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


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.





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

    eyemdum on February 11, 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.

    vanderleun on February 11, 2014 3:22 PM:

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

    sir)it took
    a nipponized bit of
    the old third

    el;in the top of his head:to tell

    him” — ee cummings

    Dillon on February 11, 2014 3:53 PM:

    Love stuff like this, thanks. Reminds me of some of the threads at

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

    alex on February 13, 2014 10:52 AM:

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

    Rob on February 13, 2014 11:47 AM:

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

    Edwina@WINONA, INC. on February 13, 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.

    Jake on February 13, 2014 1:16 PM:

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

    mpr on February 13, 2014 1:36 PM:

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

    mpr on February 13, 2014 1:37 PM:

    @ Jake great pictures and article nonetheless.

Comments are closed.