Visible remnants can still be found from a trolley line in Canarsie, Brooklyn, at which trolleys last clanged and rumbled way back in 1942.
There’s a catch though–this was no regular trolley line, but it was in turn the last remnant of steam railroad service to Canarsie.
On this 1938 Geographia map of Canarsie, the single black line in the center of the picture represents the BMT Canarsie Line–designated by the letter L today. Then, as now, it ended at Glenwood Road and Rockaway Parkway.
Until 1942, though, a free transfer existed at Rock Parkway that allowed you on a trolley line that traveled on a private right of way between East 95th and 96th streets to its terminus at a long-departed beach resort at Jamaica Bay called Golden City, complete with an amusement park, fishing boat rentals and beer halls.
Let the 1939 WPA Guide to NYC set the scene:
A trolley car extension of the BMT subway runs through a littered lane between the back yards and unkempt gardens of rundown houses. Here and there passengers catch a glimpse of Canarsie’s better dwellings, of its village-like business section on Flatlands Avenue, of great stretches of dump and marsh, and of unpaved streets. In the near future Canarsie will undergo changes as the new Circumferential Highway [Belt Parkway] around Jamaica Bay is completed and the shore improved.
Funny, nowhere else in the WPA Guide is such delicious contempt exhibited toward any other NYC neighborhood. For years, Canarsie was the butt of many Borscht Belt comedian’s japes.
The railroad first came to Canarsie in 1906, when a steam line operated at grade between Canarsie Pier and East New York. Brooklyn Rapid Transit operated the line beginning in 1908, but ended through service to Canarsie Pier in 1920.
nycsubways.org on the Canarsie line:
In the early 1940’s the subway line discontinued the use of the Canarsie Pier terminal, terminating instead at Rockaway Parkway. The Canarsie Pier line maintained trolley service until that was replaced by the B42 bus and the right-of-way abandoned and built over. For the record, this right-of-way ran between East 95th and East 96th Streets as far south as Seaview Avenue.
In 1942, service ended on the private ROW, and the Rock Parkway trolley also met its demise in 1951, to be replaced by bus service.
Tangible remains still exist of trolleying, though, at the terminus of the BMT Canarsie Line (L).
There is a bus terminal at that station that assumes the old right of way of the trolley line. The poles that held the electric power lines for the trolley are still there, and long ago, street lighting was mounted on them, in probably the only instance in NYC this has been done.
RIGHT: Trolley pole with crossbar still stands on Rockaway Parkway south of Glenwood Road.
Note the tilt of the trolley pole in the foreground, and the tall wooden pole in the background, on Glenwood Road just south of Rock Parkway, diagonal to the street grid. They face that way because they still align with the old trolley right of way as it curved south toward East 95th Street.
RIGHT: Another trolley pole, with its crossbar orienting diagonally , is at East 96th Street, leading into a MTA-owned yard.
The NO DUMPING sign (which has been obviously ignored) dates to the 1960s, when the MTA was still known as the New York City Transit Authority. Over 20 years after trolley service ended the MTA owned this yard, which led into the old trolley right of way; the MTA probably still owns it, but who knows what plans there are for it.
There’s been plenty of time to obliterate any trace of the trolley right of way, but this driveway between East 95th and 96th north of Conklin follows the route.
Source: WPA Guide to New York City, published 1939, reprinted 1982 by Pantheon
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[…] In the 1800s, amusement parks, beaches, and resort areas were not only located in Coney Island, but also in Bath Beach and Ulmer Park along Gravesend Bay, Brighton Beach, Bergen Beach, and Canarsie. Sheepshead Bay Road (then called Shore Road) and Emmons Avenue were lined with dozens of smaller hotels. The Canarsie Railroad, or the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach Line, began operation in 1906 in East New York, connecting with the Long Island Railroad and operated also along the surface all the way to the Canarsie shore between East 95th Street and East 96th Street. […]
I live on e 96th street beween ave L and ave M . I was born there and was 18 years of age . I was born in 1937 and there was no Trolly running there then . There where “train tracks” but no trains and the The trolly ran on Rockway Parkway from The BMT Canarsie line terminal”End Of Line ” to canarsie pier .The trolly was powered by “overhead wires” which ran up and down Rockway Parkway , down to the Canarsie Pier and that was the only way the troillys could run as thet where ELECTRIC powered . There was no electric power on the train rails behind my house as the trains where steam powered . I beleive it was about 1941.Then the trains stopped running on that line behind my house . subsequently the train rails where picked up and all that was left was a barren corridor . The fence safe guarding the property was cut away and you could walk from E 96 Street to E 95 th Street across the property .Then the train rails where picked up . The electric trolly lines on Rockaway Parkway over head still powered the trollys to and from the pier to the BMT Canarsie line . On the “train lines” north of Glen wood road , for many years the where three train coal cards abandoned just sitting there . Just north of “R.J .Lewis Realty whose office was next to the train right of was on Glenwood rodd .My uncle . Some one has their information wrong !
Hi Len, this is going back many many years. My name is Diane Wolf. I also lived on E. 96th St., which backed up to the trolleys. Do you have a better memory than I because I thought that I remembered the trolley running there when we lived there up until the late 40s keep in touch
The Canarsie Railroad existed before 1906, from the LIRR at East New York to the shore and a steam ferry to Hammels on the Rockaway peninsula. A steam railroad. Also you should fix the text so the surface line and the BMT streetcar ROW free-transfer line, are better differentiated. The street line ended at Seaview Avenue. The text makes this a bit confusing.
The Canarsie RR began in 1865 as the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach Railroad, a steam dummy line. In 1906 it became part of the BMT El system, though at first, south of New Lots Avenue it used trolley wire. It wan from Canarsiee Landing to Broadway Ferry. In 1917, the line was fully third railed to Rockaway Parkway and due to all the grade crossings, trolley wire was kept south of there. From October 1917 to 1920, El Cars using trolley poles ran the shuttle service, and in October 1920, streetcars took over. on the private ROW
The carousel from Golden City was at Nunley’s ion Sunrise Highway in Oceanside for years and today is operational at Eisenhower Park in Garden City