by Kevin Walsh

FNY Correspondent

With the IND approaching 80 years old, I thought I would give their decidedly different substations (from the BMT or IRT) some attention.  Since the substations were constructed in the early 1930s, the Art Moderne look was its logical direction in design.  Unlike the IRT or BMT, all of its substations have survived and are currently in use.  Each building is markedly different in size and design.  It would be very likely if these substations were constructed today — they’d look like they came from a cookie cutter. Isn’t it great that it didn’t happen that way?


Located on W. 133rd Street between St. Nicholas Avenue & Frederick Douglas Blvd. (8th Avenue), the Harlem Substation sits there with all its majesty and grace.


A very unique design on the door.

[IND took Art Moderne to its ultimate use — even commissioning unique designs for grillwork like that found here on the doors. The fonts chiseled over the doors are the same ones used on IND station signage — and nowhere else.]


The Stanton Street substation’s front door is actually on Essex Street.


The front door on Essex Street.


These zig zag lines are electrifying!


The Concourse yard on Jerome Avenue &  203rd Street  is the home for this beauty. It’s no longer a substation, but a storage building. The Concourse yard services the B & D lines.


Check out this design!


The Concourse yard has another storage building on 204th Street between Jerome & Paul Avenues.


One of the IND’s more intricate vent grills.


This substation has made a previous appearance on FNY not too long ago in a Greenwich Avenue entry. It is one of the taller IND substations. [Greenwich Avenue and West 13th Street]


Even though Jay Street and Smith Streets are indeed separate streets in Brooklyn, strangers to Brooklyn’s geography could walk from Smith Street & Hamilton Avenue all the way to Jay & Tillary Streets and think they were on the same street.  With this in mind, this Jay Street substation near Concord Street in Downtown Brooklyn is essentially on the same street as the Smith Street substation.


Smith Street near 2nd Place [Carroll Street station] is the location of this beauty.


I tried to get shot of this substation  around 3PM one day back in May. Due to traffic conditions and congestion, it was impossible to get a great shot of the IND’s largest substation, the Central Substation on West 53rd Street, btween 6th & 7th Avenues.  I was finally able to get these better shots at 5:40AM back in May.


The Avenue X substation can’t be seen too well from Shell Road & Avenue X in Brooklyn by the general public.  That’s because it sits far from the street. Check out the stylish Art Moderne font.




chris October 14, 2012 - 3:35 pm

Since its a substation that means it can be used in the place of a regular station if the regular one is closed for repairs-Brilliant!

Ed Sachs October 14, 2012 - 4:16 pm

I don’t know that the “Avenue X” substation (or is it “Avenue Z”) counts as an “IND” substation. Wasn’t built as part of the BMT Coney Island yard complex at around the same time (late 1920s/early 1930s)?

zoso October 14, 2012 - 6:53 pm

i am from florida.what is a substation ?

Kevin Walsh October 15, 2012 - 9:48 am

I should have provided an explanation.

Old Skool October 14, 2012 - 7:00 pm

I love this style. Too bad the second system did not get built. There would have been more buildings like this.

BST October 14, 2012 - 9:40 pm

Looks like the substation has an Ave Z address

R October 15, 2012 - 9:18 am

Beautiful stone and masonry work there – exactly what is lacking in modern architecture today. (well, that AND quality). Cheers, great website!

Chee Ef October 15, 2012 - 12:57 pm

Were any of these little structures and the detailing products of the WPA?

therealguyfaux October 18, 2012 - 6:13 pm

Probably not. The Independent subway was designed well before the WPA, say in the mid-20’s. The Art Deco style hung around for awhile, from the mid 20’s till about 1940, but even during its heyday it started to get a more stripped-down look.

Mitch October 15, 2012 - 3:02 pm

The IND is “approaching” 80 years old? I thought the IND turned 80 in September of 2012, which marked 80 years since the opening of the 8th Avenue IND subway in 1932.

Zen October 15, 2012 - 5:55 pm

The MTA Transit Museum hosts tours of these substations several times a year, it’s quite interesting. The tour guide is the retired superintendant of the MTA electrical system, very nice man and quite knowlegeable, having started at the bottom and working his way up through the years.

Mike Surlo October 15, 2012 - 7:47 pm

Substations convert AC transmission voltages such as 34.5 kv to the 600 volts DC on the third rail.

Tal Barzilai October 16, 2012 - 4:59 pm

I do find it a little strange that there is a substation for the IND in plain sight over in midtown Manhattan like the one on 53rd Street, because they are usually built in the outskirts.

Michael October 17, 2012 - 8:27 am

There is also a substation downtown- on Murray Street, between West Braodway & Greenwich Street. It is not as ornate as those shown above, and seems to have had its original doorway rebricked.

CarrollGardener October 17, 2012 - 12:19 pm

Note the ship’s prow on the Smith Street substation — presumably in homage to the working waterfront not far away.

butchie b. November 10, 2012 - 8:21 pm

I wonder if there is still a substation at Coney lsl. ave. and Quentin rd. I rember as a kid we would walk by it to go shopping on Kings hwy. It remained long after the trolley was gone. Possably supplied power to the brighton BMT line.

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G bowen May 14, 2018 - 4:45 pm

I would like to know what happened to the original brass doors on the sub station at greenwhich Avenue and 13th Street.


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