BMT Franklin Avenue Line
The BMT Franklin Avenue Line (also known as the Brighton-Franklin Line) is a rapid transit line of the New York City Subway in Brooklyn, New York. All service is provided full-time by Franklin Avenue Shuttle trains.
The Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railway, or Brighton Line, was incorporated in 1877 in order to connect Downtown Brooklyn with the hotels and resorts at Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach. The line opened on June 2, 1878, originally running from the entrance of Prospect Park to the Brighton Beach Hotel. However, the railroad desired to get the line closer to downtown Brooklyn. There was a problem–the line could not pass through Prospect Park as this was before subway started to be built in New York, and therefore the line was to be built in a trench through the hill at Crown Heights, connecting with the Long Island Rail Road tracks at Atlantic Avenue. The route, was built on the surface between Atlantic Avenue (Bedford Terminal) and Park Place. The line was then built in an open cut to the rest of the line at Prospect Park in order to avoid grade crossings and anger from the local community. This portion of the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railway's mainline would become the Franklin Avenue Line. Later on, in order to accommodate larger locomotives for LIRR through service, the open cut had to be dug deeper.
This portion formally opened on August 19, 1878, about six weeks after the rest of the Brighton Line opened. This portion of the Brighton Beach Line represented a routing compromise. The BF&CI would have preferred a more direct route to downtown Brooklyn, but instead had to settle for a route which took it north to the Bedford station of the Long Island Rail Road, where Brighton trains could operate to the latter railroad's terminal at Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. The LIRR, however, gained control of the New York and Manhattan Beach Railway, a competitor of the BF&CI, and breached its agreement to provide equal access to the Flatbush Avenue terminal. After the 1882 season, the Brighton was forced to end its trains at Bedford, a situation which soon led to bankruptcy. The line, in 1887, was reorganized as the Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad.
In 1896, the railroad gained a connection with the Kings County Elevated Railway by means of a ramp and short elevated railway. The connection connected with the Fulton Street Elevated, which ran from Downtown Brooklyn via the to Jamaica and was completed in 1893. From there the line bridged over Atlantic Avenue, where the LIRR was still operating at grade. As part of the Atlantic Avenue Improvement program, this portion of the LIRR was submerged in a tunnel between 1903 and 1905. There would have been a future connection from the Atlantic Branch to the Brighton Line, for which provisions were provided. This connection would have been for two tracks, but it was never built. However, space in the tunnel wall, a bellmouth, was provided for this connection. Then the line connected to the existing line several blocks to the south.
Also in 1896, the same year that the railroad was leased to the Kings County Elevated, a new entity, the BRT, was created to unite Brooklyn's surface and elevated lines. This enabled the KCERR to operate its steam-powered elevated trains on the Brighton Road via the Franklin Avenue right-of-way, providing Brighton riders with direct service to downtown Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad trains continued to run from Bedford Terminal, but this service was soon abandoned, though the track connections were retained. In 1899, elevated trains began to run via the Brighton Line in addition to steam service. All steam service stopped running by 1903.
The first electrification of the Brighton Line, including the Franklin Avenue Line, is accomplished in 1899 using trolley wire. Trains that use third rail in elevated service raise trolley poles at Franklin Avenue station. Some passenger steam operates under different circumstances for several more years. Some of these trolley poles still exist along the line. In 1905 and 1905, the last remaining grade crossings were eliminated in the vicinity of Park Place by building an elevated structure to connect the old elevated structure and the open-cut portion. In the ensuing years, some existing bridges are strengthened or replaced and some of the elevated trackage placed on concrete-retained embankment.
The KCERR connection was still less than ideal, and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company, which ended up as the lessor of both the KCERR and B&BB roads, negotiated a more direct subway route under Flatbush Avenue as part of Contract 4 of the Dual Contracts of 1913. Construction of this new connection indirectly contributed to the worst rapid transit wreck in world history, known as the Malbone Street Wreck or Brighton Beach Line Accident when, on November 1, 1918, a five-car wooden elevated train left the tracks and crashed into one of the new tunnel walls, killing at least 93.
On August 1, 1920, the Brighton Beach Line was connected to the BMT Broadway Line subway via a connection under Flatbush Avenue, and at the same time track connections to the Fulton Street El were severed so that through service to Brooklyn Bridge is no longer possible. Subway trains from New York and elevated trains from Franklin Avenue shared operations to Coney Island.
The line continued to operate elevated train service on the Brighton Beach main line until 1928, after which similar services were continued with steel subway cars. For the summer excursion season of 1924, the Franklin Avenue Line was upgraded for the operation of six-car subway trains, and assigned the BMT number 7. Services used the Brighton Line during most daytime hours. During warm weather, express services ran to Coney Island on weekend days.
In the 1920s, transportation officials discussed the possibility of an extension of the line. It was proposed that the line would be extended beyond Fulton Street, ran across Central Brooklyn, and link up with other BRT lines in Long Island City. Provisions for this line were made in the elevated structure at Queensboro Plaza, but no other parts of the line were built, as the plan never left the talking stages. A crosstown line would eventually be built however, but it would be built by the city operated Independent Subway System in the 1930s.
The Fulton Street Elevated, to which the line was originally connected, closed in 1940 and it was replaced by the IND Fulton Street Line. A free transfer was instituted between the subway line and the shuttle.
In 1958, a new switch was installed so that shuttle trains no longer had to negotiate the sharp "S" curve where the Malbone Street Wreck had occurred.
After the city gained ownership of the line in 1940, Brighton-Franklin services gradually declined. A major blow to through service viability occurred in 1954 when the D train of the IND Division was extended to Coney Island via the Culver Line, deprived the Franklin of a major source of transfer traffic, consisting of passengers from Harlem and the Bronx, who now had a more direct route to Coney Island. Brighton-Franklin express service ended by 1959, and the Franklin Avenue Line became a full-time shuttle in 1963. On November 1, 1965, when R27s started going into service, this service was named SS, and in 1985, when the practice of using double letters was eliminated, this service became the S.
On December 1, 1974, a southbound shuttle train of R32s was approaching the tunnel portal en route from Franklin Avenue when it derailed on the crossover and smashed the same place where BRT car 100 had hit in the Malbone Street Wreck. This derailment resulted in some injuries, but there were no fatalities, because time signals limit the speed of trains coming down the hill from Crown Heights.
In 1981, the MTA proposed abandoning the severely deteriorated line under the failed Program for Action. At the time, only 10,000 passengers used the line per day. It was proposed that bus service along nearby Franklin Avenue could substitute for the line. During the winter, the line would often be closed because there was fear that trains would derail. Stations were in horrible condition; portions of the wooden platforms were sealed off because they had burned or collapsed. In January 1982, the line needed to close for emergency repair work because a retaining wall along the line was in danger of collapse.
In the 1990s the Franklin Avenue Shuttle was known as the "ghost train". It was shrunk in size to only two cars, and the Dean Street station, which had 50 paying riders per day, was closed in 1995. The entire line was under consideration for abandonment, and community leaders were opposed to the move. They showed up to town hall meetings, news conferences and they sat down with transit officials. They also formed the Committee to Save the Franklin Avenue Shuttle. The coalition included the Straphangers Campaign, a local church, local community boards and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. They argued that subway station repair work occurred elsewhere, when no attention was paid to the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.
In the end they convinced the New York State Assembly to force the MTA to rebuild rather than abandon the line, and as a result most of the supporting infrastructure and stations were completely rehabilitated for eighteen months, between July 1998 and October 1999 at a cost of $74 million. While the closure of the line started in July 1998, work began in September 1997. The contract on the bid was out in February 1997. During the renovation, a temporary shuttle bus and the B48 bus replaced train service. The line reopened on October 18, 1999, three months ahead of schedule. The new line included new tracks and bridges, three rebuilt stations, elevators, security cameras, and new artwork. 0.4 miles of unnecessary double track was removed, and 1.4 miles of track was replaced. The signal system between the Botanic Garden and Franklin Avenue stations was replaced and rehabilitated. The transfer to the IND Fulton Street line had required an out-of-system paper transfer, but an enclosed transfer was built with two elevators and an escalators. Prior to this enclosed transfer, a portion of the old Fulton Street Elevated line was left standing so passengers could use a staircase to transfer to the Fulton Street subway. The closed Dean Street station was demolished as part of the project. A new passageway was created to provide transfers to the IRT Eastern Parkway Line at Botanic Garden. MetroCard vending machines were also installed in the stations, and new speakers were installed to make announcements more audible. Once the line was reopened there were still calls to restore the Dean Street station, and there were complaints that the Botanic Garden and Prospect Park stops were not made ADA accessible; Prospect Park was made accessible in a later project.
At Franklin Avenue and Fulton Street, where the BMT Fulton Street Line elevated railway had given way to the IND Fulton Street Line subway, a large station is present with modern conveniences, elevators and escalators, providing an easier transfer between the shuttle and the IND line. From that station, most of the original steelwork from elevated days has been removed and replaced with heavier construction. The line runs on a single track from Franklin/Fulton to another new station at Park Place. Though this portion of the line uses much of the reinforced viaduct from 1903-1905, it is virtually new as of 1999. In between Fulton Street and Park Place, there once was a stop at Dean Street. The station closed in 1995 because it was one of the least used stations in the system, and because it was in very poor condition. The station still had wooden platforms, which were a safety hazard, and it still had incandescent lighting. The station, upon its closure, was demolished, and virtually nothing remains of the station, with the exception of a streetlamp on the sidewalk, which used to illuminate the bottom of the staircase leading from the station platform.
Between Sterling and Park Places, the Shuttle makes its upward journey on a ramp that was opened in 1896, and that had connected the original line to the old Fulton Street Elevated. Because it would cost a lot to construct a tunnel or open cut, the elevated was rebuilt along its old right-of-way. When the grade crossing was eliminated in 1905, Park Place was depressed to allow traffic to continue uninterrupted. As a result, the roadbed is as much as three feet under the sidewalk, so steps and railings were built to allow entrance and exit to the roadbed. The line then crosses a new bridge over Park Place.
After Park Place, the line broadens from one to two tracks and the right-of-way transforms from 1999 reconstruction to near-original 1878 right-of-way, including the original railroad-style tunnel under Eastern Parkway, at the south end of which is the rehabilitated Botanic Garden station of 1928. All three of the above stations have been attractively rebuilt or rehabilitated, including distinctive artwork, masonry and ironwork funded by MTA New York City Transit's "Arts in Transit" program. From Botanic Garden, the line continues on original 1878 roadbed to its connection with the main part of the Brighton Beach Line at Prospect Park. Before entering Prospect Park, most trains switch to the northbound track to enter the station, where the shuttle terminates.
Service and chaining
Chaining and railroad directions
The Franklin Avenue Line is chained BMT O (letter "O"). Chaining zero is BMT Eastern, located at the intersection of the line of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chambers Street station on the Nassau Street Line by way of the now-dismantled original BMT Brooklyn Bridge Elevated Line and the former BMT Fulton Street Line. The chaining ties at Franklin Avenue station. Railroad north is toward Franklin Avenue, generally corresponding to compass north.
|Station service legend|
|Stops all times|
|Time period details|
|Station||Services||Opened||Transfers and notes|
|Bedford–Stuyvesant||Franklin Avenue||S||August 15, 1896||A C (IND Fulton Street Line)|
|Bedford||August 18, 1878||Superseded as terminal in 1896 by Franklin Avenue station; location served by Dean Street (closed). Track connection and some facilities retained until disconnected during 1904–1905 rebuilding.|
|Crown Heights||Dean Street||August 15, 1896||Closed c. 1899; re-opened October 28, 1901; closed in 1995; now demolished|
|Park Place||S||c. 1900|
|Botanic Garden (2nd)||S||September 30, 1928||2 3 4 5 (IRT Eastern Parkway Line at Franklin Avenue)|
|Consumers Park||June 19, 1899||Renamed Botanic Garden (1st) c.1924; Closed in 1928; now demolished|
|Flatbush||Prospect Park||S||July 2, 1878||B Q (BMT Brighton Line)|
|merges with BMT Brighton Line (no regular service)|
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- Media related to BMT Franklin Avenue Line at Wikimedia Commons