West Side Line (NYCRR)
The West Side Line, also called the West Side Freight Line, is a railroad line on the west side of the New York City borough of Manhattan. North of Penn Station, from 34th Street, the line is used by Amtrak passenger service heading north via Albany to Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Rutland, Vermont and Chicago. South of Penn Station, a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) elevated section of the line abandoned since 1980 (popularly known as the High Line) has been transformed into an elevated park. The south section of the park from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street opened in 2009 and the second section up to 30th Street opened in 2011.
Hudson River Railroad
The West Side Line was built by the Hudson River Railroad, which completed the forty miles (64 km) to Peekskill on 29 September 1849, to Poughkeepsie by the end of that year, and extended to Albany in 1851. The city terminus was at the junction of Chambers and Hudson Streets; the track was laid along Hudson, Canal, and West Streets, to Tenth Avenue, which it followed to the upper city station at 34th Street. Over this part of the right-of-way the rails were laid at grade along the streets, and since by the corporation regulations locomotives were not allowed, the cars were drawn by a dummy engine, which an 1851 description allegedly consumed its own smoke. While passing through the city the train of cars was preceded by a man on horseback known as a "West Side cowboy" or "Tenth Avenue cowboy" who gave notice of its approach by blowing a horn.
At 34th Street the right-of-way curved into Eleventh Avenue, the dummy engine was detached, and the regular locomotive took the train. As far as 60th Street, the track was at street level. The first cut was at Fort Washington Point. The railroad crossed Spuyten Duyvil Creek on a drawbridge; a fatal wreck occurred there 13 January 1882 when the Atlantic Express, stopped on the line, was rear-ended by a local train, telescoping the last two palace cars, where the stoves and lamps were upset and ignited the woodwork and upholstery.
In 1867 the New York Central Railroad and Hudson River Railroad were united by Cornelius Vanderbilt, being merged in 1869 to form the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. The railroad acquired the former Episcopal church's St. John's Park property and built a large freight depot at Beach and Varick streets which opened in 1868. The tracks south to Chambers Street were then removed. In 1871, the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad opened, and most passenger trains were rerouted into the new Grand Central Depot via that line along the northeast bank of the Harlem River and the New York and Harlem Rail Road, also part of the New York Central system. The old line south of Spuyten Duyvil remained for freight to the docks along Manhattan's west side and minimal passenger service to the West Side Station on Chambers Street (used until 1916).
As the city grew, congestion worsened on the west side. Eventually plans were drawn up for a grade-separated line. The West Side Elevated Highway was built with the line's grade separation in the 1930s. Work on the highway (named for Manhattan Borough President Julius Miller who championed it) began in 1925, and the first section was dedicated June 28, 1934. This included a new elevated eight-track St. John's Park Freight Terminal several blocks north of the old one, with a south edge at Spring Street. From there an elevated structure carried two tracks north on the west side of Washington Street, curving onto the east side of Tenth Avenue at 14th Street, then crossing Tenth Avenue at 17th Street and heading north along its west side. Just south of the Penn Station rail yards, the line turned west on the north side of 30th Street, then north just east of the West Side Highway. The northernmost bridge crossed 34th Street, and a temporary alignment took it back to Eleventh Avenue at 35th Street. The elevated line was built through the second or third floors of several buildings along the route. Others were served directly by elevated sidings. In 1937 the tracks along Eleventh Avenue were bypassed by a below-grade line, passing under the 35th Street intersection and running north just west of Tenth Avenue before slowly curving northwest, passing under Eleventh Avenue at 59th Street and rejoining the original alignment.
Around the same time, master builder and urban planner Robert Moses covered the line within the Freedom Tunnel from 72nd Street north to 120th Street. His project, called the West Side Improvement, was twice as expensive as the Hoover Dam and created the Henry Hudson Parkway and an expansion of Riverside Park. North of the new alignment, the Henry Hudson Parkway and Riverside Park were built above the tracks from 72nd Street north to near 123rd Street. The large 72nd Street Yard served as the dividing point between the two-track realignment and a wider four-track line to the north. North of 123rd Street, the line becomes elevated between the Henry Hudson Parkway and Riverside Drive before returning to the surface and crossing under the Parkway to its west side near 159th Street. It continues along the shore of the Hudson River to the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a swing bridge across the Harlem Ship Canal (Spuyten Duyvil Creek), before merging with the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad just north of the bridge.
In addition to serving the industrial and dock areas of the Lower West Side, the line was the primary route for produce and meat into New York, serving warehouses in the West Village, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, as well as serving the James Farley Post Office and private freight services.
Donald Trump and Riverside South
Donald Trump optioned the 72nd Street Yard in 1974. Riverside South, the development project he ultimately began there, is the city's biggest private residential development. To obtain approval of his project, Trump agreed to build Riverside Park South on 23 acres (9.3 ha) of the yard and donate it to the city.
The line itself north of 31st Street was acquired by Amtrak. The southernmost part of the High Line (south of Bank Street) had been removed in the 1960s; the structure from Bank St to Gansevoort St was removed some 20 years later. As of mid-2005, the rest of the High Line is owned by CSX, which acquired it after the 1999 breakup of Conrail.
Prior to construction of the Empire Connection, passenger trains traveling the Empire Corridor via Albany from upstate New York or beyond (including Chicago) into New York came into Grand Central Terminal. Penn Station was located on the separate Northeast Corridor. (Penn Station could be reached from the Empire Corridor, but only via an impractical route from the Bronx, via the New Haven Line, that then backtracked several miles to the north, to Pelham Manor, to the Northeast Corridor line.) Passengers traveling beyond New York on the Northeast Corridor were forced to transfer between Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station via shuttle bus, taxicab or subway. The West Side Line still went all the way down to Gansevoort Street.
When the West Side Yard for the Long Island Rail Road was built on the west side of Manhattan in 1986, a tunnel was built under it connecting Penn Station to the West Side Line just west of Eleventh Avenue, near the Javits Center. A viaduct near the tunnel was severed from the U.S. railway system in the process. When additional funding later became available, one track along the northern part of the West Side Line was rebuilt for passenger service and termed the Empire Connection. A short section of single track into Penn Station was electrified using third rail and overhead catenary, since diesel locomotives are not allowed to operate in the station tunnel. North of 41st Street, the single track expands into two tracks and electrification on the line ends. A wye was constructed adjacent to Track 2 (the westernmost track) to allow diesels to turn around. South of 49th Street, there is a crossover from Track 1 (the easternmost track) to Track 2, and another siding splits off Track 2 at 49th Street. The Empire Connection allows trains traveling the Empire Corridor to reach Penn Station. The Empire Connection was double tracked north of 39th Street to south of the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge in the mid-1990s.
On April 7, 1991, all Amtrak Empire Service trains started using the new Empire Connection into Penn Station. Beside being more convenient for passengers, this saved Amtrak the expense of operating two stations in New York City.
Under the West Side Access project, Metro-North Railroad is studying ways it could also serve Penn Station. One alternative under study would run some Hudson Line commuter trains into Penn Station via the Empire Connection, possibly with new station stops at West 125th and West 62nd Streets.
The High Line park
In the early 1980s, as the connection to Penn Station was created, the line south of 34th Street was severed from the rest of the U.S. railway system. This portion of the line, entirely on an elevated viaduct, stood dormant for over thirty years. This portion of the viaduct, now called the High Line, has been turned into an elevated park which opened in phases from June 2009 to fall 2014.  
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