History in the subway station

History in the subway station
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY

The New York Transit Museum is a downtown Brooklyn treasure. Located in an old subway station, it still has live tracks running through it, now displaying historic cars from many eras of railroad history.

This part of Downtown Brooklyn is a busy shopping district with a bus/pedestrian mall and lots of street vendors near Borough Hall. As you follow the stairs down to the museum you go back in time to the days of horsedrawn streetcars.

It wasn’t until the 1940s and 50s that all the small private streetcar and transit companies were put together into the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Before that you rode the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) or the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT). The Long Island Railroad is still a separate system–your metro card won’t work on the LIRR!

It was fun to look at all the cars from different times–the ad cards gave an insight into which time period the cars came from. These are a couple of my favorites:

After looking at all the old trains and railroad memorabilia, and new exhibits about the building of the subway tunnels and the power systems that supply the electricity, I finally discovered the bus displays. My friends from TriMet and other transit properties around the country may recognize the second farebox from the right (GFI).

The most exciting thing I found was a display about a day in the life of a Manhattan bus–the photo below shows an old friend of mine from Transit Trainers Conferences, Joey Giammarino! Joey was a training supervisor at the Staten Island Bus Garage–I think he’s probably retired by now. He once took me to their huge training facility in the Bronx and let me drive the bus simulator (while he sat behind me, programming rogue taxis to cut in front of me and slam on their brakes!). BTW you could not pay me enough to be a bus driver in Manhattan. The traffic is a nightmare and loading passengers takes forever. They are trying a new system on certain lines, where you pay your fare at a kiosk on the street and keep the receipt to show the random fare inspectors.

We had a free afternoon today and many in our group went off to see a Broadway matinee. I had bought tickets online for a live taping of the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. This is a funny show about topics in the news, that filled the time slot vacated by Steven Colbert. It comes on weeknights after the Daily Show.

Since the show wasn’t until later in the afternoon, I decided to go first to the Natural History Museum. I haven’t been there since I was a kid, and I have been wanting to see the new Rose Center for Earth and Space. They have a fabulous light show about the Big Bang, narrated by Liam Neeson. I also saw a special exhibit called Nature’s Fury, about natural disasters.

The Natural History Museum is huge and it’s easy to get lost in. Luckily all the staff is very helpful and I managed to find all the things I was looking for. The Nature’s Fury exhibit touched on storms, volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters. I thought it was very interesting that hurricanes occur in lots of different places around the world, where they are also called cyclones and typhoons, but tornadoes happen only in the US.

After a slow bus ride (half an hour to go thirty blocks) I arrived at the tiny studio (seats 100) where the Nightly Show is taped. The tickets are free online, but you have to get there early and wait in line outside the studio. Not everybody gets in. I originally tried to get tickets for the Daily Show but since Jon Stewart announced he was retiring those tickets get snapped up the minute they are put up on the website. After waiting an hour or so we finally got to take our seats in the studio. The show was hilarious and even the warmup comedian was pretty funny. There was a special bit about a rogue cop with surprise guest Bobby Cannavale.

Oh yes, almost forgot to tell you–y’all know I’m not much of a shopper, but I spent a bunch of time and money at the Transit Museum gift shop–here’s my new favorite bag, with the NYC subway map (also got the shower curtain!).

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore airs at 11:30 pm Eastern Time–this one aired Wed. May 27, but you can usually find past episodes on Comedy Central.com or Hulu.


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