book review

Tracks of the New York City Subway  
by Peter J. Dougherty

Reviewed by Paul Matus  Page 2

Complex interlockings,
such as the junction of the Fourth Avenue and West End subways, the former Culver Line and the South Brooklyn (freight) Railway and the 36-38th Street BMT Yard are detailed and explained. At one time, this junction also connected to the Fifth Avenue L. The letter-number combinations on the tracks are the track numbers. The reversed letters in the circles or diamonds are the letters of the train services available at the stations pictured. Tracks of the New York City Subway

What You Get
The first question that may occur to many is: "If I can get a version of these maps for free online, why should I pay for this book?"
     The most obvious answers are portability, ease of use and clarity. The book is easy to handle and logically laid out. Where any set of tracks moves off an individual map page, the reader is directed to the map where the line continues. The individual pages are large enough so that page turning is kept to a reasonable level. A criticism is that you are directed to map names such as "Brooklyn A" or "Midtown B," where it would be better to be directed to a page number.
     Trackage or track beds (structures where a formerly existing track has been removed) no longer in use are also shown.
     A nice feature of the online maps not in the printed book is the use of color coding of the various lines. However, this is more than made up for by the higher level of detail in the print version. Especially useful in the print version is the inclusion of track numbers for each and every track. On the New York City subway system, every track is identified by a line letter and track number. These letters are used for signalling and identification purposes and are not the same as the familiar train letters, such as the "A" train and the "D" train. Following these letters on the maps helps trace the historical relationships between different lines.
     Especially interesting or complex areas receive their own detail maps.
     "Homeball Alley," the multi-track, multi-level mile-long complex where the A, B, C and D trains sort themselves out on their way to Upper Manhattan and the Bronx rates its own page, complete with explanation of the signals in the area. To put the icing on the cake, Dougherty even explains.which services use wich tracks to thread their way through the area.
     Other difficult to follow junctions have detailed blow-up plans as well, including Nevins Street IRT in Brooklyn, West 4th Street IND complex in Greenwich Village, and Broadway Junction BMT in Brooklyn's East New York section. This latter is (or was, in better times) reputed to be the most complicated and spectacular elevated railway junction in the world.
     Subway yards are not forgotten either. Twenty-three subway yards are detailed track-by-track, with interesting explanatory text for most. The purpose of the yards, their leads and connections are covered, as well as information about shop facilities associated with some of the yards. Five pages are devoted to the BMT Coney Island yards and shop, the world's biggest rapid transit yard facility.

Signal illustrations help explain how signals work, and what they mean. Tracks of the New York Subway







Continued on page 3

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Last updated March 17, 2000