- This article is about a railroad line. For the agglomeration of metropolitan areas, see BosWash. For the New Jersey Transit operation along part of the line, see Northeast Corridor Line.
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is the busiest passenger rail line in the United States by ridership and service frequency. The route is fully electrified and serves a densely urbanized string of cities from Washington, DC in the south through Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York, and New Haven to Boston. It also has branches connecting Philadelphia with Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; New Haven with Hartford, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts; New York City with Albany, New York, and several other commuter destinations. The busiest passenger rail station in the United States is Pennsylvania Station in New York, the central hub of the Northeast Corridor.
The NEC is immediately identified by the use of overhead wires and high speed rolling stock. Mostly operated and owned by Amtrak, the NEC offers the only true high-speed rail service in the United States, Amtrak's Acela Express. Several commuter rail agencies provide local service along the Northeast Corridor, some electrified and some diesel-powered. These rail networks include MARC in Maryland and Washington DC, SEPTA in Pennsylania, NJ Transit in New Jersey, Metro-North in New York and Connecticut, Shore Line East in Connecticut, and MBTA in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
- 1 Current passenger services
- 2 Ownership
- 3 History
- 3.1 New York electrification
- 3.2 Philadelphia electrification
- 3.3 NEC southern section: New York to Washington
- 3.4 NEC northern section: New York to Boston
- 3.5 Penn Central and Amtrak: forming the NEC
- 3.6 Preparing for Acela Express
- 3.7 Predecessor NEC railroads
- 4 Grade crossings
- 5 Station listing
- 6 References
- 7 Sources
Current passenger services
|Amtrak Northeast Corridor|
|The Acela brand|
(including Virginia and NHV-SPG)
|Former services: Clocker - Metroliner|
|Other Amtrak trains on the NEC:|
Cardinal - Carolinian - Crescent
Keystone - Palmetto - Pennsylvanian
Silver Meteor - Silver Star - Vermonter
|Commuter services on the NEC:|
MBTA - SLE - MNRR - NJT
SEPTA R7 - SEPTA R2 - MARC
The busiest part of the Northeast Corridor is the segment between Philadelphia and New York City. Amtrak operates 54 round-trip trains each weekday on this route, with an extra train (the Cardinal) on Wednesdays and Fridays. 344 round trips use the New York City to Philadelphia segment per week.
Amtrak accounts for about 14% of all intercity trips (including those by automobile) between Washington, D.C., and New York City and about 47% of trips between those cities by rail or air carrier.
The following Amtrak services run along the Northeast Corridor:
- Acela Express - high-speed rail from Boston to Washington.
- Regional - local service along the NEC, continuing to Newport News, Virginia and with a branch to Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Keystone Service - local service along the Keystone Corridor, using the NEC from New York to Philadelphia and continuing to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Other services using the NEC:
- Cardinal - runs from Chicago,
- Carolinian - runs from Charlotte, North Carolina
- Crescent - runs from New Orleans
- Lake Shore Limited - runs to Chicago, Illinois
- Palmetto - Savannah, Georgia
- Pennsylvanian - to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Silver Meteor and Silver Star - Miami
- Vermonter - to St. Albans, Vermont
Non-Amtrak commuter rail services
In addition to Amtrak, several commuter rail agencies operate passenger service using the Northeast Corridor tracks.
- MARC Penn Line - Washington to Perryville, Maryland
- SEPTA R2 Newark from Newark, Delaware to Philadelphia
- SEPTA R7 Trenton from Philadelphia to Trenton, New Jersey
- New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line from Trenton to New York
- New Jersey Transit North Jersey Coast Line from Rahway to New York
- Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line from New Rochelle, New York to New Haven
- Shore Line East from Stamford, Connecticut to New London, Connecticut
- MBTA Providence/Stoughton Line from Providence, Rhode Island to Boston
With primarily passenger services, the Northeast Corridor is a cooperative venture between Amtrak and various state agencies. Amtrak owns the track between Washington and New Rochelle, New York, a northern suburb of New York City. The segment from New Rochelle to New Haven is owned by the states of New York and Connecticut. Metro-North Railroad commuter trains operate on this segment. North of New Haven, ownership again reverts to Amtrak, whose tracks stretch to the border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The final segment from the border north to Boston is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority operates commuter trains on this stretch alongside Amtrak trains.
Amtrak's ownership and upkeep of the line has become controversial after several high profile electric power failures in 2006 and other infrastructure problems. Intermittent power outages have caused delays, lasting up to five hours, for Amtrak and state commuter trains. Railroad officials have blamed Amtrak's funding woes for the deterioration of the track and power supply infrastructure, which in places is more than a hundred years old.
Freight service is provided on the Northeast Corridor by trackage rights. The Norfolk Southern Railway operates over the line south of Philadelphia, and CSX Transportation has rights from New York to New Haven and in Massachusetts. Between Philadelphia and New York, Conrail, which formerly provided service on the whole line, still operates over the line, as a local switching and terminal company for both CSX and Norfolk Southern. The Providence and Worcester Railroad operates local freight service from New Haven into Rhode Island and has incidental trackage rights from New Haven to New York.
Boston South Station
Unlike most European high-speed rail lines, built on new rights-of-way, the NEC uses existing lines that were built separately as early as the 1830s; the most recent section, the Hell Gate Bridge and New York Connecting Railroad in New York, opened in 1917. From 1893, when the NYNH&H acquired the Old Colony Railroad, including the Providence-Boston section of the NEC, the NEC has been owned by two companies - the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) from Washington to New York and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (NYNH&H) from New York to Boston. Under the PRR and NYNH&H, the lines were known as the Philadelphia-to-Washington Main Line, Philadelphia-to-New York Main Line and Shore Line.
In 1968 the PRR merged with its former rival, the New York Central Railroad, to form Penn Central Transportation. The NYNH&H was merged into Penn Central in 1969, bringing the whole Washington-Boston corridor under control of one company. With the 1971 formation of Amtrak, the intercity passenger services were under government control. In 1976 the bankrupt Penn Central was taken over by the government corporation Conrail, and the sections of line that had not already been sold to commuter transportation authorities were sold to Amtrak.
New York electrification
The electrification projects of the steam railroads in the area which is now the NEC began with the Park Avenue Tunnel of the New York and Harlem Railroad, part of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad (NYC) to its Grand Central Terminal in New York, and also used by the NYNH&H via trackage rights. With the 1900 opening of the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, France. the first electrified urban rail terminal in the world, a new technology was available, and the NYC began planning for electrification between Grand Central and the split at Mott Haven. Electricity was already in use on various branch lines of the NYNH&H, but was provided to interurban streetcars via third rail or trolley wire.
Low visibility caused by the air pollution of the steam locomotives used at the time caused an accident killing 17 on January 8, 1902, and the resulting public outcry led to a push for electric operation in Manhattan. In 1905 the NYNH&H announced that it would electrify its main line from New York to Stamford, Connecticut. Along with the construction of the new Grand Central Terminal, opened in 1912, the NYC electrified its lines, beginning on December 11, 1906 with suburban multiple unit service to High Bridge on the Hudson Line. Electric locomotives began serving Grand Central February 13, 1907, and all NYC passenger service into Grand Central was electrified July 1. NYNH&H electrification began July 24 to New Rochelle, August 5 to Port Chester and October 6, 1907 the rest of the way to Stamford. Steam trains last operated into Grand Central on June 30, 1908, after which all NYNH&H passenger trains into Manhattan were electrified. On June 22, 1914 the NYNH&H electrification was extended to New Haven, where it would end for many years.
At the same time, the PRR was building its Pennsylvania Station and electrified approaches, served by the PRR's lines in New Jersey and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). LIRR electric service began in 1905 on the Atlantic Branch from downtown Brooklyn past Jamaica, and in June 1910 on the branch to Long Island City, part of the main line to Penn Station. Penn Station opened September 8, 1910 for LIRR trains and November 27 for the PRR, which changed engines and had platforms for transferring at Manhattan Transfer.
On July 29, 1911 the NYNH&H began electric service on its Harlem River Branch, a suburban branch that would become a main line with the completion of the New York Connecting Railroad and its Hell Gate Bridge. The bridge opened on April 1, 1917, but was operated by steam with an engine change at Sunnyside Yard east of Penn Station until 1918.
In 1905, the PRR announced that it would electrify its suburban lines at Philadelphia, eventually extending it all the way between New York and Washington. Electric service began September 11, 1915 with multiple unit trains west to Paoli on the PRR main line (now the Keystone Corridor). Electric service to Chestnut Hill (now the R8 Chestnut Hill West), including a stretch of the NEC, began March 30, 1918. Local electric service to Wilmington, Delaware on the NEC began September 30, 1928, and the other way to Trenton, New Jersey on June 29, 1930.
NEC southern section: New York to Washington
PRR electric service began between Exchange Place, the Jersey City terminal, and New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 8, 1932, including the extension of Penn Station electric service from Manhattan Transfer. On January 16, 1933 the rest of the electrification, between New Brunswick and Trenton, opened, giving a fully electrified intercity line between New York and Philadelphia, and beyond to Wilmington. Through trains to Washington began running under electricity to Wilmington February 12, with the engine change moved from Manhattan Transfer to Wilmington. The same was done on April 9 for trains running west from Philadelphia, with the change point moved to Paoli.
In 1933, the electrification south of Wilmington stalled due to the Great Depression, but the PRR managed to get a loan from the federal government, and resumed work the next year. The tunnels at Baltimore were rebuilt, and electric revenue service between New York and Washington began February 10, 1935. On April 7 the electrification of all New York-Washington passenger trains was complete, with 639 daily trains, 191 locomotive-hauled and the other 448 multiple unit. New York-Washington electric freight service began May 20 with the electrification of freight lines in New Jersey and Washington. Extensions to Potomac Yard across the Potomac River from Washington, as well as several freight branches along the way, were electrified in 1937 and 1938. The Potomac Yard electrifcation remained until 1981.
The North American speed record for a production train
The UAC Turbotrain set the speed record for a production train at 170.8 miles per hour on the Northeast Corridor between New Brunswick, New Jersey and Trenton, New Jersey on December 20, 1967, when that portion of the line was still under Pennsylvania Railroad control.
NEC northern section: New York to Boston
Electrification of the portion north of New Haven to Providence and Boston was planned by the NYNH&H, and authorized by the company's board of directors shortly before the U.S. entered World War I. This plan was not carried out because of the war and because of the company's financial problems. Decades later, a project for electrification between New Haven and Boston was included in a bill signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The project stalled after 1980 because of opposition from the Reagan Administration.
Penn Central and Amtrak: forming the NEC
Despite the New York Connecting Railroad and Hell Gate Bridge joining the two segments, they were operated almost entirely independently of each other until the merger of the PRR and NYNH&H into Penn Central Transportation in 1968 and 1969 respectively, and the establishment of Amtrak in 1971. On September 21, 1970 all New York-Boston trains but the Turboservice were rerouted into Penn Station from Grand Central, and the Turboservice was moved February 1, 1971. Amtrak, which took over intercity service on May 1, 1971, soon began running more trains through New York, partly due to poor maintenance at Sunnyside Yard.
At the same time, rail freight service in New England was declining. The February 26, 1975 Preliminary System Plan for Conrail proposed abandoning all freight on the Shore Line (NEC) between Groton, Connecticut and Hills Grove, Rhode Island. However, on March 14, the U.S. Railway Association announced that it had reevaluated the line segment and would be keeping it in operation.
The State of New York bought and the State of Connecticut leased their sections of the New Haven Line between Woodlawn, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut, from Penn Central on January 1, 1971; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority operated the line. On January 27, 1973 the State of Massachusetts bought the Attleboro/Stoughton Line in Massachusetts for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.↑ The Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 provided for Amtrak to purchase the NEC, and all other NEC trackage passed to Amtrak on April 1, 1976 with the formation of Conrail, with Conrail trackage rights on the full line. Except between New Haven and the Rhode Island/Massachusetts line, which were sold to the Providence and Worcester Railroad, those rights remained until the 1999 breakup of Conrail, when they were split between the Norfolk Southern Railway to the south and CSX Transportation to the north. Amtrak now operates and maintains the portion in Massachusetts, but the line from New Haven to New Rochelle, New York is operated by the Metro-North Railroad; this has been a problem with establishment of high-speed service.
Preparing for Acela Express
In preparation for the new higher-speed Acela Express trains, Amtrak substantially upgraded the portion of the Northeast Corridor north of New York in the early 1990s. Grade crossings were eliminated, some bridges were rebuilt, and curves were modified. Beginning in 1996, the electrification was extended north along the 157-mile (253 km) section of track between New Haven and Boston. Wooden sleepers (railroad ties) were replaced with those made of concrete and heavier Continuous welded rail (CWR) (replacing the Jointed track) was laid down. Train platforms south of New York, originally constructed for the Metroliner multiple-unit cars of the late 1960's, were rebuilt to accommodate the new cars. Platforms north of New York had to be constructed completely from scratch.
Predecessor NEC railroads
For a more detailed history of the Northeast Corridor, and the earlier railroads operating along it, see the following articles:
- Boston and Providence Railroad, Boston, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island (opened 1834-1835; realignment to Providence, 184]; realignment in Boston, 1899)
- New York, Providence and Boston Railroad, Providence to Stonington, Connecticut (opened 1837; realignment in Providence, 1848)
- New Haven, New London and Stonington Railroad, Stonington to New Haven, Connecticut (opened 1852 New London-New Haven except Connecticut River bridge; opened 1858 Stonington-New London except Thames River bridge; Connecticut River bridge (1870s); Thames River bridge (1889); realignment in New Haven, 1894)
- New York and New Haven Railroad, New Haven to New Rochelle, New York (opened 1849)
- Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad, New Rochelle to Port Morris, New York (opened 1873)
- NYNH&H and PRR jointly owned line
- Pennsylvania Railroad lines
- Pennsylvania Tunnel and Terminal Railroad, Sunnyside Yard to Kearny Junction, New Jersey (opened 1910)
- United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company, Kearny Junction to Trenton, New Jersey (opened 1834-1839; connection in Trenton to P&T by 1841; realignment Monmouth Junction to Trenton, 1863; realignment in Harrison and Newark, 1870)
- Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad, Trenton to Frankford Junction, Pennsylvania (opened 1834)
- Connecting Railway, Frankford Junction to Zoo Tower, Pennsylvania (opened 1867)
- Junction Railroad, Zoo Tower to Grays Ferry, Pennsylvania (opened 1863-1866)
- Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, Grays Ferry to Bayview Yard, Maryland (opened 1837-1838; Susquehanna River bridge, 1866)
- Union Railroad, Bayview Yard to Baltimore Union Station (opened 1873)
- Baltimore and Potomac Rail Road, Baltimore Union Station to Landover, Maryland (opened 1872-1873)
- Washington Terminal Company, Landover to Washington, D.C. (opened 1907)
Due to the high-speed nature of Acela Express service, which uses the whole line, grade crossings are highly discouraged, and most have been eliminated, mostly started after 1976 south of New York City (when Amtrak replaced the Metroliner multiple units with the locomotive-hauled Metroliners). The remaining ones use preventative measures such as four-quadrant gates, except in New London, Connecticut, whose three crossings are very close to the station.
The following 11 crossings remain, all in southeastern Connecticut:
- Stonington, Connecticut
- Palmer Street
- Freeman's Crossing
- Walker's Dock
- Wamphassuc Crossing
- MP 133.4 - Latimer Point Road
- Groton, Connecticut
- School Street (the first quad-gate installation in the United States, in summer 1998)
- New London, Connecticut
- Governor Winthrop Boulevard
- State Street
- Bank Street Connector
- Waterford, Connecticut
- Miner's Lane
- Amtrak lines: AE=Acela Express, CD=Cardinal, CL=Carolinian, CPL=Capitol Limited, CS=Crescent, KS=Keystone, LS=Lake Shore Limited, ML=Metroliner, PA=Pennsylvanian, PL=Palmetto, RG=Regional, SM=Silver Meteor, SS=Silver Star, VT=Vermonter (note that not all trains of that designation necessarily stop at all marked stations)
- MARC: Served by MARC Penn Line trains.
- MBTA: Served by MBTA Attleboro/Stoughton Line trains.
- MTA: Served by MTA Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line trains.
- NJT: Served by New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line trains.
- SEPTA: Served by SEPTA Regional Rail R7 and R2 trains.
- SLE: Served by Connecticut Shore Line East trains.
|MA||Boston||South Station||AE RG LS||MBTA||MBTA Red Line, commuter rail to Plymouth, Middleborough|
|Back Bay Station||AE RG LS||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line, commuter rail to Worcester|
|226||Ruggles||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line|
|223.5||Forest Hills||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line|
|Route 128||AE RG||MBTA||MBTA commuter rail, park and ride|
|214||Canton||Canton Junction||MBTA||MBTA commuter rail to Stoughton|
|Warwick||T. F. Green Airport||MBTA||not yet open|
|New London||New London||AE RG||SLE|
|Old Saybrook||Old Saybrook||RG||SLE|
|New Haven||State Street Station||MTA||SLE|
|Union Station||AE RG VT||MTA||SLE||Amtrak to Hartford and Springfield|
|Stratford||Stratford||MTA||Metro-North to Waterbury|
|South Norwalk||MTA||Metro-North to Danbury|
|Stamford||Stamford||AE RG VT||MTA||SLE||Metro-North to New Canaan|
|New Rochelle||RG||MTA||Metro-North to Grand Central|
|00.00||New York City||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS KS ML PA PL RG SM SS VT||NJT||Long Island Rail Road, NYCT A, C, E, 1, 2, 3, Amtrak trains to Albany, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago|
|NJ||05.00||Secaucus||Secaucus Junction||NJT||NJT to Hoboken and northern New Jersey|
|07.00||Secaucus/Harrison||Portal Drawbridge||NJT||Active Moveable Bridge over Hackensack River.|
|07.25||Harrison||Swift||NJT||Junction with NJT Moris & Essex Line to Dover, Hackettstown & Gladstone and Montclair-Boonton Line to Montclair Heights, Dover and Hackettstown.|
|08.60/07.10||Hudson||NJT||Former location of Manhattan Transfer; Current junction between NJT Kearney Connection, AMT NEC NY Connecting RR and AMT NEC Penn Main Line. First Mile Post for NY Connecting RR. Second Mile Post for Penn Main Line.|
|08.50||Harrison Yard||NJT||Amtrak/NJT Yard.|
|08.80||Newark||Dock||Active Moveable Bridge over Passaic River.|
|09.00||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS KS ML PA PL RG SM SS VT||NJT||Newark City Subway, PATH|
|10.00||Cliff||Former Newark(South Street) Station. southern throat for Newark Station.||
|10.80||Hunter||Junction for NJT Raritan Valley Line to High Bridge and Raritan; Conrail Lehigh Valley Line and Reading Line to West Trenton.|
|12.00||Newark Airport||KS RG||NJT||AirTrain.|
|12.60||Lane||Junction for Conrail Greenville and Passaic & Harsimus Branches.|
|14.50||Elizabeth (Broad Street)||NJT|
|15.10||South Elizabeth||Closed passenger Station.|
|19.20||Rahway||North Rahway||NJT||Closed passenger station.|
|20.00||Union||Junction with NJT North Jersey Coast Line to Bay Head.|
|21.90||Woodbridge||Colonia||Closed passenger station.|
|23.00||Iselin||Closed passenger station.|
|23.20||Metropark||AE CL KS ML RG VT||NJT||Park and ride|
|31.70||New Brunswick||New Brunswick||KS RG||NJT|
|33.20||County||Junction Conrail Millstone Running Track|
|33.10||Current Jersey Avenue Station||NJT||Park and ride|
|33.40||Old Jersey Avenue Station||NJT|
|35.90||North Brunswick||Adams||Closed Passenger Station|
|38.90||South Brunswick||Deans||Closed Passenger Station|
|41.40||Monmouth Junction||Interlocking Plant|
|41.60||Midway||Junction with Conrail Jamesburg Branch.|
|47.30||Princeton Junction||Nassau||Junction with NJT Princeton Branch.|
|47.40||Princeton Junction||KS ML RG||NJT||NJT Princeton Branch to Princeton.|
|54.0||Hamilton Township (Mercer County)||PRR Division Post New Jersey/Philadelphia Divisions|
|56.80||Trenton||Fair||Junction for Belvedere-Delaware Secondary Track. Former junction for Bordentown Secondary Track (See NJT River Line) Current Amtrak Division Post New York and Philadelphia Divisions.|
|57.10||Trenton||AE CD CL CS KS ML PA RG SM SS VT||SEPTA||NJT||NJT River Line to Camden|
|PA||58.50||Morrisville||Morrisville||Closed passenger station|
|58.60||Morris||Junction for Conrail Trenton Branch and Morrisville Yard.|
|72.5||Cornwells Heights||KS RG||SEPTA|
|85.1||North Philadelphia||KS RG||SEPTA|
|1.5||30th Street Station||AE CD CL CS KS ML PA PL RG SM SS VT||SEPTA||NJ Transit to Atlantic City, Market-Frankford Line, SEPTA to Philadelphia suburbs, Amtrak trains to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Chicago|
|University City||SEPTA||SEPTA to Philadelphia International Airport|
|6.5||Sharon Hill||Curtis Park||SEPTA|
|9.7||Prospect Park||Prospect Park||SEPTA|
|10.4||Ridley Park||Ridley Park||SEPTA|
|13.4||Chester||Chester Transportation Center||SEPTA|
|15.5||Highland Avenue Station||SEPTA|
|16.7||Marcus Hook||Marcus Hook||SEPTA|
|26.8||Wilmington||AE CD CL CS ML PL RG SM SS VT||SEPTA|
|95.7||Baltimore||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS ML PL RG SM SS VT||MARC||Maryland Transit Administration Light Rail|
|107.7||Linthicum||BWI Rail Station||AE CD CL ML RG VT||MARC|
|126.1||New Carrollton||New Carrollton||RG VT||MARC||WMATA Orange Line, park and ride|
|0.0||Union Station||AE CPL CD CL CS ML PL RG SM SS VT||MARC||VRE commuter rail, WMATA Red Line, Amtrak trains to Virginia, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami|
- Congressional Budget Office. "The Past and Future of U.S. Passenger Rail Service," September 2003.
- Still No Answers in May Amtrak Power Outage. WNYC (June 22, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-13.
- Tom Baldwin (June 23, 2006). Amtrak: Cause of power outage unknown. Courier-Post. Retrieved on 2006-11-13.
- William D. Middleton (December, 1999). Passenger rail in the 20th Century. Retrieved on 2006-11-13.
- Kevin McKinney, At the dawn of Amtrak, Trains June 1991
- United States Railway Association final system plan for reconstructing railroads in the northeast and midwest region pursuant to the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973
- Middleton, William D. (1974) When The Steam Railroads Electrified (1st ed.). Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing Co. ISBN 0-89024-028-0
- PRR Chronology (Christopher T. Baer)
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor mileposts
- PRR New York Division track profiles
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