A legacy of the M train’s brown identification “bullet” can be found at an Amtrak underpass at 32nd Avenue and 56th Street in Woodside where, incidentally, no “subway” except the #7 Flushing Line El (identified by a purple bullet) runs.

No subway line has been shuffled around as much as the M — today it has two terminals in Queens, at 71st/Continental and Metropolitan Avenue, running on the Queens Boulevard, 6th Avenue and Broadway Brooklyn lines. However, the M used to run from Metropolitan Avenue to Coney Island, where it ran on the 4th Avenue subway and West End el. Before 1978, the M actually had a light blue ID bullet, but the colors were changed at the same time double letters (which usually denoted local lines) vanished from the nomenclature.

When the M was rerouted onto the 6th Avenue line, its bullets were switched to the orange used by other trains running on 6th: the B, D and F.

This leaves the J as the only “brown bullet” line remaining. Formerly, the R would run occasional rush-hour trains to Broad Street in lower Manhattan using the Nassau Street line where J trains ran; those trains carried a brown R diamond, at least in those cars using roll signs.


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12 Responses to LEGACY OF THE BROWN M, Woodside

  1. Eamonn says:

    A couple notes. That overpass is the part of the Amtrak Hell Gate. Also, the closest train is not the the 7 but the M and R which are a 5 minute walk away at Northern Blvd.

  2. Gary Fonville says:

    The M also ran on the Brighton line , going through the Montague tunnels and then across the Williamsburgh Bridge back to Brooklyn. This was in 1980

  3. Shaul Picker says:

    There is the Z train. These are R40M/R42 Subway Cars.

  4. JD says:

    “This leaves the J as the only “brown bullet” line remaining.”

    Don’t forget the Z

  5. Jeff B. says:

    Actually colors were changed in 1979 and appeared on the Diamond Jubilee maps the TA issued. Double letters were purged in 1985, giving us the K for the AA.

  6. andy says:

    In 1967 the M moniker was first officially used on the former BMT Myrtle-Chambers route, running weekdays between Metropolitan Ave. and Chambers Street in Manhattan. Around 1972 it was extended to Coney Island weekdays, through the Montague Street Tunnel, providing local service on the Brighton Beach Line. By 1987, its southern Brooklyn route was switched to the West End Line, but the south terminal was at Bay Parkway. In 2010 the current pattern was established by which the M runs between Metropolitan Avenue and 71st/Continental Ave/Forest Hills. This pattern makes it unique – on a trip from Metropolitan Avenue to Essex Street, it is running southbound operationally, but becomes northbound operationally when it reaches the next stop at Broadway-Lafayette. The opposite occurs when a train departs Forest Hills – it is southbound until Broadway-Lafayette, then becomes northbound to reach Metropolitan Ave. This information, is, of course, irrelevant to the ordinary rider.

  7. John Shea says:

    Those of you who are NPR listeners may have heard a recent review of Patti Smith’s biography “M Train” by Maureen Corrigan wherein she stated that “any real New Yorker knows that there is no M Train” . Next day there was a correction made no doubt after receiving a batch of comments, a few maybe from FNY devotees.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      I doubt Patti took the train to Brooklyn or Queens much.

      • Nootch says:

        Patti Smith lived in Brooklyn (Bed-Stuy/Clinton Hill) for several years. Also, it was Maureen Corrigan who said that there is no M Train, Patti did indeed name the book after the actual M Train.

  8. Gene Y. says:

    The double letter designations remained until the mid-1980’s.

  9. Kiwiwriter says:

    What always amused me was that the Myrtle Avenue Elevated from Bridge-Jay Street to Metropolitan Avenue was the “MJ” train with a purple bullet, but no train on that line ever bore that distinctive symbol — it was the last one in New York to run wooden cars, including World’s Fair specials and gate cars, at the time of its 1969 extinction. The roll-signs and metal markers on the trains could not be updated.

    So the “MJ” only existed on maps.

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