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Port of New York Authority Tunnel Police Use Catwalk Cars

1950s Port of New York Authority Tunnel Police Catwalk Car

* Updated * Today we have two New York City area newspaper press photos showing early and later versions of the Catwalk Cars the Port Authority Police used to monitor traffic in the tunnels. The Holland Tunnel runs from Jersey City, New Jersey to New York City and the Lincoln Tunnel connects Weehawken, New Jersey and Manhattan. The appearance of the tunnels in both images is slightly different, and we know the tunnel below is the Lincoln, so it is likely the photo above shows the Holland Tunnel.

The top image appears to have been taken in the early fifties, judging by the Packard in the view. The officer’s car has two wheels that run in a channel section track, and it is also supported by a rail on the lower tunnel wall. The press release with the circa 1960 photo below tells us that the later car is powered by an eight HP gasoline engine; it has small stabilizing wheels that run on the track near the wall and a single wheel in the outside center. The Old Motor photos.

* Update * DrakeMaijstral reports: To this day, the Lincoln tunnel catwalk car (below) is parked near one of the tunnel entrances on the NY side. I commute between NJ and NYC daily and see it.

1960s Port of New York Authority Tunnel Police Catwalk Car

19 responses to “Port of New York Authority Tunnel Police Use Catwalk Cars

  1. I noticed several curious things in the second photo. First, as mentioned above, the 60 Ford appears to be in Park. Second, I can’t see a driver in the 59 Chevy (who appears to have his high beams on.) Looking way back at the car in the very back, it looks like someone is standing outside the car (which seems kind of dangerous. )

    There’s something going on here that isn’t immediately obvious.

    • Probably an accident or something else up ahead that has caused the closure of the tunnel, note the empty police car on the left.

      The driver of the 59 Chevy probably got out to render assistance

  2. One thing I’d like to point out is that they didn’t have the picture taking equipment and what not that were used to seeing. Taking a picture like that ( which I’m assuming was for publicity in regard to, say, “look how safe the tunnel is- there’s Police right there available all the time..”- maybe people were afraid of it for a time?) would certainly be a “production” while they set up light stands, etc. Which also why the Police car is in the far lane on the second photo- in case someone got in during picture taking, they wouldn’t run over the film crew. Just a thought. Another darker twist could be that the Headline was something like “Police search NYC Tunnels for so-and-so The Murderer Who’s Currently At Large” which would be another reason to justify setting up that sort of picture.

    • I agree. I’ve been an amateur photographer all my life, which means I pre-date the digital age by quite a bit. The technical challenges of this photo show me right away that it’s professionally done. For one thing, the depth of field needed to get as far back in the tunnel as he did would have required a very small f-stop, while the inherent lack of light inside the tunnel would have required a very slow shutter speed. He added exactly the right amount of fill flash. Additionally, notice the camera angle, straight ahead and very high. I’d guess he had to set up a scaffold of some kind, or maybe he set up a tripod on the bed of a large truck. A ladder wouldn’t have been likely, since the camera would have to have been held very steady for a pretty long exposure.

      It’s possible (even likely) this shot might have benefitted from some enhancement as it was printed in the darkroom, but in my experience, while you can often enhance a good negative, but you can’t save a bad one.

      From a photographer’s perspective, this is a very impressive shot.

    • Good answer….I have scoured youtube for video footage of theses side cars……I love finding mysterious tracks that have no immediate purpose…..or abandoned tracks! These C Cars were in use well up into early 90’s.

    • Yes, the Lincoln Tunnel has three tubes. In the morning rush hour, the South and Center tubes are inbound, the North tube outbound from Manhattan; in the evening rush, the North and Center tubes are outbound, and the South inbound. In between, they can and do run two-way traffic in the Center tube – but it’s been a while since I drove in the two way tunnel, so two-way running may no longer be the case.

  3. 1. In answer to the question of two way traffic in the tunnels, the Lincoln is not the only one. It is common for the tunnels to have two way traffic at peak rush hours and whenever one tunnel bore is closed for whatever reason the tunnel gods decide. There are two tunnels from NJ into Manhattan, Lincoln at midtown, Holland downtown, then the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel from Brooklyn boro to the southern tip of Manhattan and the Queens-Midtown that disgorges in the Murray Hill area on the east side of Manhattan, I’ve seen two way in all the tunnels at different times.

    2. Also, I remember when the cops were stationed on the walkways in the tunnels, without any ear, eye or breathing protection. Them were men!!! OK, so they didn’t last long and probably died of a plethora of cancers before reaching retirement.

    • I also remember in the Queens Midtown Tunnel the guards walking on the walkway and there were several closed in stations they could go into to breath “some clean air”

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