Bonus: Food Freight Trains

The High Line passing through Bell Labs, seen here in 1936. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In the mid-1800s, New York Central Railroad freight trains delivered shipments of food to lower Manhattan, but their route along street-level tracks presented a danger to pedestrians. By 1910, more than 540 people had been killed by trains, and 10th Avenue had become known as “Death Avenue.” In response to the rising deaths, the railroad hired men on horseback to protect pedestrians. Until 1941, the “West Side Cowboys” patrolled 10th Avenue while waving red flags to warn passengers of approaching trains.

In 1924, the city’s Transit Commission founded the West Side Improvement project, which ordered the removal of street tracks to protect passengers. The West Side Elevated Line began operating in 1933 to transport millions of tons of meat, dairy, and vegetables to and from warehouses in the Meatpacking District, passing directly through some factory buildings such as the Nabisco Oreo cookie factory, now Chelsea Market. The West Side Elevated Line stopped operating by the 1980s but survives today as the public green space known as the High Line

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This article was written by Eliza Browning and Nicole Saraniero