IRT Third Avenue Line
The IRT Third Avenue Line, commonly known as the Third Avenue Elevated, Third Avenue El, or Bronx El, was an elevated railway in Manhattan and the Bronx, New York City. Originally operated by the New York Elevated Railway, an independent railway company, it was acquired by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and eventually became part of the New York City Subway system.
The first segment of the line, with service at most stations, opened from South Ferry to Grand Central Depot on August 26, 1878. Service was extended to Harlem in Manhattan on December 30. In 1881 this line already began the 24/7 service.  Service in Manhattan was phased out in the early 1950s and closed completely on May 12, 1955. The remaining service in the Bronx was designated as part of the 8 route until it was discontinued on April 29, 1973.
The Third Avenue El was the last elevated line to operate in Manhattan, other than the 1 train on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line (which has elevated sections between 122nd and 135th Streets and north of Dyckman Street), and was a frequent backdrop for movies. Service on the Second, Sixth and Ninth Avenue elevated lines were terminated in 1942, 1938, and 1940, respectively.
In 1875, the Rapid Transit Commission granted the New York Elevated Railway Company the right to construct the railway from Battery Park to the Harlem River along the Bowery and Third Avenue. At that time the company already operated the Ninth Avenue Elevated, which it acquired in 1871 after the bankruptcy of the West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway. The Third Avenue El opened in 1878, running from South Ferry to 129th Street. The Manhattan Railway Company took control of the New York Elevated Railroad in 1879. In 1886, the Suburban Rapid Transit Company commenced operations with a railway line over the Harlem River (via a double-decked swing bridge located between the Third Avenue Bridge and Willis Avenue Bridge with the upper deck carrying the express tracks, the lower one the local tracks, and a pedestrian walkway) from the Manhattan Railway's northern terminal at 129th Street to 133rd Street in the southern Bronx, known then as the "Annexed District". The Manhattan Railway assumed operations of the Suburban in 1891 as an extension of the Third Avenue Line, and through service between the Bronx and Manhattan began in 1896. A 999-year lease of the Manhattan Railway was brokered by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in 1902, for which rapid transit services in the Bronx, of which the Third Avenue Line was a part, would eventually be coordinated alongside the new subway. Around this time, the line was electrified.
As part of the Dual Contracts, this line was triple-tracked. The project, which caused minimal disruption to the line itself while works were ongoing, allowed for weekday peak direction express service and increased train capacity on the line. For New York City's transportation system, the project was "a more important engineering feat than the building of the Panama Canal" according to the IRT. The center track of the Bronx portion opened on January 17, 1916; in Manhattan it was opened on July 9, 1917.
As of 1934, the following services were being operated:
- 3rd Avenue Local - South Ferry to 129th Street weekdays and Saturdays day and evenings, South Ferry to Bronx Park Sundays day and evenings, also between City Hall and Bronx Park weekdays AM and PM peak, also Saturdays AM peak. During late nights, a shuttle was operated between South Ferry and Canal Street connecting with trains from City Hall to Bronx Park.
- 3rd Avenue Thru-Express - City Hall to 241st St via White Plains Road Line weekday and Saturday AM peak northbound and weekday PM peak southbound, using the center express track south of Tremont Avenue. All other hours a shuttle operated between 241st Street and Fordham Road.
- 3rd Avenue Local-Express - City Hall to Bronx Park - weekdays and Saturdays day and evening, using the center express track south of 129th Street southbound until noon and northbound afternoon thru evening. Trains running in the opposite direction made all local stops.
In December 1937, some weekday midday and evening, Saturday midday thru evening local-expresses, and all Sunday and late-night locals were extended to 241st Street, replacing shuttles except northbound in the AM peak and southbound in the PM peak.
In 1943, Sunday evening local trains were rerouted to City Hall, with shuttles from Canal Street running to South Ferry. On November 5, 1946, service to Freeman Street was stopped, and all weekday and Saturday morning peak locals were routed to South Ferry. In 1947, Saturday service was further reduced. 129th Street local trains were eliminated, as were morning peak thru-expresses, which were changed to local-expresses. Saturday midday and evening local-expresses ran from South Ferry or City Hall to Tremont Avenue–177th Street, and locals from South Ferry or City Hall to Bronx Park. On April 22, 1950, Saturday morning local-expresses were converted to locals. On April 30, 1950, all Sunday locals were routed to South Ferry, with a shuttle connection from Canal Street to City Hall. However, on December 22, the line from Chatham square to South Ferry was closed, with all trains running to City Hall except weekday peak locals that ended at Chatham Square. In addition, weekday peak service north of Gun Hill Road was eliminated, as were weekday locals to 129th Street.
On March 14, 1952, service south of 149th Street was reduced to weekday daytime only, with Gun Hill Road to 149th Street locals at other times. On May 29, 1952, weekday midday local-expresses were eliminated. On June 26, 1952, thru-expresses were cut back to Gun Hill Road. On November 21, 1952, morning rush hour locals were cut back from Chatham Square to Canal Street, and PM rush hour locals were cut back from Fordham Road to 125th Street. However, this resulted in severe overcrowding, so local service to Fordham Road in the PM peak direction was resumed on December 3, 1952. On December 31, 1953, the Chatham Square to City Hall portion of the line was closed. Service then consisted of local trains from Tremont Avenue or 129th Street and Canal Street in the weekday morning peak, Gun Hill Road and Chatham Square midday, and Chatham Square and 129th Street or Tremont Avenue in the PM peak. Local-expresses and thru-expresses operated between Gun Hill Road and Chatham Square southbound in the AM and northbound in the PM peak hours. Evening, all-night, and weekend service was Gun Hill Road to 149th Street locals. When the El was closed in Manhattan in 1955, the East Side was left with the overcrowded IRT Lexington Avenue Line as the only subway east of Fifth Avenue.
In the 1930s and 1940s, as part of the integration of the different subway companies in New York City—the IRT along with Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit (BMT) and Independent Subway System (IND)—the Third Avenue elevated and its counterparts on Second, Sixth, and Ninth Avenues came under criticism from New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia and his successors. The elevateds were regarded as blights on their communities and obsolete, since the subways were being built or were planned to replace them.
The IND Sixth Avenue Line and the IND Eighth Avenue Line rendered the Sixth and Ninth Avenue elevateds obsolete, except for a small shuttle that served the Polo Grounds on the Ninth Avenue Line. They were closed by 1940 and demolished by 1941. The Second Avenue elevated was also gradually demolished from 1940 to 1942. When the Second Avenue elevated was closed on June 13, 1942, the weekday and Saturday Chatham Square to Freeman Street via the West Farms line service was rerouted via the Third Avenue Line, running express south of 129th Street. The Third Avenue elevated was kept open because it was intended to stay in use until the Second Avenue Subway was built to replace it. Pressure against the elevated from real estate interests soon began, with the creation in 1941 of the Third Avenue Elevated Noise Abatement Committee, which consisted of what The New York Times described as "men in the real estate business." The committee initially sought a decrease in train service, saying the noise from the elevated "constitutes a menace to health, comfort and peaceable home life."
The system was closed in sections from 1950 to 1973. First, the South Ferry spur, which connected South Ferry to Chatham Square, was closed on December 22, 1950. This permanently closed the South Ferry elevated station, which had previously served all four IRT elevated lines that originally ran in Manhattan. Free transfers were provided to the M13 bus to make up for the loss in service.
The Bronx Park terminal station was closed on November 14, 1951, with morning peak and midday locals thenceforth running to Gun Hill Road, and afternoon peak locals running to Fordham Road. Morning peak local-express trains started at Fordham Road, while PM peak local-express trains were extended to Gun Hill Road. On March 14, 1952, evening, nightime and weekend and holiday service was discontinued south of 149th Street.
Next to close was the City Hall spur in 1953, which started at Park Row in Manhattan and then connected with the South Ferry spur at Chatham Square. On May 12, 1955, the main portion of the line closed from Chatham Square to East 149th Street in the Bronx, ending the operation of elevated service in Manhattan. The removal was a catalyst in a wave of new construction adding property values on the East Side, while bringing increased isolation and hastened decline throughout much of the Bronx. The head of the Real Estate Board of New York suggested that Third Avenue be renamed "the Bouwerie" to symbolize the transformation.
In 1967, the remaining service in the Bronx was formally given the 8 route designation. However, the 8 bullet was only marked on maps and station signs; cars always displayed SHUTTLE and the terminal destination.
Under the MTA's 1968 Program for Action, plans were made for demolition of the remaining line as part of the city's effort to remove "obsolete elevated railway structures", which also saw the razing of portions of the BMT Jamaica elevated in Queens. It was to be replaced with a parallel line along the Metro-North Harlem Line's right-of-way, part of the Second Avenue Subway plan. Local residents and business owners also sought similar revival seen following the closure of the line's sections in Manhattan. The remaining portion in the Bronx from East 149th Street to Gun Hill Road finally closed on April 29, 1973 and demolition started on March 9, 1977. Demolition was completed by the end of 1977, along with the condemned portion of the Jamaica Line.
Work on the planned Second Avenue Subway was suspended, due to the 1970s fiscal crisis. In the Bronx, the Third Avenue el was replaced by the Bx55 bus making only the stops the train made. This bus route was one of the first to have free transfers to and from the subway, with the three transfer points at the Third Avenue–149th Street and Gun Hill Road IRT White Plains Road Line stations, and the 161st Street–Yankee Stadium station. The other two bus-subway transfers were from the B35 and B42 in Brooklyn, which replaced the BMT Culver Line and BMT Canarsie Line, respectively. With the introduction of free bus to subway transfers systemwide in the 1990s, the three routes lost their special status, although the B42 terminates in a loop inside fare control at Rockaway Parkway. In 2013, the Bx55 was eliminated with the introduction of the Bx41 Select Bus Service. It was partially replaced by the Bx41 SBS and the Bx15 Limited, which runs to West Harlem via 125th Street, but does not extend past Fordham Plaza to Gun Hill Road.
|Station||Tracks||Opened||Closed||Transfers and notes|
|Gun Hill Road||Express||October 4, 1920||April 29, 1973||White Plains Road Line|
|210th Street–Williamsbridge||Local||October 4, 1920||April 29, 1973||originally Williams Bridge–210th Street|
|204th Street||Local||October 4, 1920||April 29, 1973|
|200th Street||Local||October 4, 1920||April 29, 1973|
|Bronx Park Terminal||Spur||May 21, 1902||November 14, 1951||End of the line until October 4, 1920|
|Fordham Road–190th Street||Express||July 1, 1901||April 29, 1973||NYC Harlem Line; originally Pelham Avenue|
|183rd Street||Local||July 1, 1901||April 29, 1973|
|180th Street||Local||July 1, 1901||April 29, 1973|
|Tremont Avenue–177th Street||Express||July 20, 1891||April 29, 1973||Originally 177th Street; served Bronx Borough Hall|
|174th Street||Local||July 20, 1891||April 29, 1973|
|Claremont Parkway||Local||September 19, 1888||April 29, 1973||Originally Wendover Avenue|
|169th Street||Local||September 2, 1888||April 29, 1973|
|166th Street||Local||December 25, 1887||April 29, 1973|
|161st Street||Local||August 7, 1887||April 29, 1973|
|156th Street||Local||July 1, 1887||April 29, 1973|
|149th Street||Express||June 16, 1887||April 29, 1973||White Plains Road Line|
|143rd Street||Express||May 23, 1886||May 12, 1955|
|138th Street||Express||January 1, 1887||May 12, 1955|
|133rd Street||Express||May 17, 1886||May 12, 1955||NYWBRR (1924-1937); NYNHH Harlem River Line (1924-1931)|
|Willis Avenue||Spur||November 25, 1886||April 14, 1924||NYWB and NYNHH Harlem River Branch|
|129th Street||Local||December 30, 1878||May 12, 1955||Second Avenue Line|
|125th Street||Express||December 30, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|116th Street||Local||December 30, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|106th Street||Express||December 30, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|99th Street||Local||December 30, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|89th Street||Local||December 9, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|84th Street||Local||December 9, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|76th Street||Local||December 9, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|67th Street||Local||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|59th Street||Local||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|53rd Street||Local||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|47th Street||Local||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|Grand Central||Spur||August 26, 1878||December 6, 1923|
|Third Avenue||Spur||August 26, 1878||December 6, 1923|
|42nd Street||Express||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955||Flushing Line, Lexington Avenue Line and 42nd Street Shuttle at Grand Central–42nd Street|
|Third Avenue||Spur||July 14, 1930|
|Second Avenue||Spur||July 14, 1930||Second Avenue Line|
|34th Street Ferry||Spur||July 1, 1880||July 14, 1930|
|34th Street||Local||August 26, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|28th Street||Local||May 12, 1955|
|23rd Street||Express||August 26, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|18th Street||Local||May 12, 1955|
|14th Street||Local||August 26, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|Ninth Street||Express||August 26, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|Houston Street||Express||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955|
|Grand Street||Express||May 12, 1955|
|Canal Street||Express||May 12, 1955|
|Chatham Square||Spur||March 17, 1879||December 31, 1953|
|City Hall||Spur||March 17, 1879||December 31, 1953|
|Chatham Square||Express||September 16, 1878||May 12, 1955||Original station was north of an at-grade merge from the spur|
|Franklin Square||Express||August 26, 1878||December 22, 1950|
|Fulton Street||Express||August 26, 1878||December 22, 1950|
|Hanover Square||Express||August 26, 1878||December 22, 1950|
|South Ferry||Express||August 26, 1878||December 22, 1950|
Notes and references
- "Rapid Transit on the Bowery" (PDF). New York Times. August 26, 1878. p. 8. Retrieved February 10, 2009.
- "Rapid Transit to Harlem" (PDF). New York Times. December 31, 1878. p. 8. Retrieved February 21, 2009.
- "Manhattan East Side Transit Alternatives (MESA): Major Investment Study/Draft Environmental Impact Statement, August 1999". Metropolitan Transportation Authority, United States Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration. August 1999. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
- Salisbury, Harrison E. (May 13, 1955). "Cars Are Packed For Last 'El' Trip — 3d Ave. Salutes With Raised Glasses as Train Makes Noisy and Slow Journey" (PDF). New York Times. p. 16. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- Katz, Ralph (May 13, 1955). "Last Train Rumbles On Third Ave. 'El'" (PDF). New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- Union Turnpike (October 2, 2015), 1_b9a9ca3dd2cb7a4c955d0b772f5ff52b, retrieved May 10, 2019
- Montgomery, Paul L. (April 29, 1973). "Third Ave. El Reaches the End of Its Long, Noisy, Blighted, Nostalgic Line". New York Times. p. 24. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- Rapid Transit in New York City and in Other Great Cities. prepared by the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York. 1905. p. 51. Retrieved February 11, 2009.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Conkling, Alfred R. (1899). City Government of the United States with a Chapter on the Greater New York Charter of 1897 (4th, revised ed.). New York: D. Appleton and Company. p. 113. Retrieved February 11, 2009.
- Fischler, Stan (1997). The Subway: A Trip Through Time on New York's Rapid Transit. Flushing, N.Y.: H&M Productions. pp. 245–249. ISBN 1-882608-19-4.
- "Just Across the River, Opening of a Short Length of Sub-Urban Rapid Transit Railroad" (PDF). New York Times. May 18, 1886. p. 2. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
- Derrick, Peter (2001). Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion that Saved New York. New York: New York University Press. p. 30. ISBN 0-8147-1910-4.
- Cudahy, Brian J. (2003). A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways. New York: Fordham University Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-8232-2292-6.
- How a Twenty Million Dollar Railroad Was Built in Mid-Air: Third Tracking the New York 'L'. Interborough Rapid Transit. 1917. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
- Senate, New York (State) Legislature (January 1, 1917). Documents of the Senate of the State of New York.
- Parke, Richard H. (December 23, 1950). "Old 'El' Link End Its 72-Year Uproar — Lower East Side Residents Are Happy and Mission Head Now Expects to Sleep" (PDF). New York Times. p. 30. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "Notice To Passengers". Flickr. New York City Board of Transportation. 1952. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
- Baker, Richard T. (January 1, 1954). "City Hall 'El' Spur At End of the Line — Branch, Operating Since 1879, Makes Its Last Run With Only Token Fanfare" (PDF). New York Times. p. 25. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "Realty Interests Seek Quieter Third Avenue". New York Times. December 7, 1941. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
- "Notice To Passengers". Flickr. New York City Board of Transportation. December 1950. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- New York's El Lines 1867-1955 Electric Railroaders Assn Dec 1956, Bulletin #25
- "Notice To Passengers". Flickr. New York City Board of Transportation. 1952. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Paumgarten, Nick (July 4, 2011), "Looking for Someone", The New Yorker, p. 27,
The demolition of the Third Avenue Elevated subway line set off a building boom and a white-collar influx...
- Grutzner, Charles (February 7, 1956). "New Name Urged for Third Avenue — Head of Real Estate Board Suggests The Bouwerie for Improved Thoroughfare — Property Values Soar — Skyscraper Office Buildings Aid Boom — Architect Asks for Integrated Plan". New York Times. p. 33. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "The 3rd Avenue Corridor". The Bronx Journal. March 27, 2013. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- Heather, Haddon (June 16, 2010). "V and W Trains Join a Long List of Routes That Have Bowed Out of the Subways". newsday.com. Newsday. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
- Seigel, Max H. (July 18, 1972). "City Plans to Raze 3d Ave. El in Bronx — Start Next Year Would Open Way for Buses — Free Transfers Proposed to Cut Riders' Costs" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- "Highlights of Program For Subway, Rail and Air" (PDF). New York Times. February 29, 1968. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (August 27, 1977). "Now That El's Gone, Bronx Hub Sees A Brighter Future" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- "New Third Av Service..." Flickr. New York City Transit Authority. 1973. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Cunningham, Joseph; DeHart, Leonard O. (January 1, 1993). A History of the New York City Subway System. J. Schmidt, R. Giglio, and K. Lang.
- Donovan, Aaron (July 29, 2001). "If You're Thinking of Living In/Belmont; Close-Knit Bronx Area With Italian Aura". New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- Raskin, Joseph B. (2013). The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System. New York, New York: Fordham University Press. doi:10.5422/fordham/9780823253692.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-82325-369-2.
- Faison, Seth (November 18, 1992). "Bronx Bus Line Riders Get Glimpse of Future". New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- "Westchester Line Passes With 1937 - Joy and Sorrow Mark the Last Trips of Railroad That Will 'Abandon' 18,000 Riders" (PDF). New York Times. January 1, 1938. p. 36. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "City Brevities" (PDF). New York Times. April 15, 1924. p. 10. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "More Elevated Trains, but No Notice on the East Side Road of a Reduction in Fares" (PDF). New York Times. December 10, 1878. p. 8. Retrieved February 11, 2009.
- "The New-York Elevated Railway" (PDF). New York Times. September 16, 1878. p. 8. Retrieved February 11, 2009.
- "42d St. Elevated Stops Service on Spur to Grand Central Discontinued Last Midnight" (PDF). New York Times. December 7, 1923. p. 19. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "34th St. Elevated Ends Long Service — Spur, Once One of Busiest Lines, Passes to the City and Will Be Torn Down — Values in the Area Jump — Demolition Expected to Bring increase in Real Estate of About $50,000,000" (PDF). New York Times. July 15, 1930. p. 15. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "Rapid Transit from the City Hall" (PDF). New York Times. March 18, 1879. p. 8. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
- "Crossings on Elevated Roads", The New York Times, March 14, 1879, page 8.
- Stelter, Lawrence, and Lother Stelter (1995). By the El: Third Avenue and Its El at Mid-Century. Flushing, NY: H&M Productions. ISBN 1-882608-12-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to IRT Third Avenue Line.|
- Remembering the Third Avenue El, MTA.info
- nycsubway.org – nycsubway.org The Third Avenue El:
- archive.org - The Third Avenue El (ca.1950s)
- - Bronx 3rd Avenue El (1900-1973)[permanent dead link]
- Gotham Center - The Rise and Decline of New York City's Third Avenue Elevated Train Line
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-68, "Interborough Rapid Transit Company, Third Avenue Elevated Line, New York, New York County, NY", 85 photos, 1 color transparency, 3 data pages, 6 photo caption pages
- 1953 Vivian Maier photo by 59th St station, view southwards towards Chrysler Building
- Warner Pathé Newsreel: "The End of the El"