More on the 1873 Construction and Opening of the New Haven Branch Line Through Pelham
The Civil War had just ended and the nation was in the midst of a railroad investment bubble with investors pouring money into ill-conceived and vaporous businesses purporting to offer plans for laying a further web of railroad lines throughout the nation. The backers of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad venture, however, were different. They were wealthy men of means with the funds necessary to complete such a venture. Indeed, one of the principal backers of the proposal was wealthy New York businessman and financier LeGrand Lockwood.
The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company immediately took notice. The proposed railroad venture would compete directly with its New Haven Main Line. More ominously for the New York, New Haven & Hartford, the proposed railroad would offer a second means of getting into and out of Manhattan, breaking the virtual monopoly of the New York, New Haven & Hartford. The New Haven began watching developments involving the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, while scheming and plotting about how to meet this potentially devastating competitive threat.
The State Legislature granted a charter for the new railroad with the proviso that the new line be constructed within five years of the charter grant. Work to assemble land on which a terminus with wharfage could be built along the Harlem river began immediately. Within a short time, newspapers began running advertisements by landowners offering lots along the projected line of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad. Everyone understood that the coming of the new railroad would open a vast region along Long Island Sound, including an area encompassed by today's Village of Pelham Manor, to suburban development. Construction of the planned railroad did not proceed smoothly, however.
Shortly before the infamous Black Friday gold panic on September 24, 1869, the financier behind the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, LeGrand Lockwood, found himself in a terrible squeeze. According to one account:
"Lockwood was a director of the New York Central Railroad and treasurer of the New York Stock Exchange. In the summer of 1869, Jay Gould, attempting to create a railroad empire with a connection from New York City to the Pacific coast, negotiated with Lockwood, the treasurer and, according to author Kenneth D. Ackerman, the 'dominant figure' of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. 'After hours of haggling over a dinner of oysters, wine and steak at Delmonico's late one August night,' Ackerman wrote, Gould came to an agreement with Lockwood that Gould's railroad would build a line into New York City for the narrow-gage cars used by Lockwood's company in return for westward connections. Lockwood agreed to the deal despite opposition from Vanderbilt, who was simultaneously trying to gain control of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern by electing proxies to the board of directors. Learning of the deal, Vanderbilt launched a raid on Lakeshore's stock, which sank the price from $120 a share to $95 and put Lockwood in danger of personal bankruptcy. Lockwood began making plans to scuttle the deal with Fiske. He managed to sell his shares in Lakeshore to Vanderbilt for the bargain price of $10 million, turning over control of the company to him."
Source: "LeGrand Lockwood" in Wikipedia -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Dec. 31, 2016).
As Black Friday ripened into a financial panic that caused financial devastation throughout the nation, LeGrand Lockwood watched his personal fortune slip away. The directors of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company watched Lockwood's fortune slip away as well and seized the moment, acquiring rights to the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad from LeGrand Lockwood & Co. An annual report issued by the directors of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company later said:
"Owing to the pecuniary embarrassments of that company growing out of the financial troubles of the fall of 1869, an opportunity was furnished your Company to take the control and management of this road, then in process of construction. A considerable population, situated between New Rochelle and the Harlem River were without railroad facilities, and your Directors, after careful reflection, became fully convinced that unless these facilities were furnished by this Company, by means of the charter of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, of which it had become possessed, that a railroad hostile to your interests would have been constructed by other parties, and would have been extended through to New Haven, thus forming a parallel and competing line for all the business between New York and New Haven." [See below for citation and link to source.]
The New Haven stepped into the picture and took on the task of completing the construction of what came to be known as the Branch Line and the New Haven Branch Line. Construction, however, proceeded very slowly, requiring extension of the original railroad charter that required completion of the railroad by 1871.
By the spring and summer of 1873, however, construction of the line was proceeding furiously.
On July 17, 1873, the first passenger trip ever to pass over any portion of the then unfinished Harlem River and Portchester Railroad line took place. Passengers were carried over a portion of the line to convey them to an auction of the old "Given Homestead" near Pelham Bridge. See SALE OF THE "GIVEN HOMESTEAD," The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 18, 1873, p. 2, col. 4. A brief newspaper article published July 25, 1873 described the first passenger trip on the Branch Line to bring prospective purchasers of lots near Pelham Bridge:
"THE SALE AT PELHAM BRIDGE.
The first passenger train which has ever passed over any part of the Harlem and Portchester Railroad, conveyed last week a large number of gentlemen who were anxious to purchase lots near Pelham Bridge. The plot to be sold comprises 175 acres, and a portion of it borders on the southwest side of Pelham Bay, between the railroad bridge and the iron bridge. One hundred and sixty one lots were sold at very high prices; those in good locations ranging from $350 to $250 a city lot, and the lowest on high ground selling for $110; while swamp lots sold at from $200 to $55 a city lot. The details we gave last week."
Source: THE SALE AT PELHAM BRIDGE, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 25, 1873, p. 1, col. 3.
On November 26, 1873, the New Haven Branch Line opened to full passenger and freight service. At about the same time, the Pelham Manor & Huguenot Heights Association began developing the area that would become Pelham Manor, thus allowing today's Village of Pelham Manor to trace its origins to the decision by LeGrand Lockwood in 1866, to charter the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad.
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Below is the text of a series of articles that deal with the development of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
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 in its 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 having 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.
"The New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad.
The President and Directors of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Company have awarded a contract to responsible parties for the construction of their road between the Harlem River and Portchester within a period of eighteen months. The company have also purchased a plot of ground comprising 100 city lots having a front on Harlem River, for the southern terminus and depot of the road. 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 cross the Bronx River near Bucking's factory in the village of West Farms, thence northeasterly through the village of East Chester, 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 Eastern Railroad to New Haven. The Company contemplate the early construction of a branch of their road in the town of Morrisania, with its southern terminus at Port Morris. Another branch from a point in the town of East Chester to Throgg's Neck, there to connect by ferry with the Flushing and Whitestone Railroad on Long Island. A third branch will be constructed from a point near St. Paul's Episcopal church, East Chester, along the course of Hutchinson Creek, to a point near the village of White Plains, thence westerly to the Sawmill River near Hall's Corners, where it will connect with the New York, Boston & Montreal Railroad and its branches."
Source: The New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 22, 1873, p. 1, col. 2.
"Superintendent Reed, of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company, has had prepared plans for six new stations, to be located between New Rochelle and Harlem river, on the line of the Portchester and Harlem branch [sic]. They will be similar to those erected at Stratford and at other points on the line of the New York division. Work on them will be commenced immediately. The places at which they are to be located are at New Rochelle, some distance west of the village also one on the north side and one on the south side of Pelham Bay, one at Westchester, one at West Farms, one at Hunter's Point."
Source: [Untitled], The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 25, 1873, p. 1, col. 2.
"THE HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD.
This road being nearly completed, the Company advertise that they will put one million first mortgage bonds on the market on the first of October, which will pay seven per cent. interest, payable half yearly on the 1st of April and October. The bonds have thirty years to run. They will be in sums of $1,000 and $5,000, and will be coupon or registered bonds, at the option of the purchaser. The payment of the principal and interest on these bonds will be guaranteed by the New York New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company and such guarantee will be endorsed on each bond. All proposals should state the denomination wanted and whether coupon or registered. The coupon bonds will all be of $1,000 each. The registered bonds of $1,000 and $5,000 each. The latter will be transferable at any time on the books of the Company by the owner or his duly authorized attorney.
Five hundred tons of steel rails have just been received from Europe for the completion of the road. Three construction trains and a large force of laborers are now employed on the work. Both tracks, it is expected, will be laid and in running order by the 1st of October, by which time the alterations and improvement 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 1st, 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 and breakage of bulk.
The Company are improving their waterside property, near Harlem bridge, with all possible expedition, building an engine house, laying switches and side tracks, and making every preparation for an extensive traffic. They are running an embankment into deep water for wharfage purposes, large quantities of dirt and garbage of every description being used for this purpose. Outside the wharf there will be floatage at low water for the largest European steamers, and the company obviously expect an enormous business by the opening of Hell Gate."
Source: THE HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 22, 1873, p. 1, col. 4.
"HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD.
This new railroad will afford the facilities of rapid communication with a section of Westchester County, hitherto comparatively inaccessible. As it is approaching completion and a formal opening, the following information may prove of interest to those residing on the line, and having accession to any of the villages and hamlets through which it passes.
The lower terminus of the road is on the Westchester County side of the Harlem River, a short distance south of the Harlem Bridge, and opposite the Second avenue of New York, where the company has secured a valuable tract of land, having a frontage of more than a thousand feet along the river.
On the margin of the river a substantial dock nine hundred feet long has been constructed, and upon it a passenger and freight depot three hundred feet long and thirty feet wide, has been erected, and is now nearly finished. It has spacious rooms provided with all the modern accommodations and conveniences for ladies and gentlemen. Passengers will be able to leave the trains, pass through the depot to the steamers in the river, and vice versa, without exposure. A commodious engine house and car-shed for the protection of locomotives and cars have been erected on the premises. The grounds, which are quite extensive, will shortly be covered with tracks arranged for the inward and outward bound passenger and freight trains. It is intended to transfer the freight cars from the road to barges or steamers, and thence to other railroads without breaking bulk, thereby saving time and expense.
A short time ago the construction of the road was placed under the supervision of Mr. H. G. Scofield as Chief Engineer, assisted by Mr. William O. Seymour, by whom the work has been vigorously pushed almost to completion. The whole length of the new railroad from Harlem River to its junction with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad at New Rochelle, is 12 1-4 miles; while the distance between the Harlem River and New Rochelle by the present route, via Williams Bridge and Mount Vernon is 12 3-4 miles.
Both tracks of the new road are laid the entire length; and the only impediment to the immediate opening of the line is at the bridge across Pelham Bay. The centre pier will be completed on or before the close of the present week, when the draw will be replaced in position; and it is authoritatively stated that the road will certainly be opened for public travel by the 15th of next month, after an elapse of four years after the franchise and property came into the possession of the present company shortly after the failure of Le Grand, Lockwood and Co., by the events of the memorable Black Friday in 1869.
The road has been built in the most thorough and substantial manner, double track steel rails with broked [sic] stone ballast, at a cost of upwards of $2000,000 [sic].
It is probable that commuters on the New Haven Railroad will have an opportunity of using either route to and from the city, at a very slight advance on the present rates. Local fares on the new road, will be about three cents per mile.
Negotiations are now in progress with one of the steamboat lines, for the transportation of passengers and freight between the depot at North New York, north side of the Harlem River, and the lower part of the city.
The first station above the Harlem River dock, will be between 135th and 136th streets, and known as Port Morris station, a distance of one and one fifth of a mile.
The second station will be at the intersection of the railroad with Hunts Point road, one mile and two thirds above Port Morris station, and will be known as Hunt's Point station.
The third station est of the Harlem River, will be at the Town of Westchester, opposite the village of West Farms, one mile and a quarter above Hunt's Point, and will be known as West Farms station.
The fourth station will be in the village of Westchester, one mile and one third east of the West Farms depot, and will be known as the Westchester station.
The fifth station will be in the town of Westchester, two miles east of the village of that name, and will be known as the Baychester station.
The sixth station will be in the town of Pelham, opposite City Island road, one mile east of Baychester, and will be known as Barton [sic] station.
The seventh station east of Harlem River, will also be in the town of Pelham, one mile and a half above Barton [sic], and two miles below New Rochelle; and will be known as Pelham Manor station.
The new railroad will be operated by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company, under a lease from the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company. It will be designated as the Harlem River Branch of the New Haven Railroad."
Source: HARLEM RIVER AND PORTCHESTER RAILROAD, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 31, 1873, p. 1, col. 3.
"REPORT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE NEW YORK NEW HAVEN & HARTFORD RAILROAD COMPANY.
The following report will be submitted at the annual meeting to be held in the city of New Haven, on Wednesday, January 14th, 1874.
The directors of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company respectfully submit the following report of the business and condition of the company for the fiscal year terminating September 30th, 1873. . . .
[Portions of Report Omitted from this Transcription]
During the year 1869 the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company entered upon the construction of a parallel and competing line of railroad, with the intention of opening up a new route between New York City and New Haven. They had become possessed of all the necessary legislative authority required in the State of New York and would, beyond doubt, have soon been able to obtain like authority within the State of Connecticut. This enterprise was then in the hands of prominent and wealthy parties. Owing to the pecuniary embarrassments of that company growing out of the financial troubles of the fall of 1869, an opportunity was furnished your Company to take the control and management of this road, then in process of construction. A considerable population, situated between New Rochelle and the Harlem River were without railroad facilities, and your Directors, after careful reflection, became fully convinced that unless these facilities were furnished by this Company, by means of the charter of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad, of which it had become possessed, that a railroad hostile to your interests would have been constructed by other parties, and would have been extended through to New Haven, thus forming a parallel and competing line for all the business between New York and New Haven. The ease with which the bonds of purely speculative railroads were then negotiated, and the facility with which towns and cities, through the flattering exhibits and zealous efforts of contractors and speculators could be persuaded to lend their financial aid to almost any new railroad scheme, satisfied your Directors that it was their duty, in the interests of the stockholders of your Company, to proceed with the construction of that part of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad between Harlem River and New Rochelle, which is the only section of country, through which the contemplated opposition road was to pass, that was not already supplied with the very best of railroad facilities. For these reasons arrangements were made with the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company, by which this Company should advance the necessary means to construct a first-class double-track road, with steel rails, from the Harlem River to New Rochelle, and there to connect with the tracks of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. This road is now completed, and trains commenced running over it on the 26th day of November last.
This Company has taken a perpetual lease of the road, at a rent which is to be equal to 7 per cent. interest upon its cost. The cost of the road, with the real estate and extensive wharves and water-rights on the Harlem and East Rivers, up to the 30th of September last, was about $2,000,000.
It will require an additional outlay for barges, steam-tugs, &c., to make the new road available as a route for freight between New York City and stations on the main line. Your Directors have no reason to expect that this new road will earn more than enough to pay its running expenses for some time to come, and that it will be several years before it can earn sufficient beyond its operating expenses to meet the interest upon its cost. It will be seen therefore, that the road was not constructed with the idea that it would prove, for the present, a source of profit to the old line, but for the purpose of preventing the construction of an opposition line, which, though reasonably certain to become bankrupt, would still have resulted in depriving the old line of all profits upon its business for many years to come.
The new road, however, will enable the Company to increase its freighting business between New York and stations on the main line, which could not well be done with only the former entrance into New York.
We have now the shortest and best practical railroad route between New Haven and New York city, with two lines of entrance into the latter city.
But, notwithstanding this, certain adventurers and speculators are at this time organizing another corporation for the purpose of constructing an additional road between New York City and New Haven, within an average distance of one-half of a mile of the present road. As the execution of this scheme must depend upon the negotiation of bonds to an amount sufficient to cover the cost of the road, and as such a road, if constructed, could by no possibility earn sufficient to cover the cost of the road, and as such a road, if constructed, could by no possibility earn sufficient to pay its operating expenses, it is hardly reasonable to suppose that persons either in this country or in Europe who have money to invest, will, after the lessons taught by the recent financial troubles, risk their capital in an enterprise of this kind, which excels in absurdity any railroad scheme whose worthless bonds have ever been foisted upon a credulous public.
The money used for the construction of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad has been advanced by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. It is the purpose of your Directors to reimburse the treasury for these advances by the avails of $2,000,000 of the first mortgage bonds of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Company, guaranteed principal and interest by this Company. These bonds are dated October 1st, 1873, bear 7 per cent. interest, are payable 30 years from date, and issued as coupon or registered bonds, at the option of the purchaser.
Your Directors with confidence recommend them to stockholders of this Company and others seeking investments, as one of the very best securities in the country. . . . [remainder of report omitted from this transcription]."
Source: REPORT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE NEW YORK NEW HAVEN & HARTFORD RAILROAD COMPANY, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 26, 1873, p. 2, cols. 2-4.
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I have written before about the furious efforts to construct the New Haven Branch Line in the early 1870s. For a few examples, 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.
Mon., Aug. 15, 2016: More on the Construction and Opening of the Harlem River and Portchester Railroad Through Pelham in 1873.
Thu., Jan. 05, 2017: Achieving the Impossible in 1873: Lifting the 160-Ton Draw of the Branch Line Bridge Across Eastchester Bay.
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