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Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's All Here

Hi Folks: The bird's eye view of many of the topics of interest in this blog is shown above.  It is a J. McDonald Vanderbilt photo from 2010.  The topic is the 38th Street BMT yard in Brooklyn.  The bottom of this picture shows the Ninth Avenue Station of the West End Line "D".  The tracks lie between 39th Street to the left and 37th Street to the right which is Greenwood Cemetery.  At the top of the picture is the waterfront.  You can see the Gowonas Expressway on Third Avenue with white multi-story buildings as shown in the streetcar rendering shown in a earlier post.  Notice that 37th Street makes a sharp 90 degree right and another one north.  This is 36th Street and if you follow it and go one block east at the waterfront you are at  the site of the Luckenbach Pier Explosion at 35th Street.  If you know where to look, can see that the "mystery ramp" leads no where.  39th Street was the route of the Church Avenue Trolley and from Eight Avenue to the waterfront the route of the Eight Avenue Trolley.  What a great photo.  It's source is  Since 1956, many things have changed in the area.  Many of leads leading to the Fifth Avenue El were abandonded an the configuration of the piers on the waterfront is not the same.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Luckenbach Pier Explosion and Streetcars

Photo from the organization that is supporting the Waterfront Streetcar Line.  It just so happens that this rendition is showing buildings on the west side of Third Avenue near 33 or 35th Street, so near the site of the  explosion in 1956.

  Many of you from the New York area have heard about news to bring back streetcars along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront.  The mayor of the City of New York said that he will support this project and this did get and continues to get much press.  This proposed line is supposed to run from Astoria in Queens to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.  The above image comes from the group that is supporting this project.  This project is not without its' critics, however.  The above picture shows  a streetcar that appears to be running under the Gowonas Expressway, actually Third Avenue.  Notice that the car is wireless and it appears to be in the western lane of the avenue.  While I am not sure, this artist's picture appears to be on Third Avenue, under the highway in the 30's.
   Whenever I am in this area, the general Sunset Park area, I get a strange feeling dealing with the Luckenbach Pier explosion that occurred on December 3, 1956 at 35th Street.  I was in the first grade at the time and though I was not near the explosion, it left a mark on me.  Also at this time, which was only 33 days after the Church Avenue Trolley stopped running, I wonder what it would have been to be in the trolley at the First Avenue Loop, at 39th Street and First Avenue, at the time of the explosion just four blocks away?  Of course, the trolleys stopped running 33 days before but what was it like in the diesel bus at the loop at the time of the explosion?

    I happened to be near the intersection of 39th Street and Third Avenue a few days ago and I spoke to a merchant that was in the area on that faithful day.  The glass skylight caved in at his store but thank G-d, no one was hurt. Notice the highway above.   The store owner told me that the force of the explosion caused a piece of metal to drop from the highway and hit a young boy in the head near his store.  The boy died immediately.  There were 10 fatalities on that day, none Fire Department personnel but over 200 civilians were injured.

  It is funny that streetcars may come to this area again, even though it may take decades.  This area is so rich in transit history.  There was a Third Avenue Trolley along the street that our new streetcar may someday travel.  Above, the Third Avenue-Fifth Avenue  BMT el ran to Bay Ridge.  Our beloved Church Avenue, and Eight Avenue trolleys ran on 39th Street.  South Brooklyn RR had a yard in the area, full with trolley wires.  Historic 19th Century train stations were in the area and so on.   West End and Culver Subway trains curved into the Fourth Avenue Subway near this location.

On another tragic day, the day of 9-11, I traveled to work but I did not get off the subway.  We were told that no trains were going through lower Manhattan.  I started home by subway but between 10 and 11 am, we were kicked off the F-train at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street.  I walked to Fifth Avenue and took a Fifth Avenue (B-63) bus westbound.  Guess were all service stopped?  Fifth Avenue and 39th Street in view of the bay.   Needless to say, I felt very bad with this ongoing tragedy with similar tragic feelings that I link to the the Luckenbach explosion.   Basically the feeling was connect with destruction near the harbor facing west.
  In 1956, I was in a retail market thirteen avenue blocks away from the harbor.  The force of the explosion blew open heavy exit doors and various stores on 39th Street near 13th Avenue had their windows blown out.  Although the fire preceded the explosion, the sky at that time started to darken fast, but remember, this was a shorter winter day.  I was told that pieces of the pier or storage building were blown over 1000 feet into Red Hook.  I was also told that at the time of the explosion, on what is called now the Culver Viaduct, at that time D trains with R1-9 subway cars suffered window damage as well.  Someone told me that the pocket that the door closes into on the R1-9 subway car, which contains a small window cracked at the time of the explosion but no one was hurt. Passengers saw the flames and smoke from the Smith-9th Street station.

   Below is a Google Map image of the area taken from the highway structure at 3rd Avenue and 35th Street.  The Waterfront Streetcar rendition appears to be taken around the same area.  You are facing north west.  To the left side of the image, you are facing 35th Street and you can see the bay.  This was the general location of the Lukenbach Pier that exploded in 1956.  I could imagine the shock wave that was felt by cars on the highway just as the dock exploded while the cars were passing this point perpendicular to 35th Street.  By the time the pier blew, the pier was on fire with heavy smoke for some time.  Perhaps traffic was stopped on the highway before the explosion.

The new waterfront streetcar may run below on Third Avenue at this location.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Are Bus Lines Permanent vs. Streetcar Lines?

This photo was taken from the New York City Transit Museum.  It is from the Luden Collection and was photographed on April 16, 1948.   You are looking east at the intersection of McDonald Avenue and Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn.  The photographer is probably standing directly underneath the Culver Line ( main line ) as it swings north westerly.  The structure that you are looking at is the untracked ( except perhaps for the local Manhattan bound track ) connection to the Independent Subway that did not open yet.  In the foreground you can see the track shadows of the Culver El.  The connection to the Independent Subway was not yet put in place and would not be in operation until four years later  in October, 1954.  Notice the various wooden troughs for the trolley wires under the el on McDonald Avenue for the # 50 Streetcar.  Notice at right angles to the el structure, a broad wooden trough for the Cortelyou Road trolleybus (#23) overhead.
   This week, news came out that the mayor of the City of New York, Bill Di Blasio gave his seal of approval for a long waterfront streetcar line from Astoria Queens to Sunset Park in Brooklyn. To my surprise, there is not universal approval for this proposal.  One of the critic points is that a bus line can serve the same purpose for the fraction of the cost.  Some people say that bus lines can be eliminated rapidly while streetcar lines cannot.  The Cortelyou Road line started as a streetcar line on 16th Avenue.  In the early 1930's, the BMT corporation experimented with the first trolleybuses in Brooklyn on this line.  The wood trough above is probably when the line went into operation in 1932?.  To make a long story short, the line was bustituted on October 31, 1956 and remained a diesel bus line until a few years ago when it was completely ELIMINATED.  It is funny that the first trolleybus line in Brooklyn, probably which had many passengers was later eliminated when it was a diesel bus line. If a company wants to make an real estate investment, bus lines can come and go according to politics, but tracks and wires are difficult to ignore... but look what happened to also Route 23 in Phildadelphia:  Germantown Avenue.   More to follow later.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Some People Like it Hot

This interesting photo is from the Trolleybus Facebook page.  The origin is a Russian transit group.

 When you first look at this photo, it is hard to see where the flames are coming from.  How do you get the wire to heat up several centimeters from the trolley shoes?  Looking again you will see two burners, with a gas supply attached to the trolleypoles by what looks to be tape.  How resourceful!