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"The Vanishing El" (1950)

Shangas

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One of the most enduring images of the "Golden Era", the period from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century, is the clatter of elevated railway systems that ran through major American cities, most notably, New York City.

By the 1930s, these railway systems were already under threat from increased motor-car ownership and more effective subway systems. This movie from the 1950s looks back on the history of elevated railways, and speculates about their future...

[video=youtube;2IW4iWzG_V4]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IW4iWzG_V4[/video]
 

Nobert

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Nice. I love that "I am a [inanimate object]" narrative style. I remember reading that when they started tearing down the elevateds in N.Y.C., some of the seedy bars, popular with the news and magazine writers, went under. Having been located in shadowed streets with convenient pylons for an exiting patron to hang on to, they just weren't the same when the avenues returned to the broad, daylight-sodden throughways of the 19th century.
 

Tomasso

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Thanks for posting this vid.:)
You know you live in a tough neighborhood when a merchant advertises to make "black eyes look natural.":p

Stat of note: The vid states that NYC was the biggest city in the world in 1950; today it barely cracks the top 20.

BTW, if you want to ride around a big city via el go to Chicago. They've actually expanded their system since the 50s.
 

Nobert

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Thanks for posting this vid.:)


BTW, if you want to ride around a big city via el go to Chicago. They've actually expanded their system since the 50s.

I noticed that, when I was recently doing a bit of armchair travelling via Google maps. Are there other American cities that still have a viable El system?
 

dhermann1

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Da Bronx, NY, USA
Oh, my, what a wonderful little film. And so close to home for me, in more ways than one. I was . . . 3 years old when it was made, and living on Riverside Drive, in Manhattan. And now I live right across the street from Bronx Park.
The Els are gone, but there are still many, many miles of elevated subway tracks. My line, the 2, comes out of the ground just a couple of stops after reaching the Bronx, and continues several miles that way to its termination. So I have about 30 minutes of elevated train riding every day. It's kinda neat.
 

Shangas

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Melbourne, Australia
I always found elevated railway systems to be fascinating...and trains in general. Everytime I think of them, I'm reminded of that line from "12 Angry Men". I don't recall it exactly, but it went something like this:

"Have any of you ever lived near an El? I have! And when those trains go past, the screech and rattle's so loud, you can hardly think!"
 

Nobert

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The el's demise may have been foreshadowed as early as 1904, when Billy Murray recorded Down in the Subway, celebrating the kanoodling potential of the newly-built underground railways.

Now the Man in the Moon looks deserted
His face wears a smile of despair
Underground it is broadly asserted
The el road is up in the air
 

Swing Motorman

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Vanishing indeed, but thankfully not completely. Philadelphia still has the Market-Frankford line, though this genuine classic El will bend your mind (and the definition of El) a little bit! It parallels surface streetcars through a shared center city tunnel. But it's indeed elevated on either end of that, and a fast, fun ride. And I mean fast. Boy, the stories I hear about trolley guys on a charter waiting for a Market-Frankford train in the tunnel... and trying their darndest to get that 45-mph streetcar to keep pace!
 

Bugguy

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I noticed that, when I was recently doing a bit of armchair travelling via Google maps. Are there other American cities that still have a viable El system?
How could you miss Chicago?? Think of the Blues Brothers car chase under the Wells Street elevated, ending with the world-class pile-up at Lake & Wells 3124075853_74522b01cc_z.jpgblues14.jpg. The CTA "L" will be there long after I'm gone.
 

STEVIEBOY1

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Is it just Chicago, that has the best and biggest El network in the USA, with just smaller sections remaining in NYC & Philadelphia then?

There are parts of the Paris Metro which go quite high up, I do recall a couple of years ago riding on that and it went over the top of one of the main line railway station there.

In the UK, we have the Docklands Light Railway in East London and much of that is elevated, you get great views, especially if you get a seat in the very front of the front carriage on the left hand side.

In the Newcastle upon Tyne area in North Eastern England, they have a metro system and again part of that has elevated sections too.
 

Tomasso

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Is it just Chicago, that has the best and biggest El network in the USA, with just smaller sections remaining in NYC & Philadelphia
I would say that is an accurate statement. There are a few cities (Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco) with small portions of elevated track on their relatively newer systems.
 

Tomasso

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I had no idea that SF had an elevated railway. Buses, cablecars, modern streetcars (?), but an el'way?

I'm merely mentioning that the Francisco Bay Area has portions of BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) which are elevated. It seems that lately here on the FLounge one must think twice about including an aside in their posts.:(
 

Nobert

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Yes, some mass transit trains that are usually subways or street level may have elevated portions. There's a brief section of the Red Line in Boston that emerges from underground and becomes an elevated just long enough to cross the Charles river into Cambridge. But it's a fleeting El.
 

vitanola

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Yes, some mass transit trains that are usually subways or street level may have elevated portions. There's a brief section of the Red Line in Boston that emerges from underground and becomes an elevated just long enough to cross the Charles river into Cambridge. But it's a fleeting El.

What about the Orange Line down Washington Street? Oh, wait. That's been demolished since the year that I left Boston.:(


 

scottyrocks

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Isle of Langerhan, NY
Is it just Chicago, that has the best and biggest El network in the USA, with just smaller sections remaining in NYC & Philadelphia then?

Probably. But then again, I'm not a big fan of the elevated. If you've ever ridden the 7 past Shea (oops, Citifield) at the banked curve, you'd know what it's like to feel like you're going to fall into nothingness if the slightest breeze comes along.
 
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