Museum Runs Nostalgia Train
the New York Transit Museum’s Nostalgia Train really does make
you ponder the passage of time. For instance, what would happen
in 2002 to a Subway train with leather seats, an open ceiling
fan, and exposed light bulbs? One can only shudder at the thought.
Yet these BMT Triplex cars, first put into service in 1924, were
used all the way up to 1965.
The Transit Museum, of course, is all about history. “It’s no
exaggeration to state that public mass transportation has impacted
seriously on all aspects of society,” said Mark L. Watson, the
Museum’s Director of Education. “Before the Subway, which began
operations in 1904, the borough of Queens was no more than a series
of small settlements, mostly farmland. Many other areas of New
York City were either not developed or not reachable as well.
The reach of the Subway encouraged developers and land speculators
to buy and build more than any other single factor.”
The first Subway line merely ran from City Hall to 42nd Street
where, switching to the current IRT line, it continued up to 145th
Street. In 1908 the line expanded to the East Side and Brooklyn
and, once the train’s importance became clear, further additions
is, we still use much of the original equipment when it comes
to switches and many other things,” Watson smiled. “Not because
we don’t want to modernize but because it is wonderful sturdy
stuff. Because it works.”
Originally, only the IND line was owned by the City; the BMT and
IRT lines were owned by private corporations. However, the BMT–then
called the BRT–went bankrupt in 1910 and by 1940 the City ran
all three lines.
The Museum, located in a decommissioned 1936 IND subway station
at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn,
is currently undergoing a major modernization process. The Education
Department is being reconfigured to include an additional classroom
for children’s workshops, a computer lab and a reference library.
Present educational programs serve approximately 60,000 students
a year. The Museum’s focus is hands-on workshops such as “Building
the Brooklyn Bridge,” in which students use mathematical skills
to build a huge (16-foot) model of a suspension bridge. Another
workshop, “Miles of Tiles,” teaches students how to make those
colorful mosaics you see in many Subway stations.
Many of the workshops are mobile; Transit Museum staff frequently
visit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, St. Francis College and
all 69 branches of the Brooklyn Public Library.
the workshops and lectures are in strict coordination with City
and State educational standards,” Watson said. “You could safely
say that educating children–and educating them in a fun, creative
manner that inspires them to learn–is one of the chief missions
of the New York Transit Museum.”#
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