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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Delancey Street Trolley Terminal Brooklyn Streetcar Track Assignments

Source:  Rogoff, David, "Fifty Years Ago in the Electric Railway Journal - BRT Williamsburg Bridge Terminal", New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railroaders Assn., Vol. 1, No. 2, June, 1958, p. 3-4

Delancey and Essex Street on the surface as of June 11, 2012.  Photo by docjayva.
In the June 1958 edition of the Bulletin, one of the first issues published, there was an interesting article published by David Rogoff which itself was a review of a Electric Railway Journal article that appeared fifty years earlier, in 1908, describing the rapid transit facilities, both elevated line and streetcar at the Manhattan end of the Wiliamsburg Bridge.  While the bridge openned in 1903, as built, the rapid transit and trolley facilities were not ready at the Manhattan end.  In a future post, I hope to discuss this.   It appears in the article that the trolley terminal alongside the Essex Street subway station did not open until 1908.  For now, I just would like to add information from the article regarding the huge underground trolley terminal for Brookyn trolleys that crossed the bridge.  The trolley terminal had 8 loops plus a 2-car stub for disabled trolleys and a bumper.  The loops were numbered from 1 to 8 from west to east.  Although the Essex Street elevated/subway station was a few feet away from the trolley tracks, there was no track connection.

The original track plan was as follows:
  1. #1 Nostrand Avenue and Belt Lines
  2. #2 Reid Avenue
  3. #3 Hamburg Avenue (renamed WILSON AVENUE during World War I).
  4. #4 Ralph Avenue
  5. #5 Bushwick Avenue
  6. #6 Thompkins Avenue
  7. #7 Bridge Local
  8. #8 Grand Street & Franklin Avenue

More information regarding both the subway and trolley terminal to follow in the future.
Tramway Null(0)\

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Could these be two 145 Street Streetcars at the Plow Pit West of Lenox Avenue in 1924?

Notice the two streetcars circled just west of the 145 th Street - Lenox Avenue intersection in this 1924 aerial.  Could they be at the location of the plow pit?  Going east  (see red question mark) from the "plow pit" should be visible trolley wire and poles but I could not see evidence of this, or trolley poles on top of the two streetcars in this 1924 aerial shot.  On the right side of the aerial, where the red question mark is located, you can see at intervals shadows that might be trolley poles supporting the wires, but I am not sure about this.  Off the picture, and to the right is the 145th Street Bridge over the Harlem River.  This bridge connects with 149th Street in the Bronx.

Below shows an extended aerial from 1924.  The two streetcars are at the extreme left.  On the bridge and in the Bronx, are the repeating shadows on the side of the road trolley support poles?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Broadway & 145th Street Line 1915-1947

Source:  B. Linder, New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 7, July, 2001, pp.2-4.

The Broadway and 145th Street Line started its' life on April 19, 1915 and ran from West 181st Street and Broadway, via St. Nicholas Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue, 145th Street to Lenox Avenue and 145th Street.  During the period of July 2, 1919 to September 11, 1921, the northern terminal was extended to West 242nd Street and Broadway several times, for  summer service extentions and on weekends.  After 1921, the permanent northern terminal was West 181 Street and Broadway.
This line was unusual because a plow pit was located west of the Lenox Avenue and the 145th Street intersection.  If cars needed to reverse, they had to use trackage just west of the Harlem River or a switch in the Bronx (not shown). The trackage east of the plow pit had trolley wire and in order to reverse, going eastbound, the plow pit crew would have to disconnected the plow, raise the trolley pole, throw a switch and the streetcar would proceed a few hundred feet, reverse and go westbound.  At the plow pit west of Lenox Avenue, the reverse proceedure was followed:  The plow was attached and the trolley pole was lowered.  According to Bernard Linder in the article, the line had 701-801 series cars equipped with overhead trolley and underground conduit equipment. Though not shown on the map, a connecting curve with the Lenox Avenue Line allowed reverse moves using this trackage because there was a crossover at 146 and Lenox. This curve, which existed prior to 1928 allowed for reversals if the bridge was in an open position.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Manhattan's Post Office Streetcar Line

Source: B. Linder, New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 1, January 2002, pp. 2-4.

  Where Park Row meets Broadway in Manhattan today is an extention of City Hall Park.  Previously on the spot, was a 19th Century Post Office in front of which various streetcars terminated.  One such line was called the Post Office Line that ran from a loop at Broadway, through the lower east side and across the Williamsburg Bride to Bridge Plaza in Brooklyn.  It was not battery operated but used conduits and what is interesting is that it used the North Side of the bridge because those tracks had conduits.  For BRT-BMT Brooklyn streetcars, power was supplied by overhead trolley on the south side of the bridge that lead directly to the underground Delancey Street Trolley Termininal.   Thus Bridge Plaza in Brooklyn had overhead and conduit trolley tracks for the various companies.   Some interesting points are:
  1. Line started on June 6, 1908 by the owner, Third Avenue Railroad Company but cars were operated by its subsidiary, Dry Dock, East Broadway & Battery Railroad Company.
  2. Dry Dock wanted to increase the fare around June 1928 but the case went to court.  See material compiled by Lawrence F. Hughes in the reference cited above.  The Transit Commission disapporoved the tariff request.
  3. The line was discontinued on January 21, 1932.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Moscow and St. Petersburg Trams in various running Environments

My friend from St. Petersburg gave me these links to very interesting tram videos showing various tramways operating in various environments:  Street operation, through a park in Moscow and on an elevated bridge in St. Petersburg.  Also included is a very short video telling us that according to the producer of the video in his opinion, that St. Petersburg trams are in great danger of being replaced probably by buses.  You will see that some of the trackwork is crumbling and some of the trams are shabby.
You will enjoy the Moscow tramway line that operates through a delightful park in its own right of way.  There is also a junction of three routes right in the park!  In Manhattan, some streetcar routes ran across Central Park but they ran on a park road shared with other traffic.  In Brooklyn, the busy Flatbush Avenue Line ran down Flatbush Avenue between the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Prospect Park.  If the Flatbush Avenue Line ran in its own right of way in Prospect Park, it would look probably similar to these fabulous scenes from Moscow.  The tramway that goes through the Moscow park must be quite scenic in the fall.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Mystery Ramp? Which Set of Ramps did the 5th Avenue El use to Access the 9th Avenue Station?

There has been some questions regarding which set of ramps did 5th Avenue-Culver trains use west of the Ninth Avenue Station to access the 5th Avenue Elevated.  The two most westerly ramps that did not have fences or tracks on them in the 1950's,  I believe, were not used for this access.  I believe the present day leads to the 36th Street yard that presently have tracks on them were used. I'll try to prove this in the future with some maps.  For the present, I post a present day photograph and a 1924 Aerial.  The 1924 aerial shows that there is no trackage west of the ramps, but you can see trackage more on the northerly side of the yard.  Please see the area circled with a thin black line.  In the 1924 Aerial, the most westerly untracked ramps are shown on the bottom margin near the right corner at the milage scale.  More about this later.

Please note that on the recent photograph it is not clear, but two ramps rising with no tracks on them while about four active tracks enter a tunnel at 7th Avenue.   (The rising ramps do not lead to further tracks.  Culver-5th Avenue El trains used more northerly trackage leading to the 5th Avenue El.) This four track tunnel becomes a very old two track, brick lined tunnel that dates well before 1914 and was originally used by the SBRR.  This two track tunnel ends just short of 4th Avenue which you may see in the 1924 Aerial view just where the captions "1924" and "1951" are printed on top of the picture.  This is the junction point of  4th Avenue subway tracks and the SBRR where the SBRR tracks head directly west to the waterfront.  Tramway Null(0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

McDonald Avenue PCC and South Bklyn RR Diesel # 8 at Avenue "I'

Picture Source:  Undated.  Frank Pfuhler Collection from Dave's Rail Pix:

In this undated photo, a McDonald Avenue PCC car is headed north while South Brooklyn RR Locomotive # 8 switches tracks.  An observation of the area makes me believe that this is under the Avenue "I" station of the IND Culver Line prior to abandonment around 1956.  Presently, "Shop Rite" is on the left.  From my previous track diagram, there is no other crossover between tracks on McDonald Avenue except at Avenue "I".  Though not shown in the picture, a couple hundred feet north in the picture is a overpass over the LIRR Bay Ridge Division which at that time had two tracks and had high voltage type of overhead.  Surprisingly, tracks remained intact on McDonald Avenue many decades after 1956.  In the early 1980's, the overpass over the LIRR tracks was reconstructed but without trolley tracks.  Around the 1990's,  the trolley tracks were covered with asphalt and within the last 10 years, the trolley tracks were completely pulled out of the pavement from Cortelyou Road to around the Avenue X shops by the New York City's Department of Transportation probably because of complaints from motorist that the tracks were slippery in wet weather.  In my humble opinion, McDonald Avenue would have been good candidate for a historic streetcar line because the tracks were there, the electric power source was a few feet above on the el, and the trolley wires did not need poles for support.  Could you have imagined the action movie shots of chases on McDonald Avenue dodging trolley cars under the el?  The fees that New York City could have received  from these movie shotscould have paid many of the expenses connected with this hypothetical trolley line.  Today, there are no tracks on McDonald Avenue, the LIRR Bay Ridge Division at this point has one track that is diesel operated, and the interchange track between SBRR and the LIRR at Avenue I (south of this shot) in back of  "Shop Rite" is gone.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sheepshead Bay Race Track Aerial View (Full) 1924

Here is a full view of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track pathway that was still visible in this 1924 aerial picture.  The long line on the left is Ocean Avenue. The area to the east of the former race track is Marine Park.  From this picture, it appears to me that the Sheepshead Bay Race Track may be larger than the Gravesend Race Track.  Rapid Transit service to the race track approached from the west at Ocean Avenue from the BRT Brighton Line and the LIRR Manhattan Beach branch and the Ocean Avenue Trolley.  (See prior posts)

Unusual Manhattan Streetcar Line - The Avenue B Line

Source:  B. Linder, "Avenue B Line", New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 11, November 2001,  pages 2 -3.
I came across this interesting map about an obscure streetcar line in Manhattan called the "Avenue B Line".  According to what is in the fine article and map written by Bernard Linder, I found these interesting points dealing with electrified and non electrified street trackage that our readers may find interesting.
  • The original franchise was dated April 17, 1860 but due to complications, horse cars have been running on a similar route since 1869.
  • On October 1, 1911 battery cars replaced horse cars.
  • From 1913 to 1924 there were many extentions and cut backs to the route.
  • Buses replaced street cars on July 30, 1932 and on the next day, the Avenue B & E Broadway Transit Corporation took over.  I remember the smaller fishbowl GM private buses running on this route.
  • On March 29, 1980, the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority  took over this route ( part of the New York City Transit Authority).
  • On September 13, 1987 the route was extended to W. Thames Street and South End Avenue near Battery Park City near the former World Trade Center.
  • On the map, notice that non electrified track is indicated by a bolder black line.  This indicates that sections of the map where used by both traditional conduit - plow street cars and battery cars.  According to the article, Battery Cars 1152 to 1201 were built by Brill and were assigned to the Dry Dock Lines, of which, the Avenue B Line was a part in 1911.
  • The Avenue B Line was always two-man operated cars and this implies that the othe battery operated lines were one man operated cars at some point.  On the Avenue B Line which shared trackage with conduit operated cars, a special procedure had to be followed.  At junctions, a special spring operated switch had to be set.  The default position was  for the operation of conduit cars.  If a battery car needed to switch unto non conduit trackage, the conductor had to leave the car and hold a lever as the battery car passed over the switch.  When the car passed the switch, he released the lever and the switch was reset for conduit cars.  If the procedure was not followed and the switch was not reset, a conduit operated streetcar would enter trackage where there was no conduit and the plow would have been sheared off causing a big interruption in service.
  • The line had five owners between 1860 and 1932, the first was the Dry Dock, East Broadway & Battery Rail Road Company which I heard has an interesting history.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

South Brooklyn Diesel No. 8 Headed West on 37th Street 1956

This copyrighted photograph  (2008) was shot by Brian J. Cudahy in 1956 and shows Whitcomb Locomotive Number 8 leaving the right of way west of Fort Hamilton Parkway under the Culver Line and entering the 37th Street Yard as the Culver Line swings to the west.  In the background, you can see the incline of the Culver Line as it descends from elevated line level to surface and then to the three track underground Ninth Avenue Subway Station.  As you look carefully at the photograph, you can see trolley wire and two frogs near the cement decline and this thus shows that at least up to 1956, part of the 37th Street Yard was under trolley wire.  A few years later, even before 1961, this yard trackage was equipped with third rail.  Behind the locomotive and the box car is a short siding that enters a factory.  This curved siding is very short and is shown on the SBRR track diagram north of Fort Hamilton Parkway.  To use this short siding, the railroad equipment must have had very tight clearances under the descending el structure.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

South Brooklyn Railway Track Plan as of 9/29/1960

Source:  B. Linder, Part 10, South Brooklyn's Trolley Operations, ERA Bulletin, October, 1976, p.8. (From a drawing dated September 29, 1960)

This line drawing, drawn in 1960 needs some explanation because there is a gap in the map.  Here are some of the points:
  • The map does not show which trackage is under trolley wire or associated with third rail.  From my memory and seeing past diagrams, trolley wire extended from 4th Avenue and 38th Street, just west of the 4th Avenue overpass to the waterfront.
  • From 4th Avenue and east, the SBRR tracks joined the subway tracks currently used by the West End Line (D Train) and also formerly used by the Culver Line that either ran to 36 th Street and 4th Avenue or Chambers Street in Manhattan.
  • The trackage from the junction with the West End Line to 9th Avenue Station is not shown.  This was jointly operated with subway trains using third rail and had an interesting passage through an elderly two track brick lined tunnel that is in use today. 
  • The two platformed 9th Avenue station shown is really on the lower level beneath the West End Line and was used by the Culver Line until 1975.  This was the same station where a popular film was shot. (Crockodile Dundee?)
  • Approximately east of Fort Hamiliton Parkway trolley wire began and was hanging at this point under the Culver El.
  • From this point and south, most SRBB trackage was either in a private right of way or in street trackage under the Culver Line to approximately Avenue Y where trackage meet up with the BMT Coney Island Yard.
  • Notice the various sidings, particularly between 13th and 14th Avenues and 37th Street, under the 13th Avenue Station that I posted a photograph of.
  • Notice the various coal sidings and Fisher's siding.
  • It is hard to believe that at this time, the trolley overhead was still charged and in use even though trolley operations stopped on McDonald Avenue on October 31, 1956 and all trolleybus service stopped in Brooklyn on July 27, 1960.  I believe the wire was still charged until 1961 and the overhead was removed by 1965.  There may have been a historic trolley run using a vintage Scandinavian trolley under SBRR trackage on 37th Street in 1961 by Electric Railroader's Association.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vienna's Underground Tram Sections


A good friend also gave me the links to these two videos dealing wth the underground sections of Vienna's tram network.  Unlike the Volgograd Tram Subway whose purpose is to relieve the pressure on a parallel commuter train route, the Vienna Tram subway, which appears to be in various underground sections, is to clear up congestion at various points in the city on the surface.  If New York City retained streetcars, and if some routes needed underground sections, such as the 4th Avenue -Madison Avenue Line at 34th Street (as originally constructed, please see comments), the subway would have looked like the underground sections of the Vienna's Tram System.  Incidentally, some of the newer but traditional styled streetcar equippment  built in the 1930's for New York's Third Avenue Railway System were sent after the war to Vienna.

Here are some of my thoughts after viewing the videos:

  • Unlike the Volgograd Tram Subway, construction in Vienna appears to be near the surface and cut and cover.  Notice that the two track tunnels, unlike New York, do not appear to have supporting vertical steel columns.
  • Some stations in the Vienna network have staggered side platforms.  This can be found in some of the New York Subway IRT stations south of Grand Central on the Lexington Avenue Line and in some Independent 8th Avenue Subway stations.  For Vienna, I do not know if the purpose of this was to extended the area of the mezzanine for street entranceways or because the street above the station was narrow.
  • You get to see the video that shows the station with a 90 degree two track crossing at grade.  This crossing is fascinating because it shows that the branchoff leads to an adjacent station at 90 degrees that is part of the station complex.  In modern New York track subway and elevated construction, this is very rare, but on some of the 19th Century Elevated track diagrams, this is not unusual where a branchoff is at 90 degrees with joining platforms.  I believe there was a location on the Lexington Avenue El in Brooklyn where such a configuration was found.
  • You get to see various equipment passing over or turning unto this branchoff.
  • You get to see an underground station that appears to be part of a mall.
  • Enjoy the videos.  The 90 degree branch off is very cool.

Friday, May 4, 2012

5th Avenue El Brooklyn at 38th Street - Facing North 1940

Photo Source:  George Conrad Collection obtained at

This photo, shot on 6/5/1940 I believe several days after service stopped on many els.  This view is facing north on Fifth Avenue Brooklyn at 38th Street looking towards the 36th Street station.  The tracks turning left will lead to the 3rd Avenue El in Brooklyn, while the tracks turning right are leading to the Culver Line.  These tracks will go through the 38 th Street yard where they will meet the West End Line and lead to the lower level of the Ninth Avenue Station.  This photo is interesting because as shown in my previously posted track map of the Fifth Avenue Elevated, South Portion, you can see the lattice remains of the multi track 36th Street yard which was built on the elevated structure.  To the right of the former 36th Street Station is the present day Jackie Gleason Bus Garage, which formerly was a historic railroad building.   In the front of the photo are tracks of the Fifth Avenue Trolley Line.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

B.M.T. Culver Line Before its' cutback at Ditmas Avenue

Photo Source: Collection of George Conrad,
This photo, taken on 9/12/54 which  was several weeks before the line was cutback at Ditmas Avenue, two stations down the line.  The view is from the southbound track facing the 13th Avenue Station to the east.  The train is on the Manhattan bound track and consists of B.M.T. Standard Cars.  These standard cars were made of steel and where quite comfortable.  What is interesting in this photo is that the third rails were at time and never on this portion, ever covered with wooden protection boards.  On the right side of the photo, you can see at least three coal silos.  The large factory that appears above the train
is the Flatbush Terminal Building which occupies most of the block on 14th Avenue between 37th Street and 38th Streets.  This large factory had its' own freight siding equipped with trolley wire and poles.  Underneath the el structure was two South Brooklyn Rail Road tracks in a private right of way.  This trackage was equipped with trolley wire and there were many sidings also equipped with trolley wire under the structure for freight delivery, specially coal. In the later years, only one el track remained in service (the one on the right) and one track shuttle service was provided between Ditmas and the Ninth Avenue stations.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New York Subway's "Rosewell" - Area 51 - Beyond the 76th Street Station

Source:  Jeffrey Erlitz, "Tech Talk", in New York Division Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 5, May, 2004, Pages 5-6.  Originally from: Board of Transportation, City of New York, Study for Alignment and Grades from Grant Avenue to 106th Street with Connection to Rockaway Division of the L.I.R.R.  This drawing was dated October 15, 1940 and was revised April 16, 1945.

In one of my earlier posts, I presented a map of the mysterious 76th Street Station at Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn.  No one knows if beyond a bulkhead, there is an empty shell that is just several feet long or even if there is an entire untracked station for four tracks with two side platforms with finished tile.  I cannot solve this mystery and for readers that want more information, they can find it on the internet.  I just happen to have this proposed map of the 76th Street Station and beyond.  As originally planned by the New York City Board of Transportation, the IND Fulton Street Line east of Euclid Avenue was supposed to access the Rockaway Division of the L.I.R.R. using the trackage shown with stops at 84th Street, Cross Bay Boulevard and a branch south to Howard Beach and beyond. Instead, the Board changed its mind and the IND Fulton Street Line reached the L.I.R.R. trackage by using the B.M.T. City Line Elevated east of Grant Avenue.  The Fulton Street IND subway has been running to Rockaway since 1956.
Tramway Null(0)