West Side Cowboys

This cowboy is William Connolly on 11th Avenue on December 18, 1932. One of the last West Side Cowboys.

Have you been to The Highline in NYC? I came upon these pictures online, which preceded The Highline and the Elevatated tracks that are The Highline now. But these pictures depict an interesting time in NYC.

The trains used to go right up 11th Avenue, they literally were on tracks, sort of like trolleys. They started in 1846 for industrial reasons – bringing goods and services to that area, which became the Meat Packing District among other things.

So freight trains shared the streets with horses and buggies and eventurally cars and trolleys. But here is the amazing part – people would get hit by the trains at times. I don’t know how you don’t hear a freight train coming down the street, even at slow speeds, but people would acutally get hit.

So the City Council hired men to ride horseback in front of the trains and they would yell out to warm pedstrians. They became known as West Side Cowboys. In the early 1930s the Cowboys days ended because the trains were taken off the streets and became elevated (Els) and eventually went underground as subways.

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2 thoughts on “West Side Cowboys

  1. Great story. Reading this while I’m on the fast train from Naples to Florence. What different times we live in. I’m afraid we still haven’t caught up with Italy’s train system

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