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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Twilight Zone: Between Electric Operation and Forgetfulness

   One TV series that I enjoyed was the "Twilight Zone". Twilight, a time when it is clearly not day or night and so on.  How about a time that is with the things we love, such as streetcars, trolleybuses and  elevated lines and the time that they are forgotten?   When streetcars stopped running in Brooklyn on October 31, 1956 and trolleybuses on July 27, 1960, the tracks and wires did not disappear on those dates.  As far a Brooklyn is concerned, the wires and poles and tracks were around for ages.  You can see a street with the tracks paved over but the wires and poles were intact, or a street with tracks and no wires or poles, or a street with a few scattered trolley poles.

These pictures come from the Brooklyn Historical Society.  I am using them for educational purposes only and they should be shared.  The views are of Church Avenue, the last streetcar line in Brooklyn.

  This private photo is showing Church Avenue near East 16 th Street.  The building with the water tower is at Ocean Avenue and I may have had a tooth extracted in that building.  You are facing east towards Brownsville.  The picture is from 1963 and the tracks are gone.  A trolley line support pole is on the right with part of the span wire still attached.  It looks weird, doesn't it?

  Church Avenue and Beverly Road.  The sign is pointing to the Greater New York Savings Bank.  A support pole is across the street and there are no tracks.  At the extreme right is another support pole.

This is another photograph from the Brooklyn Historical Society and this is near Marlborough Road? and Church Avenue.  You are looking south east at some historic houses which I believe are still standing in this historic district.  It looks like 1962 or 1963.  Notice that the wires and poles are still up in this segment but the tracks are buried under a new layer of asphalt.
   Eventually, all the poles would be removed and sometimes a pole may have been left alone.  In the site "Forgotten New York", locations of solitary poles are explored.  I remember one at the intersection of Nostrand and Flatbush Avenues at the "Junction".  It was missing a "hat".  The few remaining poles in Brooklyn could be found on Surf Avenue in Coney Island and at select former trolley turn around loops, such as First Avenue and at New Utrecht Avenue and 62nd Street.  There are others as well, but they are getting scarce.  For many years, the power supply for the Culver Line\Shuttle came from a substation at Fifth Avenue and 39th Street in Sunset Park.  Thick power supply cables ran up 39th Street on poles like those shown above to the Ninth Avenue subway station.  The wires crossed south of the station house across a yard to join with the Culver Line at 37th Street.  These cables were connected under the middle track under the  el structure.  When the Culver Shuttle stopped operation in 1975, the el structure and these cables and poles lasted to the 1980's when the el structure was removed.  These poles and wires, on the west side of 39 th Street really gave the feel of a trolley operation years after service stopped.

   It is ironic that some of the trolley poles and wires lasted until around 1963 or later.  In a few more years, in 1969, the environmental movement was born.  If perhaps these poles and wires lasted until then, perhaps a rebirth of electric transit could have taken place in New York City.  Now I do not think it will ever happen.  Everyone loves BRT (Select bus Service) and streetcars and trolleybus are being developed with great electric storage capacity.  Soon, the wires will not be necessary and the fun of electric urban surface transit will be gone, in my humble opinion.

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