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The IRT Sixth Avenue Line, often called the Sixth Avenue Elevated or Sixth Avenue El, was the second elevated railway in Manhattan in New York City, following the Ninth Avenue Elevated. In addition to its transportation role, it also captured the imagination of artists and poets.

The line ran south of Central Park, mainly along Sixth Avenue. Beyond the park, trains continued north on the Ninth Avenue Line.


The elevated line was constructed during the 1870s by the Gilbert Elevated Railway, subsequently reorganized as the Metropolitan Elevated Railway. By June 1878, it serviced Trinity Place, Church Street, West Broadway, and then ran along Sixth Avenue from Rector Street in Lower Manhattan to 59th Street. The following year, ownership passed to the Manhattan Railway Company, which also controlled the other elevated railways in Manhattan. In 1881, the line was connected to the largely rebuilt Ninth Avenue Elevated, in the south at Battery Place, and in the north on a spur between 53rd Street and 59th Street.

Due to its central location in Manhattan and the inversion of the usual relationship between street noise and height, the Sixth Avenue El attracted artists; in addition to the John French Sloan work shown at Wikipedia:IRT Sixth Avenue Line, it was also painted by Francis Criss and others. [1]

As with all elevated railways, the Sixth Avenue El made life for those nearby difficult. It was noisy, it made buildings shake, and it bombarded pedestrians underneath with dropping ash, oil, and cinders. Eventually, a coalition of commercial establishments and building owners along Sixth Avenue campaigned to have the El removed, on the grounds that it was depressing business and property values. The Sixth Avenue El was closed on December 4, 1938 and razed during 1939, paving the way for the replacement underground IND Sixth Avenue Line, which opened between 1936 and 1940.

When the El was taken down, much of the scrap metal was sold to the Japanese. It became a common thought during World War II that some of this metal was being used in armaments against Americans, and was so remarked upon in E. E. Cummings' well-known 1944 poem "plato told":

plato told
him:he couldn't
believe it [...]
(he didn't believe it, no
sir) it took
a nipponized bit of
the old sixth
el:in the top of his head: to tell

The footings for the El were again rediscovered in the early 1990s during a Sixth Avenue renovation project. [2]

Station listingEdit



  • Jackson, Kenneth T. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of New York City, "Elevated Railways", Yale University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-300-05536-6.

External linksEdit

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