Ghosts of the Elevated Railroads Walking Tour

Elevated Railroads Walking Tour Overview

Join us on a special tour that will dive into the history of some of Manhattan’s long-lost Elevated Railroad Lines.

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While it may seem hard to believe today, it was not that long ago (the 1950s) when elevated trains rumbled above the streets of Manhattan. When they first opened in the 1860s, the “Els” provided the first true rapid transit to a city choked by traffic, and transformed the map of Manhattan in ways that few other industrial developments have. 

Your expert guide Michael will guide you along former downtown sections of the 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue Elevated Railroads, as well as the trains that ran across the Brooklyn Bridge until 1940.

As we walk the streets of lower Manhattan, Chinatown and the Lower East Side, we will identify and examine the remnants of the former railroads, some of which still stand on our 21st Century streets. We will explore the desperate need for rapid transit in mid-19th century downtown Manhattan, a need that led various entrepreneurs to develop and build the elevated trains. Even Tammany Hall got in on the action, and tried to scuttle all other plans for rapid transit downtown. (Tammany failed.)

Along the way, we will discuss the problems that the Els helped solve, and the problems they caused, from their inception in 1867 to their final razing in 1955. The Els transformed Manhattan as never before, allowing poor immigrants an avenue to escape, if even for a day, the horrible conditions of the Five Points and Lower East Side.

We will dip below ground to the fascinating Chambers Street subway station, which holds secrets related to the Els. And we will envision what would have happened had the Els never been torn down.


Ghosts of the Els Tour Highlights

Els up the Bowery, near Grand Street
  • The Brooklyn Bridge, which from the outset was designed to carry trains across the revolutionary span.
  • The Chambers Street J-Z station, which at one time connected to trains coming across the Brooklyn Bridge. 
  • The magnificent Municipal Building, whose very shape was designed in part to accommodate the terminal of the existing 2nd Avenue Elevated Railroad. 
  • Chatham Square, the great transfer point between the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els, which the New York Times described in 1880 as “the great changing-place, where no passenger is quite sure whether he must sit still or get out, climb over the bridge and take another train.”
  • The only remaining power station from the Elevated Era still standing on Manhattan Island. 
  • Allen Street, which was widened in part to alleviate the darkness, dirt and grime created by the 2nd Avenue El. 


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Rates

Person – $35.00
(Best suited for adults and most children over 8 years old.) 

Private Group – $400
($400 for the first 8 people, $50 for each additional person)

Please contact us to set up a private tour!


Duration

2 Hours
(Walking distance of approximately 1.25 miles)

Please note: The walking tour runs rain or shine — dress for the weather!

Walking Distance: Approximately 1.25 miles


NOTE: All guests will need to have a working MetroCard in order to access the Chambers Street Station. This is not included in the cost of the tour.