The Third Avenue
Elevated --- Part III


RE: 3rd ave el

Dear Carlos:

Thank you for sharing your memories of the 3rd ave el. I grew up on 83rd Street between 3rd and 2nd avenues. I can still hear the sound of the turnstile.

I was wondering if you could help me track down a story concerning the El? I remember on Thanksgiving Day, somewhere 1947 to maybe 1950, where someone fell or jumped in front of the el at the 84th Street Station. Do you know how I might track down the details of that story? I remember we kids seeing stuff that ruined our dinners that day.

--- Brendan Gunning

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Our Writer Responds ---

Mr. Gunning's question about the 3rd Avenue El took me back to my childhood. As it happens, the 84th St. station was precisely where I got off to go to elementary school from 1944-1948. People used to jump in front of the train all the time back then, just like the amateurs who jump into a bull-fighting ring from the stands. Why, we used to refer to the 84th St. station as la corrida de descarrilamiento.

The El's schedule was often delayed when the train hit a slow-moving jumper, but it made up for it by skipping a few stations further down the line, like 53rd St. where, as you will recall, nobody ever got on or off anyhow, or the Grand Central Station, which didn't actually exist except in rumor.

Conversely, the El trains often made unscheduled stops between stations. Once, I spent an entire week at not quite the Claremont Parkway station. Fortunately, El passengers brought along salami, Spam, loaves of bread, and other picnic supplies, so we were able to survive.

On another occasion, I was visiting my grandparents near 138th Street when the El train stopped just outside the apartment's kitchen window to drop off passengers. Uncle Jake disembarked through the kitchen window, and joined us for dinner. After dinner, he went out through the window, crossed the track, and flagged down a northbound train to head back to his place near Tremont Avenue.

--- Dr. Phage

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