Last week, I was scouting for woodland trails, which brought me up to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. I’d never been before, and I randomly picked a trail and just started walking.
A little ways in, I noticed something unusual off to the side of the trail…
…A row of what almost looked like oversized gravestones:
There was something a bit weird about stumbling on these seemingly randomly placed structures in the middle of the woods. Could this be New York’s version of Stonehenge??
As it turns out, the answer actually has something to do with a little building you may have heard of in Manhattan…
These thirteen slabs are stone samples, from which the primary building material for Grand Central was chosen. The samples were brought to New York City to test how they withstood the elements, though ultimately cost proved to be the deciding factor. Indiana limestone, the second sample in from the south, was chosen because it was the cheapest to transport:
That answered part of the question – but why were they hidden along a random woodland trail? In fact, it’s not random at all – the trail I was following was actually built on top of an old train line.
According to Forgotten NY, the Putnam Line once ran from the Bronx all the way up to Brewster, New York. One of the coolest remnants from this can be found near the trail’s southern end…
The rusting remains of an old train station:
This was once the Van Cortlandt Park stop, one of two stops in the Bronx. So interesting to stand here and force your brain to picture it as a fully active railroad station…
Construction on the Putnam line began in 1870, with passenger service in operation until 1958. Freight trains continued to use the line through the early-1980s, when it was finally decommissioned.
In addition to the station, several iron bridges can also be found along the trail:
Here’s hoping those passing through the park late at night might hear what almost sounds like a train whistle blowing in the distance…And perhaps, see spectral figures waiting at the station for a train that will never come.
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