RECTOR STREET, BMT Broadway line

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Rector Street is the one remaining station in Manhattan on the BMT Broadway line still sporting the 1969 makeover all local stations  received on the subway section of the BMT Broadway, which opened in 1915 and runs up 4th Avenue, Montague Street, Trinity Place, and Broadway and has terminated at Ditmars Boulevard or Continental Avenue at different times.

The main local is the R train, once known as the RR and before that, the #2. When lettering was introduced, the line received the RR designation, probably for “railroad,” and its signs originally featured a circled RR in ¬†a green field. After the Transit Authority switched the colors of its BMT and IND lines in the 1980s, R trains featured a black R on a gold field … except when the R used the Montague Street tunnel to Chambers Street, in which case it got a white R on a brown diamond.

When designed in the 1910s, the Broadway line employed the same style mosaic trim and ID tablets as IRT stations were featuring at the same time. In the Swinging Sixties, subway station designers went on a modernist kick and hired the Unimark firm to redesign the stations. Probably the use of the Standard typefont and later, Helvetica, on station signage is the main legacy of this era.

Plenty of stations were extended and received streamlined signage that was esthetically at odds with the stations that retained their 1910s mosaics, but on the Broadway, the Transit Authority went the full Monty and placed new off-white tiled walls, with simplified signs on fields that wore four colors in order: blue, tomato orange, grey, and gold. The signs were originally white with black letters in Standard, then were switched to black signs with white letters in Helvetica.

In the 1990s, as classic stylings were back in vogue, these new fronts were simply torn down, revealing the old mosaics behind them, which were spiffed up with new artwork.

Since the Broadway BMT was my subway line as a kid, I have a soft spot for this style. All Brooklyn stations on the line still feature it.


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Categorized in: One Shots Subways & Trains

11 Responses to RECTOR STREET, BMT Broadway line

  1. ron s says:

    Why would RR be for railroad? They were using letters near the end of the alphabet for most of the BMT then…T, TT, QB, QT, RR, N etc.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      Though double letters were used for locals, the nomenclature began with IND letters, which went from A-G. On the BMT there was JJ and QJ, which wound up in Jamaica, so you had J for Jamaica. Q was used for a number of lines… QB, QJ, etc, which wound up in Queens. I suspect RR was used because it conveniently stood for “railroad.”

      • GJY says:

        I don’t think the QB ever ran into Queens. It was QB because it was Q (local) via the Bridge. There was also QT (Q local via the Montague Tunnel). Then, after the Chrystie Street Connection opened, the southern part of the QT was combined with the J to become the QJ.

        The double letter for RR was simply to signify that it was local.

        Not sure what prompted the TA to give certain letters to certain lines. A-H were already used by the IND lines at the time. I was too close to 1 so I suspect, when it came to giving the BMT lines letters, they went roughly counter-clockwise, starting with JJ and KK on the Jamaica line, then LL, M, N, QB, RR, and TT (4th ave. Local); SS being reserved for shuttles and S for specials. They skipped over P. One story is that the P line would have likely been a local and they wanted to avoid havign to use PP. I kind of doubt that, however. My sense is that it was reserved for use on the line that eventually became truncated to the Culver Shuttle (would have fit in the scheme).

  2. Stephanie says:

    Isn’t there a small section of Rector Street where they uncovered the old tiles? Maybe by the exits at the end?

  3. Hoosac says:

    I remember when the stations were extended in Manhattan. The story going around at the time was that the new World Trade Center buildings were going to create so much traffic on the line that extra cars would be needed on the trains; hence the extensions of the platforms. It sounded plausible, at least.

    As to the “RR” designation, I think that grew out of the longtime IND practice of designating express trains with a single letter (A, D, E, F) and locals with two letters (AA, CC). The Broadway/4th Avenue line was a local, so, two letters.

  4. r185 says:

    I seem to recall a brief period (maybe mid 60′s) when double letters distinguished express from local trains. D DD, R RR…

  5. Jeff B. says:

    This style station was brand new when I started exploring the Subway in 1970. I remember how clean and bright they looked on the 4th Av Line compared to some of the grungier, skeevier looking stations (36th & 59th Sts and 9th Av lower level all come to mind). The glazed, cinder-block sized tile always reminded me of my elementary school bathroom; the blue stations always reminded me of the GWB Bus Terminal. I understood the MTA’s logic behind the design – It was current and used popular colors of the time, asserting the look of a modern transit system. Despite the 49th St station drowning in orange (and Bowling Green) it reflected the colors of the time; I’m so glad the MTA used a shade of blue that was not one of the era’s popular colors. Can you picture Avocado Green colored stations?!

  6. Edward says:

    This is the first I’ve ever heard that “RR” stood for railroad, at least in a subway context. The RR was (and still is) a local train, hence the IND-style double letter designation. When the TA switched over to single letters in 1987, the R and other BMT Broadway lines actually had white letters on a yellow background, which were VERY hard to read since the white/yellow were almost the same shade. A year or so later the TA got wise and switched to black letters/yellow background. The BMT Broadway lines (N, Q, R) are the only lines that have black letters on their roll signs. All the others are white.

  7. Pauline Mitchell says:

    I am interested in finding out about a mosaic of a woman in a flowing reddish and green gown which I have been told is in or near the Metropolitan subway. I am unsure if this mosaic is in the actual opera house itself or is part of the walls of the nearest subway station. She looks as if she could be based on a woman from mythology or maybe from an opera that has been performed there. I live in England but have seen a picture of this mosaic but with no details about it. I would just like to know where it can be seen, who is the woman in the mosaic and who created this particular mosaic. If anyone can be of any help at all I would be very grateful. Thanks in advance Pauline Mitchell (Mrs), Bristol, England.

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