a nurse, and Batman and his uncle were the only ones present when Gilbert passed away from chronic inflammation of the bowels and chronic diarrhea— from which he had suffered for several years— superinduced by neglect. After the death of his first wife, who had no children, Gilbert had married again, but he had been separated from the second wife and his two children for about two years.85
The later career of Charles T Harvey
Charles T Harvey continued to work in transportation for many years after he was shut out of the West Side Elevated Railroad.
In May 1879 he unexpectedly turned up as apparently the principal owner of the Metropolitan Transit Company, also known as Swain’s three-tier road, incorporated in 1872. But he did not stay with this questionable company.
Harvey incorporated the United States Harveyway Construction Company in January 1882 for the purpose of constructing and operating one or more illustrative section railroads involving the use of a propelling cable attached to stationary power. The company was incorporated under the Railroad Law of 1850 for the purpose of building one mile in New York and one mile in Kings County, route not stated.86 Harvey assigned the company his patents in 1889, and the name of the company was changed to the Harveyway Trust and Improvement Company, September 1889.87
A long and peculiar bill was introduced from the subcommittee of the Senate Railroad Committee, whose provisions are designed to allow Charles T Harvey to set up what is called an illustrative section of an elevated railroad in New-York, in April 1885. The bill, as it is drafted, provides that his illustrative section shall be a quarter of a mile long, fully provided with tracks, traction cables, cars, and all the machinery necessary to permit him to demonstrate the plans by which he hopes to produce a structure which shall ornament the street and occupy the smallest possible space upon it. The money to pay for all of this is to be taken out of the fund created by the payment to the city of a fraction of the earnings of the present elevated roads. He is to have $50,000 at once, a similar sum if the commission of experts appointed by the Governor approves the design, and further appropriations from time to time as desired. The Senators have a great deal of sympathy with Mr Harvey, and this is the tangible form it takes. None of them expect the measure to pass.88
Harvey’s argument was that according to a law of 1868, the elevated railway was to pay into the city treasury five per cent of its net income, to be used for experiments. Harvey maintained that this was at least $5,000 per quarter since that time. Originally the disposition of the fund was in the hands of a commission, but that has long ago died, and the money can only be reached through legislative enactment.89 It came to a vote in May. A little old man with white hair sat rubbing his hands as he saw the affirmative votes roll up, and he nearly fell off his seat when it was announced that the bill had passed. The aged gentleman was Charles T Harvey.90 The Assembly passed it too, and the governor signed it, but the city called it unconstitutional and refused to give Harvey the money.91 No one mentioned it, but the law of 1868 was the amendment to the act of 1867 that the Court of Appeals had considered in 1877, and that they had said seemed to be invalid, but that they did not rule on solely because it did not matter in the case at hand.
Harvey pursued the case. The General Term of the Supreme Court found against him in March 1886,92 and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in June.93
But Harvey did not stop. In 1889 the legislature passed another bill authorizing Harvey to have the money, now claimed as $206,611.70.94 In 1891 they passed it again,95 and again in 1892. The governor vetoed the bills.96
In 1895 Harvey appeared before the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners and asked that it take action to assist him in collecting from an unexpended fund with which the former commission was supplied to use for experiments. It was thought inexpedient to take any action on the matter at present, and Mr Harvey will be compelled to wait until the board makes an application to the Legislature to have the fund transferred to it.97 This may have been the last time Harvey sought the money.
In the meantime, he kept busy elsewhere. In 1889, Harvey was involved with a proposed elevated railway in Jersey City, to run from the Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal. The trestles are to be such as are used on the New-York elevated roads. No locomotives will be employed. The cars will be operated by cables such as are now used by the elevated road running from Hoboken to the West Hoboken Heights.98 Harvey was one of the incorporators of the Central Elevated Transit Company in June 1889.99 The cars would move on an elevated railroad that, it is said, will not darken the streets, and right of way has been secured except on a little section of Jewett-avenue … It is expected that the road will rapidly build up one of the most beautiful of the residence sections in New-Jersey.100 In November it was reported that Harvey has the contract to construct the road, for which the bonds and stock are to be delivered to him.101
At a hearing before the Board of Aldermen of Jersey City, the road was described as two and a half miles, running from the Central of New Jersey ferry to West Side Ave, along Johnston Ave to Grand St, across private property to reach Jewett Ave west of Summit Ave, and then along Jewett Ave. The structure was to be iron or steel with columns just inside the curb line, and the cars to be operated by cable. Harvey was called the contractor, but he was no longer listed as a director, his son Richard filling that role. There were objections about the use of public streets.102 The Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance permitting the road, and the mayor signed it.103 Then no more was heard. The railway was never built.
For a few years Harvey returned to the north of Michigan where he had worked before he came to New York. In 1895, he was made the acting chief engineer of the Sault Ste Marie and Hudson’s Bay Railroad Company in Canada and in 1897 the manager and chief engineer of the Hudson’s Bay and Yukon Railway and Navigation Company.96
Harvey died in New York on March 11, 1912, age 83.104
The Story lawsuit
Back in 1877 Rufus Story was one of the property owners who sued to stop the New York Elevated Railroad from constructing the Third Ave El. He owned property in Front St. The Court of Common Pleas dismissed his suit in November 1877.
Story and his lawyer John E Parsons, who argued many of the cases for property owners, appealed the judgement at the Court of Appeals in May 1881. After a long wait the court on October 17, 1882 ordered a new trial on the merits. This decision is one of the most important ever handed down from a court in this State, reported the Times, practically declaring, as it does, that the owners of property along which the elevated railroads run have a right to recover damages where their property has been injured in value by the construction of the road.105
‘It means simply this,’ said John E Parsons, one of the attorneys of Mr Story, ‘that when it can be shown that private property has been made to suffer by the building of the elevated roads the owners of that property may sue for damages and recover them. Of course, the amount to be recovered will depend altogether upon the estimate which a jury may place on the damage done. Some of the property along the line of the elevated roads has undoubtedly been greatly benefited by their construction. Other property, like that in West Third-street and Fifty-third-street, has just as certainly been injured, and this decision sets at rest forever the question of the right of the owners of that property to recover what a jury may consider equitable damages. Mr Story’s suit, which it has taken over five years to decide, presented to the courts a question which had never before arisen, the question of the liability of the elevated roads to compensate the owners of property along their lines.’105
The ruling was very bad news for the elevated companies. Story maintained that Front St was not owned by the city but was an easement with the property owners owning the land out to the center of the street. But the case argued that even when the city did own a street, an abutting property owner had the absolute right to protect the street in front of him for ordinary street uses. Parsons argued for Story that his right to light and air, and freedom of access, and his exemption from annoyance, is property, and it can only be taken from him by legal process and for just compensation.105
New York Elevated immediately started proceedings to condemn the land occupied by the elevated railway in front of Story’s buildings, the same procedure any railway used to take property for a right of way when a sale could not be agreed upon. The Supreme Court would appoint commissioners to determine the value of the property.106
After many and troublous sessions they decided that Mr Story was entitled to $15,000, that being the measure of the diminution of the value of his premises by the various causes of injury proceeding from the elevated railroad structure, trains, &c. Their report was objected to by the railroad company’s lawyers on the ground that they were bound to assess separately the damages resulting from each cause of injury, and to limit those causes to the deprivation of light and air and the lessening of the ease of access to the premises. The commissioners refused to make such a fine division, and the case went back to the Supreme Court, where Parsons argued to start it over again in the Court of Common Pleas. This would risk an injunction stopping operation of the railway all over again, and finally in 1885, New York Elevated paid Story the $15,000.107
Story died in 1887, noted as the man who so long was a spice merchant on Front-street and first successfully fought the elevated roads.108 His legacy continued. Four hundred suits by property owners were still pending in 1898.109 This was part of the cost of elevated railway construction, the part that was never calculated in comparison to underground roads.
The Manhattan Railway and the Interborough Rapid Transit
Manhattan Railway operated the elevated railway system in Manhattan and the Bronx until 1903, when the property was leased to the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, the company formed to operate the city subway that opened in 1904.21 The Manhattan Railway Company owned the elevated railways until the City of New York purchased them in 1940, and following that the company was dissolved.65
The subway took center stage as soon as it opened in 1904. It was modern. It had four tracks for express and local service, as recommended by the Senate Commission of 1866. In design it was not far from the Arcade Railway plan. It had all the virtues of underground railways as promoted by Alfred E Beach and others of his day, and electricity solved the nagging problem of motive power.
City and state authorities from that day to this have promoted the year 1904 as the start of rapid transit in New York. It was not, of course. The elevated system was the proving ground for many ideas and the results were applied to the design of subways. But not all the lessons were learned: to save money the city built the farther reaches of the new system as ‘elevated subway’ lines that would repeat history by bringing noise and darkness to the streets of the outer boroughs once buildings lined the once-open streets.