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