New York Transit Museum

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New York Transit Museum
The Squirrels 0043.jpg
Side view of the street entrance on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street
New York Transit Museum is located in New York City
New York Transit Museum
Location in New York City
Established July 4, 1976; 39 years ago (July 4, 1976)
Location Court Street (IND Fulton Street Line) station, Boerum Pl., Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
Coordinates 40°41′25″N 73°59′24″W / 40.6904°N 73.9900°W / 40.6904; -73.9900Coordinates: 40°41′25″N 73°59′24″W / 40.6904°N 73.9900°W / 40.6904; -73.9900
Type Railway and mass transit museum
Accreditation ASTC
Public transit access Bus: B25, B26, B38, B41, B45, B52, B57, B61, B62, B63, B65, B103
Court Street – Borough Hall
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Jay Street – MetroTech
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The New York Transit Museum (also called the NYC Transit Museum) displays historical artifacts of the New York City Subway, bus, commuter rail, and bridge and tunnel systems under the administration of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The main Museum is located in the decommissioned Court Street subway station in Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. There is a smaller satellite Museum Annex in Grand Central Terminal in the midtown area of Manhattan.

Historic use as station[edit]

Court Street
Former New York City Subway rapid transit station
New York Transit Museum Court Street platform.jpg
Station platform with museum exhibits
Station statistics
Address Schermerhorn Street & Boerum Place
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Borough Brooklyn
Locale Downtown Brooklyn
Coordinates 40°41′25″N 73°59′24″W / 40.6904°N 73.99°W / 40.6904; -73.99
Line IND Fulton Street Line
Services None (currently occupied by museum)
Structure Underground
Platforms 1 island platform
Tracks 2
Other information
Opened April 9, 1936; 79 years ago (April 9, 1936)
Closed June 1, 1946; 69 years ago (June 1, 1946)
Accessible Handicapped/disabled access (station was not wheelchair accessible when it was in service)
Station succession
Next north (Terminal): no regular service
Next south Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets: no regular service

Next Handicapped/disabled access north none: no regular service
Next Handicapped/disabled access south Franklin Avenue (local): no regular service
Utica Avenue (express): no regular service

Court Street was built as a terminus for local trains of the IND Fulton Street Line and opened on April 9, 1936, along with a long section of the Fulton Street Line and the Rutgers Street Tunnel. The station has one center island platform with two tracks. The tracks end at bumper blocks just beyond the west end of the platform. A tile band of Aquamarine with a Cerulean Blue border is set in a course two tiles high, as is the case at most local stations.

The station exemplified the IND service theory which specified that local trains should operate within individual boroughs where possible, and provide transfers to express trains which would be through-routed between the boroughs. Court Street was to be the northern terminal of the HH Fulton Street Local, which would run south to Euclid Avenue. Additionally, one of the alternative plans for the Second Avenue Subway would have included a southern extension to Brooklyn, tying into the stub at Court Street to accommodate through service from Manhattan.[1]

The HH through service was never inaugurated; the only trains to serve the station were part of the Court Street Shuttle, taking passengers from Court Street to the transfer station at Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets. Due to the proximity of other stations in the Downtown Brooklyn area, as well as the need to transfer to reach it, Court Street never saw much traffic and was abandoned on June 1, 1946. However, it is still a functioning subway station; trains are moved into and out of the exhibits using the tunnel between the station platforms and the outer tracks at Hoyt–Schermerhorn Street station.

Around 1960, the station began to be used as a set for movies, most notably the 1974 film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and the entrance at Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street was reopened for shoots. To this day, the station and its connecting tunnels are still used for movie shoots. The 2009 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, a remake of the 1974 movie, was also filmed there. More recently, the Museum appeared in the Life on Mars episode "The Simple Secret of the Note In Us All", where a newspaper columnist is found murdered on a subway car. The Museum remains open to requests to use the station for filming, as well as to host private events during hours the Museum is not normally open.

Street entrance 
Bumper block at end of Track A2 

Station layout[edit]

G Street Level Exit/Entrance (stairs and elevator)
M Mezzanine area Exhibits, museum store
Former platform level
Track A2 (see list below for cars) No passenger service
(No service: Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets)
Island platform, used for exhibits Handicapped/disabled access
Track A1 (see list below for cars) No passenger service
(No service: Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets)

The station was a two-track, one-island platformed station while in service. An ADA-accessible chair lift and elevator were added after the station was converted into a museum.

Museum and scope[edit]

Special "Train of Many Colors" excursions are organized by the New York Transit Museum

On July 4, 1976, the New York City Transit Exhibit was opened in the decommissioned underground station as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration, with one subway token for admittance. Old subway cars which had been preserved, as well as models and other exhibits were displayed. Plans were to close the exhibition after the celebration, but it proved to be so popular that it remained open and eventually became a permanent museum.

The Transit Museum's main entrance is located at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn. Also, there is a new, separate ADA-accessible entrance for those with physical disabilities.[2] The Museum includes subway, bus, railway, bridge, and tunnel memorabilia and other exhibits including vintage signage, models and dioramas of subway, bus and other equipment. A program of lectures, seminars, films, and tours for all ages is available at the Museum. In addition, offsite programs consist of guided tours of MTA facilities, subway stations, artwork and architecture, and New York neighborhoods, as well as opportunities to ride vintage railway and bus equipment.

The museum's mezzanine (upper) level contains the majority of the exhibits, restrooms, water fountains, a screening room, and a dining space for visitors who have brought their own food or drink. Artifacts from historic subway and bus operations, as well as NYC transportation infrastructure, are on display. The exhibits on the upper level frequently change.

On the platform (lower) level, two fully powered operational subway tracks contain many historic examples of New York City Subway and Elevated railway equipment as a permanent display. Preserved subway cars, most of which can still be run, date as far back as the predecessor companies that came before the New York City Transit Authority, such as the BMT and IRT private companies, and the city owned and operated IND. In addition to the subway cars, there is a large wheel truck and motor (bogie) on display, a refrigerator-sized plug-in circuit breaker, a complete relay-based classic electric motor controller, and numerous other artifacts that highlight topics such as subway signaling and control, electrical power, railway infrastructure, station maps and signage, and station artwork. In addition, a fully functional underground "signal tower" control room is on view, a facility that was used when the subway station was in active revenue service. The track diagram indicator lights and control levers are fully operational, and are still needed when the subway cars on display are replaced or moved; however, since the controls are live, the control panel is secured and locked, but visitors can still view it through a window and read explanatory signs.

Bus Festival

Besides subway cars, the Museum has a sizable vintage bus fleet. Because there is no area available for their permanent exhibition in the underground Museum, they are stored in various bus depots around the city. They are brought out for special events, such as the Museum's annual "Bus Festival," which is held annually in conjunction with the Atlantic Antic street fair. The Bus Festival began as an annual tradition in 1994. During the Bus Festival, the Museum opens its doors for free. Documents, photographs, and artifacts are stored both in the Museum and in the nearby Archives, adding to the goal of preserving the legacy of transportation in New York. Historians and researchers who wish to visit the Archives are able to do so through the Museum. Some images from their collection can also be seen on Historypin.[3]

In the mid-1990s the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) assumed control of the Transit Museum from the New York City Transit Authority. At that time, the scope of the museum was expanded to include other aspects of transportation services within the MTA region, including commuter rail (Metro-North, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road) and roads / bridges (MTA Bridges and Tunnels). Since then, rotating exhibits on the mezzanine level frequently highlight commuter railroad and bridge/tunnel operations, as well as their history.

Current exhibits[edit]

As of January 2012 the Museum featured several exhibits:

  • Steel Stone and Backbone, which highlights the challenges and labor involved in subway construction during the period 1900-1925.[4]
  • Fare Collection, which explains different methods New Yorkers have used to pay subway fare over the years, and contains authentic subway turnstiles for passage through.[4]
  • ElectriCity: Powering New York's Rails, an interactive exhibit showing the various types of electric power generation, how it gets to the subway and how electric motors work.[5]
  • Show Me the Money: From the Turnstile to the Bank, which explains the old (pre-2006) process of revenue collection in the New York City Subway.
  • On the Streets, which contains a comprehensive history of New York City's street transportation from horse pulled vehicles to modern buses, as well as two bus installations visitors can sit in, including the driver's seat.[4]
  • Clearing the Air, which discusses modern street transportation and its impact on the environment, and highlights steps that the MTA is taking to reduce its carbon footprint.[4]
  • Stop Look and Listen, which allows visitors to enter a working subway signal tower dating from 1936 and see how trains are kept a safe distance apart and supervised.
  • Moving the Millions, which chronicles the history of the subway system from the private operators to the MTA New York City Transit of today. Located on the platform level, it is designed to supplement a visitor's experience exploring the various subway cars on display in the museum.[4]

Turnstiles and fare collection[edit]

Various turnstiles from the history of subways are on display at the NYC Transit Museum. They date as far back as the subway's opening in 1904, up through turnstiles that were still in use as recently as 2003. The exhibit is designed to be interactive and to be viewed in conjunction with a large board that details the history of fare payment in the subway. Most of the turnstiles can be walked through by visitors wishing to do so. Also viewable in conjunction with this exhibit are several token vending machines that were used to sell subway tokens prior to the advent of the MetroCard.

Cars currently on display[edit]

This R21/R22 car was rebuilt for the movie Money Train, then donated to the New York Transit Museum collection

Most of the subway cars in the Transit Museum's fleet are operable, and they are frequently used for subway excursions run by the Museum and New York City Transit on various parts of the system. The subway cars are fully furnished with vintage advertising placards and route maps, completing the period atmosphere inside the vehicles. Tickets for Transit Museum excursions (called "Nostalgia Trains") are sold in advance. Some New York City Transit special trains (such as Holiday specials at the end of most years, and Yankee/Met specials) are available for anyone to ride, so long as they have paid the regular subway fare. In addition to the subway cars displayed in the Transit Museum, there are also a number of Museum cars that are kept off-site in various subway yards and shops while awaiting restoration, undergoing restoration, or in storage.

The following cars are displayed in the museum as of July 5, 2014:

Track A1

Track A2

Cars not currently on display[edit]

  • SBK Steeplecab 6, 7
  • IRT World's Fair Lo-V 5655
  • BMT D-Type Triplex 6019A-B-C, 6112A-B-C
  • R10 3189 (ex. Road Car Inspector School Training Car used at Pitkin Yard, 1984-2007)
  • R11 8013
  • R12 5782 (ex. Fire Department Training Car used at Coney Island Yard)
  • R14 5871 (ex. Fire Department Training Car used at Coney Island Yard)
  • R16 6387
  • R17 6609 (used in the 1971 film The French Connection)
  • R26 7774-7775
  • R28 7924-7925
  • R29 8678-8679
  • R32 3352-3353 (Rebuilt as Phase II)
  • R33 9010-9011, 9016-9017, 9068-9069, 9206-9207 (part of the Train of Many Colors excursion cars)
  • R36 9542-9543
  • R36 WF 9586-9587
  • R38 4028-4029
  • R40 4280-4281
  • R40A 4480-4481
  • R42 4572-4573 (used in the 1971 film The French Connection)
  • R95 Revenue Collection Cars 0R714 (former R21 7194) and 1R714 (former R22 7422) (stored elsewhere to allow for display of Ansonia, Derby & Buckingham Electric Locomotive)
  • "Money Train" Car 51050 (former R21 car 7203, modified and used in the 1995 film Money Train.)

Grand Central Gallery Annex and Store[edit]

Grand Central Terminal Gallery Annex & Store

The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store opened on September 14, 1993 at Grand Central Terminal, in the terminal's main concourse. It houses a transit-oriented gift shop as well as a space for rotating temporary exhibitions.[6] The Annex is the site of the Transit Museum's annual "Holiday Train Show," where an operating model train layout is displayed for the public. While there is an admission fee at the Transit Museum's main Brooklyn Heights location, entrance to the Annex is free.

The main Brooklyn Heights location also has its own gift shop, which is accessible outside of the Museum's paid area.


New York Transit Museum display
Classic wood-bodied "BU-type" elevated railcar, restored to original appearance and still operational 
BMT "Q-type" car, built in 1903 and updated in 1938; some were in revenue service for 66 years 
Some Brooklyn Rapid Transit "AB Standard" steel-bodied cars remained in service for over 50 years 
Interior of R7A car, a prototype for the R10 series 
Interior of IRT R12 subway car with rattan seat cushions 
Exterior of an IRT "Lo-V" car 
Interior of an IRT "Lo-V" car, with original advertising placards 
Exterior view of R11/R34, the first series built of stainless steel 
Interior of R34 car 
Vintage ad for Crisco on display inside a subway car 
View from one vintage bus to another, at Bus Festival 
An array of historic subway turnstiles 
A Diamond Jubilee subway token on display 
Machine used to sew bags of subway tokens 
Real "Money Train" car, retired circa 2006 
(See also: Media related to New York Transit Museum at Wikimedia Commons)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roger P. Roess; Gene Sansone (23 August 2012). The Wheels That Drove New York: A History of the New York City Transit System. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 416-417. ISBN 978-3-642-30484-2. 
  2. ^ "Transit Museum Becomes Accessible To Disabled". NY1. June 8, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  3. ^ Avalith. "nytransitmuseum - Historypin". 
  4. ^ a b c d e "MTA - Transit Museum General Information". 
  5. ^ "ElectriCity". 
  6. ^ "New Yorkers & Co.". The New York Times. September 19, 1993. Retrieved September 22, 2009. 

External links[edit]