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The New York City Transit Museum


On Sunday, 27 January 2019, I visited the NYC Transit Museum, located inside a former NYC subway station the corner of  99 Schermerhorn Street and Boreum Place.  The station was decommissioned after World War II because the platform was not long enough to accommodate longer trains and in addition there were other subway stations nearby. The museum was set up a temporary showcase of the historical artifacts of the New York City Subway, bus, trolley, elevated, and commuter rail systems in the greater New York City metropolitan region in the celebration of the bicentennial in 1976.  The exhibition proved to be so popular it was transformed into a permanent museum.  Various movies have been filmed at this location including the original Taking Pelham 123 and The French Connection, as well as television shows such as Elementary, Person of Interest, Boardwalk Empire, and Saturday Night Live.

I was intrigued by the top floor in which I could pretend to drive a bus or a subway train  I enjoyed the following exhibitions:  Steel, Stone & Backbone: Building New York’s Subways highlights the challenges and labor involved in subway construction during the period 1900-1925.  Moving the Millions chronicles the history of the subway system from the private operators to the MTA New York City Transit of today.  Fare Collection explains different methods New Yorkers have used to pay subway fare over the years. It also displays authentic subway turnstiles which visitors can traverse a small display of the various token designs as well that were used in the past before they were completely discontinued. On the Streets exhibits a comprehensive history of New York City’s street transportation (horsecars, cable cars, streetcars, buses, etc.). It surveys the introduction of mass transit of which NYC was a frequent pioneer such as the first horse-drawn trolley and the first motorized buses.

My favorite exhibition is a temporary one:  Underground Heroes: New York Transit in Comics NYC in which transportation system plays a starring role in comics and graphic novels. Drawing on satirical cartoons, comic strips and comic books from the 19th through the 21st centuries, I was mesmerized. My favorite was Superman lifting up a NYC subway car.

On the floor below o two tracks are various subway cars of yesteryear that are operable and are used for subway excursions, nostalgia rides, and film shoots. The subway cars are fully furnished with vintage advertising placards and route maps, completing the period atmosphere inside the vehicles.  My favorite subway car was the old straw-covered seats and fans that used during the hot summer months.

NYC Walks Blog 64 NYC Transit Museum © 2019 by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

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