by Kevin Walsh

The West 4th Street station is the nexus point of the IND, the point where the 6th and 8th Avenues lines come together on two separate levels. From here, trains travel north to Inwood along Central Park West, and into Queens along Queens Boulevard to Jamaica and along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. They also travel south into Brooklyn, reaching Coney Island via several separate routes.

While waiting for a D on the West 4th Street platform, I noticed some white enamel signs from the dawn of the IND in the 1930s, hidden in plain sight, dozens of them. Where can they be found? On the pillars in the center between north and southbound tracks. Apparently the MTA just considered it a pain in the neck to remove or replace them; they still get the job done, after all.

The station also had these on platform pillars, as seen here, but in the 1970s and 1980s they were replaced by now-standard black signs with white type reading “W 4 St.” which is more accurate, even though there are no entrance/exits on West 4th…just West 3rd and West 8th. There may have been staircases at West 4th at some time in the dim past.

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Joe Brennan June 1, 2021 - 8:17 am

There were once entrances at West 4th St on both sides. NW and SE corners, described as “slabbed over” in a NYCT document. Why were they closed beats me.

John June 1, 2021 - 9:35 am

Remember the little Chiclets vending machines?!

Mitchell Pak June 2, 2021 - 1:40 pm

John: When I was a kid, my home station was Union Turnpike on the QB line. I used to visit my doctor on East 53rd Street in Manhattan so my mom and I
used the F. While we waited, my mom usually bought me something from the platform vending machines. The station had everything – the Chiclets and
other chewing gum machines on the station pillars, an ice cream sandwich machine, a soda machine (soda sold by the cup, no cans), a candy bar machine and a cigarette machine. I think Koch got rid of the platform vending machines because of crime and to try to reduce littering.

Roy J. Tellason, Sr. June 21, 2021 - 1:26 pm

I remember all of those vending machines as well. I’m assuming that they got rid of them because of vandalism, by the time I stopped using them too many of them just flat-out didn’t work. Or they’d take your money and not deliver, particularly the ones that sold ice cream sandwiches and cups of soda.

Allan Berlin July 17, 2021 - 2:28 pm

I remember the candy machines on the platforms. They were like slot machines, you might get a candy bar or you might not. Towards the end when they were being removed, at times I would get 3 or 4 bars for the price of one (sometimes I would get my money back as well).

Andy June 1, 2021 - 9:55 am

According to the website http://www.nycsubway.org, West 4th Street was so named “to differentiate it from the planned IND Second System South 4th St. station/line in Brooklyn.” That station was also planned as a junction encompassing two planned, but never built, IND tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn. One would have been an extension of the current Houston Street Line east of the current 2nd Avenue Station, where the two middle tracks currently terminate (and will probably do so forever). The second tunnel was planned to extend from Canal Street (where the IND local tracks diverge into the current World Trade Center terminal) to Worth Street and then East Broadway, crossing the East River just south of the Williamsburg Bridge. Both tunnels would have met in the vicinity of South 4th Street and Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg. The trains would have then continued further into Brooklyn and Queens.

The seeming lack of street stairs at West 4th Street is because it was designed more as a mass transfer point and less as a destination.

chris brady June 1, 2021 - 3:53 pm

I remember the little gum vending machines attached to pillars in the subway.They were about the size
of a phone book and dealt you a wedge of Wrigley’s for a penny a piece.The gum was always stale.
How they made a profit was beyond me.

P-j Greiner June 12, 2021 - 6:11 am

The gum was a special shape. Not quite square, but much less retangular than a “regular” pack of gum. I think the shape was necessary to fit in the machine, which of course, had to fit on the pillars. And yes, always stale.

Tama Harbor June 17, 2021 - 8:51 pm

I was always partial to the Mal-O-Mars….

Allan Berlin July 16, 2021 - 2:32 pm

There is a chain store ‘Five Below’ that sometimes has the 2 pack of Chicklets gum. However, they sell it for 10 cents which is far cry from the penny we all remember.

anthony faber June 2, 2021 - 12:55 am

I’ve always thought they went to the white type on a black background to foil the person (or persons) who used a black magic marker to draw arcs over the ‘U’ in “Union Sq”, making it “Onion Sq”

Allan Berlin July 16, 2021 - 2:27 pm

White type on black background is supposed to be easier to read.

Allan Berlin June 13, 2021 - 1:16 pm

Kevin, it should be noted that the IND used two different types of pillar signs at this station. The signs for the upper level were rectangular and mounted horizontally (as shown in the link in your main narrative).

For the lower level the pillars were slightly different and the signs were more squared and mounted vertically between the rivets on each pillar (as shown in the picture below:



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