Instagram: Myrtle Avenue El

The End of the Line: the remains of the Myrtle Avenue el. Up through 1969, wooden trains rumbled along above Myrtle Avenue and into Downtown Brooklyn, along one of the borough's oldest elevated transit lines. In earlier eras, it carried people into the heart of Brooklyn, to the various industries and firms along the waterfront, to shopping districts, schools, and friends' houses, and even—through 1944—over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. Regular riders included both my father and grandfather, who, in their youth, rode it every day to Brooklyn Tech. The line originally connected with the (Brooklyn) Broadway line, today's J train, and carried out past Broadway (nee Manhattan) Junction to Brooklyn's (then) city line. In 1915, the line was extended northward—the route of today's M train. However, while this northern section was built strong enough to handle heavy, all-steel subway cars, the original southern portion could only carry wooden cars, generally banned from subways for safety reasons. Unlike some other elevated lines, the southern part of the Myrtle Avenue el was never rebuilt for heavier cars, so until the end, only saw wooden cars shuttling back and forth between Metropolitan Avenue and Bridge Street in Downtown Brooklyn. At the height of the American suburban era—and near the nadir of American urbanism—the line was closed and demolished due to a lack of ridership. Today, this is all that remains of this original line: a two block section flying over the J train's Myrtle Avenue station, running one block north and one block south of the station, without tracks, signals, or trains. It is a strange experience to walk underneath an abandoned el, and for the life of me, I'm not sure why these stub ends were not demolished—especially the one heading south. However, I'm glad they weren't: they are a connection to the past, a symbol of both Brooklyn's height, driven by elevated railroads, and its nadir of abandonment, grime, and darkness. Of course, that's easy for me to say: I don't have to live next to it More below...

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