March 2019 marks Forgotten New York’s 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, I’ve re-scanned about 150 key images from the early days of FNY from 35MM prints. In the early days, when people including me were accessing FNY with dial-up modems, I had to save photos really small — in some cases, just 4″ across. I couldn’t find all those early photos — I think I foolishly discarded some along the way — but all month, and into April, I’ll be picking out some and showing the newly scanned versions.
Here’s a photo I took on a stop at Shea Stadium on a “fan trip” in September 1999 using LIRR MP72 units, ran by push-pull diesel engines. We were visiting old station houses around the Island, and one of the stops was the 1890s-era Port Washington station. It was quite unusual to see these old rattling cars, in use since the 1950s, on the Port Washington, a fully electrified line. The cars by then were bare bones affairs with thin red carpeting on the walls. Nevertheless, they were standard issue for the Rail Road’s easternmost sectors whose tracks didn’t have a third rail and needed to be pulled by engines. They did not fade away completely until newer dual-power double decked cars were purchased in 2002.
The Shea Stadium station has changed, too. In 1999, it was lit by banks of fluorescent lamps. A decade or so later, the stanchions had been allowed to remain, but held high intensity LED lamps. The name of the station was changed in 2009 to “Mets-Willets Point,” as the use of the stadium’s name, Citifield, would be considered advertising on MTA signage, and was thus ruled out. I’m unsure of this station’s lineage. I imagine it was first built for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, or was it the 1964-65 Fair? If the latter, did trains stop there at all in the years between the Fairs? As is, the station has always had a rough and ready quality, which did not improve much even after Citifield opened in 2009.
Last but not least, in the background we see the Corona IRT Yards, in 1999 the bastion of now-retired and scrapped R-33 and R-36 cars, known as “Redbirds” for their maroon red paint job. Originally, the cars had a distinctive blue and white paint scheme to match the 1964-65 color signage scheme. They were painted maroon in the 1980s as the MTA mounted its final, and successful, offensive against the graffiti scourge of the 1970s.