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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

5th Avenue and 9th Street in Park Slope Brooklyn, 1940

These two photos come from the New York Library Digital Archive and are being used here for research purposes.  They we both shot on June 14, 1940. At this point, I believe the 5th Avenue Elevated stopped running.

Both photos are from P.L. Sperr.  This appears to be a western view of 9th Street at Fifth Avenue.  You can see the 5th Avenue Elevated, perhaps abandoned a few days before.   What appears to be a west bound PCC car of the Smith-Coney Island line # 68.  In some years, this line went directly over the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.  The 9th Street station here is of the two track island type.

  This view is under the El at the same location but facing the north side.    I believe you are facing the Prospect Theatre ( see water tanks on roof ).  You can see the wires of the Smith-Coney Island Line and the Fifth Avenue Trolley.

  Before the Fifth Avenue El stopped running, Park Slopers at this location had such a rich mix of rail transit available, even available within a few blocks.  Within one or two blocks, you had the Fifth Avenue El to Park Row or Sands Street above, the Smth-Coney Island line to Coney or at certain times to Park Row, the Fifth Avenue Trolley to Downtown Brooklyn.  At Fourth Avenue and 9th Street you had the IND Prospect Park Line to Manhattan or Church Avenue and the BMT subway at 9th Street with West End and Culver and Fourth Avenue local service.  Up the hill you had the 7th Avenue and  McDonald -Vanderbuilt Avenue Streetcar Line on Prospect Park West..  And last but not least, there were in the area several South Brooklyn Railroad sidings and stations, probably near 2nd Avenue and 9th Street for Thomas Roulstone.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


From the Korman Collection:

Below is a picture taken by Fred Guenther yesterday and posted today on subchat.  Shot taken between Ocean Parkway and Brighton Beach Station.  A few hours ago, I rode a Type D Triplex between Kings Highway and Brighton Beach.  Also, I entered a BMT Standard Type A with the vents and I noticed that the motorperson's position had two seats.  In the 1950's, in the middle of the train, some units had the motorperson's position was open to the public for sitting.  In was dark in there, but I remember sitting there with my mom going into Manhattan.

What a great shot!  Order from left tor right:  Type D Triplex, R11, R1-9 and BMT Standard.  Thank you Fred.

Below is a Jeffrey Orstein photo taken yesterday.  I was not dreaming!  A two seat vestibule was available for passengers at the end of the car in the 1950's,  It was slightly dark in there when the train was in the tunnel.

Right above the word "Right" is the end of the car, with the storm door open.  You can see the next car.  Regular seats are too the left.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trolley Wire in Manhattan

This photo above comes also from the New York Public Library Digital Archive.  It was taken in October, 1934 by P.L. SPerr and is facing 464 West 155th Street in Harlem.  You are looking at the south east corner at Amsterdam Avenue.  As a result of the Blizzard of 1888, overhead communications and power lines were banned from the lower parts of Manhattan.  Because of this, most of the streetcar track that was constructed consisted of expensive conduit type, that was difficult to maintain and at certain strategic areas, plow pits had to be constructed.  In upper Manhattan, where Bronx trolleys crossed into Manhattan, small segments of trolley wire existed.  Other areas that probably had trolley wire for very short distances was around 125th Street and the East River and the area around East 129th Street.   Willis Avenue streetcars in the Bronx ran under trolley wire.  There was a plow pit on 125th Street between First and Second Avenues.  This implies that from the Willis Avenue Bridge to that point, trolley wire existed on First Avenue from the river to 125th Street. Boston Road trolleys used overhead and a loop existed at 129th Street and 3rd Avenue under trolley wire.  Another area is 145th Street between the Harlem River and Lenox may have had trolley wire for cars coming and going into the Bronx.  There was a plow pit on 145th Street near Lenox.

 Some small segments existed in Washington Heights as well.  Other areas, in lower Manhattan, also had trolley wire.  Namely the BMT trolley loop at Park Row at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, a small off the street loop at the Manhattan end of the Manhattan Bridge for Manhattan Bridge Trolleys from Brooklyn, the Delancey Street trolley terminal at Essex Street (underground) and probably the trolley terminal at the Manhattan end of the Queensborough Bridge for Queens Trolleys.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

There is Light at the End of the Tunnel, after all on 42nd Street

In this remarkable photo obtained from the New York Public Library Archive, we see a 42nd Street trolley pose at the east end of a short tunnel on 42nd Street.  This photo is dated 7/23/1939 and is labeled from P. L. Sperr.  This photo is only used for research purposes showing not a well known tunnel, called the Prospect Hill Tunnel.

You are facing west on 42nd Street I believe at 1st Avenue.  The East River is to the photographer's back.  This is a great photo.  Tudor City was built by this time.  What a classic shot and a great streetlamp above on the street.

Monday, June 15, 2015

42nd Street Ramp Mystery Solved

Several years ago, a reader sent me an aerial image from 1928 showing a strange image of a ramp east of 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.  According to the ERA maps that I posted of the area, the area between 2nd Avenue and the East River shows two streetcar tracks but no ramp or tunnel.   A 1920's map of Manhattan showing buildings and streets shows a ramp at that location but no trolley tracks.   Please find below two photos that were taken at the location.

These photos come from the digital archive of the New York Public Library and they are used here for research purposes.  The top photo is taken east of 2nd Avenue on April 25, xx by the Brown Brothers.  The second photo is facing 300 East 42nd Street.  The bottom photo was taken on September 9, 1928 by P. L Sterr of the "Prospect Hill Tunnel".  The top photo is facing east towards the East River and looks to have been taken from the 2nd Avenue El.  The bottom photo is facing the south east intersection of 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue showing the El station and a streetcar in the ramp  We can see clearly the streetcar tracks in the ramp in the top photo.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Culver El Train at Coney Island Creek, 1939

The private photograph is part of the digital archive at the New York Public Library.  It was taken on August 24, 1939 and it was photographed by P. L. Sperr. The  purpose of this photo was to show road construction near the Shell Road and West 5th Street intersection at the Coney Island Creek.  I am using the photo for research purposes only.  It presents several interesting points: Firstly, even though the Culver Line ran to Chambers Street via the 4th Avenue Subway, wooden el car service was still in existence in 1939.  This was probably a 5th Avenue - Culver El train running to Park Row or Sands Street.  Secondly, even though the el structure at this point was constructed in 1919-20, the el looks much older than other stretches of elevated trackage in NYC built around the same time.  This is because old parts of the BRT Fulton Street El was used for construction  here in order to save money.  If you are able to look closer, you will see that the outside sides of the trackways do not have a cat walk.  Only one catwalk is available for each track and is towards the center.  This situation does not exist today.  The photo is facing north east.  If you can look towards the crane near the train and look to the upper left, you can see an object.  This object might be the moon or it may be a drop of water, or it may be.. ... a UFO.  It looks very strange.

I believe that the wooden el cars are of the "BU" type numbered in the 1300 series.  I believe they were built in 1905-6.  (Source:  Bulletin, May, 1958, Vol. 1, No. 1  "New York Division Bulletin", P. 2.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Please Do Not Light a Match!

Source:  Conrad Collection from Link Below:,_Subway,_Experimental)

  This photo, taken from from the Conrad Collection shows a train of BMT B Types crossing the bridge over the Coney Island Creek.  This may be a West End train because usually Sea Beach trains, which formerly shared the same trackage, had Type D Triplex Cars.  This picture is undated and I would like to say, that before the right of way was extended with two additional tracks, perhaps in the late 1960's, I remember the bridge was much closer to the water.  Perhaps this photo is from the 30's or 40's and a different bridge was located there.  At any rate, notice how close the gas tanks were to the tracks.  I have a lesser recollection of the gas tank to the right, which was of the more flexible one.  As a Sea Beach or West End train approached very close to the tanks, the tanks really looked huge.  I was always afraid of an explosion perhaps from the arcing of the third rail.
The bridge shown was of the movable type that can open; when the two additional tracks were added, the new tracks are not movable for boat traffic.  It is unlikely that you will find fish in these waters, so remember, do not light up.