Brooklyn Waterfront Railroads

From nycsubway.org


A SubTalk Fieldtrip on September 18, 1999. Saturday's tour was as perfect a trip as you could want. The group consisted of Bob Anderson, Al "Faxman" Braunstein, Paul the bike rider, Peter Rosa, Kevin Walsh, Howard Fein, Alex L., Michael S. (a non-SubTalker), and Robert w/ son Robert Jr. (and of course, myself).

The meeting location was actually off by one street corner: I should have said 38th & 3rd, NOT 39th & 3rd. Anyhow, I initially ran into Alex, Faxman, Robert (w/Robert, Jr.), Paul and Kevin.

Our first point of interest was right down the block -- the South Brooklyn Railway's 4th Avenue transfer point just west of the B and N line tracks. We found the gate wide-open. This was our first surprise of the day (and certainly not the last), since this location is supposed to be a locked facility. We were able to walk some of the track and took a number of pictures (including the 1st group shot) at that location. The lot was unkempt, showing signs of not having been used in quite awhile. There was a TA maintenance flat car with a set of rail running up to it from the trackbed. I assume this is the transfer point for new or refurbished cars that are brought in by railcar and unloaded for movement through the NYCT system.

Moving on toward 2nd Ave., we stopped at the SBK interchange yard, but there was really nothing to see besides some NYCT RTS buses awaiting the scrap heap. The street tracks indicated they hadn't been used in some time.

We walked down 2nd Ave. to 41st. Street, where there is the old Bush Terminal Associates warehouse. It is missing its lower two floors near the corner to allow for freight trains to negotiate turns at the street intersection. I took a group shot there as well. And Kevin took advantage of the surroundings by taking a shot of an old advertisement on the side of a building across the street (I assume we will see a new addition to his "Old Advertisements" site, hint, hint).

Next stop: New York Cross Harbor RR at 43rd and 1st. After I signed a waiver with the New York Cross Harbor Railroad we were given permission to walk around the yard and look at the equipment (which we did). There were a number of stray railcar trucks which included three that were from former subway equipment (both Faxman and Bob took shots). NYCH equipment consisted of two partially scrapped diesels, two cabooses (one w/some witty graffiti) and a number of chemical cars all on one siding near the sidewalk. Following one of the main tracks in the yard, we ended up walking west, which lead us to a new floatbridge. There at water's edge was a barge moored to the bridge. Again, we all had a great time taking pictures of this recent addition to the Cross Harbor operation.

Moving on, we walked along 1st Ave. southward to 55th St. where we entered BAT (Brooklyn Army Terminal). I wasn't even sure whether we'd get into the terminal area, since there was a "Checkpoint Charlie" type of guard shack by 55th St. However, it turned out that that was just for vehicular traffic. We merely walked through along the sidewalk and had no trouble. We followed the mainline track of NYCH through the yard. As we -- Kevin, Bob, and myself -- surmised, the tracks led down and eastward at the southern-most end of BAT into the NYCH's yard where interchanging of freight occurs with New York & Atlantic Railway. That's also the location of the western-most end of the LIRR's Bay Ridge branch. At this point we found a picnic-type table and decided to make it our lunch break.

After chowing down, it was about 3:00 and decided to find an exit and head back, after a very eventful trip. As we came to the exit (which turned out to be the same way we entered), Peter and Kevin did a slight detour, entering the main Bush Terminal building. Little did we realize at what treasures awaited us inside.

BAT was once a bustling industrial complex, particularly during the years between the two World Wars. In the lobby was a small glass enclosed exhibit in the main buildings' lobby showcasing the activities of the terminal at the height of the WW2. We got an extra treat near the doorway -- a photo exhibit describing Elvis Presley's train trip to the Brooklyn Waterfront in 1958, when he entered the Army (this answered a longstanding question for Kevin). It was here where we received the biggest surprise: two vintage coaches from the old "Brooklyn Central Railroad", coupled, and on an old rail loading-bay track inside the terminal building. This, of course, was another grand group photo op for both the Faxman and myself.

Kevin parted with the group at BAT as he was going on to Bay Ridge. And somehow we lost track of Peter along the way back up 1st Ave.

We re-entered NYCH terminal by 50th Street and made a trek over to the main office. There, I thanked the staff for their time and courtesy. At that point, we said 'good-bye' to Robert and Robert, Jr. as they were parked over by 41st. street.

Once returning to 39th Street by the Costco parking lot, the rest of us parted ways -- faxman, and Bob having parked at Costco. Alex L. was street parked on 3rd near the SBK tracks, and Howard and I found parking elsewhere in the area.

Footnote: Before splitting up, I recommended going on to investigate the PCC that was mentioned in an earlier thread on SubTalk. It was supposedly in a lot at President Street and 4th Ave., which was about a little over a mile from our location. Since we had 'long haul' members from Long Island and New Jersey, it was left up to Paul (on his trusty bike) and myself as the sole investigators. Driving up 4th Ave. I came upon this old but solid-looking structure. It was an old bathhouse that I later found out is now a city landmark. In a lot on the 4th Ave. side was indeed a SEPTA PCC. In need of a trolley pole and new paint job, but otherwise in good condition.

The most unique aspect of the trip had to have been the incredibly picture-perfect weather conditions. With Hurricane Floyd gone by a little over 12 hours, the tri-state area was cleared of any remaining humidity. With bright sunshine, a cloudless sky, and slight breezes....and it doesn't get any better than this!

Again, thanks to all who came -- hopefully next time around, everyone who missed it this time can make it -- a good time will be guaranteed!

Photo Gallery

Five Random Images

Image 21516

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Photo by: Alan Braunstein

Image 21519

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Photo by: Bob Andersen

Image 21538

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Photo by: Gerald H. Landau
Collection of: Joe Testagrose

Image 53511

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Photo by: Harv Kahn

Image 53516

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Photo by: Harv Kahn

More Images: 1-47

Page Credits

By Doug Diamond.

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