Alex Biles / Uncategorized

An Ode to Old and Obscure New York City Subway Lines

There’s something enchanting about the New York City subway that makes me feel like a child. And not only due to the unhealthy frequency with which I end up curled in the fetal position on its orange seats after a long night. Sure, there’s the unpredictability of the street performers, the swindlers, all the characters. But for me, well, it’s the not-so-normal glee I receive thinking about the enigmatic qualities of the routes and trains and their origin — not to say I don’t ask myself about the existence of giant rats or lairs of mutant humans inhabiting Gotham’s underworld as well. All this, coming from a kid who once aspired to be a bus driver and collected hundreds ofSEPTA bus schedules as a child, memorizing routes across the Philadelphia region.

Seeing as I just love transit, writing on the topic of obscure New York City subway routes that nobody hears about anymore seems right up my alley, but it took a trip to Astoria and this gem I photographed to actually get me exploring the topic:

See, as most New Yorkers would tell you, there exists no W train. You’re not going to find it on any current map. Turns out the now-defunct W, established in 2001, was a twist on several routes, including the current incarnations of the DN and its eventual replacement, the (yellow, not orange) Q. Originally known as ‘Yellow B,’ the W ran from Astoria (Queens) down through Manhattan before crossing over the East River and running deep into Brooklyn to Coney Island. The W would eventually be relegated to a weekday local service from South Ferry (Manhattan) to Astoria once changes were made to the N and the D replaced the Brooklyn branch of the W train. An obituary of sorts notes that the service ceased operation on June 25, 2010 at 10:50 p.m.

Now if you’re a long-time resident, you probably already knew about the short-lived W. And if you’re a recent transplant, well this transit trivia doesn’t affect your travel at all.

Nonetheless, I thought it was super interesting to find over a dozen obscure and now-defunct subway routes in New York City since the 1960s, the services denoted by all kinds of crazy colors and names.

There was the time of the QB, QJ and QTA bunch of weird numbers, too. And of course, the color distinction between the midnight blue of the A, C, Enow-defunct K and the bay blue of the T service (discontinued in 1967). A separate line, representing the new Second Avenue Subway is set to make a comeback in 2016.

Here’s more on the McDonald’s PlayPlace ball pit of defunct New York City subway lines. And a cool write-upabout the New York City subway during the 1980s, age of the technicolor train. It features some killer insight andawesome photography of some of these lesser-known lines, all composed by a greater transit nerd than I.


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