Taking a Trip Back in Time on the New York City Subway

NEW YORK — New York City has many enduring symbols. But, the New York City Subway may be the most instantly recognizable the world over.

To develop a new appreciation for the history for the New York City Subway, head to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn.

The museum opened in 1976, and in many ways the centerpiece of the museum is the station itself. Housed in the former Court Street station, the museum features exhibits that tell the story of the subway, from its earliest construction to the modern cars that transport tourists and commuters alike every day.

Court Street opened as the terminus for trains on the IND Fulton Street Line. However, it closed in 1946 due to low ridership numbers and sat largely vacant for three decades; it has been used at times as a filming location for movies set in New York City.

On July 4, 1976, the temporary New York City Transit Exhibit opened in the Court Street, coinciding with the United States Bicentennial celebration. The exhibit proved to be so popular the exhibit was made permanent.

Some of the more interesting exhibits at the museum:

  • BRT Brooklyn Union Elevated Car No. 1407: Built in 1907 by Jewett Car Company in Newark, Ohio, the car served the BRT, BMT and successors from 1908 until 1969. The car was one of 100 the BRT ordered in 1907 and ferried passengers to Flushing, N.Y., during the 1939 World’s Fair.
  • BRT Standard Car No. 2204: Built in 1916 by the America Car & Foundry Co. in Berwick, Pa., this type of car was wider and longer than predecessors, enabling it to carry more passengers. This car, which served until 1969, could operate on BRT tracks, but not IRT tracks due to a narrow clearance.
  • BMT Q Car 1612c: Built in 1908 by Jewett Car Company in Newark, Ohio, and rebuilt in 1938, the wooden car remained in service until 1969. Subway officials removed wooden cars from duty following the 1918 Malone Street wreck, but this car remained in service on elevated lines.
  • New York City Transit IND Pump Car No. 56: Built in 1932, this car was used to help remove water from flooded subway tunnels and could pump up to 2,000 gallons of water per minute. The car remained in service until 1986.
  • Long Island Rail Road Caboose C-60: Built in 1961, this Class N22A caboose was one of the last acquired by the Long Island Rail Road. It officially retired in 2002.
  • Steeple Cab Electric No. 5: Built in 1910 by the General Electric Corp. in Schenectady, N.Y., the locomotive hauled freight trains on the South Brooklyn Railway and also subway work trains. Today, the locomotive remains in working condition and hauls the museum’s cars to maintenance and repair facilities as needed.

For more information, visit web.mta.info/mta/museum/.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 237 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.