The letter "E" on
the capitals of the columns at the Newport PATH Station gives local commuters
evidence of the former New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad Station
at the foot of Pavonia Avenue and
the Hudson River. The terminal was built in the late 1880s for over $200,000
and was razed in 1961. Today, the site is part of the larger Newport complex
in Jersey City developed a century later.
The New York and Erie Railroad was incorporated in 1832 to operate a railway
line exclusively in New York State. In 1852, it began to make inroads
into New Jersey through consolidation and mergers including expansion
to the terminal in Jersey City belonging to the New Jersey Railroad and
Transportation Company incorporated in 1832. Local historian Joan Lovero
explains, "In 1852 the New York and Erie Railroad leased the tracks
of the Paterson and Hudson Rail Road and four years later bought more
than 200 acres at Pavonia Avenue where it erected a new terminal on landfill.
Because this site was more than a mile north of the old depot, the Erie
decided to blast a tunnel through the Bergen
hill and so avoid a circuitous route through the cut. The heavy expense
of this difficult excavation, followed by the Panic of 1857, brought the
Erie to bankruptcy. It was rescued by an infusion of cash from a small
New Jersey line, the Morris and Essex. . . Work resumed and in November
1860 a locomotive steamed through the first tunnel through the Bergen
In 1861, after bankruptcy and bailout, the railway was renamed the "Erie
Railroad," as it continued to be called through future consolidations
and bankruptcies. The rail line had also completed the Bergen Tunnel for
trains to reach the Jersey City waterfront. Three years later, the Erie
acquired the Pavonia Ferry Company of Jersey City, which had started in
1854, for $9,050. The ferry service across the Hudson River operated between
Pavonia Avenue in Jersey City and Chambers Street in lower Manhattan.
These and other transportation innovations began a significant period
of growth in Jersey City. Between 1860 and 1870, the population grew 182.4%
from 29,226 to 82,546, and to 120,722 or by 46.2% during the next decade.
From 1868, the New York railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt attempted
to gain control of the Erie Railroad. At the time, it was controlled by
the noted financiers Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, and James Fisk who tried
to corner the company's stock by issuing 50,000 shares to flood the market.
After a New York court issued a warrant for their arrest, the three men
reportedly left for a hotel in Jersey City. Gould, it is said, bribed
the New York legislature to legalize their action. Fisk and Gould then
came to an agreement with Vanderbilt, and the railroad remained in their
control with Gould as its president in 1868. The railroad, none the less,
went into bankruptcy in 1875 amidst further scandal. It was sold for 6
million dollars and transferred to the Lake Erie and Western Railway in
1878. The Erie again went into bankruptcy in 1893 and was reorganized
in 1895 as the Erie Rail Road Company.
With the consolidation and expansion of mileage along the eastern seaboard,
the railroad contracted with the Phoenix Bridge Co. in 1886 for the building
of what was to be "one of the largest passenger train sheds in this
country. . . . on the site of the old depot at the Pavonia terminus of
the railway" (See Catskill Archive link below).
The terminal was opened to the public on December 4, 1887. That day a
New York Times article describes the "handsome" building
with a center section and two wings as "three stories high, of the
English Gothic style of architecture . . . replete with all modern conveniences;
. . It has a frontage of 127 feet on Pavonia-avenue, and a river frontage
of 120 feet. . . . The interior is finished in hard woods in their natural
colors; light is afforded by spacious windows of cathedral stained glass.
The train shed is 140 by 600 feet." With its name "New York,
Lake Erie & Western Railroad" engraved above the first floor,
the station prominently displayed four towers. The tallest square tower
featured clocks on two sides and a widow's walk above. On the first floor,
passengers entered a waiting room facing the tracks, 66 feet by 1000 feet,
which had a ticket office, ladies' waiting room, restaurant and smoking
Kenneth French in Railroads of Hoboken and Jersey City explains
that between 1906 and 1910, the Erie dug a cut through the Bergen hill
"to alleviate traffic and poor ventilation in the Bergen Tunnel [completed
in 1861 and north of Dickinson High School], which ran parallel to it"
(62). The 5,000-foot long, 85-foot deep and 58-foot wide cut between Kennedy
Boulevard and Palisade Avenue is known as the Bergen
arches as it forms a series of bridges or elevated streets over the
On August 2, 1909, the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad under the Hudson
River (now PATH) opened the Erie (Tube) station that was built at the
Pavonia terminus to connect Jersey City with Lower Manhattan by rail.
Popularly known as the Hudson Tubes, it had other stations at Journal
Square, Hoboken, Newark in New Jersey and New York City.
By 1951 the Erie's main line had extended from Jersey City to Chicago
with branches to Scranton, Pennsylvania, Rochester and Buffalo, New York,
and Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio. In 1954, the Hudson and Manhattan installed
at Pavonia Avenue an innovative underground moving electronic sidewalk,
6-foot wide and 227-foot long, called the "Speedwalk" and built
by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company ("Passenger Conveyor Belt
to Be Installed in Erie Station." New York Times 6 October
Its purpose was to move a projected 21,000 passengers from the mezzanine
of the Hudson Tubes station to the Erie Railroad Terminal. The passenger
conveyance now common in airports was seen as futuristic but could not
save the terminal. Changes in local and commercial transportation patterns
brought a decline in passenger use of the terminal. In 1956, the Erie
Railroad moved out of the Pavonia terminal for the Lackawanna Terminal
in Hoboken. The last train to depart from Jersey City's Pavonia Station
was the Northern Branch train #1205 at 6:35 p.m., Friday, December 12,
In 1960 the Erie Railroad merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western
Railroads to become the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. The Erie Terminal was
razed the following year after the New York, Susquehanna & Western
Railroad withdrew its operations. For a time, railway track remained intact
to Piermont, NY. It brought passengers to Jersey City and serviced the
Continental Can Company until it closed in the late 1970s. Its freight
yards became part of the Newport waterfront redevelopment near the Port
Authority's Railroad Pavonia Station.
In 1962 the Hudson Tubes ceded under financial pressure to the PATH for
the rights to its operation in New York City for the development of the
World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. After 1988, the Pavonia tube station
became a transfer station for the PATH, called the Pavonia or Pavonia
Avenue Station. It was renamed the Pavonia/Newport station with the redevelopment
of the Hudson River waterfront, ca. 2003, and then Newport in 2010.
"Bi-State Past Near on Hudson Tubes." New York Times
22 June 1961.
"New York, Lake Erie & Western Railway Passenger Station, Jersey
City," Engineering News and American Contract Journal, May
"The Erie Boom." Jersey Journal 2 October 1886 .
"Erie Puts Deficit
in '58 at 4 Million." New York Times 29 January 1959.
"The Erie Railroad
Contest." Evening Journal 21 March 1868.
"Erie Sees Merger Gains." New York Times 14 March 1960.
French, Kenneth. Images of America: Railroads of Hoboken and Jersey
City. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
Gabrielan, Randall. Jersey City, A Monumental History. Atglen,
PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2007.
"A Handsome Building:
The Erie Railway's New Station at Jersey City." New York Times
4 December 1887.
Lovero, Joan Doherty. Hudson County: The Left Bank. Sun Valley,
CA: American Historical Press, 1999.
Murphy, Tom. "Erie, The Scenic Railway to Chicago." Transportation,
Past and Present: Jersey City, NJ. Jersey City,NJ: Jersey CityLandmarks
Parkhurst, Joshua. "Hudson & Manhattan, The Subterraneous Underwater
Railroad." Transportation, Past and Present: Jersey City, NJ.
Jersey City, NJ: Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, 2006.
"Passenger Conveyor Belt to Be Installed in Erie Station." New
York Times 6 October 1953.
"The War on the Erie Railroad." The Evening Journal 14
"With Joy and Feast: The Opening of the New Erie Depot Completed."
Jersey Journal 5 December 1887.