A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 04, 2013
Selkirk Hurdle

The “Selkirk hurdle” describes the route that freight trains must travel to enter New York City. There is no freight crossing across the Hudson River into New York City, so trains must travel 140 miles to Selkirk (ten miles south of Albany) to cross the river there. The term “Selkirk hurdle” has been cited in print since at least 1976.

The Selkirk hurdle is one reason for the proposed Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel between New York and New Jersey.

Wikipedia: Selkirk hurdle
The Selkirk Hurdle is the term used by urban planners, railroad employees, politicians, others to describe the arduous and inconvenient route that must be taken by freight trains traveling between New York City or other points in downstate New York and points in the United States west of the Hudson River. Because there are no freight crossings of the Hudson River south of Selkirk, which is 10 miles (16 km) south of Albany, trains from Long Island and New York City (except for the borough of Staten Island which has a rail bridge to New Jersey) must travel 140 miles (230 km) north to cross at Selkirk before continuing on their way. Advocates claim that this detour and the inefficiencies that result force New York City to rely more heavily on relatively inefficient trucks than most parts of the United States, where freight trains are more common. However, at least for traffic to and from the west, this route was touted for its efficiency as the “Water Level Route” by the New York Central Railroad because trains using it did not have to climb over the Appalachian Mountains, and it is still used by the New York Central’s successor, CSX, for traffic to both sides of the Hudson River.
Eliminating the Selkirk Hurdle is a primary objective of the Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel proposed to span Upper New York Bay between Brooklyn and either Jersey City, New Jersey or Staten Island.

OCLC WorldCat record
Improving intermodal transportation in New England
Author: Reebie Associates.; New England Regional Commission.
Publisher: Boston : The Commission, 1976.
Series: Transportation program technical report - New England Regional Commission
Edition/Format: Book : State or province government publication : English
Contents: v. 1. New England freight traffic flows.--v. 2. The status of intermodal freight transport in New England.--v. 3. The competition for New England freight traffic.--v. 4. The Selkirk Hurdle.

5 November 1976, New York (NY) Times, “Rail-Car Floating: a Chancy Business” by Edward C. Burks, pg. 28:
The ‘Selkirk Hurdle’
For the last six years freight arriving from the South and West in New Jersey railyards and bound for New England or Long Island has had to take a circuitous route several hundred miles out of the way via the big Selkirk yards near Albany.

New York (NY) Times
Published: May 4, 1986
Little more than three miles separates Brooklyn from New Jersey across Upper New York Bay. By freight train, however, the trip between the two can cover 280 miles and take more than 24 hours.

That is because in recent years virtually all rail traffic between Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, at one end, and points south, at the other, has traveled over the ‘’Selkirk Hurdle,’’ a 280-mile loop that extends up the east shore of the Hudson River to a bridge at Selkirk, N.Y., near Albany, then down the west side of the river.

‘’The Selkirk route is ridiculous,’’ said Anthony M. Riccio Jr., director of Mayor Koch’s Office of Rail Freight Development. ‘’Basically, we hope to see its demise.’’

Cap’n Transit Rides Again
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Why you should care about the Cross-Harbor rail freight tunnel
For years, people have been talking about a cross-harbor rail freight tunnel, but it hasn’t caught on in the public’s imagination. Look, already with you! You’re thinking, “Geez, do I really want to read some post about a freight tunnel? I don’t ship freight. What do I care?” But you should, so don’t close this window! Here’s why: less carnage, saving tax money, no more highway hostages. Read on for details.

Ever since the Poughkeepsie Bridge was closed, freight trains going from west of the Hudson (New Jersey, most of upstate, most of the rest of the continent) to east of the Hudson (New York City, Long Island, Westchester, New England) have had to go all the way up to Selkirk, a tiny hamlet south of Albany, to cross the river.

There are two alternatives to the “Selkirk hurdle”: put the rail cars on a barge across the harbor, or transfer the goods to trucks. A lot of shippers have been using a third alternative: sending the stuff on trucks the whole way. And of course that means more trucks and bigger trucks.

Chris Whong
West Side Line & Selkirk Hurdle
Chris April 3, 2013
Why can’t we bring freight into Manhattan on trains anymore?  One reason is the Selkirk Hurdle, the closest rail crossing of the Hudson River.  It’s located over 140 miles north of the city, and any freight train destined for NYC, Long Island, or any other points east can only cross at that location.  It’s cheaper to unload in New Jersey and switch to trucks, but our current situation with congestion means that practice isn’t sustainable.  If the Selkirk Hurdle weren’t an issue, what would it take to bring the occasional Freight train into Manhattan?

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Thursday, July 04, 2013 • Permalink