Operating History

Map of Hudson Tubes upon opening

As the Hudson Tubes [or Hudson Rapid Tubes] of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Company, the Tubes were not quite the same as most other urban transit systems in the United States. The Tubes' operations were regarded more as a true railroad operation, not as just a subway or elevated running through a city or a built up area.  

They were seen as a connecting railroad, small, but still a railroad. Labor organization was based on the railroad unions, not on transit unions; the safety operations were under the Federal Railway Board [and its predecessors and successors] not under a state or local authority. The stations, at least at Hudson Terminal and Journal Square, sold through railroad tickets for journeys across the country. The Class I railroads' timetables listed the H&M as a connecting line, theoretically parallel in importance to long distance lines like the B&O or Lehigh Valley, for example, here from Hudson Terminal to Chicago. Even Phoebe Snow, poetess of the Lackawanna, saw the Tubes as part of the shortest route from Manhattan to Buffalo and welcomed the H&M's opening.

Even the garb of the motormen, engineers, was that of the railroads: striped denim engineer overalls and engineer cap. [Conductors dressed as the conductors on the Class I railroads  did, but this was also true, for the most part, of conductors on other transit systems.] After the PA takeover, regulations, laws and  customs changed; there is now little reminder of the Tubes as a railroad and a piece of railroad romanticism and of local peculiarity is gone.

When the Tubes were being constructed under McAdoo's leadership, the plan was for the Hudson Companies, one of the group of McAdoo's firms involved in building and operating the Tubes, to take over operation of the Jersey City PRR station, when Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan went into operation. 

Under these plans, from c. 1903, PRR passengers to downtown would transfer at Harrison to the Hudson Companies' operations [i.e. the H&M Tubes] and the Hudson Companies were to operate ALL traffic , ferry, train, tube, between Lower Manhattan and Newark. By the time that Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan did actually open some 10 years later, the plans had been changed. The PRR kept operating to Lower Jersey City and kept H&M Park Place station with 43 trolley from Jersey City Wilbur Sherwood Collection; Click to enlarge, use your browser's BACK button to return to narrative Hudson Tubes / PATH / H&M RR running its North River ferries. The rail route between Summit Avenue/Journal Square and Newark became a joint operation of the H&M and the PRR .

At first after the PA takeover the joint service to Newark (under the name "Joint Service Electric Railroad") was still run with the Pennsylvania Railroad (and later with itsPRR / H&M Joint Service ticket Journal Square - Newark from Joseph D. Korman Collection;  Hudson Tubes / PATH / H&M RR successor, Penn Central). But ultimately, in November 1965, the PA  agreed with with the PRR to lease two passenger tracks for the exclusive use of PATH between Journal Square and Newark and to operate all the transit service on those tracks, after the implementation of the Aldene Plan.

(These tickets for the joint H&M / PRR service are from the collection of Joseph D. Korman: first for the service west of Journal Square to Newark Pennsylvania Station and then, below, for the original route to Newark Park Place. The black and white clickable picture from the Wilbur Sherwood Collection shows the Tubes' Park Place Station in Newark with a 43 trolley car arriving from Journal Square.)

PRR / H&M Joint Service ticket Journal Square - Newark from Joseph D. Korman Collection;  Hudson Tubes / PATH / H&M RR Also after the Port Authority takeover there were serious plans to extend the Tubes from Newark westwards about 10 miles to Plainfield and /  or to bring them into Newark Airport; neither plan was carried out and both now appear very unlikely.

Women's Car: About one year after the Tubes started its first service, the Woman's Municipal League, noting that women and children were being squeezed, jostled and potentially endangered in the rush hour crowds on the trains, asked the H&M for a "women's car" service during the rush hours for a two weeks' trial period. There would be one car on each rush hour train reserved for women and children. Since the North River ferries already had "women's cabins", this was not a particularly unusual request. McAdoo, the H&M's President, responded with a three months' trial starting March 31, 1909.

At first the service was very popular with women and the cars were well patronized. But then newspapers began a campaign of ridiculing the cars and their users, referring to the "Jane Crowe Car", "Hen Car", "Old Maid's Retreat" and ridership dropped off precipitously. When the three month trial period was up, the cars were returned to mixed service.

Meanwhile, on April 24, 1909, while the experiment was still underway, a Francis Dundon lodged a complaint with the ICC against the H&M, alleging that the exclusion of men from the cars was illegal under the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Acts. The H&M responded to the ICC stating that "we do not exclude men from this car. We simply advise them that this car is reserved for women." The H&M's position was that the women's car was analogous to a smoking car. The ICC agreed with the H&M that making a request to men not to use the car was not the same as insisting that men not use the car. In any case the point was moot since the newspaper ridicule had doomed the women's cars.

On July 7, 1958 the H&M re-introduced women's cars: one car of each train on the downtown line during the rush hour;  but these were withdrawn after a short while.

Decline and Fall    From the opening of the system through World War I and the early 1920s the Tubes did well financially, although by the early 20s there was a levelling off in passenger growth and especially in profitability. But by this time plans for expanding the system were over and there began to be financial problems even to the extent of affecting the upgrading of the railroad's rolling stock and facilities.

The opening of the Holland Tunnel between Jersey City and Manhattan for vehicular traffic in 1927 and the 10 year economic depression that began shortly thereafter, were the turning points for the economics of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad. A long decline in both passengers and in profitability began. The later construction of the Lincoln Tunnel and then of the George Washington Bridge further enticed commuters from the commuter railroads - and from their terminals at the Tubes stations - and worsened matters further.

After the boom passenger loads, if not overloads, of the war years, the H&M entered into a period of steady financial decline. Its statements on its condition echo the positions of almost all railroads of the time: not only did competitors, motor truck and bus lines, receive their right of way almost free in the form of tax-built streets, bridges and highways, but the railroads, including the H&M, had not only to maintain their own rights of way but in addition had to pay local property taxes on them.

The great wave of strikes and labor disputes that swept the country after WW2 did not spare the Hudson and Manhattan. On  May 18, 1946 Hudson & Manhattan trainmen [and PRR trainmen who were involved in the operation of the Journal Square / Newark joint service] struck at 5:00 PM, stopping all H&M service.  Twenty four hours later it appeared that the strike was over and service started up again at 6:45 PM. Since the H&M did not handle freight, management believed that the H&M was not covered by a pay increase that went into effect for passenger and freight railroads and the strike resumed on May 30, 1946.  It wasn't until June 23, 1946 that the Tubes strike was settled.

That damaging labor dispute, however, was the prelude to a management dispute that also eroded morale at the Tubes.  On January 13, 1947 R.A.W. Carleton resigned  as President and Chairman of Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, leaving an opening for new management. A major corporate control struggle arose that included the Hudson County Court impounding  on April 14, 1947 proxies for the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Board election. The court also ordered the vote inspectors not to announce any results. Then on June 19 the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered a new election for the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Board, which brought about the election of H.A. Kelley as Chairman and W.T. Rossell as President on July 29. The corporate control dispute continued throughout the summer and fall of 1947 and on November 13 a Hudson & Manhattan Railroad bondholder sued for appointment of a receiver, charging mismanagement. More corporate turmoil brought about the election of W.J. Egan as President on December 8, the third President in less than a year.

Amidst all this labor and management turmoil, however, the H&M was active and innovative in struggling to survive. When the historic day came that the New York City subway fare was raised from a nickel, for example, the Hudson Tubes tried a campaign to woo the very small number of Manhattan riders who might use the Tubes between 33rd and Christopher Streets with the slogan "Still a 5¢ fare!"

The H&M also instituted promotions to boost the passenger base. One such 2 for 1 theater special was a somewhat complicated arrangement. Women could buy half price tickets on Mondays all during the day to go shopping, while men could buy those half price tickets after work at 6:15 pm and both could then go to the theater, saving a total of 80¢ [which was about $6.10 in 2003]. Click the two thumbnails for the details.

Retail Space Hudson Terminal / 33rd Street: PATH trains / Hudson Terminal / H&M RRThere was a drive to expand revenue by increasing rental of commercial space for retail, especially at Hudson Terminal and 33rd Street. As an aside, note the sign at the far right of the picture directing passengers to H&M's parcel room, an amenity that the Tubes, as a "real" railroad, had.

 Much more telling about the extreme financial plight of the H&M, however, were the desperate and tiny, measures taken which were deemed important to save money, such as eliminating the summer uniforms of the Hudson Terminal elevator operators or seeking ICC permission to close the Henderson Street exit of Grove Street station nights and weekends. Both of these normally routine steps were considered important enough to merit mention in the H&M's annual report. Almost anything was being tried to raise even small amounts of money.

There was even consideration of either closing the entire uptown section and using the downtown tubes for trolley service or of abandoning the railroad completely. There were also unsubstantiated rumors circulating that the H&M was trying to sell itself to the Port of New York Authority.

Matters were getting so desperate that a "mild winter" was even noted in the company's annual report to account for the loss of riders one year when some passengers switched to the ferries to cross the river.  In a step to regain lost ground the H&M began an advertising program in the Fall of 1951 "to make Hudson Tubes more visible to public" and also introduced every-half-hour "night owl" service. On the other hand, the next year on August 1, 1952, the H&M  cut non-rush hour service by 4% as an economy measure.

After the round of strikes in the 1940s a second damaging strike started in 1953. On May 11, 1953 signalmen and telegraphers begin a strike against the H&M. After one day the  strike ended with compromise on back pay owed to the workmen; engineers and firemen then demanded a similar settlement and this delayed the resumption of service until May 13. 

On August 1, 1954 the H&M closed down the  19th Street Station. as another economy move, but throughout 1954 the financial situation of the H&M worsened.  On August. 11, 1954 several Hudson & Manhattan Railroad bond holders applied for receivership for the company under Chapter 10 of the Chandler Act but the H&M appealed and instead on November 19, 1954 the H & M filed for voluntary reorganization under Chapter 77 so that it could reorganize itself.  The courts denied this but permitted bankruptcy proceedings under the Chandler Act, as several of the bond holders had wanted. On December. 8, 1954 the H & M consented to the Chapter 10 reorganization and on December 14, 1954 Herman T. Stichman, New York State Commissioner of Housing, was appointed Trustee of Hudson & Manhattan Railroad. 

Maintenance was carried out with difficulty and the author recalls riding a rush hour train packed with standees, on which one of the doors opened and closed as the train went through the unusually sharp curves west of Exchange Place station. There even started to be actual accidents. On September 16, 1957 the automatic train stop device failed when a train ran a red signal, causing a six car train-set to rear end a four car train-set just east of Journal Square causing 22 injuries.

Under Trustee Stichman, however, steps were undertaken to improve the railroad's services and its financial position. On August 31, 1955 the H&M began testing an experimental air conditioned car [a technology which the New York Subway had declared to be impractical] and on July 19, 1956 the PRR the Hudson Tubes announced a contract for 50 air-conditioned MU cars for the joint Hudson Terminal-Newark service with the Pennsylvania Railroad. A little over a year later on August 22, 1956 the H&M conducted the  first test of a  prototype of Pullman-Standard air-conditioned car for 60 guests between Hudson Terminal and Hoboken. But time was running out. The re-introduction of women's cars [see below] was another attempt at service improvement.

The long running financial pressures, however, had also acted to preserve the Tubes in their original form. In the mid-1930s the Pennsylvania Railroad had made a major change in its New York service by eliminating the change from steam to electric power at Manhattan Transfer and by rebuilding Newark's Pennsylvania Station. This redesign, completed in 1937, resulted in a slight change in the far western end of the Tubes' route with the costs basically being borne by the Pennsylvania RR. The service into the new Harrison and Newark Pennsylvania stations began on June 21, 1937. Otherwise there was no significant change in the network, the routes, the stations (with the exception of minor cosmetic work, such as at Grove Street) or even equipment. In 1957 the Tubes were still essentially as they had been at their opening.

As early as the late 1940s and into the mid 1950s - even  before the bankruptcy - the H&M had been proposing solutions to the transit situation in the New Jersey New York area that might involve the Port Authority, the States, and/or the other railroads. For example, on March 11, 1951 the H&M's then-President, William Reid,  proposed unifying the Tubes' and the commuter railroads' facilities in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. This plan included granting four other railroads access to the H&M and PRR tunnels as well as to  a union station in Manhattan. Later that year, in October, Reid suggested  a metropolitan transit authority to integrate commuter railroads, subways and the and Hudson Tubes. 

On May 22, 1957 Arthur W. Page, former VP of AT&T, made a report to the Metropolitan Transit Commission on improving rail transit between New York and New Jersey.  He recommended the creation of a bi-state public agency [to be called the Metropolitan District of New York & New Jersey] as well as the appropriation of $55 million for  rehabilitating the New Jersey commuter railroads. 

The core of Page's proposal, however, was appropriating $345 million for a rapid transit loop using the BMT subway line in Manhattan with a new North River rail tunnel from near the Battery to the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal at the foot of Johnston Avenue in Jersey City. The system was then to run east of Bergen Hill to Hoboken, then west and parallel to the NYS&W Railroad and return to Manhattan at 59th Street by tunneling under the North River with a second new passenger train tunnel. There were to be transfers from all the railroads approaching Manhattan from New Jersey except the Pennsylvania. 

Although the Page Report did propose authorizing  $10 million to modernize the  H&M, the Tubes were otherwise left out of the plans and  encircled by the proposed new transit loop. The plan called for the  operating deficits to be made up by taxes in proportion to the valuation of taxable property in the service region. The plan was opposed by the Hudson & Manhattan [as well as by the many bus companies and by a strong reaction from the  New Jersey populace which did not want any further legal involvement with New York beyond what existed through the Port Authority].

The last effort to make a major change to the Tubes outside a Port Authority framework [and it may have been part of the State of New Jersey's maneuvering and not a serious proposal] was an announcement on July 17, 1961 by New Jersey that the State was going to apply for a Federal Housing & Home Finance Agency grant to study the feasibility of linking the Hudson & Manhattan Tubes with the DL&W Montclair Branch and other New Jersey rail lines.

Meanwhile, another wave of strikes on the H&M started. On March 28, 1957 four non-operating unions struck the H&M over a demand for a 26½ cent pay increase. A month later on April 29, 1957 service resumed after the unions accepted an interim increase of 12½ cents retroactive to November 1, 1956, while talks continue. The one month interruption of service helped the railroad ferries on the North River but did major damage to the H&M's hold on its customer base. On September 16, 1957 Hudson & Manhattan Railroad announced the final agreement with its non-operating employees, which called for a 24 cent increase spread out over three years. 

Five days later, September 21, 1957, the  Hudson & Manhattan  raised its fares by 5 cents. Although this was the first fare rise since  1952, it was a 25% increase [and was equal to approximately 34¢ in 2004]. The strike combined with the fare increase drove more and more passengers away. For the year 1957 the number of Hudson & Manhattan Railroad passengers bottomed out at 30 million --- down from 114 million in 1927. The Tubes lost further appeal for passengers  when on September 8, 1958 the Hudson & Manhattan dropped 104 weekday and 148 Saturday trains from its schedule.

Other proposals to save the Tubes arose, this time to support the Hudson Tubes with those passengers whom the New York Central's West Shore Railroad was trying to shed. On March 13, 1959 the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission [the state parallel to the ICC] ordered the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads to develop a plan to run the West Shore commuter trains to the Pennsylvania's Jersey City terminal at Exchange Place for transfer to to the Hudson & Manhattan Tubes. But just over a week later on March 24, 1959, the New York Central, determined to stop any such, plan abandoned its Weehawken ferry to Manhattan. Although West Shore commuter trains continued to operate to/from Weehawken there was no practical way for the passengers to get to Manhattan and  West Shore passenger traffic dropped 85% [enabling the New York Central to get ICC permission to abandon the railroad service which is what it had wanted to do.]

In the early 1960s there had been suggestions from sources other than the H&M that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("PA"), which was operating the vehicular tunnels, should also take over and operate the Tubes. For example, on April  4, 1960 New Jersey Highway Commissioner Dwight Palmer presented a report on rail passenger service to the New Jersey legislature under which the  state's taxpayers were  to subsidize commuter service to the extent of $6 million a year. The  Port Authority was to provide new cars for the Hudson & Manhattan and was also to lease and to operate the CNJ and Lackawanna North River ferries between New Jersey and New York. CNJ's trains were to be routed into PRR's Newark station [or possibly to the Pennsylvania's Exchange Place Terminal] via the Lehigh Valley Railroad from the New Jersey town of Aldene. 

The PA vehemently resisted this, claiming that the bonds it had guaranteed for the vehicular tunnels and bridges would be endangered by a Tubes takeover and by operating the ferries. The agency became involved in a long lasting but ultimately unsuccessful legal struggle against the takeover that wound up with a compromise that developed into the World Trade Center. 

In June 1960 the Port Authority outlined its alternate proposal to Palmer's proposal in regard to  the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad. The ferry plan for the PA to run the ferries was abandoned  and the rail portion, "Aldene Plan", was to be financed directly by the state of New Jersey's tax payers, not from PA funds. 

Then on September 27, 1960 the Port  Authority  [under state pressure and real estate enticement in the form of the World Trade Center] formally reversed its refusal to invest in rail transit. It offered to buy the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad for $20.5 million [approximately $134 million in  2004 dollars] on condition that the Port Authority would be exempt from any further involvement with commuter rail service. The deal was brokered as a trade between New York, which wanted the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, and New Jersey, which wanted to rescue the Hudson Tubes for the transportation needs of its citizens. The  Port Authority also proposed to spend $49.5 million [approximately $320 million in 2004 dollars] to build 300 new cars and to  "renovate" Hudson Terminal [i.e. demolish it for the World Trade Center complex]. The  H&M's trustee, Stichman, rejected the purchase offer as too low.

A long dispute arose, pitting the unequal sides of a bankrupt private company against a government organ with enormous sums of available money and backing by both state politicians and private real estate interests. 

March and April 1961  The H&M lost whatever power it might have had when in March 1961 the ICC ruled it had no jurisdiction over the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad reorganization and left the reorganization to state public utility commissions who were being pressured by the Port Authority, the state legislatures and big real estate interests.

 Perhaps as a pre-agreed bi-state ploy, the Port Authority issued an initial proposal for a World Trade Center on the East River, also in March 1961; New Jersey immediately demanded a New Jersey quid pro New York quo from the Port Authority. Then on March 20, 1961 the Port  Authority agreed to aid commuter railroads beyond taking over the Hudson Tubes; it proposed to spend up to 10% of its $70 million reserve fund each year. That plan was opposed  by both New Jersey governor Meyner and New York governor Rockefeller whose family's financial interests were connected to the WTC real estate development. Rockefeller demanded that the takeover of the Hudson Tubes be tied to building World Trade Center [which his family interests desired] in New York. The New Jersey legislature had a bill introduced on March 20, 1961 authorizing Port Authority to take over the Hudson & Manhattan. New Jersey state politicians, particularly Gov. Meyner,  opposed Gov. Rockefeller's plan of combining the  H&M and World Trade Center into one bill.

On April 8, 1961 New York Gov. Rockefeller signed a New York  bill permitting the Port Authority to take over the Hudson Tubes and to build a World Trade Center in lower Manhattan but the  World Trade Center's location was moved from the East River to the area occupied by the H&M's  Hudson Terminal and the amount of rentable office space was doubled, from 5 million to 10 million square feet. On April 10, 1961 the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission [to whom the ICC had ceded authority] formally rejected the  Hudson & Manhattan's reorganization plan. 

Throughout 1961 legal and corporate shuffling was going on, including the New York PSC authorizing the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad to transfer its railroad properties to a newly-formed subsidiary, Hudson Rapid Tubes Corporation [April 12, 1961]. Later, on January 1, 1962, the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad reorganized itself as a holding company, Hudson & Manhattan Corporation, with a subsidiary, Hudson Rapid Tubes Corporation, actually operating the railroad.

The States began taking direct steps and on May 23, 1961 Govs. Meyner and Rockefeller agreed in principal on the takeover of Hudson & Manhattan Tubes by Port Authority; while on May 29, 1961 New Jersey Gov. Meyner signed a bill by which New Jersey would collect income tax that New Jersey residents had been paying to New York. The proceeds of the tax were to be used to fund commuter service between the states.

Meanwhile, on June 14, 1961 the Pennsylvania Railroad announced it would not renew the Hudson & Manhattan's joint running rights between Jersey City and Newark when the rights expired on June 30, 1962.

Then on December 22, 1961 the U.S. District Court ordered the consummation of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad's reorganization plan, effective midnight December 31. On December 28, 1961 New Jersey and New York officials formally approved the Port Authority's  plan to shift the World Trade Center from the East Side to Hudson Terminal and the Port Authority announced it was willing to link the Hudson Tubes to other New Jersey railroads but not to assume the New Jersey subsidy program for those railroads.

 January  22, 1962 New Jersey and New York reached accord on the plan for the Port of New York Authority to take over the Hudson Tubes. February 13, 1962 Gov. Hughes signed a New Jersey bill, while on March 27, 1962 Gov. Rockefeller signed a  New York bill, allowing the Port of New York Authority to take over the Hudson & Manhattan Tubes and build the World Trade Center. Then on May 10, 1962 the Port of New York Authority created the  Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation ("PATH") to take over the Hudson & Manhattan Tubes, the recently created operating arm of the H&M.

It looked as if the transfer was complete but until almost the last day of August 1962 many law suits and legal disputes and compromises among the H&M, the New York and New Jersey state legislatures, displaced tenants, and federal agencies were underway.

For example, on July 24, 1962 the tenants of Hudson Terminal sued to block condemnation of buildings for World Trade Center, while on August 9, 1962 the New Jersey Superior Court approved the Port Authority's acquisition of the Hudson & Manhattan Tubes and Hudson Terminal. 

On September 1, 1962 the PA, through PATH, acquired the property of both the Hudson & Manhattan Corporation and the Hudson Rapid Tubes Corporation - by condemnation not commercial purchase - and  assumed operation of the Hudson Tubes at 12:10 AM. Prospectuses for some of the bonds which were involved in the ongoing dispute carried this historical note about the takeover of the H&M.

Noteworthy was the strange way the PA handled the signage issue. As reported in John Henderson's excellent photo book Gotham Turnstiles, passengers on August 31, 1962 left stations and stairways and corridors marked with red and white H&M signs. They returned early in the morning of September 1, 1962 to stations and stairways and corridors stripped of every single moveable indication of H&M tradition and history and replaced with Port Authority signage.

Hudson Tubes mosaic and PATH metallic signs at 14th street; Hudson Tubes PATH trains Hudson & Manhattan RR; click to enlarge; © B Klapouchy 2002Only those items embedded permanently escaped the immediate PA campaign. The clickable image to the left is from the 6th Avenue IND 14th Street station station and shows the old [red and white mosaic] and the new [functional flat light print on dark] operating systems. Another of the few remaining pieces of H&M operations is found here at Exchange Place.

The legal disputes that had preceded the takeover did not cease when the operational takeover was complete and it wasn't until November 12, 1963 that the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the last major suit against the World Trade Center and denied any further appeals. It wasn't until December 10, 1965, more than three years after the PA takeover, however, that the New York Supreme Court awarded the Hudson & Manhattan Corporation and Hudson Rapid Tubes Corporation $72.8 million [$434 million in 2005 dollars]in compensation for the sale of Hudson & Manhattan Tubes and Hudson Terminal and the transfer was legally complete.

Although it was only with the greatest reluctance that the PA had become the owner and operator of the Tubes, it carried out a radical rehabilitation of the network and brought the system up to contemporary standards. 

Every year there is less and less remaining from the Hudson & Manhattan RR days. Hudson & Manhattan RR manhole cover on the north platform of Exchange Place Hudson Tubes PATH trains H&M RR © 2003 B KlapouchyStill at Exchange Place, even after the rebuilding  caused by the Islamic terrorist attacks on America, there still is this H&M manhole cover on the north platform. [Click manhole image to see details.]


© B Klapouchy 1987-2008
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