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BMT 4th Avenue Line

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title_ny_4thave.jpg

BMT 4th Avenue at 36th Street, R-160B no. 8842 on N, R-46 no. 5566 on R. Photo by Zach Summer, October 2009.

Overview

The 4th Avenue (Brooklyn) subway began service on June 22nd, 1915. It connected with the BMT's Sea Beach line to Coney Island, as well as the Manhattan Bridge and ran to Chambers Street, Manhattan, over the Manhattan Bridge. This was the first service in the 4th Avenue subway, as well as the first over the bridge. In addition, the first steel cars operated by the BRT (and BMT), the 67' standards, operated over this route. The route was also opened from 85th St, Brooklyn, to Chambers St, Manhattan, in 1916. In 1920, trains ran from 86th St, and the line was extended further south to 95th St (the present day terminal) in 1925. Trains originating from 95th St ran via the Montague St tunnel and the Broadway (Manhattan) subway into Astoria, Queens.

It should be noted that the tracks on the Manhattan Bridge were ready for service shortly after the bridge's opening day (December 31st, 1909). However, they were not connected to any tunnel routes on either side of the bridge, because none existed! In 1912, the Manhattan Bridge Three Cent Line, a trolley company, began running trolleys over the subway tracks on a temporary basis until 1915, when the trolleys were moved to the upper roadways and the BRT subway opened. The trolleys ran over the Manhattan Bridge until 1929, when the auto won out over the streetcar.

The 4th Avenue subway was built jointly by the New York Municipal Railway Corporation (a BRT/BMT subsidiary set up for the Dual Contracts) and the City of New York. The BRT had already built the section between Flatbush Avenue Extension, Fulton St, Ashland Place and 43rd St / 4th Avenue before the Dual Contracts were signed. That section of the line was originally intended to be part of the 1908 "TriBorough Plan". The line runs through part of the site of the Battle of Long Island, and since the ground was filled in from the days of the Revolutionary War, it was expected that artifacts from that battle would be found during construction. None were ever found.

The subway is 4 tracks from Pacific Street to 65th Street. At 36th St, the West End Line connection can be found; at 59th St, the Sea Beach connection can be found. From 65th St to 95th St, the subway is two tracks, and they were built in the west side of 4th Avenue, so that two additional tracks could be laid in the future if traffic ever warranted it.

Provisions for this expansion are visible at several locations along the existing 4th Ave. Subway. The subway is carried in the lower deck of a bridge over the LIRR Bay Ridge branch cut, and here it can be seen that the bridge has four trackways of which only the western two are used. The tunnel leading up to each side of the bridge was built only for the existing two tracks. At Bay Ridge Ave. and 77th St. stations, the southbound platform has the usual columns, but the northbound, being where a trackway would be if expanded, does not. At 86th St, the southbound track swings out around the platform, but the northbound is straight (from the north); in other words, this would be the western half of an express station.

Today, 4th Avenue subway service is composed of R-46s and R-32s on the N line, R-46s and an occasional R-32 on the R line, R-68s and an occasional slant R-40 on the B line, and R-42s on the M line when it runs during rush hours to Bay Parkway, Brooklyn.

Planned Expansion to Staten Island

The original Dual Contracts plan provided for a tunnel under the Narrows from southern Brooklyn/Bay Ridge to Staten Island. The tunnel was intended to leave the 4th Avenue subway at 65th St, Brooklyn, and would have entered Staten Island midway between St. George and Stapleton, and would have had branches to each. The 4th Avenue subway has four tracks between 59th and 65th Streets, two of which were intended for the Staten Island connection.

The Staten Island link might have been built in several different ways. It is likely that a full 4-track subway to Fort Hamilton would only have made sense if it led to a Narrows tunnel. A different plan, which got as far as engineering drawings and even some excavation, would have left the subway just south of 59th St, and you can see tunnel stub headings running straight from the local tracks immediately south of the station. Several different plans were drawn up for the Narrows tunnel, including a two track and a four track option.

Recent discussions of a railroad freight tunnel across New York Harbor from New Jersey via Staten Island may once again bring about discussion of connecting the subway to Staten Island. It is likely that any tunnel built would be designed to tie into the LIRR's Bay Ridge Branch across southern Brooklyn to East New York, Fresh Pond, and via the New York Connecting Railroad to the Hell Gate Bridge.

Construction

Sections:

Route 11-A Broadway-Fourth Avenue Subway

  • 1. Ashland Place and Fourth Avenue - Fulton St. to Sackett St.
  • 2. Fourth Avenue - Sackett St. to 10th St.
  • 3. Fourth Avenue - 10th St. to 27th St.
  • 4. Fourth Avenue - 27th St. to 43rd St.

Route 11-B Broadway-Fourth Avenue Subway

  • 1. Fourth Avenue - 43rd St. to 61st St.
  • 2. Fourth Avenue - 61st St. to 86th St.
  • 3. Fourth Avenue - 86th St. to 95th St.

Route 33 Whitehall St., East River, and Montague Street

  • 2A. Whitehall St. to Montague and Clinton Sts.
  • 3. Montague, Fulton, and Willoughby Sts. - Clinton St. to Flatbush Ave. Extension; Clinton St. to Borough Hall
  • MB-Ex 1. Flatbush Avenue Extension - Nassau Street to Willoughby Street

Click through for a separate page of photographs of the construction of the 4th Avenue Subway.

Railfan Perspective

It's a long ride from 95th Street to Pacific Street on the R line, and the rolling stock on the line (a mixture of R-46, R-68, and R-160 types) all have obstructed front windows. It's a shame, too, because the express run from 36th Street to Pacific Street, has some downgrades that allow the train to gather up some excellent speed. So, from a cab view standpoint, there isn't much going for it here.

From a historical perspective, several things make the line interesting. There exists trackways south of 36th Street station that dive under the mainline tracks. There was an abandoned mezzanine somewhere south of the present station which was "stranded" when the present ramps from the West End Line were built and the station was extended northward. Legend has it that 86th St was intended to be used for some unknown purpose, because it has a very wide island platform and a mezzanine, ala the IND. As the original terminal before 95th St was built, it may have been three tracks, and the center platform was built over the center track when the line was extended to 95th St.

Opening/Closing Dates

StationOpenedClosed
DeKalb Avenue9/6/1915
Pacific Street9/13/1915
Union Street9/13/1915
9th Street9/13/1915
Prospect Avenue9/13/1915
25th Street9/13/1915
36th Street9/13/1915
45th Street9/13/1915
53rd Street9/13/1915
59th Street9/13/1915
Bay Ridge Avenue9/13/1915
77th Street4/14/1916
86th Street4/14/1916
95th Street-Fort Hamilton10/27/1925


Route Map

The BMT 4th Avenue line is served by trains on the D route as far as 36th Street and the N route as far as 59th Street. The R route serves as the local service the whole length of the BMT 4th Avenue Line.

</svg>BMT Broadway Line, IND 6th Avenue Line
</svg>
DeKalb AvenueBQ
</svg>
Pacific StreetBQ2345
</svg>
Union Street
</svg>
9th StreetFG
</svg>
Prospect Avenue
</svg>
25th Street
</svg>
36th StreetD
</svg>
45th Street
</svg>
53rd Street
</svg>
59th StreetN
</svg>
Bay Ridge Avenue
</svg>
77th Street
</svg>
86th Street
</svg>
95th Street-Fort Hamilton

Station by Station

DeKalb Avenue

See the description on the BMT Brighton Line page.

Pacific Street

DNR


Photo by: David Pirmann

Photo by: John Dooley
More Images: 1-50 51-77

Express station with four tracks and two island platforms. The station platform area has been renovated and features sea foam green accents on the niches in the center curtain wall. The south ends of the platforms are narrower. The mezzanine is at the north end, 34 steps up from the platform. This end of the platform has a high ceiling. Further renovation including ADA-compliant elevators are planned for the entire Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. complex. Some niches are blocked by equipment and are highlighted by bright yellow tile. The platforms extend further north into the tunnel and afford a glimpse of the old tile. Although renovated, the station is still rather bland.

Some relatives depths of stations in the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street complex are as follows (measurements unscientific, +/- 10 feet):

  • LIRR Station, 20 feet below street
  • IRT Station, 20 feet below street
  • BMT (D/Q) Station, 50 feet below street
  • BMT (M/N/R) Station, 40 feet below street

Artwork Artwork: MoMA Atlantic-Pacific, various artists, 2009

Union Street

R


Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar

Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar
More Images: 1-23

A local station with typical 1970s renovation large white wall tiling. This station does not have a color section but rather a strange looking horse design where the color would be. Every other niche is highlighted by mutli-colored diamond pattern tiles. Curtain walls separate all four tracks. The fare control is at the south end of the platforms, and there is no crossover or crossunder present.

Artwork CommUnion, Emmett Wigglesworth, 1994

9th Street

R


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Michael Hodurski
More Images: 1-28

A local station with transfer to the IND Crosstown (F/G) lines at the south end of the platforms. Accent color is golden yellow, and a numeral "9" mosaic is present in the mezzanine and platform area.

Transfer to IND Crosstown Line

Prospect Avenue

R


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar
More Images: 1-13

A local station, with blue accent tiling and a small "P" mosaic in the tile near the fare control. There is no crossover or crossunder and the fare control is at platform level in the center. Curtain walls separate all four tracks.

25th Street

R


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar
More Images: 1-16

Local station with burnt orange accent color tile. In other respects resembles Prospect Ave.

36th Street

DNR


Photo by: Wayne Whitehorne

Photo by: John Dooley
More Images: 1-50 51-57

Express station with two island platforms. Fully renovated.

South of this station are the turnouts from the 4th Avenue Line to the BMT West End Line, which heads to Coney Island. These turnouts have a very interesting history. The original construction was a four track turnout into 40 Street to connect to what was then to be known as the New Utrecht Av Line. The connection was built as far as the southeast corner of 39 St and 4 Av. The northbound local track was to connect at grade but the other three tracks passed under the 4 Avenue Line. The trackways are about 70 feet deep and now are below ground water. With the signing of the Dual Contracts it was decided to make the connection via the "Culver Cut" which was then used for Culver and West End trains to reach the waterfront. To do this the original platforms had to be moved further north and the original south mezzanine was closed off although it is still intact and can be reached by a stairway in the tunnel. Rumor has it that a kind of glass ceiling tile which permitted light from the street to enter the mezzanine enabled one to see into the mezzanine. Part of the closed off area is now used as a signal relay room. Thanks to Mr. W. Boylan, a map of this changed layout is available.

boylan-36thmap.gif

Artwork An Underground Movement: Designers, Builders, Riders, Owen Smith, 1998

Transfer to BMT West End Line

45th Street

R


Photo by: Wayne Whitehorne

Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar
More Images: 1-16

Local station with dark grey accent tile, blue/grey round columns on the platform level, and directional mosaics in the mezzanine (the mosaics seem reversed here; "Uptown" points to the side of the station heading south, and "Downtown" points toward the Manhattan-bound side. I presume that in this case, downtown refers to heading towards downtown Brooklyn and uptown away from downtown Brooklyn). The north exit at 45th St. has a crossover; the south exit at 46th St. is closed.

53rd Street

R


Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar

Photo by: John Dooley
More Images: 1-27

Local station. Golden yellow accent tile and the platforms have the same round columns as found at 45th St. The north exit at 52nd St. is an iron maiden exit only, while the south exit at 53rd St. has a mezzanine with crossover. Tile on the stairs at the south end is yellow and gold. Mosaics in the mezzanine indicate "Ft Hamilton and Coney Island" and "Downtown." (As at 45th St., downtown indicates to downtown Brooklyn.) The mezzanine has an odd jog in the passageway leading to the fare control.

59th Street

RN


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Aliandro Brathwaite
More Images: 1-33

Express stop, two island platforms and four tracks. There are exits at both ends, with the south exit at 60th St. open part time. Both ends have crossovers and the uptown/downtown directional mosaics mentioned above. The southbound platform has route selector boxes. The station has a faded/dirty name tablet at platform level. After this station, the BMT Sea Beach Line diverges for Coney Island.

Transfer to BMT Sea Beach Line

Bay Ridge Avenue

R


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
More Images: 1-11

Just prior to entering Bay Ridge Avenue station, daylight is briefly visible as the tracks pass over the Bay Ridge Branch of the LIRR. The station has two side platforms with blue accent tile. The north exit at 68th St. is an iron maiden exit, and the south exit has a mezzanine and crossover. No mosaics were observed, either in the tile band in the mezzanine or elsewhere.

77th Street

R


Photo by: Wayne Whitehorne

Photo by: George Chiasson Jr.
More Images: 1-18

Local station with burnt orange accent tile and gold-painted columns. The north exit at 76th St. is an iron maiden exit, while the south exit has a mezzanine, crossover, and tiled-over newsstand (a raised sign remains). Stairs feature a red non-slip coating on the treads and risers.

86th Street

R


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Robbie Rosenfeld
More Images: 1-31

Local stop with two tracks and one island platforms. 86th Street station was planned to be an express station. The plan for conversion had the present platform acting as the downtown local and express and new works to the east would contain the uptown tracks and platform. The trackside walls were once tiled, but went without tile for many years; new tile was installed 2010-2011. There is a closed tower on the extreme north end of the island platform, which is now used for storage.

Exits are at the north end and the center. The 85th St. exit has a part-time token booth and a high exit; while the main exit at 86th St. has a crossover and full-time booth. At the north end there are some closed stairways.

This station served as a temporary terminal from 1916 to 1925.

Exit here for bus service to Staten Island and the main Bay Ridge shopping district.

Artwork Heydays, Amy Bennett, 2011

95th Street-Fort Hamilton

R


Photo by: Doug Grotjahn

Photo by: Michael Hodurski
More Images: 1-25

Final stop. The island platform has exits to 93rd at the north end and 95th at the south end of the full mezzanine with booths at both ends. A passageway outside the fare control allows access, when open, from either end to the main booth at 95th.

Page Credits

By Mark S. Feinman, Peggy Darlington, David Pirmann, and Joe Brennan.









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