Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
IRT Flushing Line
The Flushing Line is a rapid transit line of the New York City Subway system, operated as part of the Division. It runs from Flushing in Queens to Times Square in Manhattan, carrying trains of the 7 service (as well as the express rush hours in the peak direction), and is assigned the color purple. Before the line was opened all the way to Flushing, it was known as the Corona Line or Woodside and Corona Line. Prior to the discontinuance of services in 1949, the portion of the IRT Flushing Line between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza was known as the Queensboro Line. Express trains run to Manhattan from 06:30 to 12:30 and from Manhattan from 12:30 to 22:00. Some express trains run especially for New York Mets and U.S. Open games.
Diverse ridership and national recognition
The 8 mile (12.9 km) line runs through some of the most ethnically diverse areas in the world. The line's Flushing terminus in large Chinatown and Koreatown areas has earned it the nickname of the Orient Express, after the famed Paris-Istanbul train. It is also famous for being the official train of the New York Mets and the US Open (tennis) as both are located at Willets Point-Shea Stadium station, which serves Shea Stadium and Louis Armstrpong Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The line also serves Little India in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights and the P.S. 1 art and cultural center in Long Island City.
In 1999, the Flushing Line was designated a National Millennium Trail (along with the Appalachian Trail and 14 others) by a joint program of the White House Millennium Council, the United States Department of Transportation, and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. It was chosen as a representative of the immigrant experience, and because the approximate path of the Flushing Line has been in continuous use as a transportation route since the 17th century.
In 2000, Atlanta Braves baseball pitcher John Rocker was quoted by Sports Illustrated to have said, "It's [New York City] the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing." When it became clear that Rocker was serious, Mets fans — and fans nationwide — booed Rocker so consistently that it affected his performance. After brief stints with other teams, he was out of the major league.
The Flushing Line has various styles of architecture, which range from steel girder elevated structures to European-style concrete viaducts . The underground stations have some unique designs as well, such as Hunters Point Avenue, which is in an Italianate style and Grand Central-42nd Street, which is a single round tube similar to a London Underground station.
Extent and service
The line has two distinct sections, split by the Queensboro Plaza station. It begins as a three-track subway, with the center track used for express service, at Flushing-Main Street. It quickly leaves the ground onto a steel elevated structure above Roosevelt Avenue, passing Shea Stadium and the USTA National Tennis Center . A flying junction between Willets Point-Shea Stadium and 111th Street provides access to Corona Yard from the local tracks. At 48th Street in Sunnyside , the line switches to Queens Boulevard and an ornate concrete viaduct begins. The express track ends between 33rd Street-Rawson Street and Queensboro Plaza.
At Queensboro Plaza, the eastbound track (railroad north) is above the westbound track, with both Flushing Line tracks on the south side of the island platforms. On the north side of these platforms is the BMT Astoria Line. East of this point, both the Flushing Line and the Astoria Line were operated by the IRT and the BMT; details on that dual operation are in the Background section. Connections still exist between the eastbound tracks just east of the platforms, but they cannot be used for revenue service because BMT trains are wider than IRT trains. This is the only track connection between the Flushing Line and the rest of the subway system.
West of Queensboro Plaza, the line immediately turns south onto an elevated structure over 23rd Street. It heads into the west end of Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard , and passes through two underground stations before entering Manhattan via the Steinway Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, the line runs under 42nd Street, with part directly underneath the Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle (), before angling towards 41st Street and ending at the huge Times Square-42nd Street station, with no track connections to other lines.
Plans are underway to extend the Flushing Line west to Manhattan's West Side in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics. A stadium and sports complex is being developed there. An unused lower downtown platform at 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal blocks the way; some believe the built it to keep the IRT from extending their Flushing Line.
The Flushing Line is one of only two New York City non-shuttle subway lines that hosts only a single service and does not share operating trackage with any other line or service; the other is the BMT Canarsie Line, carrying the . Because of this, there are plans to use new trains with Automatic Train Operation on the line, similar to the current project on the Canarsie Line.
Even though subway service started in 1915, construction on the portion of the line that ran under the East River was originally started by the East River Tunnel Railroad on February 25, 1885. The original intent of the line was to connect the Long Island Railroad with the New York Central Railroad, one end of the tunnel being at the terminal of each railroad. Other than an engineering survey of the East River at the tunnel site, nothing else was done, and in 1887, the company reorganized as the New York and Long Island Railroad. The tunnel was planned to run from approximately 42nd Street and Tenth Avenue , under 42nd Street, then under the East River to Van Alst Avenue. The rest of the line in Queens would be on private right-of-way, and various mappings were planned and revised for this section of route.
Various problems occurred and caused extensive delays and cost overruns. William Steinway , founder of the Steinway and Sons Piano Company , became involved in 1890, and the tunnel was popularly known as the Steinway Tunnel. He felt that controlling operations of the tunnel company would boost the value of his real estate and envisioned operating the tunnels using electricity. On June 3, 1892, groundbreaking occurred at 50th Avenue between Vernon and Jackson Avenues in Queens. However, a series of mishaps, such as an underground water spring that hampered debris removal, followed by lawsuits by property owners along the line, forced the company to board up the tunnel on February 2, 1893. Various attempts to restart the project between 1893 and 1896 (when Steinway died), and proposals to extend the line into New Jersey, all failed.
In February 1902, August Belmont, Jr. became interested in the project, which became known as the Belmont Tunnel, although Belmont preferred the project be known as the Steinway Tunnel. By May 16, 1907, the north (westbound) tube was broken through, and the south tunnel was broken through on August 7 of the same year. The landfill from the tunnel excavations had been used to construct nearby Belmont Island, later called U Thant Island, on an existing outcrop in the East River.
Because the Pennsylvania Railroad planned to build a very large station at 32nd and 33rd Streets on the West Side , and also planned to tunnel under the Hudson and East Rivers, the motive power for the tunnels was changed to trolley cars. However, because of the low clearance of the tunnels, typical trolley wire could not be used; instead, overhead third rail was hung from the roof of the tunnel using special brackets. The Van Alst Avenue station was originally on a loop at the end of a 50-foot (15-meter) radius curve located near 50th Avenue and Van Alst Avenue. At Grand Central-42nd Street, there was another loop located under Park Avenue and 42nd Street. The tunnel officially opened on September 24 for Belmont, the Mayor and other officials. However, because Belmont did not have a franchise to operate the line, or a company to run it (because of litigation with New York City), he was forced to board up the tunnel. From October 23, 1907 until 1915, the completed tunnel was idle of traffic.
On April 3, 1913, the City of New York purchased the tunnels from Belmont as part of the Dual Contracts for $3 million, and the tunnels were placed under IRT operation. With minor modifications, the tunnel could accommodate subway trains. Because of the steep grade of the tunnels, special "Steinway" cars were built to run on the line. With the conversion to rapid transit, the loops on both ends of the Steinway tunnels were abandoned. No vestiges of the Queens loop remain today as the Hunters Point Avenue station occupies the site. Remnants of the Manhattan loop still exist, but are occupied by machinery and not accessible by passengers. The Manhattan loop is just west of the current Grand Central-42nd Street station. Subway service began on the line, then known as the Queensboro Tunnel, from Grand Central to Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue at 12:00 noon on June 22, 1915.
At Queensboro Plaza, the line met the BMT's 60th Street Tunnel , as well as a spur from the elevated IRT Second Avenue Line on the Queensboro Bridge. From this point east, the Flushing and Astoria Lines were built by the City of New York as part of the Dual Contracts. They were officially IRT lines on which the BMT held irrevocable and equal trackage rights. Because BMT trains were wider, and the platforms had been built for the IRT, normal BMT trains ran only to Queensboro Plaza, with a transfer to shuttles that alternated between the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard and Flushing-Main Street terminals. IRT trains simply continued from the Queensboro Line and Queensboro Bridge onto the lines to Astoria and Flushing, originally called the Corona Line or Woodside and Corona Line before it was completed to Flushing-Main Street.
The line was opened from Queensboro Plaza to 103rd Street-Corona Plaza on April 21, 1917. BMT shuttles began to use the line (and the Astoria Line) on April 8, 1923. East of there, sources conflict on when each section opened. A New York Times article from May 8 says that service began on May 7 to Willets Point-Shea Stadium, and talks about delays due to the structure sinking. Articles from May 13 and May 15 talk about a celebration to coincide with the opening to Willets Point-Shea Stadium on May 14. Finally, a January 22, 1928 article says that the line had ended at 103rd Street-Corona Plaza until January 21; the extension had been finished over a year ago but had to be strengthened due to structural problems.
Flushing-Main Street was never meant to be the end of the line. The Public Service Commission, in June 1913, was actively engaged in considering extensions of the line beyond Flushing, but these extensions, later planned as part of the IND Second System, were never built.
Currently and historically, IRT subway services on the Flushing Line were assigned the number 7, though this was not shown on any equipment until the introduction of the R12 class cars in 1948. The BMT services were assigned the BMT number 9, used on maps but not trains.
Western extensions were also built, with part underneath the Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle:
- Grand Central-42nd Street to Fifth Avenue on March 22, 1926
- west to Times Square-42nd Street on March 14, 1927
For the 1939 New York World's Fair, the Willets Point-Shea Stadium station was rebuilt and centered on 123rd Street, just west of where the station used to be. Some remnants of the old station are still visible; ironwork tends to indicate where the older outside-platform stations were, and the remains of the fare entry area can be seen east of the current station. The original Willets Point Boulevard station was a "minor" stop on the Flushing Line; it had only two stairways and short station canopies at platform level. It was rebuilt into the much larger station seen today, and the ramp used during two World's Fairs is still in existence, but is currently not used. Express service to the World's Fair began on the Flushing Line on April 24, 1939.
In 1938, an order of all-new World's Fair cars was placed with the St. Louis Car Company. These cars broke from IRT "tradition" in that they did not have vestibules at each car end. In addition, because the IRT was bankrupt at the time, the cars were built as single ended cars, with train controls for the motorman on one side and doorcontrols for the conductor on the other. These cars spent their last days on the elevated IRT Third Avenue Line in The Bronx.
Not to be outdone, BMT rebuilt 90 open gate cars into closed-end cars that became known as the "Q" Types (named because they operated in Queens). The Q Types were built as three car sets, and only the cars at the ends were fitted with traction motors and motorman controls. For the World's Fair, the equipment was repainted in the now famous blue and orange, the World's Fair colors. Nine years after the closing of the Fair, in 1949, the BMT "Q" Types were moved to the elevated IRT Third Avenue Line in Manhattan using old IRT Composite car trucks, and ran only as expresses, because their weight was a bit too high for the older, local tracks. Therefore, the last BMT-designed car ran on the last IRT elevated in Manhattan.
Like BMT Q-types replacing the older gate cars that rode on the line for the opening of the 1939 New York World's Fair, the procedure would be repeated again when, in 1964, the picture window R36 cars replaced the older R15 's for the 1964 New York World's Fair. In 1942, when IRT Second Avenue Line service ended, major overhauls for the Corona fleet were transferred to the Coney Island shop. In addition, free transfers to the IRT Third Avenue Line were offered at Grand Central-42nd Street from June 13, 1942 (when IRT Second Avenue Line service ended, including the Queensboro Bridge connection) until May 12, 1955 (when IRT Third Avenue Line service ended). In the fall of 1949, the joint BMT/IRT service arrangement ended. The Flushing Line became the responsibility of IRT, and the Astoria Line had its platforms shaved back, and became BMT-only. Because of this, routes through the then eight-track Queensboro Plaza station were consolidated and the northern half of the structure was torn down. Evidence of where the torn-down platforms were, as well as the trackways that approached this area, can still be seen in the ironwork at the station.
R36 cars have served the Flushing Line exclusively since 1964. However, most have been scrapped and placed in the Atlantic Ocean as artificial barrier and coral reefs. As of 2004, most of the 7 Train fleet consists of R62A cars built in 1986.
|Flushing-Main Street||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||January 21, 1928||transfer to Long Island Rail Road at Flushing |
originally Main Street
|Willets Point-Shea Stadium||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||January 21, 1928||transfer to Long Island Rail Road at Shea Stadium |
originally Willets Point Boulevard
|111th Street||local||7 always||January 21, 1928|
|103rd Street-Corona Plaza||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Alburtis Avenue|
|Junction Boulevard||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||April 21, 1917||originally Junction Avenue|
|90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Elmhurst Avenue|
|82nd Street-Jackson Heights||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally 25th Street-Jackson Heights|
|74th Street-Broadway||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||free transfer to (Queens Boulevard Line)|
|69th Street||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Fisk Avenue|
|61st Street-Woodside||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||April 21, 1917||transfer to Long Island Rail Road at Woodside |
|52nd Street||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Lincoln Avenue|
|46th Street-Bliss Street||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Bliss Street|
|40th Street-Lowery Street||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Lowery Street|
|33rd Street-Rawson Street||local||7 always||April 21, 1917||originally Rawson Street|
|Queensboro Plaza||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||November 5, 1916||free transfer to (Astoria Line)|
|45th Road-Court House Square||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||November 5, 1916||free MetroCard-only transfer to (Crosstown Line)|
free MetroCard-only transfer to (Queens Boulevard Line)
|Hunters Point Avenue||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||February 15, 1916||transfer to Long Island Rail Road at Hunterspoint Avenue |
originally 49th Avenue
|Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||June 22, 1915||transfer to Long Island Rail Road at Long Island City station (for Lower Montauk Branch trains)|
|Grand Central-42nd Street||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||June 22, 1915||free transfer to (Lexington Avenue Line)|
free transfer to S (1234) (Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle)
transfer to Metro-North Railroad at Grand Central Terminal
originally Grand Central
|Fifth Avenue-Bryant Park||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||March 22, 1926||free transfer to (Sixth Avenue Line)|
|Times Square-42nd Street||all||7 always, <7> rush hours in peak direction||March 14, 1927||free transfer to (Broadway-BMT Line)|
free transfer to (Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line)
free transfer to (Eighth Avenue Line)
free transfer to S (1234) (Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle)
transfer to Port Authority Bus Terminal
originally Times Square
- NYCsubway.org - IRT Corona/Flushing Line (text used with permission)
- Barry Popik on origin of "Orient Express" nickname
- BMT and IRT Joint Operation on the Flushing Line
- Queensboro Tunnel Officially Opened, New York Times June 23, 1915 page 22
- Subway Extension Open, New York Times February 16, 1916 page 22
- New Subway Link, New York Times November 5, 1916 page XX4
- Transit Service on Corona Extension of Dual Subway System Opened to the Public, New York Times April 22, 1917 page RE1
- Additional Subway Service to Borough of Queens, New York Times April 8, 1923 page RE1
- Fifth Av. Station of Subway Opened, New York Times March 23, 1926 page 29
- New Queens Subway Opened to Times Sq, New York Times March 15, 1927 page 1
- Corona Subway Extended, New York Times May 8, 1927 page 26
- Flushing to Celebrate, New York Times May 13, 1927 page 8
- Dual Queens Celebration, New York Times May 15, 1927 page 3
- Flushing Extension of Corona Subway Ready to Open, New York Times January 8, 1928 page 189
- Flushing Line Opens Jan. 21, New York Times January 12, 1928 page 12
- Flushing Rejoices as Subway Opens, New York Times January 22, 1928 page 28
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