• New York, Westchester & Boston NYW&B Main Thread

  • Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.
Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.
  by MickD
 
Just finished re-reading Otto's R&R article
and happened to be glancing at O&W survival thread,
and was wondering what NYW&B's chances would have
been had it not been extended beyond North Ave.
to Portchester with the rest of the line left intact.
  by Noel Weaver
 
The Westchester probably should never have been built at least when it was, it was overbuilt into a sparsely settled area but an area that had tremendous growth potential which indeed eventually happened. Having said that I would also maintain that it should not have been closed down and scrapped either. The Port Chester extension probably could have been torn up with little loss but the rest of the line had great possibilities if only the decision makers had been a bit more patient. The trains could have used a ramp arrangement to reach New Haven tracks at Columbus Avenue or they could have operated to 180th Street where they could have made a decent connection to the IRT. With suitable connections at Oak Point at least some Westchester service could probably have operated into Penn Station or at least Long Island City for sure too. Unlike the O & W the Westchester had a purpose and if it had been allowed to it could have continued to fulfill that purpose even until more recent times when the state showed an interest in the future of commuter rail service in New York. It did not happen and we are paying for this inaction back in the late 30's and early 40's.
Noel Weaver
  by Jeff Smith
 
Mick, I think Otto would agree with me, and he's the resident expert while I just have the t-shirt ;-), but I believe the PC extension was actually the more succesful part as it drew passengers away from money-losing NH main line service and allowed the cessation of the Harlem River branch. Noel's point on a potential terminal at 180 is also good. I used to take the 5 from Pelham Pkwy, and although not fast by any stretch, once we got to 180 the commute was reasonably fast.
  by Otto Vondrak
 
MickD wrote:Just finished re-reading Otto's R&R article and happened to be glancing at O&W survival thread, and was wondering what NYW&B's chances would have been had it not been extended beyond North Ave. to Portchester with the rest of the line left intact.

In the end, the Port Chester extension is what saved the NYWB for as long as it did. This is why runs were reduced on the White Plains branch. Without the Port Chester extension, the railroad would have struggled to grow its patronage through the woods of Central Westchester where there was little new construction thanks to the Depression.

The Port Chester extension is like the NYO&W's extension to the Scranton coal fields that were built almost last... Tapping the coal fields is what allowed the NYOW to survive at least into if not through the Depression.
  by Noel Weaver
 
Otto Vondrak wrote:
MickD wrote:Just finished re-reading Otto's R&R article and happened to be glancing at O&W survival thread, and was wondering what NYW&B's chances would have been had it not been extended beyond North Ave. to Portchester with the rest of the line left intact.

In the end, the Port Chester extension is what saved the NYWB for as long as it did. This is why runs were reduced on the White Plains branch. Without the Port Chester extension, the railroad would have struggled to grow its patronage through the woods of Central Westchester where there was little new construction thanks to the Depression.

The Port Chester extension is like the NYO&W's extension to the Scranton coal fields that were built almost last... Tapping the coal fields is what allowed the NYOW to survive at least into if not through the Depression.
Otto, I would agree with you but the territory between New Rochelle and Port Chester was already built out and it had excellent direct service on the New Haven right to Grand Central Terminal. The branch did little to help the whole situation because most of the riders out of the stations between New Rochelle and Port Chester preferred the New Haven's direct service as evidenced by the size of the trains both rush hour and non rush hour. The best growth potential was probably the least used portion which seems to be to be from Mount Vernon to White Plains but this was where they had a future from what I have read. I still have to wonder why the New Haven did not step in and save the section between New Rochelle and 174th Street as an alternative to the Harlem River Branch where they had a bottleneck at New Rochelle Junction and another one at Pelham Bay. If they had laid somewhat heavier rail and redone the signal system with more modern signals and longer blocks it could have been an excellent alternative to the drawbridge at Pelham Bay which at one time was very busy but in later years less so. A decent set of universal crossovers at the location where the Westchester tracks joined the New Haven tracks east of New Rochelle Station could have allowed for a Boston - Washington through train to by-pass New Rochelle Junction and Pelham Bay in the event of trouble at the junction or with the Pelham Bay Bridge or for that matter just plain congestion which occasionally occurred in that territory. All that good bridgework gone to scrap seemed like a huge waste of resources to me. I guess part of the problem was that the only ones that really wanted to save it were its loyal riders but there just wasn't enough of them.
Noel Weaver
  by chnhrr
 
The old phrase ‘Build and they will come’ does not always hold true. The NYW&B's planning and design should have had included some planned developments which would have enticed other developers to invest in further residential construction along the initial Westchester line. After completion of the Hellgate Bridge, The NYW&B and its parent company should have also made every effort to gain access to Penn Station. Terminating at the grim Harlem River terminal and connections with the limiting 2nd Avenue El, put the railway at a disadvantage.
-
Given the historic and geographic nature of New York City’s railroad and transit development, interurban type railways never really succeeded. The NYW&B would have been better off in Chicago.
  by Noel Weaver
 
The Westchester did not much resemble an interurban. It more resembled a short mainline railroad in both freight and passenger business. It shared ROW and systems with the New Haven and it had a much higher passenger capacity than most interurban lines did.
Noel Weaver
  by Otto Vondrak
 
Noel Weaver wrote:Otto, I would agree with you but the territory between New Rochelle and Port Chester was already built out and it had excellent direct service on the New Haven right to Grand Central Terminal. The branch did little to help the whole situation because most of the riders out of the stations between New Rochelle and Port Chester preferred the New Haven's direct service as evidenced by the size of the trains both rush hour and non rush hour.
Noel, I have to respectfully disagree here. Starting with the late 1920s, the Port Chester Extension of the NYWB accounted for most of the railway's revenue, more so than the White Plains Branch. That is why the NYWB diverted all its available resources to its construction.

The best growth potential was probably the least used portion which seems to be to be from Mount Vernon to White Plains but this was where they had a future from what I have read.
Noel, I will agree with you here on potential growth. The key here is "potential." There was much open land along the White Plains Branch that was available for development, and some new construction did take place along the line. But the Depression stopped the growth of Westchester County cold. With few new customers locating along the White Plains Branch, there was little hope that new riders would just appear out of thin air. The already-developed communities along the Sound Shore served by the Port Chester Branch helped improve the bottom line, and were attracted away from the New Haven trains by cheaper fares and more frequent service. Did it siphon away all of them? No. Given that the NYWB's ridership continued to increase dramatically year over year, it's clear they were doing something right.

-otto-
Last edited by Otto Vondrak on Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Otto Vondrak
 
chnhrr wrote:The NYW&B's planning and design should have had included some planned developments which would have enticed other developers to invest in further residential construction along the initial Westchester line.
It did, directly and indirectly. They owned real estate along the line, which was sold to development companies who specialized in creating tracts for new homes.
After completion of the Hell Gate Bridge, The NYW&B and its parent company should have also made every effort to gain access to Penn Station.
While this seems logical from the standpoint of offering a one-seat ride, taking people to New York City via Hell Gate would have made the ride longer than if you transferred to the Subway at East 180th Street. Plus the New Haven (stated it) was trying to reduce the number of trains operated into Penn Station and Grand Central, both facilities where they paid "rent" that was passed along in the cost of operation.
Given the historic and geographic nature of New York City’s railroad and transit development, interurban type railways never really succeeded. The NYW&B would have been better off in Chicago.
On the contrary, the idea of the NYWB is exactly what suburban New York needed... A heavy rail, private right of way, grade-separated, electric, high-speed, high-capacity railroad. Unfortunately, the suburban sprawl it was supposed to serve never developed thanks to the Great Depression stopping all new construction and growth for much of the life of the NYW&B.

-otto-
  by chnhrr
 
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. At one point in time, the NYW&B would have been happy to have the passenger and freight level of the Chicago Interurbans.

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. 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.

The effects of the Great Depression came twenty years later, yet NYW&B’s financial performance was not stellar even during the roaring Twenties. Suburbanization in the 1930’s did slow considerably; however it did not cease. Many industries, companies and individuals were leaving economically hard hit cities such as NYC to peripheral towns. Residential developers and builders were constructing smaller homes or garden apartments to accommodate the severe economic conditions.

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. Everybody needed cash in those days and creditors who held NYW&B debt wanted out, so liquidation was their answer. Also no one can overstate the impact of the automobile to the NYW&B’s final revenue.

Hey…when do we get out of our own Great Depression??
  by Otto Vondrak
 
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.

-otto-
  by Ridgefielder
 
Otto Vondrak wrote:
chnhrr wrote: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.

-otto-
Otto- Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the New Haven itself in receivership at the time the Westchester was scrapped?
  by chnhrr
 
I don’t know if the NH went into receivership. The New Haven did file for bankruptcy reorganization under Section 77 of the Bankruptcy Act in October 1935.
  by Otto Vondrak
 
Ridgefielder wrote:Otto- Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the New Haven itself in receivership at the time the Westchester was scrapped?
chnhrr wrote:I don’t know if the NH went into receivership. The New Haven did file for bankruptcy reorganization under Section 77 of the Bankruptcy Act in October 1935.
The NYWB only went into bankruptcy proceedings because parent New Haven did. The New Haven owned the NYWB. It was a subsidiary. The New Haven had an obligation to pay the interest on its debt, including the payments on the NYWB's bond guarantees. When the New Haven was no longer able to meet its obligations, there wasn't much choice. On October 23, 1935, the New Haven filed for reorganization under Chapter 77, and entered bankruptcy proceedings on November 1... The NYWB followed with its own filing on November 30.

The New Haven would emerge from trusteeship in 1947, five years after the NYWB was scrapped and one year after the company was wiped from the books. The New Haven entered its final bankruptcy in 1961.

-otto-
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