When you were a child did you ever get excited when you were riding a train and suddenly, the car was awash in sunshine when the train emerged from the tunnel and vaulted onto an el structure? My ex-line, the R train from Bay Ridge to Queens, hasn’t done that since 1987 when the R was rerouted to 71st/Continental (from its old terminal, Astoria), and it now plies its entire route in tunnels. On the other foot, my line since 1992, the #7, spends almost its entire run on els, with only 5 westernmost stations, and one easternmost, in a tunnel. I still rush for the window when a train comes out of a tunnel like Pavlov’s dog started salivating when the dinnerbell rang. (I also salivate when a dinnerbell rings, but that’s another blog).
Recently, on my way to Canarsie for a lengthy walk in eastern Brooklyn, I stood by the doors and aimed my Panasonic Lumix out the window at the passing scenery. The Canarsie El has a lineage dating to the 1860s as a steam railroad line. When over a dozen subways and els were built as part of the IRT/BMT Dual Contract initiative in the 1910s, the Canarsie was put on an el to do away with grade crossings, and all but one, at East 105th Street, was eliminated — that one was not eradicated till the almost ludicrous late date of 1973 — just a year before your teenage webmaster began to explore Brooklyn on a bicycle.
The Broadway Junction is an elevated mass of metal where Broadway and Fulton Street come together. Brooklyn’s Broadway el (J train) and the elevated Canarsie Line (L train) can connect here, though revenue trains haven’t done so since the 1960s. The Fulton Street el also intersected these two lines running east to west until the 1950s. Today, passengers can transfer between those two lines, as well as the underground Fulton Street IND line, or the A train.
Further south, the L el parallels (say that fast) the old Bay Ridge branch of the Long Island Rail Road, now run by the NY and Atlantic RR. The LIRR ran passenger service here until 1924, and you can see what remains of the East New York station of that branch just inside the tunnel portals here. Way in the background you can see the brick arches that bring the LIRR Brooklyn Branch briefly to the surface here.
Passing Pitkin Avenue and a number of concrete plants, manufacturing and warehousing that are alongside the Bay Ridge Branch. The projects loom in the background.
The Canarsie Line is often shuttered on weekends on one stretch or the other. A lot of the work in recent years has been involved in modernizing the platforms and windscreens, which well into the 2000s were the most primitive in the system. This is a new art installation at Sutter Avenue by artist Takayo Noda is called The Habitat for the Yellow Bird.
The el roars over Linden Boulevard, and the boulevard roars under the el. In the 1920s, Linden Boulevard was constructed as an extension of Kings Highway (which itself had been expanded from a country lane) for auto traffic, which was starting to come into its own. Linden Boulevard, which eventually gets traffic onto Conduit Boulevard/ Belt Parkway, was formerly called Vienna Avenue.
The Canarsie Line terminal at Rockaway Parkway was formerly also a trolley terminal, and several archaisms and anachronisms associated with the trolleys can still be seen scattered about, like this pole that once held overhead power lines for the cars. On it is mounted a second relic, a 1960-era Westinghouse Silverliner lamp. Fairly frequently found in the 5 boroughs when I beagn FNY in 1998, they have become increasingly rare. Just north of the border, there’s a flock of them in Yonkers.