North River Tunnels

North River Tunnels
North River Tunnels
Western portal at Bergen Hill
Line Northeast Corridor
Location Hudson River
Coordinates 40°45′31″N 74°00′45″W / 40.7585°N 74.0125°W / 40.7585; -74.0125Coordinates: 40°45′31″N 74°00′45″W / 40.7585°N 74.0125°W / 40.7585; -74.0125
System Amtrak and NJ Transit
Start Secaucus Junction in Secaucus (NJT); Newark Pennsylvania Station in Newark (Amtrak)
End Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, New York City
Opened November 27, 1910; 100 years ago (November 27, 1910)[1]
Owner Amtrak
Traffic Railroad
Character Passenger
Design engineer Charles M. Jacobs
Construction 1904-1910
Length 14,575 feet (4,442 m)[2]
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrified Third rail and Overhead lines
Lowest elevation 100 feet (30.5 m) below Hudson River, 175 feet (53 m) below Bergen Hill[3]
Grade 1.30% in Weehawken, 1.923% in Manhattan[3]

The North River Tunnels carry Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and New Jersey Transit rail lines under the Hudson River between Weehawken, New Jersey and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, New York City. Completed in 1910 by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), the tunnels allowed Pennsylvania Railroad trains to reach Manhattan.[4]


Design and construction

Led by Chief Engineer Charles M. Jacobs, the tunnel design team worked between 1902 and 1904. The first task was digging two shafts, one just east of 11th Ave in Manhattan and a larger one a few hundred yards west of the river. The Weehawken Shaft was completed in September 1904 as a concrete-walled rectangular pit, 56 by 116 ft at the bottom and 76 ft deep. The PRR awarded the North River contract to O'Rourke Engineering Construction Company, which began work upon completion of the two shafts. (At the time, "North River Tunnels" referred to the tunnels east of the Weehawken Shaft; in later years the term has come to include the Bergen Hill tunnels as well.) The tunnels were built with drilling and blasting techniques and tunnelling shields,[5] digging west from Manhattan, east and west from Weehawken, and east from the Bergen portals. The two ends of the northern tube under the river met in September 1906; at that time it was the longest underwater tunnel in the world.[3][6] In 1905 the John Shields Construction Company received the contract to bore through Bergen Hill, the lower Hudson Palisades;[7] William Bradley took over in 1906 and the tunnels to the Hackensack Meadows were completed in April 1908.[8][9]

The tunnels' western portals are in North Bergen, on the western edge of the New Jersey Palisades near the eastern terminus of Route 3 at U.S. Route 1/9 (40°46′17″N 74°02′31″W / 40.771434°N 74.041892°W / 40.771434; -74.041892). They travel far underground beneath North Bergen, Union City, and Weehawken, to the east portals at the east edge of 10th Avenue at 32nd St in Manhattan. (Since about 1968 the east portals have been hidden beneath a big tan building on the east side of 10th Ave.) When the top of the Weehawken Shaft was covered is a mystery; the two tracks may have remained open to the sky until catenary was added circa 1932.


Since 2003, the tunnels have been operating near 100 percent capacity during peak hours.[2] There are two tubes; trains ordinarily travel west (to New Jersey) through the north tube and east (to Manhattan) through the south. During the morning rush about 24 trains use the south tube in the busiest hour, and the same through the north tube in the afternoon.

New tunnel project

The Access to the Region's Core project to build a set of parallel tunnels began construction in June 2009 to supplement the North River Tunnels, but that project was canceled in October 2010 by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie due to budget constraints. On February 7, 2011, Amtrak announced that it would spend $50-million on preliminary engineering and design work for a new tunnel project called Gateway, estimated to cost $13.5-billion.[10]

See also

1907 exposition display showing cross-section of North and East River railroad tunnels
North River Tunnels, 1910s (Manhattan side)


  1. ^ Guide to Civil Engineering Projects In and Around New York City (2nd ed.). Metropolitan Section, American Society of Civil Engineers. 2009. p. 58. 
  2. ^ a b Belson, Ken (2008-04-06). "Tunnel Milestone, and More to Come". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b c "'Pennsy's' North River Tunnel a Marvel of Skill; Bores Meeting Head-on Under the River Only an Eighth of an Inch Out of Alignment and Three-fourths of an Inch Out of Grade" (PDF). The New York Times. September 9, 1906. 
  4. ^ * Cudahy, Brian J. (2002). Rails under the mighty Hudson: The Story of the Hudson Tubes, the Pennsy Tunnels and Manhattan Transfer. Hudson Valley Heritage Series (2nd ed.). New York: Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-8232-2189-X. 
  5. ^ Hewett, B.H.M. (1912). "The North River Division". History of the Engineering Construction and Equipment of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company's New York Terminal and Approaches. New York: Isaac H. Blanchard Co.. pp. 35–53. 
  6. ^ "Meeting of the Pennsylvania Tunnel Shields". The Railway Age (Chicago: Wilson Co.) 42 (12): 355. 1906-09-21. 
  7. ^ "Penn. Tunnel Award". The New York Times. March 14, 1905. Retrieved 2011-02-27. 
  8. ^ "Final Blast Opens Pennsylvania Tube". The New York Times. April 9, 1908. Retrieved 2011-02-27. 
  9. ^ "Another Tube Through". The New York Times. April 11, 1908. Retrieved 2011-02-27. 
  10. ^ "Senators propose tunnel linking New York and New Jersey". BBC. 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 

Further reading

External links

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