The New York, Westchester & Boston was a commuter railroad operating north out of New York City between 1912 and 1939. It was, to put it mildly, a spectacular failure.

In 1910, the New York, New Haven & Hartford bought up two unsuccessful short lines in Westchester and the Bronx. One already carried the rather grandiose name; it ran from Throgs Neck in the southeast Bronx to White Plains and from there to Elmsford, never coming within 200 miles of Boston. The two properties were merged to create a semi-dependent subsidiary commuter railroad that ran from the New Haven's Port Morris terminal in the South Bronx to Columbus Avenue in Mount Vernon, where it split into two branches, one running north to White Plains, and one running northeast to Portchester.

It was never clear why the New Haven wished to operate a commuter line that paralleled its own mainline so closely. From Port Morris to E. 174th Street, the "Westchester" operated over New Haven trackage, making local stops; and almost the entire Portchester branch WAS the New Haven mainline. Portchester trains left the New Haven at E. 174th Street, and re-joined it 8 miles away in New Rochelle. Extra tracks were built next to the mainline to accomodate the Westchester.

The New Haven had sky-high expectations for the new line. The existing right-of-ways were widened and improved, and the line between E. 174th Street and Mount Vernon was four-tracked. The line had almost no significant grades. Brief sections of tunnel and enormous concrete fills carried the Westchester through the Bronx and Mount Vernon. The stations were enormous and ornate concrete structures in the "Mission, Italian Renaissance, and Classic styles", built larger than necessary so that the extra space could be rented out to businesses and eateries. The line was powered by an overhead catenary, and service was provided by multiple-units of 70-foot steel coaches with overhead pantographs.

The New Haven had made one glaring error in the conception of this new line. It terminated in the Bronx at E. 133rd Street, where connection could be made to the Second and Third Avenue els. To reach Manhattan, a transfer was necessary, either at 133rd Street, or at E. 180th Street with the IRT, whereas the New York Central provided one-seat service to midtown Manhattan. The New Haven attempted to make up for this by charging a lower fare, but this proved unsuccessful. The New Haven was also banking on the continued northward expansion of New York City, but a zoning ordinance was soon passed limiting commercial buildings to south of 59th Street.

In its first few years of operation, the "Westchester" produced disappointingly modest profits for a State of the Art commuter railroad, and by the late 1920's, it turned no profits at all. The New Haven gradually withdrew financial support, and in 1937, the Westchester entered receivership. The Westchester's situation proved hopeless, and in 1939, operations ceased. The City of New York purchased the line between E. 174th Street and the Westchester county line. In Westchester, the track and most of the structures were torn out by 1940.

The track was converted to subway standards, which mainly involved replacing the overhead wires with a ground-level third rail. Service was provided as a shuttle from East 180th Street station to Dyre Avenue. In the early days of subway operation, there was no physical connection at East 180th Street, and no fare control either, so conductors took fares and made change on the train. The service was briefly known as the #9, not to be confused with today's 9.

In the 1950's a physical connection was made, allowing 2 and 5 trains to operate over the line, now known as the "Dyre Avenue". Today, service is provided by the 5, but this was not always the case.

When the Cross Bronx Expressway was built, a three-block portion of the Dyre disappeared forever. The Dyre viaduct now comes to an abrupt halt at E. 177th Street. The section between E. 177th Street and the IRT connection still has rails and can be used to store equipment, but rarely is.

The section used as a subway is more or less intact, though the catenary has been taken down, and the middle two tracks have been removed in most places. A short section north of Dyre Avenue is used to store extra #5 trains. In Westchester, only remnants exist. The abutments of a massive concrete viaduct are visible just west of the Hutchinson River Parkway at Lincoln Avenue. A concrete bridge to nowhere crosses a side street a few blocks away.

Ironically, the neighborhoods surrounding the Westchester became heavily developed in the years after its demise. It's unlikely that the Westchester would have been successful even then, as commuter rail is rarely profitable regardless of ridership.


Source: http://www.nycsubway.org, which was surprisingly unhelpful for once.

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