Ghost tunnel under Central Park will reopen along with Second Avenue Subway

Posted On Thu, December 22, 2016 By

Posted On Thu, December 22, 2016 By In Midtown, Transportation, Upper East Side

Image Wiki Commons

There are countless relics from the subway’s past hidden beneath NYC, but one of the most intriguing will reveal itself again in just 9 days when the Second Avenue Subway (SAS) invites straphangers to swipe their Metro cards for the first time. As Quartz noticed this past summer, a peculiar loop cutting through Central Park appeared when the MTA released their new subway map touting the addition of the SAS. Reporter Mike Murphy immediately questioned the mysterious addition that would move the Q train further north without issue (“I felt like people would have noticed if the MTA had been ripping up Central Park to build a tunnel,” he wrote). After a bit of digging, he found out the half-mile stretch was built over 40 years ago and, at least according to archival maps, it’s only been used twice since then.

Drag slider to see the old and new map showing the loop

With the help of the Transit Museum, Murphy found that the “ghost line” runs between the 57th Street and 7th Avenue, and Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street in Manhattan, and was built in the 1970s as part of a past attempt to bring the Second Avenue Subway to life. The plan, however, was squashed when the city went into recession.

1998-subway-map1998 map depicting the ghost tunnel via Quartz courtesy of the NYC Transit Museum

But the line wasn’t a total waste. Working with museum archivist Halley Choiniere, Murphy found two instances, of about six months each, where the tunnel appeared on transit maps. He writes:

“In 1995, the mysterious tunnel was included on the map when the Manhattan bridge was out of service, allowing Q trains to cross back over to Long Island farther up the East River while the bridge was being worked on. Once the work was completed in late 1995, the tunnel disappeared, and the Q train went back to its regular route. In 1998, the tunnel reappeared as a special temporary shuttle service while work was being done on the Sixth Avenue line, cutting off access to lower Astoria through the regular route. Again, when the work was finished, the tunnel disappeared, and the map went back to its regular delineations.”

And now, with the SAS opening in just over a week, the Q train will once again be rerouted—but this time permanently—to travel through the forgotten tunnel and up the newly constructed line.

[Via Quartz]

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  • Erik Garcés

    While not on the maps, trains without passengers use the trackage quite frequently.

  • JerichoWhiskey

    Rerouted R trains would use it to go to and from Manhattan and Queens.

  • daniel braun

    This tunnel was in use over many weekends in the past during the sandy rebuild of the 59th st tunnel frequently R trains were rerouted up via this and the 63rd st tunnel.

    • Collin Parsons

      That tunnel was not at all serviceable so R trains ran on the F line via 6th Avenue and then onto the Manhattan Bridge with the B and D. Now that it’s back open, Rerouted R trains can use it and get right back onto their normal line at 57th Street instead of being stuck on 6th Avenue till the Manhattan Bridge.

      • daniel braun

        Yes, it was I rode an R train from times square to Roosevelt Avenue via the Q tunnel on weekend service when the 59th street tunnel was out for one of its two-week renovation last year.

        • Collin Parsons

          The BMT side of the 63rd Street station was walled off until November this year and before that there was construction on the tracks, so if any rerouted trains did use it, they had to skip the station.

          • daniel braun

            they switched over to the F tracks before the 63rd street station lex ave /63rd street station see http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/caption.pl?/img/trackmap/SASTrackMap.png

          • Collin Parsons

            Actually found a video of a rerouted R train in revenue service going via 63rd to Broadway that was taken in 2011. Looking at that map, everything coming from Queens has to stop on the F side, and rerouted trains can switch to the Q side after the station. Everything going to Second Avenue stops on the Q side. When the Q was terminating at 57th Street for most of the 2000’s, they likely used those tracks for train storage.

          • daniel braun

            Yep that is what i meant the ghost tunnel as explained in this article is the one going under central park. Also it was used for revenue for awhile in 98 http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/caption.pl?/img/maps/calcagno-1998-08-01.gif that is the first use of the tunnel i can find. It not it was only used past 57th. partly for Q/N also D storage during Manhatten bridge northside construction in 87. Fun fact those N trains that now go up the Q line used to terminate at 57th.

          • Collin Parsons

            There used to be a few N trains that terminated at 57th Street due to congestion in the 60th Street tunnels. I believe it’s the only location in the system where 3 routes share a 2 track line in regular service. Those trains were indeed extended to 96th when SAS opened. Interestingly, while they are operationally considered N trains, they are signed as Q trains via 4th Avenue express and Sea Beach instead of the usual Brighton local when operated with R160 equipment. That is because there is no announcement program for an N train to 96th at this time. When operated with R68 equipment, they are signed as N trains as those cars are not equipped with automated announcements.

          • daniel braun

            yeah exactly

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