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.
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.