Another Ghost From Ground Zero’s Past Fades AwayOct 27, 2008
The colossal cast-iron rings embedded in the eastern slurry wall at ground zero were – if such a thing can be imagined – the birthmark of the World Trade Center.
They were the last visible remnant of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, a commuter line that New Jersey officials insisted in 1962 that the Port Authority take over, before they approved the trade center project in New York. (The H. & M. was renamed PATH.) The rings marked the railroad’s route into the old Hudson Terminal, whose location determined where the twin towers would be built, since the trade center was designed to incorporate a new PATH terminal.
And the rings offered a lesson in scale. Seen from across West Street, they did not look much larger than a water pipe. But in fact, they formed a tube large enough to enclose a railroad tunnel 15 feet 3 inches in diameter. Visitors to ground zero who knew that could marvel at the dimensions of the slurry wall into which the rings were set.
This month, the rings vanished.
As construction has advanced across the trade center site, features that were landmarks in their own right have been moved or dismantled: the underground parking garage, the entrance canopies to the temporary PATH stations, the “Survivors’ Stairway” on Vesey Street and a steel cruciform salvaged from 6 World Trade Center. The Hudson & Manhattan tube is the latest.
The Hudson Terminal opened in 1909. Inbound trains from New Jersey approached the terminal from the south, looped along Church Street and ran outbound through a northern tube.
Excavation of the trade center site in the 1960s went so deep that it exposed the tubes, which were suspended temporarily on heavy bracing, looking like aqueducts, so trains could keep running. The concrete wall forming the trade center’s foundation was poured around the tubes.
When the new PATH terminal opened in 1971, the Hudson Terminal platforms and the easternmost tubes were no longer needed for rail service. The tube that was still visible until this month was converted into a vehicular tunnel known as Ramp L.
About 160 feet of the tube remained until the summer of 2007, when dismantling began. As bracing and underpinning progressed, workers removed more and more rings. Last week, only a small fraction of the tube remained, hidden under the concrete viaduct that carries the No. 1 subway line through the site.
The H. & M. tube has not disappeared entirely.
“No complete rings could be salvaged, as they were embedded in concrete,” said Steven Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
But the agency did salvage 108 cast-iron segments that formed the tube – typically 18 to 24 inches wide, 5 to 6 feet long – and 115 bolts that held the segments together. These have been taken to Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport, where large-scale trade center artifacts are stored.
“The rest,” Mr. Coleman said, “were sent to a recycler.”