More on the Construction and Opening of the Harlem River and Porchester Railroad Through Pelham in 1873
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Many believed the area remained comparatively undeveloped because it lacked railroad access into and out of nearby New York City. On March 2, 1866, a notice appeared announcing an intent to incorporate such a railroad to be known as The Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company.
As the Civil War ended, Americans hoped for economic growth and a period of prosperity. In our region, landowners northeast of New York City, particularly along Long Island Sound, began clamoring for a better means of travel between New York City and the region. Shortly after the Civil War ended, support mushroomed for the construction of a railroad line parallel to Long Island Sound to serve the region. Indeed, residents of Pelham and surrounding communities heartily supported construction of the railroad and donated land and even money for the railroad company to purchase land so that the so-called "Harlem River and Portchester Railroad" -- known today as the Branch Line -- could be built.
I have written about the Branch Line and its importance to the development of Pelham and, particularly, the Village of Pelham Manor on a number of occasions. See:
Wed., Aug. 03, 2005: Early Reports Relating to Construction of the Branch Line (Part I).
Thu., Aug. 04, 2005: Early Reports Relating to Construction of the Branch Line (Part II).
Wed., May 09, 2007: 1870 Meeting of Residents of Pelham and Surrounding Areas To Encourage Construction of the Branch Line.
Tue., Sep. 04, 2007: Construction of the New Haven Branch Line in 1873.
Wed., Sep. 05, 2007: More About the Opening of the Harlem and Portchester Railroad Line Through Pelham in 1873.
Fri., Feb. 20, 2009: Train Schedule for the New Haven Branch Line Through Pelham Manor in April 1886.
Wed., Aug. 06, 2014: Important Report of the Opening of the Branch Line Through the Manor of Pelham in November 1873.
On March 2, 1866, the Albany Journal reported that a Mr. J. D. Huntington had applied "to incorporate Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company." The same year, the New York State Legislature authorized the company to build its branch line along the Long Island Sound, but required completion of the road within five years. In 1869 the founders of the company applied to the New York State Legislature and received further authorization to construct the railroad "through private grounds" as necessary.
Within a few months, residents of the region were becoming alarmed with the slow pace of progress and were engaged in local meetings to encourage local landowners to donate lands to the railroad company to serve as the railroad right-of-way. In other instances, participants in such meetings were encouraged to donate funds to allow the railroad company to purchase the necessary lands. In one such meeting held in the Town of Westchester in May, 1870, C.A. Roosevelt of the Town of Pelham reported that "the property owners of his town were prepared to tender the right of way." At the same meeting, according to one report, a "committee was then appointed on the part of the town of Westchester, to confer with similar bodies in behalf of the towns of Pelham and West Farms, to obtain the right of way for the contemplated railroad through those towns."
A report in the New York Daily Tribune a few days later on April 27, 1871, further noted that: The "company have purchased for their terminus at the Harlem River a large tract of land, and have constructed along the river side a wharf some 900 feet in length, from which a line of ferry boats of great speed will convey such passengers as may prefer that route to the lower part of the city. Freight will also be conveyed from the same wharf to any portion of New York, Brooklyn or Jersey City. Branch tracks are to be laid to connect with the Harlem Railroad, whereby passengers can be conveyed to the Forty-second street depot without change of cars."
With the extended deadline nearing its expiration in 1873, the railroad company seems to have truly stepped up its construction efforts to complete the project. Indeed, on February 26, 1873, a help wanted advertisement published in The Sun sought a hundred men to work on the new line (see below).
On August 14, 1873, the Troy Daily Whig reported extensively on efforts to complete the railroad. It reported: "Five hundred tons of rails have just been received from Europe for the completion of the Harlem River and Portchester railroad. Two construction trains and a large force of laborers are now employed on the work, and an additional construction train will be placed on the road this week. Both tracks, it is expected, will be laid and in running order by the first of October, by which time some alterations and improvements to the draw bridge at Pelham Bay will also be completed. It was at first contemplated to commence operations with a single track and open the road by September 1, but the recent determination to complete both tracks before opening the road will delay that event about one month. A contract has been made by which the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company is to lease the road and operate it in connection with its own lines."
By either late November or December, 1873, the Branch Line opened. Indeed, the New York Evening Express reported that "The Harlem River and Portchester line from the Harlem River to New Rochelle, was opened for travel Nov. 24. It is 12 1/2 miles long, and operated by the N. Y., N. H. & Hartford Co. as the New Haven Branch."
The Village of Pelham Manor seemed poised for explosive growth, that is until the financial panic of 1873 ensued, plunging the nation and our region into a terrible financial depression.
* * * * *
"NOTICES. . . .
Mr. J. D. HUNTINGTON, to incorporate Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company."
Source: NOTICES, Albany Journal [Albany, NY], Mar. 2, 1866, Vol. 36, No. 10863, p. 2, col. 7.
"THE HARLEM AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD. -- As stated last week the Harlem and Portchester Railroad Company have applied to the Legislature for power to amend their charter to enable them to put their road through private grounds, &c., and in the event of its being sanctioned the work will be immediately commenced and pushed on as rapidly as possible."
Source: THE HARLEM AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Mar. 25, 1869, Vol. XIV, No. 684, p. 1, col. 6.
"HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD.
Meeting in Favor of the Project - Suburban Residents Clamoring for More Speedy Communications with New York.
A meeting composed of influential real estate owners of the town of Westchester, Westchester county, was held in the Town Hall of the former place on Monday evening, for the purpose of considering what measures were requisite to secure the early construction of the proposed Harlem River and Portchester Railroad. Among those present were William D. Bishop, President of the New York and New Haven Railroad, and many of the directors of the projected road.
After the meeting had been organized by the choice of William Watson, president, and the appointment of Claiborne Ferris, secretary, Mr. BISHOP in a somewhat lengthy address, set forth the effect of opening a railroad in enhancing the value of land through which it might pass, as well as the inevitable appreciation which would follow regarding property contiguous to the proposed road. He contended that the population of Westchester and adjoining towns is too sparse at the present time to warrant the company in paying extravagant prices for land, and in addition construct a first class railroad: but that if those whose lands would be increased in value by the road would tender or provide the right of way, the company would immediately go to work and give them a first class railroad. Without some inducement on the part of the property owners along the line of the proposed road, he could not hold out much encouragement to the residents of that locality as to the time when the project would be carried out.
C.A. ROOSEVELT, of Pelham, stated that the property owners of his town were prepared to tender the right of way.
A committee was then appointed on the part of the town of Westchester, to confer with similar bodies in behalf of the towns of Pelham and West Farms, to obtain the right of way for the contemplated railroad through those towns."
Source: Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, N.Y. Herald, Jun. 1, 1870, p. 6, col. 3.
"PORTCHESTER AND HARLEM RIVER RAILROAD.
Another large meeting of the citizens of Westchester was held in the Town Hall on Friday evening, at the call of the Hon. Edward Height, to hear the report of the committee appointed at a late meeting to examine and ascertain how large a sum of money would be necessary to get the right of way for the Portchester and Harlem River road through the town. The meeting organized by appointing Wm. Watson, esq., Chairman, and the Hon. Ed. Haight, Secretary. Mr. R. H. Ludlow, on behalf of the Committee, then read and explained the report, which was in substance as follows: That the railroad company shall take $15,000, the amount to be raised by subscription by property-owners in the town, and settle the right of way with the holders of the land themselves, and build the road; and that where no agreement can be had, that they shall apply to the Supreme Court and have appraisers appointed to value the land taken. It is understood that the Company has already the right of way through two parcels of land, and that one or more others have promised or are expected to give the right of way through their estates. The residue to be obtained is about 18 acres, which the committee be invested with power to appoint sub-committees to call on the inhabitants and solicit subscriptions, and that when the amount required has been subscribed that the list, together with the report of the committee, shall be forwarded to the Railroad Company. In case the aggregate sum subscribed should exceed the amount necessary for right-of-way, then the subscribers shall only contribute pro rata according to their respective subscriptions. It is also expressly mentioned that unless the full complement ($15,000) is given, the subscribers are not to be bound; and in case the money is raised, it is not to be paid to the company until they have begun the work in the town, or 20 days thereafter. The costs of the Courts, &c., are to be borne by the Company.
Mr. Ludlow stated that the Committee from the towns of Pelham and West-Farms reported favorably, and gave an interesting account of the advantage that the road would be to property holders, and cited the towns lying along the Harlem Railroad as evidence of the rapid growth in population and valuation, after which the meeting adjourned.
The Committee then held a session, and appointed as their sub-Committee, Messrs. Bowne, Hendrick, Hatfield, and M. O. Watson. The work of obtaining subscriptions will be begun at once, and should the mission prove successful, the construction of this much talked of road will be commenced this month, and by next May the facilities for communication and rapid transit between this city and the lower portion of Westchester County will have been permanently established. The track will be a double one, with steel rails, and as good as any in the State. The line adopted for the road is by way of Pelham Bridge, and St. Raymond's Catholic Church, and thence to West-Farms and Harlem."
Source: PORTCHESTER AND HARLEM RIVER RAILROAD, New-York Tribune, Jul. 4, 1870, Vol. XXX, No. 9123, p. 1, cols. 4-5 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
The bill to extend the time for completing the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad for two years was passed by the Legislature on Tuesday evening. The capital stock of the company is $1,000,000, of which the greater portion has already been subscribed. Under the original charter granted in 1866, the road was to have been completed within five years from the passage of the act. The greater part of the strip of land (four rods wide) required for the road has been given to the company by the adjoining land owners. The road bed has been partly graded, and in some places culverts have been constructed under the embankments. A few of the bridge adjustments have also been built."
Source: RAILWAY MATTERS, N.Y. Herald, Apr. 24, 1871, p. 5, col. 5.
HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD.
--As the genial spring season advances increased activity is noticeable in the prosecution of that much needed enterprise, the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, whose terminus at this place cannot fail to prove an important feature iin the future growth and prosperity. According to the original charter, granted in 1866, the road was to have been completed within five years from the passage of the act. Since the failure of Mr. Legrand Lockwood, however, the work of construction has been progressing slowly. The greatest portion of the strip of land, four rods wide, acquired for the road has been donated to the company by the adjoining property owners. The road bed has been partially graded, some of the earth and rock cuttings have been done, and in some places culverts have been constructed under the embankments, and a few of the bridge abutments have also been built. The proposed line of the road follows the shore of the East River, through a section of country which has for many years been enjoyed by wealthy families who are not obliged to visit the city daily to attend to business affairs; but could remain among the picturesque groves and inlets along the coast of the most beautiful of our American waters -- Long Island Sound fishing, shooting, yachting, &c. The company have purchased for their terminus at the Harlem River a large tract of land, and have constructed along the river side a wharf some 900 feet in length, from which a line of ferry boats of great speed will convey such passengers as may prefer that route to the lower part of the city. Freight will also be conveyed from the same wharf to any portion of New York, Brooklyn or Jersey City. Branch tracks are to be laid to connect with the Harlem Railroad, whereby passengers can be conveyed to the Forty-second street depot without change of cars."
Source: MOTT HAVEN -- HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Apr. 27, 1871, Vol. XVI, No. 793, p. 1, col. 2.
"HUDSON RIVER COUNTIES.
PORTCHESTER. -- A New-York capitalist has offered to furnish one-half of the money required for the construction of a narrow gauge railroad from this place to White Plains and Tarrytown, if the property owners along the line will provide the balance. . . . The report of the Commissioners appointed to award damages for land required for the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad has been confirmed by Justice Barnard. . . ."
Source: HUDSON RIVER COUNTIES -- PORTCHESTER, N.Y. Daily Tribune, Dec. 1, 1871, p. 5, col. 5.
"WANTED -- Hundred men on Harlem River and Portchester Railroad; take cars from 42d st. for New Rochelle.
R. DOOLEY, Contractor."
Source: WANTED, The Sun [NY, NY], Feb. 26, 1873, Vol. XL, No. 150, p. 4, col. 3.
"Railroad Extensions in Westchester County.
The President and Directors of the New-York, Westchester, and Boston Railway Company awarded, on Wednesday last, the contract for the construction of their road between the Harlem River and Portchester within 18 months. The Company have also purchased a plot of ground, comprising about 100 city lots, fronting on Harlem River, for their southern terminus and depot. Nearly one-half of the right of way between the Harlem River and Portchester has already been secured. The line will run on the east side of the village of Morrisania, and will cross the Bronx River near Bucking's factory, in the village of West Farms; thence north-easterly, through the village of Eastchester, Prospect Hill, New-Rochelle, Chatsworth, Mamaroneck, and Rye, to Portchester, where it will connect with the New-York, Ridgefield and Danbury Railroad, again connecting at the last named place with the New York and Boston Railroad to New Haven. The New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad Company contemplate the early construction of a branch of their road in the town of Morrisania with its southern terminus at Port Morris. A third branch will be constructed from a point near St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Eastchester along the course of Hutchinson Creek, to a point near the village of White Plains, thence near the village of White Plains, thence westerly to the Saw Mill River, near Hall's Corners, where it will connect with the New York, Boston and Montreal Railroad and its branches."
Source: Railroad Extensions in Westchester County, Putnam County Courier [Carmel, NY], Mar. 8, 1873, Vol. XXXI, No. 45, p. 3, col. 3.
"A New Railroad.
Five hundred tons of rails have just been received from Europe for the completion of the Harlem River and Portchester railroad. Two construction trains and a large force of laborers are now employed on the work, and an additional construction train will be placed on the road this week. Both tracks, it is expected, will be laid and in running order by the first of October, by which time some alterations and improvements to the draw bridge at Pelham Bay will also be completed. It was at first contemplated to commence operations with a single track and open the road by September 1, but the recent determination to complete both tracks before opening the road will delay that event about one month. A contract has been made by which the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company is to lease the road and operate it in connection with its own lines. This will enable the latter company to increase its freighting and other facilities, and will give it two entrances into the city of New York. Loaded freight cars can be transferred from it to other lines terminating at Jersey City, Hoboken or Long Island, thereby avoiding delay, expense or breakage of bulk."
Source: A New Railroad, Troy Daily Whig [Troy, NY], Aug. 14, 1873, Vol. XLI, No. 22, p. 2, col. 3.
"Harlem and Portchester Railroad.
The lower terminus of this road will be a short distance south of Harlem Bridge in our County, the company having secured a tract of land at that point with a water frontage of more than a thousand feet. A substantial dock nine hundred feet long has been constructed, and upon it a freight and passenger depot three hundred feet long, and thirty-feet wide, is nearly completed. Boats will run to the lower part of New York fro this depot. Freight cars will also be conveyed to connect with other lines without breaking bulk. Both tracks for the new road are laid with steel rails. The length of the road from Harlem River to the junction with the New Haven Road at New Rochelle, is twelve miles, and the cost nearly $2,000,000. Commuters on the New Haven Road, it is said, will have the privilege of using the new road, and thus be conveyed by fast boats to Peck Slip. This will be a valuable addition to the facilities for travel on the other side of the county, and will doubtless increase the population and value of property."
Source: Harlem and Portchester Railroad, The Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Nov. 7, 1873, p. 8, col. 2.
"New York. . . .
-- The Harlem River and Portchester line from the Harlem River to New Rochelle, was opened for travel Nov. 24. It is 12 1/2 miles long, and operated by the N. Y., N. H. & Hartford Co. as the New Haven Branch."
Source: New York, col. 3, N.Y. Evening Express, Dec. 11, 1873, p. 1, col. 3.
"MEMORANDA . . .
The annual report of the directors of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company will be presented at the meeting of the stockholders, to be held in New Haven on the 14th of January. The following is the statement of receipts and expenses: --
Income. -- Transportation of passengers, $2,899,163; transportation of freight, $1,468,578; transportation of mails and express, $182,141; interest, $157,352. Total, $4,701,235.
Expenses. -- Transportation expenses, $2,641,016; taxes, $213,247, coupon interest, $83,158; Hartford and New Haven Railroad bonds charged to profit and loss, $387,000; net earnings, $1,726,802. Total, $4,701,235, thus making the net earnings a little more than 11 per cent upon the $15,500,000 capital stock of the company. The operating expenses were larger than those of the preceding year. This was owing mainly to higher prices for materials, to increased terminal expenses in New York City (owing to new passenger depot), and to the increased mileage of passenger trains. The additional passenger trains put on have not yielded a corresponding increase of passenger receipts.
The report recites briefly the absorption of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, which was in process of construction, a favorable opportunity hving presented itself, owing to pecuniary difficulties in which the company which had started that road became involved. Thus, a railroad line which threatened to be hostile, and to be extended to New Haven, was absorbed, and the consolidated road went ahead, finished the new road, and trains are now running. The money used for the construction of the road was advanced by the consolidated road, and the directors intend to reimburse the treasury by the avails of $2,000,000 of the first mortgage bonds of the purchased road, the principal and interest of which are guaranteed by the consolidated road. The company has taken a perpetual lease of the Harlem and Portchester road at a rent which is equal to seven per cent interest upon its cost. Concerning this enterprise is the following, which shows the opinion of the directors of the parallel road scheme: --
'The Canada Southern directors have issued a circular asking the bondholders to fund their coupons up to and inclusive of January 1, 1875, into a three years bond bearing seven per cent interest. The coupons are to be held in trust by the Union Trust Company of this city, and are not to be cancelled until the new interest bond is paid. The following extract from the circular is of interest to the bondholders: -- 'To pay the interest out of the securities of the company at this time could only be done at a ruinous sacrifice, which would still further paralyze its operations. Funding the interest as proposed, thereby leaving in the hands of the company its assets and earnings, will enable it to meet its maturing obligations without sacrifice, and to efficiently work the railway and develop the traffic, and is believed to be for the best interest of all concerned.'"
Source: MEMORANDA, N.Y. Herald, Dec. 30, 1873, p. 9, col. 2.
"WESTCHESTER COUNTY PROPER.
ALONG THE LINE OF THE HARLEM AND PORTCHESTER AND OTHER RAILROADS.
The south-easterly quarter of Westchester County, embracing the towns of Portchester, Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, and White Plains, bounded on the west by the Bronx River, and on the east and south by Long Island Sound, has not yet been opened to popular suburban settlement, and, with the exception of the few towns on the line of the New-York and New-Haven, the New-York and Harlem, and the Harlem and Portchester Railroads, is unavailable to the masses. Throgg's Neck, a small peninsula in the town of Westchester, is, perhaps, the most desirable location in all this section of the county because of its comparative proximity to the Metropolis, and its charming situation and topography. This peninsula is bounded east by the Sound and Pelham Bay, and on the west by a rivulet known as Westchester Creek. The land is rich, rolling, and ridgy, and is occupied chiefly by large estates of from twenty-five to fifty acres, owned by wealthy New-Yorkers, and held by them as private Summer seats. Among them are Lorillard Spencer, Geo. T. Adee, the heiress of the estate of John D. Wolf, Francis Morris, Jacob Lorillard, Claiborne Ferris, Lawrence Waterbury, John Hunter, Peter Lorillard, and Daniel Coster. With such families as those in possession it will be many years before the section is opened for settlement, and they retain it as a sort of exclusive aristocratic suburb of their own. It is at present approachable only by the Portchester Railroad, which has a couple of small local stations here, and by a local steam-boat ferry. Of course it is at all times accessible to its present holders by carriage, over the new boulevards in the lower portions of the Twenty-third Ward, the old Boston Post road, and other rural thoroughfares. That section lying south of this territory from a line running east and west from Lydig's Mill, on the Bronx, to the mouth of the Bronx River, and embracing North New-York and Port Morris, is, as a rule, low and unfitted for residences. A great portion of it has lately been laid out and improved by the Port Morris Land Improvement Company, but as it has good water frontage it will be almost wholly developed to commercial purposes, contingent upon the completion of the Hell Gate improvement. In the section lying west of Throgg's Neck and east of the Bronx, which is traversed by the Harlem Railroad, the old Westchester Turnpike, Fordham and Pelham avenues, and the Boston road, settlements have been very general about Olinville, Williamsbridge, now called Jerome and Bronxdale. Land hereabouts ranges all the way from $800 to $2,500 per acre, and is generally held in large parcels by people who have the capital to wait for appreciation of values. Within the past four years there have been auction sales held at Mamaroneck and Rye, in which 3,000 lots were sold, but a great deal of the property went off in plots, and has not been improved in any way, but is 'held for a rise.'
The great trouble with the eastern and southern part of Westchester County is that it is not sufficiently opened by trunk railroads. Local railroads lack the amount of traffic which enables the companies to run frequent trains, and the growth of places along their lines is comparatively slow in consequence. In order to live in any remote suburb the people must have frequent facilities of communication. The rates of commutation by the Harlem Railroad seem scarcely to realize, as yet, the popular estimate of cheap rapid transit. The tickets are issued in packages of 100, good for three months, and the limit of the commutation route is Pawling. For all present or immediately prospective purposes White Plains is the limit of suburban travel of which commuters may avail themselves. Mott Haven is about five miles from Forty-second Street Depot, and the tickets are sold at $8 per 100, which would be equal to twenty-six cents per day to and from the City Hall. To Melrose, six miles, the commutation fare is nine cents; to Morrisania Station, One Hundred and Sixty-seventh street, ten cents; to Tremont Station, seven miles, twelve cents; to Fordham, eight and a half miles, fifteen cents; to Jerome, ten and one half miles, sixteen cents; to Jerome, ten and one half miles, sixteen cents; to Woodlawn Heights, fifteen miles from the City Hall, or eleven and one-half miles from the Grand Central Depot, sixteen cents; to Mount Vernon, Bronxville, and Tuckahoe, the same fare, sixteen cents, though they range from one and one-half to five miles further on the route. These stations have from thirty to sixty trains daily, and are within from twenty to thirty-two minutes of Forty-second street. As far north as Woodlawn Heights stations have the advantage of the double service of trains of the Harlem and the New-Haven roads, as both lines use the same track to the diverging point at the latter station. The Yonkers division of the Hudson River Railroad extends on the west side, from the old Thirtieth Street Depot, north, and runs about forty trains daily, connecting the City with Manhattan, the stations at Carmansville, Fort Washington, (One Hundred and Seventy-sixth street,) Inwood, Spuyten Duyvil, Riverdale, Yonkers, Hastings, Dobb's Ferry, Irvington, and Tarrytown, which is twenty-five miles distant, and is available as a suburban residence only for a very select class. The whole of these stations, up to and including Riverdale, are now within the City boundaries, the distance to this last place being twelve miles, and the commutation fare eighteen cents per trip. These rates are reductions of about twenty to twenty-four per cent. on the regular single fare prices of tickets."
Source: PORTCHESTER AND HARLEM RIVER RAILROAD, N.Y. Times, May 31, 1874, p. 4, col. 3 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
CIVIL NOTES. . . .
The suit of Peter Sanford and others against the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company, now on trial before Judge Lawrence in Supreme Circuit Court, turns on a question of spile [i.e., "pile"] driving. The plaintiffs had a contract with the defendant to build the dock and approaches on the sand and the bridges across Pelham Bay, on the line of the road. The plaintiffs claim $17,968.43 for short payment under the contract, $1,830 damages for work that should have been given to them under the contract, but which was given to another, and $20,384.78 for balance due them for work not included in the contract. The defence is that by the negligence or collusion of its engineers, the defendants paid for 50,000 yards of earth-filling more than was actually done, and that by the negligence of the plaintiffs, there was a loss of nearly $14,000. The question turned on the question of whether the spiles in Pelham Bay were properly driven, or so loosely driven that they floated off. The case is still on."
Source: THE COURTS -- CIVIL NOTES, N.Y. Tribune, Oct. 3, 1877, Vol. XXXVII, No. 11393, p. 2, col. 2.
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