NYC’s Lost World’s Fair Subway Line of 1939 and 1940

World's Fair Subway Line-R1-9 Train-1930-1940-Flushing Meadows Corona Park-Queens-NYCIND World’s Fair Subway LinePhoto via George Conrad Collection from NYC Subway

There is a line of the IND (Independent) subway that no longer exists, created specifically for the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Near the Forest Hills-71st Street stop (along today’s M/R lines), the World’s Fair Line began at a flying junction (a rail crossing where tracks cross over ground level trucks via a bridge) and ran through Jamaica Yard. Two tracks that formerly went up to or through the yard storage area were extended, turning north along the east side of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park atop a pine wooden trestle built atop marshland (made famous as the Great Gatsby’s Valley of Ashes), and ending at a new station, the World’s Fair Terminal Station. The spur was a total of 2 miles, built at cost of $1.7 million.

The IRT and BMT lines also ran World’s Fair trains, but the special trains ran along existing routes. As the IND was the only line “the city then owned directly,” reported the New York Times, it seemed necessary at the time to build this extension and terminal.

IND Subway Map-1939 1940 World's Fair-NYCIND map cropped, original source NYC Subway

Riders could take the take the E train express from Hudson Terminal (today’s World Trade Center stop) to the World’s Fair, or the double-lettered GG train from Smith-9th Street (going north to Queens Plaza, and extending to Forest Hills-71st Street). It cost an extra 5 cents to ride the World’s Fair Train (on top of the fare then, which was 5 cents as well), collected when entering or leaving the World’s Fair Terminal Station, which had two tracks and three platforms.

World's Fair Terminal Station-IND Subway-Flushing Meadows-NYC-2World’s Fair Terminal Station. Photo via Bill Cotter

World's Fair Terminal Station-IND Subway-Flushing Meadows-NYCWorld’s Fair Terminal Station, GG train marked as “S Special.”Photo via George Conrad Collection from NYC Subway

In its first year of operation in 1939, the IND Line carried a little over close to 7.1 million passengers, only 54% of the projected ridership. It was closed up for the winter, and reopened for the 1940 season of the World’s Fair at which point the New York City subway system had unified.

World's Fair Terminal Station-IND Subway-Flushing Meadows-NYC-4Photo via George Conrad Collection from NYC Subway

Though there were some plans to make the line permanent following the closure of the fair, the idea was dropped due to a combination of expense, political pressure and other factors. Though the Queens Borough President favored its retention to support the development of Flushing, there were no major permanent attraction in the park yet, with the 1939 World’s Fair predating Citi Field and the United States Tennis Association complex. The always ready car proponent Robert Moses wanted the right of way to extend the Van Wyck Expressway and a street. In addition, the IND World’s Fair Line did not meet construction standards for permanent lines at the time, which were required to be underground.

As such, demolition began on January 15th, 1941. Jamaica Yard returned to its original state, but the signals added for the World’s Fair Line still remain in use.

Next, check out a fun map of NYC’s abandoned stations and lost subway lines and the secrets of the NYC subway.

 1939 World’s Fair, 1964 World’s Fair, subway

One Response
  1. Mike Tumlin Reply

    Hello, I have just located and obtained the model of the 1939 Worlds Fair Express model. I was told that it went missing while on tour in St. Louis in 1943. I am searching for any information or pics of the model to help me prove it’s providence. It is two cars long and sits on tracks. Every detail matches the pics of the full size trains that I have found on line. It is a light blue and is still in the case that was built for it. Any info at all to help me establish provenance I would greatly appreciate. The man i bought it from traded for it back in the 1970s. The Antique Road Show viewed it and say it is definately the real deal. Thanks for any help or info you can give me. Mike Tumlin zmaverickz@aol.com

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