Time Traveling on the NYC Ninth Ave El

NYC 9th Ave El

History of The Ninth Avenue El

The crew of this two car shad-belly train and the locomotive Brooklyn posed for this photo at 59th St


Oct 27, 1871 - The New York Elevated Railroad Company was chartered with a capital stock of $10,000,000, with which, the assets of the West Side Elevated RR Co were purchased for $801,000.  Mr. Harvey and many of the backers of the original line were eliminated from this new organization.

May 6, 1872 – The Watts Street station opened.

June 17, 1872 - Little West 12th Street station opened with a passing track.

Aug.15, 1872 – The Morris Street station was opened.

March 19, 1873 - The Morris Street station was closed in favor of a Terminal at the rear of #7 Broadway, in which the Company offices were located. US Mail was carried on regular passenger trains on the front platform of the first car accompanied by a US Post Office Guard with a limit of 7 bags. RPO Cars were not used for this service. The first yard and engine repair shop was located here.

Jan. 21, 1873 - The Franklin Street station opened.  Running time over the line was 28 minutes.

July 30, 1873 - The line was extended to 34th St on 9th Ave.

Oct 21, 1873 – The 21st St station opened.

Nov 3, 1873 – The Houston Street station opened.

Dec 13, 1873 - A new station opened at 30th St, which replaced the original terminal at 29th St.

May 25, 1874 – A new and larger Cortlandt St Station replaced the original Dey Street station.

March 1875 - The entire structure was strengthened and the track gauge was set to Standard 4' 8 1/2" to carry standard passenger cars, and interchange freight cars.  The line was closed down a short time while 200 men changed the wheel widths on the rolling stock and laid the rails on crossties.  A passing siding at Franklin St was also installed.

Nov 5, 1875 - Service was extended to 42nd St on 9th Ave and the at Bethune St station on Greenwich St was opened.

Jan 18, 1876 - single-track operation was extended to 61st  St with Stations at 50th and 55th St and an incline was installed at 61st St for equipment delivery. The line was now five miles in length.

April 15, 1877 – The first double-track el structure from Morris St through Battery Park to the South Ferry Terminal station at Whitehall St was opened. The Morris St station was reopened for two years until the line was rebuilt for the junction of the 6th Ave line at Morris St.

June 2, 1878 - Service to 53rd Street and was begun. The line now carried 8,500 passengers a day.  The car and engine shops were located behind #7 Broadway. Passenger cars were lighted by sperm oil candles at this time.

June 9, 1879  - Operations were extended to 8lst Street and Columbus (Ninth) Avenue,  with new stations at 59th, 66th, 72nd and 81st Streets. The double track structure was built jointly by the New York Elevated Railroad on the West side of the street and the Metropolitan Elevated Railroad on the East side. 

June 21, 1879 - Service was extended to stations at 86th, 93rd, 99th and 104th Streets.

Sept 17, 1879 - The line was further extended North from 104th St on Columbus Avenue to curve East on 110th St, where it curved North onto Eighth Avenue to 125th St. A new station at 116th St on 8th Ave was opened.  This curve structure from 110th St to Eighth Avenue was the highest ever built and was dubbed "Suicide Curve", as some people leaped to their death from this elevation. 

October, 1879 – Rebuilding the lower portion of the line to from 14th St to Morris St began.  The Morris St station was closed again as the structure there was rebuilt for the junction to the 6th Ave line. The 9th Ave line narrowed to two tracks and the two tracks of the 6th Ave El on Trinity Pl curved onto Greenwich St to make a four-track structure, where the 6th Ave El ramped two blocks South to the level  junction just North of the Battery Place Station. 

Sept 27, 1879 - The 130th and 135th Street stations on 8th Ave were opened.

Dec 1, 1879 - 145th and 155th Street stations were opened. A yard was built on the East side of 8th Ave at 145th St.

May 2, 1880 - Work was completed on the lower portion of the line and trains began operating over a completely rebuilt structure. The original track on the East side of Greenwich Street and the West side of 9th Ave, as well as the sections reinforced in '74, '75 and '76 were torn down section by section and replaced.  During this reconstruction, service was maintained by using the passing sidings, which, in some cases, became center passing tracks. The Battery Place station replaced the Morris Street station at the junction with the 6th Avenue line. 

April 11, 1897 - Bicycle Train service was inaugurated and operated each Sunday on the line from Rector St to 155th St. The South Ferry platforms were too congested to handle the service.  Seats were removed on one side of cars and bicycle racks installed for 24" bikes. The fare was 15 cents for passenger and bike or 25 cents for two with a tandem. Thirty-five two car Bicycle Trains identified by signs on the front of the trains were run until the autumn, when they were discontinued, permanently. 

Feb 18, 1903 - Electric operation began on the line from South Ferry to 155th St. A 66th Street Local-Express powered by Locomotive #135 was the last steam operated passenger train on the line.  A few steam locomotives remained in work train service for a number of years afterwards. 

June 3, 1903 - The 110th St staion opened, with four elevators to whisk passengers up from the street to the downtown platform and the mezzanine level for uptown trains.

April 1, 1903 - The Manhattan Railway Company was leased to the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Company for 999 years in order that the new subway system being built could be coordinated with the existing Manhattan and Bronx Elevated railways.

Sept 15, 1904 - The US Express Company begins LCL and package express service over the 3rd and 9th Ave Els. The express depot was at the rear #7 Broadway, where the Company Offices were. A spur from the end of the 6th Ave El at Morris St went into the upper level of the building. Livestock and less-than-carload (lcl) freight were carried in the El baggage-express center door cars. The package express cars made five round trips daily to uptown points at the 129th St and 155th St Terminals. Both services were discontinued shortly before WWI. No interchange railroad freight cars were operated.

November 15, 1917 – The last new station was opened at 151st St on Eighth Ave, where the structure was expanded to 4 tracks and an express fly-over was installed to optimize traffic to the Bronx and 155th St terminal operations.

Jan 6, 1918 - The NY & Putnam RR terminated operations over the bridge to the 155th St Terminal with the 9th Ave El. The bridge and structure at the Polo Grounds was to have been the entrance of the NY & Northern RR via the El structure into downtown and lower Manhattan. The NY & Northern become the NY & Putnam RR as a division of the New York Central RR. The Putnam RR bridge was the last of the steam-powered swing type Harlem River drawbridges and was leased to the IRT for 999 years to become part of the IRT 9th Ave El, Jerome Ave line extensiontion to the Bronx.  The 9th Ave El Sedgwick Ave station on the East Bank of the Harlem River opened for El train shuttle service from 155th St to serve the NY Central Putnam line patrons transferring to a new terminal station below. Putnam RR trains formerly ramped down to the Harlem River track level the New York Central (Hudson River) RR.  The former NY & Hudson River RR passenger terminal at 30th St, which was the original terminal of the West Side El line, became the terminal of the New York Central West Side RR.

July 1, 1918 - Express track operations were extended on the 9th Ave line from 125th St to 155th St. The 6th and 9th Ave lines extended their operations to 167th St and on the new IRT East Side Subway Jerome Ave Line. A new intermediate station is opened at Anderson Ave, just East of the  connection to the Jerome Ave line at 162nd St and River Ave. A rise in the Bronx terrain between the Sedgewick Ave station to the East and the Anderson Ave station to the West necessitated the Jerome Ave Connection to be tunneled for about 5 blocks, making that segment of the El a subway. A portion of the Anderson Ave station was in the tunnel portal. The Sedgewick Ave station entrance was above the el structure and serviced both the El and and the new Putnam RR terminal built there to replace the 155th St Terminal. The El tunnel here was to become the Achilles Heel of route.  

July 17, 1918 - Service was extended to the Kingsbridge Road station on the Jerome Ave Line.

Jan 2, 1919 - Rush hour expresses began running to the Woodlawn station on the Jerome Ave Line.

June 11, 1940 – The 9th Ave Elevated El ceased operations ending over 70 years of operation over what was the route of the first elevated train line in the world.

The 9th Ave El - Jerome Connector became known as the Polo Grounds Shuttle, which ran from the 155th El station to 167th St (Burnside Ave) station on the Jerome Ave Line in the Bronx. A paper transfer issuance was established between the shuttle and the IND Concourse Line station at 155th St at the Polo Grounds. IRT composite construction subway cars replaced the wooden el cars on the line, but retained the el third rail shoes. Dual third rail operation remained in use on the Jerome Ave line to the yards at Bedford Park until the Shuttle was discontinued in 1957 and the structure and the bridge were removed in 1962.