Cool Finds:Tracing Westchester’s Vanished Railroad

24 Sep, 2012

By Polly Kreisman


This post is republished by request.


(above: Goldfinger at original NYW&B bridge over right-of-way, Bryant Ave. White Plains.)


It’s not hard to find people around here that are fascinated with trains.  Two of our favorite blogs, Trainjotting and IRidetheHarlemLine,  write in the realm of Metro North.


But there is also much deep fascination with a local railroad that has ceased to exist, the New York, Westchester and Boston, or NYW&B.


railroad cut near Goldfinger’s house (and in 1937 photo he holds, below)


“Scattered about Westchester and the Bronx are original, authentic pieces of a once glamorous and noteworthy railroad,” says New Rochelle’s Eliot Goldfinger.




We have covered both efforts to reclaim a NY,W&B railroad bridge as green space in Pelham and the re-use of lovely old stations in New Rochelle.


But no one knows this old railroad like  Goldfinger, who practices what he calls “suburban archeology,” discovering old artifacts still standing, whether deep in the woods behind his home in New Rochelle, or behind a wall in White Plains, or hiding in plain sight, such as the Girl Scout House in Larchmont.


Eliot, who took us on a tour of old artifacts around Southern Westchester, as you can see in the photos, writes:


The NYW&B was born in 1912 and, only twenty five years later, died at the very end of 1937. It ran northward from the area of the Willis Avenue Bridge in the Bronx, split at Mt. Vernon, and terminated either in White Plains ((at the Westchester Mall) or in Port Chester.


Various fence post tops used along the NYW&B.


Scattered about Westchester and the Bronx are original, authentic pieces of a once glamorous and noteworthy railroad. The NYW&B didn’t last long enough to be updated, improved, and modernized, so every lone fence post, concrete foundation for the overhead wire structure, concrete abutment, or extant station house, is original. Finding, studying and appreciating these artifacts are true exercises in suburban archaeology.


I was first introduced to this railway in 1959 when my family moved from Mt. Vernon to New Rochelle. The rear edge of our back yard abutted a city-owned deep rock cut that was the right-of-way of the NYW&B. Some years later, the railroad properties behind our street were divided up and auctioned by the City of New Rochelle, and my parents bought our lot. I have since moved back here with my family, and in landscaping my yard and the railroad ravine, have discovered two concrete foundations for the overhead wire structure, a concrete manhole and ceramic conduit for the underground telephone wires, many steel spikes of two different sizes, several heavy duty nuts and bolts to bolt the rails together and the connecting plates that go with them, broken signal glass and the light bulb (unbroken!) that went behind the glass.


Construction rail


The pièce de résistance (found on my neighbors yard when they were digging with a back hoe and given to me) is a seven-foot piece of rail that I believe to be a piece of construction rail used to build this great railroad. It is not as high as the final rail used for the NYW&B, and is the fourth piece of rail this size that I’ve found, so I believe it is construction rail. The construction rail can be seen in many photos of the railway being built.


There are currently four books devoted solely to the NYW&B, a website, many fanatical fans, and NYW&B memorabilia that produce record-breaking eBay sales. (A postcard of any other railway typically sells for $2 at train shows. A NYW&B postcard recently sold for over $500 on ebay).


This May 29th was the 100th anniversary of the opening of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway. Happy Anniversary!



Photos: Jacqueline Silberbush
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  • Anonymous

    What about the still standing train station on Harmon Drive currently being used by the Girl Scouts?

  • Jesse Birnbaum

    Eliot is a good friend of mine…we have explored various portions NYW&BR for many years…from the Bronx to White Plains…it is truly fantastic to see all this…

    Thanks!

    • http://www.theloopny.com editor

      He told us you gave him the old timetables?

      • Jesse Birnbaum

        Hi –

        Yes indeed, I gave Eliot a NYW&BR timetable from the late ’30s

        I have a bunch of timetables as well…plus other NYW&BR memorabilia.

        And…Eliot is correct…the prices on eBay are becoming prohibitive.

  • Adrian

    Very cool story

  • Anonymous

    when i was a kid i had a book about the rail in westchester. it was a small bound book i think from white plains library i wish i still had it to mail it to the loop. The rail was very important and was dismantled after 1927 when westchester was to become the next borough. I am going to go through my old books and i hope to find it to share with my fellow readers.

  • ida

    This is so cool.

    • http://www.theloopny.com editor

      we agree! anyone with stories of local people doing interesting things, we want them! editor@theloopny.com
      operators are standing by :)

  • Carl Grimm

    The nastalgia overflows! What if the railroad survived?
    I run trolleys at the branford Electric Railway (Shoreline Trolley Museum) on Tuesdays after Memorial Day. We have quite a collection of similar rapid transit equipment. Come up sometime and discuss your railroad.

  • Ruth Mendes

    When I lived in Mt. Vernon, there was a major hardware store near us (Fulton & First) that was in a building once part of this railroad. They used the lower levels as storage space.

  • Jeremy Hyland

    I recently contacted Simon Properties, the operators of the Westchester Mall, which was famously built on the NYWB RR White Plains terminal site, to ask if they planned to commemorate today – May 29, 2012 – as the railroad’s centennial. I was figuring maybe a large pink bow attached to the display in the mall’s Food Court! They were very nice but said No they weren’t, but New Rochelle was planning a tribute on July 14th.

  • jeremy hyland

    One other comment. If you want a slightly freaky experience tracing the NYW&B RR, check out Wykagyl Station on North Ave at Quaker Ridge. Go around back into the Quaker Ridge parking area and approach the Wykagyl Station Post Office (I love that the P.O. still retains the old name 75 years later). Off to the right you can see the remains of the old station above where the tracks used to be. Go into the area in back of and under the station, and if you get in close enough you can still see the platforms and access stairs. Just beware of the crows and pigeons, which live there in huge numbers and which don’t take kindly to being disturbed!

    • editor

      wow.
      pls keep us apprised of all Centennial happenings!

  • Averie Cohen

    This is so interesting! I live in the San Francisco area, but I grew up in Rye. It’s fascinating to know this was in my backyard (or near it) all that time. I’m interested in this kind of local history, anywhere. And – I think this must be the Eliot Goldfinger who I went to elementary school (WDS) with. Am I right? I would love to see these places. I’ll be in NY next month (although probably not on July 14, unfortunately). Please feel free to pass on my email address to Eliot. Thanks!

  • Otto Vondrak

    Join us in New Rochelle on July 14 at the New Rochelle Public Library for a Centennial Celebration of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway! From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., enjoy interesting exhibits and slide shows that will explore the mystery and intrigue surrounding the construction, operation, and eventual decline of this state-of-the-art rapid transit railway. A number of historical organizations and vendors will also be on-hand with displays and railroad-related items for sale. Get into the spirit of the event and travel by train! New Rochelle is served by frequent Amtrak and Metro-North trains. The New Rochelle Public Library is a short six-minute walk from the train station. Contact me for more information or visit http://www.nywbry.com!

  • Tyson

    Very nice photos. I have seen that old bridge a few times.

  • Ralph Magline

    When I was aboy in the ’30’s I lived at 62 Pleasant Ave White Plains which backed up to the NYW&B RR just above the Bolton Ave overpass and below the Gedney Way Station I played on the RR property I was also present when Johnny Bogart of Gedney Terr used a wire from the Bolton Ave Bridge to contact the RR catenary and severely burned himself. I am a model RR’er and have built a condensed NYW&B in N scale in my basement here in Woodstock, GA