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Training walk

August 13, 2011

Walkers stretch before heading out.

With about 60 days left until the 2011 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York, walkers take an opportunity to train together.  This year’s training walk was very well attended.  The walk took the walkers from 55th Street to Chambers Street and back, a distance of 8 miles round trip.  This represents 1/3 of the total distance on Day 1 (26.2 miles total).

Linda and I decided to break away on the return trip from the main walk as we have already walked the West Side Greenway many times.  Instead we headed for the NY High Line.  The park runs for 1 mile from Gansevoort St to 30th St.  It was built on the former elevated freight railroad spur called the West Side Line.

The original rail line was built in 1847 and ran at street level on 10th Avenue. For safety, the railroads hired men – the “West Side Cowboys” – to ride horses and wave flags in front of the trains.  Yet so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that 10th Avenue became known as “Death Avenue”.

View from the NY High Line.

In 1929 the city and the state of New York and the New York Central Railroad agreed on the West Side Improvement Project, which included the High Line. The 13-mile project eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings.

The High Line opened to trains in 1934. It originally ran from 34th Street to St. John’s Park Terminal, at Spring Street. It was designed to go through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue, to avoid the drawbacks of elevated subways. It connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets.

The growth of interstate trucking in the 1950s led to a drop in rail traffic throughout the nation. In the 1960s, the southernmost section of the line was demolished. The last train ran in 1980 with three carloads of frozen turkeys.

Construction on the High Line park began in 2006, with the first section opening in 2009.  The second section recently opened in June 2011.  The third, most  northern section, from 30th to 34th Streets, is still owned by the CSX railroad company, but the New York City Planning Commission has announced a move toward City ownership of this section.

The High Line park provides a great aerial view of lower Manhattan. The path incorporates plants and in some sections the ties and rails from the old railroad tracks.  Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers, with scattered stands of sumac and smokebush. There are lounge chairs made of wood mounted on old train wheels which are placed on a section of track. The path has many places to sit and people watch or view the surrounding streets and Hudson River.

Photos taken along the NY High Line –> click.

For more information visit the official website of the High Line.

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