The Harlem Line

THE HARLEM LINE CAN TRACE ITS ROOTS BACK to the original New York & Harlem Railroad charter in 1831. The charter was for a line to run from 23rd Street to the northern tip of Manhattan. At that time, 23rd Street was too far north for most people, so the charter was changed to start the line at Prince Street. In 1852, the line reached 131 miles north to Chatham where it connected with the Boston & Albany line (when the new Grand Central was built, this mileage would change to 127). In 1862 it was bought by Commodore Vanderbilt and became a part of his empire that would include the Hudson River Railroad and the original New York Central railroad.

...In 1972, passenger service to Chatham was quickly abandoned by the Penn Central and the rails north of Millerton, New York were removed. A decade later, more rail was removed and the line terminated at Wassaic, New York. Under the 1971 contract with the MTA, passenger service remained as far as Dover Plains, 77 miles from Grand Central Terminal. Metro-North took over from Conrail in 1983. In 1985, Thornwood station was removed as electrification was extended to Brewster. Today, Metro-North has restored direct service to Grand Central from Wassaic (three trains in each direction) and has a shuttle service from Wassaic to Brewster North, where hourly service is provided through to Grand Central. The Southeast station (north of the village of Brewster and Putnam Junction Yard) is conveniently located near the Carmel exit on Interstate 84, just west of the interchange with I-684.

...Metro-North restored passenger service on the Harlem Line from Dover Plains to Wassaic, New York in 2000. This provided a welcome alternative to the congested auto route 22 and the Taconic State Parkway. Chuck Brandt has contributed photographs from the 1950s when the upper Harlem was busy with freight and passenger service.

...Another improvement to the Harlem Line was addition of a third main track from CP 113 in Mount Vernon to CP 117 north of  the Crestwood station.  The third track was necessary to expand service on the northern portion of the Harlem Line. 

...The Harlem Line no longer extends to Prince Street in lower Manhattan, but if you walk south on Park Avenue from Grand Central Terminal, you will notice an automobile tunnel bypass. This tunnel was built by the New York and Harlem Railroad! Before the current Grand Central Terminal was built, passenger coaches were detached from locomotives and pulled to Prince Street by horses. You can't travel downtown by horse drawn coach today but you can take the Subway .

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Last updated November 10, 2010