The IRT Third Avenue Line, formerly known as the Third Avenue El and the Bronx El, is a rapid transit line of the New York City Subway in Bronx, New York.The line originally started as an elevated railway in Manhattan and the Bronx. Originally operated by an independent railway company, it was acquired by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and eventually became part of the New York subway system.

The first segments of the line opened in Manhattan in 1878. Service in Manhattan was phased out in the early 1950s and closed completely on May 12, 1955. A connection to the IRT Lexington Avenue line was added in 1973. As a result, 3 stations were added to the line in Mott Haven.

The Third Avenue El was the last elevated line to operate in Manhattan, other than the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line (which has elevated sections between 122nd and 135th Streets and in Inwood), and was a frequent backdrop for movies filmed in the city. Service on the Second, Sixth and Ninth Avenue El lines was terminated in 1949, 1938, and 1940, respectively.

Extent and serviceEdit

The following services use the Third Avenue Line:

  Time period Services
8 All times Entire line

The Third Avenue line connects to the IRT White Plains Road on the north end and the IRT Lexington Avenue line on the south end. Starting from the north, the Third Avenue line begins on a lower level of Gun Hill Road with two tracks and an island Platform, used for terminating 8 trains. The line then heads west via Gun Hill Road and forms a middle track just west of the curve. The line makes a left turn when it hits Webster Avenue with a stop at Parkside Place (formerly 210th Street). This stop connects to the Metro North at Williamsbridge.

The line stays on Webster Avenue until Fordham Plaza. When entering Fordham Plaza from the north, one can see abandoned trackways that lead to the Bronx Park Terminal, now occupied by Fordham University. By this time, the line shifts from Webster Avenue to Third Avenue. Another Transfer to the Metro North is available in this busy hub.

Between 180th Street and Tremont Avenue, a yard (179th Street) was in place for Third Avenue trains. The site was demolished in 1955 as it was believed the line would eventually be be replaced by a subway variant.

North of 149th Street, tracks curved from Third Avenue east onto Westchester Avenue (150th Street) to connect with the IRT White Plains Road Line. After elevated service in Manhattan ended, the connecting tracks were removed.

The line continues to operate along the original el until Brook Avenue. The line enters a portal just after 156th Street and runs under Brook Av to meet the IRT Pelham line at 3 Av-138 Street.



In 1875, the Rapid Transit Commission granted the New York Elevated Railway Company the right to construct the railway from Battery Park to the Harlem River along the Bowery and |Third Avenue. At that time the company already operated the Ninth Avenue Elevated, which it acquired in 1871 after the bankruptcy of the West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway. The Manhattan Railway Company took control of the New York Elevated Railroad in 1879. In 1886, the Suburban Rapid Transit Company commenced operations with a railway line over the Harlem River (via a double-decked swing bridge located between the Third Avenue Bridge and Willis Avenue Bridge with the upper deck carrying the express tracks, the lower one the local tracks, and a pedestrian walkway) from the Manhattan Railway's northern terminal at 129th Street to 133rd Street in the southern Bronx, known then as the "Annexed District". The Manhattan Railway assumed operations of the Suburban in 1891 as an extension of the Third Avenue Line and through service between the Bronx and Manhattan began in 1896. A 999-year lease of the Manhattan Railway was brokered by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in 1902, for which rapid transit services in the Bronx, of which the Third Avenue Line was part of, would eventually be coordinated alongside the new subway.

As part of the Dual Contracts, this line was triple-tracked, which allowed for express service. The center track of the Bronx portion opened on January 17, 1916; in Manhattan it was opened on July 9, 1917.

As of 1934 the following services were being operated:

  • 3rd Avenue Local - South Ferry to 129th Street weekdays and Saturdays day and evenings, South Ferry to Bronx Park Sundays day and evenings, also between City Hall and Bronx Park weekdays AM and PM peak, also Saturdays AM peak. Late nights a shuttle was operated between South Ferry and Canal Street connecting with trains from City Hall to Bronx Park.
  • 3rd Avenue Thru-Express - City Hall to 241st St via White Plains Road Line weekday and Saturday AM peak northbound and weekday PM peak southbound, using the center express track south of Tremont Avenue. All other hours a shuttle operated between 241st Street and Fordham Road.
  • 3rd Avenue Local-Express - City Hall to Bronx Park - weekdays and Saturdays day and evening, using the center express track south of 129th Street southbound until noon and northbound afternoon thru evening. train running in the opposite direction made all local stops.

In December 1937 some weekday midday and evening, Saturday midday thru evening Local-Expresses, and all Sunday and late-night Locals were extended to 241st Street, replacing shuttles except northbound in the AM peak and southbound in the PM peak.

In 1943, Sunday evening Locals were rerouted to City Hall, with shuttles from Canal Street running to South Ferry. On November 5, 1946, service to Freeman Street was discontinued, and all weekday and Saturday morning peak Locals were routed to South Ferry. In 1947, Saturday service was further reduced. 129th Street local trains were eliminated, as were morning peak Thru-expresses, which were changed to Local-expresses. Saturday midday and evening Local-expresses from South Ferry or City Hall to Tremont Avenue, and Locals from South Ferry or City Hall to Bronx Park. On April 22, 1950 Saturday morning Local-expresses were converted to Locals. On April 30, 1950 all Sunday locals were routed to South Ferry, with a shuttle connection from Canal Street to City Hall. However, on December 22, the line from Chatham square to South Ferry was closed, with all trains running to City Hall except weekday peak locals that ended at Chatham Square. In addition, weekday peak service north of Gun Hill Road was eliminated, as were weekday locals to 129th Street.

On March 14, 1952, service south of 149th Street was reduced to weekday daytime only, with Gun Hill Road to 149th Street locals at other times. May 29th, 1952 weekday midday Local-expresses were eliminated. June 26, 1952 Thru-expresses cut back to Gun Hill Road. November 21, 1952 morning peak Locals were cut back from Chatham Square to Canal Street, and PM peak Locals cut back from Fordham Road to 129th Street. This however resulted in severe overcrowding and Local service to Fordham Road in the PM peak was resumed December 3, 1952. On December 31, 1953 the Chatham Square to City Hall portion of the line was closed. At this time service consisted of Locals from Tremont Avenue or 129th Street and Canal Street in the weekday morning peak, Gun Hill Road and Chatham Square midday, and Chatham Square and 129th Street or Tremont Avenue in the PM peak. Local-Expresses and Thru-Expresses operated between Gun Hill Road and Chatham Square southbound in the AM and northbound in the PM peaks. Evening, all night, and weekend service was Gun Hill Road to 149th Street Locals. At the time the El was closed in Manhattan in 1955, the East Side was left with only the then overcrowded IRT Lexington Avenue Line as the only subway east of Fifth Avenue.


In the 1930s and '40s, as part of the integration of the different subway companies in New York City–the IRT along with Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit (BMT) and Independent Subway System (IND)—the Third Avenue El and its counterparts on Second, Sixth, and Ninth Avenues came under criticism from New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia and his successors. The Els were regarded as blights on their communities and obsolete, since the subways were being built or were planned to replace them.

The IND Sixth Avenue Line and the IND Eighth Avenue Line rendered the Sixth and Ninth Avenue Els obsolete, except for a small shuttle that served the Polo Grounds on the Ninth Avenue Line. They were closed by 1940 and demolished by 1941. The Second Avenue El was also gradually demolished north of 57th Street in 1940 and south of said station in 1949. When the Second Avenue El was closed October 19, 1949, the weekday and Saturday Chatham Square to Freeman Street via the West Farms Line service was rerouted via the Third Avenue Line, running express south of 129th Street. The Second Avenue and Third Avenue Els were planned to be kept open for longer as they were intended to stay in use until the Second Avenue and 10th Avenue Subways were built to replace them. Pressure against the Els from real estate interests soon began, with creation in 1941 of the Third Avenue Elevated Noise Abatement Committee, which consisted of what the New York Times described as "men in the real estate business." The committee initially sought a decrease in train service, saying the noise from the Els "constitutes a menace to health, comfort and peaceable home life. The Second avenue line closed in response to the protests, and the Astoria line was replaced by a BMT Broadway line extension.

The rest of the system in Manhattan was closed in sections from 1950 to 1955. First, the South Ferry spur was closed in 1950, which connected South Ferry to Chatham Square in Manhattan. This permanently closed the South Ferry elevated station, which had served all four IRT El lines that originally ran in Manhattan. The Bronx Park terminal station was closed November 14, 1951, with morning peak and midday Locals now running to Gun Hill Road, afternoon peak locals running to Fordham Road. Morning peak Local-Expresses started at Fordham Road, while PM peak Local-Expresses were extended to Gun Hill Road. Next to close was the City Hall spur in 1953, which started at Park Row in Manhattan and then connected with the South Ferry spur at Chatham Square. On May 12, 1955, the main portion of the line closed from Chatham Square to East 149th Street in the Bronx, ending the operation of elevated service in Manhattan, adding property values on the East Side, and the head of the Real Estate Board of New York suggested that Third Avenue be renamed "The Bouwerie" to symbolize the transformation.

Service after the 1950'sEdit

In the 1960s, the remaining service was named the 8, though trains did not display this designation and instead read "SHUTTLE". Beginning in the 1960s under the MTA's Program for Action, the remainder of the line was planned to be demolished, as part of the city's effort to remove "obsolete elevated railway structures" which also saw the razing of portions of the BMT Jamaica elevated in Queens. It would have been replaced with a parallel line along the Metro-North Harlem Line's right-of-way, part of the Second Avenue Subway which was then-planned to be built in the 1970s. Local residents and business owners also sought similar community revival seen following the closure of the line's southern sections.

The planned Second Avenue Subway was never completed, due to the 1970s fiscal crisis. As a result, an extension was proposed to connect to the IRT Lexington Avenue line, and was approved in June 1970. Construction on the new line began in April 1971. The connection was opened two years later. This line now ran on Brook Avenue and connects to The Pelham Line at 3 Av-138 Street. The 8 also now ran between Gun Hill Road and Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan. The abandoned portion of the line in the Bronx south of 161st Street (now 163rd Street) was was demolished.

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