From Brooklyn to the Bronx Zoo

Riding the Coney Island Express and 3rd Avenue El

"World's Fair" cars at 149th & 3rd Ave.

I grew up in Brooklyn near Kings Highway station on the Brighton Line but was able to convince my grandmother, who was a good sport, to take me and my brother to the Bronx Zoo via the el. First, we took the "BMT Coney Island Express" (Franklin-Nassau) service to Chambers Street.

This train ran south from my station to Coney Island, pulling into the terminal there at Stillwell Ave. on the extreme right hand track which served the Sea Beach platform. It didn't pause longer than for a usual stop. The train then tuned north and moved along at a pretty brisk rate on the Sea Beach express track. Coming back in the opposite direction, the train pulled into Stillwell Ave. at the Brighton platform.

I only rode this line using BMT Standard cars [illustrated above]. It is interesting that although there is/was a sign "Franklin-Nassau", it was not displayed. The cars were signed:







The front car displayed the "white ball." I don't remember the destination light colors.

The short lived 1968 NX service (I loved it) was somewhat reminiscent of this service and used the same platform arrangement at Stillwell.

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Our train took the south tracks over the Manhattan Bridge which, at that time, went to Chambers Street. In Chambers Street station we used the center tracks that were used by Myrtle-Chambers trains during the week. The Coney Island Expresses returned to Brooklyn by the bridge--they didn't use the Nassau Loop or stop at Fulton and Broad Street stations.

When we departed the Chambers Street station, we went upstairs to the lower platform of the City Hall el station. The upper level for 2nd Ave. service had long been closed. The train was marked "3rd Ave Local Express - Bronx Park". It switched onto the express track at Canal St. and zipped uptown to 125th St. after which it continued local through the Bronx all the way to Fordham Road. It then switched off onto the spur that ran over the present Metro North tracks to the terminal just across from the Botanic Gardens. It was a long walk to the zoo so we went home via the Lexington Express boarding at the 180th St-Bronx Park stub station.

--Karl Bernstein

Karl Bernstein now lives in Woodmere, NY and is still an avid train rider. He lives right near the old "Cedarhurst cutoff" ROW of the LIRR and is very familiar with it. You can write to him at

Comments or questions, share your own recollections?

©2002 and Karl Bernstein
Sunday, June 08, 2003