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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Let me Vent a Little: The BMT Fourth Avenue Subway and its' Vent Vaults

Hi Folks:

  The Fourth Avenue Subway that runs along Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn south of the historic Williamsburgh Bank building is a busy line that predates the Independent Subway by many years. Today, the D, N and R routes provide service but when I was  a child, other names were used to describe the service:  West End Express, West End Location, Sea Beach Express, Culver Express and Culver Local and the local of locals, the Fourth Avenue Local.  Interesting equipment  such as the three car articulated "D" types were on the Sea Beach and on the occasional West End Express.  The Fourth Avenue Local had the BMT standards and some borrowed IND R1-9 types. The Culver Line

 and West End Local usually ran BMT standards and in later years, a modified IRT Lo-V and some SIRT BMT look alike cars.  Most of you "youngsters" probably do not know, that the Fourth Avenue Subway until around 1960 had a different "look" to it in that between south of Pacific Street to south of 36th Street Stations  the express tracks were exposed to tremendous amount of light from the air vents above.  So much light was provided, that a passenger in a Fourth Avenue local sitting on the side of the express tracks would be able to see that it was raining outside because the wooden protection boards were wet.  It was very bright for whole sections with the sunlight streaming in.  This dance of sunlight against the wall went very well with the special music that the Triplex Type D cars produced on the Sea Beach Express as it speeded along Fourth Avenue. Today, a passenger can see a slightly paler shade of concrete along the wall that separates the express tracks below the current air vents.

It would have been nice that any redesign of Fourth Avenue would bring natural light into the subway as in days of old.

Does any old timer remember the lighted vent vaults between Pacific and 36th Street?

What was the situation between 36 th Street and 86 th Street?

Currently, there is some discussion to modify Fourth Avenue in terms of width, the width of the central island and car turns.  I believe, a few years ago, Fourth Avenue was supposed to be redesigned due to the new residential construction along the avenue.

A post card showing Fourth Avenue around 1905-7 before the subway was built.  At 53rd Street and Fourth Avenue.

The next series shows a more modern Fourth Avenue. The above picture is probably from 1959 perhaps after the center island was made narrower.

Slightly larger vents, perhaps before being made narrower.

You can see that most of the island is taken up by the vent, thus letting much light and air into the subway.  Later vents were higher up and narrower.

Notice that the island appears to be higher over here.  The Williamsburgh  Bank Building is in the center.

This image was produced by Google Maps by pointing to 22 Street and Fourth Avenue Brooklyn.  Notice how narrow this divider is.  I do not know if this is recent construction.

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