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3rd ave el-bowery-nyc3rd Ave El over the Bowery in the 1890s. Image via Wikipedia

As New York City evolved and changed into the cosmopolitan city it is today, so did the transit lines connecting the city to the boroughs and Long Island. Here are 12 subway and rail lines that have been built, abandoned, then destroyed in New York City since the late 19th century some because of the construction of parallel underground lines, others because of changes in service patterns. With the triumphant return of the W line in the (supposedly) November 2016, we’re remembering some lines of the past.

12. Second Avenue El

2nd ave el-nyc2nd Ave train at 34th Street, December 1937. Image via nycsubway.org

The Second Ave Elevated Line ran from 1880 until 1942. Construction began in 1879 by the Metropolitan Elevated Rail Company. Originally, there was thought to be enough room for a third rail, but when the first round of construction was done, only two rails were put down. On August 16, 1880, the line’s structures and tracks were ready to operate, running from South Ferry all the way up to 127th Street, the northern most limit at the time. Work on a third rail for the 2nd Ave el was completed in 1916 allowing for express services.

The last full length run of the train was on June 11, 1940. The line south of 60th Street continued to operate for about two more years. The New York Times reported on June 14th, 1942 one day after the 2nd Ave el was fully discontinued, that there were 200 passengers on the 6-car train as it pulled into South Ferry on its last run.

Construction for a Second Avenue Subway has been on-going, with a first section anticipated to open in December 2016 (though transit watchers are doubtful).

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3 Comments

  1. Denver Mike says:

    You repeatedly use the term “rail” when you should be using the term “track”. The lack of a third rail means power comes from an engine of some sort or from overhead lines. When you write that only two rails were put down, you’re saying that one train can travel down the track.

    The following 11 pages seem to have gotten this distinction right, so I suspect there was a change of writer early on.

    Regardless, thanks for the research and reporting!

  2. John T says:

    Very good list!
    One detail to add – the 9th Avenue el opened in 1867 as the world’s first urban elevated rapid transit line. It was originally cable pulled, running from the Battery up Greenwich Street. The cable was unreliable however and the company failed.

    It was reorganized & reopened in 1871 with “dummy” steam engines.

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