Side view of the street entrance on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street
|Established||July 4, 1976|
|Location||Former Court Street station, 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201|
|Type||Railway and mass transit museum|
|Public transit access||Bus: B25, B26, B38, B41, B45, B52, B57, B61, B62, B63, B65, B103|
Court Street-Borough Hall
The New York Transit Museum (also called the NYC Transit Museum) is a museum that displays historical artifacts of the New York City Subway, bus, and commuter rail systems in the greater New York City metropolitan region. The main museum is located in the decommissioned Court Street subway station in Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. There is a smaller satellite Museum Annex in Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.
|Former New York City Subway station|
Station platform with museum exhibits
|Address||Schermerhorn Street & Boerum Place|
Brooklyn, NY 11201
|Line||IND Fulton Street Line|
|Services||None (currently occupied by museum)|
|Platforms||1 island platform|
|Opened||April 9, 1936|
|Closed||June 1, 1946(as a subway station)|
|Accessible||ADA-accessible (station was not wheelchair accessible when it was in service)|
|Next north||(Terminal): no regular service|
|Next south||Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets: no regular service|
|Next north||none: no regular service|
|Next south||Franklin Avenue: no regular service|
The museum is located in an actual subway station, which was originally called Court Street.:1 The Court Street station was built as a terminus for local trains of the IND Fulton Street Line and opened on April 9, 1936, along with a long section of the Fulton Street Line and the Rutgers Street Tunnel. The station has one center island platform with two tracks. The tracks end at bumper blocks just beyond the west end of the platform. The station walls feature a tile band set in a course two tiles high (as is the case with most IND local stations), colored aquamarine with a cerulean blue border.
The station exemplified the IND service theory and the design of most of the Manhattan trunk lines, which specified that local trains should operate within individual boroughs where possible, and provide transfers to express trains which would be through-routed between the boroughs. Court Street was to be the northern terminal of the HH Fulton Street Local, which would run south (geographically east) to Euclid Avenue. Additionally, one of the alternative plans for the Second Avenue Subway would have included a southern extension to Brooklyn, tying into the stub at Court Street to accommodate through service to/from Manhattan.
The HH through service was never inaugurated; the only trains to serve the station were part of the Court Street Shuttle, taking passengers from Court Street to the transfer station at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets. Due to the proximity of other stations in the Downtown Brooklyn area, as well as the need to transfer to reach it, Court Street never saw much traffic and was abandoned on June 1, 1946. However, it is still a functioning subway station; trains are moved into and out of the exhibits using the tunnel between the station platforms and the outer tracks at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street station (see below). Following the station's closure, most of the entrances to the street were sealed.
While the station was closed to the public, non-revenue trains would occasionally run to and from the station, with the purpose of "keeping the rails polished". On March 15, 1960, the New York City Transit Authority tested a new cleaning process on the walls of the Court Street station, which had been stained after years without use. Meanwhile, the sealed but still-present station entrances became dumping grounds for garbage.
The station was also used a set for movies: three years after its closing in 1949, the station was used for the filming of the film Guilty Bystander. On November 26, 1956, the station was used to film a scene of The FBI Story, posing as the Bowling Green station. After the museum opened, the station continued to be used as a set for movies, most notably the 1974 film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and the entrance at Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street was reopened for shoots. To this day, the station and its connecting tunnels are still used for movie shoots. The 2009 film The Taking of Pelham 123, a remake of the 1974 movie, was also filmed there. More recently, the museum appeared in the Life on Mars episode "The Simple Secret of the Note In Us All", where a newspaper columnist is found murdered on a subway car. The museum remains open to requests to use the station for filming, as well as to host private events during hours the facility is not normally open.
|G||Street Level||Exit/Entrance (stairs and elevator)|
|M||Mezzanine area||Exhibits, museum store|
Former platform level
|Track A2 (see list below for cars)||-> No passenger service|
(No service: Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets)
|Island platform, used for exhibits|
|Track A1 (see list below for cars)||->No passenger service|
(No service: Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets)
The Transit Museum's main entrance is located at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn. There is a newer, separate ADA-accessible entrance for those with physical disabilities; the wheelchair lift is located at Court and Schermerhorn Streets, but unlike the elevators in most New York City stations, must be accessed by requesting it in advance or using a call button.
On July 4, 1976, the New York City Transit Exhibit was opened in the decommissioned underground station as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration, charging a fee of one subway token for admittance. Old subway cars which had been preserved, as well as models and other exhibits were displayed. Plans were to keep the museum open until September 7 of that year, but it proved to be so popular that it remained open and eventually became a permanent museum. On weekends during its initial opening, museum nostalgia trains would run between 57th Street - Sixth Avenue and Rockaway Park, making an intermittent hour-long stop at the exhibit.
In the mid-1990s the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) assumed control of the Transit Museum from the New York City Transit Authority. At that time, the scope of the museum was expanded to include other aspects of transportation services within the MTA region, including commuter rail (Metro-North, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road) and roads, tunnels, and bridges (MTA Bridges and Tunnels). Since then, rotating exhibits on the mezzanine level frequently highlight commuter railroad and bridge/tunnel operations, as well as their history.
The museum includes subway, bus, railway, bridge, and tunnel memorabilia; and other exhibits including vintage signage and in-vehicle advertisements; and models and dioramas of subway, bus, and other equipment. A program of lectures, seminars, films, and tours for all ages is offered at the museum. In addition, offsite programs consist of guided tours of MTA facilities, subway stations, artwork and architecture, and New York neighborhoods, as well as opportunities to ride vintage railway and bus equipment.
The museum's mezzanine (upper) level contains the majority of the exhibits, restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop, and a dining space for visitors who have brought their own food or drink (none is for sale onsite). Artifacts from historic subway and bus operations, as well as NYC transportation infrastructure, are on display. The exhibits on the upper level are changed from time to time. In addition, there is a small presentation screening room which usually displays posters and videos for public education about courtesy and safety, including examples from other transit systems around the world.
In addition to its own exhibit spaces, the museum occasionally collaborates with other local organizations, such as the Coney Island Museum, to jointly present historical or contemporary shows, such as Five Cents To Dreamland: A Trip to Coney Island.
On the platform (lower) level, two fully powered and operational subway tracks contain many historic examples of New York City subway and elevated railway equipment on permanent display. Preserved railcars, most of which can still be operated, date as far back as the predecessor companies that came before the New York City Transit Authority, such as the BMT and IRT private companies, and the city owned and operated IND. The platform bordering one of the two tracks is equipped with hinged bright yellow gap filler boards, to allow the narrower IRT railcars to be safely boarded from a platform which was built for the wider cars running on newer lines.
A few specialized railwork vehicles formerly used for maintenance are also usually on view. In addition to the operational rolling stock, there is a large wheel truck and motor (bogie) on display on the platform itself, along with a series of informational panels showing the development of New York City's rail transit systems.
In addition, a fully functional underground "signal tower" control room is on view, a facility that was used to monitor the IND Fulton Street Line and IND Crosstown Line when the subway station was in active revenue service. The track diagram indicator lights and control levers are fully operational, and are still needed when the subway cars on display are replaced or moved; however, since the controls are live, the control panel is secured and locked, but visitors can still view it through a window and read explanatory signs.
Other artifacts in the museum include a poster for the 1926 lost film, Subway Sadie, as well as an original brass light fixture from the station's operating days.:2 It also features an original mosaic plaque from the 137th Street station, dating back to the subway's 1904 opening.:1
Besides subway cars, the museum has a sizable vintage bus fleet of retired buses. Because there is no area available for their permanent exhibition in the underground museum, they are stored in various bus depots around the city. They are brought out for special events, such as the museum's annual "Bus Festival," which is held annually in conjunction with the Atlantic Antic street fair. The Bus Festival began as an annual tradition in 1994. During the Bus Festival, the museum opens its doors for free.
The bus fleet includes:
Some bus artifacts are present in the station. A revenue bag, one of many provided for use for bus drivers with the Third Avenue Transit Corporation, was used during the 1950s to transport money out of the buses. It is part of the interactive "Show Me the Money: From the Turnstile to the Bank" exhibit, where visitors could "see an image of the vacuum that attaches to the fare box and sucks the coins out.":2
As of 2017, the museum features a number of exhibits:
Various turnstiles from the history of subways are on display at the New York Transit Museum.:1 They date as far back as the subway's opening in 1904, up through turnstiles that were still in use as recently as 2003. The exhibit includes many different types of turnstiles, including turnstiles used during the 1939 New York World's Fair that were designed to require passengers to pay a special double fare both upon entering and exiting the World's Fair subway station.:1 The exhibit is designed to be interactive and to be viewed in conjunction with a large board that details the history of fare payment in the subway. Most of the turnstiles can be walked through by visitors wishing to do so.
Most of the subway cars in the Transit Museum's fleet are operable, and they are frequently used for subway excursions run by the museum and New York City Transit on various parts of the system. The subway cars are fully furnished with vintage advertising placards and route maps, completing the period atmosphere inside the vehicles. Tickets for Transit Museum excursions (called "Nostalgia Trains") are sold in advance. Some New York City Transit special trains (such as Holiday specials at the end of most years, and Yankee/Met specials) are available for anyone to ride, so long as they have paid the regular subway fare. In addition to the subway cars displayed in the Transit Museum, there are also a number of museum cars that are kept off-site in various subway yards and shops while awaiting restoration, undergoing restoration, or in storage.
The following cars are displayed in the museum as of September 26, 2018:
There are many cars not on display, but rather, are used on special fan excursions and other events. Most are based at 207 Street or Coney Island Yard. The rolling stock not on display include:
Some exhibits no longer on view include:
Other previous exhibits have included surveys of historic subway maps, artwork, signage, and mosaics. A refrigerator-sized plug-in circuit breaker, a complete relay-based classic electric motor controller, and numerous other artifacts that highlight topics such as subway signaling and control, electrical power, and railway infrastructure are no longer on view at the platform (lower) level.
The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store opened on September 14, 1993 at Grand Central Terminal, in the terminal's main concourse. It houses a transit-oriented gift shop as well as a space for rotating temporary exhibitions. The Annex is the site of the Transit Museum's annual "Holiday Train Show", where an operating model train layout is displayed for the public. While there is an admission fee at the Transit Museum's main Brooklyn Heights location, entrance to the Annex is free. The main Brooklyn Heights location also has its own gift shop, which is accessible outside of the museum's paid area.
Documents, photographs, and artifacts are stored both in the Transit Museum and in the nearby Archives, adding to the goal of preserving the legacy of transportation in New York. Historians and researchers who wish to visit the Archives are able to do so through the museum. Some images from their collection can also be seen on Historypin.
Classic wood-bodied "BU-type" elevated railcar, restored to original appearance and still operational
BMT "Q-type" car, built in 1903 and updated in 1938; some were in revenue service for 66 years
Some Brooklyn Rapid Transit "AB Standard" steel-bodied cars remained in service for over 50 years
Interior of IRT R12 subway car with rattan seat cushions
Interior of an IRT "Lo-V" car, with original advertising placards
Exterior view of R11/R34, the first series built of stainless steel
Vintage ad for Crisco on display inside a subway car
A "Money train" car, retired circa 2006
Interior of the Money train
R33 #9206 on display at the museum in June 2016
Entrance to abandoned Independent subway station at Court and Schermerhorn Sts. remains as dirty as ever, and still a favorite dumping ground for garbage.
Unofficial sites with official content
Google Maps Street View tours