BMT 4th Avenue Line
BMT 4th Avenue at 36th Street, R-160B no. 8842 on N, R-46 no. 5566 on R. Photo by Zach Summer, October 2009.
The 4th Avenue (Brooklyn) subway began service on June 22nd, 1915. It connected with the BMT's Sea Beach line to Coney Island, as well as the Manhattan Bridge and ran to Chambers Street, Manhattan, over the Manhattan Bridge. This was the first service in the 4th Avenue subway, as well as the first over the bridge. In addition, the first steel cars operated by the BRT (and BMT), the 67' standards, operated over this route. The route was also opened from 85th St, Brooklyn, to Chambers St, Manhattan, in 1916. In 1920, trains ran from 86th St, and the line was extended further south to 95th St (the present day terminal) in 1925. Trains originating from 95th St ran via the Montague St tunnel and the Broadway (Manhattan) subway into Astoria, Queens.
It should be noted that the tracks on the Manhattan Bridge were ready for service shortly after the bridge's opening day (December 31st, 1909). However, they were not connected to any tunnel routes on either side of the bridge, because none existed! In 1912, the Manhattan Bridge Three Cent Line, a trolley company, began running trolleys over the subway tracks on a temporary basis until 1915, when the trolleys were moved to the upper roadways and the BRT subway opened. The trolleys ran over the Manhattan Bridge until 1929, when the auto won out over the streetcar.
The 4th Avenue subway was built jointly by the New York Municipal Railway Corporation (a BRT/BMT subsidiary set up for the Dual Contracts) and the City of New York. The BRT had already built the section between Flatbush Avenue Extension, Fulton St, Ashland Place and 43rd St / 4th Avenue before the Dual Contracts were signed. That section of the line was originally intended to be part of the 1908 "TriBorough Plan". The line runs through part of the site of the Battle of Long Island, and since the ground was filled in from the days of the Revolutionary War, it was expected that artifacts from that battle would be found during construction. None were ever found.
The subway is 4 tracks from Pacific Street to 65th Street. At 36th St, the West End Line connection can be found; at 59th St, the Sea Beach connection can be found. From 65th St to 95th St, the subway is two tracks, and they were built in the west side of 4th Avenue, so that two additional tracks could be laid in the future if traffic ever warranted it.
Provisions for this expansion are visible at several locations along the existing 4th Ave. Subway. The subway is carried in the lower deck of a bridge over the LIRR Bay Ridge branch cut, and here it can be seen that the bridge has four trackways of which only the western two are used. The tunnel leading up to each side of the bridge was built only for the existing two tracks. At Bay Ridge Ave. and 77th St. stations, the southbound platform has the usual columns, but the northbound, being where a trackway would be if expanded, does not. At 86th St, the southbound track swings out around the platform, but the northbound is straight (from the north); in other words, this would be the western half of an express station.
Today, 4th Avenue subway service is composed of R-46s and R-32s on the N line, R-46s and an occasional R-32 on the R line, R-68s and an occasional slant R-40 on the B line, and R-42s on the M line when it runs during rush hours to Bay Parkway, Brooklyn.
Planned Expansion to Staten Island
The original Dual Contracts plan provided for a tunnel under the Narrows from southern Brooklyn/Bay Ridge to Staten Island. The tunnel was intended to leave the 4th Avenue subway at 65th St, Brooklyn, and would have entered Staten Island midway between St. George and Stapleton, and would have had branches to each. The 4th Avenue subway has four tracks between 59th and 65th Streets, two of which were intended for the Staten Island connection.
The Staten Island link might have been built in several different ways. It is likely that a full 4-track subway to Fort Hamilton would only have made sense if it led to a Narrows tunnel. A different plan, which got as far as engineering drawings and even some excavation, would have left the subway just south of 59th St, and you can see tunnel stub headings running straight from the local tracks immediately south of the station. Several different plans were drawn up for the Narrows tunnel, including a two track and a four track option.
Recent discussions of a railroad freight tunnel across New York Harbor from New Jersey via Staten Island may once again bring about discussion of connecting the subway to Staten Island. It is likely that any tunnel built would be designed to tie into the LIRR's Bay Ridge Branch across southern Brooklyn to East New York, Fresh Pond, and via the New York Connecting Railroad to the Hell Gate Bridge.
Route 11-A Broadway-Fourth Avenue Subway
- 1. Ashland Place and Fourth Avenue - Fulton St. to Sackett St.
- 2. Fourth Avenue - Sackett St. to 10th St.
- 3. Fourth Avenue - 10th St. to 27th St.
- 4. Fourth Avenue - 27th St. to 43rd St.
Route 11-B Broadway-Fourth Avenue Subway
- 1. Fourth Avenue - 43rd St. to 61st St.
- 2. Fourth Avenue - 61st St. to 86th St.
- 3. Fourth Avenue - 86th St. to 95th St.
Route 33 Whitehall St., East River, and Montague Street
- 2A. Whitehall St. to Montague and Clinton Sts.
- 3. Montague, Fulton, and Willoughby Sts. - Clinton St. to Flatbush Ave. Extension; Clinton St. to Borough Hall
- MB-Ex 1. Flatbush Avenue Extension - Nassau Street to Willoughby Street
It's a long ride from 95th Street to Pacific Street on the R line, and the R-46s don't really allow railfans a good view of the tunnel. The N runs local on this line, too, and unless you catch an R-32, again, there's nothing much to see. The B train now consists of R-68s, so, once again, your cab view is obstructed. It's a shame, too, because the express run from 36th Street to Pacific Street, has some downgrades that allow the train to gather up some excellent speed. The M train, when it runs during rush hours, allows a good view of the local tracks from 36th Street, but the fact that it runs local takes away from the fun. So, from a cab view standpoint, there isn't much going for it here.
From a historical perspective, several things make the line interesting. There exists trackways south of 36th Street station that dive under the mainline tracks. There was an abandoned mezzanine somewhere south of the present station which was "stranded" when the present ramps from the West End Line were built and the station was extended northward. Legend has it that 86th St was intended to be used for some unknown purpose, because it has a very wide island platform and a mezzanine, ala the IND. As the original terminal before 95th St was built, it may have been three tracks, and the center platform was built over the center track when the line was extended to 95th St.
|BMT 4th Avenue Line|
By Mark S. Feinman, Peggy Darlington, David Pirmann, and Joe Brennan