Wards Island / Randalls Island

The New York Connecting Railroad runs on a viaduct from the Hell Gate Bridge across Wards Island and Randalls Island, gently descending into Port Morris on the other side of Bronx Kill.

The Hell Gate Bridge is a railroad-only bridge that connects Astoria, Queens and Port Morris in The Bronx. The bridge was originally conceived in 1892 by bridge designer Gustav Lindenthal and Pennsylvania Railroad engineer Oliver W. Barnes as part of a network that would permit Pennsylvania Railroad traffic to flow from New Jersey, through tunnels into and out of New York City and on up to New England. Lindenthal (who also initially wanted the project to include a suspension rail bridge over the Hudson River as well) was chosen as consulting engineer and architect in 1904. Lindenthal appointed Othmar Ammann as assistant chief engineer, a man who would later realize Lindenthal's Hudson River suspension bridge idea with the George Washington Bridge and, later, the Verrrzano-Narrows Bridge. Plans were finalized by 1907 and construction officially began on March 1, 1914. Construction was officially finished on September 30, 1916 and regular service over the bridge from Washington to Boston began in 1917.

The total length of the bridge including all approaches and viaducts is 3.2 miles. The main steel arch span is 1,017 feet and sits between a pair 250-foot concrete towers. The towers do not actually support the weight of the arch, although Lindenthal added non-structural connecting girders between the upper arch cords and the towers to give that reassuring appearance. The arch span provides a clearance of 135 feet above mean high water.

Little Hell Gate (the water separating Wards and Randalls Island which is now filled in) was traversed by four 300-foot deck arch spans with inverted bowstring trusses sitting on 155-foot towers. The final fixed truss span over Bronx Kill (also now largely filled in) is 350-feet long. The steel-arch span was the longest of its type in the world, until being surpassed by Ammann's Bayonne Bridge in 1931.

The approaches and viaducts surrounding the spans bring the bridge's total length to 16,900 feet - around 3.2 miles. The viaduct piers on Randall's and Ward's island were originally planned to be made of steel, but were changed to concrete during construction over fears that escaped Randall's Island inmates would climb the piers and escape over the bridge.

Lindenthal later proposed adding a deck for automobile traffic to the bridge during the design phase of the Triboro Bridge in the 1920s with spurs from the bridge to East 102nd Street and East 116th Street in Manhattan.

At the initiative of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan the bridge was refurbushed and repainted (Hell Gate Red) in a project that completed in 1996.

The bridge carries four separate tracks. The two southern tracks are used by Amtrak. The inner northern track is used by the freight lines and the northernmost track is unused. Presumably, a conversion for use by the Circumferential Subway would involve restoring the outer track for eastbound service and adding third rail electrificaton to both tracks. As such, Amtrak service on the southern pair of tracks would be largely unimpeded either by construction or slower subway service.

The NYCRR headed out of Astoria, Queens
7/18/2008 06:13 PM
The NYCRR headed out of Astoria, Queens
The Hell Gate Bridge
7/18/2008 06:13 PM
The Hell Gate Bridge
East pier of the Hell Gate Bridge
7/18/2008 06:15 PM
East pier of the Hell Gate Bridge
Hell Gate Bridge viewed from the southwest
7/18/2008 06:05 PM
Hell Gate Bridge viewed from the southwest
West approach to the Hell Gate Bridge
7/18/2008 06:00 PM
West approach to the Hell Gate Bridge
Viaduct curving north over Wards Island
7/18/2008 05:58 PM
Viaduct curving north over Wards Island
Viaduct curving north over Wards Island
7/18/2008 05:54 PM
Viaduct curving north over Wards Island
Viaduct headed north over Wards Island
7/18/2008 05:58 PM
Viaduct headed north over Wards Island

Wards and Randalls Islands are home to a number of civic institutions, including a truly fearsome looking mental hospital. It is also home to the Triboro bridge and the former Downing Football Stadium, which investor Carl Icahn got to rename after himself when he paid for a much-needed reconstruction of the outdated facility.

Charles H. Gay Center
7/18/2008 06:04 PM
Charles H. Gay Center
Help USA
7/18/2008 06:02 PM
Help USA
Security gate to mental hospital
7/18/2008 05:54 PM
Security gate to mental hospital
Under the Triboro bridge viaduct
7/18/2008 05:49 PM
Under the Triboro bridge viaduct
Triboro bridge viaduct
7/18/2008 05:41 PM
Triboro bridge viaduct
Icahn Stadium
7/18/2008 05:40 PM
Icahn Stadium
Icahn Stadium
7/18/2008 05:40 PM
Icahn Stadium

Wards Island and Randalls Island used to be separated by a tidal marsh. Lacking an appreciation for the importance of wetlands for water filtration, the marsh was filled in to expand available land on the island. A project to restore the marsh was initiated around 2007.

Salt marsh restoration
7/18/2008 05:38 PM
Salt marsh restoration
Salt marsh restoration
7/18/2008 05:39 PM
Salt marsh restoration
Salt marsh restoration - triboro bridge viaduct in the distance
7/18/2008 05:42 PM
Salt marsh restoration - triboro bridge viaduct in the distance
Salt marsh restoration
7/18/2008 05:42 PM
Salt marsh restoration
Boardwalk over the salt marsh restoration
7/18/2008 05:42 PM
Boardwalk over the salt marsh restoration
Salt marsh restoration
7/18/2008 05:43 PM
Salt marsh restoration
Salt marsh restoration
7/18/2008 05:48 PM
Salt marsh restoration
Pedestrian bridge over the salt marsh
7/18/2008 05:46 PM
Pedestrian bridge over the salt marsh
Pedestrian bridge over the salt marsh
7/18/2008 05:46 PM
Pedestrian bridge over the salt marsh
Pedestrian bridge over the salt marsh
7/18/2008 05:45 PM
Pedestrian bridge over the salt marsh
Ducks
7/18/2008 05:46 PM
Ducks

The Wards Island Station

Take the subway to Wards Island? The height of the viaduct and the likely limited demand for service (except during events when demand would be overwhelming) makes prospects for a station stop on the island unlikely. But if you were going to put one here, it would probably be at this midpoint over the island where the viaduct has long deck arch truss truss spans over what was a marshy area between Wards and Randall's island. Probably around one of the towered piers would be best.

Arch trussed portions of the viaduct over what was a marshy area between Wards Island and Randalls Island
7/18/2008 05:50 PM
Arch trussed portions of the viaduct over what was a marshy area between Wards Island and Randalls Island
Towered viaduct pier on north end of arch trussed section
7/18/2008 05:35 PM
Towered viaduct pier on north end of arch trussed section
Amtrak train crossing the NYCRR viaduct
7/18/2008 05:35 PM
Amtrak train crossing the NYCRR viaduct
Amtrak train crossing the NYCRR viaduct
7/18/2008 05:36 PM
Amtrak train crossing the NYCRR viaduct
Amtrak train crossing the NYCRR viaduct
7/18/2008 05:36 PM
Amtrak train crossing the NYCRR viaduct
Arch truss viaduct
7/18/2008 05:34 PM
Arch truss viaduct
Arch truss viaduct pier
7/18/2008 05:34 PM
Arch truss viaduct pier
Arch truss
7/18/2008 05:34 PM
Arch truss
Looking south at the arch truss viaduct
7/18/2008 05:32 PM
Looking south at the arch truss viaduct
Closeup of pier base
7/18/2008 05:31 PM
Closeup of pier base
Looking south through pier arches
7/18/2008 05:30 PM
Looking south through pier arches
Under the girder deck
7/18/2008 05:30 PM
Under the girder deck
Girder seated on a pier
7/18/2008 05:30 PM
Girder seated on a pier
Looking north through pier arches
7/18/2008 05:29 PM
Looking north through pier arches
Viaduct proceeding north to the truss span
7/18/2008 05:28 PM
Viaduct proceeding north to the truss span
Paint information
7/18/2008 05:27 PM
Paint information
Local drive interchange on the island
7/18/2008 05:25 PM
Local drive interchange on the island
The Discus Thrower - Dimitriadis 1994
7/18/2008 05:25 PM
The Discus Thrower - Dimitriadis 1994
The Discus Thrower - Dimitriadis 1994
7/18/2008 05:25 PM
The Discus Thrower - Dimitriadis 1994
The truss span over Bronx Kill
7/18/2008 05:23 PM
The truss span over Bronx Kill
Ad hoc marsh in construction area
7/18/2008 05:16 PM
Ad hoc marsh in construction area
Looking northwest over construction to the Bronx
7/18/2008 05:15 PM
Looking northwest over construction to the Bronx
Truss span over Bronx Kill
7/18/2008 05:15 PM
Truss span over Bronx Kill
Wide angle view of viaduct crossing Bronx Kill
7/18/2008 05:12 PM
Wide angle view of viaduct crossing Bronx Kill
Bronx Kill
7/18/2008 05:11 PM
Bronx Kill