BMT Sea Beach Line

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BMT Sea Beach Line
NYCS-bull-trans-N.svg
The N train serves the entire BMT Sea Beach Line at all times.
Overview
Type Rapid transit
System New York City Subway
Termini Eighth Avenue
Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue
Stations 10
Operation
Opening 1915–1918
Owner City of New York
Operator(s) New York City Transit Authority
Character Open-Cut
Elevated (at Stillwell Avenue)
Technical
No. of tracks 2-4
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 600V DC third rail
BMT Sea Beach Line
BMT Fourth Avenue Line
LIRR Bay Ridge Branch
Eighth Avenue
Fort Hamilton Parkway
New Utrecht AvenueBMT West End Line
18th Avenue
20th Avenue
Bay Parkway
Kings Highway
Avenue U
86th Street
el leads from BMT West End Line
Coney Island Yard
Stillwell Yard
BMT West End Line
Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue
IND Culver Line
BMT Brighton Line

The BMT Sea Beach Line is a rapid transit line of the BMT division of the New York City Subway, connecting the BMT Fourth Avenue Line at 59th Street via a four-track wide open cut to Coney Island in Brooklyn. It has at times hosted the fastest express service between Manhattan and Coney Island, since there are no express stations along the entire stretch, but now carries only local trains of the N service that serves the entire line at all times.

Extent and service[edit]

Open cut, seen from 6th Avenue overpass
  Time period Section of line
NYCS N all times full line

The modern line begins as a split from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line at a flying junction immediately south of 59th Street. Between the station and the split, crossover switches are provided between the local and express tracks of the Fourth Avenue Line, and then the express tracks curve east under the northbound local track to become the beginning of the Sea Beach Line. After emerging from the tunnel under Fourth Avenue, the two separate Sea Beach tracks rise on either side of a ramp which formerly connected to the original line to the Brooklyn shore at 65th Street in Bay Ridge.

After passing the former junction with the line to the shore, the Sea Beach widens to the width of four tracks. All stations have two side platforms with no platform access to the express tracks anywhere on the Sea Beach right-of-way.

16th Avenue powerhouse

Express tracks[edit]

The express tracks were originally intended to host the Coney Island Express. Service was carried on these tracks twice in the line's history — for summer weekend service to Chambers Street from 1924–1952 and again from 1967-1968 to provide a fast rush-hour Broadway Line express service for Coney Island riders (NX). Though these expresses are thought of as being Sea Beach Expresses, they did not serve a single station on the Sea Beach Line.

The express tracks on the Sea Beach had other uses over the years. Most new equipment, especially experimental cars, was broken in on these tracks. The tracks were used for motorman training and set up with a short stretch of 1950s-era automation to test the ill-fated system later used on one track of the IRT 42nd Street Shuttle.

Historically, the two express tracks were an absolute block, that is, there was no signal control between one end of the tracks near Sixth Avenue and Kings Highway. A train was not supposed to enter the block until any train in front of it had departed the block.

The express tracks' section on this block was allowed to deteriorate severely as did much of the system from the 1970s on. In 1998, it was decided to rehabilitate the express tracks in this area, with full signaling. Only the northbound (E4) track was rehabilitated, however, for two-way traffic from its northern end to Kings Highway if needed. The southbound (E3) track remains unused, being discontinued from the other three tracks and inaccessible from 59th Street to Kings Highway.

Southern portion of the line[edit]

Before and after Kings Highway, there are crossover switches to the southbound express track from the northbound express track. On both sides of Kings Highway, crossovers exist to allow express trains to switch to the local tracks before the station or local trains to switch to express after the station.

The express tracks end south of 86th Street as the line becomes double-tracked, and cut diagonally adjacent to the Coney Island Yards. After several yard connections, the line ends at the Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue terminal.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Route designation on BMT Triplex equipment
Station headhouse at Avenue U station.

The New York and Sea Beach Railroad was organized on September 25, 1876 as a steam-powered excursion railroad. It opened from a junction with the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad (West End Line) and concurrently-opened New York, Bay Ridge and Jamaica Railroad (Manhattan Beach Line) to Coney Island on July 18, 1877.[1][2] After a delay of two years, it was opened to the Bay Ridge Ferry (to South Ferry, Manhattan) on July 17, 1879, at which time the Sea Beach Palace opened at the Coney Island end.[3][4]

Except at its two ends, the railroad used the same route as the current Sea Beach Line. At the Bay Ridge end, the railroad ran just north of the Long Island Rail Road's Bay Ridge Branch, ending at the Bay Ridge Channel around 64th Street. The current line joins this alignment near Fifth Avenue. The old railroad crossed the Bay Ridge Branch with a pronounced S-curve just east of Seventh Avenue; the crossing is now much straighter with the Bay Ridge Branch in a deeper cut. On the Coney Island end, the original path curved left soon after the curve to the right at the northern edge of the Coney Island Yards, ending at the combined Sea Beach Palace hotel and depot, on the north side of the BMT Brighton Line at around West 10th Street.

In early 1896, the company went bankrupt and was reorganized on August 14 as the Sea Beach Railway. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) bought it on November 5, 1897, along with the short elevated Sea View Railway on Coney Island, and assigned it by lease to the Brooklyn Heights Railroad. It was soon fitted with trolley wire for electric operation as a branch of the BMT West End Line from Bath Junction to Coney Island, with trains coming from Park Row in Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge and BMT Fifth Avenue Line. Streetcars ran over the rest of the line to Bay Ridge. In 1907, connecting tracks were built connecting to the West End Line just north of Coney Island Creek in order to bring Sea Beach trains into West End Depot. The original alignment was retained for freight service only.

Part of a 1915 brochure for the line

As part of the Dual Contracts, a new Sea Beach Line was built and on June 22, 1915, the new four-track open cut was completed and subway trains started running between Coney Island and Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan. The express tracks were finished several weeks later. When the BMT Fourth Avenue Line was extended south from the Sea Beach Line on January 15, 1916, the Sea Beach trains were shifted to the express tracks on Fourth Avenue, with Fourth Avenue trains providing local service.

The tracks over the north side of the Manhattan Bridge opened on September 4, 1917, along with part of the BMT Broadway Line. All Sea Beach service was moved to the new line, ending at 14th Street – Union Square. This was extended to Times Square – 42nd Street on January 5, 1918.

In 1924 the BMT assigned numbers to its services. The Sea Beach Line service became the 4. This has since become the N train. In general, Sea Beach service has always run express in Manhattan and on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, ending at 42nd Street and later 57th Street. The NX began in 1967 as a "super-express" from Brighton Beach on the BMT Brighton Line through Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue, and along the Sea Beach Line express tracks to 57th Street with only seven stops between Stillwell Avenue and 57th Street, three in Brooklyn and four in Manhattan. This service was canceled in 1968 due to low ridership and no regular trains have used the Sea Beach express tracks since.

Later years[edit]

In later years the N service was extended from 57th Street, first to Forest Hills – 71st Avenue via the BMT 60th Street Tunnel Connection. In 1987, it was moved to Astoria – Ditmars Boulevard, which is its current terminus, so that the R had access to Jamaica Yard.

When Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue was closed for reconstruction from 1993–1995 and 2001–2005, 86th Street was the southern terminal for the N train.

In October 2013, it was announced that the line was going to be renovated extensively. All stations would be waterproofed, with their station houses and passageways remodeled and stairways rebuilt; they would also get Help Points, and turnstiles would be added to each station. In addition, graffiti, which is prevalent on the line, would be mitigated; workers would need to go onto private property to remove graffiti and fix the roofs of the stations, so work would only be done on weekdays. Eighth Avenue would get wheelchair-accessible ramps and New Utrecht Avenue / 62nd Street would get wheelchair-accessible elevators. During renovations, southbound platforms at all stations will be closed during the construction, except at Eighth Avenue and Bay Parkway. The US$300,000,000 project is to begin in spring 2015.[5] Work will begin in October 2014 and end in September 2018.[6] Funding for the renovation is provided for in the 2010–14 Capital Program.[7]

Chaining information[edit]

The Sea Beach Line is chained BMT E.[8]

Station listing[edit]

Station service legend
Stops all times Stops all times
Time period details
Neighborhood Handicapped/disabled access Station Tracks Services Opened Transfers and notes
splits from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line (N all times)
Two center express tracks begin (no regular service)
(Southbound track disconnected from line; northbound track bi-directional)
Sunset Park Eighth Avenue local N all times June 22, 1915
Borough Park Fort Hamilton Parkway local N all times June 22, 1915
Bensonhurst New Utrecht Avenue local N all times June 22, 1915 BMT West End Line (D all times) at 62nd Street
18th Avenue local N all times June 22, 1915
20th Avenue local N all times June 22, 1915
Bay Parkway local N all times June 22, 1915
Southbound express track reconnects to line (no regular service)
Gravesend Kings Highway local N all times June 22, 1915
Avenue U local N all times June 22, 1915
86th Street local N all times August 23, 1915
Center express tracks end
connecting tracks to Coney Island Yard
Coney Island Handicapped/disabled access Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue all N all times December 13, 1918 BMT Brighton Line (Q all times)
IND Culver Line (F all times)
BMT West End Line (D all times)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Rapid Transit's Coney Island Route, New York Times November 30, 1897 page 4
  • Brooklyn's Subway Will Open Today, New York Times June 19, 1915 page 18
  • New Subway Opens; Mayor Not Present, New York Times June 20, 1915 page 6
  • To Open New Subway Link, New York Times January 14, 1916 page 16
  • Open First Section of Broadway Line, New York Times September 5, 1917 page 8
  • New Subway Extension, New York Times January 6, 1918 page 37

External links[edit]