This past Sunday, Gothamist went on a tour of the Brighton Line and Franklin Avenue Shuttle subway lines in Brooklyn. The tour, sponsored by the New York City Transit Museum, was lead by subway historian Joe Cunningham who gave an incredibly detailed history of the line, peppered with historical anecdotes, on the various tour stops on the line that started as a steam powered railroad to take holiday makers to the Brighton Beach Hotel during the Victorian era.
The highlight of the tour was a visit to the Prospect Park Substation which houses two ancient rotary power converters. The substation’s history and current status was all explained by Robert W. Lobenstein, General Superintendent, System Operation – Power New York City Transit. He explained that the modern equipment allows for someone to sit in front of a computer in Manhattan to remotely operate the substation. Since nobody is need on site, they even removed the washroom.
The now disused converters had a role in one of the worst accidents in the history of the subway, the Malbone Street wreck in 1918. The crash, which occurred during the midst of a strike, had an unqualified motorman at the helm of a wooden subway train. The motorman’s mistakes killed 93 either in the accident itself or being electrocuted by the third rail after it was turned on by workers in the substation who were told by management to expect sabotage and to turn on the power regardless.