IRT White Plains Road Line
IRT White Plains Road Line at Simpson Street. Photo by: David Pirmann, September 2011.
The Lenox Avenue subway, branching off the Contract I Broadway main line north of 96th Street, and the elevated structure to 180th Street were also Contract I construction, intended to bring the First Subway into the Bronx. The Contract I construction is covered in-depth elsewhere on this site (see: The First Subway), so this overview will consist of a few brief notes. The portions of the Contract I work concerning the Lenox branch are as follows:
Section 9A, 135th Street north and east to Gerard Street in the Bronx, including subway under Lenox Avenue, the Harlem River tunnels, and subway under East 149th Street. Work began July 10, 1901. This section also included the extension up Lenox Avenue to the yard and shops at 148th Street. The yard had 33 tracks and was the major yard on the IRT system. The junction of the yard leads with the line to the Bronx is a flat junction. The under-river tunnels were built by the cut trench method (as opposed to the shield method). The tunnels consist of a pair of prefabriated cast iron tubes, sunk and encased in concrete, and then backfilled on top with river mud. Stations included that at 145th Street, intended as a terminal with two side platforms. Trains not serving the Bronx would typically cross over south of the station and use the "southbound" platform for both boarding and discharging passengers. Trains bound for the yard would use the northbound platform. The northbound platform and surface kiosks were all signed "exit only." Conversion of 145th Street to a through station was done on May 13, 1968, when 148th Street-Lenox Terminal station opened within the grounds of the yard.
Section 9B, In the Bronx, Gerard Avenue to just beyond Third Avenue under East 149th Street, cut-and-cover two track subway running 0.72 miles. Stations were at Mott Avenue-149th Street (now "Grand Concourse-149th Street") and Third Avenue-149th Street. The tunnel portal is located on a block surrounded by Westchester Avenue, East 149th Street, and Brook Avenue. Mott Avenue-149th Street station was constructed inside a large open cut, covered with a large concrete arch. The west end of Mott Avenue station was later cut off to allow a track connection from the Dual Contracts Lexington Avenue subway to be connected to this line. Work commenced June 13, 1901.
Section 10, 3.13 mile long, three track steel viaduct from the west side of Brook Avenue to Bronx Park at 181st Street, running over Westchester Avenue, Southern Boulevard, and Boston Road. Stations at: Jackson Avenue, Prospect Avenue, Intervale Avenue, Simpson Street, Freeman Street, East 174th Street, East 177th Street, and Bronx Park-181st Street (all side platforms except at the Bronx Park terminal, which had a single island platform). Work began on August 19, 1901. Section 10 also included a yard along the elevated structure just north of the 177th Street station. The south end of the viaduct tied into a short branch along Westchester Avenue and St. Ann's Avenue to connect to the Third Avenue El. The 3rd Avenue connection was completed before the Contract I tunnel work and as such, 3rd Avenue trains began using the el structure to Bronx Park prior to the opening of the Interborough Subway.
Further from Bronx Park, the extension through East 180th Street to White Plains Road was constructed as part of the <a href="/dualcontracts.html">Dual Contracts</a>, covered in depth elsewhere. Contracts were let for the construction of this portion in 1915, and service began in 1917.
Electric Railway Journal, March 10, 1917. New York Subway Extension Opened.- The Interborough Rapid Transit Company began operaton on March 3 as far as 219th Street of the White Plains Road extension of the West Farms branch of the first subway. Operation is by means of four-car trains composed of composite cars formerly operated on the underground portion of the first subway. A change is necessary to and from the White Plains Road trains at the 177th Street station on the West Farms line. The remaining stations north of 219th Street to the terminal at 241st Street will be placed in operation within the next few months, when an express service, which will not be attempted at first, will be begun. The White Plains Road extension is a three-track elevated railroad branching off from the West Farms division near 179th Street, crossing the Bronx River, extending over streets and private property along the east side of Bronx Park and thence by White Plains Road to 241st Street or Baychester Avenue near the northern city limits. The line is 14.6 track miles in length or the equivalent of 4.8 linear miles. There are eleven stations on the line. The line has cost to construct approximately $2,750,000, exclusive of the equipment which is being installed by the operating company. The contracts for the construction of the extension were let early in 1914 and the line has required approximately three years to complete.
In addition to the short connector to the 3rd Avenue El along Westchester Avenue, another connection to the 3rd Avenue El, known as the "Bergen Cutoff", opened in 1918 as part of the Dual Contracts expansion of the 3rd Avenue El. Heading southbound, two tracks split off from original Westchester Ave-3rd Ave connector at Bergen Avenue, turned south along a private-right-of-way, and joined the 3rd Avenue El at 143rd Street as an upper express level.
Electric Railway Journal, March 27, 1915. New York, N. Y. — The Public Service Commission, First District, has approved the form of contract submitted by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company for the construction of a portion of the West Farms subway connection. This section, which is authorized by the dual system contracts, leaves the Third Avenue elevated line at about 134 ft. north of the center line of East 143d Street, and runs through Willis and Bergen Avenues to a point near 149th Street, and thence to a connection with the Lenox Avenue branch of the existing subway. It is authorized under the certificate covering the rights for elevated railroad extensions, and as such is to be built by the company at its own expense. The only condition attached to the approval of the contract is that the company must get bids from at least six responsible bidders and submit the bids to the commission for its approval.
Electric Railway Journal, July 7, 1917. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company, on July 1 put in service the new West Farms subway connection between the Second and Third Avenue elevated railroads in the Bronx and the West Farms branch of the first subway. The connection extends through private property, Willis and Bergen Avenues, from 143d Street to the elevated portion of the subway. Actual operation began on July 2... when some twenty Second Avenue elevated express trains originating at Freeman Street were placed in service by this route. The new connection will relieve congestion at the 149th Street elevated station.
However, the New York Times reported on June 3, 1917:
The opening of service on the Willis Avenue or Bergen Avenue "Cutoff" extending between the express tracks of the Second and Third Avenue elevated lines in the Bronx and the West Farms branch of the first subway, which was announced for last Friday [June 1, 1917], was postponed in order to complete the signal service. This work will probably take a couple of weeks.
The "cutoff" extends approximately from a connection with the Third Avenue line at 143rd Street to 150th Street and Bergen Avenue.
It has been the custom for some time to operate elevated trains of the Second Avenue line to a connection with the West Farms branch of the subway which was made at Third Avenue and 151st Street.
Under the new connection the elevated express trains of the Second Avenue line, which operate in rush hours as far as Freeman Street, will be switched over to the new connection.
This will relieve the existing congestion at the station at 149th Street and 3rd Avenue, and in addition, it will no longer be necessary to use the grade-crossing connection at 151st Street and Third Avenue.
Thru service between the White Plains Road IRT and the 3rd Avenue El was terminated in 1946, and the structure was removed in 1950.
The 181st Street terminal was later cut back, due to objections over having the station so close to Bronx Park property, to a station at 180th Street, which opened on October 28, 1910. After the Dual Contracts extension of the line to 240th Street, the Bronx Park terminal was rendered mostly redundant and finally abandoned in 1952; the West Farms yard was torn down at this time as well due to new yard facilities at East 180th St./Unionport, and 239th Street. The Intervale Avenue station was added in 1910.
Sources: The New York Subway: Its Construction and Equipment. The New York Subway Souvenir (1904). New Subways for New York, the Dual System of Rapid Transit. David Rogoff, "Contract I Construction", July 1962, revised July 1985, New York Division E.R.A. Bernard Linder, "IRT Broadway-7th Avenue Line Opening Dates and Schedule Changes," December 1990, New York Division E.R.A. Electric Railway Journal, 1917. Other dates as cited. "Three New Links Of The Dual Subway System Opened", The New York Times, June 3, 1917.
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By David Pirmann.