Keith York City

Elevated train lines running up Bowery ca 1898

Starting in the second half of the 19th century, and spilling well into the beginning of the 20th, Manhattan was criss-crossed by an extensive network of elevated commuter trains, not unlike the system on which Chicago operates so famously today. These elevated lines predated even the earliest subway tunnels, as they were so much cheaper and easier to build while still offering the convenience and protection afforded by separating train traffic from horse, carriage, and pedestrian traffic below. It was a happy medium of cost and utility.

But the cost of building elevated train systems was still quite expensive. The price was only attractive when laying tracks through the city’s dense, crowded core residential and commercial areas. It made no sense to rail companies to spend so much money on the heavy, noisy freight trains which ran along Manhattan’s impoverished and unattractive riverfronts…

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