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Third Avenue El

Third-Ave-El

Third Avenue El, 1951

Leon Dolice

Elevated trains were the earliest form of rapid transit in the United States, developed in New York City in the last half of the 19th century. The first El was on 9th Avenue, connecting Dey Street to 29th Street. It was actually a cable card conencted to a steam powered engine at the terminus. The cable system was inconvenient; breaking cables often caused failures resulting in passengers having to evacuate trains using 30 foot ladders to the streets.

In 1872, steam engines were used to pull the wooden carts, and despite the soot and noise, the success of this system led to the expansion of the Els into every area of Manhattan. In 1878, lines were opened on Trinity Place, Church Street, West Broadway and Sixth Avenue, between Rector Place and Central Park.

The Third Avenue El opened in 1878; a Second Avenue El in 1880; and the last years of the 19th century saw a labrynth of els all through Manhattan. Between 1900 and 1904, all the els were electrified; and by 1921 at the peak of its usage, the el system carried an estimated 384 million passengers annually.

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This Third Avenue elevated train image is part of the "Vintage New York" exhibit, created by the New Rochelle Council on The Arts (NRCA); Thea Eichler, Program Chairman; with the assistance a grant from the Michael and Helen Schaffer Foundation. © All images in this exhibit are the property of their respective copyright holders, and may not be reproduced without permission.

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