BMT Brighton Line
R-68 no. 2894 on the "B" line, BMT Brighton Line at Beverley Road. Photo by John Dooley, August 2011.
The Brighton Line began service on July 2, 1878 as the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railroad, between Prospect Park and the Brighton Beach Hotel as a surface steam railroad. (The Brighton Beach Hotel was owned by the railway.) It was extended on August 19, 1878 at the north end to Atlantic Avenue and Franklin St. (now Franklin Avenue), where it connected with the LIRR mainline. The LIRR, however, owned the competing Manhattan Beach RR, and terminated the trackage right agreement in December, 1883. The BF&CI was then reorganized as the Brooklyn & Brighton Beach Railroad in 1887.
After losing its connection to the LIRR, the Brighton line began negotiations with the Kings County Elevated Company to route its trains downtown via the Fulton Street El. Through service began on the Fulton El in 1896. Around the same time, the Brighton Line was eletrified using trolley wire from Fulton St & Franklin St to Newkirk Avenue, and then to Brighton Beach in 1899. In 1900, the Kings County El took control of the Brighton Line. When the Fulton St El was electrified, a ramp to the Brighton Line at Fulton & Franklin was built, and through trains to Park Row, Manhattan, via the Brooklyn Bridge began on July 9th, 1900. By this time, the Brighton Line was more than just a small railroad serving seasonal customers; it became a bona-fide mass transit line carrying thousands of Brooklynites to their jobs in downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.
By 1900, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company has gained control the Kings County Elevated (and the Brighton Line), along with almost every other railroad, elevated and streetcar line in Brooklyn, with the exception of some LIRR routes. In 1903, a short extension on the surface connected the Brighton Line with the Culver Terminal in Coney Island. Between 1905 and 1908, the BRT performed a major upgrade to the Brighton Line, building much of its present right of way. The line was elevated from the Fulton El connection at Fulton and Franklin, then ran in an open cut from north of Prospect Park to Newkirk Avenue, then ramped up to an embankment to Sheepshead Bay, where the line descended to the surface for the last section to Coney Island. Between Church Avenue and Sheepshead Bay, there were four tracks.
During the "Dual Contracts" period of subway construction, the surface-running section from Sheepshead Bay was elevated and increased to four tracks. The first section, between Sheepshead Bay and Ocean Parkway, opened on April 22, 1917. It was extended to West 8th Street on May 30, 1917, and to the new Stillwell Avenue terminal on May 29, 1919. At the other end of the line, the section between Church Avenue and Prospect Park was increased to 4 tracks, opening on September 26, 1919.
In 1918, the connection to the Manhattan Bridge via subway was not yet built, and the line between Fulton/Franklin and Prospect Park was not yet improved to Dual Contracts standards. Hence, the new steel Standards introduced on the Sea Beach line could not run along the Brighton Line, and service was comprised of the older wooden El cars. It was five of these wooden El cars that were involved in the Malbone Street wreck of November 1st, 1918.
The last major addition was the opening of a new subway tunnel, August 1, 1920, under Flatbush Avenue connecting the Brighton Line at Prospect Park with the 4th Avenue Subway at DeKalb Avenue, thus providing the Brighton Line with a connection to the Manhattan Bridge and Montague Street tunnel lines and the Broadway (Manhattan) subway. When this connection was put in place, through service from Franklin Ave & Fulton Street was ended. Two services then traversed the Brighton Line - the #1 line between Astoria from Coney Island and the #7 line between Fulton/Franklin and Brighton Beach during the summer and Fulton/Franklin and Prospect Park at all other times. In 1955, Franklin/Brighton service was reduced from daily during the summer to "sunny summer weekends and holidays" only. In 1963, the summer specials were completely discontinued.
When the connection to the subway was made in 1920, Brighton Line trains ran either via the Montague St tunnel or the Manhattan Bridge to the BMT Broadway subway for 57th St - 7th Avenue or Queensborough Plaza. Later service was extended to Astoria.
Theater Service was provided on the Brighton Line until the late '50s. It ran as the 'via Bridge Local' night service. Until the late 50s, the Brighton Express ran Mon - Sat, AM rush through early evening (around 7pm). From about 7pm to around midnight, the 'via Bridge Local' or 'Theater Specials' ran local, via bridge, 57 St. to Coney Island. After midnight, the Brighton Locals ran via tunnel.
The early 1960s "Banker's Specials" ran local Coney Island to Kings Highway, then express to DeKalb, then via tunnel to Chambers St. (AM rush), deadheading back over the Manhattan Bridge. In the PM rush, they followed the reverse route, deadheading into Manhattan over the bridge. In those days the Brighton Express used triplex equipment, except for two 6-car sets of standards which were used rush hours for the "Bankers Specials" and mid-days for regular Brighton Express service (Brighton Beach to 57th St.)
There used to be a timed GT-signal north of Avenue "H"; it disappeared when that portion of the line was resignalled. It was originally put there because of a rear-ender just north of that spot in the '60s (can anyone confirm?) There was also an accident nearby 30 years before, in 1932, where an electric locomotive was hauling flat cars loaded with track ties on the north-bound express track. An employee on the train noticed some of the ties had shifted. Instead of stopping the train, he attempted to stabilize the ties himself, while the train descended the grade. Some ties fell off one of the flat cars while the train was passing through Newkirk Avenue station. Several passengers were knocked down, some seriously injured. Lenegd says that there are supposed to be a few "dings" in the steel columns at Newkirk as a result of this accident.
The R27 and R30 cars ushered in BMT letter markings when they debuted in 1960-61. Once the R-27/30s had arrived in sufficient numbers, they provided all weekend service on the Southern Division. Come Monday morning, the BMT standards and Triplexes were back out in force. Triplex units running on the Brighton line displayed the numeral "1" regardless of whether they ran local or express.
The letter marking system was first implemented as follows: Brighton express trains were designated with the letter Q; during the mid-60s they ran on weekdays only. Brighton locals running via the Montague St. tunnel carried a QT marking and ran during the same hours as the Q (Monday-Friday approx. 6:00AM-7:00 PM); the QB operated all by itself during nights and weekends via the Manhattan Bridge and made all local stops. This letter code coexisted with the older number markings on the Southern Division until the Chrystie St connection opened up, where all number markings were officially dropped and letter markings were adopted on the BMT lines.
On November 26, 1967, the Chrystie Street connection between the Manhattan Bridge and the IND 6th Avenue subway opened, forcing some change on nearly every former BMT line. Brighton Line service consisting of "D" trains began operating from 205th St and B ainbridge Avenue in the Bronx, via Grand Concourse, Central Park West and new 6th Avenue express tracks over the north side of the Manhattan Bridge to Brighton Beach. QB trains ran during the rush hours from about 7am to 8am and then again from 5:30pm to 6:30pm via Brighton Local and the south side of the Manhattan Bridge to 57th St - 7th Avenue, starting in Coney Island. QJ trains also ran via the Brighton Local from Coney Island via the Montague Street tunnel abd Broadway Brooklyn El to 168th St in Jamaica, Queens.
Also debuting in 1967 was the NX super-express. It ran from Brighton Beach to Coney Island- Stillwell Avenue, then non-stop via the Sea Beach express tracks to the 4th Avenue subway at 59th Street. An incredible run for railfans, it was discontinued in 1968 due to lack of ridership.
In 1976, M trains replaced QJ trains between Coney Island and Metropolitan Avenue in Queens during weekdays. Whenever the M was not running, the D train picked up the slack and ran local over the Brighton Line.
In 1982, work on the north side of the Manhattan Bridge caused some unusual reroutings. D trains running from the Bronx switched to the local tracks at Broadway - Lafayette. From there the train ran non-stop to DeKalb Avenue as follows: using the connection to Essex Street. D trains stopped at Essex, where a spare motorman took over and the D train motorman walked to the opposite end of the train. The train would then proceed about 20 car lengths onto the Williamsburg Bridge and reverse direction back into Essex Street where the spare motorman would get off the train. D trains then ran via the Nassau St. Loop and Montague St. tunnel to DeKalb Avenue, where travel resumed up the Brighton Line. Other than the K and KK services which ran on this part of the Chrystie St. connection, this D train routing was the only other time since then that revenue service was seen on these tracks.
In the mid 1980s, split D services were utilized during this track work, ending with the opening of the 63rd St tunnel to Queens. D trains from Brighton Beach ran via the BMT Broadway Line to 57th St and B trains ran via the Broadway subway to Astoria. D trains from the Bronx ran to 34th St - 6th Avenue, where connections could be made to D trains to Brighton. A shuttle ran between 57th St and 6th Avenue and Grand Street, Manhattan, to cover portions of the route not serviced by this split service.
In 1988, as part of the Archer Avenue & 21st - Queensbridge subway openings (and temporary Manhattan Bridge work), the M train was rerouted to the West End Line and the D became the Brighton Local at all times. The former D Brighton Express was replaced by the Q train, which ran express between Brighton Beach and 21st - Queensbridge during weekdays.
In 1994 and 1995, the Brighton Line saw extensive rehabilitation. Welded rail was laid on both the local and express tracks. A new signal system started working in 1996. Station canopies were likewise rebuilt. (New station lighting was installed during the 1980s).
While some veteran observers had expected the Brighton Express (Q train) to be extended to the Queens Boulevard line's 71-Continental Av Station once the 63rd Street Connector project was completed, the MTA did not do so. However, the restoration of four-track Manhattan Bridge service in the summer of 2004 promises to bring significant changes to this as well as other lines. After the bridge reopened the Brighton line ended up with Q local service via Bridge and Broadway express, and B express service via bridge and 6th Avenue express. See the Manhattan Bridge page for details of bridge service.
Until the mid-20s, a parallel service to the old Sheepshead Bay race track and Manhattan Beach was provided by the LIRR and branched off from the (today) South Brooklyn freight line that crosses under the Brighton Line between Avenues H & I. The racetrack covered an area which extended approximately from Ave. X to Ave. Z, from Ocean Ave. to a few blocks east of Nostrand Ave. Evidence of the railroad line can be seen in various places:
The "unusually long" bridge abutments on the east side of many of the avenue crossings along the Brighton Line embankment. Some of the houses built along East 16th Street use these abutments to support backyard porches! An abandoned tunnel or flying junction at Avenue X which was part of the R.O.W.of the BRT - Sheepshead Bay Race Track At Gravesend Neck Road & East 16 Street, there are blocked up "stairways to nowhere". At one time, they led to the Neck Road station of the LIRR Manhattan Beach line The widely-spaced stairways would seem to indicate side platforms.
- 1878 2 July: Opened as the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railroad
- 1878 19 August: Connected to the LIRR at Franklin Avenue
- 1883 December: LIRR trackage agreement ends
- 1887: Reorganized into the Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railway
- 1896: Began running thru service on Fulton Av. El
- 1900: Merged with Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad
- 1907: Church Avenue-Sheepshead Bay rebuilt to four tracks; Church Avenue-Newkirk Avenue grade seperation completed
- 1912: Under BRT (New York Conslidated Railroad) control.
- 1917 22 April: Sheepshead Bay-Ocean Parkway rebuild opens (BRT)
- 1917 30 May: Ocean Parkway-West 8th St. rebuild opens (BRT)
- 1918 1 November: Malbone Street disaster at Prospect Park station; 97 dead
- 1919 29 May: West 8th St.-Stillwell Avenue upper level rebuild opens (BRT)
- 1919 16 Sept.: Prospect Park to Church Ave. section rebuilt
- 1920 1 August: DeKalb Avenue-Prospect Park extension opens
- 1923: Became part of the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Co (BMT)
- 1963: Brighton/Franklin service, reduced to summer weekends / holidays only from daily during the summer, is eliminated.
- 1967 26 November: Chrystie Street connection opens
- 1967: NX service debuts.
- 1968: NX service discontinued due to lack of ridership.
- 1976: M trains replace QJ trains as Brighton Local.
- 1988: D trains become Brighton Local; Q trains become weekday Brighton Express.
- 1995, May-November 3: The North Side of the Manhattan Bridge is closed for construction except rush hours and weekday late nights. D Trains run between Norwood-205 St & Coney Island rush hours and weekday late nights only. Brighton/6 Av Q Express Service runs rush hours only. Weekday middays & all weekend, the D runs between Norwood-205 St, Bronx & Herald Square-34 St only, while the yellow circle Q runs between 21 St-Queensbridge & Coney Island via 63 St/Broadway Express/Lower Manhattan/Montague St Tunnel & Brighton Local.
- 2001: Due to Manhattan Bridge work, two Q services are operated via Broadway and south side of bridge; yellow-circle Q local, yellow-diamond Q express, both terminating in Manhattan at 57th St.
- 2001, September 19-October 28; World Trade Center tragedy extends Brighton local Q trains beyond midtown Manhattan, 57 St/7 Av to Forest Hills-71 Av (replacing the suspended R train) via 60 St/Queens Blvd Local, except late nights. Q Diamond Express runs normal between Midtown-57 St/7 Av & Brighton Beach. On October 28, Q Service resumes its normal route to/from Midtown-57 St/7 Av; R service is resumed.
- 2002, September 8: Reconstruction of Stillwell Ave. Terminal requires Q Service to be cut back to Brighton Beach.
- 2004: Manhattan Bridge reopens, services operated are yellow-circle Q local via bridge-Broadway express and orange circle B express via bridge and 6th Avenue express.
- 2004, May 23: Stillwell Terminal reconstruction ends short turns of Q service; Q service is extended back to the newly reconstrcucted Stillwell Av Terminal, with the opening of the Ocean Parkway & West 8 St-NY Aquarium Stations.
- 2008, July 29: R160B's began operation on the Q Train on July 29, 2008. By the end of 2009, the R160s and R68/R68As are the only fleets seen on the Brighton line (save one or two occasional sets of R32s).
- 2008, December 8: Brighton Line Station Reconstruction Project begins. The Coney Island-Bound Side of the Avenue U & Neck Road Station's are first to be closed off to Q Trains. All Southbound Q Trains run on the Express Track between Kings Highway and north of Brighton Beach. Passengers are forced to use the B3K Bus at the Kings Highway Station for Avenue U, or transfer at Sheepshead Bay to a Manhattan-Bound Q Local stopping at Neck Road & Avenue U.
- 2009, September 28: The Brighton Line Station Reconstruction project continues, closing the Coney Island-bound side of the Avenue H, Avenue J, & Avenue M Stations. Brighton Express B Service is suspended until Fall 2011. The closing of these stations, and the southbound local track forces all southbound B/Q trains to run on the express track. Southbound B/Q local service is normal between Prospect Park and Cortelyou Road. Upon leaving Cortelyou Road, the southbound local track gently connects with the southbound express track. No switch was installed between the local and express tracks, so bumper blocks have been installed at the end of the southbound express track (which now ends at Cortelyou Road), and the beginning of the southbound local track (which begins about 100 feet south of the southbound Cortelyou Road platform). Trains run on the express track between just south of Cortelyou Road, and north of Brighton Beach. Trains stop at Newkirk Av, the temporary Avenue J platform (that sits on the Mantattan Bound-Express Track), Kings Highway (southbound platform is closed; new temporary platform is built over the Manhattan-Bound Express track, and is pressed together with the normal northbound platform), and Sheepshead Bay. Weekdays, Coney Island-bound Q trains then switch over to the Coney Island-bound local track just before entering Brighton Beach, and run normal to Coney Island. B trains head straight into the normal Brighton Express Tracks at Brighton Beach to terminate. Weekends, Coney Island-Bound Q Trains remain on the Southbound Express Track staright thru Ocean Parkway. During this time, Trains continue to skip Avenue U & Neck Rd.
- 2010, January 18: The Coney Island-Bound Side of the Avenue U & Neck Road Stations Re-Open. The Manhattan-Bound side of the Avenue U & Neck Road Stations are now closed. Southbound B/Q trains continue to run on the Express track between just south of Cortelyou Road, and north of Kings Highway. After leaving Kings Highway, the B/Q Switch over to the Coney Island-Bound Local Track. Upon entering Brighton Beach, Q Trains remain normal on the Local Track, while B Trains switch over from the Local track to 1 of the 2 Brighton Express Tracks to terminate in Brighton. Manhattan-Bound B/Q Trains run on the Express track between just North of Brighton Beach, and just south of Kings Highway. Weekends, Manhattan Bound Q Trains run on the Manhattan Bound Express Track between Ocean Parkway, and South of Kings Highway. The B3K Bus now operates during the AM hours only to transport Avenue U Station Customers to Kings Highway for Manhattan-Bound B/Q Service.
The stations of the DeKalb extension are in subway. DeKalb Ave, Atlantic Ave and 7th Ave were all built using the cut and cover method. The tunnel under Flatbush Avenue between 7th and Atlantic is actually shared by both the Brighton Line and the IRT Eastern Pkwy line in that area. The IRT tracks straddle the two former BMT tracks of the Brighton Line, and in fact, the IRT tracks can be seen through a gap in the southbound Brighton Line wall. The tunnel between 7th Avenue and Prospect Park appears to be "deep bored" beneath Propsect Park.
On the open cut portion of the Brighton Line between Prospect Park and Newkirk Ave, Prospect Park, Church Avenue and Newkirk Ave stations are four track, two island platform express stations. Parkside Ave, Beverley Road and Cortelyou Road are local stations. Cortelyou and Beverley Roads are one block apart! They also seem to have beeen carved into the walls of the open cut, while Parkside Ave. is a bit more squared off.
On the embankment section between Avenue H and Shepshead Bay Road, Kings Highway and Sheepshead Bay Road are four track, two island platform express stations. Avenues H, J, M, U and Neck Road are narrow, local stations with ornate ironwork in the overhead canopies.
On the elevated portion between Neptune Avenue and Stillwell Avenue, the Brighton line boasts the only 4 track "alley" elevated on the entire system. Brighton Beach is a 4 track, 2 island platform express (terminal) station. West of Brighton Beach, the elevated structure contains 6 tracks - 2 local, 2 "express" and 2 storage tracks (although the "express" tracks are used as storage tracks, too). Ocean Pkwy is a four track, two island platform station with the structure over Ocean Pkwy encased in concrete. The El is reduced from 4 tracks to 2 and rises to become the upper level of West 8th St. It should be noted that Brighton Locals used the lower level of the El structure into the lower level of West 8th until 1954, when the IND was connected to the Culver Line at Ditmas Ave. West 8th is a double level El with 2 side local platforms. From there the El is double-levelled into Stillwell Avenue.
From a railfan's perspective, the Brighton line is a delight.
- Varied construction (tunnel, open cut, embankment, elevated structure, ironwork in the station, canopies of most of the embankment local stops)
- Long, fast express runs
- Frequent service, so you never have to wait long for a picture
- Excellent photo opportunities abound, especially on the elevated portion between Brighton Beach and Stillwell Avenue.
One particular good photo spot is West 8th Street from the street. Specifically, a perch on the pedestrian bridge leading to the New York Aquarium right over Surf Avenue gives you the opportunity to photograph Brighton Line trains leaving at the top of a double-El structure, and Culver Line trains from the lower level of the structure. From the Coney Island bound upper platform, a great view of the Culver Line to the Belt Pkwy can be seen to the north.
Another good photo stop is the southbound (Brighton bound) Beverly Road station. If you stand at just the right point of the gently curving station, you can get a great shot of trains leaving Church or Newkirk Avenues. If you have a camcorder, some great runbys can be had at this location.
|BMT Brighton Line
Manhattan Bridge · Myrtle Avenue
|Franklin Avenue · Dean Street · Park Place · Botanic Garden · Prospect Park|
By Mark S. Feinman, Peggy Darlington, David Pirmann, Robert Weinstein and Zach Summer. History originally by Robert B. Weinstein, posted to rec.railroad 7-May-1994.