Clanking Locomotives on Bowery | The Third Ave. El Train. | A Continuous Lean.

Clanking Locomotives on Bowery | The Third Ave. El Train.

Feb 11th, 2014 | Categories: History, New York City | by Jake Gallagher

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Long before the L Train became one of New York City’s central arteries shuttling straphangers between Manhattan and the steadily gentrified neighborhoods of Northern Brooklyn, there was the El Train, an elevated rail line perched above Third Avenue. The El (which as you might have guessed was short for Elevated) was founded by the New York Elevated Railway Company in 1875, becoming the city’s second such line, alongside the NYERC’s Ninth Avenue Line. The service initially ran from the South Ferry to the foot of Harlem, but was expanded after being purchased by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in the early 1900′s.

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The IRT owned and operated all the above ground lines in Manhattan, but by the 30′s and 40′s, with the steady growth of the city’s burgeoning subway system these elevated lines were labeled as an archaic nuisance. The Ninth, Sixth, and Second Avenue lines were swiftly shut down, but the Third Ave. line preserved, hanging on until the 50′s, making it the last entirely above ground train in the city. New York’s subway line now takes the “out of sight, out of mind” approach, which some might say takes away from the character of the city, but the air is cleaner and things are a bit quieter these days from the Bronx all the way down to the Bowery.

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Comments: 9

9 Comments to “Clanking Locomotives on Bowery | The Third Ave. El Train.”

  1. eyemdum
    on Feb 11th, 2014
    @ 3:21 PM

    As someone who lives in Chicago, it’s interesting to note the visual similarities between the NYC El and the Chicago El. I’d love to know more about the use of technology at the time and who was building these elevated lines. I wonder if there are more than just visual connections between the two cities’ elevated trains.

  2. vanderleun
    on Feb 11th, 2014
    @ 3:22 PM

    “you
    told him:i told
    him;we told him
    (he didn’t believe it,no

    sir)it took
    a nipponized bit of
    the old third

    avenue
    el;in the top of his head:to tell

    him” — ee cummings

  3. Dillon
    on Feb 11th, 2014
    @ 3:53 PM

    Love stuff like this, thanks. Reminds me of some of the threads at http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/forumdisplay.php?s=9a5ae486f1a4b92153e493dc5a78f90b&f=23

    Be warned, this will ruin your productivity for the day…

  4. alex
    on Feb 13th, 2014
    @ 10:52 AM

    Great pictures! hard to envision NYC use to look like that one time.

  5. Rob
    on Feb 13th, 2014
    @ 11:47 AM

    Might be time to get out of Manhattan…there are plenty of elevated lines still in use in NYC.

  6. Edwina@WINONA, INC.
    on Feb 13th, 2014
    @ 12:19 PM

    I rode the el for many years while growing up and living in Chicago and it’s still as much a part of the city as the lakefront. The NYC trains in these wonderful old images remind me of home.

  7. Jake
    on Feb 13th, 2014
    @ 1:16 PM

    @Rob I said “entirely above ground line in the city,” might be time to start reading a little closer….

  8. mpr
    on Feb 13th, 2014
    @ 1:36 PM

    @ Jake, actually, you wrote, “…entirely above ground TRAIN in the city,” (my emphasis).

  9. mpr
    on Feb 13th, 2014
    @ 1:37 PM

    @ Jake great pictures and article nonetheless.