You’re looking at part of Manhattan’s only stretch of elevated train track south of Dyckman Street. For approximately 70 years, between the 1870s and 1940s, the island was chockablock with elevated lines, subways and trolley lines (which drew power from underground electric conduits). However, a combination of political decisions and the rise of the automobile and bus gradually put an end to the els and trolleys.
Most NYC historians mention the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th Avenue els. Those were the main trunk lines, but portions of those els also traveled Pearl Street, the Bowery, Greenwich Street, 1st Avenue, 3rd, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 53rd and 110th Street, as well as several others. All died out like the tyrannosaur, the dodo and New York Mets contention.
One portion south of Dyckman remains. When engineers were planning the IRT subway in 1900, they had a decision to make at 125th, where Manhattanville becomes a deep valley. Tunnel deeper, at greater expense, or simply bridge the valley? The latter was chosen, and a beautiful arch bridge now spans 125th and Broadway. I’ve shown it a lot on FNY, so here’s a different view of the line, from 135th, where the valley rises and the subway becomes an actual subway again, looking south toward the 125th Street platforms.