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Saturday, October 31, 2015

It has been 59 years since...

Hi Folks:

 Today is the 59th anniversary of the end of regular streetcar service in Brooklyn on October 31, 1956.  Yesterday was the 61st anniversary of the extension of IND "D" train service to Coney Island via the Culver Line.  These two events intersect spatially at the area of McDonald Avenue between Cortelyou and Ditmas Avenue.  When the Transit Authority pulled the plug on the Church Avenue Line on that date, McDonald Avenue streetcars and Church-McDonald lines also died.  Since there are a lot of electrical connections of overhead wires at this spot, the first trolleybus line in Brooklyn, namely the Cortelyou Road Line (B-23) also died.  Electric trolley bus service would last several more years in other parts of Brooklyn until July 27, 1960.  In the picture above, taken from Dave's Rail Pix, shows a southbound 50-McDonald streetcar on McDonald Avenue near the Church Avenue intersection.  The car is bound for Coney Island.  On the right of the car is the Greater New York Savings Bank and a US Post Office.    At the focal point is a hill that has Greenwood Cemetery on the left.  At the crest of the hill was an early trolley barn that was involved with the research of the PCC car in the 1930's.  Today the hill has a large transmitter for Bishop Ford High School.

I miss these forms of surface electric transportation deeply.  I think that if streetcars would return to Brooklyn, they would opt to be wireless using a new technology.  They will not be the same.  It is the wires and sparks that make trams and trolleybuses fun, in my humble opinion.  Also, I cannot document this, but I read that there were original plans to end Culver Line service between Ditmas Avenue and 9th Avenue on October 31, 1954.  Service would have been provided by diesel bus.  If this occurred, myself and others would not have had the joy to ride the Culver Line between 9th and Ditmas Avenue.  It was thought that rapid transit service was not needed between  these two points once the Independent "D" train was extended to Coney Island.  I believe they are very wrong and the area needs rapid transit today.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Can you spot this error on this RR map?

  The above map was produced in ARCGIS and shows a familiar area posted before in this blog.  It shows the area around the 38 Street yard in Brooklyn where the West End and former Culver Lines meet.  This area is the site (across 37th Street) of the historic Greenwood Cemetery. where many famous people are buried.   This is a rich site with the 38th Street shops and yards on the upper level and various mysterious ramps and underpasses on the lower level.  In the map above, elevations are in feet and this is a very hilly area.  To produce the present layout, many thousand of cubic feet of material had to be extracted out and this took many years around 1914.  In the above map, NYC subway routes are shown as a red line and a Railroad shape file, supplied by DOITT (New York City Department of Information Technology) is shown in blue.  This general railroad trackage can refer to surface railways or non revenue tracks.  If you look closely, you can see that one set of RR tracks curves at the 37th Street - Fort Hamilton Parkway intersection and goes to what appears east to McDonald Avenue.  Also, there is a track that goes south on 37th Street south of Fort Hamilton Parkway.  This was true until the 1980's when South Brooklyn service was stopped along 37th Street and McDonald Avenue.

   It is ironic that railroad trackage was shown on Fort Hamilton Parkway next to the cemetery.  In the late 1880's, there were plans to expand various surface steam railroads from 37th Street east to Flatbush or East New York / Brownsville at this point.    (  See NY Division Bulletin, ERA, Vol. 18, No 1, February 1975, p.5-6.  These surface steam railroads were never built.   In addition, if the City of New York had the money, the Independent Subway would have been extended from the area around the Fort Hamilton Parkway station and along Ft. Hamilton Parkway to Bay Ridge and eventually to Staten Island.  If this second IND system was ever build and the Culver Line existed, the Ft. Hamilton Parkway station at 37th street would have been a busy one in deed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Article: Trolley Reminders to Disappear

This article appeared in the "Greenpoint Weeky Star" on Friday August 10, 1962.   This paper covers the northern part of Brooklyn called Greenpoint, which has since along with Williamsburg, have become quite fashionable.  In my blog, I occasionally write about what was called elsewhere "New York on the Eve of Bustitution", showing how New York, specially Brooklyn looked during the period from around October 31, 1956 to July 27, 1960 and beyond, as electric surface transit was destroyed in Brooklyn and parts of Queens.  When the last trolleybus ran on July 27, 1960 and the last South Brooklyn Railway electric locomotive ran under trolley power in 1961?, the wires and poles did not disappear the next day.  The poles and wires were up for many years.  Too bad that they did not make it to 1969, the birth of the environmental movement.  I could not bring in the article directly, but here is what it said on page 3:

   The last reminders of a by-gone trolley car era are vanishing from the streets of Brooklyn.  Borough president Abe Stark announced today that more than 5,000 unused trolley poles and miles of overhead wire are being taken down.   The work is being performed under contract and represents another part of a borough -wide community improvement program sponsored by Stark.   He announced that preliminary work has consisted of the elimination of 95 per cent of the overhead cables.   The contractor is expected to step up the actual removal of trolley poles from 30 a day to 100 a day.
   The improvement project calls for the removal of poles on 27 or more main streets and avenues.
   It is estimated that 1,825 tons of steel poles and 325 tons of overhead wires will be cleared from the borough's streets when the work is fully completed.
   The poles and overhead wires were essential parts of an extensive trolley car network that crisscrossed Brooklyn during bygone generations.
   As many as 80 trolley car lines and shuttles were still in operation in 1919, according to records of the Transit Authority.
   The last of Brooklyn 's trolleys were discontinued in 1956 when the Church Avenue and McDonald Avenue lines made their final runs and buses were substituted.
   The City Budget Director reported in January, 1962, that the Transit Authority  had rendered jurisdiction over a number of discontinued trolley and trolley coach facilities to the Board of Estimate.
  The board subsequently approved a proposal by Stark for the removal of poles and wires.
  Historical records indicate Brooklyn's electric trolley car era had its beginnings nearly 75 years ago.

End of Article.


   The article did not tell us that the date of the last trolley coaches (trolleybuses) was July 27, 1960.  In my humble opinion, by August, 1962, most of the poles from the older streetcar lines that were destroyed from 1945 to 1951 were gone.  Poles had to be removed then from the
Church Avenue, parts of McDonald Avenue line and perhaps the Coney Island Avenue Line.  The five or six trolley bus lines had to have there wires removed, including the Cortelyou Road line that also stropped on October 31, 1956.   According to info of the New York Division of the Electric Railway Association, pole and wire removal lasted until 1965 were these items and troughs were removed on former South Brooklyn Railway trackage under the Culver Line and the area between Fourth Avenue and the harbor.  Some of the wires went to the Branford Trolley Museum as well.

In northern Brooklyn, the base of the quoted newspaper, many trolleybus lines ran and were eliminated around July 27, 1960 and thus this was their interest in the remaining wires and poles in that district.

  Very few trolley poles remain in Brooklyn.  Yes, several can be found and they are isolated.
Some can be found near former streetcar, trolleybus turn arounds and along some subway right of ways.  Surf Avenue in Coney Island has a set of poles on both sides of the street just like in the old days.  They are painted but how long will they last?  Even cast iron melts away after so many years.

Some additional comments in the future.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ditmas Avenue Brooklyn: 10/3/1950

This digital image comes from the New York Subway Museum Archive and is dated October 3, 1950.  The photograph was used in connection with contract T-11 which involved bringing the Independent Subway to Coney Island via the BMT Culver Line.  This view is on McDonald Avenue facing north.  The car is on the west side of the street just as the Culver mainline structure turns northwest.  You can see the girders that do not have tracks yet on them approaching the decline to the Church Avenue Station.  Unpaved South Brooklyn Railroad tracks are in the middle of the street and are used by McDonald and McDonald-Church streetcars.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Update Regarding # 7 Flushing Line Extension

Hi Folks:

  The above map now shows the location of the PRW of the Flushing Line extension.  The station at 34th Street, 11th Avenue is also shown and I should have made the green dot bigger.  You also see neighboring transit lines and stations and the street elevation.  This update regarding the station and line shape files comes from our friends at: "Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center\CUNY".  There are also very interesting maps at this location, not all transit related.  Incidentally, the Flushing Line passes at 90 degrees across the former lower level of the "Eight Avenue Subway" at the 42nd Street station.  I am told that there is no visual links between these two systems.  As a transit buff, who has weird ideas, my idea would have been to have the Flushing Line have a branch off to the north end of the 42nd Street 8 Avenue Lower Level station.  From an engineering point of view, I do not know how much space would be required to make such a branch off.   Some westbound Flushing trains would use the lower level track to meet with the mainline Eight Avenue Tracks.  The final stop would be 59th Street - Columbus Circle.  The problem would be signaling for this section and the small width of Flushing Line Cars.  Not all Flushing trains would go to Columbus Circle.  You also have the problem of relaying and not blocking downtown IND trains.  Of course, would there be a need for such a service from Flushing to Columbus Circle?
Also, the proper trackways and switches must exist to allow the trains not to return back to Queens via the 53rd Street tunnel.
Tramway Null(0)