(Warning: there are some disappointing updates down below, but just enjoy the ride before you get to the "facts.")
UPDATE:WE FOUND THE PORTAL!
"So, has anyone ever seen the G train conductor stop the train between Bedford-Nostrand and Myrtle-Willoughby, unlock an ad to reveal a handle that opens the door to the tunnel, and then let two women out?" Say what? This is what Nellie Killan Tweeted last night, after allegedly experiencing just that. And then there's this:
— Claire, A Business. (@ClaraBiznass) February 25, 2015
Craig Middleton was on the same train, and reports back with a similar story. He told us today that, "The weirdest thing of all is that they weren't wearing MTA uniforms or anything. Just looked like two regular women getting off at their own secret stop... our entire car was shocked and then laughing so hard about it." And yet, no one filmed this secret portal exit or took a photo! Are these kids just feeding us lies to get some attention for their pop-up sketch comedy show?
We reached out to several people at the MTA, but no one has responded to our requests for comment yet. Maybe they're getting their stories straight. Maybe they're all at their weekly Wednesday afternoon meeting in the alternative universe that this secret door leads to. We'll update when we find out. And we will find out.
In the meantime, we got Nellie's full recap of what she claims went down:
"I assume the women were MTA employees, but definitely not track workers. Or at least, not dressed to do track work. They were both middle aged and looked like commuters. We were in the first car. They came through the car from behind and made their way to the front. We hardly noticed since so many people move to the front on the G.
A few minutes after, the train stopped. We realized that they were talking to the conductor, who had come out of his area. Everyone was pretty quiet. I think we all thought something bad was happening. It was so unusual for the train to stop and the conductor to be in the car.
So then, the conductor comes to one of the center doors, he unlocks one of the poster cases next to the doors of the train and reveals this mechanical area. At this point, everyone I was with was super tense. It seemed like there must be some sort of emergency, so it was super quiet on the train. Anyway, he just pulls the lever, opens the door and the women step out onto this concrete platform. I didn't see this, but my co-worker David Reilly says that there was some sort of room on the platform with frosted windows with bars on them.
The conductor tells the women to have a good night, closes the doors and locks up the poster case, and started to make his way back to his area, not saying a thing about it, like it was no big deal. Someone said something that broke the silence and everyone started laughing.
My two friends and I are all long time G Train commuters, we each take the G every day and have for years. I heard one guy say he had that same commute for 15 years and had never seen that happen before."
We reached out to Joe Raskin, who wrote The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System, to see if he knew of a secret platform or substation in that area. Raskin told us he does not, but "that doesn't mean that there isn't something like that there; it's just that I've never seen or heard of anything." He added:
"There are extra tunnels just to the east of Bedford-Nostrand. Those tunnels were built there in the event that a line would be extended further along Lafayette Avenue (often proposed early in the 20th Century. It made sense to do that to avoid major construction impacts later on. To my knowledge, there are no platforms there, though. That's also why the Bedford-Nostrand station is built the way it is, with two island platforms and a third track. The only other extra structure that I know of along the Crosstown line (and let me emphasize saying that I know of) is further to the north, at the Broadway station, which was built to provide connections with lines extending east from the 6th and 8th Avenue lines, and running out to Sheepshead Bay, the Rockaways, Jackson Heights and Cambria Heights."
When pressed on whether he believed this story or not, Raskin told us, "I've stood at the front window of G trains in the past (in the days when you could do that on the G train), and only saw the track ramps past Bedford-Nostrand. I've never seen any closed-off platforms or substations, as described. I never like to contradict someone in a situation like this, but it sounds made up to me."
We also reached out to an urban explorer, who offered one theory: "On the G line often times there are these pitted 10x10 foot rooms next to many of the emergency exits." He added, "I don't know what to say other than right as you are pulling into Myrtle Willoughby there is an area that has a frosted window with bars on it. There is also something like this by Hoyt-Schermerhorn on the G. Maybe an old control booth... Both of these things are less than 200 feet from the platforms. I do believe the story."
Miniature room? Secret platform? Portal to Hogwarts? As we said, we'll update when we find out, but if you've witnessed something like this, say something!
VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: A New York City Transit employee has contacted us to let us know about other unusual activity near this area. He says:
"About a year ago I was traveling on the A train Brooklyn bound. The train stopped at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. I witnessed a male dressed in a tweed suit walk on, quickly open the opposite side doors to the train with a key and exit the train to the opposite side of the platform, all before the train has left the station. It happened so fast. He had no MTA badge or equipment, just a small briefcase. What I thought was strange was that the side he exited on is not in use. It is a un-lit dirty, closed off section of the station. No trains have used this side of the platform for years. To this day I thought he was some sort of secret agent on a mission. I thought I was crazy but your article confirmed something is going on!"
UPDATE:Jon Hanford, who admits to having "no authority on the subject," but does a lot of reading on infrastructure, and keeps "a scanner in my bag to listen to train dispatchers in the event of delays," offers this simple explanation, which suggests there is no magical wormhole:
"I think what was witnessed was more common than one might think. There is something called a 'bench wall' that runs along basically the entirety of all the tunnels—which is platform height and designed mostly for emergency exit.
Between Bedford-Nostrand and Myrtle Willoghby there’s a tower, basically a control room that operates the switches over a given section of track. It’s usually unmanned, but during construction when the G short-turns at Bedford-Nostrand the tower is manned to control the 'relay procedure' when the train turns around.
As it happens, just such a short turn relay procedure is in effect after 11 pm this week.
So what the passengers saw, most likely, is simply the dispatchers going to work, getting ready to relay trains at Bedford Nostrand. This is normally unseen because it happens so infrequently, and because dispatchers often just walk to the office through the tunnel, but maybe these women asked for a favor? That part I can’t say. But it’s almost 100% dispatchers going to the tower."
Another NYC Transit employee has also emailed, saying:
"Your mysterious tunnel dwelling is just a signal tower. It dates back to the opening of the line in 1937, and is used to manipulate the signals and track switches at that station. The Train Operator did those ladies a favor by dropping them off directly at their door, saving them having to walk the tracks and then climb up a filthy ladder to the benchwall. Behind the scenes employees don’t always wear uniforms. Signal towers used to be all over the subway system, but have been replaced in recent decades by centralized, modern control rooms, or 'master towers.' The original signal towers that do remain can usually be easily spotted at the ends of subway platforms, usually near switches. You can visit a real, working signal tower on the platform level of the New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn."
The MTA has still yet to respond, but the signal tower theory checks out.