Stand clear of the closing doors

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007 | All Things, Events, NYC History

At the New York Transit Museum tonight for the opening reception of “Collages by Chris Pelletiere,” touted as “the first complete presentation of this series of subway collages” by this painter, illustrator, and cartoonist. The works on display were inspired by charcoal sketches made in 2003 during the artist’s commute from his home in New Jersey to his job at the Museum of Modern Art.

I’d been to the museum annex gallery a few times but never to the main site in Brooklyn Heights. How fitting that a museum dedicated to the history of the city’s rail transportation would be housed in a decommissioned (but still operational) subway station at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street. The Court Street station was opened in 1936 as part of the Independent Subway (IND) as the western terminus of the the Court Street Shuttle service to the (still operational) Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street station, just three blocks away. Plans to extend the line beyond Court Street – as a potential route to the new Second Avenue Subway – were abandoned, due to budget constraints. Because of low passenger use and the ready availability of several nearby alternate stations, the Court Street station was officially closed to passengers on June 1, 1946. For the next three decades, the station was used for training, supply storage, and commercial film shoots before becoming the permanent site of the New York Transit Museum in 1976.

Transit Museum entrance

After perusing the collages on display, I turned to the century’s worth of memorabilia housed at the museum collection, among them a fascinating display of antique turnstiles devices used by the MTA through the years.

Transit Museum displays

Transit Museum turnstiles

And down the stairs, the highlight: a vintage collection of subway and elevated train cars, refurbished by New York City Transit’s Division of Car Equipment — two entire tracks full, all open for exploration. Very cool!

Transit Museum tracks

Vintage subway car

Vintage subway car

Vintage subway car

I learned that several of the cars are even operational, and are sent out for special “Nostalgia Train Rides” throughout the year. Trips planned for the summer include “Summer Celebration at Rockaway Park” (Sunday, July 22), “Coney Island Caper” (Sunday, August 12) and “IND Anniversary September Special: A Day on the A” (Saturday, Sept 8). I have got to sign up for one of these.

The unusually brief hours of museum operation make a weekday visit all but impossible, save for these special after-hour events. The museum is, however, open on weekends, 12:00PM – 5:00PM, during which a return visit is in order, if only for the trains.

Brooklyn Courthouse

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