Iron, Steel and railway, a short history on the 1975 final train to the Bronx.
The story of the Kew Gardens train station in the 1970s is a classic of the New York City subway system. It tells the story of two subway lines: The C and C/M subway lines.
A few weeks before Memorial Day 1975, a crowd gathered at the West 39th Street station for the last train to West 44th Street, then the closest stop to Broadway. The station had recently become a busy transfer point between the two subway lines by virtue of its status as a transfer point between the two subways — the C/M subway line, which ran to Harlem, and the C/N line, which ran to downtown.
The first train at West 39th Street could be a transfer between the two lines, the second could be a transfer between the C/N and the F line. On a weekend morning that was sunny and 70 degrees, a crowd of about 20,000 people, a big chunk of which were tourists, crowded into the station. It is said that during the summer of 1975 a large crowd gathered at the station for the final train to the Bronx.
I’ll explain: The first train at West 39th Street could be a transfer between the two lines, the second could not. It just didn’t happen.
Why not? Well, it turns out that the two lines were operated separately in 1973 and 1974 on account of a new transfer agreement between the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) and the New York State Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. A few years earlier NYCTA had switched to the C/M subway lines. C/M ran from Jamaica through the Bronx to Grand Central for the local trips and the F line ran to Times Square in midtown Manhattan.
By 1975 the F line, which connected Times Square to Grand Central Terminal, needed to be extended further to Manhattan and to Harlem. The New York State Port Authority bought and extended three tunnels:
“The C/N line to Harlem, which was previously a C line, was extended approximately 6.2 miles to join Harlem to Grand Central, and as part of a much larger expansion was extended further to connect Times Square with Grand Central.”
So, in 1965 the subways had separated and the F line had to be extended farther. NYCTA had to buy a tunnel to the Brooklyn Bridge, but NYCTA wouldn’t build this tunnel. So NYCTA had to buy a tunnel from Manhattan and build a new subway line from Midtown to Manhattan. The MTA paid $2 billion for two of these tunnels. The construction was completed in 1976.