• city planning student with questions about railyards?

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by aurash
Hello all,

I am a graduate student at Virginia Tech University getting my Master’s degree in City Planning. I am currently doing research for a paper that has to do with Railyards.

I want to look at Railyard closures and their impact on the urban landscape. So I want to find out about any railyards that are close to cities and that have closed or that have plans for closure in the future. I would also like to know about any type of development that has occurred on former railyards around the nation.

I know what the major RR companies are and I plan to call them and ask for this info, but if anyone knows of any webpage that has this info listed I would appreciate the URL because it would save me a lot of time.

The idea behind the paper is that such a large amount of open land that railyards are composed of does not open up frequently in urban areas, especially large cities like NY and D.C. So when such a large swath of land does open up the potential for impact upon the urban locale is great. Whether it’s a stadium, housing, a mall, or whatever, the developments that are going up on these closed railyards are significant and I would like to better understand the planning process that surrounds their development.

Any info would be of great help.


  by mxdata
If you are looking for a current project to study, the exact transition that interests you is taking place at the former Boston & Maine Railroad yards in Somerville, Massachusetts, where an enormous residential and commercial development is under construction on the site of the abandoned railroad yard. This is in the area beside O'Brien Highway just north and east of the Museum of Science. This is the only current building project on a large abandoned railroad yard that I know of in the Boston area. Given the very high price of real estate in the area the other rail yards abandoned in years past have all been built over long ago.

  by Sand Box John
The Washington DC area had two facilities that were closed. The best known was Potomac Yard located in Virginia between Crystal City and Old Town Alexandra. Potomac Yard was owned by the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad (RF&P) and was a major transfer point between fright railroad of the northeast (Baltimore and Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad) and southeast (RF&P, Chesapeake and Ohio and Southern). Potomac Yard was one of the largest yards of it’s type on the east cost at it’s peek operations.

With the mergers of that created CSX and Conrail now Norfork Southern the facility became redundant and was closed.

Roughly half of the property has yet to be fully developed. The heart of the yard just south of Four Mile Run creek was developed in to a shopping center. The intermodel facility trailer storage area near Slader Lane at the south end of the yard has townhouses on it. Some other areas of the yard are used by rental car agencies serving National Airport.

One of the proposed sites for a new stadium for the Washington Redskins was made by the now deceased teem owner Jack Kent Cooke. Local opposition to the stadium resulted in the stadium not being built on the site.

Potomac Yard 1988
Potomac Yard 2002

The Eckington Yard of the Baltimore and Ohio in Northeast DC was primarily a small switching yard serving local shippers along Baltimore and Ohio tracks near Washington. It also had a intermodel facility and teem track.

Part of the intermodel facility is now occupied by a Federal Express distribution facility.

Eckington Yard 1988
Eckington Yard 2002

  by John_Perkowski
You might try the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha. The former Southern Pacific Taylor Yard in Los Angeles was taken up during the late 90s/early 00s, and the UP East Los Angeles Coach Yard was converted to other uses after the coming of Amtrak.

John Perkowski

  by Dieter
Another location with a major impact was the closure in the 70's and 80's of virtually ALL the rail yards along the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The yards closed for;

Lehigh Valley
Central of New Jersey
New York Central about four miles north in Weehawken.

At the time of the closing of Lehigh Valley, Pennsy and Erie, those lines had already become part of Conrail. The Central's facility closed under Penn Central.

This entire region has become "The Gold Coast", rich in development of marinas, condominiums, a shopping mall and more. The surrounding areas have been pretty much gentrified, with the only original transport hub surviving being at the old Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken where NJTransit trains terminate with underground service to Manhattan via PATH trains and a ferry service.

At Weehawken's former New York Central terminal site, a ferry service runs to midtown Manhattan.

These yards were closed YEARS before there was any development, and for a period in the 80's, one could snap up land and buildings for literally nothing. It has now become a showcase in urban living, and provided an affordable alternative for young professionals working in Manhattan. Corporate entities have also relocated offices in numbers to the area, since 9/11.

At the southern end of Jersey City is the newly established (within ten years) LIBERTY STATE PARK, immediately behind the Statue of Liberty. This facility lies on the grounds of the old Lehigh Valley and CNJ yards. The terminal (Communipaw Terminal) has been cosmetically restored and serves as a location for a variety of functions. The park is also the home to The Liberty Science Center, which is a museum/planetarium with an IMAX theatre.

The area has experienced such growth in the past twenty years that a light rail system has been constructed, linking Weehawken, Hoboken, Jersey City and Bayonne.

It's become a great place to live, and it's getting expensive.

I hope this helps.