Chapter 3, The BMT
They Moved The Millions · by Ed Davis, Sr.
The 2500-series "A-B" cars had roofs similar to the earlier "steels," but the box vents and larger destination signs made them look more "gutsy". 2593 poses on the West End line in [December 1964].
Section A: Steel Equipment for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit
While the IRT had been a pioneer partner in the development of all-steel railway passenger cars thru the first decade of electrified rapid transit, and Manhattan and Bronx commuters were enjoying use of these cars, their counterparts in Brooklyn were still riding wooden trains. Not that there was no comfort in them, honestly, the only thing they lacked was technology. However as the Brooklyn Rapid Transit System did not have a subway there was no pressing need to depart from wooden car construction. When the Broadway-Brooklyn elevated line was extended from the Broadway Ferry terminal in Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan there was a run thru a subway approximately a mile long to Canal Street and wooden cars ran thru it, but until 1914 this system had no full-scale subway route.
In 1914 the Fourth Avenue subway in Brooklyn was to open and connect with former elevated system routes to Coney Island, and traverse the Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan, and connect with a subway route via Broadway and 7th Avenue to 57th Street. The time was ripe for steel cars for the Brooklyn Rapid transit system. To clarify a term we will be using for the rest of this book, namely BMT, this was a reorganization of the former Brooklyn Rapid Transit System due to lawsuits following a serious accident on the system. The company reorganized as the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit or BMT and to this day is still known as BMT even though the city owns and operates it. So henceforth we will refer to the BRT as BMT.
These steel cars for the BMT were to be the most advanced railway passenger vehicle technoligically for their time. After the first 100 cars were delivered in 1914 another 400 of identical design were to follow thru 1918. They would use some of the features which the IRT pioneered but incorporate many more advances and in fact have more conveniences than the cars delivered 20 years later for the city-owned Independent system.
The major departure from the Interborough style which was a combination of dimensions of elevated railway coaches dating back to the 1880's and standard railway "architecture", was the large size of the new BMT steel cars. Where the length of IRT subway cars was 51 feet, the "steels" would be 67 1/2 feet; their width was 9 ft. 8 in., while IRT cars were a foot narrower. Unfortunately the railroad roof design was not incorporated on the BMT cars. Their appearance would lead one to think that the Brooklyn system was saying "We are a municipal transit system, not a long haul railroad," A further change in appearance was the elimination of end vestibules, another departure from IRT and standard railroad practice. The side doors on the "steels" were all open right into the passenger area which comprised the entire area of these cars except for motorman's cabs. Except for cars built for the IRT thru 1925 and for the Hudson and Manhattan system running to New Jersey, this new BMT design was to prevail in all future rapid transit car construction for the New York area. Seating in these cars was a combination transverse and longitudinal, with transverse seatings being 3-2, in other words three seats across on one side of the aisle and two on the other, a pattern that has gained widespread acceptance in suburban commuter coaches in modern times.
A train of A-B's, led by one of the 1914-1918 variety, climbs from 9th Ave. Station onto the elevated structure on the West End line.
A 1920 built, monitor roof A-B leads its train into 18th Ave. Station on the West End line, southhound.
Last home for the A-B's - the 14th St. Canarsie line. A southbound train stops at First Ave. in early 1969, with only a few months life left.
With a later model "A" car on the point, a train of "A-B's" arrives at East 105th St. on the Canarsie line. They only had about a year of life left before these last of their type would be retired. The public grade crossing was the only one on the system and has long since been removed.
Doors were all electro-pneumatically powered but multiple unit door control was not an original feature. It would be installed during the early 1920's as it was on the IRT. Three sets of double doors per side of each car were provided. End doors were kept closed due to tremendous end excess, or overhang at car ends going around curves and thru crossover switches. They could be opened by conductors and trainmen by operating the electro-pneumatic door engines on them, but only in emergencies where passengers would have to walk from car to car.
End marker lights could be changed by the motorman by operating levers in the cab; tail lights would change from red to white when the motorman placed the reverser in forward; couplers were of the more modern H2a type which required no manual labor to make an uncoupling. Rather than closing angle cocks to seal off trainline air pipes at a "cut", when an uncoupling was made tappet valves sealed shut at the coupler where the air pipes passed thru. Jumpers were not required as an electric portion or "slide" was mounted under the coupler, which, when advanced after a coupling was made, would carry electrical circuits thru to the next car. (After these cars were converted to multiple unit door control a door circuit jumper would be required, as there were insufficient points for the added circuits in the existing "slides".) A power interlock between the master controller and the door signal (doors closed) light would prevent the motorman from moving the train with doors open, unless a bypass switch was used to circumvent this safety feature.
Other innovations were the schedule AMUE electro-pneumatic braking system which the IRT would soon adopt, with ME23 brake valves, and UE5 control valves under each car. Of course, these cars had low-voltage control which would soon become industry wide standard. Rather than having two motors on the number two truck as the IRT had, these new BMT cars had one motor on each truck with the wheels on the motor axle being 34" in diameter, with trailing axle wheels being 31"; this was known as a maximum traction truck. Whether it was better for traction seems to remain unproven over the years.
Plenty of comfortable seats was the scheme of the old "A-B's". This interior shot was taken on a 2000-2499 series car which did not have seating reduced when the cars were "modernized" in the late '50's. Compare the spacious interior to the interior of the IRT cars.
Each motor was 140 horsepower, giving a total of 280 HP for a car weighing over 47 tons and having capacity for 250 or more passengers, seated and standing. Top speed was only about 39 MPH, slower than the IRT's top speed. These cars were unfortunately underpowered but regardless of this fact performed yeoman service for some half a century.
The first of these cars were built by American Car and Foundry Company, and a total of 600 were delivered by ACF thru 1919, all identical except for the 2500 series delivered in 1919 which had a slightly different roof with larger box vents, and larger, more readable roll signs. Roll signs were another innovation on these cars, a departure from the use of metal plate signs on the Interborough and on the elevateds. This would also become an industry standard.
In 1920 a more revised design was introduced. The larger roll signs were kept; the roof design was changed to a modified railroad clerestory dsign, lacking the tapered roofline at the ends of the cars, best described as a full length deck roof. Ventilation was by opening slots in the clerestory section as on the IRT cars. Other than the change in appearance due to a different roof these cars had all the same features of the first "steels" built in 1914. The Pressed Steel Car Company delivered 300 of these cars between 1920 and 1922.
In 1924 Pressed Steel delivered another 50 of these cars, with one notable change. This order was for "trailers" or non-powered cars which seems strange due to the already low motive power of the motor cars. However, they remained as trailers for their entire 37 year career. As these were used as center cars of "BX" units there were no control cabs on them.
The set of restored A-B steel cars climbs from the former Long Island trackage of the Rockaway line to the former BMT Fulton St. elevated trackage at Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park. This photo was taken on a fantrip, in the 1970's. [This is not the exact photo from the book but is nearly identical. This photo: July 15, 1978. Doug Grotjahn photo; Joe Testagrose collection.]
The "steels" served all of the BMT "Southern Divison" routes, viz Sea Beach, Brighton, Culver, West End and Fourth Avenue, and of course ran thru the Broadway Subway into Manhattan, and to Astoria in Queens. On the "Eastern Division" they served on the 14th Street-Canarsie line, Jamaica Line, Broadway-Brooklyn local, and Myrtle-Chambers line. From 1956 until about 1960 they also ran over the IND Queens line from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills when BMT service was extended to Forest Hills over the IND.
A few major modifications were made to these cars. One was the conversion to Multiple Unit Door Control in the early twenties. At this time most of them were coupled into semi-permanently coupled sets of three cars which would only be uncoupled in the shops. As the single cars were known as "A" cars, the three unit sets were known as "B", and three car sets with a trail car in the middle would be class "BX". During this process controllers and brake valves were removed from all cabs except from the cabs at extreme ends of the units; some of the surplus controllers went into the "C" type elevated cars which were being remodelled at that time.
In the late 1950's some 400 of these cars were rebuilt with a life expectancy of eight more years even though some were over 40 years old. The transverse or cross seats at the ends of the cars were replaced by longitudinal seats which reduced their seating capacity from 78 to 66 but allowed more room for standees. New control groups were added, so were headlights. A pleasant new speckled interior paint scheme was added. Otherwise these cars changed little in appearance from when they were new. At this time they were also rewired; when the trailer cars were scrapped two car "BT" units were assembled, the trailer simply being removed from the set.
The entire fleet remained in service until 1960 when retirements started taking place. With the arrival of new R27 cars on the division most of the nonrebuilt "steels" were retired along with some nonstandard types of cars. Many older cars were retired along with the trailers, and some other newer series that were not rebuilt. Thru deliveries of more new cars in the 1960's their numbers dwindled until early 1969 when the last of them ran on the 14th Street-Canarsie Line, replaced by second hand R9 class cars from the IND lines. By this time their exclusive domain was on that line and the rush hour service on the Myrtle-Chambers line.
Cars 2390-2391-2392 were completely restored to their original appearance, the only ones of that series to survive, and were used not only in revenue service until 1969 but were kept as "museum cars" by the system; happily a few representatives of these BMT pioneers are alive and well!
While they were never notable for speed nor power these BMT "steels", also known as "standards" or "A-B's" were remarkable in passenger comfort, way more silent than IRT or even newer IND rolling stock, and performed well for their 50 years of service at their own leisurely pace. Some of their advanced technology was not employed by other systems and in fact as compared to the much newer 111-9 class built in the 1930's for the IND these "A-B" or steel cars were more modern; unfortunately time caught up with them.
A train of "B" types arrives at 18th Ave. Station on the West End line in 1964. These hadn't been common on the West End line until their last few years of service; they ran on the short line thru the Montague Street tunnel rather than over the Manhattan Bridge due to their weight. [This is not the exact photo from the book but is nearly identical. This photo: March 2, 1964. Collection of David Pirmann.]
Section B: Articulated Cars For The Subway
As we have already read in this chapter, the BMT was not a company to conform to standard practices. The departure from short rapid transit coaches in construction of the "steels" was only the first such move on the part of the BMT, and many more were to follow; the difference between the IRT and the BMT would be like difference between night and day. The IRT opted for an attempt at standardization; the BMT had a penchant for radical changes and experimentation.
While standard steel cars were still being built plans were in the making for cars to be run in units rather than as single cars. The first such conversion came in the form of the "C" type units which we have already read about, formerly single el cars being assembled into three car units and extensively remodelled. About this time some of the formerly single car "steels", or "A" types were being assembled into three car "B" or "BX" units. The first cars to be built as units rather than single cars were in the wind and would appear in 1925, when the Pressed Steel Car Company would deliver four three section units which would equal an eight car standard steel train in length, that is, one of these units equalled two "steels" in length.
The Brighton line had many faces; steel trestle, embankment, open cut, and subway. In 1961 a train of "D" types descends into the open cut portion, bound for Manhattan. Avenue H station is in the background.
Two "D" type units made up this West End line train on a Sunday in the summer of 1962. Scene is at Bay 50th St.; the curved trackage branching off is a lead to Coney Island Yard.
The name "steels" stuck with the old A-B-type cars even though all successive cars were to be built of steel. The units which we are now reading about were of course built of steel too. They would be known as "D" types for their entire careers. The "D" types had two control cars, one at each end of the unit, and one somewhat shorter "blind" or "bobtailed" (Milwaukee Road term) car in the center with no controls. These cars were semi-permanently coupled and a unit could only be cut in the shops, but of course couplers were provided at the end of each unit and cuts could be made in yards or terminals to make up or shorten a train; in other words trains of one to four units could be made up. The word "car" may be a misnomer as each section was not a self-contained vehicle. There were three sections mounted on four trucks, in other words these units were articulated. Such a practice was used on several interurban railroads, and the Southern Pacific among a few other railroads, in long haul trains, but in the New York Area articulation was a practice peculiar to the BMT, and as we shall read as we go on there was quite a bit of this type of operation on the BMT. Between each section of a unit was a convenient enclosed passageway for passengers, but passage between units was not possible under normal circumstances, most likely due to outstanding BMT practice but nonetheless sliding end doors were provided at ends of the units.
Low-voltage controllers were of course employed on the cars, with the proven system of switching series and parallel being the only power points on the master controller. Motive power was provided by four 200 horsepower motors per unit, giving these cars a considerably higher top speed than the A-B types, or steels. Braking was again schedule AMUE, with ME23 brake valves and UE5 control valves, electro pneumatic. Couplers were Westinghouse H2a type, this time with an electric portion slide under the coupler with sufficient contacts for all trainline electrical circuits including door control. Mechanical, air, and electrical couplings on these cars required no manual labor other than operation of an uncoupling valve.
Interiors were pleasant and the "D" types afforded a smooth, relatively quiet ride. Seating was a combination of longitudinal and transverse seats, the 3-2 pattern of the A-B types or "steels" was not used on these, the 2-2 arrangement in transverse seats was used on these "D" types. As in nearly all rapid transit cars seating was fixed in place. Roller route signs were again used, with "Bridge" and "Tunnel" routings fixed in place, either could be lit up electrically to show whether the train was crossing the East River via the Manhattan Bridge or the Montague Street River Tunnel.
Articulated work on these "D" type cars shows up well in this 1964 photo, taken shortly before these cars were retired.
Roof design was flat-ended clerestory pattern with markers and route and destination signs mounted at the end of the roof. With these cars the BMT was to establish a numbering system for its routes, as the "D" types were the first BMT cars to display a route number with destination, on their end signs as least.
An unfortunate step backwards on the "D" types was the placement of conductor's door controls outboard at the end of each unit, requiring conductors and trainmen or "guards" to operate remote control door controls from between cars, standing on platform steps to do so. The A-B types or "steels" had inboard control which made the conductor's and trainmens' jobs much more pleasant, keeping them out of the weather. This was a change from the method used on the IRT but unfortuntely the "D" types reverted to the earlier style operation. Mention must be made, however that this method was employed as late as 1949 on cars built for the Independent system and the first post-World War II cars built for the IRT lines (city-owned and operated by then) which were a total departure from old IRT equipment.
After delivery of the first four units in 1925 and apparently after the design of these cars had proven itself successful, an order of 118 more units would be delivered by Pressed Steel in 1927 and 1928. While they were radical in design they proved to be a successful piece of rolling stock for their career of nearly 40 years.
Interior of a "D" type unit in Brighton service in 1961. Note the enclosed passageway to the next section. The smiling young lady probably has grown children now.
The "D" types spent their lives on the BMT "Southern" division, used mostly on the Brighton and Sea Beach lines via Bridge and subway to Times Square and 57th St. in Manhattan, and Astoria. Towards the end of their career they were taken off those routes and placed on the West End Locals via tunnel; due to their tremendous weight of 211,000 lbs. roughly per three-section unit they were considered too heavy for the Manhattan Bridge which was needing extensive repairs. They were the heaviest rapid transit units for their size on the system and possibly on any urban transit railway although the author has not attempted to document this fact.
The end came for the "D" types during 1964 and 1965 when the Budd Company delivered stainless steel R-32 contract cars to the city for the transit system. Although they were the first articulated rolling stock on the property they were the last to be retired. They were, however, survived by their older cousins, the more conventional A-B steel cars. Happily some "D" type units have been preserved by the Transit Authority for the Transit Museum and have been run in excursion service at times.
This is a Multi-Section unit of the BMT. These were the only ones of the several compartment type cars built in the '30's to constitute a fleet. They were also the only group of several types built that were used in full time service until their demise. New York City Transit Authority photo.
Section C. More Articulated Rolling Stock To Close The Story On BMT Designs
The 1930's were to be quite a decade for BMT rolling stock, not in numbers but in variations of car designs, experiments, and innovations. It was also to be the BMT's final decade of operation as a privately operated railway, for in 1940 the city would take over its operations. Most of the rolling stock of the BMT mentioned in this section turned out to be stepchildren and came to early endings for reasons in some instances of ideas that didn't work out and in others because they were non standard and such operation was inefficient, with the need to maintain non-standard cars.
These BMT experimentals were not alone in that area. Whereas the old A-B type steels outlasted much newer and more advanced rolling stock, so did the Pennsylvania Railorad's K4 steam locomotives outlast much newer and more advanced steam power. Union Pacific's streamlined, lightweight articulated passenger trains lasted only about eight years before they were replaced by conventional equipment hauled by steam locomotives which were soon to be supplanted by diesels. Standard design, simplicity, and ruggedness are of paramount importance to survival of railway equipment run in American service... this is a lesson well applied to freight equipment but unfortunately lost on commuter equipment in the last two decades (i.e. electric multiple unit) which due to complexity has become frail, unreliable, and will most likely see an early end. It seems that the stock built in the last 15 years has somehow managed to survive on a "wing and a prayer". No doubt some good ideas went into these BMT experimentals, however.
Aluminum Multi-Section - BMT Car built by the Pullman Standard Car Co., otherwise known as the Green Hornet. [This photo is not the same as the one in the book but is nearly identical.]
Between 1934 and 1936 three different types of multi-section cars were turned out by Pullman-Standard, St. Louis Car Co., and the Budd Company. Out of the three types the only ones produced in any quantity and the only ones to last a normal life were the twenty five units which were known simply as multi's or class MS. We will cover these last.
In reality these cars were intended as replacements for the old wooden elevated cars, which at this time were already becoming dated, even though some were only about 30 years old which may already seem to have passed life expectancy; however many of them survived another quarter century beyond the age of 30. These new compartment cars were built not in three sections to a unit, but five sections to each articulated unit. This was no doubt to better snake around some of the sharp curves on the old system. Additionally they were lightweight to be able to run on elevated railway trestles that were built during the 1880's and 1890's and not strong enough to hold the weight of heavy steel equipment.
"Bluebird" compartment BMT car built by the Clark Equipment Co. [This photo is not the same as the one in the book but is nearly identical. This photo: Frank Pfuhler.]
Interior appointments on these "compartment cars" were a complete departure from classicism as expressed in the equipment they were intended to replace, much like the PCC streetcars were a complete change from the then existing image of street railways across the country. One of these units was to be built by Pullman Standard of aluminum had curved sides reminiscent of streamlined long-distance experimentals. This was to become known known as the "Green Hornet," which wound up being scrapped during the Second World War in 1942 for its aluminum. Another unit was built by Budd of stainless steel (Budd appears to have been a pioneer in the use of stainless steel for passenger car construction and indeed the biggest promoter of such construction) to a more practical design. This unit was in service as late as 1954 and was scrapped in 1959.
In 1938 and 1940 the Clark Equipment company produced six "Bluebird" units which were probably the most unsuccessful of these radical designs. These were seen as late as the mid-1950's in the yards but also seemed to have been removed from regular service before that. Some of the crewmen of the author's acquaintance in those days said that everytime it rained the "Bluebird" broke down. In any event these and the Budd unit were off the property by the late 1950's. These three types of cars were all exceptionally pleasing for passengers with indirect or diffused lighting and well padded and upholstered seats but were not in service very long to be enjoyed by many.
Stainless steel Multi-Section - BMT car built by the Budd Co. ["Zephyr"] [This photo is not the same as the one in the book but is nearly identical. This photo: Frank Pfuhler.]
The 25 units built of conventional materials in 1936 by St. Louis and Pullman Standard, known as multi's (multi-section) or class MS were much more spartan, for instance: conventional cane seats, bare incandescent light bulbs, small ceiling fans, etc. If not trying to look futuristic they had many new features which hadn't been employed on cars built for other systems at the time but would show up in the future. Braking system was a foresight of things to come: a self-lapping, ME-30 brake valve, eddy current braking on the General Electric units which was a cousin of dynamic braking. The MS class cars had three different points of multiple on the master controller offering three different rates of acceleration but only the slowest rate was eventually retained as faster acceleration rates were causing passenger injuries. Full width cabs were used on these cars, a vague reminder of the IRT Gibbs cars, an idea that would come back in 1970 with the R44 cars for the system. The Multi's also had destination signs which could be changed by remote control, an idea which came back in 1970, again with the R44 cars.
While the MS class was probably strange looking when new and no less strange looking on the eve of its retirement, they nonetheless earned their keep for a quarter century and were far more technically advanced than much equipment which was to follow but as has already been opined and in many ways proven by present day facts, high technology doesn't always mean better.
This is the interior of a "Multi". NYCTA photo.
The Multi's proved themselves in subway service as well as service over older elevated routes which never could have handled the heavyweight steel coaches. While their regular service was on the 14th Street-Canarsie line in their last years, they made daily incursions during the rush hours into the territory of wooden rolling stock, which was actually their reason for being. They were run over the 14th Street subway line as far as Atlantic Avenue in East New York where they would be switched over to the Fulton Street elevated line (which actually ran on Pitkin and Liberty Aves.) and run to Lefferts Blvd. in Richmond Hill. This service ended in April 1956.
Not the most, not the longest lived, but not forgotten! The Multi's were retired after about a quarter century of service with delivery of class R27 and R30 cars in 1960 along with much other nonstandard BMT rolling stock. Unfortunately none of these caterpillar-like units have been saved for posterity. They were for all practical purposes the bridge between the old age of railroading in rapid transit and the era to come after the Second World War.
A brief reminder, remember the "Q" car conversion? Another of the BMT projects of the 1930's which while using cars that were already relics resulted in cars that would outlast (by a freak of fate) All of the rolling stock ever built for the BMT before municipal operation!
A southbound train of R1-9 cars climbs from the subway to elevated structure on the 14th St.-Canarsle line at Broadway Junction. Some MTA-painted cars are visible here.
Section D: Strangers On The BMT
While the events in this section took place long after municipal takeover of the BMT and postwar rolling stock was then in the process of being delivered, all of the equipment we are to read about here was built before 1940 and was the classic equipment of days of yore.
In the early 1950's the BMT was suffering a severe equipment shortage; even though many lines had been abandoned since 1940 these were all lines which dated back to the original els and used wooden equipment which had been retired. So acute was the shortage of steel equipment that the Culver and West End lines had to have a shuttle service during the rush hours for the last few miles of their runs into Coney Island using wooden el cars. Steel trains had to be turned back at Bensonhurst stations to keep sufficient steel trains on the line for service into Manhattan via the subway.
The car shortage problem was temporarily relieved by delivery of the R10 cars for the Indenpendent lines in 1948 and 1949 which rendered some R1-9 class cars surplus for a while. About this time the BMT got the Astoria line in its entirety, extending the run for steel equipment to Astoria from Queens Plaza, with the removal of the "Q" class elevated cars. The loan of some R1 class cars to the BMT alleviated the problem to a degree, but there was still a shortage. Due to the fact that the IND had extended some of their routes shortly thereafter the R1 cars would be sent back to the IND.
Unusual scene on Staten Island: a four car rush hour train heads for Tottenville in 1963, framed by the corner of a St. George bound train. Nearly all runs on this line were made with two car trains. This portion of the line has been relocated and grade crossings are a thing of the past on Staten Island.
In 1954 the Staten Island Rapid Transit, a subsidiary of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, had abandoned passenger service on the North Shore Line and abandoned the South Beach Line. There was a surplus of cars that could be run on the BMT. A brief history of these cars is in order. In 1925 the formerly steam operated Staten Island line was electrified. A plan had been about at the time to build a railway tunnel from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn under the Narrows to connect the BMT with the Staten Island lines and coaches were built for the Staten Island electrification which would also be of dimensions to run on the BMT should a connection be built. Unfortunately it never was built and today one of the world's greatest suspension bridges, the Verranzano-Narrows bridge is a vehicular link in a place near the planned tunnel.
The Staten Island cars had the same dimensions as the BMT class A-B steels. They had more power however and their appearance was somewhat different. The center door and roof arrangements were the same as the 2600-2899 BMT steels but there were side doors at the ends of the cars a la IRT and those doors were almost the same as the IRT Low-V doors. There were more transverse seats in the Staten Island cars; these were of 2-2 seating and were walkover types that could be flipped over to face the direction of travel. Power controls were much like the IRT Low-V controls and braking was schedule AMUE as on the Low-V, and most other 1920 era stock. These cars also had the IRT style foldaway cab doors.
The last of the Staten island cars ended their days painted Baltimore & Ohio (the parent company before city takeover) blue. Remove the headlight, imagine these cars painted maroon, and this scene could be on the BMT in Brooklyn!
After many of these 1925 vehicles became surplus on Staten Island the city bought them for use on the BMT. A few modifications were made: door controls similar to those on the A-B's were installed, headlights were removed, trip cocks installed so that a train running by a red signal would have its brakes applied in emergency, and plate destination and route signs were installed, removed from scrapped elevated equipment. Additionally the seats were fixed in position, and a fresh maroon and cream exterior paint job was applied. Twenty five motors and five trailers were bought but only the motor cars were rebuilt for service. These cars were employed mostly on the Culver line route from lower Manhattan via the Montague Street tunnel. In 1954 the elevated portion of this route was given over to the IND for thru operation of trains from the Bronx to Coney Island. The BMT service then terminated at Ditmas Avenue, later reduced to a shuttle, and now defunct. Electronically controlled stainless steel cars now serve the Culver line where wooden el cars once ran. The ex-Staten Island cars had a brief but successful career on the BMT; they were scrapped in 1960 with other non-standard BMT stock when the R27 and R30 cars were delivered.
A lone passenger awaits departure from St. George terminal on Staten Island in 1960. These SIRT cars were much like the BMT steels, but the seats were arranged in a suburban pattern. When this type car was in service on the BMT the only difference in appearance was brighter interior colors.
In 1954 and 1955 class R16 cars were delivered to the BMT but loaned equipment was still around. Some of the R16's were swapped for R9 class cars from the IND when the Rockaway line was opened in 1956 and again IND equipment served the Fourth Ave. local line as it did a few years before when somewhat older R1 cars were used on that line. This however was short lived as the older equipment was more reliable on the open air, out to sea Rockaway line with its salty atmosphere and the R9 cars returned to the IND and the R16's to the BMT.
While the IRT was getting new cars in the late 1950's some Low-V's that would have otherwise been scrapped were sent to the BMT. Due to BMT platforms being spaced for wider BMT subway cars a side extension was built onto these Low-V's to fill in the space, creating a strange looking car. These were used on the Franklin and Culver shuttles and were removed from service in 1960, due to the delivery of new cars and being non standard equipment on the BMT.
Modified Low-V's in service on the Culver shuttle. Side extensions were added to fill the platform space where wider BMT cars normality tread! This was a short lived scene.
Some ironic sequals to all this occurred during the 1960's. The Staten Island Rapid Transit fleet was becoming quite deteriorated and talk was about of sending some BMT steels there. This never did transpire. About 1970 the city took title to the SIRT and established SIRTOA, a branch of the MTA but an operating authority apart from the subways. There was a thought of using IND class R1 cars there but this also never came to pass. Instead, surplus 1955 era Long Island Railroad electric multiple unit cars were sent to Staten Island until new R44 cars, which were part of an order for the subway, could be placed in service there. By this time the Long Island RR, along with the subways and the SIRT were all under the MTA umbrella. The brief mention of the SIRT has been in order, as while it was a part of a common carrier and even had freight service it was still a basically rapid transit line; however the scenery viewed from it was much different from what one would see on a Bronx elevated line.
After the 1967 merger the D train from the Bronx ran to Coney Island via the Brighton Express, and the old R1-9's were to serve on the still-BMT (B-1 division) Brighton line. Northbound and southbound trains meet at Kings Highway in 1968.
We have now studied all the old-type rolling stock that served on BMT subway routes, and in the 1950's it had its greatest variety and was by far the most diverse division, rolling stock wise, of the entire New York City Transit System. We will later read about the equipment that replaced all of these varied pieces of passenger stock, and then go on to see the eventual merger of the BMT with the IND system and the jumbling of car equipment once again, which resulted in a very interesting mixture indeed. For a brief few years 1956-1960, some time before the merger BMT A-B class steels had run over the IND from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills via a connection with the 60th Street tunnel but later on IND cars would run over that route into the BMT!
Just before arrival of the new R44 cars on Staten Island a set of modern Long Island cars is seen at Tottenville yard along with old SIRT equipment. Joe Testagrose photo.
For a brief period of time in their history, the R1-9 cars ran into Coney Island on the West End Line. In this Jan. 23, 1968 photo, car 267, an R-1, brings up the rear end of a northbound "B" train leaving Coney Island. These cars served on all four routes into Coney Island at one time or another, in regular service.
Nearing the end of their career, a train of former IND R1-9 types rounds the curve into Crescent St. Station on the BMT Jamaica elevated in 1976. By this time the majority of the remaining R1-9 fleet was based at East New York Yard for service on BMT eastern lines.
Copyright 1985 by Edward C. Davis, Sr.
Reproduced on nycsubway.org with permission.