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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:

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