chnhrr wrote:I agree that the NYW&B was built as a class one suburban service with all the fine accoutrements, but eventually it became a similar operation to an interurban, albeit an expensive one. Dwindling ridership relegated trains to two cars.
Peak-hour service was often provided with four- or eight-car trains. The off-peak stuff was always another story, often handled by one- or two-car trains. I think you're confused because most of the photos published only show the off-peak smaller trains. Here's the ridership figures (from Herb Harwood's excellent book):
1913 - 2.9 million
1923 - 8.6 million
1928 - 14 million
Now, once the you had the one-two punch of the Depression and increased use of private autos, the NYWB lost a million riders by 1931. That eventually leveled off and the NYWB was able to maintain, but in the end It was the railroad's crushing debt that made it unprofitable.
The NYW&B should have been more proactive in setting up planned communities and not just the parceling of land along the original rail line.
That's not what railroads do. They buy parcels and sell them to real estate companies that do the development work. And frankly there was no money to go and build their own developments even if they wanted to.
During the railway’s initial completion in 1912 developers and builders were more comfortable developing around established towns with existing public services, utilities, schools, churches and yes mainline rail service.
And the development companies owned plenty of land alongside the tracks, though they had a hard time selling any of it because of the lack of development...
The effects of the Great Depression came twenty years later, yet NYW&B’s financial performance was not stellar even during the roaring Twenties.
That's simply not true. The Westchester was paying more and more of its daily expenses, and the construction of the Port Chester Branch brought in more revenue. Between 1914 and 1924, the NYWB's growth in suburban commuter traffic (142%) beat out the New Haven (138%) and the New York Central (134%). Between 1920 and 1930, the population of Westchester County grew by 51%. The NYW&B was growing year after year until the 1930.
The Great Depression did affect NYW&B’s ridership as it did for all railroads. Most importantly though for the distressed NYW&B, it no longer had the New Haven to support its debt obligations.
Well, see, that's just the thing. The New Haven was the major creditor of the NYW&B, having fronted all of the "construction costs" (that no one could quite track down). When it came time to pay back all of the rentals, fees, and other payments to the New Haven, the NYW&B always found itself on the negative side of the ledger.
Everybody needed cash in those days and creditors who held NYW&B debt wanted out, so liquidation was their answer.
The New Haven had to have the NYW&B liquidated or off the books before the mortgage bonds came due in 1946. That's about it. As far as the bondholders, there were two camps, one group wanted the railroad scrapped and liquidated and the other wanted it operated for profit. No one was willing to operate it, the county couldn't afford to buy it, the government made an offer for salvage, and that was about it.
Also no one can overstate the impact of the automobile to the NYW&B’s final revenue.
And the rise of the Parkway system in Westchester in the 1920s and 1930s.
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