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Monday, May 14, 2012

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.


  1. The conduit system utilized two power rails, and they were contacted by two shoes on the plow tjhat were forced laterally by a spring. The main reason in New York city for the plows was to prevent destruction of the gas mains by electrolysis. Use of a single overhead wire with power returning via the rails also caused interference with the early telephone systems.

    1. Thank you Anonymous for your input. Perhaps Cincinnati Ohio streetcars used a unique double overhead for the same reasons that you mentioned. The double trolley bus style overhead made conversion to trolleybus operation much easier years later at the time of abandonment in Cincinnati.

      Tramway Null(0)