The Culver Line is served by the F as a local for its entire length. The portion of the route from Bergen Street south to Church Avenue is also served by the G Brooklyn–Queens Crosstown service. Both routes run at all times.
There are two express tracks on the northern part of the route and one on the southern, with express stations distributed along the line. However, there has been no express service on the Culver Line since 2009. Express service has only operated on the line north of Kings Highway from 1968 to 1987 and north of Church avenue from 1990 to 2009. The Culver Line underwent repairs from 2009 until early 2013, during which the express tracks were replaced and rehabilitated which may facilitate future express service.
Jay Street to Church AvenueEdit
The subway portion of the IND Culver Line was originally designated the Brooklyn Line but has also been called the Smith Street Line, Church Avenue Line, South Brooklyn Line, and various other names. The express tracks beneath Prospect Park are sometimes referred to as the Prospect Park Line.
The line begins at the four-tracked Jay Street – MetroTech station, where the IND Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue lines interchange and continue as the Culver and Fulton Street lines respectively. Running under Smith Street south of the station, the Culver tracks split into local and express tracks, with the two express tracks ramping down to the lower level of Bergen Street, while the local tracks merge with the IND Crosstown Line tracks from Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street before entering the upper level. Between Jay Street and Bergen Street, the line passes under both the IRT Eastern Parkway Line and the Fulton Line tracks curving east into Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street, requiring a deeper tunnel and extensive ventilation systems.< At Carroll Street, the express tracks ramp up to rejoin the local tracks, and all four tracks rise onto the Culver Viaduct, curving onto Ninth Street. East of Fourth Avenue station towards Park Slope, the tracks become a subway once again. Past 7th Avenue, the local tracks diverge, curving south to 15th Street and Prospect Park West, while the express tracks take a direct route beneath Prospect Park. This is one of two places in the subway where the express tracks diverge from the local tracks, the other being on the IND Queens Boulevard Line between 65th Street and 36th Street. The express tracks rejoin the right-of-way at approximately Terrace Place and Prospect Avenue, running on a lower level under Prospect Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway near the Prospect Park Parade Grounds, then rise up as the line curves onto McDonald Avenue. The line then parallels the route of the original Culver Line surface railroad into Church Avenue station, the last stop of the original IND service. A single track in both directions ramps down to the four-track Church Avenue Yard, used as a relay and storage facility for G trains. The four mainline tracks ascend to the Culver Ramp on McDonald Avenue between Cortelyou Road and Avenue C, which connects the subway portion of the IND Culver Line with the former BMT Culver Line elevated structure. Despite being a part of the IND Division, the Culver elevated portion is controlled by BMT radio dispatch, so train operators change between the IND (B-2) and BMT (B-1) radio frequencies at this point.
The northern section of the Culver Line is a four-track line, entirely underground except for Smith–Ninth Streets and Fourth Avenue stations. The two stations sit on a massive one-mile long steel and concrete viaduct which spans the Gowanus Canal between 9th and 10th Streets. This structure is now referred to as the Culver Viaduct or Culver Line Viaduct, the only portion of the original IND subway to be elevated, and the only section other than the now-demolished World's Fair Railroad to be outdoors. The viaduct was constructed due to the depth of the canal (15 feet at its deepest point), due to the topography of the Park Slope neighborhood, and to avoid local stores in the area. Otherwise, a tunnel carrying the line would have to have been built below both the canal and the BMT Fourth Avenue Line (necessitating stations deep below the ground); or Ninth Street would be raised above grade level to pass over the canal and BMT subway. Both underground options were considered expensive and impractical, and the viaduct was estimated to save $12 million dollars in construction costs when it was selected in 1927. The viaduct's height was later increased from 60 feet (18 m) to around 90 feet (27 m), due to now-defunct navigation regulations for tall-mast shipping. Because of this, Smith–Ninth Streets was built at an elevation of 87.5 feet (26.7 m), the highest subway station above ground level in the world. Fourth Avenue, meanwhile, is actually at a lower elevation and altitude than the Seventh Avenue underground station.
Express service was most noticable in this section. V service has been added to the Culver line in 1990, causing the F to begin fully using the express tracks in this section. In 2009, the V's terminus was cut from Church Avenue to Second Avenue in order to complete renovations on the viaduct. In 2010,the V was discontinued and the F became a full Culver local.
Ditmas Avenue to Coney IslandEdit
At Ditmas Avenue, the Culver Ramp ends and the underground line becomes elevated. This is a three-track Dual Contracts elevated on the former BMT line over McDonald (formerly Gravesend) Avenue. Just before the station, the southbound local track merges into the southbound express track, while the northbound express track becomes the El's bidirectional center express track. During the 1990s and 2000s, the center express track in this section was occasionally used for non-revenue testing. After Avenue X station, a ramp diverges to the surface for access to the Culver Yard of the Coney Island Yards complex. At this point the Culver Line narrows to a two-track structure bearing one more station – West Eighth Street – New York Aquarium station on Coney Island.
Formally, the Culver Line ends as the track curve enters the lower level of the double-decked station along the BMT Brighton Line's right-of-way, and the chaining track designation changes from IND tracks B1 and B2 to BMT tracks A1 and A2 of the Brighton Line. However, there is no longer a connection to the Brighton Line at this point, and for all practical purposes the Culver Line continues into tracks 5 and 6 of the Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue Terminal.
Early years as two separate linesEdit
BMT Culver Line (1875–1954)Edit
The original Culver Line was opened by the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad and was named after the railroad's builder, Andrew N. Culver. The line ran along the surface of McDonald Avenue (then Gravesend Avenue) from Greenwood Cemetery (where it connected with horse car lines including the Vanderbilt Avenue Line, operated by the PP&CI until 1886) to Coney Island, on June 25, 1875. The PP&CI began serving the Union Depot at 36th Street, where transfer could be made to the Fifth Avenue Elevated, on June 7, 1890, by using the Prospect Park and South Brooklyn Railroad from a junction at Parkville. During a period of Long Island Rail Road control, from 1893 to 1899, a ramp at 36th Street was opened in 1895, allowing Brooklyn Elevated Railroad trains to operate over the Culver Line to Coney Island. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT), by then the owner of the Brooklyn Elevated, leased the Culver Line (to the Brooklyn Heights Railroad) on June 18, 1899, and began using it to take not only elevated trains but also trolleys to Coney Island.
As part of Contract 4 of the Dual Contracts, between the city and the BRT, a three-track elevated railway was built above the Culver Line from the Fifth Avenue Elevated southeast and south to Coney Island. At Ninth Avenue, the elevated replacements for the Culver Line and West End Line met, with access from both lines to the Fifth Avenue Elevated and Fourth Avenue Subway to the northwest. At 3:00 a.m. on March 16, 1919, the first portion of the new elevated structure opened from Ninth Avenue southeast and south to Kings Highway. Except for the omission of a station at 15th Avenue, all of the station locations from the surface line were preserved as elevated stations. The Culver Line was operated as a branch of the Fifth Avenue Elevated, with a free transfer at Ninth Avenue to the West End Line into the Fourth Avenue Subway. An extension to Avenue X was opened at noon on May 10, 1919. The line, the last of the four to Coney Island, was completed on May 1, 1920, at which time the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company was forced to cut the fare from ten to five cents. This construction tied into the existing lower level of the BMT Brighton Line east of West Eighth Street – New York Aquarium. Some Culver Line (5) trains began using the Fourth Avenue Subway to the Nassau Street Loop in Lower Manhattan when that line opened on May 30, 1931; the Fifth Avenue Elevated was closed on May 31, 1940. Trolleys continued to use the surface tracks on McDonald Avenue until 1956.
IND Brooklyn Line (1933–1954)Edit
One of the goals of Mayor John Hylan's Independent Subway System (IND) proposed in the 1920s was a line to Coney Island, reached by a recapture of the BMT Culver Line. To connect this line to the Eighth Avenue Line – the main trunk of the IND – a subway line was to run from Brooklyn Borough Hall south under Jay Street, Smith Street, Ninth Street, and several other streets to Cortelyou Road (later Church Avenue) and McDonald Avenue, just north of the Ditmas Avenue elevated station. A ramp would then lead onto the elevated BMT Culver Line. This line was variously known as the Culver Line Extension, Culver−Smith Street Line,Smith Street Line, Smith–Ninth Street Line, Jay–Smith–Ninth Street Line, Church Avenue Line, Prospect Park–Church Avenue Line, Prospect Park–Coney Island Line, Brooklyn Line, or South Brooklyn Line, though it was often simply referred to as the Brooklyn portion of the IND. As originally designed, service to and from Manhattan would have been exclusively provided by Culver express trains, while all local service would have fed into the IND Crosstown Line.
By 1927, it was decided to build a bridge over the Gowanus Canal due to cost considerations, replacing earlier plans for a deep river tunnel. This resulted in the only above-ground section of the original IND. The first short section of the line opened on March 20, 1933, taking Eighth Avenue Express A trains (and for about a month from July to August C trains) south from Jay Street to Bergen Street. The rest of the line opened on October 7, 1933 to the "temporary" terminal at Church Avenue, three blocks away from the Culver elevated at Ditmas Avenue. In 1936, the A was rerouted to the IND Fulton Street Line and E trains from the Queens Boulevard line replaced them. On July 1, 1937, the connection to the IND Crosstown Line opened and GG trains were extended to Smith-Ninth Streets. E trains were replaced by the F in December 1940 after the IND Sixth Avenue Line opened.
AAs part of the various proposed extensions of the IND Second System, the IND Culver subway was planned to facilitate a spur line to Bay Ridge, with a connection to the incomplete Staten Island Tunnel intended for the BMT Fourth Avenue Line. A 1931 proposal had the line travel south from Smith–Ninth Streets station through Red Hook and Gowanus to Saint George Terminal. A 1933 plan would have branched off between Smith–Ninth Streets and Fourth Avenue, then ran down Second Avenue in Bay Ridge to the tunnel. Like other IND lines, this route would have been in direct competition with the then-privately operated Fourth Avenue Subway. The final proposal from the 1939 Second System plan proposed an extension down Fort Hamilton Parkway and/or Tenth Avenue towards the tunnel, with continued service to 86th Street in Bay Ridge near the BMT 4th Avenue station. This route would have diverged near the Fort Hamilton Parkway and Church Avenue stations. In 1940, proposals emerged to connect the IND with the BMT West End Line near its Fort Hamilton Parkway station; the 1946 Board of Transportation plans featured both the West End connection and the extension to 86th Street
Recapture of the BMT Culver Line elevated structure in order to institute IND service to Coney Island was a high priority of New York City planners. Recapture proved unnecessary since the Culver Line and the rest of the BMT and IRT passed into City hands in 1940 as a fruit of Unification, the takeover of the privately owned BMT and IRT by the City, which built and owned the IND. The new connection would create a one-fare ride for IND passengers to Coney Island, and eliminate congestion on the BMT's Fourth Avenue Subway.
Groundbreaking on the Culver Ramp, also referred to as the Culver Line Connection, between the Church Avenue and Ditmas Avenue stations began in June 1941, and was expected to be completed by the ended of the year. The ramp was expected to cost $2 million, and along with new signals, and rehabilitation of the Culver elevated and lengthening of its stations to IND standards, the total cost of the project was estimated at over $11 million. 170 subway cars were purchased for $8,500,000 or the extension of IND service. Two substations, a signal tower, afourth track at Ditmas Avenue, and an additional stairway at Ditmas Avenue were all completed as part of the project. McDonald Avenue was also widened between Avenue C and Cortelyou Road to facilitate the ramp. Though the ramp was nearly complete, including rails and signal work, construction was halted later that year because of America's entrance into World War II. When the project was restarted in 1946, completion was delayed further due to continued material shortages and a lack of rolling stock to facilitate the new service. On October 30, 1954, the connection between the IND Brooklyn Line at Church Avenue and the BMT Culver Line at Ditmas Avenue opened. This allowed IND trains to operate all the way to the Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue terminal.
IND Culver Line (1954–present)Edit
Following the completion of Culver Ramp, D' Concourse Express trains (which formerly terminated in Manhattan) replaced F service, and were sent over the new connection as the first IND service to reach Coney Island. The service was announced as Concourse–Culver and advertised as direct Bronx–Coney Island service. BMT Culver Line (5) trains were truncated to Ditmas Avenue, the south end of the connection, operating through to Manhattan via the Nassau Street Loop during the day, and terminating at Ninth Avenue at other times. This Culver Shuttle was later rerouted to the BMT Broadway Line on May 28, 1959, running to 57th Street as the T route weekdays and as a Culver shuttle other times. The T was replaced by a new EE line to 71 Av in 1967. The BMT Culver line was shut down on May 10, 1975, and the EE was cut to 9th Avenue. The Culver line portion between 9th Avenue and Ditmas Avenue was replaced by a transfer to the B35 bus route. The elevated portion has been re-chained as part of the B2 (IND) division, but still uses B1 (BMT) division radio frequencies. In November 1967, the Chrystie Street Connection opened and D trains were rerouted via the Manhattan Bridge and the BMT Brighton Line to Coney Island. F trains were extended once again via the Culver Line. From 1968 to 1987, the Culver Line featured express service during rush hours. F trains ran express in both directions between Bergen Street and Church Avenue, while G trains were extended from Smith–Ninth Streets to Church Avenue to provide local service. Express service on the elevated portion of the line to Kings Highway operated in the peak direction (to Manhattan AM; to Brooklyn PM), with some F trains running local and some running express. Express service between Bergen and Church ended in 1976, and between Church and Kings Highway in 1987, largely due to budget constraints and complaints from passengers at local stations. Express service on the elevated Culver Line North Of Church Avenue resumed in 1990 with the reroute of the V to the Culver line. The V was cut to Second Avenue and express service ended in 2009 due to necessary structural work. Express service was never restored due to the discontinuation of the V in 2010. With the end of express service, Bergen Street's lower level was taken out of service. Following renovations to the station and Culver line in 2012, the lower level was converted into storage space and is not usable for passenger service in its current state.
In 2015, some rush-hour peak-direction F trains started skipping local stops between Jay Street and Fourth Avenue, and the MTA is planning to use expanded rush-hour express service (from Jay Street to Church Avenue) in both directions in the summers of 2016 and 2017. In May 2016, the MTA announced that half of all rush-hour F trains may start running express in both directions in fall 2017; however, the train frequency on the rest of the F's route would remain the same. Peak-direction express service between Church Avenue and Kings Highway will not be restored due to limitations caused by current track configurations, as the switches at Kings Highway previously used were removed in the 1990s. In addition, stations along the three-tracked stretch of the Culver Line are expected to be under renovation until at least 2017, and the center track would be used to bypass the portions of the stations that are under renovation.