There are times when decaying old ruins can be almost inspirational to those who view them. Two metal ruins in Manhattan, New York can be found partially submerged in the Hudson River, overshadowed by the nearby West Side Highway and a row of ugly, bland Trump apartment high rises. These are important historical monuments to a bygone age.
The first is the 69th Street Transfer Bridge, a decaying, rust-covered monster of a relic that was actually very high-tech and efficient in the days when it was constructed. Once belonging to the NY Central Railroad, the bridge was built in 1911 and allowed the transfer of train cars from rail to boat, to be floated across the river to the Weehawken, NJ train yards. As slow as you might expect this process to have been, transfer bridges like this were actually faster than modern container cranes.
Despite falling into disuse during the 1970s, the 69th Street Transfer Bridge incredibly managed to survive on its own until 2003, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is being allowed to disintegrate naturally, so people can view it for as long as possible.
It’s really amazing how much of it is still intact. The massive pulley system is still there, which was used to transfer the carriages, and several of the docks are still present, half submerged in water.
Just a little further downstream lies Pier D. Built in the 1880s, Pier D was one of many waterfront structures built to offload cargo from ships and barges into the NY Central Railroad’s 60th Street Yard. Much of the cargo entering the 60th Street yard was foodstuffs, including grain, milk, and vegetables, and was known as the ‘Lifeline of the City’. An entrance is still visible on the northern side.
Sadly, Penn Central Railroad, which took over from NY Central, went bankrupt in 1971 and many of its properties were abandoned. Pier D caught fire later that year in June and was largely destroyed, though the steel structure has managed to stay up since. Once again it seems that the authorities do not want to simply demolish this structure, which has so much of New York’s history attached to it.
Personally, I think it is very far-sighted of the New York city fathers to preserve these sites for future generations. We may never see them working again as they once did, but we can still get a flavor of how life must have been when they were in operation. The decaying ruins of the Hudson River will be enthralling visitors for many more years to come.