July 2014 Union Strike

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Saturday, February 15

The Mail Platform

In the middle of January, I finished up a bunch of posts detailing the unique characteristics of many of New York Penn Station's platforms.  There were six posts for the station's 11 passenger platforms.  But, there is one additional platform hidden down in the depths of Penn Station that few know of--the Mail Platform.

The mail platform, tucked away towards the southwest corner of the station, is a relict of Penn Station's past.  During the height of the Pennsylvania Railroad's reign, huge percentages of the US Mail traveled by rail.  A PRR train would arrive in Penn Station and crews would get to work pulling incoming mail cars off and adding outgoing ones on.  After the train had left, the mail cars would then be corralled over to the Mail Platform, which was conveniently placed under the Farley Post Office across 8th Avenue, which did, and still does, process a huge amount of US Mail. Post office workers would then be able to get mail on and off the cars using the Mail Platform and various baggage elevators that went up and down from the upper levels to the platforms.

The platform was located over by yard E, and it's location is shown on the diagram below.  The platform is a fairly long island platform, with tracks on both sides (it looks to be about 8 cars long).  It is a high-level platform, as were all of the other station platforms in Penn Station.

Under today's current track configuration, the Mail Platform is not directly accessible from any of the tunnels into the station.  In order to get over to the mail platform today you have to go down to station tracks 1 or 2 or over to yard tracks 1A or 2A by the Empire Tunnels and then reverse to get over to the platform.

Today, no mail arrives in Penn Station by rail, so no mail cars go over to the Mail Platform.  The platform still exists, and it can be seen out the window of a NJT train pulling into track 1.  When I was down there around the end of January, the platform was dimly lit and looked like it was being used for storage.  I got a photo or two of it with my phone, but it was so dark you can hardly see anything.

Currently, the Mail Platform is just there fore storage.  If I had to suggest a possible use for the mail platform, I would recommend that they add a crossover or two from the Empire Tunnel line down to the Mail Platform and use it to host Hudson Line trains from every Westchester County Politician's favorite project, Penn Station Access.  They could have all the capacity on that platform and it would be just for them.  They could link it into the new Farley Station Building since those two projects have the same level of unfundedness at this point., but that's just an idea.

In conclusion, the Mail Platform is just another relic of Penn Station's past.  What was once a structure very useful to the Pennsylvania Railroad has turned into a place for Amtrak to store miscellaneous construction supplies.  It would be nice to see mail come by train again and the Mail Platform would get some use, but that is a topic for another railroad and another day.

3 comments:

  1. Patrick:
    Your commentary on Penn Station is very good, but you're a bit off on a couple of things. First, what you call "The Mail Platform" was usually called by Yardmasters, Train Directors and crews as the "Diagonal"........because of the ladder of switches acroos A & D yards to get there. You seldom, because of the intensifying MU traffic from NJT, went to the tracks from the east end (1 or 2). The two mail tracks were designated 1D and 3D.......originally there was a 2D in the early days of Penn Station, but that was eliminated and the platform widened. Probably until early 2000's, you pre-loaded caged mail into baggage cars for Chicago, New Orleans/Atlanta and St Louis. As Amtrak wiped out a few of those trains, the useage got less and less.
    Now, your diagram of tracks is a bit off.........to the left (black lines), top to bottom the tracks are 5A (originally a storage track for NH RR engine changes), 4A (the Purple Empire line), 3A, 2A and 1A.
    The next tracks to the right of the ladder of switches curtting the yards in half) is D yard. The tracks are from top to bottom 6D (the purple Empire line track), 5D (which is missing from the diagram totally and connects top 3A on the left), then 4D, the mail tracks 3D and finally 1D. The crossover line from 1A on the left goes to 4D ONLY over a diamond crossing, straight you go to the yard E ladder (untechnically 7 E)....you can not get to 3D as you drew it. Since you are missing 5D altogether, this changes what you drew on the east end of D yard by 6 and 7 tracks.......6D goes straight across to 7 track, 5D will go straight to 6 track, not that weird looking 3-way switch you drew, and 4D will go to 5or 4 track and below.
    Hope this helps straighten things out
    Doug

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for all the corrections. I'm aware of most of them and I'm working to revise the map. The map was originally made primarily from older PRR-era interlocking diagrams, so there may be some inaccuracies.

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  2. There seems to be elevators at the western end of platforms D through H that lead up to Forley PO. If true HSR gets up and running, parcel and mail service could use those tracks to get pallet mail and packages up and down the NEC.

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