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The BMT Sea Beach Line is a rapid transit line of the BMT division of the New York City Subway, connecting the BMT Fourth Avenue Line subway via a four-track wide open cut to Coney Island in Brooklyn. It has at times hosted the fastest express service between Manhattan and Coney Island, but now carries only local trains. On May 29, 2005, Sea Beach trains resumed operation to Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue after several years of truncation to Gravesend–86th Street while the Coney Island terminal was being reconstructed.

Extent and serviceEdit

The modern line begins as a split from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line at a flying junction immediately south of 59th Street. Between the station and the split, crossover switches are provided between the local and express tracks of the Fourth Avenue Line, and then the express tracks curve east under the northbound local track to become the beginning of the Sea Beach Line. After emerging from the tunnel under Fourth Avenue, the two separate Sea Beach tracks rise on either side of a ramp which formerly connected to the original line to the Brooklyn shore at 65th Street in Bay Ridge.

After passing the former junction with the line to the shore, the Sea Beach widens to the width of four tracks, but the southbound express track is in need of repair. All stations have two side platforms, with no platform access to the express tracks anywhere on the Sea Beach right-of-way.

The Sea Beach Line currently carries N trains and a few W trains (weekdays only) over the two local tracks.

Express tracksEdit

The express tracks were originally intended to host the Coney Island Express, a fast train to Coney Island since elevated train days. Express service was carried on these tracks twice in the line's history — for fast summer weekend expresses (1924–1952) to Chambers Street station near City Hall, and again for a short time in 1967 and 1968 to provide a fast rush-hour Broadway Line express service for Coney Island-area riders. Though these expresses are thought of as being Sea Beach Expresses, they did not serve a single station on the Sea Beach Line, as there are no express stations on the entire line.

The express tracks on the Sea Beach had other uses over the years. Most new equipment, especially experimental cars, was broken in on these tracks. The tracks were used for motorman training, and they also were set up with a short stretch of 1950s-era automation to test the ill-fated system later used on one track of the IRT 42nd Street Shuttle.

Historically, the two express tracks were an absolute block, that is, there was no signal control between one end of the tracks near Sixth Avenue and Kings Highway station. A new train was not supposed to enter the block until any train in front of it had departed the block.

The express tracks from Sixth Avenue to Kings Highway were allowed to severely deteriorate, as did much of the system from the 1970s on. In 1998, it was decided to rehabilitate the express tracks in this area, with full signalling. Only one of the tracks was repaired, however, and the other one was left for a future decision. This is why the southbound track (E3) is blocked from Kings Highway to 59th Street. The northbound (E4) track was rehabilitated for two-way traffic from its northern end to Kings Highway and the southbound (E3) track remains unused, in need of repair. While there are switches to both tracks, trains cannot travel on the southbound track until it is replaced. The Northbound express track is currently used for reroutes in both directions when either local track is in need of maintenance.

Southern portion of the lineEdit

Before and after Kings Highway, there are crossover switches to the southbound express track from the northbound express track. On both sides of Kings Highway, crossovers exist to allow express trains to switch to the local tracks before the station, or to allow local trains to switch to express after the station.

The express tracks end south of Gravesend–86th Street as the line becomes double-tracked, and cut diagonally adjacent to the Coney Island Yards. After several yard connections, the line ends at the Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue terminal.


Like the other lines to Coney Island, the Sea Beach Line was once a steam-powered excursion railroad, named the New York and Sea Beach Railway. It was organized on September 25, 1876, and first opened for business on August 1, 1879, connecting the Bay Ridge Ferry from Whitehall Street, Manhattan, with the Sea Beach Palace on Coney Island. Except at its two ends, the railroad used the same route as the current transit line. At the Bay Ridge end, the railroad ran just north of the Long Island Rail Road's Bay Ridge Branch, ending at the Bay Ridge Channel around 64th Street. The current line joins this alignment near Fifth Avenue. The old railroad crossed the Bay Ridge Branch with a pronounced S-curve] just east of Seventh Avenue; the crossing is now much straighter, with the Bay Ridge Branch in a deeper cut. On the Coney Island end, the original path curved left soon after the curve to the right at the northern edge of the Coney Island Yards, ending at the combined Sea Beach Palace hotel and depot, on the north side of the BMT Brighton Line at around West 10th Street.

In early 1896 the company went bankrupt, and it was reorganized on August 14, 1896 as the Sea Beach Railway. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) bought it on November 5, 1897, along with the short elevated Sea View Railway on Coney Island, and assigned it by lease to the Brooklyn Heights Railroa]. It was soon fitted with trolley wire for electric operation as a branch of the BMT West End Line from Bath Junction to Coney Island, with trains coming from Park Row in Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge and BMT Fifth Avenue Line. Streetcars ran over the rest of the line to Bay Ridge. In 1907, connecting tracks were built connecting to the West End Line just north of Coney Island Creek in order to bring Sea Beach trains into West End Depot. The original alignment was retained for freight service only.

On June 22, 1915, the new four-track open cut was completed, and subway trains started running between Coney Island and Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan. The express tracks were finished several weeks later. When the BMT Fourth Avenue Line was extended south from the Sea Beach Line on January 15, 1916, the Sea Beach trains were shifted to the express tracks on Fourth Avenue, with Fourth Avenue trains providing local service.

The tracks over the north side of the Manhattan Bridge opened on September 4, 1917, along with part of the BMT Broadway Line. All Sea Beach service was moved to the new line, ending at 14th Street–Union Square. This was extended to Times Square–42nd Street on January 5, 1918. It continued to end there for many years.

In 1924 the BMT assigned numbers to its services. The Sea Beach Line service became the 4. This has since become the N train; see those pages for details on service. In general, Sea Beach service has always run express in Manhattan and on Fouth Avenue in Brooklyn, ending at 42nd Street and later 57th Street. The NX was begun in 1967 as a "super-express" from Brighton Beach on the BMT Brighton Line through Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue, and along the Sea Beach Line express tracks to 57th Street with only seven stops between Stillwell Avenue and 57th Street, three in Brooklyn and four in Manhattan. This service was canceled quickly due to low ridership. No regular trains have used the Sea Beach express tracks since.

In later years the N service has been extended from 57th Street, first to 71st–Continental Avenue–Forest Hills via the BMT 60th Street Tunnel Connection, and later to Ditmars Boulevard–Astoria, which is its current terminus.

Station listingEdit

Station Tracks Services Opened Transfers and notes
splits from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line (N always)
Ninth Avenue local N always W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
Fort Hamilton Parkway local N always W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
New Utrecht Avenue local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915 Template:NYCS West End north (BMT West End Line)
18th Avenue local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
20th Avenue local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
Bay Parkway local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
Kings Highway local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
Avenue U local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service June 22, 1915
Gravesend–86th Street local N always, W a few weekday trains at the beginning and end of service August 23, 1915
Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue all N always December 13, 1918 Q (BMT Brighton Line)
F (BMT Culver Line)
D (BMT West End Line)

See alsoEdit


  • Railroad History Database
  • Rapid Transit's Coney Island Route, New York Times November 30, 1897 page 4
  • Brooklyn's Subway Will Open Today, New York Times June 19, 1915 page 18
  • New Subway Opens; Mayor Not Present, New York Times June 20, 1915 page 6
  • To Open New Subway Link, New York Times January 14, 1916 page 16
  • Open First Section of Broadway Line, New York Times September 5, 1917 page 8
  • New Subway Extension, New York Times January 6, 1918 page 37

External linksEdit

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