John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2008 August 30 
    During summer of 2008 more public attntion was called to 
construction under South Ferry and Bettery park for a new subway 
station. This was under works for a couple years but the progress is 
far enough alone that the general public now notices significant 
alterations around the southern end of Manhattan. 
    The project is a replacement station for the present South Ferry 
terminal of the 7th Avenue line, serving the west side of Manhattan. 
The new station will allow the current one to close permanently, offer 
modern conveninences, move more trains per hour, and give easier 
interchange with the Staten Island and Governor Island ferries and the 
Whitehall St station of the BMT Montagu St line. 
    Tracks for the new station tap off of the 7th Avenue line a bit 
south of Rector St station and descend to a deep level under all the 
existing subways and other underground structures in South ferry. The 
tracks from Rector St to the current South Ferry station will remain 
in place for shuffling trains between east and west sides of Manhattan 
but not for any normal transit service. 
South Ferry loop
    This station was opened in 1905 as an addon to the original line 
of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway. It was on the southern 
extension from the original terminal at Brooklyn Bridge station. In 
1908 the line was prolonged farther south and east to Boro Hall and 
Atlantic Avenue in Booklyn. 
    The diagram here shows the track layout for the early IRT line, 
before the 7th Avenue line was attached in the 1910s.This is hardly a 
geographic map, but one that keeps the logic of the train flow. 
                             to Lexington Av line 
                                     |  | 
                                     |  | 
                                     |##| Bowling 
                                  O  |##| Green 
                                  | /|  |\ 
                                  |/ |  |  \ 
                                  |  |  |   | 
                                 /|  |  |   | 
                               /  |  |  \   | 
                             /   /    \   \)| 
                           /   /        \   |( 
              /----------/   /            \)| \ 
            /    /---------/                |(  \ 
          /    /                           /  \   \------ to 
         |   /                           /      \-------- Brooklyn 
         |  |                           /    
         |  |                         /    
         \   \    South Ferry inner  /|    
           \   \         ##        /  |    
             \   \---------------/    |  
                   South Ferry outer 
    The initial intent of the IRT company was to run its local trains 
to Brooklyn Bridge and then thru a loop under City Hall Park. This 
service remianed substantially fixed since day one on this line. The 
only significant alteration was the closing of a station, City Hall, 
in the loop in the 1940s. You can see the closed station on the right 
side of the train as you ride around the loop. This station is opened 
occasionally for excursions and special visits.. 
    Express trains were run to South Ferry, also a loop station. Only 
a few trains were expected to run to Brooklyn, in spite of the 
enormous potential for business there. When the IRT was enlarged in 
the 1910s thru Brooklyn to its present extent, most express trains 
were routed to Brooklyn. 
    The South Ferry and Bowling Green stations wre built to allow both 
thru service and shuttle service. At Bowling Green tracks to South 
Ferry tap off of the mainline and also berth at a short platform 
within the station. You see this platform, now closed, at the downtown 
end of Bowling Green. It is used today only for stashing a work car 
once in a while.
Present South Ferry 
    South Ferry has two tracks. The inner track has one short 
platform, now closed, for the shuttle service from Bowling Green. It, 
and the Bowling Green platform, berthed a two-car train. Shuttle 
service was an on-&-off feature, the last being in the 1980s when it 
was permanently dismantled. 
    The Bowling Green and South Ferry stations are only about 250 
meters apart, making it simpler to get out and walk than to wait for 
the shuttle to fire up and bump to the next station. As explained 
below, eliminating the shuttle also speeded up service thru Bowling 
Green on the mainline of the Lexington Av line. 
    The outer track has a longer platform for a five-car train, the 
length of an express train of the 1900s era. When other sttaions in 
the 1950s were prolongs to accommodate longer trains, South Ferry could 
not be extended in any feasible way. The platform was hemmed in by the 
tracks and switches leading into the loop. 
    The result, up to today, is that riders on a downtwon train must 
walk thru the train to the first five cars to get off at South Ferry. 
The conductor opens only the 'front' hald, forward of his location in 
the middle of the train. He leave the doors in the rear cars closed 
for being in the tunnel away from the platform. 
    Like other stations on the original IRT and early extensions, 
South Ferry is richly ornamented, being among the handsomest designs. 
On the outer platform the wall has deeply sculpted name tablets and 
finishing. A 1900s-style ferryboat fills the picture tablets along the 
wall. Hamhanded modifications in the 1950s-60s destroyed the middle of 
the platform, where the only entrance is now located. 
    The inner plaform had only modest decoration, small tablets, and 
mostly white tile walls. 
Gap fillers 
    The tracks in South ferry are among the sharpest curved in the New 
York subway. The inner one has a radius of about 35 meters; the outer, 
40. The straight side of a subway coach is a secant to the platform 
edge on the outer track and a tangent to the edge on the inner track. 
The gap to step across while getting on or off is hazardous. The outer 
platform is fitted with mechanical moving sections along the platform 
that pop out against the coach to cover the gap. This is a unique 
feature on the New York subway, altho there are less severe curves, 
with gap fillers, at Union Square station.
    The moving sections are purely mechnical with no motors to get out 
of order. To deploy, they are unlatched from their home position to 
slide on sloping rails and rollers. They bump to a halt against the 
car side. To retract, the train creeps forward slowly and shoves the 
fillers back upslope, where they latch. Until all of the latches are 
engaged, the signal at the driver's end of the platform is rad to hold 
the train still. Only when it clears may the train accelerate out of 
the station. 
    Despite constant operation 24/7, malfunctions of the gap fillerd 
seem to be rare. I personally recall only one instance when a filler 
jammed, forcing the train to stay put in the station. Transit workers 
manually retracted it. This was several decades ago. 
    On the inner platform the edge was blocked by a solid wall. Niches 
along the wall lined up with doors in the center of the subway car. 
These were closest to the edge, requiring no gap fillers. The track-
side face of this wall look mucj like a tunnel wall, making the inner 
platform almost hidden from casual notice from the outer platform. 
    This is NOT at all a detailed account of the services operated 
thru the South ferry station. There were dozens of services over the 
century of this station's operation and I do not lay them out here. i 
give here examples of how the station was used for assorted routings 
without linking them to other services or a timeline. 
    To follow the descriptions, refer to the diagram of the raliworks 
here. The 7th Av line works the west side of Manhattan and parts of 
the Bronx. The Lexington Av line handles Manhattan's east side ond 
other parts of the Bronx. This line also serves parts of Brooklyn via 
tracks that bypass South Ferry station.  
    Each track is a single line on this map, consisting of the two 
rails, ties, roadbed, &c. Platforms are '#'. '(' and ')' show where 
tracks pass under others with no connection. Bumpers at the end of the 
rail is 'O'. The layout is that of 2008 with no attempt to depict 
changes over the century of service for this station. 
                             to Lexington Av line 
                                     |  | 
     to 7th Av line                  |\/| 
        |  |                         |/\| 
      ##|  |## Rector                |  | 
      ##|  }## Street                |##| Bowling 
      ##|  |##                    O  |##| Green 
        |\/|                      |##|##| 
        |/\|                      | /|  |\ 
        |  |                      |/ |  |  \ 
        |   \                     |  |  |   | 
        |     \                  /   |  |   | 
        |       \              /     |  \   | 
        |         \---------)/(--- \  \   \)| 
        |                  /         \  \   |( 
        |                /             \  \)| \ 
        |        /-----/                |   |(  \ 
        |      /                        )  /  \   \------ to 
        |    /                           /      \-------- Brooklyn 
        |   |                           /(   
        |   |                         /  | 
         \  |\    South Ferry inner  /|  | 
           \|  \         ##        /  |  / 
             \   \---------------/    |/ 
                   South Ferry outer 
    Service from the 7th Av line was remarkably stable since the line 
opened in the 1910s. To attach the 7th Av to South Ferry, some extra 
tracks were added so the station is really a 'double loop' structure. 
Trains from Rector St rounded the loop to berth at the outer platform 
and returned to Rector St. Trace the left track from Rector St in a 
counterclickwise path back to that station. 
    Variations in this service wre all in parts of the line north of 
Rector Street. The most notable was a skip-stop service in the 1980s 
thru the mid 2000s. Route 1 made certain stops on the Upper Broadway 
segment of the line while route 9 made certain others. This operation 
ended in about 2005 and now only route 1 trains run, making all stops 
on the line. 
    Shuttle trains from Bowling Green stopped at the inner platform. 
At that platform the driver changed ends and reversed his steps back 
to Bowling Green. The segment of track continuing to the right out of 
South Ferry and back to Bowling Green was not routinely used. Trace 
the trck from the small platform at Bowling Green in a CCW direction, 
staying on the inner loop in South Ferry. 
    A dedicated set of cars was assigned to the shuttle service. On 
these cars only the center doors, closest to the platform edge and 
lined up with the wall niches, opened. The outer doors were disabled 
and locked shut. 
    Thru service from the Lexington Av line varied widely over the 
years. However, it was typicly a train from Bowling Green mnialine, 
switching to the inner loop track, switching to the outer loop, 
stopping at the outer platform, continuing around, switching back to 
the inner track, and returning to Bowling Greem. Trace the left 
mainline track from Bowling Green, minding the two switches near the 
South Ferry platform. 
    Thru servie with no stop is operated now. Same routing as above, 
but the train no longer makes the stop. It rolls thru South Ferry on 
the inner track. Using the inner track avoids interference with 
service from the 7th Av line and lessens wear and tear of the 
    Such trains are signed for 'Bowling Green'. Riders.are discharged 
from the downtown train at Bowling Green. The empty train does the 
loop to come back to Bowling Green to begin its uptown run. These 
trains run at moderate speed without stopping and get back to Bowling 
Green in a couple minutes, speeding up the service. Trace the left 
mainline track from Bowling Green and stay on the inner loop around 
South Ferry. 
New works
    In the diagram below I added the railworks for the new South Ferry 
station. Geographicly it is two levels under the present station and 
lined up with State St on the ground. It's a single straight platform 
of 150 meter length to hold a full 10-car train. It's width so far is 
varously cited but it has to be 7 meters at least for free flow of 
foot traffic along it. The double switch allows for two trains to 
berth in the station and be sent out in either sequence. 
    A special feature is the extra track beyond the station, the 
overrun or tail tracks, These are similar to those at Times Sq, IRT 
Flushing line, (temporrily out of service) where a train can be 
pocketed in busy hours. They also avoid the hazard of a trainhitting a 
bumper for coming into the station too fast.
    There is spectulation that the line couldd be extended to 
Brooklyn. While the level and slope and heading are suitable, there is 
no credible plan to prolong the line any where beyond this terminal. 
    The new platform has three station houses on ground level. One 
connects to both the Staten Island Ferry depot and the Whitehall St 
station, BMT Montague St. The other two are street entry houses next 
to Battery Park.
    The north end of the station is about under the south end of 
Bowling Hreen station but there is no provision to make a connection 
between the two stations. Riders have to leave a one station, walk 
across the street, enter the other with a new fare.  
    The finishing of the new station is not known for sure. I imagine 
that it was follow the paradigm of renovations else where in the 
subway system. Because South Ferry is the first allnew station since 
the present paradigm was established, so there is no original existing 
finishing to bank off of, For sure you will not see a replica of, say, 
57th St/6th Av or Grand St. At the same time I doubt you'll see a 
Queensbridge or Jamaica Center motif. 
    If there is an excursion to inspect the new station before it is 
officially opened, I'll report of what to expect. 
                             to Lexington Av line 
                                     |  | 
     to 7th Av line                  |\/| 
        |  |                         |/\| 
      ##|  |## Rector                |  | 
      ##|  }## Street                |##| Bowling 
      ##|  |##                    O  |##| Green 
        |\/|                      |##|##| 
        |/\|                      | /|  |\ 
        |  |                      |/ |  |  \ 
       /|  |\                     |  |  |   | 
     /  | /   \                  /   |  |   | 
   /    X       \              /     |  \   | 
   |  / |         \---------)/(--- \  \   \)| 
   | /  |                  /         \  \   |( 
   | |  |                /             \  \)| \                                
   |  \)|        /-----/  new station   |   |(  \ 
   |    |(\---)/(------------------O    )  /  \   \------ to 
   |    |    /        \ / ####   tail    /      \-------- Brooklyn 
    \   |   |         / \ ####  tracks  /(   
      \)|(-)|(---------------------O  /  | 
         \  |\    South Ferry inner  /|  | 
           \|  \         ##        /  |  / 
             \   \---------------/    |/ 
                   South Ferry outer 
Old station
    The current South Ferry station will be closed, with the 
commissioning of the new station. Open date as at late August 2008 is 
mid February 2009. All riders use the new station and all access to 
the old are walled up. The fate of the artwork in old South Ferry is 
unknown. As long as it is in a sealed chamber, it should survive for 
potential relocation to the new station. 
    The diversion from Rector St is a grade crossing, indicated by the 
'x' where tracks cross like those of trolley cars on the street. Such 
crossings are rare in the New York subway, which employs flying 
junctions to what many visitors consider an extravagant degree.. 
However, once the new station is open, the route to the present 
station is closed. The tracks must remian live for shifting trains 
between east and west side and for run-arounds when the new station is 
off duty for some reason. The grade crossing will see only 
intermittent use in slack hours of operation. 
New routing
    Only 7th Av service can work the new station. There is no way that 
Lexington Av trains can reach the station for regular service. With 
the old station shut, there is no possivility of Lexington Av service 
to South Ferry. Likely the trains ending at Bwoling Green will roll 
thru a dark empty South Ferry station. 
    Recall from above that some Lexington Av trains  used to stop at 
South Ferry. When they did, a rider could transfer between east and 
west side by getting off of the one train and waiting for a following 
train of the other line. This transfer was never promoted by the 
Transit Authority. It was only the wisely rider who knew about the 
'accidnetal' favor and exploited it. 
Depiction on maps
    Just about all subway lines are simple to depict on maps. A 
linear, if sinuous, trace with dots for stations usually does the 
trick. A simple loop is also easy to delineate, with appropriate 
arrows to indicate the direction of travel around the loop. South 
Ferry with its nested loops and tangle of tracks was a problem for 
    Maps of the IRT company, the City transit agencies, and thir d-
parties all had probelms with South Ferry. Part of the trouble was 
sheer lack of intimate knowledge of the railworks in this area. Part, 
in the earlier years, was the overlaying of railworks for the els that 
converged at South Ferry.
    Most cartographers caught on that the inner and outer platforms 
were segregatted with no crossunder between them. So one depiction of 
South Ferry was TWO DISTINCT LOOPS, often seprarted geographicly by a 
hundred meters on the ground. Ibe loop was tied to the 7th Av line at 
Rector St; the other, Bowling Green on the Lexington Av line. This 
scheme ignored the period during which BOTH lines stopped at the outer 
plaform and allowed the east-west transfer. 
    An other feature sometimes ineptly drawn was the attachment of the 
mainline to Brooklyn. Some old maps disguise the connection under 
thick lines for other tracks, so it is not clear where trains from 
Brooklyn were going. On the ground, the Brooklun tracks pass UNDER the 
present South Ferry station and can be traced by vent grates on the 
street all the way to the shoreline.
    Things greatly simplified when the els were removed, leaving only 
the subway lines to map out. Even so, right thru the 1980s, often the 
way out for mapmakers was to stick to the two-loop scheme. The 
mainline to Brooklyn was placed outside the loop to join it at the 
'knot' near Bowling Green or inside the loop, which is more accurate 
    A common work-around was a two-stub method. The loops were left 
out to make South Ferry look like two adjacent terminals eith bumpers 
where trains must reverse direction to commence their return trip. In 
this layout, the 'loop' joined the mainline in a tap at Bowling Green. 
    Since the Lexington Av trains stopped working South Ferry, maps 
became much simpler. Only the 7th Av line has a South Ferry terminal 
and it is usually an end-of-rail symbol. Once in a while I see a 
third-party map that shows a simple lasso=liio with a station symbol 
in its middle. 
Present state of work 
    As at late August 2008 just about all of the civil works is 
complete. The new trackways and station shell are finished. You can 
see the diversion of the new line fron the front of a downtewn train 
leaving Rector St. If your train has a blind front or you're not in 
the first car, look out of the right side windows.
    Shafts to the street from the entrance houses are finished, but 
the surface structures are still under construction. Electric, water, 
hydraulic, pneumatic lines are being installed and are in part use to 
support the construction. 
    Once in a while you see a construction machine arriving or leaving 
Minuet Plaxa or adjacent part of Battry Park. The Park is essentially 
untouched, save for temporary intrusions that will be removed and 
repaired when the station opens. Part of the works is improvement to 
Battery Park, such as replacing or repaired furniture and tidying up 
Battery Park
    One fact about Battery Park little known to even learned New 
Yorkers is its original purpose. There was no park in the colonial 
times. Bowling Green was the main park for Lower Manhattan. The town 
commons was where City Hall Park is now. The area west and south of 
Bowling Green was occupied by a humongous fort, a lot like Fort Jay on 
Governors Island. 
    After independence, the fort was demolished and used for landfill 
south of Bowling Green. On top was laid out a green as the campus of 
the new national captial! That is, the United States would be homed in 
buildings clustered at the south end of manhattan like a college. 
    When the captial was relocated to the new town of Washington, in 
exchange for taking over the debts of the states in the revolution, 
the groun was redonw into ordinary parkland. A row, a battry, of 
cannon was placed on the shore to defend the harbor, whence the 
park's name. The layout of the paths and lawns of today has no relation 
to the original national campus. 
Urban Archaeology
    The new station and railworks was dug out of the oldest part of 
Manhattan, possibly encountering artifacts from the Dutch and British 
era. Some items were found and removed for safekeeping, study, and 
eventual placement in museums. Much of ths district was filled in to 
enlarge Manhattan with dump rock, dirt, discarded building stone, 
junked ships, and other debiris. Many false alarms were triggered by 
hitting such material along the way, they being of minor historical 
    It was not expected to find much durable remains because most 
construction in the early centuries was of wood, thatch, cloth, and 
other perishable material. Iron hardware would have rusted away in the 
soil wetted by groundwater from the harbor. Yet occasional brass and 
pewter items were unearthed, as well as some laid stones from old 
building foundations. 
    It's not common nowayears to see subway construction in New York! 
it is all the more so due to stealth techniques. If you look at old 
pictures of subway building, you see streets torn up, businesses in 
upheaval, machines and gear all over the strets, and a general 
disorder to life along the route. 
    With modern meothds, only a minor interruption to street life is 
caused by underground work. As a stunning example, the tunnels for the 
Long Island railroad depot under Grand Central Terminal were dug with 
NO diturbance to the street at all! Most people simply were unaware 
that anything was going on under their feer. The two tunnals, and the 
chamber that will house the new terminal, are massive excavations 40 
meters below the ground. The tunnels are each about 1,800 meters long, 
from 39th St & Park Av to 63rd St and 2nd Av. 
    The only street activity for the South Ferry station seems to be a 
rebuilding of Minuet Plaza, in front of the Staten Island ferry depot, 
and that looks like any other surface-level operation. Eventually, 
you'll see diversion of traffic to link up the new station to the 
ferry terminal and to Whitehall St station. Plywood walls will divert 
you from your usual path to other roundabout ones. 
    Then, suddenly, you'll see brandnew stairs, escalators, corridors, 
behind parade barriers. Then, on opening day, the way is made clear to 
enter the new station and ride the trains waiting there for you.