Harrison, New Jersey
|Owned by||PRR & H&M|
|Line(s)||PRR main line|
Park Place - Hudson Terminal
|Electrified||(DC) Third Rail|
Manhattan Transfer was a passenger transfer station in Harrison, New Jersey, east of Newark, 8.8 miles (14.2 km) west of New York Penn Station on the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) main line, now Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. It operated from 1910 to 1937 and consisted of two 1,100 feet (340 m) car-floor-level platforms, one on each side of the PRR line. It was also served by the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. There were no entrances or exits to the station, as its sole purpose was for passengers to change trains.
Until 1910 none of the railroads that crossed New Jersey to reach New York City crossed the Hudson River, but had terminals on the Hudson Waterfront, where passengers boarded ferries. The dominant Pennsylvania Railroad was no exception; its passenger trains ran to Exchange Place in Jersey City.
On November 27, 1910, the PRR opened a new line, the New York Tunnel Extension, that branched off the original line two miles east of Newark. The line ran northeast across the Jersey Meadows to a pair of tunnels under the Hudson River to New York Penn Station. The new line included the Manhattan Transfer station, located just west of the split from the original PRR main line. Passenger trains bound for New York Penn changed at Manhattan Transfer from steam locomotives to electric locomotives to run through the tunnel under the river. Passengers could also change trains at Manhattan Transfer. Riders on the PRR main line could transfer to PRR local trains to Exchange Place, where they could catch ferries or Hudson and Manhattan Railroad (H&M) subway trains to 33rd Street Terminal in Manhattan, and riders from Exchange Place could change to PRR main line trains.
The H&M, the precursor to the PATH train, started running trains between Hudson Terminal in Manhattan and Park Place in Newark on October 1, 1911. H&M trains made intermediate stops at Exchange Place, Grove Street, Summit Avenue, Manhattan Transfer, and Harrison. Afterward, H&M trains stopped on the tracks outside the two Manhattan Transfer platforms, allowing passengers to transfer from Penn-Station-bound intercity trains. H&M trains also transported some of the mail bound for PRR trains, retrieving first-class letters sent from the Church Street Station Post Office, near Hudson Terminal, and transferring the letters to PRR trains at Manhattan Transfer.
The H&M ordered MP-38 railcars to run this special service, in partnership with the PRR. The "McAdoo Reds", as the MP-38s were called, ran exclusively between Manhattan Transfer and New York City. These trains were branded with the names of both the PRR and H&M to signify their partnership. Through 1922, the PRR also operated a shuttle service from Manhattan Transfer to New York Penn, using six converted MP-54 cars.
A collision between two PRR trains occurred at Manhattan Transfer on October 27, 1921, injuring 36 people. The cause was heavy fog covering a train signal. Less than a year later, on August 31, 1922, heavy fog caused another collision. This time, the collision was between two H&M trains; fifty people were injured, including eight who were seriously injured. Another collision between two H&M trains near the station on July 22, 1923, killed one person and injured 15 others. A crash between two PRR trains occurred at the station on February 24, 1925, killing 3 and injuring 32 more.
The Manhattan Transfer station was constructed mainly because PRR trains needed to switch from electric locomotives. In 1913, the PRR's board voted to electrify its main line in the Philadelphia area using an 11 kV overhead catenary system for the use of long-distance trains. This mostly had to do with the PRR's cumbersome operations at Broad Street Station in Philadelphia, where trains had to enter and leave the terminal from the same side, and congestion frequently arose because of the length of time needed in order for the steam-powered locomotives to switch directions. At the time, the tracks at Manhattan Transfer were originally electrified using 650 V third rail, which was used by PRR electric trains to Penn Station and Exchange Place, as well as by H&M trains between Park Place and Hudson Terminal.
In 1928, the PRR and the Newark government agreed to construct a new Newark Penn Station to replace three stations: Manhattan Transfer, Park Place, and the PRR's Market Street station in Newark. Newark Penn was to be located a quarter-mile south of Park Place. The H&M would be extended to Newark Penn via new approach tracks over the Passaic River, and H&M and PRR passengers would be able to make the connection at Newark Penn instead of Manhattan Transfer.
Contracts to electrify the PRR tracks south of Manhattan Transfer with 11 kV overhead wires were awarded in 1929. Two years later, the PRR's president announced plans to speed up the electrification project, with plans to complete it in two-and-a-half years instead of four. In addition, new approach tracks to Newark Penn would be built over the Passaic River. PRR trains to Exchange Place started using the 11 kV catenary system in December 1932. Within two months, the PRR had completed the electrification of the main line from Philadelphia north to New York Penn Station; south to the PRR station in Wilmington, Delaware; and west to the Paoli, Pennsylvania, PRR station. By March 1933, all PRR trains running along that stretch of the main line were pulled by electric engines. Thus, trips into New York Penn Station no longer needed to change engines at Manhattan Transfer, and the third rail between New York Penn and Manhattan Transfer was removed. PRR trains continued to stop there for the H&M connection, however.
On June 20, 1937, the H&M moved its terminus from Park Place to Newark Penn Station, and Manhattan Transfer and Park Place were closed. Newark Penn not only allowed transfers between the H&M, the PRR, and the newly extended Newark City Subway, but also contained exits to local streets. Manhattan Transfer station was demolished, but the site of the former station could be seen through the 1960s. The site of the eastbound platform was partly replaced by a train yard for the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) in 1967. As a result of the opening of the Aldene Connection, the CNJ started operating trains to PRR's Newark Penn Station, and the CNJ had to store its trains in the yard that replaced the eastbound platform's site.
The term Manhattan Transfer gained considerable public familiarity in its time, and the name became used in other contexts. In 1925, John Dos Passos published a critically acclaimed novel about the busyness of New York City. The tributes to Manhattan Transfer station also include a jazz vocal ensemble formed in 1969.
Manhattan Transfer station consisted of two island platforms, one for westbound trains and one for eastbound trains. Each platform measured 1,100 feet (340 m) long and 28 feet (8.5 m) wide. The station itself contained four tracks, but several bypass tracks surrounded the station to the south and north, as well as passed between the two platforms. H&M trains stopped on the outer tracks, while PRR trains stopped on the inner tracks. The two platforms were made of brick, which started to deteriorate during the station's later years.
West of the station, the H&M tracks split to the northwest and entered a viaduct, stopping at Harrison before terminating at Park Place station in Newark. PRR trains, meanwhile, continued southeast East of the station, the PRR tracks split to the northeast and continued 8 miles (13 km) to New York Penn, while the H&M tracks split to the southeast and continued 7 miles (11 km) to Exchange Place before entering the Downtown Hudson Tubes and continuing east to Hudson Terminal in New York City. There were two switch towers near the station: Tower N to the west and Tower S to the east.
To aid passengers, a dynamic sign box was placed above each platform. Each box contained around twenty signs, which displayed common destinations, as well as "named" trains, i.e. trips that had been given official designations. Before the arrival of the next train, a platform attendant would use a long semaphore-like pole to change the signs that were being displayed.
The only access to the station was by train, and no access was provided to or from the surrounding area. It was estimated that 230 million passengers had used Manhattan Transfer during its 27 years in operation.