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
Looking south at 7 a.m. from 13th Street on Second Avenue, showing the elevated railway in midst of demolition. Photo by Marjory Collins from Library of Congress.
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).