The Brooklyn Elevated Railroad opened the line to passengers at 16:00 on May 13, 1885, with a five-cent fare for trains every five minutes. The original line ran from York and Washington Streets (near the Brooklyn Bridge) along York Street, Hudson Avenue, Park Avenue, Grand Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and Broadway to Gates Avenue. The three stations on Park Avenue had island platforms, while all the other stations had two side platforms.
The first extension, east to Manhattan Beach Crossing in East New York, named for the crossing of the Manhattan Beach Division of the Long Island Rail Road, opened at 09:00 on June 14, 1885. Arrangements were made with the LIRR for joint tickets to Manhattan Beach, as well as with the Grand Street, Prospect Park and Flatbush Railroad (Franklin Avenue Line of streetcars) and Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railway (Brighton Beach Line) to Brighton Beach. Other connections at East New York included the Long Island Rail Road towards the east, the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach Railroad (Canarsie Line), and the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Railroad. Shops, car houses, and other facilities were located at East New York, where the New York City Subway's East New York Yard still stands.
On September 5, 1885, the line was extended one more station to Alabama Avenue near the Howard House, a union station for the steam and horse railroads into East New York. Another east terminal at Van Siclen Avenue was opened on December 3, 1885, with the structure above Fulton Street extending east two more blocks to Schenck Street. After a half day of infrequent service, trains began serving the new station on a regular schedule the next morning.
Several weeks before the line was completed to Van Siclen Avenue, the western terminal at Fulton Ferry was opened at noon on November 11, 1885. This portion of the line was built above York Street to just shy of the bridge, where it turned northwest parallel to the bridge, not turning back west under the bridge until Plymouth Street at the East River. That same day, a covered walkway above Washington Street from the inbound platform of the York and Washington Streets station to the Brooklyn Bridge was opened.
The Brooklyn Elevated leased the newer Union Elevated Railroad, which had yet to run a train, on May 13, 1887. However, the two companies, despite sharing large portions of their lines, remained technically separate, commonly called the "Brooklyn and Union Elevated Railroads", until they merged in October 1890 and kept the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad name.
On April 10, 1888, the Union Elevated opened the first piece of the Myrtle Avenue Elevated, from Adams Street at City Hall east over Myrtle Avenue to Grand Avenue, where it junctioned with the Brooklyn Elevated. The company operated through to the end of the Brooklyn Elevated at Van Siclen Avenue. Another branch operated by the Union Elevated, the Broadway Elevated from Gates Avenue northwest to Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, opened on June 25, 1888. This was extended to Broadway Ferry on July 14, 1888. The Myrtle Avenue Elevated was extended north over Adams Street to Sands Street at the Brooklyn Bridge on September 1, 1888, and the Union Elevated began running between Sands Street and Van Siclen Avenue. The Union Elevated opened the Hudson Avenue Elevated, a branch of the Brooklyn Elevated from the intersection of Hudson and Park Avenues south to the Long Island Rail Road's Flatbush Avenue terminal, on November 5, 1888, and began operating between Fulton Ferry and Flatbush Avenue.
Another piece of the Myrtle Avenue Elevated, from the crossing of the Brooklyn Elevated at Grand Avenue east to Broadway, opened on April 27, 1889. Trains on this route did not cross the line on Grand Avenue, but turned onto Grand Avenue and used the Brooklyn Elevated to Fulton Ferry. Simultaneously, the original Brooklyn Elevated route via Lexington Avenue to Fulton Ferry was discontinued, with all Lexington Avenue trains running over Myrtle Avenue to the Brooklyn Bridge, and passengers for the ferry required to transfer at Myrtle Avenue station via several stairways.
Effective December 9, 1889, a new service pattern went into effect, in which the structure above Park Avenue and its three stations, two of them located one long block north of Myrtle Avenue stations, was closed. Myrtle Avenue trains, which had used this structure since April 27, instead continued along Myrtle Avenue to Hudson Avenue, turning north there via a new junction into the Hudson Avenue Elevated, closed north of Myrtle Avenue since shortly after it opened due to safety concerns with the at-grade crossing at Myrtle Avenue. Thus passengers transferring between the two lines could get out at Navy Street and simply enter the next train on the other route. The company continued to operate one daily train, closed to passengers, over Park Avenue, "to satisfy, it is thought, legal requirements", according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The structure above Park Avenue, closed to passengers since late 1889, was finally removed in late 1891. The New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners approved its abandonment on late December 1891, and removal soon began of the entire portion in Park Avenue, from the Hudson Avenue Elevated east to Grand Avenue, as well as the portion above Grand Avenue north of the Myrtle Avenue Elevated. This was the only part of the New York City elevated system to be permanently closed without ever having been electrified. By August 9, 1900, the rest of the line was electrified with third rail.
An extension of the Brooklyn Elevated east to Cypress Hills, over Fulton Street and Crescent Street, opened on May 30, 1893, and the Brooklyn Union Elevated extended both Lexington Avenue Line and Broadway Line trains to the new terminal. This extension incorporated portions of the old structure over Park Avenue.
The original Brooklyn Elevated over Hudson Avenue and York Street to Fulton Ferry, only used by Myrtle Avenue Elevated trains after 1889, was closed on April 11, 1904.
The last Lexington Avenue train ran at 21:00 on October 13, 1950, with a small celebration, 65 years after the line opened. Transportation Commissioner G. Joseph Minetti joked that "if we had this many passengers riding regularly we wouldn't have to shut it down." Demolition began on November 1.
Read more about this topic: BMT Lexington Avenue Line
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