Oct
19

The Underground Mysteries: 76th Street

By

The IND Second System plans included a subway extension past 76th Street to Cambria Heights near the Nassau County border.

For students of the history of New York City and its subways, abandoned stations and half-built shells offer up an alluring reminder of what was and what could have been. Scattered throughout the city are various platforms now shuttered and lost to the era of longer trains, and of course, the provisions that remind us of the grand plans for the IND Second System capture the imagination. We know of the shell at South 4th Street and a similarly hidden one at Utica Ave. But what of the other subway mysteries?

One long-standing urban rumor has concerned a station along the IND Fulton line just east of Euclid Avenue and past the walls that mark the end of the C local train. This is the 76th Street station, an urban fable kept alive by an old April Fools joke, some mysterious construction barriers and track maps that hint of an unbuilt subway extension. The 76th Street station itself is a mystery. If it exists, it would be found at the area of 76th Street and Pitkin Ave. in Queens. Officially, it was never really built, and no one has photographic evidence of it. But there’s long been lingering doubts in the minds of even the most ardent subway historians.

The immediate tale of 76th Street begins where many subway legends start: on SubChat. A recently revived thread from February covered the discussion of a potential C extension down Pitkin Ave., and one person claimed to know someone who had the seen station. The topic comes up now and then, and in 2001, rumors of the station’s existence were prevalent.

What we know today are snippets of rumors and in complete images. The story is fueled by a cinderblock wall past Euclid Ave. and a signal that’s facing the wrong way. For some reason, subway construction crews at one point decided to brick up the area at the end of the local tunnel, and all that remains are stubs on track maps and signal schematics. A 2007 post by the LTV Squad simply fueled speculation, and like any good urban legend, the story doesn’t die.

An MTA board offers hope that the 76th Street station truly exists. (Photo via LTV Squad)

Early in the decade of the double aughts, two subway historians brought tales of the 76th Street station to light. In a comprehensive posting on April 1, 2002 that included some excellent Photoshops, Joe Brennan created a history of 76th St. He even claimed the station had been in revenue service but was shuttered as part of a city cover-up. That, of course, was an April Fools joke, but Randy Kennedy’s 2003 column on 76th Street was no laughing matter.

Kennedy spoke with one man who insisted the station exists, and his evidence was similar to that found by the LTV Squad. An electric board says 76th Street; the cinder block wall is an oddity; other transit workers and police officers claim the station exists on the other side of the wall. It’s a case based on circumstantial evidence, but until someone returns with photos, 76th Street will remain forever a debated part of subway lore.

And yet, we do know what was supposed to go past that cinderblock wall sixty-plus years ago. As part of the IND Second System, the Fulton Line was to split near Euclid with one section continuing along Liberty Ave. and the other heading east to 229th St. in Cambria Heights, right near the Nassau County line. Some plans called for the IND to use the LIRR right-of-ways, but the details are immaterial. Eventually, due to costs and some engineering concerns, the plans for such an ambitious extension were scrapped. It is true that a signal schematic references the “future 76th Street interlocking,” but that is ultimately a future that never came to pass.



42 Responses to “The Underground Mysteries: 76th Street”

  1. Alex C says:

    I remember reading that Subchat thread (one of the few on there that didn’t spiral into a flamewar). From all that I’m going to go ahead and say the tunnel ends maybe a few hundred feet from the cinder block wall. Interestingly enough, for this modern “expansion” we’re going through, the MTA could’ve extended the C to 76 or even Cross Bay Boulevard.

    • There are a lot of Brooklyn and Queens subway provisions for expansion plans that make sense. They’re all likely cheaper than anything built in Manhattan too, but they don’t have the same impact on ridership as the Second Ave. line would have. If money were no obstacle, though, this expansion along with the Triboro RX line and a subway into Sheepshead Bay would be on the table.

      • Miles Bader says:

        Hey Bloomberg can’t be mayor again, but he could probably fund a few new subway lines out of his own pocket!

        If he was careful, and insisted on choosing his own contractors (operating principle: “don’t be insane”), he could probably also do it for a small fraction of the money it would take the MTA…

        • Alon Levy says:

          Yeah, but that would require managing things carefully, rather than handing out public money to developers.

          • The Cobal Devil says:

            The 76th St IND station is my lair, and I use it when I’m plotting my takeover of the world. Now my plans are ruined! I must needs take over an old station on the North Shore line of the Staten Island Rapid Transit. No one will look for me there!

  2. John Doe says:

    Why can’t we just ask the MTA if the station exists or not? It’s not a top secret government project, it either does or doesn’t exist.

    • I’ve asked on and off the record, and the party line is to deny the existence of such a station. I’ve also asked on and off the record about South 4th Street, and it took a long time — post-Underbelly — before anyone would admit that existed. They don’t want urban explorers venturing into these sealed-off areas. So denial makes sense. This time, though, I think they’re serious; I highly doubt there’s a station at 76th St.

  3. capt subway says:

    As a motorman on the “B” Div (IND/BMT) many moons ago (1970s) I often relayed “E” trains in the tail track south (east) of Euclid Ave. The four tracks ended in a solid, very permanent looking concrete wall. I can imagine that if there were an entire station back there that they would have sealed it up so completely and thoroughly. If nothing else one would think the TA would keep the tunnel open and in use simply for lay up purposes.

    In addition, considering the line was built cut/cover method, with the tunnel just a few feet below street level, one would think there would be telltale sidewalk ventilation grates along Pitkin Ave. heading out to 76th St.

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      Right, the capital program is always looking for spots for relay rooms, break rooms, storage rooms, etc. If it existed it would be used. Or will be used.

    • BrooklynBus says:

      Perhaps the cinderblock wall was to prevent anyone from accessing or living in the station since they knew the line would never be completed? If the tracks do end a few feet beyond, what would be the logic of constructing a wall? There are stub ends all over without walls.

  4. Brian W says:

    To heck the subchat fanboys, 76 Street does not exist!! My wife Tamara was digging there a week ago and she found nothing, no tracks, nothing.

  5. Kai B says:

    I did a NY Times Archive search not too long ago. There is not one article that mentions this station. All articles merely mention an extension to Euclid Avenue, including those published when the line was still in planning.

  6. Stu Sutcliffe says:

    Or, given the water table levels in Southern Queens, the whole thing would have caved in by now.

  7. John-2 says:

    Since recapture of the BMT’s Liberty Avenue line was already in the minds of the IND planners even before the LIRR’s Rockaway Branch became available, odds are pretty strong the city wasn’t going to make an “all-in” commitment on a 76th Street station stop on a four-track main line while the option of turning the line northeast towards the el was still on the table.

    If 76th Street had been there prior to 1956 when the Grant Avenue connection to the BMT was finally made, there would have been plenty of pressure to use the station (concurrently at a time when the city was fighting for an eventually winning bonding authorization for the Second Ave. subway. Those funds eventually went into rehabbing the existing system and rolling stock, but sometime around 1950 it would have been mentioned somewhere if there really had been a station east of Euclid ready for operation).

  8. Stu Sutcliffe says:

    Absolutely right. No protests – no coverage whatsoever.

  9. Alon Levy says:

    Station or no station, it would not be a very good extension today. The A is a very roundabout route, and for service to the main CBD, i.e. Midtown, it has nothing on the E. For travel from Midtown or points north to JFK, the E is a good 20 minutes faster, even with the longer AirTrain ride. The subway routes, including the old expansion ideas, are from a time when Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn were more important than they are today and Midtown, Jamaica, Flushing, and LIC were less important.

    However, once the critical extensions are built, i.e. SAS, Triboro, Utica, and maybe Nostrand and a connection from SAS to 63rd, then by all means let’s extend the E down to Linden and have it serve Cambria Heights.

    • That last paragraph is like twisting the blade. ‘sigh’

    • Anon256 says:

      I think at the time the main point of the extension to 106th (which was at one point expected by 1943) was to provide faster service to the Rockaways and potentially allow tearing down the Liberty Ave el. Would still seem a poor use of resources today.

      Regarding a Linden Blvd extension of the E, it seems like sending the E down one of the LIRR ROWs would still be better value for money, but I guess you’re additionally imagining a world where the LIRR gets its act together and runs rapid transit-style service on those lines.

    • Farro says:

      I agree. Even if you were to extend the A along Linden Boulevard, it would make way more sense to do so from the Rockaway Boulevard station.

  10. Kid Twist says:

    What the Government doesn’t want you to know is that they’re keeping Bigfoot in the 76th Street station. There are also a couple of captured alien spacecraft stashed behind that cinderblock wall. I know this because Elvis told me recently — he’s alive and was being held down there until D.B. Cooper helped him escape.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Idiot. The station had one use, and one use only: it was a storage room for the explosives they used in the controlled demolition of WTC. Pay no attention to the Elvis and Bigfoot people – they’re just distracting you from the real conspiracy.

  11. Chris R says:

    This station does not exist. No proof it was built. This is all absurd legend propped up by the existence of one strange cinder block wall.

  12. jim says:

    76th St. is more than half a mile from Euclid Ave. It defies credibility that half a mile of tunnel and a station cavern with platforms (and tiled walls!) could exist without some surface disturbance occurring sometime.

    But there is more than a wall. There’s ripped up tracks and oddly placed signals. And it’s clear there was at one time a plan.

    I think the simplest explanation is that some work was started as excavation from the stub end of the tunnel, possibly as a bellmouth, possibly simply to push the cut and cover work a bit further down the avenue for some reason or other. Tracks were laid for a work train, signals installed to control the work train. By the time the line was cancelled there had been some excavation done, but the space excavated wasn’t enough to be usable. If it were left alone, it would become a magnet for garbage and eventually a rat farm. So they bricked it up, tore up the tracks (since they had scrap value) but left the signals (since they didn’t).

    So now men ponder the anomalies and invent reasons for them.

  13. Brian says:

    pretty sure theres nothing there but it really makes you think how this rumor began

  14. Johnny Rottensacks says:

    Its the wall of my flat man.. leave me alone.

  15. Tamara W says:

    At least 2 tracks and partial platforms behind that wall. Unsafe to go in there.

  16. I think the station exist or part of it anyway. The track that would be the Manhattan bound local wouldn’t have been built at all if it didn’t head towards a station. What need would this track that only connects to the Manhattan bound local if it wasn’t heading from a station.

  17. DJ says:

    Recently heard that the 76th Street station DOES exist, but the tunnel section was been filled back in after the Liberty Avenue extension was completed and opened.

  18. Ceya says:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~brenn...../76st.html

    Brennan site shows the only photo of the station.

    Its a good read.

  19. ADalton says:

    Brennan’s page is an old April Fool’s Day joke. The pictures were photoshopped.

  20. SlamCAC says:

    As an ex – T.A. employee, I can confirm the existence of the track exiting Pitkin yard, ending at a concrete wall. There was a dead automatic signal facing away from the yard, with an A5 or A6 number plate just before the wall.

    I don’t remember the chaining number however.

    I saw this with my own eyes in 2005.

  21. SlamCAC says:

    Now remember, the mainline tracks A1, A3 & A4, A2 end at a wall at 412+00.
    The wall and track that I refer to diverges off of the in service yard track just (west) n/b of the Pitkin Yard portal

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