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The New York and Harlem Railroad (now the Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line) was one of the first railroads in the United States, and possibly the first street railway, running north from Lower Manhattan to and beyond Harlem. The line was later truncated at Grand Central Terminal, with the rest becoming part of the Fourth Avenue Horse Car Line. The line became part of the New York Central Railroad system, with trackage rights granted to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad into Manhattan. It is now part of the Metro-North Railroad system, and the only Manhattan trackage of that system.
The company was incorporated on April 25, 1831 as the New York and Haerlem Railroad Company, to link New York City with Harlem (specifically, the "power to construct a single or double railroad or way from any point on the northern boundaries of Twenty-third Street to any point on the Harlem River by the power and force of steam or of any mechanical or other power or any combination of them." The first section, along The Bowery from Prince Street north to 14th Street, opened on November 26, 1832. After that, the following sections opened:
- June 10, 1833 - north along Fourth Avenue to 32nd Street
- May 9, 1834 - north along Fourth Avenue to Yorkville, including the Murray Hill Tunnel
- October 26, 1837 - north along Fourth Avenue to Harlem, including the Yorkville Tunnel
- May 4, 1839 - south along The Bowery, Broome Street and Centre Street to City Hall at Centre Street and Park Row
- September 3, 1842 - north to Williamsbridge
- December 1, 1844 - north to White Plains
- June 1, 1847 - north to Croton Falls
- December 31, 1848 - north to Dover Plains
- January 19, 1852 - north to Chatham Four Corners with a connection to the Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad, and trackage rights northwest to Albany
- November 26, 1852 - south along Park Row to Astor House at Park Row and Broadway
The New York City Common Council passed an ordinance on December 27, 1854, to take effect in 18 months, barring the NY&H from using steam power south of 42nd Street, due to complains by abutters. Before that, the steam locomotives had run to 32nd Street. When the ordinance took effect, the NY&H had not done anything. After much debate, including an injunction issued preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance, the courts struck down the injunction on July 30, 1858.
Between 1847 and 1856, a track was built in Grand Street between Centre Street and The Bowery (along with one block on The Bowery) for northbound trains. Southbound trains continued to use the old route.
Grand Central Depot opened just north of 42nd Street in October 1871, and intercity passenger trains from the north were ended there. (Ironically, by this point, the first of the Manhattan els had opened on Ninth Avenue.) Freight trains continued to operate along the tracks south of Grand Central, as did streetcars (still turning off at 42nd). On April 1, 1873, the NY&H leased its freight lines to the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, but the horse car line south of Grand Central remained separate. This eventually became the New York Central Railroad and then part of Penn Central and Conrail. Metro-North Railroad took over the line in 1983.
The streetcar lineEdit
In 1864 or 1865, a branch was added for trains between downtown and the 34th Street Ferry, running along 32nd Street, Lexington Avenue and 34th Street. This was the start of separate horse car service, running between Astor House and the ferry.
On July 2, 1870, horse cars started to run not only to the 34th Street Ferry but to 73rd Street via Madison Avenue. These trains ran through the Murray Hill Tunnel and turned west on 42nd before going north on Madison (northbound cars used Vanderbilt Avenue to 44th Street). The line was soon extended to 86th Street and then to Harlem.
The first electric streetcar open to passengers in New York City, a Julien electric traction car, was run on September 17, 1888 on the line to 86th Street. The line went back to using horses for a time, but switched to an underground third rail in 1897.
On July 1, 1896, the Metropolitan Street Railway leased the streetcar lines. The New York City Railway, which leased the Metropolitan, went bankrupt in 1908 (?), and was sold to receivers, who gave the Fourth Avenue line back to the Metropolitan Street Railway for operation on July 31, 1908. The lease was terminated on January 31, 1920, and operation was returned to the NY&H. On October 10, 1932, it was leased again, this time to the New York Railways Corporation, with the right to bustitute the lines. The stockholders voted to do this on February 19, 1934. An approximation of the route is now traveled by MTA New York City Transit's M1 bus. The Murray Hill Tunnel now carries two lanes of roadway, but not the buses.
- Railroad History Database
- Steam Below Forty-second-street, New York Times July 2, 1856 page 8
- Railroad is King, New York Times, September 24, 1856 page 2
- The Harlem Railroad Company vs. The City and Police Commissioners, New York Times July 31, 1858 page 4
- General News, New York Times December 15, 1863 page 4
- Our City Railroads, New York Times December 26, 1865 page 8
- Madison Avenue Railway, New York Times July 3, 1870 page 5
- Local News in Brief, New York Times November 1, 1871 page 8
- New York's First Electric Car, New York Times September 18, 1888 page 8
- Quicker Surface Transit, New York Times December 6, 1896 page 16
- New York & Harlem Intact for Century, New York Times May 25, 1930 page 39