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Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company

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Title: Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company  
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Subject: Edwin Winter, History of the New York City Subway, New York City Subway, Brooklyn, Queens County and Suburban Railroad, IND Rockaway Line
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Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company

Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company
Brooklyn Rapid Transit logo on a
1907 Brooklyn Union Elevated car.
Type Rapid transit and Streetcar
Opened 1896 (1896)
Closed 1923 (1923)
(acquisition by the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Minimum radius ?

The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) was a public transit holding company formed in 1896 to acquire and consolidate lines in Brooklyn and Queens, New York City, United States. It was a prominent corporation and industry leader using the single-letter symbol B on the New York Stock Exchange. It became insolvent in 1919 and was restructured and released from bankruptcy as the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation in 1923.


  • History 1
    • Consolidation 1.1
    • Expansion 1.2
    • War, debt, tragedy, and bankruptcy 1.3
    • Legacy 1.4
  • See also 2
  • References 3



The BRT was incorporated January 18, 1896,[1] and took over the bankrupt Long Island Traction Company in early February[2] acquiring the Brooklyn Heights Railroad and the lessee of the Brooklyn City Rail Road. It then acquired the Brooklyn, Queens County and Suburban Railroad leased on July 1, 1898.[3]

The BRT took over the property of a number of surface railroads, the earliest of which, the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad or West End Line, opened for passenger service on October 9, 1863 between Fifth Avenue at 36th Street at the then border of Brooklyn City and Bath Beach in the Town of Gravesend, New York. A short piece of surface route of this railroad, near Coney Island Creek, is the oldest existing piece of rapid transit right-of-way in New York City, and in the U.S., having opened on June 8, 1864.

Initially the surface and elevated railroad lines ran on steam power. Between 1893 and 1900 the lines were converted to electricity operation. An exception was the service on the Brooklyn Bridge. Trains were operated by cables from 1883 to 1896, when they were converted to electric power[4]

Routes in 1897

By 1900, it had acquired virtually all of the rapid transit and streetcar operations in its target area:

Only the Coney Island and Brooklyn Railroad and the short Van Brunt Street and Erie Basin Railroad remained independent; the former was acquired in 1913 or 1914.[11]


BRT opened its first short subway segment, consisting only of an underground terminal at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge at Delancey and Essex Streets in Manhattan on June 16, 1908. This line was extended under Delancey Street and Centre Street to a new five-platform complex at Chambers Street beneath the Manhattan Municipal Building at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on August 4, 1913.

The BRT opened its first Brooklyn subway under Fourth Avenue on June 22, 1915, running over the Manhattan Bridge to a junction with the aforementioned Nassau Street Line at Canal Street. The BRT opened the first segment of its Manhattan main line subway, the Broadway Line, as far as 14th Street – Union Square on September 4, 1917. All of these subways but the first short segment were built by the City as part of the Dual Contracts.

The elevated railroads were operated by a new corporation, the New York Consolidated Railroad. In 1913, the BRT, through another subsidiary, the New York Municipal Railway, signed the Dual Contracts with the City of New York, to construct and operate new subways and other rapid transit lines to be built or improved under these contracts.

War, debt, tragedy, and bankruptcy

World War I and the attendant massive inflation associated with the war put New York transit operators in a difficult position, since their contracts with the City required a five-cent fare be charged, while inflation made the real value of the fare less than three cents in constant currency value. On November 1, 1918, the BRT suffered the Malbone Street Accident, the second worst rapid transit train wreck to occur in the United States, killing at least 93 people. This caused further destabilized the financially struggling company.

BRT became insolvent in 1919.

In 1923 the BRT was restructured and released from bankruptcy as the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation.


Some of the former elevated system of the BRT, dating to 1885, remains in use today. The largest section is the part of today's BMT Jamaica Line running above Fulton Street from the Alabama Avenue station to a small section turning north after the Crescent Street station. Most of the other surviving structures were either built new or rehabilitated between 1915 and 1922 as part of the Dual Contracts. One piece of structure, the elevated portion of the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, built in 1896 and 1905, was extensively rebuilt in 1999.

See also


  1. ^ "L.I. Traction Reorganization".  
  2. ^ "Local Stocks and Bonds".  
  3. ^ "Rapid Transit Statement".  
  4. ^ "Early Rapid Transit in Brooklyn, 1818 to 1900", nyc
  5. ^ a b "Local Stocks and Bonds".  
  6. ^ "Of the Nassau-Transit Railroad Consolidation Deal".  
  7. ^ a b "Flynn Enjoins Nassau Lease".  
  8. ^ "Local Stocks and Bonds".  
  9. ^ "Rapid Transit Company Gets Brighton Beach R.R.".  
  10. ^ "Local Stocks and Bonds".  
  11. ^ a b 1914 Moody's Manual: Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company
  12. ^ "L Merger Certificate".  
  13. ^ "Transit Co. Leases P.P. and C.I. Road".  
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