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J train facts and figures, Jamaica Line history

The J train, traveling along the Jamaica Line in Brooklyn and Queens and the Nassau Street Line in Manhattan, has a history that many commuters may not realize. Some of the elevated tracks in Brooklyn that the J train serves are considered the oldest remaining elevated train routes in the world, first opening in the 1880s. It also has one of the sharpest curves in the subway system.

Scroll down for more facts and history of the J train.

The J train serves 200,000 commuters daily

The MTA estimates that 200,000 people ride the
Photo Credit: Nicole Brown

The MTA estimates that 200,000 people ride the J train every day, which means about 73 million ride it in a year.

The Jamaica Line is more than 13 miles long

The Jamaica Line is 13.29 miles long, the
Photo Credit: Nicole Brown

The Jamaica Line is 13.29 miles long, the MTA said. It has 30 stations in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. In Queens, it terminates at Jamaica Center Parsons/Archer, and in Manhattan it ends at Broad Street.

The line color isn't just brown

The actual shade of brown that signifies the
Photo Credit: Nicole Brown

The actual shade of brown that signifies the J and Z line is known as "terra cotta brown." The current colors of the lines were determined in the late 1970s when the subway map was reformatted, the MTA said.

It's the oldest remaining elevated train route

While the Jamaica Line and the stations along
Photo Credit: New York Transit Museum

While the Jamaica Line and the stations along it have been rebuilt, the portion above Broadway and Fulton Street from Gates Avenue to Van Siclen Avenue is considered the oldest remaining elevated train route in the world, said historian Joseph Cunningham. That portion opened in 1885, and was known at the time as part of the Brooklyn "El" lines.

The structure along Broadway was rebuilt with the addition of a center express track in 1916.

The photo above shows a locomotive in 1886 on the Lexington Avenue Line elevated tracks, which were the first elevated tracks in Brooklyn. Part of the Jamaica Line over Broadway and Fulton Street was considered the Lexington Avenue Line at the time. It then became the Jamaica Line, and the Lexington line was demolished after its closure in 1950.

The line used to connect to the East River

In 1888, the Jamaica Line was extended west
Photo Credit: New York Transit Museum; Nicole Brown

In 1888, the Jamaica Line was extended west toward the East River. Driggs Avenue and Broadway Ferry were the two stations past Marcy Avenue. At the time the access to the river was crucial.

"The waterfront was very important for communication," Cunningham said.

When the Williamsburg Bridge was built and the line was extended across it in 1908, only a shuttle train connected Marcy Avenue and the Broadway Ferry station. The shuttle closed in 1916, and in 1942, the stations and tracks past Marcy Avenue were demolished. You can still see some evidence of the track though. Looking toward the river, to the left of the curve toward the bridge, above Broadway and just past Havemeyer Street, some of the original structure remains. The structure is lighter in weight than modern structures, Cunningham said.

The line extended in Manhattan in the early 1900s

The Jamaica Line extended across the Williamsburg Bridge
Photo Credit: Nicole Brown

The Jamaica Line extended across the Williamsburg Bridge in 1908 to Essex Street in Manhattan. It was then extended to Chambers Street in 1913, and later to Broad Street in 1931. Between Essex Street and Broad Street, the line is known as the Nassau Street Line.

The Jamaica Line used to go farther into Queens

The Jamaica Line was also extended in Queens
Photo Credit: New York Transit Museum

The Jamaica Line was also extended in Queens in the early 20th century. In 1917, expanding along Jamaica Avenue, it reached 111th Street and in 1918, it went to 168th Street (pictured above in 1944). These extensions introduced 12 more stops. Previously, the last stop was City Line, which was located on Crescent Street and Jamaica Avenue.

"City Line meant the border of the City of Brooklyn which was a separate city until 1898," Cunningham said.

Between 1977 and 1988, the line was cut back to 121st Street, one stop after 111th Street. The other stations were demolished, and the structure was connected to the Archer Avenue stations.

The S curve at Crescent Street had to be eased

The S curve at Crescent Street is one
Photo Credit: Nicole Brown

The S curve at Crescent Street is one of the sharpest curves in the subway system. In 1922, the curve had to be eased to allow the heavier 67-feet steel subway cars to run on the tracks instead of the 48-feet El cars. "That required a support girder through a building on the corner," Cunningham said.

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