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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another Look at the Smith-9th Street Area in Brooklyn: 1952

  This picture was taken from a Gowanus Area blog but the original photograph is the property of the Brooklyn Public Library.  It was taken in 1952 under the title of "Vital Waterway".  In this remarkable shot, you are facing north on the Gowanus Canal.  You see the Smith-9th Street elevated subway line crossing the canal.  The station is very high because the 9th Street drawbridge is right under it.  I believe that a year earlier, on February 11, 1951, the Smith Street trolley died.  It ran under the station  and over the  9th Street drawbridge.  You see the movable (adjustable)  gas tank in it's correct position.  Surrounding the canal was various cement and coal companies. I believe Cirillo Brothers was a coal company and they had  branch(es) near the Culver Line at the 13th Avenue Station.  In later years, I believe they became a supplier of fuel oil for heating.  In the right side of the shot, you see the Williamsburg Bank Building, which was for that time and perhaps until recently, the highest building in Brooklyn.  To the left, you see some of the tall office buildings on Court Street Brooklyn.  Manhattan skyscrapers do not show up in this photo.  To this day, this area is industrial with cement companies but there are plans for housing near the canal.  I believe Bob Diamond wants to link this area to the Red Hook Streetcar  as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Let Me Vent Again II

  In an earlier post, I told you about my experience as a child riding on the Fourth Avenue Subway in Brooklyn, particularly on express trains, and seeing in the tunnel at almost each block, a large amount of sunlight illuminating the two middle express tracks.  There was so much light, that a casual observer on a rainy day may see that the third rail protection boards were wet.  These illuminated vaults, stretched from south of Pacific Street to south of the 36th Street station.  I do not remember if the outer Fourth Avenue Line, to 86th Street had the same types of vents.  Around 1960, they were gone probably because the Department of Transportation made the middle island narrower so more lanes could fit in the street.  Also, the grill work does not allow that much sunlight to enter.

    In the picture below, obtained from the New York Transit Museum Archive, is a 1910 photo showing the Fourth Avenue subway under construction.  You can see the alignment of the vents above.  A lot a sun light comes in, even though in this case, the grillwork has not been installed yet on the central median.   If you look further down the track, the light vault seems to repeat at the next block.

  It was nice to be in a triplex Type D Sea Beach Express train on the express track and seeing the interplay of light and shadow while listening to the beautiful music that the Triplexes produced.  The original IRT subway, for most sections was built cut and cover and the roof of the tunnel was supported by steel girders.  When the Independent Subway was built, usually a solid cinder block or cement wall separated the express and local tracks.  In the Fourth Avenue Subway in Brooklyn, at least between 36th Street and Pacific Street, a slotted wall separated the express tracks from the local tracks.  Notice that this slotted was is on the right of this picture.  The vents are above a wall separating the uptown and downtown express tracks.  This visual interplay of light and dark, as viewed through a slotted wall was very interesting and this wall had an effect on the sounds that were emitted by the Triplexes or the BMT Standard Cars.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some Interesting Shots from the New York Transit Museum: Church Avenue, Cortelyou Road and McDonald Avenue Lines

  The New York Transit Museum, located in downtown Brooklyn has a photo archive of many historic shots of the transit system on all levels: elevated, subway, streetcar, trolleybus and so on.  It is not my aim to steal anything from them in this blog, but to introduce to you some interesting information that was not usually seen or available.  So please excuse me for the quality of the shots.  Many of the shots were taken in the late 1920's before construction started on the Independent Subway  on the Prospect Park Line to Church Avenue.

In this shot, you are facing west on Church Avenue.  You are looking at the 13th Avenue Station of the Culver Line.  The lumber yard was probably the site of the Nassau Electric trolley garage.  I remember the pointed building but if you look to the left of it, you see an annex.  At the extreme left you see a white chimney.  This building is still in existence.

Another shot of the lumber yard, but you are facing east.  Notice how close to the building the eastbound Church Avenue trolley track is.  You are technically at number 1 Church Avenue, at Old New Utrecht Road, which is a historic street and most of it does not exist today.
 You are looking north on Gravesend Avenue (McDonald Avenue) before the IND subway ramp was built.  The store is on the corner of McDonald Avenue and Cortelyou Road.  This shot is probably before the Cortelyou Road trolleybus line was established.   Notice that in the middle of Gravesend Avenue, the tracks are on its' own right of way and this was the historic path of the Culver Line when it was a steam railroad.
   Another view at the same location looking north from Cortelyou Road.  Notice that the private right of way ends further north.  The storage building is still in existence and southbound F Train riders greet it every day as the train descends into the tunnel.
 The same location but in 1944, slightly, to the south of Cortelyou Road.  You can see the two wooden troughs for the Cortelyou Road trolleybus wires (perpendicular to McDonald Avenue, under the El).  Notice that by 1944, the ramp to the IND subway was complete but only one track was installed.  This ramp would not come into service until 10 years later on October, 1954.  Notice the southbound trough for southbound streetcars.
 In this rare photo, you are looking east towards the junction of the original Culver Line and the Independent Subway.  This location is where the Cortelyou Road trolley bus curves onto Dahill Road near the 37th Street Park.  Notice the graceful trolleybus wire curve.  Like its' sister, the Cortelyou Road trolleybus died on the same day (including the McDonald Avenue Line) on October 31, 1956.
 The same location as above, but facing west.  The line just left Cortelyou Road and is swinging towards Dahill Road.  The trees are at the 37th Street Park.  The line will make a swing to the right unto 16th Avenue and eventually reach the BMT West End Station at 62nd Street.

This is at the same area as above, but from the Kensington Loop of the Church Avenue Line and McDonald Avenue Line, midway between Ditmas Avenue And Cortelyou Road. Notice the coal silo.  If you look in the shot above, just above the AAA sign, you can see the silo.  The silo was parallel with Dahill Road.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hello Beautiful! Russia's R1 New Generation Tram

Hi Folks:

   I believe yesterday a new generation of trams for Russia was presented at a exhibition.  Labeled the "R1", this innovative tram was produced by a high tech Russian military tank manufacturer.

  There are more pictures but I am having trouble with the blog.  More to follow in the future.  There is much to discuss.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Does the number "35" go to FIRST AVENUE but not the Fishbowl?

  In the late 1950's, in New York City and elsewhere, many of the older buses, and of course, some of the last trolleybus lines were replaced by modern and sleek new diesel buses produced by General Motors.  They were given the nickname "Fishbowls" because of the large curved windscreen at the front.  In New York City, for many years, for both Transit Authority and private buses, the fishbowls ruled.  When the fishbowls came to Brooklyn and elsewhere, I noticed as a small child, that the front destination signs were not that clear.  In those early years, there were no side signs and no back signs or route numbers in the back of the bus.  I remember the following signs:


  In Manhattan, I remember:

 So my question was, is it the number "35" going to First Avenue but not the bus and passengers?
And,  which FIRST AVENUE are we going to?  There is a FIRST AVENUE in Brooklyn at the waterfront, as shown in this blog regarding the Church Avenue Trolley loop.  There is a FIRST AVENUE in Manhattan as well.  There is probably a FIRST AVENUE in Seattle as well.  So which FIRST AVENUE are we going to?  And is the number going only?

It could be worse, for the sign could have said:  1 TO GRAND.
Grand Street, Grand Avenue and in which borough?  What happens if Grand Street is very long.  Which intersection are we going to?

The point that I am trying to make is that the signs, as planned by our transportation planners were not so grand, after all.

 A Fishbowl in Brooklyn on the 60th Street route.  I believe near Flatbush Avenue.  This fishbowl had a side destination sign installed near the rear doors sometime in the 60's.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities Continued: Chicago and New York: Which Is More Anti-Trolley?

  One of the things that I neglected to mention on the present subject in the prior posting is that Chicago had interurban service via the downtown loop.  In other words, various type of equipment, from private railroads in the suburbs of Chicago provided suburban to center city service via the elevated system.  Please see the picture below from 1957:

In New York, suburban service, let us say using the Long Island Railroad to Park Row in Manhattan and New York and  New Haven and Hartford RR service to 129th Street and 2nd Avenue was not the norm.  In the 19th Century and perhaps up to 1919, the Long Island Railroad at times used the right of way of various Brooklyn Rapid Transit Lines to reach Manhattan and other destinations.  NY & NH & H RR service to Manhattan to via El was gone very earlier and only a small portion of the existing El structure was used.  In Chicago, various interurban services used the downtown loop for many years, and some of this equipment used traditional trolley poles and wires before connecting with the el system.

To be continued...

  So which city is more anti-trolley?  It is hard to tell.  Chicago has kept its' streetcars for two more years than did New York, however Chicago streetcars where front and center in the business district.   Since 1936, Chicago Surface Lines and later the Chicago Transit Authority ran the biggest fleet of modern PCC cars, 683 in all.    The 600 postwar models were very modern, spacious with three doors.  The trolleybus fleet lasted until 1973, thirteen years longer than New York with many lines running almost to the end.

Unscientific Research by Sampling

   For several years, I have been using search words "streetcar" and "transportation" in the Google News Section and for here in the United States, some interesting things come up.  About ten years ago?, I came across a plan to bring streetcars back to downtown Chicago.  The line would have been a loop line.  Since that time, I have heard nothing about streetcar developments for Chicago.  Of course, other aspects of Chicago rapid transit are covered in the news including new subway\elevated equipment, funding, crime, routing and fare collection, but nothing about proposed streetcar or light rail lines for Chicago.  
   In New York, plans for streetcars on 42nd Street have been discussed since the 1970's.  In fact, a line for 42nd Street was almost successful, including passing the planning board, funding, lawsuits and other red tape.  At the last moment, the mayor would not sign off on it because he was concerned about the "pipe infrastructure under 42nd Street".  The entire project died around 1993 and it is ironic that there was not a major pipe infrastructure water main break  all the years since on 42nd Street.
      Looking at the news for the past 15 years for New York reveals that periodically, there is some streetcar data in the news, perhaps every sixth months and includes:
  1. New plans for streetcars on 42nd street without  wires (Vision 42).
  2. Bob Diamonds' attempts to bring streetcar service to Red Hook.
  3. A Department of Transportation  study concerning a possible Red Hook streetcar line.   That study decided it was not a good idea since it would take up parking spaces.
  4. Various plans to link Red Hook with Downtown Brooklyn and recently other waterfront communities to Williamsburgh and beyond all the way to Long Island City.
  5. A plan for streetcars on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
  6. A plan to run light rail service on the North Shore Branch of the Staten  Island Rapid Transit right of way and a new light rail line in western Staten Island (under study).
  7. Streetcars for Surf Avenue in Brooklyn in the Coney Island amusement area.
  8. A plan to run streetcars from the Red Hook waterfront to the Smith-9th Street subway station and beyond.
  9. There is a New York Regional Plan document suggesting streetcar service in Manhattan  on 34th Street and 42nd Street from river to river in the form of a loop.
Every six months you hear something about these projects and others, but nothing materializes.
Even the anti-trolley MTA had a plan about twenty years ago to run a light rail line from Union Square to the lower east side and to our beloved Chambers Street station via a tunnel near Essex Street as an alternative to an expensive 2nd Avenue Subway.

  In a future post, I will tell about the difficulty of building a light rail or streetcar lines in the United States, as shown by the news reports of those difficulties for  establishing lines in Washington, D.C, Seattle, and elsewhere.  In short, Washington DC info is everyday in the news but no information regarding Chicago or New York for the matter.

To be continued.

    Doing a Google search for "Streetcar" & "Transportation" ( If I did "Streetcar" alone, I would get reviews to the play "A Streetcar Named Desire") reveals that for such cities such as Detroit, El Paso, Cincinnati, Washington, DC and others, streetcar news is almost daily. Either there is a vote for funding, or opposition to funding,  problems with route selection, better use of resources and so on.  For Chicago and New York, dealing with streetcars we have silence for many months and many years.  In my humble opinion, and I am not a transportation engineer or in the field, I find it ironic that for two of America's biggest cities,  namely New York and Chicago, out of hundreds of bus routes, not a single route would qualify from an engineering standpoint for conversion to streetcar?
Anti trolley cities, such as Paris and London, which have similar history profiles regarding streetcars and trolleybuses in terms of abandonment, now have a few nice low floored streetcar lines.  Why not Chicago and New York?  Forget streetcars are a source of "development ".  New York and Chicago are developed already in the Central Business District.  What about comfort for passengers?
Just my opinion folks.