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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taking the "8 Avenue"

Photo Source:  Dave's Rail Pix, Dave Pirmann Collection for Joe Testagrose.

 In the picture above, PCC car 1053 is just turning right to Church Avenue from McDonald Avenue on the Church-McDonald line sometime between 1951 and 1956.  The view is facing southwest.   If you look closely to the right of the candy store,  you can see an entrance to the IND Church Avenue Station that at that time was served by "D" trains.  On the entrance, is a sign stating "Smith Street-8th Avenue" that was probably there since the station opened in 1933?  All stations on this line, from Church Avenue to Bergen Street probably showed "Smith Street-8th Avenue" signs even though at that time the "D"trains ran via 6th Avenue.

  My parents were born at the beginning of the 20th Century and they saw the construction of the Independent Subway during the late 20's and early 30's.  The first line to open, was the "Eight Avenue" probably around 1932 and ran first from Chambers Street to 207th Street in upper Manhattan.  During the 1930's the various branches opened up, the Concourse Line and the Crosstown Line (GG) and the line to Queens along Queens Boulevard.  I believe by 1933, the Independent Subway even reached Church Avenue in Brooklyn, which today is known as part of the "Culver Line".  Service from Church Avenue and McDonald Avenues or Gravesend Avenue ran by Prospect Park to Manhattan and even various Northern Terminals in upper Manhattan or Queens depending on the year.  The 6th Avenue Line did not open until the 1940's so service on all branches, except the Crosstown (GG) was by way of Eight Avenue.  The older generation seems to have been inprinted with the route of the first Independent Subway.  When I was small, I loved the subways and public transportation and I always asked my parents at the start of a trip our route plans.  Even if we were near the Crosstown Line, or stations along 6th Avenue, my parents would alway say that we are taking the "Eight Avenue" even though we were physically getting the "D" and 42nd Street and 6th Avenue or a "GG" train at Borough Hall.  They never said that they were taking the "Sixth Avenue".
When the Culver Shuttle became a real one track shuttle around 1960, the shuttle became like a lottery wheel because we would not know in which direction it would be headed when we boarded at 13th Avenue or Fort Hamilton Parkway.  If we needed the Independent Subway at Church Avenue, my parents would either walk to Church Avenue or ride in the direction that the Culver Shuttle happened to run.  If it ran towards 9th Avenue, we would have to backtrack to Ditmas Avenue in order to reach the "Eight Avenue". We would go "downstairs" and cross over to the Manhattan bound side.  Other times, we needed the West End Line at 9th Avenue.  The line there was called the "West End" or "BMT".
From 1954 to 1967, on the line that ran to Church and McDonald Avenue, Independent R1-9 equipment ran.  Those years, the "D" train served the line to Coney Island, and the side signs would never show a setting for the "Culver Line" eventhough the official name was called "Concourse-Culver". The old signs either showed D- 6th Avenue Express or D-Houston Street 6th Avenue Express signs. After November 1967, when the Christie Steet Loop started operation, newer equipment (R-38's) showed up on the line as "F" trains.  At first, no mention was made of the Culver Line but as years went by and new equipment was assigned to the line or roll signs were updated, or other signs were converted to dot matrix, the term "Culver" was used on this line.  One of the rare signs that were attached on lamp posts at some Manhattan locations was the sign "Eight Avenue Subway (Independent) Two Blocks West" with an arrow.  As a child, I thought that this sign,  lost astronomers or explorers through the most scarry jungles would most hope to see, no matter where they were, even though they may need to change at West 4th Street  (Washington Square) for a "D".

The picture below comes from and shows the work crews attaching the BMT Culver Line Tracks that swing left to the IND Subway incline south of Ditmas Avenue on October 31, 1954.  Two years later, on October 31, 1956, at and near that location, Church Avenue, McDonald Avenue streetcars and Cortelyou Road trolleybuses will become extinct.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dave Rogoff's Line Drawings of the Original IRT Subway

Source:  Rogoff, David, " Contract I Platform Extensions " in "Contract I History", New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railroaders' Association, Vol. 29, Number 7, July,1986, pp. 2, 3, 5.

These line drawings, drawn by the late David Rogoff, were drawn from the original contract drawings of the first subway in New York, the IRT subway for Contracts I and II.  What is interesting here, for the historian, are those original drawings that never came to see the light of day, but were amended.  For example, the Borough Hall Station in Brooklyn was supposed to have three tracks with a middle express track.  Provisions were made for branches to 4th Avenue in Brooklyn  the Manhattan Bridge and  Lafayette Avenue and the LIRR.  The maps show the actually built mystery single track under Nevins Street that was supposed to lead to the Manhattan Bridge.  There is an actual unused station in th lower level of Nevins Street.  The drawings have a date listed as 12/13/63.  Maps are not drawn to scale to show clarity.   More to follow later, I hope.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

1924 Map of Sheepshead Bay Area: Showing Race Track Spur & Manhattan Beach Division

  In the map shown below, which is a
Rand-McNally 1924 Map of Brooklyn, which was taken from the David Rumsey Map Collection, you can see areas penciled in red: 1) Former BRT-LIRR Trackage to Sheepshead Bay Race Track and 2) Allignment of the LIRR Manhattan Beach Division Line to Manhattan Beach.  Also, you will see that parts of the Coney Island Creek that were still in existance in 1924.  The David Rumsey Map Collection is very extensive.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sea Beach Spur to the Gravesend Race Track in 1891?

Source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.
Author:  Bien, Joseph Rudolp (1858-1950)
Date of Map: 1891
Scale: 1:31,680
Page IV, Series 7
Phillips 2150
  Folks, I took this clip off another on line map site, called "David Rumsey Historical Map Collection".  There is great stuff there.  As I was looking at the Gravesend Race Track area from 1891, I noticed that on the map, there appears to be a spur from the Sea Beach Line, that was steam at the time and ran on the surface to the Gravesend Race Track at Gravesend Avenue.  I did not know of this and I am not sure if it existed.  The race track loop, as seen in the above map, is slightly out of place compared to my 1924 Aerial posting.  The race track path was much closer (the northern part) to Ocean Parkway than shown on the map.  Notice the streams that cross Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenues.  Notice a Johnston Avenue which does not exist now.  This Sea Beach spur, if existed, and shown on the map, run perpendicular to Gravesend Avenue and meet the Race Track at right angles.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Position of Smith Street Gas Tank as seen from Smith-9th Street IND Station

In the clip below, which is taken from Roger Arcara's video dealing with the New York Subway from 1940 to the 1970's  I captured the relative position of the gas tank versus the station.  You are looking at the extreme north end of the northbound (towards Manhattan) platform with the adjustable gas tank in the background.  The gas tank was higher than the station.   Though not shown in this clip, the video in this segment showed IND R1-9 cars in "D" train service.  So this had to be between 1954 and 1967.
 No one light a match, please.   The second photo is a 1951 Aerial of the area.  The red line is the line of sight from the gas tanks western face to the most northern point on the Smith-9th Street Manhattan bound platform.  The position of the pictures seems correct.

I am having trouble placing the aerial.  Please scroll down not to miss it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Old Elevated Equipment Video with Brooklyn Trackless Trolley Operations in Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn

In this great video, (which I got off the web)  I believe which was produced in connection with the Electric Railroader's Association fan trips, you will see old elevated equipment in Brooklyn, in color, with very good sound recording.  You will also see for a few moments, Brooklyn trackless trolley operation at Washington Plaza just off the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn and also at Crown Heights and downtown Brooklyn   What a find!  The trolley bus system in Brooklyn lasted until July 27, 1960 and you will see the coaches in their silver and green delivery.

In the picture below, you will see elevated equipment on the Carnarsie Line, at the East 105th Street road crossing (the only one in the NYC Subway System) probably during a fan trip.  You even get to see a UFO checking out the trip to the right of the car.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sorry, But there is "NO EL" for 58 Years

We are past the anniversary of the end of service on the 3rd Avenue El from Chatham Square to 149th Street on May 12?, 1955 and here is a cute clip that I found on subchat posted by Monorail last Sunday.   It will show you how 3rd Avenue looks today and there is a interesting King Kong cameo which is shown  destroying the Sixth Avenue El?*.  At least it is in the same family.  Rapid T. Rabbit is shown in his "The Third No el".

*  According to one expert, the 3rd Avenue El did not have the equipment shown destroyed in the King Kong movie in the 1930's. (ie. Lo-V Trailers) and the Third Avenue El did not have any 90 degree turns in midtown Manhattan according to one source at subchat.

 I hope you enjoy it.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Anniversary of the Passing of the Culver Shuttle May 11, 1975

I forgot that May 11 is the anniversary of the passing of the Culver Shuttle.  I remember when it used to go to Chambers Street in Manhattan when I was very young.  One of the best experiences that I had as a child with the Culver Shuttle was the joy of seeing IRT LO-V cars on the shuttle around 1960.  This is the time when two tracks were operational on the line between Ninth; Avenue and Ditmas Avenue.  The Low-V cars were modified so that the gap between the sidewall of the car and the platform edge was filled in.  Most young people will not remember this, but the old equipment and the lines that they ran on, had a "smell".  This was not an unpleasant smell but a smell sort of like camphor, creosote and motor oil.  Each of the three subway divisions  (BMT, IND or IRT) had its unique smell because I found out later, the subway cars needed motor oils.  Even though the Lo-V's ran on the BMT, they smelled distinctly of the IRT.  The PATH system had a different smell. more like mildew of a damp basement and it was studied by PATH officials regarding its' cause.  Today the subway is oderless or smells of urine. Please find below a picture that I could not give proper credit to.  It is probably a Conrad photo and shows a Lo-V IRT subway car in Culver Shuttle service.  It is resting in the pocket track at Ditmas Avenue, many years ago.  Notice another signature of the Lo-V's, metal destination plates.  This Lo-V is signed up for Culver Line Service.  Source:  The IRT Lo V cars had also a unique "groaning" sound when the train was going up a hill.  I remember this as the Lo-V's ascended the incline going to the Fort Hamilton Parkway station.

Third Avenue Trolley Brooklyn: North and South Sections before Abandonment

Source:  Watson, Edward, B. & Linder, B. "3 Avenue Line", New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railroaders' Association, Vol. 21, No. 12, December, 1978, p.7,9.

Line terminated on March 1, 1942.  There were many reroutes in 1942 due to Fifth Avenue El removal in downtown Brooklyn.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Third Avenue Trolley in Brooklyn - North Section Prior to 1938

Source:  Watson, Edward, B. & Linder, B. "3 Avenue Line", New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railroaders' Association, Vol. 21, No. 12, December, 1978, p.5.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Third Avenue Trolley in Brooklyn - South Portion Prior to 1939

Source:  Watson, Edward, B. & Linder, B. "3 Avenue Line", New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railroaders' Association, Vol. 21, No. 12, December, 1978, p.2 - 3.

  It is funny that in New York, there are two Third Avenues that had rapid transit on it:  One in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan and the Bronx.  Both Third Avenues had streetcars running under elevated train structures.  Brooklyn's Third Avenue had  a smaller portion of area covered by El structures, roughly from 39th Street and 3 rd Avenue to around 65 Street.  It is also funny that in Manhattan there is a Lexington Avenue Subway but Brooklyn had a Lexington Avenue Elevated until 1950.  Sorry folks, no streetcars under the Lexington Avenue El in Brooklyn because the street was vary narrow and residential.  The map shown below is the south section only prior ot 1939 and it shows some associated trackage on 2nd Avenue, some of which still exists, but of course, without wires.  The Third Avenue trolley in Brooklyn has a long history.  It started as a horsecar line in 1868 and the line terminated in 1942.  The B-37 bus is its' replacement but I believe that due to budget cuts, the B-37 has been eliminated.   So we can paraphrase what one person said about another line, the Third Avenue trolley now does not even have the indignity of being  replaced by a stink buggy.  I will try to post the history by Edward B, Watson and the other maps some time in the future.

The picture above comes from Dave's Rail Pix which really got it from Brooklyn Pix.

The picture shows the 39th Street and 3rd Avenue intersection facing east with a northbound  Church Avenue or Eight Avenue Car  just about to enter the intersection.  By the time this photo was taken, which is after the 3rd Avenue El in Brooklyn was demolished, the Gowanas Expressway was in existence.  The Third Avenue Trolley was also gone by this time.  This picture must be from the mid 40's until 1951 when older type of equipment still ran on the Church Avenue, before PCC days.  At this same location, the 3rd Avenue El made a sharp curve eastbound for 38th Street where it used to meet up with the Fifth Avenue and Culver Lines at Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park.
39th Street - 3rd Avenue Today.  Tracks on 39th Stret are long gone.

At the other end of the line, at 65th Street and Third Avenue, there was a ramp for the Third Avenue Trolley to reach and share the southern section of the 65th Street Terminal for El trains.  According to the line maps, the turnout to the ramp structure was removed in 1924.  Perhaps the aerial photo from 1924 at the area reveals the ramp.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Last Trolley Line Built in Brooklyn: The Eight Avenue Trolley

Source:  Watson, Edward. B & Linder, B. "Eight Avenue Line", In New York Division Bulletin, Electric Railroaders' Association, Vol. 21, No. 12, December, 1978, p.4.

  Please find below a map and some interesting data about the Eight Avenue Trolley line in Brooklyn which was the last line to be built in 1915 using new track.  The line lasted to 1949 and it shared some trackage to the waterfront with our beloved Church Avenue Line that lasted to October 31, 1956.  In one of my posted videos, there is a clip of the 8th Avenue and 39th Street intersection where both lines separated.  Although I cannot supply documentation regarding this, but I read some place that the BRT - BMT management were very pro trolley and wanted to construct new lines in the southern part of Brooklyn that did not have any trolley lines, such as some of the lines that become bus routes that ran from east to west to East New York and elsewhere.  The City of New York even then (early part of the 20th Century) was very hostile to the concept of streetcars and would not allow it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Three Brooklyn Race Tracks in 1913: What Happened to Kings Highway?

In the map below, I brought in the 1913 Street Railway Map that shows interesting features besides the then running streetcar lines.  The former Brooklyn race tracks, the Gravesend, Brighton and Sheepshead Bay were still around according to the map, but mapped under different names.  Notice that the Gravesend Race Track near Gravesend Avenue (Mcdonald Avenue) had a different shape than what I posted earlier.  Perhaps the land was being developed.  I looked closely and on the 1913 grid, I did not see  Kings Highway which is the northern boundary of the former race track.  I then brought in the modern street grid and it shows the position were it should be, eventhough I am slightly off due to georeferencing problems.  The Nostrand Avenue Trolley, which according to the 1913 map is slightly off from my grid, but it shows that it ends at Avenue T before it reaches the Coney Island Jockey Club ( formerly the Sheepshead Bay Race Track?).  It is possible that the 1913 map has some errors in it if it is missing Kings Highway.  The trackage on Nostrand Avenue may have been single tracked between Kings Highway and Avenue T at this time and Nostrand Avenue ended before reaching the race track. To be continued.   The picture below the map comes from a picture website called  This 1915 picture shows the right of way of the Culver Line on McDonald (then Gravesend Avenue) facing north from Avenue T.  If you look to the right, you can make out the extensive race track buildings that were still in existence at that time and probably little land development took place by that time.  The present day steel elevated did not open to 1919.