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So what was the plan when Grand Central (NYC) was to be demolished?

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Comstock

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This programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07tl6yv/new-york-americas-busiest-city-episode-1 is well worth a watch. It isn't all railways, but at least half of the show is based around Grand Central Station.

Towards the end, they tell how Grand Central was threatened with demolition in the 1970s. So what was the plan? Were they going to do away with trains entirely into mid town Manhattan? Or build a new station elsewhere?
 
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ac6000cw

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See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Central_Terminal#Proposals_for_demolition_and_towers

...like Penn Station in New York, the tracks & platforms are below ground level, so the idea was to build over them and effectively turn it into a sub-surface station.

This is exactly what happened to Penn Station in 1964 (which originally had a large, spacious, ornate 'head' building as well). That caused such an outcry at the time that it effectively started the historic building preservation movement in the US.
 
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Comstock

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See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Central_Terminal#Proposals_for_demolition_and_towers

...like Penn Station in New York, the tracks & platforms are below ground level, so the idea was to build over them and effectively turn it into a sub-surface station.

AH, ok, thanks. I do know the railways went into steep decline in America after 1960 ish, the programme kind of implied that the proposal was to close the station altogether and just use road transport, which clearly wasn't the case.....
 

Harbornite

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Good program that was. I like how when they restored the terminal roof, they left a square of dirt showing how unclean it used to be.
 

ac6000cw

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AH, ok, thanks. I do know the railways went into steep decline in America after 1960 ish,

That's a bit 'broad brush'.

The railways in the north east US in particular suffered almost a 'perfect storm' of de-industrialisation, modern highway building, airline growth, government regulation, excessive train crew sizes (standard freight train crew was 5 people) and unprofitable passenger services. This eventually resulted an ill-fated merger in 1968 of most of the NE railroads into one company - Penn Central - which then went bankrupt two years later. The fallout from that resulted in many of the longer distance passenger services being abandoned and the big-city commuter services becoming the responsibility of city/state transit agencies (Metro-North, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA, MARC, MBTA etc.). It also spurred the creation of Amtrak in 1971 to take over responsibility for most long-distance passenger services (and eventually the some of the infrastructure like the NEC). The freight railway part of Penn Central was later nationalised as 'Conrail', stripped back to a core network, freight rates de-regulated, crew sizes reduced to two, nursed back to profitability and then privatised (it later sold itself to two other railroads who got roughly 50% each of the route network).

Railroads in the rest of the US didn't suffer anything like as badly - there were some bankruptcies (the Rock Island was probably the biggest), and nearly all of them abandoned most of their long-distance passenger services, but generally mergers allowed parallel routes to be rationalised etc. to cut costs and remain competitive for freight.
 

edwin_m

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New York is something of an exceptional case in the USA, probably the only city with a suburban rail service comparable to those seen in Europe and also the only one that would cease to function without its commuter rail and Subway. So while the freight service in the North East and long distance passenger everywhere else was in crisis I don't think there was ever a serious suggestion of discontinuing passenger services from Grand Central.
 

ac6000cw

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New York is something of an exceptional case in the USA, probably the only city with a suburban rail service comparable to those seen in Europe and also the only one that would cease to function without its commuter rail and Subway. So while the freight service in the North East and long distance passenger everywhere else was in crisis I don't think there was ever a serious suggestion of discontinuing passenger services from Grand Central.

Agreed.

I think the Chicago area has probably the next largest commuter rail network (plus subway/elevated light rail and even the last 'interurban' in the US...)
 

philabos

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That's a bit 'broad brush'.



Railroads in the rest of the US didn't suffer anything like as badly - there were some bankruptcies (the Rock Island was probably the biggest), and nearly all of them abandoned most of their long-distance passenger services, but generally mergers allowed parallel routes to be rationalised etc. to cut costs and remain competitive for freight.
A well written summary of the northeast!
I think you are a bit optimistic about the rest of the industry. Until deregulation in 1982, even the western roads were "diversifying", diverting capital to more attractive industries. Southern Pacific was a leader in this area, which took them out of the rail business entirely by 1995. Milwaukee, and as you say, Rock Island went bankrupt. Although not as catastrophic as the northeast, they were all circling the drain. Even mighty Union Pacific corporate was headed to greener pastures but fought tooth and nail by the railroad's then president. Deregulation eventually saved the day, and the process was reversed with the railroads slowly dumping the non rail assets since they themselves became the best investment.
Memories are short though, as new regulation may again send them to the wall all over again. Time will tell.
 

edwin_m

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What do you mean by an 'interurban'?

Interurban was an intermediate between streetcar and heavy rail, using faster and heavier electric cars and a mix of segregated, street and in some cases underground running. The surviving one is the South Shore, other famous ones being the Key Line over the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and the Pacific Electric in LA. Most of the light rail lines opened in America since the 1980s are probably closer to the idea of interurban than streetcar.
 

ac6000cw

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What do you mean by an 'interurban'?

There is a general Wikipedia article here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interurban

One of the better known, pretty much a 'super' interurban, was the 'North Shore Line' that ran from downtown Chicago to Milwaukee (about 90 miles) until the beginning of the 1960s. With multiple-car 'Silverliner' and 'Electroliner' trains that did 80+ mph in places (powered from a 650V DC overhead wire using trolley poles, not pantographs!), this was quite a serious electric railway system in reality. A nice article about riding on it here - http://railfan.com/archive/rf_archive_0188_NorthShore25Years.php - and a video here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhUZUOE75tw
 
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Mikey C

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It's unfortunate from a romantic's point of view, that Grand Central is purely a commuter train terminus, whereas the long distance Amtrak trains go from the completely unromantic Penn underground bunker!

Chicago Union station at least kept the iconic waiting room, though the majority of that station is buried underground under modern commercial buildings
 

Harbornite

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Regarding passenger train usage in the USA, it peaked in the 1940s due to petrol rationing and began to decline after the end of the second world war. Meanwhile, freight also declined but began to recover in the 1980s and is blue doing fairly well. The Americans move significantly greater volumes of freight by Rail than in Europe, although they are also losing coal traffic.

Anyway, here's a graph showing volumes of freight...

750px-RailUSAvsUSSR.svg.png


And volumes of passenger traffic.
RailPassUSAvsUSSR.svg




It's unfortunate from a romantic's point of view, that Grand Central is purely a commuter train terminus, whereas the long distance Amtrak trains go from the completely unromantic Penn underground bunker!

Penn is like the Euston of New York, the old station looked rather better.
 
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Mikey C

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Penn is like the Euston of New York, the old station looked rather better.

Oh yes! There are ongoing plans to rebuild the station and improve it though

A few Amtrak trains used to use Grand Central as well - in Michael Palin's "Around the World in 80 days" TV series, he arrives in Grand Central from Chicago. I think they ceased using GC in the early 90s
 

Taunton

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Railroads in the rest of the US didn't suffer anything like as badly - there were some bankruptcies (the Rock Island was probably the biggest), and nearly all of them abandoned most of their long-distance passenger services, but generally mergers allowed parallel routes to be rationalised etc. to cut costs and remain competitive for freight.
Railways in the US have a long tradition of going bankrupt, but under US law they nevertheless manage to carry on in some manner. Many went under in the 19th Century, and a large number in the 1930s, but the operations remained. Most of what went into Conrail in the 1970s was already bankrupt.

The Rock Island was notable in that it was broken up instead of just being absorbed by another - generally because of lobbying in Washington by competitive railways. It did have some mainstream worthwhile routes, but had been dragged under by the rest. Most of its main lines are still very much in use, principally, after further mergers, by Union Pacific.
 

edwin_m

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Oh yes! There are ongoing plans to rebuild the station and improve it though

A few Amtrak trains used to use Grand Central as well - in Michael Palin's "Around the World in 80 days" TV series, he arrives in Grand Central from Chicago. I think they ceased using GC in the early 90s

"Ongoing" seems to be as in "going on and on about it but not doing anything". The idea is to re-use a redundant central post office building nearby, similar to the classical building that formerly sat on top of Penn station.

According to Wikipedia Amtrak moved out in 1991, with the Hudson Valley trains being diverted by a new connection into Penn station.
 
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