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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Volgograd's Tram Subway

Thanks to a friend, I was given the link to these great videos of the Volgograd Tram Subway.  Volgograd, a city that is built on the banks of the Volga River, is narrow and the street pattern follows the river.  The tram subway consists of one north to south line with some branches. By viewing these three videos, the viewer will not be able to walk away from starting to view them.   You will be glued to your seat.

  Tram subways, is something that never developed in New York City, even though the Steinway Tubes, which is presently used by the  Number 7 Flushing Line that connects Manhattan with Queens under the East River was built for tramway operation.  The line was equipped with trolley wire and probably had one trial run, but was never used in passenger service.  After legal disputes, the line was converted for subway operation using small profile IRT subway cars. Other cities near New York, such as Newark, New Jersey has one underground tram line and other cities such as Boston and Philadelphia have extensive tram subways.  Though I do not have the documentation to support this, before the subway was expanded in the 1914 to 1924 era, the management of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit which became later Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit would have liked to build a short tram subway from the Delancey Street Trolley Terminal in Manhattan going north through the lower East Side.    The only tram subways in New York that existed in the past that I know of are short underpasses in the Bronx crossing the Grand Concourse and 34th Street in Manhattan, the trolley terminals at the Manhattan end of the Williamsburgh and Queensborough bridges and the trolley tunnel under Ocean Parkway on the Church Avenue Line.  Please click on the above videos,  one is long but you will enjoy them.  If the Steinway Tubes connecting Manhattan and Queens were never converted to subway rapid transit operation, it is possible that some trolley lines in eastern Queens would have been still in existence and they would feed into a terminal at Grand Central Station similar in shape and profile to one of the beautiful stations on the Volgograd Tram Subway.

Please find below my observations on the videos:
  • The line starts in the northern suburbs on the surface using a grade separated right of way.
  • The line heads south and appears to run in the median of a wide boulevard.  On the left side of the screen, you will see TROLLEYBUS overhead in the left roadway and you may be able to catch a glipse of a passing trolleybus.
  • The line makes an occassional stop for passengers with  side platforms on the outside portion.
  • Now the line plundges fast into a subway.
  • The subway construction appears to me not as "cut and cover" like in New York but circular bore.  A New York City transit buff will see that the construction is reminiscent of the PATH subway tubes under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersery or the tunnel on the 8th Avenue Line (A, C) between Fulton Street - Broadway Nassau and High Street Brooklyn under the East River.
  • The northbound and southbound trackway seem to change places several time along the route and you can see this by viewing the track positions in the stations.
  • The stations are beautiful with many different types of lighting styles and station finishes.
  • The line suddenly enters a station that is partially outside before crossing what appears to be a gorge or valley.  After the tram crosses the bridge, the tram will enter the tunnel but before this, there is a two track branch off at 90 degrees right before the tunnel entrance.
  • One of the videos will take you down this short branch which I believe is connected with the service shops.
  • The line continues underground slowly after it clears the switches and then picks up speed.
  • Tunnel construction is mainly circular core tunnel.  There are several further stations along the line .  The last station is underground where I believe the trams relay for the return trip beyond the station.
  • At the last station, the camera person takes you up the stairs and you will see the surrouning neighborhood.  You will see a lighted bridge and some interesting older inter city commuter trains running on an embankment.
  • The videos were done very well, with the beginning starts in the late afternoon and ends at late twilight in the winter.  There is a good pychological feeling with this and represents the completion of a day.
  • The videos shows old and the latest rolling stock, with sound and shots of the tunnel and trackway from first and last cars.
  • I noticed in tunnel sections that are going downhill there are small signs posted in the tunnel wall that state "C".  In the New York City subway system, "C" stands for "Coast" and tells the motorperson not to use power but to let gravity propel the train in order to save electricity.  I wonder if the "C" means the same thing in the Volgograd tram subway.
  • Viewing the videos, I felt that I visited Volgograd before but this is not possible.  Then I realized that the Grand Central station for the IRT Flushing Line (#7) has a shape similar to the tram stations shown.  The Grand Central Flushing Line platform is narrow facing the east and is wide facing the west because as built, the western part of the station had a prevision for a streetcar loop.  This is long gone but the shape of the station is like a cavern and is similar to many stations on the Volgograd Tram Subway including the position of the staircases, but of course, the Grand Central stop on the Flushing Line is no way as elegant as the Volgograd Tram subway.
Enjoy the videos:
Tramway Null(0)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

13th Avenue Station on the Culver Line - Prior to October, 1954

Photo Source:  George Conrad Collection

In this undated photo, a Brooklyn Union Elevated Car is shown at the 13th Avenue station on the BMT Culver Line prior to this section becoming the Culver Shuttle in October, 1954.  Due to a car shortage, surplus BMT Elevated Line equipment was called into action as shuttles between the Ninth Avenue Station and Coney Island during the rush hours.  Regularly, BMT Standard steel equipment was used on the line.  This photograph is interesting because it shows the wooden platform floors and wooden wind screens with windows.  The shot is facing west, towards the Fort Hamilton Parkway station and is taken from the Manhattan bound platform.  The el train is on the Coney Island bound track.  The Church Avenue trolley shot shown previously at 37th Street is right below the station where the woman on the Manhattan bound platforming is standing.  Notice the concrete coal silos, near the Coney Island bound platform and another one on 37th Street west of the station.  These coal companies had their own track sidings equipped with trolley wire under the structure and were served by the South Brookly Railroad Company.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are these streetcars on the siding south of Ave T? - 1924 Aerial Photograph

The area of the former racetrack is towards the east and off the picture.

Gravesend(McDonald) Avenue Line Bklyn 1926-1940

Source:  B. Linder & Edward B. Watson, New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 20, Number 5, October 1977, Pages 2-9.

The above map covers the period between 1926 and 1940 when the steel elevated structure above Gravesend Avenue (McDonald Avenue) was already in operation.  Notice the red circled sidings at Kings Highway which was at a coal silo and the sidings north of Avenue U.  This later siding may be connected with the Gravesend Race Track.  However, from an earlier drawing, the Brooklyn Jockey Club siding was at Avenue T.  There is much to discuss here including the fact that this trackage was also served by the South Brooklyn Railway, which used electric trolley steeple locomotive to haul box cars for freight delivery to commercial customers along 37 Street and McDonald Avenue such as the coal company south of Kings Highway.  See earlier posting regarding Kensington Junction which is at Ditmas Avenue and McDonald Avenue.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Church Avenue PCC Car at 37 th Street and 13 th Avenue Bklyn 1950's

Source:  Dave Pirmann Collection from Joe Terstagrose  (See Dave's Rail Pix)
This picture shows a westbound Church Avenue PCC car on 37th Street just about to turn onto 13th Avenue in Brooklyn during the 1950's.  This picture is very interesting because it shows a section of the Culver Line that was abandoned in 1975.  The 37th Street cooridor in Brooklyn and also McDonald Avenue (formerly Gravesend Avenue) had trackage that was operated by the South Brooklyn Rail Road Company which was a branch of  the BMT lines.  I would like to point out the el structure, which is the same type of structure which I have a photograph of the Avenue P station.  Notice above the wooden wind screens at platform level which had windows in it.  The wind screen was shabby in 1956 and you could have imagined what it looked like in 1975 before abondonment without years of maintenance.  Notice the railroad box car to the far right.  Above the box car you can see the wooden support for the trolley wire.  In the back of the box car or nearby were multi-story coal bins made of concrete.  In the blocks  surrounding the picture on 37th Street, there were many trolley sidings for SBR customers.  The box car is probably in one of the sidings.  To the left of the PCC car were garages but prior to this, this was the site of the Nassau Electric trolley yard.    At the "vanishing point" of the photograph is the IND subway line leaving the tunnel and approaching the Ditmas Avenue station where it will meet the Culver Line.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rhone Express in France

A friend of mine gave me this link to some photography work and comments written by a St. Petersburg (Russia) engineer on a visit to a recent LRT system in Lyon, France.  The Rhone Express goes to the airport and shares tracks with a streetcar in some sections.  Although I cannot read Russian, the pictures are informative.  If you do read Russian, I am told the analysis is very interesting covering architecture and the physical structure of the line.  Also, please see the Youtube videos from another source.  I like the pictures of the grass growing between the rails.  Wish we had this in New York City!
Tramway Null(0) Reference Page

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Willis Avenue Line (Bronx) 1934-1941

Source:  B. Linder, New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 3, March, 1996, Pages 2- 7.

The information below comes from the above mentioned article by B. Linder.

The Willis Avenue Line as shown for the period of 1934-1941 was a long one at its' peak around the year 1920.  Cars ran from Webster and McLean Avenues in the north Bronx and under the 3rd Avenue El for the most part, on Webster Avenue and 3rd Avenue to Willis Avenue..  The line crossed the Harlem River by way of the Willis Avenue Bridge and turned onto East 125th Street.  Like most Bronx streetcar lines, the line got its' power from overhead trolley.  On 125rh Street between First and Second Avenues, there was a PLOW PIT that allowed the streetcar to change its' motive power from overhead trolley to underground conduit.  More about this later.  The line traveled west on 125th Street using conduit to 125th Street and 12th Avenue at St. Clair Place which was also known at the Fort Lee Ferry Loop.  Important dates are as follows:
  1. Line started on July 6, 1895 from 133rd Street via Willis Avenue to Melrose Avenue and 161st Street.
  2. In 1901 a different route was followed from 129th Street and 3rd Avenue to Willis Avenue and 149th Street.
  3. On April 5, 1916 the long route was established between the Fort Lee Ferry Loop via 125th Street, Willis Avenue Bridge, Willis Avenue, 3rd Avenue, Fordham Road and Webster Avenue to McLean Avenue.
  4. After 1916, the terminals were changed frequently.
  5. On March 5, 1920, the service between the Fort Lee Ferry Loop and McLean Avenue was discontinued and the line was cut back from Fort Lee Ferry to Fordham Road only.  Shuttles ran between Fordham Road and 3rd Avenue to McLean Avenue.
  6. On August 18, 1935 buses replaced streetcars north of Fordham Road.
  7. On August 5, 1941, buses replaced streetcars south of Fordham Road.

From the above review by B. Linder, it seems that Willis Avenue streetcars ran on 125th Street until August 5, 1941, sharing the service with the other lines that ran on 125th Street.  When a Willis Avenue car entered Manhattan from the Bronx under trolley wire after crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge, the streetcar would stop at a white line on the street above a plow pit.  According to B. Linder, the plow pit was worked by two men.  One man in the chamber below and another man on the surface.  The westbound Willis Avenue car would have a plow attached in the underground chamber while another man would lower the trolley pole and flip a double-throw switch located in the car.  If the switch was at the motorman's end of the car, the motorman would throw it.  This work was done very rapidily the the streetcar proceeded  west on 125th Street.  For Bronx bound cars, the reverse was done where the plow was detached and the trolley pole was raised and the appropriate switches were thrown.  This must have been very interesting to see.  In the early 1970's, I remember being in an express bus crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge and I remember that some of the tracks were still visible.  I am not sure, but I may have seen the shadow of the conduit track even though that portion of the route was under trolley wire.  The trackway near the bridge may have been equipped with conduit rail but may have never been used.

125th Street Crosstown (Manhattan) 1933-1947

Source:  B. Linder, New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 2, February, 2001, Pages 2-4.
The trackage shown above, for the 125th Street Crosstown Line was shared by several other streetcar lines such as the Amsterdam and 3rd Avenue Line and the Broadway-Amsterdam Avenue Line and the Willis Avenue Line at one time.  I am thankful to Bernard Linder who is not only a map designer, but who has written extensively on the history of the streetcar companies, equipment roosters and so many other aspects of rapid transit history.  Here I am focusing on several aspects of the 125th Street Crosstown Line and the related Willis Avenue Line that interests myself and perhaps our readers:  (All material from B. Linder, op.cit)
  1. Horsecars started running on 125th Street on October 15, 1870.
  2. Cable cars started to run between First and Twelfth Avenues on December 1, 1886.
  3. Electric cars using electric conduits started running on September 28, 1899.
  4. An experiment using compressed air  car was tested on 125th Street during the summer of 1896.
  5. An experiment using a gasoline-electric car from November 1909 to September 1910 and this car had only one breakdown (B. Linder, page 2, op.cit).  This car had a high acceleration that was not needed on a crosstown line and the cost was twice that of battery cars.  It was decided not to use this technology because a seperate shop would be required.
  6. A battery car using Exide batteries was tested using automobile type motors in 1910 for a period of time.
  7. By March 25, 1936, the beginning of the end started by cutting back the line to  3rd Avenue and 125th Street.
  8. Buses replaced street cars on June 29, 1947.
  9. The 125th Street Crosstown and the Broadway-Amsterdam-125th Street were the last Manhattan streetcar lines whose power came entirely from underground conduit.  The 149th Street Crosstown, a line that used both overhead and underground conduit stopped running on August 17, 1947
  10. Notice the PLOW PIT on 125th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Former Gravesend Race Track (Brooklyn) Pathway as seen in 1924 Aerial Photograph

Another 19th Century Race Track located near rapid transit was the Gravesend Race Track in Brooklyn.  It was situated roughly south of Kings Highway to Avenue U and between Ocean Parkway to McDonald (Gravesend) Avenue.  At Gravesend Avenue, the then steam operated Culver Line delivered customers to the door of the race track.  By 1924, the race track was gone after many years but you can still see the remains of the pathway.  In the 1924 aerial, you can see clearly the Culver Line which formerly ran on the surface but was now on an elevated structure.

Monday, April 9, 2012

St. Petersburg (Russia) Interactive Map

A friend of mine gave me a link to an experimental web site dealing with surface transport in St. Petersburg in Russia.  This interactive map will show you information about the regular bus routes (autobus) in real time.  The map also shows tramway and trolleybus information but not in real time.  The website is in Russian and I do not know the Russian Langauge but I can make out some of the letters in the Russian alphabet.  Go to the left side of the website and choose one of three modes.  In Russian, the "R" sound is printed as a "P" so therefore:  "TPAM..." is tram, "TPOLL...BYC" is "Trolleybus" and regular buses is similar to "Autobus", {ABTOBUS?} or "ABTOBYC".  Look for the three symbols for the three modes and have fun experimenting.  Thanks for the link.  There are great maps here.

Note:  To see the individual routes arranged by route number click "MAPSHPYTBI".  Look for the trolleybus, tramway or autobus symbols.