Sunday, January 9, 2011

Riding the El - 7 - Ninth Avenue


Once again we are going back to May 1940 to ride the elevated railways, while we still can. The Sixth Avenue El had closed in December 1938, and the Ninth Avenue El and upper Second Avenue El closed in June 1940.

The unknown photographer took at least three trips on the Ninth Avenue line with camera in hand. Here and next time I will sort the pictures into geographical order, covering the line from 59th St down to South Ferry.

133-8. Looking uptown at 59th St station.

From the Victorian ironwork at upper right to the Deco apartment house in the center: a New York story. The stone hulk at left is the Church of St Paul the Apostle, still there although nowhere near as dark as it looks in this photo. The structure with corner turrets a block north was the Twelfth Regiment Armory. But the purpose of this picture was probably to document the peculiar track-level platform area with the two sheds.

133-8 detail. Sheds.

The sheds are standing over a section of the original Greenwich St - Ninth Ave El, which was completed to 61st St in January 1876 as a one-track lightweight structure supported by columns along the west curb line of Ninth Ave. Although the tracks were relocated in 1880 to a conventional elevated structure over the center of the street, some of the old structure was left in place north of 59th St station, and it stayed there to the end. Charles Warren located a view from street level that you can see here.

133-7. Ninth Ave looking uptown toward 59th St station.

This was taken from the front window of an uptown local train. In both pictures you can see in the distance the 66th St hump express station. The center track went up to run between a pair of platforms located over the local tracks. This was an artifact of adding the center track to an existing structure in 1915-1916. The original station with side platforms, much like what we see here at 59th St, was left in place for local trains.

The next point of interest is the junction with the Sixth Ave El at 53rd St. There are a few views of the 53rd St route in Riding the El - 2 including one where you could see the junction in the distance (photo 81-2). Now we'll take a look at it, a year and a half after the Sixth Ave El was closed.

132-7. Ninth Ave looking downtown toward the former 53rd St junction.

To run to Sixth Ave, you had to be on the right-hand track and take a left turn at 53rd St. The center express track goes up and over the junction. Notice there are switches to allow for Sixth Ave trains running express north of this point, controlled by the tower on the right.

132-8. Ninth Ave looking downtown beyond former 53rd St junction.

This view shows where the junction was. In the foreground, the third rail, running to the left of the track we're on, still has a gap where the turnout was! And the same is true on the right-hand side of the uptown track. Downtown to Sixth Ave crossed uptown from Ninth Ave at grade, just like you would if you took a left turn driving in a street.

The tower on the right controlled the switches and the crossing. It looks like something was removed from the structure near it, but why any of it remained in 1940 is not clear. Up ahead, the express track goes back downgrade, and in the distance is 50th St station.

The wooden platform at extreme left was at the acute angle of the junction, as you'll see in a moment. 

133-6. Ninth Ave looking uptown at the former 53rd St junction.

From another ride: now we are on an uptown local. This is the wooden platform in the acute angle of the junction. The crossing has been removed, and by now the railing along the edge of the el looks as if it's always been there blocking the curve.

The photographer had still missed the money shot in two tries. He got it next time.

138-7. 53rd St at Ninth Ave, looking southeast.

The last remains of the Sixth Ave El, seen from a Ninth Ave El express train up on the hump.

I have never seen a photograph of this view. Compare the X shaped iron at the right-hand side of the previous view and the bottom of this one.

Does the S sign mean stop? I don't know why the track is intact on the curve, or for that matter why the structure in 53rd St was just being removed here so long after the el closed. This was probably the very last section standing.

138-7 detail.

Don't miss this. That building has a door on the third floor, with a little wooden stairway and bridge leading onto the elevated structure! There must be a story here.

UPDATE: It was Substation Number 3, providing a 600v DC feed to the third rail. The bridge carried electrical cables to the structure.

132-7 detail. Ninth Avenue west side, looking downtown.

Two meat markets on this block. I like the deco neon "Wines Liquors" sign. Shave and a haircut 40 cents: not two bits? This isn't as sharp as the views we had around 155th St, but remember, this was from a moving train!

133-1. Ninth Ave north from 30th St station.

The 34th St hump express station is in the distance. The 1934 western addition to the General Post Office is behind the train, in the double block from 31st St to 33rd St. The big hole on the left is the open railroad cut west of Penn Station, which to this day has not been built over.

We're on the uptown end of the downtown platform at 30th St station. The first segment of the first elevated railway in 1870 ended at 30th St, where it connected to trains of the Hudson River Railroad. Although most of the mainline trains were diverted to Grand Central in 1872, a decreasing number of local trains continued to run to 30th St until sometime in the 1910s. That's why the el had a station here, only four blocks from the major cross street at 34th St.

Next time, we follow the el down Greenwich Street to South Ferry.

1 comment:

  1. I found an image of the Steam Era water bridge just north of 61st St, which may explain the (former) purpose of these sheds.
    See "".
    I have updated the text of this set of images and refer back to this page and the ERA Steam Era 9th Ave El track map.