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Mapping Local and Commuter Rail Transit in NYC: Elevated Rails

This guide covers how to research for maps related to subways and railroads in New York City within the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal's Map Division.

Quick Facts about Elevated Rails

  • Alternatively known as "Els"
  • Years of Note:
    • Elevated R. R. Curve at 110th Street, New York City1867: Powered by cables, the first elevated railcar (9th Avenue El) in New York City was operated along Greenwich Street for financial backers. 
    • 1868-1869: Construction continues to build the elevated rail northwards, while providing some passenger service. 
    • 1871: Converted to steam locomotive power
    • 1878-1880: Opening of the 6th Avenue El (1878), 3rd Avenue El (1878), 2nd Avenue El (1879-1880) in Manhattan.
    • 1885: First elevated railway in Brooklyn opens, known as the Old Main Line/ Lexington Avenue El.
    • 1886: Bronx Els began operation, connected to the 2nd Avenue El.
    • 1898: Electrified in Brooklyn.
    • 1902: Electrified in Manhattan.
    • Today: While many "Els" would be discontinued, elevated rails continue to exist in parts of Brooklyn, Bronx,  Manhattan, and Queens as portions of today's subway system.

Image Source: Elevated R. R. Curve at 110th Street, New York City. NYPL Digital Collections Image ID 836551

Catalog Tips

Online Research Catalog

A Selection of Elevated Railway Maps at NYPL's Map Division

Image Source: Map showing route of proposed elevated railway in Brooklyn. NYPL Digital Collections Image ID 4067511

Additional Recommended Books and Documents at NYPL

To find supplementary books and documents related to the elevated rails, please conduct the searches listed on this page's "Catalog Tips" with "Cartographic" NOT checkmarked  in either our Online Research Catalog or Digital Collections Portal. See below for a list of recommended materials: