It was a day 100 years in the making, as New York City Transit (NYCT)went back to the future at the New York Transit Museum on Monday, June 23, where the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) celebrated the centennial anniversary of Brooklyn’s first subway line, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation’s (BMT) Fourth Avenue Line.
To mark the occasion, guests were on hand at the museum, along with NYCT President Carmen Bianco, Transit Museum President Gabrielle Shubert and engineer historian Joe Cunningham.
“Today we celebrate the originality, innovation and creativity of the BMT,” said Bianco. “The company’s illustrious past remains a vital part of New York City Transit.”
Bianco said, that on June 22 1915, Manhattan to Coney Island service began with the operation of the first BMT train, which, he told the group, “crossed the East River to Downtown Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge and then headed out to Coney Island using the new Fourth Avenue subway that had connection to the Sea Beach Line.”
According to Bianco, the BMT was designed to a larger scale than the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), the city’s first subway. “The BMT car dimensions were far more generous,” he said. “The IRT was 51 feet long and nine feet wide; the BMT standard was cars that were 67 feet long and a foot wider than the IRT.”
In addition to size, the BMT was also revolutionary in other areas, such as accessibility and comfort. “It was a standard-setter in several areas including motion and breaking controls,” Bianco added, explaining that the trains, “Featured open passageways, articulation and even stainless steel construction on one train.”
Following the press conference, attendees got on a vintage BMT D-Type Triplex, a subway car that was introduced in 1927. The quick ride on the train went smoothly. The cars featured ceiling fans, vintage advertisements and seats. As the train made its way to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station, riders across the platform took out their cellphones to snap a few pictures of history.
Cunningham was impressed by the train that was built nearly 100 years ago. “This particular train is amazing: The shop crews and people who work on it, the fact that they can maintain them and they’re able to run a vehicle that’s almost 90 years old. It was never intended to be running this late,” he said.
Although much of the day was about the history of the train, there was also a focus on the MTA’s current status. “This system is as vibrant today, even more so than it was back then. Think about the men and women that designed this and did the construction,” said Bianco. “I don’t think they could’ve ever envisioned six million customers getting on our trains so this is phenomenal. Our job as leaders is to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to make sure it gets to its 200th birthday.”