The Old Pennsylvania Station in 1912
Pennsylvania Station is named for the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), its builder and original tenant, and
shares its name with several stations in other cities. The current facility is the substantially remodeled
underground remnant of a much grander structure designed by McKim, Mead, and White and completed in 1910. The
original Pennsylvania Station was considered a masterpiece of the Beaux-Arts style and one of the
architectural jewels of New York City. Demolition of the original head house and train shed began in 1963.
The Pennsylvania Plaza complex, including the fourth and current Madison Square Garden, was completed in
Until the early 20th century, the PRR's rail network terminated on the western side of the Hudson River (once
known locally as the North River) at Exchange Place in Jersey City, New Jersey. Manhattan-bound passengers
boarded ferries to cross the Hudson River for the final stretch of their journey. The rival New York Central
Railroad's line ran down Manhattan from the north under Park Avenue and terminated at Grand Central Terminal
at 42nd St.
The Pennsylvania Railroad considered building a rail bridge across the Hudson, but the state required such a
bridge to be a joint project with other New Jersey railroads, who were not interested. The alternative was to
tunnel under the river, but steam locomotives could not use such a tunnel, and in any case the New York State
Legislature had prohibited steam locomotives in Manhattan after July 1, 1908.The development of the electric
locomotive at the turn of the 20th century made a tunnel feasible. On December 12, 1901 PRR president
Alexander Cassatt announced the railroad's plan to enter New York City by tunneling under the Hudson and
building a grand station on the West Side of Manhattan south of 34th Street.
Beginning in June 1903 the North River Tunnels, two single-track tunnels, were bored from the west under the
Hudson River and four single-track tunnels were bored from the east under the East River. This second set of
tunnels linked the new station to Queens and the Long Island Rail Road, which came under PRR control and
Sunnyside Yard in Queens, where trains would be maintained and assembled. Electrification was initially 600
volts DC–third rail, later changed to 11,000 volts AC–overhead catenary, when electrification of PRR's
mainline was eventually extended to Washington, D. C. in the early 1930s
Construction was completed on the Hudson River tunnels on October 9, 1906, and on the East River tunnels
March 18, 1908. Meanwhile, ground was broken for Pennsylvania Station on May 1, 1904. By the time of its
completion and the inauguration of regular through train service on Sunday, November 27, 1910, the total
project cost to the Pennsylvania Railroad for the station and associated tunnels was $114 million
(approximately $2.7 billion in 2011 dollars), according to an Interstate Commerce Commission report.
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