The New York & Brooklyn Bridge Railway

The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, predating the adoption of the automobile by several decades. As such, it was originally envisioned as a bridge to transport horse-drawn carriages, trains and trolleys. The latter of which was carried over the bridge until 1950. 


Today, pedestrians, bikes and cars use the bridge, and it remains a major tourist attraction for the city. 

"Bird's-Eye View of the Great New York and Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Display of Fire Works on Opening Night" (1883)

The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway, a cable car service, began operations in 1883, shortly after the bridge itself opened. It ran on the inner lanes of the bridge, between terminals at the Manhattan and Brooklyn ends.


Harper's Weekly, 10/12/1895, "The erection of a new terminal at the New York end of the Brooklyn Bridge is a task of far greater difficulty than the erection of the one on the Brooklyn side. In Brooklyn a new station was built directly across the street from the old station. In New York the new station is being built on the site of the old one. The extraordinary care necessary in tearing down the old building, the use of a great deal of the iron-work of the old station in the new, the building of a complete false-work structure for the trains to run on, have delayed the progress of the work, and will so delay it that it is probable that the station will not be completed fully until some time next summer. The first change of importance in the New York terminal has been to raise the tracks one story in the station. This was necessary to provide new stairways for the people. It obviated cutting into the masonry of the bridge structure and the consequent weakening of that. The next important change was to move the platforms further toward Brooklyn. This was done to give room for the switching of the trains entirely beyond the platforms, thus destroying any probability of serious accident to the passengers in shifting the cars. The new station will have two "island platforms." One will be the incoming platform and the other will be the outgoing Trains coming from Brooklyn will go to alternate sides of the incoming platform as they arrive, and trains going to Brooklyn will leave the outgoing platform in the same manner. There will be double tracks, called "sandwiched" tracks, across the bridge, and any given train will remain on one continuous track in making the round trip. The new station will be 521 feet long and 87 feet 6 inches wide. The platforms will be 230 feet long and 20 feet wide. The old platforms were only 100 feet long, and 8 feet wide. Trains will be run under a headway of forty-five seconds instead of ninety as now, and the train capacity will be fully 500,000 passengers a day in time of a crush."


"To cross Brooklyn Bridge there were special train shuttles that gripped a cable driven by a static steam engine and were then moved to the other track by a steam locomotive for the next departure (1883-1908)" Funimag on Twitter.

When Brooklyn and New York City unified in 1898, this company was absorbed by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT). Shortly thereafter, trolleys began to run on the bridge along the roadway.


This 1899 video shows some very early rail operations on the Brooklyn Bridge, the last of which ended in 1950. Afterwards, the bridge was redesigned completely to accommodate only vehicular and walking traffic.


 Thomas A. Edison, Inc.: "New Brooklyn to New York Via Brooklyn Bridge", 1899

Today, there's hardly any indication that anything besides automobiles and pedestrians ever used the bridge, but that speaks to how much conversion has been undertaken along its path.

Walking along the very crowded Brooklyn Bridge. FRRandP photo, 2018.

Thanks as always for reading!

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