NEW YORK’S REMAINING GRADE RR CROSSINGS

Only a handful of railroad grade crossings remain in New York City. The term ‘grade’ crossing has nothing to do with school…it means anywhere a railroad crosses a main road at the street level, and crossing gates, signals and alarms are mandated.

The Long Island Railroad gradually eliminated its NYC grade crossings relatively early in the 20th Century with the last major project being the sinking of the Atlantic Branch beneath Atlantic Avenue in 1940.

Staten Island Railway (then known as Staten Island Rapid Transit) placed its right-of-way in an open cut for much of its route in 1965, eliminating the remainder of its grade crossings.

 

Back in 1900, Gravesend Neck Road was a farm road connecting Gravesend and what would become the Marine Park neighborhood.

Some of our current subway lines had railroad precursors. This is the old Brighton and Coney Island Railroad at about 1900-1910 at Gravesend Neck Road and what would eventually be between East 15th and East 16th Streets. Crossing gates and signs are in place, and a small shed served as a waiting room.

By 1920 the railroad had become a part of the newly-formed BMT and had been placed on an embankment, with the line crossing Neck Road on a bridge. By 1940 the line had become united with the remaining New York City subways. The B/Q train uses the line these days [2012].

 

photo from nycsubway.org

Fast forward about 65 years, and we see a BMT Standard crossing East 105th Street and Turnbull Avenue at New York City’s last remaining subway grade crossing in Brooklyn in 1964.

This grade crossing remained until 1975 when new housing projects in the area promoted more foot traffic, and it was thought prudent to eliminate this throwback. East 105th Street was closed and a standard center platform was built in the crossing’s place.

The last previous grade crossing elimination had been on the Brighton Line, in Midwood, Brooklyn, in 1908!

 

Some grade crossings are hanging in there gamely. Many of them are along the old Long Island Rail Road Montauk Branch between the Long Island City terminal and Jamaica.

This line used to be of much greater importance as a passenger line, but these days it is used mostly for freight, with only one or two daily passenger runs.

The tracks at left cross Borden Avenue in Long Island City at about 21st Street. They connect the Hunters Point Avenue station with the Montauk tracks that lead to the LIC station.

 

The LIRR used to have several stops along the Montauk Branch, which in later years, deteriorated into nothing more than clearings in the weeds along the tracks. When the LIRR bought dozens of new coaches in the late 1990s they required high-level platforms, and since these stations had only two or three trains stopping every weekday, it was decided to eliminate service for good in 1998 rather than build new platforms. Today, only one or two passenger runs use these tracks daily, express from Jamaica to Long Island City. Other trains use the tracks shown above over Borden Avenue past the Hunters Point Station, which join the main branch in Sunnyside Yards.

The above tracks cross Maspeth Avenue south of the old Haberman station at 48th Street, which has also kept a grade crossing.

 

88th Street, with light-to-medium traffic, has a grade crossing over the Montauk Branch at 76th Avenue in Glendale. Further east, much busier Woodhaven Boulevard crosses a massive bridge over these same tracks.

Further west, 73rd Place also has a grade crossing, but it leads to a flower shop at Lutheran Cemetery and is not a through street. That was the old Glendale LIRR stop which was closed in 1998.

 

My home LIRR station, Little Neck, employs perhaps the busiest grade cross in NYC, with plenty of trains during morning and evening rush hour. Until recently the gates were incomplete and the trains had to blast their horns whenever approaching the station. In 2010 the gates were finally complete and things got a bit quieter.

Little Neck’s sister station at Douglaston, a half mile to the west, also had a grade crossing until about 1962. Other grades on the Port Washington branch were eliminated by embankments and overpasses in 1913.

FNY’s beautiful T-Shirt model, Miss Linda, poses next to NYC’s busiest grade cross gate in 1999. Top photo: Jeremiah Cox.

More grade crossings can be seen on your Newtown Pentacle.

4/28/01; updated 4/5/12

 


3 Responses to NEW YORK’S REMAINING GRADE RR CROSSINGS

  1. William says:

    So are there really railroad crossings in New York City, the largest city in the nation? I’ve been wondering that, and hoping there would be, but I also had my doubts. I mean there are lots of trains in New York City, but much of them are underground (subways and others) or elevated. I’ve even ridden trains into and out of NYC, on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between there and Washington D.C., and only one time did I ride all the way up to Boston and back, but there were no railroad crossings along the ride (except in Connecticut.) I mean crossing signals can be seen from the train, just not on the track you’re riding on (except in Connecticut). But I’ve been under the impression that there were no railroad crossings in NYC, just overpasses or underpasses, and I even tried searching online maps (MapQuest or Google Maps) and found nothing, but NYC is way too large to look and there are too many places to look.

    I do wonder where and how they run freight trains because I understand diesel fumes are not allowed in NYC, but I’ve only seen passenger trains in NYC but I’m almost sure there are freight trains in NYC, but what locomotives do they use?

    Anyway, I’m a huge fan of railroad crossings, and have been since I was a little boy. I started noticing them when I was 1 or 2 years old and in Gary, Indiana, where I’m from, and there are lots of railroad crossings in Gary, trust me! Some streets have more than two or three crossings! At least Broadway Street and Grant Street do.

    But I have a huge interest in crossings and I especially favor the gated crossings, ungated but still signalized crossings next and I like the flashing red lights, both on the signals and on the gates, and I like some of the bells. I like real crossings and crossings in cartoons, especially cartoon crossings that look more like the real ones.

    And though I know crossings are dangerous and risky, even the ones with warning devices, I still like them more than grade separations, which I know and understand are safer. I mean I do like overpasses and underpasses somewhat and they are more convenient, railroad crossings are the best part of the railroad in my opinion, any railroad, although I prefer American crossings or American-like crossings, including what’s used in Canada, Australia, Argentina, Panama, and the Netherlands, and what’s starting to be used in Mexico. I do like Germany’s crossings and the U.K.s but I prefer the more American-style signals and I like gates with lights better than gates without.

    What I also don’t like is when railroad lines go out of service and then the tracks and other railroad paraphernalia get removed, including crossings. That’s sad and heart-breaking to me.

    I have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and that may be the reason why I’m so into crossings, and though I’ve been alive for more than 30 years now, I’m still into railroad crossings and hope this never changes about me. I love crossings so much I insist on having them on my train sets and train layouts, even if I have to make them myself! Crossing gates I can also make but I have to buy flashing light signals. I use and prefer HO scale over all else, including T&S Trains track and Cobblestone Corner Railways. And though I know I’m not always going to see crossings with trains, whether on toy trains or in TV shows and movies, or wherever, sometimes it does disappoint me when I don’t see railroad crossings, especially one with gates or at least lights (crossings with neither I don’t care that much for, or wigwags unless gates are included). And speaking of gates, I prefer the red and white striped ones to other colors but do like black and white and black and yellow ones and I prefer the gates that go up and down to the door-like gates or fence-like gates as was used in the UK (some UK crossings are still like that) or similar to what’s on Thomas the Tank Engine.

    It does break my heart when crossings are eliminated for whatever reason (unless the crossing is being relocated or rerouted) but I do know and understand it’s for safety and convenience.

    I do know the next largest cities to NYC, Los Angeles and Chicago have crossings, although I don’t know which city has more of them, my guess is Chicago, but are there really crossings in THE NYC?

    That is all. Thank you for reading.

    William (last name withheld for privacy)
    30
    Written November 18, 2015

  2. BRUCE GEIDEL says:

    I believe that the final blow to the remaining grade crossings of the Staten Island Rapid transit on the Tottenville/ St. George line was a result of the November 7, 1960 accident at the Bancroft Avenue open grade crossing when a school bus carrying 51 children was struck by a St. George bound SIRT train while crossing the tracks from South Railroad to North Railroad Avenue. Seven year-old Caroline Tarr was killed and 40 other school children were injured. Both the school bus driver Edgar Hollowell and the train’s motorman William Allan resided in Tottenville, Staten Island. Both of them are now deceased.

  3. Retired Rail Maint Man says:

    @ William..

    Sorry it has taken so long for answers your questions to come, but I hadn’t come across this page till this morning and I guess nobody else even knows or cares anymore.

    The answer you seek is NO on street grade crossings!

    There are NO working street-level crossing gates left within the five boroughs of New York City!

    The last one was torn out/up/down back in 1960-61.

    There was one still in operation left out on Long Island before I retired, but I could be wrong and that too may be gone now.

    Also, L.I. is NOT a part of the city, it is just another part of New York state.
    L.I. seceded many, many years ago and is no longer considered a part of NYC and more or less IS it’s own entity.

    New York City is comprised of only the following five boroughs;
    Manhattan
    Brooklyn
    Queens
    Bronx
    Staten Island-My hometown.

    To answer your question about Diesel engines;
    NO!
    They weren’t banned due to fumes!
    That is highly incorrect!,
    The greedy government in NYC, especially it’s always greedy and grafting mayor, really couldn’t care any less about people or their health or any of that sort of nonsense, but they would use it as a lame excuse/lip service in an attempt to appease the public which they think they are smarter than!

    The awful truth is, Diesel engines, maintenance, maint. crews, parts and Diesel fuel became way too expensive and cut right into the MTA”s $ grafting/$ siphoning/$ stealing/$ extorting schemes and so they had to go!

    The MTA does still own a few, but rarely ever puts any of the old ladies into use or service!

    Electric Locomotives are what they use!

    Electric motor powered loco’s and tenders are used within and throughout the five boroughs of New York city.

    Electric loco’s are used throughout the MTA’s entire subway system’s rail lines for inspections, maintenance, track cleaning and emergencies and also to push/pull any subways which may have gotten “stuck” due to any equipment failure, or were stuck in a brown-out, or black-out, or were involved in any type of “accident” and need to be cleared/moved out.

    Electric engines are also used for Metro-North Lines-(NYC to upstate NY and to other cities and states) and also for Long Island R.R. lines.

    No diesels are in use there anymore either.

    Electric engines are also used in any and all NYC area Non-MTA passenger rail yards and freight yards.

    Some diesel engines may still be in use in upstate New York, but I doubt it.

    But, I do know for a fact that ALL of Staten Island’s north shore freight rail lines have been shut down and abandoned and mostly dismantled and scrapped since the early to mid 1980’s, cause that was when the city started tearing up all the old and no longer used/defunct rails and knocking down all the beautiful old 1880-1920-era brick-by-brick constructed stations!

    The Islands north shore passenger line ceased around 1966-67.

    The north shore freight rail system was already pretty much dead once the 3 bridges to New Jersey all opened up in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s anyway.

    Over the road shipping/hauling began and the demise of rail use began and once some of the big companies on the Island, like Sherwin-Williams Paints and Procter & Gamble co., both moved away from the Island and went out west and left thousands of their own workers unemployed, the trickle down effect essentially killed what little was left of the island’s north shore freight shipping rail lines and many neighborhoods, towns and companies that were along the north shore railways path.

    Even the old 1905-era railroad-draw-bridge was abandoned and left stuck in the up position so ships could pass underneath, been that way since back around 1984-85 and has never been lowered since.

    Although I have recently heard some complete nonsense about the city wanting to waste billions (which ALWAYS turns into trillions) of tax dollars to get the old bridge fixed, just to lower it and than dismantle and knock it down and than build a new railroad draw bridge, that no trains will ever use anyway.
    But, I seriously doubt it will ever get done and really shouldn’t, as it would only be a total waste of money and time!

    Staten Island only has the MTA owned “S.I.R.T” passenger train that runs from the south shore in Tottenville to the northeastern most tip at the St. George Ferry Terminal vie the island east shore, but even those are mostly empty, outside of the short morning and evening rush hours.

    We natives here have always called the SIRT the “Roach Coach” and most Island born natives here (like myself, and there aren’t many of us left anymore) NEVER ever ride the SIRT, or the Manhattan subways, those are mainly just for skells, bad guy’s, hookers, tourists and undercover cops!

    And except for the occasional purse snatcher(s)/knife or gun wielding mugger(s)/ghetto trash and other POS, nobody is ever on those old, slow Staten Island Rapid Transit Trains!

    MTA owned/controlled buses and subways here throughout New York City now cost $3.75 for one, one way ride now and that “fee” (extortion/greed rate) is going up again very soon, so most people (like me) just drive to where they want to go, since it’s much faster, safer, easier and ends up being cheaper and gets you exactly where you want to be, not ten blocks away! lol

    Do yourself a favor, stay in Indiana and don’t bother coming here! It’s all way too expensive and overpriced and it flat out sucks, if your not into preppie/yuppie/hipster garbage!

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