CULVER SPUR, Kensington

by Kevin Walsh

This spur track off the “Culver elevated” serving the F train at McDonald Avenue and Cortelyou Road is one of the only tangible reminders of the Culver Shuttle that connected the West End and Culver Els until 1975.

The shuttle used to run here, as did the freight-only South Brooklyn Railroad, which connected the waterfront in Sunset Park with Coney Island Subway Yards and some businesses in between. That railroad ceased operations in 1978 or 1980, depending on what account you read. The exposed tracks ran down the center of McDonald Avenue.

In 1954, the now-F train was connected with IND tracks via a new ramp. The Transit Authority made use of the Culver tracks by making it a shuttle in 1960, connecting it with the now-out of use  lower level of the 9th Avenue BMT station (now serving D trains) and the McDonald el. The entire Culver el was so called because it replaced a steam railroad founded by Andrew N. Culver in 1889. Want a look at the 9th Avenue Culver station? It stands in for the 42nd Street BMT subway station at the finale of Crocodile Dundee (1985).

In 1975, citing poor ridership, the Metropolitan Transit Authority stopped service on the line. Unfortunately, I had never gotten the chance to ride the structure. I did, though, inherit a number of photos of its demolition — which didn’t happen until 1985, a good decade after the shuttle closed!

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Andy June 6, 2020 - 6:01 pm

The Culver Line has a long and tortuous history, far outliving its namesake founder who died in 1906. It warrants a brief summary. By 1900 the former steam line was swallowed into the vast Brooklyn Rapid Transit network and electrified using overhead wire on the street surface along 38th Street and Gravesend (later McDonald) Avenue. The present McDonald el structure is a 1919 product of the Dual Contracts, a vast subway expansion and elevated rebuilding that basically created today’s IRT and BMT networks. The old Culver surface tracks became both the South Brooklyn Railroad and the #50 McDonald Avenue streetcar. The BMT Culver El route tied into its Fourth Avenue subway and provided service to/from Nassau Street in Lower Manhattan. Until 1940, Culver el trains also used the Fifth Avenue El, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to/from the Park Row terminal.

The IND subway South Brooklyn Line opened in 1933 and terminated at Church and McDonald Avenues, intended to ultimately extend south. The ramp between the Church and Ditmas stations was actually begun in 1941 but then was suspended because of World War II. IND trains began using the Culver route in 1954 to/from Coney Island; BMT Culver trains continued to operate between Ditmas Avenue and Nassau Street via the 4th Avenue subway until about 1960 as noted, when the route was truncated to run between 9th and Ditmas Avenues, the route which was closed in 1975 and ultimately razed.

Mark Olesnicki June 7, 2020 - 11:43 am

McDonald Avenue was also the route of one of the last two streetcar in lines in Brooklyn. It and the Church Avenue line stopped running October 31, 1956 according to Wikipedia but I think McDonald Avenue lasted longer.

Andy June 8, 2020 - 7:19 am

McDonald and Church streetcars both stopped on 10/31/56. Church became B35 bus, still running today. McDonald streetcars were not replaced with buses, because the IND subway service on the elevated above was considered adequate for that travel corridor. Streetcar tracks remained for many years for South Brooklyn Railway, but never saw streetcars again.

Bill Tweeddale June 9, 2020 - 10:00 am

My folks took us kids to Coney Island on the McDonald Ave trolley in the mid-50’s. It was a little easier to board than drag a carriage up the stairs at the Ave I station. I remember freight trains leaving the Parkville Yard of the South Brooklyn RR and running down McDonald Ave. I was too young to take notice, but there must have been quite a traffic problem with trolleys, freight trains, cars, and trucks going both ways at the same time, squeezed between the elevated train support columns!

Alec June 8, 2020 - 8:52 am

I believe the Crocodile Dundee scene is supposed to be 59th St/Columbus Circle. I always enjoy watching it for the look at the lower level of 9th Ave.

Edward Findlay June 9, 2020 - 1:28 am

yep, even has “59” plastered on all of the pillars…

42nd St. was usually used for filming, but daylight is visible on both ends of the platform and the platform is clearly an island platform instead of side platform

Bill Tweeddale June 8, 2020 - 8:40 pm

I got to know the Culver Shuttle pretty well growing up in Brooklyn. As kids, 3 or 4 of us would jam into the token operated turnstile at the south end of the Ave. I station, take what was the D train to Ditmas Ave., then ride back and forth on the Toonerville Trolley (as we called it) all afternoon. All elevated, and for the cost of 15¢. Later, I went to college on Staten Island, so when the Gangplank opened, I’d take the Shuttle to 36th St. walk down the stairs, and get the 4th Ave. train to 95th St and catch the bus over the bridge. It must have been a pretty boring job for the motorman, but probably a good place to break in or retire from.


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