Riding the Tubes: Sightseeing Trip
Most tourists will probably start the trip in Manhattan. After boarding the Journal Square train at 33rd Street, you ride 1.2 miles southwards in a straight line under Sixth Avenue to 9th Street. The sharp curve at the entrance to 9th Street marks the location of the opening to the tunnel that was planned but never fully constructed for the extension of the Tubes towards the original IRT subway on the east side of Manhattan. In this station and the next one (Christopher Street) the narrow tubular tunnel construction can be seen very clearly;
Since its franchise obligated the H&M to follow the course of the streets, there are two extremely sharp curves after leaving Christopher Street near the intersection of Morton and Greenwich Streets just before the train heads under the river. The clickable black and white image below is the construction under that intersection; Expand image and then click your browser's BACK button to return.
Almost as soon as the train gets under the river, there are two more sharp curves which result from the multiple attempts to excavate the trans river portion of the line. The train is now running through the 5,650 foot long tunnel which was begun in 1874. Four minutes later you're in Jersey City running through a junction from which the train turns almost 90 degrees through a series of sharp curves to start running southwards.
At Pavonia/Newport (the former location of the Erie Railroad Terminal and the passenger beltway described in section 5) you can go upstairs to the new "city" Newport with its the immense "Newport Centre" shopping mall and residential and commercial buildings as well as restaurants and hotels. After an additional 2 - 3 minutes the train runs through another junction of three routes and turns sharply to the west, running now in the same tunnel into which the downtown line from WTC has come, through Grove Street, into the above ground stretch, and ends at Journal Square.
Here you can walk across the platform and board the line coming from lower Manhattan and heading towards Newark. Now begins the stretch with the longest open distance between stations and where the trains reach their top operations speed of 55-60 mph. Until about 25 years ago gigantic railroad yards and other railroad facilities stretched for miles on both sides of the route. Although these have shrunk dramatically, there is still a lot for the railroad fan to see on this stretch.
Harrison is the first stop after Journal Square and less than a minute after leaving Harrison, the train is pulling into (Newark) Pennsylvania Station on an upper track and platform which is connected with escalators to the Amtrak waiting room and the street and by ramps directly to TNJ commuter trains and Amtrak long distance trains to the south and the west.
When returning to Manhattan it is possible to use Amtrak's long distance or Transit of New Jersey's commuter trains for a more rapid and more expensive trip back to (New York) Pennsylvania Station. If, however, you want a complete tour of the Tubes, go to the lower platform and board the downtown Newark - Journal Square - World Trade Center train. Immediately as the train leaves the exit of the Newark train station it's crossing a bridge over the Passaic River at whose east end is Harrison Station. Between the two tube tracks at this station are the tracks of Amtrak's main line which immediately after the station veer off northwards to the left and to [New York] Pennsylvania Station. Approximately a half mile after the Harrison Station, you can see on the right hand the new PATH car repair building which covers 25,000 square yards as well as PATH's service yard covering over 50 acres with almost 12 miles of track. This has replaced the pre-PA Tubes facility which was located near the mouth of the tunnel leading down to Grove Street Station.
While crossing the next river, the Hackensack, you see to the right the Pulaski Skyway and immediately to the left a double decked bridge for both train and motor traffic. That massive vertical lift bridge is very similar to the one you are travelling over. After passing through Journal Square (probably the best single spot for picture taking), you can see trackage branching off to the right. The first set of tracks leads to PATH's C Yard, the car wash and inspection building and the signal shop. This was the original route of the New Jersey Railroad, one of the Pennsylvania Railroad's predecessors. The next trackage to the right leads to the location of the Tubes' former maintenance center at Henderson Street.
A very few minutes after entering the tunnel, the "tubes" themselves, the train passes through Grove Street. It's very worthwhile to get out at the next station, Exchange Place, not only because of the unusual layout of this station (see Section 5) but also for the fine views of the New York skyline less than a block away, for a look at the new financial and residential center with 40 story buildings that would be called skyscrapers if they were anywhere else in the country and another group a few blocks to the north at Harborside; there's also an opportunity connect to the new Hudson Bergen Light Rail (trolley). Moreover, it's only a few minutes walk from the Exchange Place station to Washington and Greene Streets [or two stops on the trolley to the Harsimus Cove stop] where the H & M power plant stands. The building is in danger of being ripped down and a preservation campaign has been started.
Back to the train: three minutes having left Exchange Place you would be in Manhattan at the World Trade Center which had replaced the H&M's Hudson Terminal; as described in Section 5, this consists of a multi-track train loop. Upstairs there's much of interest tourists, for example the observation deck on the 110 story buildings. There also are direct pedestrian tunnels to all the main routes of New York subway system.
Containing further with the Tube trip, however, you board the Hoboken train. It is again only about 3 minutes to Exchange Place. Leaving that station, the train then turns sharply northwards, through a complicated switch system and then runs through Newport/Pavonia, continues through another complicated junction in a double decked caisson with very sharp turns where the Uptown Line branches off to the right. After more extremely sharp turns you are in Hoboken.
It's certainly worthwhile to go upstairs and take a look at the renovated Delaware Lackawanna & Western Terminal, now used only for commuter traffic, as well as to view the large but now largely unused and dilapidated ferry slips. A block or to directly northwards of the Lackawanna Terminal is a large number of music venues, bars and restaurants which are cheaper than their New York counterparts.
After boarding the Hoboken Uptown line, you're back at 33rd Street in nine minutes.
The headways between trains are very short and a schedule is unnecessary; If, however, you want to see the PATH timetable, click here for Bob Scheurle's listing as well as for his links to maps of the area surrounding each Tube station. Additionally, the PA provides a listing of Tube/PATH station addresses.
© BKlapouchy 1987-2001