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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Last Trolley in New York City and New York State

Queensboro Bridge Trolleys Seyfried

Queensboro Bridge Trolleys Seyfried

Source: Footage from the La Guardia and Wagner Archives of the last streetcar in Queens (and New York State) in 1957. Narrated by Vincent F Seyfried. (Edited by Samuel Lieberman) If you want to learn more about the history of Queens you can visit the Archives' website:

Although not shown that much, this line went into a underground terminal at Second Avenue in Manhattan.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Comparison Map: 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els, Upper Section, 1893-1903

Source:  Horn, George E, Editor, New York Division ERA Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 11,  November, 1988, P.9,  Order Item M-108

In this interesting comparison map, the spatial relationship between the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els in Manhattan is shown from 18th Street to the Harlem River for the years 1893-1903.  Notice the 34th Street Spur and the 129th Street Yard and station.  Notice that the third or middle track is not continous.  This map shows the layout before the lines was "modernized" with express tracks and stations around 1914.  Notiace the coal bridges that provided coal to the locomotives.  Notice that the station pattern was different during those years.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nostrand Avenue Trolley on Private Right of Way near LIRR

Source:   George Conrad Photo

  In the above photo, which I could not copy in detail, shows the private right of way that existed between Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues near Avenue "H" for the Nostrand Avenue trolley .  This loop may have been placed in service in 1936 and it is adjacent to the LIRR Bay Ridge Division tracks to the left side of the photo.  Above the car is a vertical support pole for the high voltage tension lines that powered the LIRR Bay Ridge Division.  I remember them as a child all along the private right of way of the Bay Ridge Division starting from the waterfront.  In fact, the LIRR Bay Ridge Division may have used electric power until 1965.  A few of the high tension insulators still remain attached to the underside of the Gowanus Expressway near the Sea Beach Line ( "N" Train ) between Fourth and Fifth Avenues in Brooklyn and you can see them from the "N" train.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Assigning a "Hillyness" Index to Area around New York City Subway Stations

  Let us suppose that we need to calculate the "hillyness" of an area near a subway station.  Perhaps the streets are covered in ice,  as this sometimes happens in a New York City winter, and we would like to give priority to those hilly streets near mass transit for salting.  In this experiment, I located subway stop locations using a subway stop file and I made a map using ARCGIS.  I prepared a "buffer" around each station of let us say, .25 Mile.  I did this because if I used a point feature, I could get only one elevation reading.  What I wanted to show is the variation of elevations in a .25 mile radius around a station.  If the terrain was flat, my contour numbers, which indicate elevation in feet would not vary that much.  If the terrain was very hilly, such at the Dyre Avenue Station, my contour reading would vary from 4 feet to 112 feet.  By calculating the Standard Deviation, I could theoretically get a value of how various the elevation readings were in my .25 Mile  buffer.  I produced a report in ARCGIS in which I show for a particular station the low elevation reading, the highest and the average reading and the standard deviation.  I produced a report for a few of these NYC stations and please let me know if my technique is incorrect.  For the Dyre Avenue example, I used 176 contour readings.  This is just an experiment and I do not vouch for these numbers.  In doing the "spatial join", I told the computer to use contours that intersect my buffer circle of a .25 mile.  This would not count contours that are "nested" in the .25 mile radius completely and would tend to artifically make the standard deviation lower.  This is only a test of the technique.  Note, smaller the buffer, the higher the chances that nested contours would be counted.  Any suggestions out there?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Map Showing Extension of IRT Nostrand Avenue Line

Source: Erlitz, Jeffrey,"Tech Talk", New York Division, Electric Railroaders' Association, The Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 6, June, 2004, p.8.

The map above is a New York City Transit Authority Map showing the proposed extention of the IRT Nostrand Avenue Line from Flatbush Avenue (Brooklyn College) to Avenue W.  It was dated 3-4-71 and revised on 6-23-72.  In the late 1960's to early 1970's, there were plans to extend and create new subway routes in New York City.  One of the plans was to extend the IRT Nostrand Avenue subway to Avenue W.  Of course, it was not built.  I believe there were later plans, as well a few years later, to extend the line a few blocks south for a connection with the Bay Ridge LIRR line near Avenue H.  The Bay Ridge line would have provided space for some much needed layup tracks and a connection to a maintenance facility further east.  Nothing was built, however.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Elevation of Staten Island Railway Stations at Street Level

  Staten Island has an interesting railway that shares many characteristics with its' relatives across the bay in the other boroughs of New York City. Almost 100% open air except for some small tunnel segments, this two track, third railed powered line operates subway like equipment very similar to the R-44/R-46 class. In the 1920's, there were plans to build a tunnel under the narrows to join the Staten Island Railway with the BMT Fourth Avenue subway in Bay Ridge Brooklyn.  Except for some shafts, nothing much more was built.  The elevations shown are at street level at the station location.  Some smaller segments on the eastern side of the line closed in the 1950's and they are not shown on the map that was produced in ARCGIS.  There are some plans to activate the North Shore Line (represented as a railroad) but from what I was told, it is not likely to be light rail or rapid transit.  The Staten Island Railway used prior to the R-44/R-46 class cars equipment that was very simlar to that of the BMT Steel "BMT Standard" cars.  In fact, a group of these cars, as a result of trackage abandonments on Staten Island in the 1950's  found their way on various BMT southern division lines.
Both photos above are from the George Conrad Collection located at the http://www/ website.  The first photo is that of former SIRR cars on the Culver Line at Fort Hamilton Parkway just about to make a left turn to the incline towards the Ninth Avenue Station probably in 1955.  The second photo is also from the same source and was shot on 11/12/1955 showing a train equipped with SIRR equipment.  This is a north bound Culver Line train at the 13th Avenue Station.  The Flatbush Industrial Building is in the background and it is still standing.  It had its' own spur to the South Brooklyn Rail Road with trolley wire.  These cars were very interesting in that the middle doors were BMT Standard like and the end doors were like IRT Lo V doors.  Destination signs were metal plates.
In the photo above, a SIRR car rests on the Culver Line at the Ditmas Avenue station.  This photo, which is from the collection of David Pirmann is interesting because to the lower left of the car at street level is the Kensington Loop of the Church Avenue/McDonald Avenue trolley line with the wires and poles visible.  You can see the Flatbush Industrial Building to the far left and perhaps you can make out the overhead wires on the Cortelyou Road-16th Avenue trolleybus line also at the far left near the 38th Street Park.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Coney Island Elevated Railway and the Brighton Beach Race Track

Please find attached a picture of an early elevated railway in Brooklyn which is not well known.  Hopefully I will provided more information about this railway in the future. The C.I.E.R.  is not really a traditional elevated line but a elevated railway on stilts.  It crossed Ocean Parkway at the bridge shown towards the left of the picture.  It was electrified with third rail and used wooden elevated equipment and its right of way was close to the present day BMT Brighton Line on Brighton Beach Avenue.  It predated the present day elevated structure on Brighton Beach avenue by many years.  The picture comes from a historical  site on the web mentioned above which has all sorts of goodies dealing with maps of the area.  Connected with this railway was the Brighton Beach Race Track which way situated between Coney Island Avenues and Ocean Parkway just north of today's Brighton Beach Avenue.  The streets in the area are not the same today..  Incidentally, when I did a seach of a 1924 aerial of the area, nothing remains of the Brighton Beach Race Track by 1924 because of new housing construction in the 1920's.

Some dates:  Tenatative and need to be verified.

Service began on 6/27/1881 using steam engines.
1897-1898 Electrified using third rail.
2/2/1899 Ownership by Kings County Railroad ?
1900 Service ended and surprisingly, tracks were relaid on the surface!

1924 Aerial of the area shown below.  No sign of Brighton Beach Race Track above Brighton Beach Avenue which is the almost horizontal line with two platforms (white rectangles) at Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenues (Brighton Beach Station).

1924 Aerial View with Comments

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Elevation of Roadway on Selected Bridges New York City

  Since many of my photo postings involve the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges, please find attached a map showing the elevations of the roadways connected with these bridges.  The color coding was constructed to show red as the highest elevation and this appears to be, of course, the middle of the bridge. In some places, the map will show the elevation in feet in numerials.  The green line on the southern shore line of Manhattan is the FDR Drive.  Map constructed using ARCGIS and City of New York elevation file of buildings and structures.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Riga Trolleys

   In this short video, you will see some shots that concentrate on the area around the Centraltirgus area of Rigas.  You will see more streetcar equipment types and a commuter train that goes over the railroad bridge that you saw in the first video posted on Riga.  You will get to see that mysterious underpass that looks like a subway station entrance.  Riga hoped to build a Metro system but was not successful.  Perhaps the underpass was a demonstation of what a future Riga subway station would look like.  The city looks different in the rain and you will get to see at least the Centraltirgus (Central Market) area from a different angle.

PCC Car 1001 Aproaches Church and McDonald Avenues

  At this time, I am having trouble downloading pictures.  If you click on the shortcut above, you will see PCC car 1001 on the Number 50 McDonald Avenue route running southbound getting ready to cross Church Avenue.  This picture comes from the Dave Pirmann collection from Joe Testagrose.  If you look down the avenue, you will see a hill.  Situated on the hill was the old 9th Avenue Depot which was the home to some of the trolley lines in Brooklyn that were discussed in this blog.  This site, at 19th Street and 9th Avenue, was a two tier depot and I posted some track diagrams of lines going through the area.  The site is presently occupied by a religious high school and houses a big radio transmittal tower that can be seen for miles.  The white building on the right of the PCC car was the Greater New York Saving Bank.  The same site today is occupied by another bank and under the PCC car is the large Church Avenue IND Subway station that is presently served by "F" and "G" trains.  Click on the link above and you will see many goodies from all over.

The picture above was taken sometime between 1951 and 1956 when PCC cars ran on the line.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

GRASS 6.4.1's Visibility Vector Graph Application

  The map below was produced using GRASS's 6.4.1 network analysis Visibility Vector Graph Application.  I imported our subway and SIRT shape file and the New York City borough map.  I performed the analysis and a polygon map is produced which shows the shortest distances between extreme points in the network.  You can see that the last stop on the Staten Island Rapid Transit is the most southern point (Tottenville) while Jamaica 179 Street is the most eastern extreme point.  What good is this map?  Perhaps to show which areas of a city are really far away from rapid transit (areas outside the polygon).  This analysis can be preformed for any type of transportation form or other types of networks.  The areas outside the polygon can be calculated by another program.  A good rapid transit or tram system that is inside a similar polygon which covers the boundary of an urban area is doing a good job.  New York City does not have good Rapid Transit coverage according to this type of map.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Your Maps are all Wet: Using the Typographic Index to find Rapid Transit Lines

  In the above map, I brought in our elevation file for New York City and then I tried something different.  I used the GRASS 6.4.1 Raster  Typographic Index.  This index is used to generate a map showing water run off.  I then added my standard subway route line and station shape file.  To my surprise, the yellow areas (lines) seem to follow the existing rapid transit structures that are either on the embankment or a open cut and show the water drainage areas.  Interestingly, the iron elevated structures, such as found on the West End (D) and Culver Lines (F) do not produce such an effect.  Although I did not bring in the RR shape file, the LIRR Bay Ridge Division is clearly visible because it is either on an embankment or an open cut.  Going from west ot east the labels show the Fourth Avenue Subway, (N and R trains) with no effect, the West End El (D), with no effect, the Sea Beach open cut (N), with an effect, the Culver Line (F) with no effect and finally the Brighton Line  (B, Q) on an embankment with a strong effect.  The bottom line is that the software is able to pick up great changes in elevation near rapid transit structures.  While a map is good to have, perhaps the software can be used for finding interesting artifacts no usually visible.

Anyone interested in the code in GRASS 6.4.1 that creates this can find it below:

r.topidx creates topographic index (wetness index), ln(a/tan(beta)), map from elevation map
a: the area of the hillslope per unit contour length that drains through any point,
tan(beta): the local surface topographic slope (delta vertical) / (delta horizontal).

A Close Up Look at various ramps in the 38 Street Cut

     In some of my prior posts, I focused on the various ramps west of the Ninth Avenue Station on the present day D train in Brooklyn. I posted aerial views, historic views and so on. Now it would be interesting to see at train and track level, what these ramps look like.  In the two attached videos that I got from the web, you will see close up action, however they are not perfect and just as we are about to get to an interesting point, a train running in the opposite direction will block your view!

In the first video, a R-160 "M" train leaves Ninth Avenue Station (upper level) and  will run to 36th Street and 4th Avenue station.  Currently, the "M" train does not serve the Ninth Avenue station but runs by Sixth Avenue to Queens from the Williamsburgh Bridge after Essex Street.  Therefore this video is several years old.  The sequence that you will see as follows:

  1. The westbound train goes down a ramp and meets the former trackage to the Culver Line and the 5th Avenue Elevated.
  2. After an interchange, two ramps go up to a higher level.  Although these ramps are under construction, they normally carry tracks to the 36th Street yard and this is the trackage that the 5th Avenue-Culver El trains took.
  3. The two mystery ramps are seen with grass on one of them them going to the upper level.
  4. The train enters what becomes a two track brick lined tunnel which is very historic and may have been the original route of the South Brooklyn Rail Road.
  5. The train emerges into the light momentarily where you see a turnout for the SBRR tracks to the waterfront.
  6. Just as we are about to see the SBRR yard that stretches from 4th Avenue to 3rd Avenue, your view is blocked by a Coney Island bound train.
  7. The train makes a sharp turn and enters the Fourth Avenue Subway where the tracks go lower and meet the tracks of the "N" and "R" trains.
  8. The train enters the 36th Street (Fourth Avenue) Station.
  9. The view of this video is west.


In the second video, the "M" train made of R-160 cars is running south from 36 th Street to 62nd Street and New Utrecht Avenue on the West End El.  The view is easterly and you will be able to see the various buildings in the 36-38 Street yard.  At the Ninth Avenue Station, you will see the closed off staircase to the abandoned Culver Line and your will enter the West End El.  The order is reverse of the above where the train leaves 36th Street, leaves the "N" and "R" trackage which goes to a lower level, makes a sharp turn and enters the two track brick tunnel and so on.  I hope you find these videos interesting and a thanks to the person(s) who shot them.