Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Village of North Pelham Fought Plans for Construction of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway in 1909

In 1909, plans to construct the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway line through the Village of North Pelham were well underway.  Original plans for the line were to run it through the Village of Pelham Manor.  Residents of that village protested mightily.  Although the Railway never disclosed the reasons for the change, the route was redesigned to take the line through North Pelham.

North Pelham residents were incensed.  To make matters worse, in 1909 officials of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway announced that the line would cross North Pelham on a raised embankment with retaining walls built on both sides of the embankment, essentially cutting the Village in half, divided by a massive dirt wall.

On December 16, 1909, North Pelham residents gathered in Firemen's Hall at the local fire station to map out a plan to oppose the Railway's plans.  At the meeting, the Railway's chief engineer, J. L. Crider, presented maps and plans for construction through the village.  The meeting was emotional.  The Railway's plans "aroused so much opposition" that at the meeting Village residents proposed and adopted a resolution authorizing the Town Supervisor to appear in court the following day during a hearing on the Railway's plans to express the "unanimous sentiment of the people of North Pelham that an underground road is imperative for the welfare of the citizens and their property."  

Residents of the Village of North Pelham wanted the line built as a subway line beneath their Village.  Eventually their objections failed and the "Million-Dollar-A-Mile" railroad was built through the Village -- a railroad that was never profitable and was shut down and removed in the late 1930s.  Remnants of the line, including the railroad bridge to nowhere that still stands above Highbrook Avenue, may be found throughout the Village.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of an article that appeared in a Mount Vernon newspaper about the meeting held by Village of North Pelham residents in Firemen's Hall.

New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, Ca. 1912, Looking
Westward Toward Hutchinson River.  Image Shows the Dirt
Embankment and One of the Retaining Walls Fought by North
Pelham Residents.  Source:  Remembering North Pelham Facebook Page.

Detail from 1912 Map Showing Route of New York,
Westchester & Boston Railway Through Village of North Pelham.
Source:  1912 Issue of Electric Railway Gazette.


North Pelham, Dec. 17. -- This village is going to make every effort to prevent the New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad from constructing a stone and dirt embankment along Third street.  At a meet last night in Firemen's hall, much opposition was manifested to the plan of construction as explained and shown by means of maps, by J. L. Crider, chief engineer of the railroad.

This plan calls for the construction of a dirt embankment with stone walls, and it aroused so much opposition that the following resolution, which was presented by Peter Ceder, was adopted after an amendment calling for open structure work, was lost.  

'Whereas, the taxpayers of North Pelham, in public meeting assembled, voiced their disapproval of the plans of the railroad insofar as they call for an embankment through the village, it being the sense of the taxpayers that such an embankment will practically cut the village in two and cause irreparable injury to property; therefore, be it

'Resolved, that the taxpayers request Mr. Beecroft to appear before the supreme court and express the unanimous sentiment of the people of North Pelham that an underground road is imperative for the welfare of the citizens and their property.'

Mr. Beecroft will take this resolution to the hearing which Justice Mills will hold tomorrow morning at White Plains.  

Supervisor Beecroft called the meeting to order and explained its purpose.  He said that the Westchester road recently made application to the Public Service Commission to have the road declared a public necessity, the commission gave a certificate subject to the consent of the village and the order of the supreme court on the application to go through the streets.

Such an application was made to the supreme court last Saturday, and the hearing on the same was adjourned one week.  The opposition to the granting of the application by the court is on the ground that the proposed form of construction would be a serious detriment to the village of North Pelham.

J. L. Crider, chief engineer of the road, was called upon and briefly explained the proposed form of construction, which he said would be a dirt embankment.  This will extend along Third street from Sixth avenue to Second avenue.  From Second avenue west over the Hutchinson creek, there will be a steel viaduct similar to the superstructure of the subway in New York.  This viaduct will extend across into the city of Mount Vernon.  The highest will be 56 feet above the street at this point.

The railroad has 100 feet of right of way,, and it will build on either side of the embankment retaining walls, the top of which will be 20 feet below the surface of the railroad itself.  Mr. Crider explained in answer to questions that the walls would be grade of the street.  The roadbed would be anywhere from four feet to 32 feet above the ground.  At Eighth avenue it would be only four feet above the ground.  The grade is level from Third to Sixth avenue.  At Seventh avenue it will be only about 20 feet over the street.

Mr. Crider was asked why the railroad could not build a subway in the village, and explained that this would be impossible on account of the grade in New Rochelle.  He stated that the work had already been arranged for in Mount Vernon and that a subway would interfere with the plans there, and that the grade in Lather's woods was 145 feet above high tide, while that in North Pelham was only 35 feet, and that if a subway was built the railroad would have to go down even farther than it is going now in Lather's woods, which is 110 feet, in order to get on a level with North Pelham.

Captain Delcambre said nothing was impossible in this age of engineering feats and referred to the subway under the Harlem river as an illustration.  Mr. Crider answered that such a grade needed for a subway in North Pelham, would be worse than any in the New York subway; that the railroad had a quantity of material which it needed to use, and Mr. Delcambre retorted:  'Yes; and in other words you want to dump that material in New Rochelle and North Pelham.'

Mr. Crider was also asked what kind of bridges the road was going to build over the streets, and he replied that they would be ordinary ones.  It was definitely decided to have the station on Fifth avenue and Third street or else on Third street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.  The entrance to this station might be on either Third street or Fifth avenue.

Harry Douglas asked Mr. Crider if the road would make any pretense to take care of property adjoining the embankment.  'We haven't,' he replied.

Mr. Delcambre said that he thought that the village should have greater attention and he wanted to know if it was not a fact that the reason why the railroad changed its line from Pelham Manor, was because of the objections manifested there to the cut and because the village would not allow the cut unless it was covered.

Mr. Crider said that as far as he knew, that was not the reason why the line was changed from Pelham Manor.

'It seems to me that we are entitled to the same consideration here in North Pelham.  Here you are going to divide our village into two parts.  I cannot see why you cannot depress the tracks.  We do not ask for an actual subway, all we want is that you depress the tracks.  I think that we ought to have this consideration.  I think that by the time this road gets through with its suits for damages that the difference in the expense will be so little that the railroad could actually afford to build the subway,' said Mr. Delcambre of this point.

Mr. Crider explained that in order to have a subway in North Pelham, it would be necessary to go 20 feet below the surface of the street.  Such a plan would seriously interfere with their work, he thought, as they are already down 110 feet in Webster avenue.

It was suggested that the road might build a series of concrete arches, and in that way the portion of the village south of the tracks would not be deprived of air.

After the maps had been further explained, Mr. Ceder presented his resolution.

Mr. O'Donnell said that he would not like to vote on the resolution, for the reason that it was apparent to him that it would be impossible for the railroad to build a subway.  He thought that an open structure work of some kind would be far superior, and declared that the railroad would have to go down 125 feet for a subway.

Mr. O'Donnell then offered as an amendment to the resolution the words 'open structure.'  The amendment was lost and the original resolution was adopted."

Source:  NORTH PELHAM OBJECTS TO RAILROAD'S PLAN FOR A DIRT EMBANKMENT, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 17, 1909, p. 3, cols. 1-2.

Hutchinson River Viaduct of the New York, Westchester
& Boston Railway.  Source:  Author's Digital Collection,
from eBay.

"N. Y. Westchester and Boston entering Pelham, N. Y.," an
Undated Post Card.  Source:  Remembering North Pelham Facebook Page.

Undated Photograph of Fifth Avenue Station of the New York,
Westchester and Boston Railway, Ca. 1912, from Engineering News.
Source:  Remembering North Pelham Facebook Page.

Post Card View Showing Clifford Station Above the Tracks at the Village of
North Pelham / City of New Rochelle Border in About 1912.  Source:
Author's Digital Collection, from eBay Listing.

Post Card View of Clifford Station at the Station Level Above the Tracks.
Source:  Author's Digital Collection, from eBay Listing.

New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Bridge Above Highbrook Avenue in 1912.
Source:  1912 Issue of Electric Railway Journal.

Abandoned Bridge of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway
Above Highbrook Avenue in the Village of Pelham in 2004.  Source:
Photograph by the Author, 2004.

Child's Ticket from New York Zone to Mt. Vernon Zone, New York,
Westchester & Boston Railway.  Source:  Remembering North
Pelham Facebook Page.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written about the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway on numerous occasions.  For examples, see:

Tue., Jan. 12, 2010:  Architectural Rendering of the Fifth Avenue Station of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad in North Pelham Published in 1913.

Fri., Dec. 18, 2009:  The Inaugural Run of the New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad Through Pelham for Local Officials in 1912.

Thu., Jul. 7, 2005:  The New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad Company Begins Construction of its Railroad.

Fri., Feb. 25, 2005:  Robert A. Bang Publishes New Book on The New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Company.

Bell, Blake A., The New York, Westchester And Boston Railway in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 50, Dec. 17, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.

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At 12:22 PM, Blogger mariap1919 said...

Thanks for preserving the history of the Pelhams....


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