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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thinking the Impossible: Bringing Back the Culver Line

  Those of us the grew up in rich rapid transit environments that had "days of glory" in the  past have sometimes fantasies or thought experiments "What Would Happen If?" if some service of a much beloved line would be partially brought back.  In subchat, there are individuals that mirror this thought process of asking hard questions of  what would it take to somewhat restore some type of service.   In the universe that we live in, it is hard to bring back what has happened in the past especially if no one shares your views or the proposal is expensive.  It is especially hard like a place like New York City where after 1950, very limited rapid transit expansion took place.  Take the case of Brooklyn:  The last station to open was probably Euclid Avenue or Grant Avenue at the Queens border and this was probably in 1948 or 1950.  In the past 63 years, so many lines and stations were destroyed, including our beloved Culver Line in Brooklyn.  A vast trolley car system vanished with almost no trace.
  In the map below produced in ARCGIS, various railroad and rapid transit shape files were added and building footprints.  Look please at 37 th Street on the left of the picture.  In discussing the culver line, it is important to remember that along 37th Street, the elevated structure was over the SBRR right of way and not over 37th Street.    Private houses have been built along this right of way in may places.  The black and white map shows a dotted line where the approximate location of the el structure was found.

  In the future, I will discuss the Culver Shuttle Right of Way and some interesting points on the topic.  We will discuss the new buildings  built directly on the former Right of Way.

This picture come from an interesting web site called

This picture may be from the period of 1967 ( after the abandoned two tracks on the structure were removed and the end in 1975.    The structure would remain for about another nine years.  Notice the South Brooklyn RR tracks and the "coal silo" to the left of the picture.  This view is facing west on 37th Street west of 13th Avenue.  Actually 37th Street is to the right.

More to follow.

This picture from 1914 shows how the area looked when the Culver Line service was on the ground and before the el structure was constructed.  You are facing west towards 13th Avenue  and you can see the track crossing of the Church Avenue Trolley Line.  You can also see a UFO just at the crossing.  An interesting turnoff to the right where the gentleman is standing may be a lead to the Nassau Electric Yard which was across the street.  37th Street itself is to the right of the picture.  It is this PRW in which housing is being built or it used as parking lots.  Any restoration of Culver Line service, either subway or light rail would need to be now on or over 37th Street.

More to follow
.  This Google Map shot is taken on 37th Street facing west towards 13th Avenue.  The white building behind the trees and the brown three story tan brick building on the left of the shot were probably the same buildings shown above in 1914.  Notice how narrow 37th Street is.  When the El structure existed, the sidewalk on the right was very narrow.  The parking lot was the location of the Culver El and underneath, the South Brooklyn Railroad.  The low tan brick building on the right was the former site of the Nassau Electric Yard for streetcars.  How do I know?  Around 1971 a series of low wood garages occupied the site.  When the building on the right was constructed, the old rubble had to be  removed and it included a lot of railroad rails.

 In the map below, I tried to show the path of any rapid transit facility from Ninth Avenue to Ditmas Avenue.  It is mainly on or over 37th Street and not in the previous PRW.  To be discussed later.

  In the charts below, I write out some scenarios of what the restoration of service on the "Culver Shuttle" would be like after deciding mode, route and other options.  There is almost an infinite number of options available but just remember, this is a thought experiment.  An interesting thought though:  " Why must service be restored to Ditmas Avenue... would Church Avenue be better because it is a potential express stop and G stops there but not at Ditmas... "

What are your thoughts?

 Now that there is housing on the prior private of way, any form of rapid transit will need to take that into consideration.  What is interesting about the former Culver Shuttle, is that some sections still exist or can be made operational.  The Ninth Avenue Station {lower level} has three tracks with third rails available.  Some of these tracks extend southeast of the station to connect with yard track and to a portion of the South Brooklyn Rail Road.  Track on the surface extends to the 37th Street and Ft. Hamilton Parkway intersection.  At the east end, yes, there is a small stump that leads to the Ditmas Avenue Station.  This structure is probably sound but currently has no tracks on it.  The tracks were removed many years after service was abandoned.   This fourth track structure extends beyond the south end of the Ditmas Avenue Station.  If we had the money and permission of residents and elected officials, choices must be made about the mode, destinations and type of terminals decided upon.  The table below shows the many choices.  If an elevated is decided, questions regarding number of tracks, station location and type of elevated.  Would it be a iron "dual contracts" type of elevated or would it be a concrete affair like the line that goes to Kennedy Airport?  Would the residents like an elevated structure over the street?  How about a subway? As soon as the line leaves Ninth Avenue and momentary enters the open air, an incline can take the line into a subway along 37th Street.  Perhaps a one track subway with one station at 13th Avenue with a passing track.  What about Ditmas Avenue?  Should the subway enter a ramp to Ditmas Avenue?  There does not appear to be too much room for this.  Perhaps a one track subway station under the  Ditmas Avenue Station with an elevator to the upper level.  More dreams to follow in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Grant Ave is in Brooklyn and did not open until 1956. As you note Brooklyn has lost many stations since that time (mainly on the Myrtle El and Culver Shuttle). On the other hand, in 1956 there was no Chrystie Street Connection (so the South Brooklyn lines had far less service), no off-peak express service on the Fulton IND or Brooklyn IRT, no free transfers between lines at Atlantic Ave or Jay St, etc. So while some lines were lost, service on the remaining lines has gotten better.