A Brief History of Standard Manhattan Elevated Cars

From nycsubway.org

A Brief History of Standard Manhattan Elevated Cars, by George Chiasson, Jr.

When Charles Harvey's West Side & Yonkers Patent Elevated Railway began service in 1870, three simple wooden coaches were used, being drawn by cable power. As the route grew in stature in succeeding years, more stylish equipment developed, first under the New York Elevated Railroad and Metropolitan Elevated companies, then under the Manhattan Railway. In the early 1870's the NYERR had several specially designed "shadbelly" steam coaches built for service with its steam "dummies", having an extremely low center of gravity to allay fears of trains falling off the structure. As originally built, these cars were equipped with the most exquisite of appointments, having oil-burning chandeliers, comfortable chairs and carpeting, and large windows to provide a panoramic view of Manhattan life below. By 1876, as the budding Sixth and Ninth Ave. elevateds became more a practical means of transportation than a source of fascination, more practical car design followed, and the standard elevated car evolved.

The finished product resembled very much a miniature railroad coach, with utilitarian yet fashionable interior and exterior appointments including imitation gothic body appearance, elegant oil-burning lamps and wicker seating. In turn, this design became widely ordered not only for the Manhattan Elevateds, but also for systems built later in Brooklyn and Chicago. The first electrified version appeared on the Metropolitan West Side Elevated of Chicago in 1894, being followed by an even further-refined car built for the Northwestern Elevated of Chicago in 1898. Multiple-Unit Control, a concept developed by Frank J. Sprague, was first used successfully on the South Side Elevated beginning in 1898, and a year later was also applied in the cars for Boston's new subway-elevated route. Testing with Multiple-Unit Control was begun by the Manhattan Rwy. Co. (by this time already preparing for takeover by the IRT) in 1901, and by 1903 the Manhattan Elevated system had been so electrified. All steam coaches deemed suitable for the purpose were electrified utilizing the Multiple-Unit Control system, and all subsequent orders (through 1911) built to similar specifications. The standard elevated car was a familiar sight on the Manhattan Elevated for most of its 85-year existence, with as many as 1600 in existence during the IRT era. Their death began in 1938 with the closing of the Sixth Ave. line, and was continued over a period of several years, as more mileage was abandoned in 1940, and their scrap value increased during World War II. Most of the oldest cars, including those originally built for the Metropolitan Elevated's Sixth Ave. opening in 1878, were removed after the abandonment of Second Ave.-Queens service in June, 1942. The final "Gate Cars" were in operation on the Third Ave. Express until December, 1950.

Manhattan El Chronological Roster, Passenger Coaches

1-3?Closed Cable CarsStephenson & Sons-NY1870

3 cars for cable operation of West Side & Yonkers Patent Elevated Railway, used 2/14/1870 thru 4/20/1871, then used as coaches behind WS&Y steam "dummies". Replaced by newer coaches 1876 or 1877 and disposed of. Possibly numbered 1-3 before retirement.

1-4NYERR Shadbelly coaches Jackson & Sharp 1872
5-7 NYERR Shadbelly coaches Jackson & Sharp 1873
8-10 NYERR Shadbelly coaches Jackson & Sharp 1874
11-16 NYERR Shadbelly coaches Cummings 1875

Shadbelly cars were procured by the New York Elevated Railroad for early Ninth Ave. el service. All were steam coaches, and were replaced by more conventional coaches which arrived in 1876-77.

40, 41 Experimental ctr doors Jackson & Sharp1877

Experimental body configuration with center doors and no end platforms. Returned to builder in 1878.

17-39NYERR Steam CoachesGilbert & Bush1876-77
40-80NYERR Steam CoachesGilbert & Bush1878
81-177 NYERR Steam coaches Wason 1878
178-208 NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1878
209-242 NYERR Steam coaches Wason 1878
243-292 NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1879

Used on all lines by NYERR (9th and 3rd Aves.). Inherited by Manhattan Railway Co. in 1879.

1-20Met. El. Rwy. CoachesBarney & Smith1878
21-80Met. El. Rwy. CoachesPullman1878

Used on early 6th Avenue service. Inherited by Manhattan Railway Co. in 1879 and renumbered 501-520, 521-580.

81-175Met. El. Rwy. CoachesPullman1879

Orderd by Metropolitan Elevated Railway, delivered and put in service by Manhattan Railway Co. as coaches 581-675 in 1879.

17-39 ex-NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1876

Used on all lines, replaced by newer coaches ca. 1884-85.

1-39 MRy Co. Steam coaches Pullman 1885
40-80 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1878
81-177 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Wason 1878
178-208 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1878
209-242 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Wason 1878
243-292 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1879
293-364 MRy Co. Steam'coaches Bowers & Dure 1882
501-520 ex-Met Steam coaches Barney & Smith 1878
521-580 ex-Met Steam coaches Pullman 1878
581-675 ex-Met Steam coaches Pullman 1879
676-776 MRy Co. Steam coaches Pullman 1880
777-825 MRy Co. Steam coaches Pullman 1881

All of the above were used on the Second, Third, Sixth and Ninth Ave. elevateds from 1879, when the Manhattan Railway took over the Metropolitan and the NYERR, through 1886.

1-4SRT Steam CoachesPullman1886
5-26SRT Steam CoachesGilbert & Bush1887

These coaches were used in early Third Ave.-Bronx service from 1886 to 1891, when they were acquired by Manhattan Rwy. along with the Suburban Rapid Transit property, and renumbered 1095-1098 and 1099-1120.

40-80 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1878
81-177 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Wason 1878
178-208 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Gilbert & Bush 1878
209-242 Ex-NYERR Steam coaches Wason 1878

These were found to be unsuitable for electric service, and were replaced by new cars in 1902-03.

243-292ex-NYERR CoachesGilbert & Bush1879
293-364MRy Steam CoachesBowers & Dure1882
365-369MRy Steam Coaches (Numbered in NYERR sequence)Pullman1889
370-393MRy Steam Coaches (Numbered in NYERR sequence)Gilbert & Bush1886
394-500MRy Steam Coaches (Numbered in NYERR sequence)Gilbert & Bush1887
501-520ex-Met Steam CoachesBarney & Smith1878
521-580ex-Met Steam CoachesPullman1878
581-675ex-Met Steam CoachesPullman1879
676-699MRy Steam CoachesPullman1880
700-728MRy Steam CoachesPullman1880
729-776MRy Steam CoachesPullman1880
777-790MRy Steam CoachesPullman1881
791-825MRy Steam CoachesPullman1881
826-919MRy Steam Coaches (Numbered in MRy sequence)Gilbert & Bush1887
920-964MRy Steam Coaches (Numbered in MRy sequence)Wason1890
965-1019MRy Steam CoachesWason1891

The above groups were used in Second, Third, Sixth and Ninth Ave. elevated service from 1886 to 1901, at which time they were equipped for electric service.

1095-1098ex-SRT Steam CoachesPullman1886
1099-1120ex-SRT Steam CoachesGilbert & Bush 1887

The above groups were obtained with the Suburban Rapid Transit property by the Manhattan Rwy. in 1891, and then used on all lines through their electrification in 1901-03.

1020-1094MRy Steam Coaches.Wason1893

The above cars were the last steam coaches obtained by the Manhattan Rwy. Co., being used on all routes (Second, Third, Sixth and Ninth Aves.) through their electrification in 1901-03.

40, 41MRy MotorWason1902
42-91MRy MotorACF1901-02
92-241MRy MotorWason1902-03

(Above groups in NYERR sequence). The above were closed, open-vestibule motor cars (built as electric cars), used with former steam coaches converted to electric coaches (listed below), to inaugurate electric service, beginning with the Second Ave. line in December, 1901. Beginning in 1902, they began being trained with former steam coaches converted to electric motor cars.

1219MRy Open TrailerACF1902
1220-1244MRy Open TrailersJewett1902
1245-1254MRy Open TrailersACF1902

The above were dubbed "Open-Air Cars", being similar in function to the open streetcars of the era. They were hauled behind regular open-vestibule motors, used in Summer only, and advertised as a ride on "The Open Air Line".

IRT Elevated Division Roster, 1903-1956

1-39ex-MRy TrailersPullman1885
40, 41ex-MRy MotorsWason1902
42-91ex-MRy MotorsACF1901-02
92-241ex-MRy MotorsWason1902-03
243-292ex-NYERR TrailersGilbert & Bush1879
293-364ex-MRy TrailersBowers & Dure1882
365-369ex-MRy TrailersPullman1889
370-393ex-MRy MotorsGilbert & Bush1886
394-500ex-MRy MotorsGilbert & Bush1887
501-520ex-Met TrailersBarney & Smith1878
521-580ex-Met TrailersPullman1878
581-675ex-Met TrailersPullman1879
676-699ex-MRy TrailersPullman1880
700-728ex-MRy MotorsPullman1880
729-776ex-MRy TrailersPullman1880
777-790ex-MRy TrailersPullman1881
791-825ex-MRy MotorsPullman1881
826-919ex-MRy MotorsGilbert & Bush1887
920-964ex-MRy MotorsWason1890
965-1019ex-MRy MotorsWason1891
1020-1094ex-MRy MotorsWason1893
1095-1098ex-SRT MotorsPullman1886
1099-1120ex-SRT MotorsGilbert & Bush1887

Phase-out of IRT Gate Cars in general began in 1938 with the abandonment of the 6th Ave. Elevated. Most of the converted steam trailers were removed from service after the abandonment of 2nd Ave.-Queens service in June, 1942. Former steam coaches converted to motor cars were still in service until 1950.

1219MRy Open TrailerACF1902
1220-1244MRy Open TrailersJewett1902
1245-1254MRy Open TrailersACF1902

The Open-air Trailers were hauled behind open-vestible motor cars each summer through 1918, after which they were withdrawn and scrapped.

1121-1218IRT TrailersACF1903
1255-1314IRT MotorsWason1903
1315-1364IRT TrailersWason1904
1365-1414IRT TrailersSt. Louis1904
1415-1528IRT TrailersSt. Louis1907-08
1529-1612IRT MotorsWason1907-08
1613-1652IRT MotorsBarney & Smith1910
1653-1672IRT MotorsJewett1910
1673-1692IRT TrailersWason1909
1693-1712IRT TrailersSt. Louis1911
1713-1752IRT TrailersWason1911
1753-1792IRT MotorsJewett1911
1793-1812IRT Motors1911

The IRT Gate Cars, ex-NYERR, ex-Metropolitan and ex-Manhattan Rwy. Gate Cars were intermixed in trains on the Second, Third, Sixth and Ninth Ave. lines from 1903 through 1923. In that year, the IRT began re-fitting 470 Gate Cars as "M.U.D.C." units. Remaining Gate Cars were operated, usually in rush hours, through December, 1950, when they were removed from the Third Ave. Thru-Express route, but for 21 cars used on the Dyre Ave. Shuttle route of the Subway Division until 1954.

2000-2059Comp. Lo-V MotorsJewett1903
2060-2119Comp. Lo-V MotorsSt. Louis1903
2120-2159Comp. Lo-V MotorsWason1903
3000-3039Comp. Lo-V MotorsJewett1903
3040-3139Comp. Lo-V MotorsStephenson1903-04
3140-3279Comp. Lo-V MotorsSt. Louis1903-04
3280-3339Comp. Lo-V MotorsWason1903-04

Originally built for the Subway Division as Hi-V Motors and Trailers, these wood-steel cars were rebuilt in entirety as Low-Voltage motors (incompatible with the IRT's Gate Cars), and transferred to the Elevated Division beginning in 1915. They entered service on rush hour center-track express routes in January, 1916, and remained in this role until their retirement in April, 1950. Due to their weight, these cars had to return light on the local tracks after completing express runs or when pulling out for service. The cars' original trucks were replaced with new ones of a design common to the Manhattan El, and were then used under new steel subway cars.

a. Hi-V Cars Hi-V Trailers: 11 (St. Louis, 1907-08); 1121-1129, 1131-1143, 1145-1184, 1186-1190, 1192, 1194-1200, 1202-1218 (ACF, 1903); 1415-1446, 1448-1458, 1460-1514, 1516-1528 (St. Louis, 1907-08); 1673-1685, 1687-1705, 1713-1723 (Wason, 1909) [247 Cars] Hi-V Motors: 161, 162, 172, 189, 191, 194, 211, 212, 216, 218, 220, 222-225, 227, 229-234 (Wason, 1902-03); 1255-1257, 1259-1291, 1293-1306, 1308-1314 (Wason, 1903); 1654-1659 (Jewett, 1910); 1762, 1810 (Cincinnati, 1911) [117 Cars]
b. Lo-V Cars Lo-V Trailers: 1706-1711 (St. Louis, 1911); 1724-1752 (Wason, 1911) [35 Cars] Lo-V Motors: 1660-1672 (Jewett, 1910); 1753-1761, 1763-1809, 1811, 1812 (Cincinnati, 1911) [71 Cars]

In 1923 and 1924, the IRT retro-fitted the above 470 cars with enclosed vestibules and air doors. As such, only one conductor was required to operate a train instead of one conductor for each pair as the Gate Cars required. The savings in labor to the IRT were obvious. The cars first appeared in 1923, becoming regulars on the 2nd and 6th Ave. Locals, and by the time all entered service in 1924, they were assigned to various express routes and to Queens service. Retirements of the Hi-V MUDC cars began in December, 1950, and were completed in 1955 with the abandonment of 3rd Ave. service to Manhattan. The Lo-V MUDC's plied on what remained of the line in The Bronx until January of 1957, when they were withdrawn and scrapped.


Built from older BMT Gate Cars for service via the Flushing line to the 1939 World's Fair, the "Q" (for Queens) cars arrived on the Third Ave. line in April, 1950, after the cessation of joint IRT/BMT service on the Flushing and Astoria lines in 1949 had made them surplus. The cars were placed on trucks taken from scrapped Composites, which then made them too tall for some Third Ave. line clearances. As a result, the cars' roofs then had to be "shaved" by about four inches. Until the discontinuance of Third Ave. service from Chatham Square to 149 St. in May, 1955, the Q's were used only on center track expresses, returning "light" to their point of origin, because of excess weight. The cars continued in service on the truncated Third Ave. Local, from 149 St. to Gun Hill Rd., until replaced, along with the MUDC's, in January, 1957. Two years later, they were to reappear on their native BMT.

Third Ave. Line Equipment, 1956-1965

4700-4770Steinway Lo-V MotorsPullman1916
5628-5652Steinway Lo-V MotorsACF1925

Several cars from these two groups of Lo-V's were transferred from the 7th AVE-BRONX EXPRESS, LEXINGTON-JEROME EXPRESS and LEXINGTON-WHITE PLAINS RD. EXPRESS routes to the THIRD AVE. LOCAL, beginning service on December 15, 1956. By the end of January, 1957 they had completely replaced the MUDC and Q-car trains on the route since May, 1955. It is possible that the Lo-V's replaced the older equipment more or less immaliately, but information is lacking.

4025-4036Lo-V Steinway Motors Pullman 1915
4215-4222 Lo-V Steinway Motors IRT 1929*
4555-4576 Lo-V Steinway Motors IRT 1929#
4811-4965 Lo-V Trailers Pullman 1916-17
5303-5377 Lo-V Compressor Trlrs Pullman 1922
5378-5402 Lo-V Trailers Pullman 1922

*-Cars 4215-4222 rebuilt from Hi-V Trailers by IRT in 1929.
#-Cars 4555-4576 rebuilt from Lo-V Trailers by IRT in 1929.

By 1961, cars from the above groups had joined cars of the two series used on the THIRD AVE. LOCAL since December, 1956, being used at random from the 7th AVE-BRONX EXPRESS route.

5653-5702World's Fair Steinway Lo-V MtrSt. Louis1938

These cars, usually in complete train sets (5 cars) began service on the THIRD AVE. LOCAL on February 4, 1962, being transferred in from the 7th AVE-BRONX EXPRESS and the 42 ST. SHUTTLE. Various mixed Steinway Lo-V's continued to operate on the Third Ave. line. By October, 1963, cars of series 4025-4036, 4215-4222 and 4555-4576 were no longer used on the THIRD AVE. LOCAL, all service being provided by Steinway Lo-V's of 4700-4770 and 5628-5652 series, Lo-V Trailers of series 4811-4965, 5303-5377 and 5378-5402 and World's Fair Steinways 5653-5702. On December 23, 1963, all Steinway Lo-V's remaining in service were assigned to THIRD AVE. LOCAL service, and as of February 21, 1964 all remaining Lo-V's were removed from 7th AVE-BRONX and 7th AVE-LENOX EXPRESS service.

4966-4999,5300-5302Lo-V MotorsPullman1917

As of July, 1964 some of these conventional Lo-V Motors had begun THIRD AVE. LOCAL service. As a result, all remaining Trailers from the 4811-4899 group, and most cars from the 5378-5402 series were retired. In addition, all remaining 4700-4770 series cars were withdrawn.

Third Avenue El Equipment, 1965-1973

As of May 31, 1965 the following cars were assigned to the THIRD AVE. LOCAL: Lo-V Trailers: 4902, 4913, 4934, 4942, 4946, 4950 (Pullman, 1916-17); 5303, 5312, 5323, 5330, 5335, 5337, 5340, 5353, 5354, 5356 (with Compressors, Pullman, 1922); 5390 (Pullman, 1922) Steinway Lo-V Motors: 5628, 5631, 5633, 5636, 5638, 5641, 5647, 5649, 5650, 5651 (ACF, 1925) World's Fair Steinway Lo-V Motors: 5653-5659, 5661-5688, 5690-5702 (St. Louis, 1938)

For the most part, these cars remained in THIRD AVE. LOCAL service until replaced by R-12's, beginning in August, 1969 and ending in early November, 1969.

5753-5802GE R-12ACF1948
5803-5806GE R-14ACF1949

Cars 5753-5802 began THIRD AVE. LOCAL service on August 30, 1969 following their transfer in off the #2, #4 and #5 lines and assumed all Third Ave. line runs as of November 3, 1969. As of April 29, 1971 GE R-14's 5803-5806 were also transferred from the #2, #4 and #5 lines to the THIRD AVE. LOCAL (#8) and all remained until final abandonment on April 29, 1973. The R-12's (5753-5802) were then put in Work Service or retired, while R-14's 5803-5806 were returned to the #2, #4 and #5 lines, where they remained until October, 1976.

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