BMT Brighton Line
Table of contents
The Brighton Line opened in 1878 as an excursion railroad – the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railway – to bring beachgoers from downtown Brooklyn (via a connection with the Long Island Rail Road) to the seashore at Coney Island on the Atlantic Ocean, at a location named Brighton Beach at the same time the railroad arrived. It has been known since its opening as the Brighton Beach Line but is now described as the Brighton Line in MTA literature and in public usage.
After losing its connection with the Long Island Rail Road in 1883, the railroad fell on hard times, reorganizing as the Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad. Seeking a new route for its excursion business and its local trade in communities along the way, it formed an agreement with the Kings County Elevated to connect to its Fulton Street Line, which gave access to the new Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan passengers. This was accomplished in 1896.
A series of mergers and leases put the Brighton Beach Line in the hands of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT), a holding company which eventually controlled most of the rapid transit, streetcar and bus lines in Brooklyn and part of Queens, New York. The line was electrified with trolley wire and, for a time, trolleys from several surface routes and elevated trains operated together on the line.
The BRT was reorganized as the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) in 1923. In 1940, the BMT was purchased by the City of New York and operation passed to the city's Board of Transportation, which already operated the city-built Independent Subway System (IND).
The original line was a two-tracked high-speed surface steam railroad operating from Bedford Station, at Atlantic Avenue near Franklin Avenue in the City of Brooklyn, at which point it made a physical connection to the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Avenue branch. From Bedford the line ran on a surface private right-of-way several blocks south to Park Place, which it crossed at grade, and then in an open cut with street overpasses through what is now Crown Heights and Flatbush, as far as Church Lane (now Church Avenue) in the Town and Village of Flatbush. From that point the line continued on the surface to a point at current Beverley Road between Marlborough Road (East 15th Street) and East 16th Street, curving southeast and running on the surface between the lines of the latter streets through the Towns of Flatbush and Flatlands to Sheepshead Bay, then turning southerly to reach the beach at Brighton Beach on Coney Island in the Town of Gravesend.
Grade crossing eliminations, 1903–07 and 1918–20
Between 1903 and 1907 the Brooklyn Grade Crossing Elimination Commission (BGCEC) oversaw the elimination of all grade crossings on the line. A short piece of two-tracked elevated railroad was built from the ramp connecting to the Fulton Street Elevated as far as Park Place, where the original 1878 open cut began. From the end of that original cut south of Church Avenue, the line was wholly rebuilt as a four-track railroad with express and local stations to a point south of Neptune Avenue at the border of Coney Island, continuing along its original right-of-way to Brighton Beach station. The portion from Church Avenue to Avenue H was placed in a depressed open cut, while the portion from Avenue H to south of Sheepshead Bay was raised onto an earthen embankment, partially with earth excavated from the open-cut portion.
The above work by the BGCEC left the line between Park Place and Church Avenue in substanially its original condition from steam railroad days. Between 1918 and 1920, however, further work rebuilt the portion between Prospect Park and Church Avenue as a four-track line. At the same time, the remaining portion of the line south of Neptune Avenue was replaced with a four-track elevated structure, including a four- to six-track elevated line extension, connecting the Brighton Line to the new Coney Island terminal at Surf and Stillwell Avenues. This same work rerouted mainline Brighton Beach trains from the Fulton Street elevated line via a new deep tunnel under Flatbush Avenue to connect to the Fourth Avenue subway at DeKalb Avenue station, where trains could access the new BMT Broadway subway.
Upon the opening of service by the new subways to midtown Manhattan on August 1, 1920, the original portion of the line between the Fulton Street Elevated and the link to the new subway at Prospect Park became a secondary line, known as Brighton-Franklin, and now known as the Franklin Avenue Shuttle. At times through services (including expresses) operated on mainline Brighton tracks to Coney Island. Some special weekend trains even operated beyond Coney Island back to Manhattan via the Sea Beach Line express tracks and the Fourth Avenue Subway. This service was variously known as Franklin-Nassau and as the Coney Island Express, but its popular name was the "Sunny Sunday Summer Special," because it was only supposed to operate as needed on the hottest beach-going days.
Through services gradually diminished on the Brighton-Franklin, and after the early 1960s it became a pure shuttle, operating between Franklin Avenue station at Fulton Street and Prospect Park station, where it connects with mainline Brighton Beach trains.
During the era of route contraction from 1940 to about 1975 the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, as it is now known, seemed a prime candidate for abandonment; its physical structure had been allowed to deteriorate and its service steadily curtailed. The New York City fiscal crisis of the '70s and the recession in 1990 contributed to plans to discontinue the line.
Consistent community pressure prevented the line's abandonment and eventually led to its rehabilitation and reconstruction, closing the line in 1998 and reopening it in 1999.
The Brighton Beach Line today
Today's line shows an interesting mix of its various rebuildings. The 1920 subway portion from the DeKalb Avenue connection to the Fourth Avenue subway is a typical New York City subway tunnel of the Dual Contracts era.
The most interesting parts of the line involve the original routing.
The Franklin Avenue Shuttle
See main article at BMT Franklin Avenue Line
Prospect Park to Church Avenue
Though this part of the route is on the alignment of the 1878 open cut, it was rebuilt in 1918 to 1920 to a four track line with an express station at Prospect Park, a local station at Parkside Avenue (replacing the original station at Woodruff Avenue) and another express station at Church Avenue.
The construction features of the portion of the line resemble those of the Sea Beach Line, which reopened as an open-cut line in 1915. Both lines feature slightly sloped and capped reinforced concrete walls and subway-like tunnels underneath cross-streets.
From this point, the Brighton Beach Line is a four-track line for the remainder of its route. Currently, the 'B' and 'Q' trains come off Flatbush Avenue to join the line at Prospect Park; the 'B' uses the central tracks to run to Brighton Beach station, serving express stations, while the 'Q' provides local service on the outer tracks to the end of the line at Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Terminal.
Church Avenue to Avenue H
This part of the line is a result of the BGCEC rebuilding program of 1903–1907. Just south of the tunnel which carries the line under Church Avenue, the construction of the cut wall visibly changes. The subway-like street crossings of the former section give way to steel trestles for the streets, giving the line a more open appearance. Cottage-style station houses are suspended over the line at local stations at Beverley and Cortelyou Roads, and at the express station at Newkirk Avenue. Past Newkirk Avenue the line continues in an open cut, then begin to rise to street level at the north end of Avenue H station.
Avenue H to Sheepshead Bay
The station house at Avenue H is unique. Placed at the east side of the tracks, it is a wooden structure built in 1905 and originally used a real state office. The building was threatened with demolition as part of an upgrading of stations along the line, but the community intervened and, on June 29, 2004, the station house was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmrks Preservation Commission.
The line now runs on an earthen embankment with local stations at Avenue H, Avenue J and Avenue M, an express station at Kings Highway, local stops at Avenue U and (Gravesend) Neck Road, and an express station called Sheepshead Bay at Sheepshead Bay Road (former Shore Road). All of the station houses for these stops are located beneath the tracks at street level.
Sheepshead Bay to Brighton Beach
The line continues south on the 1907 embankment to a bridge over Neptune Avenue. At this point the BGCEC roadbed ends, and the line used to descend to the surface on two single track concrete and steel ramps to operate on the surface to Brighton Beach. As part of the 1918–1920 Dual Contracts work, all four tracks now continue on a steel elevated structure to the junction of Coney Island and Brighton Beach Avenues, where the line turns west onto Brighton Beach Avenue and enters the Brighton Beach station.
Brighton Beach to Coney Island
On May 30, 1919, Brighton Beach Line service was extended west to the area once known as West Brighton, now the heart of what is left of the entertainment area of Coney Island, where it occupied part of New West End Terminal, better known as Stillwell Avenue Terminal, the structure which serves as a union terminal for the four subway lines that run to Coney Island.
On September 7, 2002 Brighton passenger service was suspended west of Brighton Beach due to the complete rebuilding of the Stillwell Avenue (Coney Island) terminal station, which had deteriorated due to the effects of salt water corrosion and deferred maintenance. On May 23, 2004, one week short of the 85th anniversary of the Brighton Beach Line's original entry into Stillwell Avenue terminal, service resumed between Brighton Beach and that point.
Travelling west from Brighton Beach station, the line operates on an unusual six track elevated structure over Brighton Beach Avenue, the former right-of-way of the Sea View Railway which originally provided service west of Brighton Beach. Only the outer two tracks are currently used for revenue service 'Q' trains, the inner four are train yard tracks.
Two of the yard tracks end before Ocean Parkway station, after which the four remaining tracks merge into two to climb up and over two more tracks of the Culver Line ('F' train), which enter from the north. Both lines then share West 8th Street station, a double-level steel structure with two tracks on each level. The Brighton trains occupy the upper level and the Culver trains the lower.
Both lines then enter the new 8-track Stillwell Avenue terminal where the Brighton trains occupy tracks 3 and 4.
The entire main line of the Brighton Line (excluding the Franklin Avenue Shuttle) is chained BMT A. This has no relation whatever to the letters assigned to the services on the Brighton Line, which are B for the express service and Q for the local.
Chaining zero is BMT Southern, located just north of the 57th Street (BMT Broadway Line) station of the BMT Broadway Line via the Manhattan Bridge. The Brighton Line picks up this chaining south of DeKalb Avenue station.
- Odd numbered tracks are away from Manhattan (southbound)
- Even numbered tracks are toward Manhattan (northbound)
- Tracks 1 and 2 are usually local (outside tracks, shown in roman type)
- Tracks 3 and 4 are usually express (inside tracks, shown in bold type)
- Non-revenue tracks are shown in italic type)
|From||To||Track arrangement||Line orientation||Comments|
|DeKalb Avenue||Prospect Park||A3-A4||NNW||no local tracks|
|Prospect Park||Brighton Beach||A1-A3-A4-A2||NNW|
|Brighton Beach||Ocean Parkway||A1-A5-A3-A4-A6-A2||WSW||A3-A4 were originally express tracks|
|Ocean Parkway||W8 Street (upper level)||A3-A4||WSW|
|Ocean Parkway||W8 Street (lower level)||A1-A2||WSW||abandoned 1954; trackbeds only|
|W8 Street (upper level)||Stillwell Avenue (C-D tracks)||A3-A4||WSW||All Brighton trains|
|W8 Street (lower level)||Stillwell Avenue (E-F tracks)||A1-A2||WSW||now used by IND Culver only|
Brighton Beach terminal's BMT telegraphy call letters were BC. Therefore, the entire Brighton Line has been referred to by the letters BC as a shorthand notation in internal documents, though this has gradually diminished and is now uncommon.
|New York City Subway Lines|
|IRT|| West side trunk: Broadway-7 Av – Lenox Av – White Plains Rd – Dyre Av – Brooklyn Branch|
East side trunk: Lexington Av – Jerome Av – White Plains Rd – Dyre Av – Pelham
Brooklyn/Queens/other: Eastern Pkwy – Nostrand Av – Flushing – 42 St Shuttle
Former: 2 Av – 3 Av – 6 Av – 9 Av
|BMT|| Manhattan trunk: Broadway – Astoria – Manhattan Bridge|
Nassau Street trunk: Nassau St – Jamaica – Archer Av – Myrtle Av
West Brooklyn trunks: 4th Av – Brighton – Culver – Sea Beach – West End
Other: Canarsie – Franklin Av Shuttle – 63 St
Former: Brooklyn Bridge – 3 Av – 5 Av – Fulton St – Lexington Av
|IND|| Bronx/Manhattan trunks: 6 Av – 8 Av – Concourse|
Brooklyn/Queens: Queens Blvd – Archer Av – 63 St – Fulton St – Culver – Rockaway – Crosstown
Former: World's Fair
|Connections||Chrystie St – 60 St|