In this photo from the 1940 Municipal Archives we’re looking east on East 23rd Street, at #304-310, which are on the right side of the picture. While a number of transit buffs are aware that NYC had elevated trains running up and down 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th Avenues, fewer may remember that other streets also “hosted” elevated trains, or rather, were enshrouded by them. In most cases, these short els connected els between avenues, or where short jogs between them.
Here, the 2nd Avenue El is turning at 2nd Avenue and East 23rd Street. The el ran just one block to 1st Avenue, where it ran south via 1st Avenue, Allen, Division Streets to Chatham Square, where it joined the 3rd Avenue el and ran south to the Battery. Of course, the 2nd Avenue El also had a spur that crossed the Queensboro Bridge. Uptown, the 2nd Avenue El ran to East 129th Street, where it crossed over to 3rd Avenue, running up to the Bronx from there. The el was in service from 1878 to 1942, and it ran electrified with a third rail beginning in 1900.
Other Manhattan streets also had brief el runs, such as West 3rd, East 42nd, West 53rd, Division Street (as mentioned) and West 110th. Perhaps I’ll show more of these short el stretches in FNY. Though at the time, people hated the els rattling above and occasionally showering sparks, I feel that NYC’s current transit situation is poorer without them.