High Line in operation

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Clay Grable
Photo by Friends of the High LineMichael Vitiello examines a book of old West Side Line (a.k.a. the High Line) advertisements in the Williamson Library. Photo by Friends of the High Line

On the wall of Michael Vitiello’s office, hidden in the upper levels of Grand Central Terminal, hangs a bronzed fedora. It belonged to Paul "Tick Tock" Kugler, the last clock master of Grand Central, who wore it to work there every day of his 47-year career. Michael, Grand Central's supervisor of building maintenance, is the last person Tick Tock trained to service the station’s old self-winding clocks before he retired at age 70. The sole survivor of these “master clocks” also hangs in Michael’s office, a space that feels less like a workplace than a peek into an era that has slipped away.

Madeline Berg
At the height of its activity, the High Line was one of the city’s most prominent food distributors, delivering processed meat and baked goods to hungry New Yorkers. Photo courtesy of Kalmbach Publishing Company

As anyone who has had to pull off a Thanksgiving feast in a pinch knows, frozen turkeys can save you from familial shame, complaining guests, and a holiday meal of subpar take-out. Frozen turkeys also hold a special place for us here at the High Line, as they made up the precious cargo of the last train to ever run on the High Line.

In 1980, the railway’s final train made its way up the West Side, ending the more-than-century-long use of trains as a primary transport to and from the factories and warehouses of the Meatpacking District. While the trains began to fall into disuse in the 1950s with the rise in interstate highways and decline in manufacturing, there was a time when the tracks played an essential role in providing New York with food such as produce and meat, raw materials such as bricks and wood, manufactured goods, and other vital items, like Oreos.

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