The Putnam Line is an abandoned commuter rail
line that once ran north out of New York City
. Its two southern terminals were 155th Street in Manhattan
, where a connection was made with the 9th Avenue el, and later the IND subway
; and it had a Bronx
terminal at Sedgwick Avenue, a short distance north of Yankee Stadium
. To continue to Grand Central Station
, a cross-platform transfer could be made to Hudson Line
trains at High Bridge
. The northern terminal was at Brewster
, connecting with the Harlem Line
. There were a few short branches, most notably one to Yonkers
Passenger service was discontinued by the New York Central in 1958, and the line was cut back from Brewster to a place called East View, near the Tappan Zee Bridge, in 1962. It was folded into Penn Central in 1968, and into Conrail in 1976. Conrail abandoned the segment between Chauncey and East View in 1977, and abandoned the line in its entirety sometime in the early 1980s. There was some discussion of re-opening the line as Metro North's fourth division, but large segments of the right-of-way disappeared into highway improvements on the adjacent Saw Mill River Parkway and on Route 100.
The "Put" began life in 1870 as the New York & Boston. It was intended to connect two other railroads, the Erie and a line called the Boston, Hartford & Erie, that was in the process of being built. It was meant to be a small part of an east-west corridor connecting the Great Lakes with Boston. However, after grading 28 miles of track, the money ran out, and control of the line went to a local businessman named James Brown, who foresaw the line as a north-south corridor between New York and Montreal. Construction plans changed accordingly.
Brown's plans were dashed by the Panic of 1873. Very little progress had been made, except that the railroad had foolishly purchased locomotives and rolling stock that it would never use.
The bondholders of the railroad reorganized it in 1878 as the New York City & Northern, and the line was finally built to Brewster, for the cost of 11.7 million dollars, by the construction company of Lewis Roberts of Tarrytown. Work was completed in December of 1880. A connection to the 9th Avenue elevated was added in 1881. Trains crossed the Harlem River on a swing bridge and terminated at the corner of 155th Street and 8th Avenue. There was a physical connection in place, though Putnam trains never ran on the city's elevateds.
The Yonkers branch was added in 1888. It was 3 miles long and left the main line at Van Cortlandt Park, stopping at Park Hill, Lowerre, Caryl, and Getty Square in Yonkers.
While the railroad ran at a small profit, it was unable to pay off its bonds. It entered receivership almost immediately, in 1882, and was foreclosed upon in 1887. It was reorganized again, this time as the New York & Northern. The NY&N proved unable to make a go of it either, and the line was sold to J.P. Morgan's New York Central in 1894.
The Putnam Division of the New York Central was a lightly-used commuter line. It was single-tracked for most of its length, and used very light rail. No locomotive larger than a Ten Wheeler (4-6-0 wheel arrangement) saw service on the Put. The Yonkers branch was electrified in 1926. In 1929, the first diesel-powered passenger train in America ran on the Put.
The Yonkers branch was torn up in 1944. It had carried approximately 2600 passengers a day in 1926, but ridership had declined to 600 passengers a day by 1942. The entire railroad industry suffered in the years after World War Two, especially those lines dependent on passenger traffic, and by 1956 the New York Central was operating the Put at an annual loss of $400,000. The New York Central petitioned for the abandonment of passenger service, and it was granted by the Public Service Commission in 1958.
Stations on the Putnam Line (north to south):
155th Street-Polo Grounds, Manhattan (transfer available to 6th and 9th Avenue els until 1938, transfer available to the IND CC and D trains)
High Bridge (transfer available to New York Central trains to GCT and to Sedgwick Avenue service)
Van Cortlandt Park (transfer available to Yonkers branch)
Bryn Mawr Park
Harlem Junction (transfer available to Harlem Line service)
Brewster (transfer available to Harlem Line and New York, New Haven & Hartford's Beacon Line)
The Putnam ROW today can best be viewed from a car heading south on Interstate 87. Between Van Cortlandt Park and Kingsbridge, the street bridges over I-87 are quite a bit longer than they need to be. The weed-strewn lot on the right of the highway is the Putnam Line. There is also an abandoned station platform deep within Van Cortlandt Park.
Source: The Putnam Division, by Daniel Gallo and Frederick Kramer, published by Quadrant Press of New York, 1981.