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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Third Avenue El - Part III

I am not an expert on the history of the Third Avenue El or other rapid transit subjects and the reader who wants to get a more thorough history can find it.  A casual observation of the track map for the Third Avenue Line in Manhattan shows that the line was orignally built as a two track line but with some third track sections.  In fact, during an upgrade around 1914, a third track was added from north of Chatham Square to Gun Hill Road in the north Bronx by October 4, 1920.  Some important points are:
  1. The line opened as a steam elevated railroad from South Ferry to Grand Central on August 26, 1878 and was extended to 129th Street by December 30, 1878.
  2. A very interesting and not well known branch openned from 129th Street to Willis Avenue in the Bronx near the New Haven Railroad on Nevember 25, 1886.  We will focus on this section in future sections.
  3. An inspection of the first map shows interesting shuttles at 34 Street to the 34th Street ferrry operated by the LIRR and a branch at 42nd Street to Grand Central Station.
  4. The 42nd Street spur to Grand Central died on December 6, 1923  and hte 34th Street spur died on July 14, 1930.
  5. The large complex station at 129th Street closed on July 1, 1950.
  6. The first tests using electric traction started in 1886 and the last steam train operated in 1902.
  7. According to Bernard Linder in the above mentioned source listed on the map, trains ran at five minute intervals on December 20, 1878 and the running time from South Ferry to 129th Street was 45 minutes by steam compared to 34 minutes by electric traction years later.
  8. Many of the original platforms were curved and I wonder if this was a danger for passengers. Please see the platforms at 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue, Chatham Square, 34th Street spur track platform, platforms at 129th Street at 3rd and 2nd Avenues and South Ferry.
  9. Although it is not clear on the first map, the 3rd  Avenue El meet up with the 2nd Avenue El at Chatham Square and at 129th Street, and at South Ferry there was a connection to the 9th Avenue El.
  10. Inspection of the 99th Street yard (built in 1879), and the 129 Street complex shows how a busy steam railroad used coal.  There were coal bridges and ash pits at certain locations.  Remember, trains ran at five minute intervals at peak and the steam engines had to be maintained and operated efficiently. Just as we have our third rail and overhead electric technology today, steam railroads in rapid transit settings had their own technology.

More about this line and its' Bronx branch later:

Tramway Null(0)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Upper Portion of 3rd Avenue Railway 1893-1903 Harlem River and Bronx Sections

Source: B.Linder: NewYork Division ERA Bulletin, February 1993, Vol. 36, No. 2. Drawing by H.T. Raudenbush, P. 6.  We will hopefully talk about this later.  Sorry for the poor quality picture.
Tramway Null(0)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Track Map of 3rd Avenue Elevated - Manhattan 1893 - 1903

Source B. Linder.  New York Division Bulletin, Vol 36 No. 2,  February 1993
Page 5. This Drawing is by H. T. Raudenbush.
This map shows for Manhattan the 3rd Avenue Elevated Line during the period that power was switched from steam to electric.  Track diagram is before a third track was added and other improvements made.  There is much to say about this map and I will do so in the future.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Area west of Sheepshead Bay Race Track Today

Avenue Y overpass today.  Notice the narrow plot of land between the BMT Brighton Line Subway tracks and East 16 th Street.  Notice only one bridge for four tracks over avenue Y.  The former right of way is now occupied by houses built on a narrow plot of land.  East 16 th Street appears in person to be narrower than other streets.  The red star is a marker at 1700 Avenue Y.  The area around avenue Y and Ocean Avenue is completely built up.  There is a slight shadow at Avenue X and the BMT right of way perhaps where the race track spur exited the main line.
It is interesting to note that the leads to the race track exited the BMT main line tracks and not the LIRR tracks on the eastern side of the embankment.  The terminal at the spur had BMT and LIRR Manhattan Beach Branch Tracks.

Manhattan Beach RR Had its' Own Overpass over Avenues

Double bridge circled in red over Avenue Y which is in accordance with the original source map.
According to the source map, the Sheepshead Bay Race Track Spur terminal was a multi track terminal in which the BMT tracks were seperated from the LIRR tracks by a fence.  The BMT tracks were on the right hand side of the terminal and the LIRR tracks on the left.  The source map said that the BMT tracks were electrified.  This probably means third rail.  The LIRR tracks were not and were probably steam operated.  It must have been an interesting to view the terminal with BMT standard electric equipment along side with steam equipment.  It is possible that BMT electric service was operated to the race track with older wooden electric elevated equipment.  I never saw an old BMT standard roll sign from the period of 1916- 1924 with a reading "Sheepshead Bay Race Track".

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aerial View of Sheepshead Bay Race Track Area 1924

This aerial photograph taken in 1924 shows the shadow of the right of way of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track Spur.  In the lower left of the frame, the BMT Brighton Line trackage is shown crossing Avenue Y.  It is possible that the BMT trackage was seperated from the MBRR by a small gap.   The private right of way was broader than today beause the right of way had two tracks for the Manhattan Beach Railroad which was steam driven.  According to the map, all streets were not paved as shown on the B. Linder map.  You can clearly see the curves of the right of way.    By 1951, the area was built up already.  The white line towards the right of the photo is Ocean Avenue and the red star is at 1700 Avenue Y, the location where the private right of way touches the location of Avenue X.  To the extreme right of the frame what appears to be a circular road perhaps the race track itself.  The race track is boarded by Ocean Avenue and perhaps you can see the shadow of the road leading from the Ocean Avenue train platforms.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Source Map: Sheepshead Bay Race Track Spur

Source map from a Manhattan Beach Railroad web site.  The Manhattan Beach Railroad was a branch of the LIRR and if the branch was part of the LIRR and not Brooklyn Rapid Transit, the spur was not probably equipped with trolley wire.

Not Cowboy Spurs but Sheepshead Bay Race Track Spur

I came across a track map drawn by B.Linder and published in the New York Division Bulletin on page 2, in their July 2003 edition (Vol. 46, No 7) showing the Sheepshead Bay Race Track Spur.  Many Brooklynites and those who are interested in rapid transit and rapid transit history do not know about this spur.  Up to around ten years ago, a passenger in our present day "B" or "Q" trains would look out of a north bound train to Manhattan in an easterly direction just south of the Neck Road station and they would see a curved wall at surface level.  This curved wall was destroyed to make way for modern housing and is probably all that remained of this spur.  According to the map, the sidings were removed between January and March, 1929.  I believe that this spur may have been under wire at this time as was the main line.  In short, the development of rapid transit in Brooklyn could be generally explained as follows:
  1. Steam Railroad on the surface (19th Century) Examples:  Culver, West End, Brighton Lines
  2. Steam Railroad on elevated line in business areas (Late 19th Century), Examples, 3rd Avenue and 5th Avenue Elevateds in Brooklyn and perhaps the Myrtle and Broadway Els as well.
  3. Steam Railroad on elevated line extended to suburban areas such as the Coney Island Area via the above right of ways. (Examples:  Culver, West End and Brighton Lines)
  4. Electrification of the the Elevated Lines and trolley wiring of their extentions on the surface (1890's to early 1900's).  Trolley wire strung on Gravesend Avenue, Brighton Line Right of Way, New Utrecht Avenue (West End Line).  Train cars had trolley poles and third rail shoes.
  5. Construction of the more modern elevateds with third rail and equipping private right of ways with grade separation and third rail power. (Around 1914:  Modern Sea Beach, Brighton Line, Culver Line and so on.
  6. Running modern subway equipment on new elevated structure and private right of ways such as the Sea Beach Line and Brighton Line using third rail power.
  7. Former right of way under new elevated structures retained trolley wire and tracks and was served by streetcar type of service at ground level. (Example, around after 1916, such as the Gravesend Avenue (McDonald Avenue Trolley), West End Trolley under the West End El on New Utrecht Avenue).
  8. Abandonment of streetcar service under elevated structures.  (For example, West End Trolley died in 1947, McDonald Trolley died in 1956.
  9. Abandonment of older elevated structures, such as the 3rd and 5 th Avenue Elevateds, Fulton Street Line, Lexington Avenue El (1940's to 1950).  Section of the Culver El abandoned in 1975.
It is possible that for a short period of time, dual mode service (trolley pole and third rail shoes) was operated at the eastern end of the Jamaica Elevated and the Metropolitan Avenue Line, but I am not sure.

According to the material I presented, logic would say that this Sheepshead Bay Race Track spur was operated under trolley wire because the Brighton Line line was not redesigned for third rail operation until after 1912.  Although not shown on the above diagram, there were two easterly tracks on the embankment  that was stream railroad operated by the Long Island Railroad.  Perhaps this spur was served by Long Island Railroad Stream trains?  But I am not sure.

Note:  The Neck Road station is presently on an embankment and probably was also prior to 1912.

Imagine a race track on Ocean Avenue?

More about this to follow:
Tramway Null(0)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ARCGIS "What Could Have Been Map"

Map of what could have been drawn to the best of my ability. 

What Could Have Been - Part III

  At the end of World War II, the New York City Board of Transportation studied the surface division in Brooklyn that consisted at that time of many streetcar lines, some bus lines and one trackless trolley line.  Each line was studied in terms of economics, physical condition of the wires and tracks and location of depots and maintenance facilities.  Generally, they came to the conclusion that those very heavily used streetcar routes should be retained and upgraded with PCC car operation.  The medium used routes should be converted to trolley coach. and the remaining streetcar routes should be converted to bus.
   To establish this program, in 1947, the following streetcar routes were replaced temporarily with buses:
  1. B-45 St Johns Place
  2. B-47 Tompkins Avenue
  3. B-48 Lorimer Street
  4. B-65 Bergen Street
In 1948, the following streetcars were also temporarily replaced by buses:
  1. B-57 Flushing Avenue
  2. B-62 Graham Avenue
Around the period of  1946 to 1948, the following streetcar routes were still in existence and are found in the previously posted map.  They make up the main part of the streetcar lines that were to be upgraded:
  1. B-35 Church Avenue
  2. B-61 Crosstown
  3. B-38 DeKalb Avenue
  4. B-41 Flatbush Avenue
  5. B-44 Nostrand Avenue
  6. B-40 Ralph-Rockaway Avenue
  7. B-55 Richmond Hill
  8. B-42 Rockaway Parkway
  9. B-67 Seventh Avenue
  10. B-68 Smith- Coney Island Avenue
  11. B-46 Utica-Reid Avenue
As you can see from the above list, the above lines were supposed to be upgraded, but never were.  The literature lists 13 lines but I can only show 11, perhaps because the Smith and Coney Island Avenue Lines were to be split

     Regarding the trackless trolley lines, the first line in Brooklyn, the Cortelyou Road Line (B-23) line that was established in 1930 and extended to New Utrecht Avenue and 62nd Street  in 1932, was to be retained.

Please find below the listing of streetcar routes that were supposed to be converted to trolley bus:
  1. B-65 Bergen Street (was converted)
  2. B-63 Fifth Avenue (never converted)
  3. B-58 Flushing Ridgewood (never converted)
  4. B-62 Graham Avenue (converted)
  5. B-59 Grand Avenue (never converted)
  6. B-72 Junction Blvd. (never converted)
  7. B-48 Lorimer Street (converted)
  8. B-53 Metropolitan Avenue (never converted)
  9. B-49 Ocean Avenue (never converted)
  10. B-45 St Johns Place (converted)
  11. B-47 Tompkins Avenue (converted)
  12. B-69 Inner half of McDonald Vanderbuilt (never converted)
The B-23 Cortelyou Trackless Trolley was to be retained.

In the following map, I tried to show what the electric surface network would have looked like if all the routes were converted as planned.  Since I used present day bus routes as my basis, the produced map only approximates the coverage because in the past 60 years, many two way streets were made one way and the original streetcar routes usually had two tracks on the major street of operation.  Additionally, the Brooklyn map does not show the extent of the proposed trolleybus lines in the borough of Queens.

   If these conversions were able to take place by 1950, and streetcars were retained in Brooklyn until 1970, during which interest in the environment was increasing, and if streetcars and trolleybuses still ran until 1973, around the time of expensive oil and oil embargoes, it is possible that streetcars and trolleybuses may have been running today in Brooklyn and Queens.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Could Have Been - Part II

In the early 1980's, the Regional Plan Association studied transit use in 29 American Cities and came to the conclusion that new rapid transit lines could be supported from a passenger use basis in such cities as Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu and Houston.  Light rail could also be supported in such cities such as Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City and so on.  Looking back over 30 years, new systems were built and old systems were expanded.  It was also reported that if as many as thirteen buses are needed in each direction, light rail begins to have an economic advantage over buses.  Many of the bus lines in Manhattan and the following bus routes in Brooklyn could have operated more economically in Brooklyn:
  1. B2- Avenue R
  2. B6 -Avenue J
  3. B35 - Church Avenue
  4. B38 - De Kalb Avenue
  5. B41 - Flatbush Avenue
  6. B42 - Rockaway Parkway
  7. B44 - Nostrand Avenue
  8. B46 - Utica Reid
  9. B54 - Myrtle Avenue
  10. B55 - Richmond Hill
This listing comes from the New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railway Association's August 1982 edition (Vol. 25, Number 8).

In what will follow, you will see that according to the New York Division Bulletin, that the Board of Transportation studied the surface system and looked at operating statistics ending June 30, 1944.  Their recommendations were listed in the Bulletin but what is surprising, as shown in a previous post, I have the link to what appears to be the original maps from the Board of Transportation dated 1945 and that many of the busy routes in 1944 were still the busy ones in 1982, even though they were bus lines.  Many of the routes listed above which were then streetcar were selected for an upgrade to PCC operation at the end of 1945, but it never happened.

To be continued:
Tramway Null(0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Could Have Been

Please see this unusual and rare map from the subchat website. These three maps, drawn in 1945 probably originate within the planning room of the New York City Board of Transportation, the local government agency that took over the privately run Brooklyn Manhattan Transit (BMT) in 1940. These maps shaped Brooklyn surface transit for the next 65 years. I always thought that the New York City Government was strongly anti-trolley, and I believe that I am partially right. What is surprising is that while it is true, ultimately all electric surface transit in Brooklyn was destroyed by July, 1960, in 1945 the New York City Board of Transportation wanted to convert 13 trolley lines to trolley bus and 13 other streetcar lines were to be upgraded with PCC car operation. More about this to follow as the above map is compared to the few streetcar lines that were converted to trolleybus and the ultimate end of streetcar service in Brooklyn on October 31, 1956 and future proposed routes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Closer View of Street Construction on Pitkin Avenue, 1951

Is the construction on Pitkin Avenue between Elderts Lane and Forbell Street related to the 76 Street Station mystery? Lighter street surface circled by thin red line.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Trolley by Any Name

As a child that loved subways, trolley cars and trolley buses, I used to draw pictures of trolley boats and trolley planes.  Why not, if you can have a trolley car or trolley bus, why not a trolley boat, particularly in Venice Italy?  Little did I know that such a thing as a trolley canal boat really existed, even here for a short time on the Erie Canal.  In the previous post, I gave the link to a wonderful site that deals with the history of electric canal boat transportation.  Most of the examples were from Central Europe around the end of the 19th Century.  One line may exist today in France.  Trolley trucks, are more common and I have been told that they helped provide street maintance duties in Moscow. Big gigantic type of tractor vehicles that are used in connection with mining operations probably still exist in Canada and South Africa.  Here in Brooklyn, we did not have a system of trolley trucks but we did have the South Brooklyn Railroad that ran electric locomotives on trolley trackage on McDonald Avenue hauling box cars.  What does this have to do with the future?   Two professors, Perl and Gilbert wrote a book titled "Transport Revolutions-Moving People and Freight without Oil" in which they predict that in the future the oil supply will become very limited due to what is called "peak oil".  I am not familar with the cons and pros about this, but let us say that it is a given.  According to their analysis, it is not battery, hydrogen based or carbon based fuels that are efficient and sustainable, but "grid-connected vehicles" or (GCVs) that are efficient and the wave of the future.  The modern rendition of a trolley-truck speeding along a super highway is connected with their work.  They advocate for cities in invest in streetcar and trolley bus lines and that the superhighways be equiped with two sets of trolley bus wire.  This is a very interesting concept and I am not sure if in Europe, where trolley bus transportation is very common, if a major super highway was equipped with trolley bus type of overhead.   In the trolley canal boat picture on the previous post, you can see that the poles and overhead wires appear to be very similar to regular trolleybus equipment.  This is very interesting and I will write more about this later.   In jest, if Red Hook did not get a trolley car, why not put a trolley canal boat in the Gowanus Canal?  This would be a big tourist attraction without polluting the environment.

Tramway Null(0)

Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as a trolley boat and a trolley truck!

What happens when the oil runs out or becomes too expensive? 

What a difference 88 years make!

In the reworked ARCGIS map below, I added an aerial photograph from 1924 showing the Canarsie Depot and the Hegeman Avenue Private Right of Way.  In the aerial shot, you can see the path of the PRW and it should be contrasted to the line drawing by Bernard Linder.  When we say that we want to reinstate streetcars for the sake of the environment and pehaps as a hedge against Peak Oil, I came to the conclusion that the route of any reinstated streetcar line or light rail line cannot be exactly the same as in the past.  Much of the area shown in the aerial photograph are now covered by multi-story housing developments and hospitals.  Where will the depot and repair facilities of a reinstated streetcar line be located?  It will probably result in a great deal of opposition by people who do not want anything " not in my back yard ".  In the end of the 19th Century, the area shown in the photograph was mainly vacant land and farms and there was no opposition to the new techology of electric streetcars.

Tramway Null(0)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lower Manhattan Trackage Map from New York Division Bulletin, January, 1987

This trackage map was drawn by B. Linder showing streetcar trackage below 23 Street and does not shown the tracks of the Third Avenue Railway System.  Although is is not clear on the map, not all trackage was electrified.  In the downtown and lower east side areas, some trackage was never upgraded to electric conduit track from the time of horsecars because some of the routes did not have enough passengers to warrent the upgrade.  Some line management experimented with battery and compressed air cars.  I believe that some of the battery operated cars lasted until the early 1930's but I am not sure.

Tramway Null(0)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can Pixels Solve the Area 51 Mystery at 76 Street?

In my previous posts, I presented in somewhat limited form, the 76 Street and Pitkin Avenue mystery.  Trackmaps show the presence of a four track subway station under that location.  At street level, there are no man hole covers or ventilation gratings hinting that a subway station lies below.  There are not too many people left who remember and are available to reveal eye witness reports regarding the construction.  Some of the signal boards show the 76 Street station, some do not.  The image above which comes from the internet, shows what appears to be 76 Street station.  Presently, in the New York City subway system, there is no 76 Street Station.  The picture appears to be not true, because in 1948, supposedly the date in which the station openned for a short time, the shown R-10 class subway cars did not have this white and blue strip paint scheme.  The transit authority has been quiet regarding this and will not allow anyone to go beyond the bulkhead and take a picture.  Can pixels solve the mystery?
   In my previous posts, I took a 1951 aerial photograph in bitmap format and added it to my ARCGIS ESRI map.  Since I do not have all advanced functions, such as spatial analyst, I could not rubbersheet the image to the correct x and y coordinates.  I tried my best.  The aerial photograph shows that at a few blocks to the left of the station, on Pitkin Avenue, the surface of the street appeals lighter.  Is this due to new asphalt or boards covering a construction pit?  At any rate, the area at 76 Street and Pitkin appears normal and the building footprint (not shown) appears normal.  If I had a better copy of ARCGIS, I would convert the bitmap file to raster and do a raster analysis.

My questions to the public are:

Are there any free programs on the internet that allow for bitmap to raster conversion and can analyze raster files?
Do you think in general that raster analysis can help here?  I am new at this and I would like some opinions from the public.

Tramway Null(0)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Area Around the 76 Street Station in Queens 76 Street and Pitkin Avenue

Street Map Showing the location of the 76 Street - Pitkin Avenue Intersection in Queens, N.Y.

New York City Transit Authority's "Area 51" - Not in Roswell but the 76 Street Station

This track diagram which comes from the New York Division Bulletin of July 2001   (Page 16) was drawn by David Rogoff and found in an article in the New York Divsion Bulletin written by Bernand Linder.  This track diagram is not of that of street railway but was drawn to show the trackage for the extension of the IND subway in Brooklyn.  Much has been written on this topic and the long and short of it is that the diagram shows a four track station in the right hand side of the diagram with two tiled platforms.  It seems that the unused station is blocked by a bulkhead and that no one can, or has permission to observe the station, if any.  Perhaps the station extends just a few feet behind the bulkhead?  My purpose here is not to find out if the station exists, but to see if any of the mapping techniques can reveal something.  Remember I do not have the deLuxe edition of ARCGIS and I cannot do a thorough analysis and I am not an expert on this matter.    It is ironic that the above trackage, shown on the left hand side of the diagram exists and is well used and was built almost at the same time of the Roswell incident in New Mexico.

To Be Continued...   Tramway Null(0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Manhattan Streetcar Lines Except Third Avenue RWY System

This map, drawn by B. Linder, shows Manhattan Streetcar Lines except for the Third Avenue Railway System.  The map covers 99 Street to the Harlem River and is dated circa 1933.  Other streetcar lines continued to run in Manhattan to just after World War II.  Source:  B. Linder, New York Division ERA Bulletin, Vol. 30, Number 1, January 1987, P.2.