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Death Avenue: 1910

A detailed circa 1910 Manhattan streetscape of rail cars at West 26th Street and Eleventh Avenue, known as "Death Avenue" for the many pedestrians killed along the New York Central's freight line there. View full size. Removal of the street-level tracks commenced on December 31, 1929. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. Update: Click here for the largest version.

A detailed circa 1910 Manhattan streetscape of rail cars at West 26th Street and Eleventh Avenue, known as "Death Avenue" for the many pedestrians killed along the New York Central's freight line there. View full size. Removal of the street-level tracks commenced on December 31, 1929. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. Update: Click here for the largest version.


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29th St

Looks like you're right, that bldg is still there, but it's on the NW corner of 29th St and 10th Ave. In the Google streetview it's about a twin of the bldg at 28th St.

At the left edge of the Shorpy pic you see 267 10th Ave, which means the engine is about to cross 26th St. The train moved from the yard onto 10th Ave at 30th St.

Pic of 11th Avenue

Building Still There

According to a post here, this is actually the intersection of 10th Ave and W 26th Street. I looked up this intersection on Google Maps and it appears that one of the buildings in the old photo is still there. It's way down the street..behind the train, the 3rd building from the end on the left side of the street. (The windows look like there is a white stripe connecting them). I think that is the same building on the northwest corner of the intersection of 10th Ave and 27th Street. Just thought I'd throw that out there :)

10th Avenue

Another pic shows what 11th Avenue north from 26th St actually looked like; someone mislabelled this negative of 10th Ave.

Not The Sound of Silence!

Just try and imagine the sounds here! The shod horses clomping down the brick street. The wagons creaking along as the wheels roll on the bricks and dirt. The various bells (church, train, etc) pealing, the subtle sounds of conversations and pedestrian footsteps, the whisk of broom bristles as the street is cleaned! Much preferable to the honking, boom-boxing, brake-screeching, muffler-rapping scenarios we endure today!

N.Y. Central Shay

A city ordinance required that a horseman precede the rail movement, and that the locomotive be covered to look like a trolley car so as not to frighten horses. When the line was elevated it was electrified, I believe with locomotives that could also run on batteries to access trackage that had no overheard wires. At that time the Shay locomotives were put to use elsewhere on the New York Central system. Here is a photo, from my father's collection, of one of the Shays in service near Rochester, I believe. The spout on the left is not part of the locomotive but is on a water stand behind it.

NY Central dummy engine

>> Beneath the "dummy" shroud, it's actually a two-truck Shay locomotive

It seems the NY Central Shays weren't built until 1923-- so looks like he's right about the engine being an 0-6-0 beneath the dummy housing.

26th & 11th

The right side of 11th Ave & 26th St will be the terminus of the 7 Train extension from Times Square. (last station will be 11th Ave and 34th) . They are currently boring down to the bedrock.

26th and 11th

West 26th & 11th is the location the fabulous old Starrett Lehigh Building, a block-long warehouse looking like a stylized ocean liner, with train tracks from the pier leading right into the building and up the freight elevators. Its time was past before it was even finished in 1931 as the trucking industry eclipsed rail freight. Funky old place to wander around if you ever get the chance.

11th Ave train

If you look at the largest version you can see that it says 11 on the front which would make this an 0-6-0, class B-11. The Shays also show the offset boiler. Great photo.

11th Avenue Train

Beneath the "dummy" shroud, it's actually a two-truck Shay locomotive, a type of geared power popular on many logging and industrial operations with sharp curves and steep grades.

High Line

This rail line was replaced with an elevated line that entered the warehouses of the west side on their upper floors. It continued to be used into the early 1980s mostly for boxcars of produce. The boxcars shown are refrigerated for perishable items. The roof hatches are for loading ice into bunkers at the ends of the cars.

The elevated rail line still exists but is now owned by the city which is rebuilding it into an elevated linear park in Manhattan's Chelsea district.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

The worst factory fire in the history of New York City occurred on March 25, 1911, in the Asch building, where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the top three of ten floors. Five hundred women, mostly Jewish immigrants between thirteen and twenty-three years old, were employed there. The owners had locked the doors leading to the exits to keep the women at their sewing machines. In less than fifteen minutes, 146 women died. The event galvanized support for increased safety in the workplace. It also garnered support for labor unions in the garment district, and in particular for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

Much material was provided by several websites, but two in particular I want to call attention to, the first for an overall exceptionally presented look back at this tragedy and a stunning presentation of the labor movement. Truly a brilliant multimedia presentation.

The Triangle Factory Fire – Presented by The Kheel Center, Catherwood Library, ILR School at Cornell University.

and National Public Radio ...

I can not recommend those two sites too highly. They are top-notch.

And on YouTube, The Cloth Inferno.

26th and 11th

I went and looked up the intersection on Google maps, and the whole right side is a parking lot now.


What about the guy on crutches on the right. I wonder what the story is behind that.

The beer wagon

Incredible photo! The detail is fantastic. I like the beer wagon (wishful thinking?) in front of the train. I am just amazed....

My favorite part

My favorite part is the kid running down the sidewalk on the lower left. Perhaps he's trying to outrun the train? He reminds me of the drawings of Little Nemo.

[Lower left? Or right? - Dave]

The sheer amount of detail in this is incredible.

E.g. the kids' chalk scrawls on the sidewalk.

I'd imagine that a lot of the deaths occurred at night or in bad weather.

Tank Dummy

Perhaps the locomotive is one of these (scroll down to
the bottom of the page):

How fast?

I'm wondering just how fast these trains were barreling through the street to hit so many people? If they were being preceded by a guy on horseback they couldn't have been gong all that fast. And yet people still did not notice them coming? How does one not hear a steam locomotive?


Please note that there are no brake hoses on the locomotive. All handbrakes, so the brakeman rides on top because the staff brakes are on the car tops. to stop the train the engineer signals the brakeman and he starts ratcheting down the handbrakes

Re: Guy on the Roof

The man on the roof is a brakeman. Riding a car roof is better than hanging on a ladder on the car side.

Horse-drawn tram

Just to the right (our view) of the "train" is a horse drawn tram car being drawn along the track in the opposite direction.

Incontinent horse!

Did you see the incontinent horse?!!! Gash...! What a big river!!! That picture is really fantastic!!

Guy on the roof

Did you see the guy on the top of the roof of the third wagon? I am wondering what he is doing! Maybe watching pedestrians!!!

Mounted Flagman

I guess the guy on the horse on the foreground is also a mounted flagman... he is preceding the steam train to protect pedestrians!
Remember... "2000 killed in ten years" on the Death Avenue (Eleventh avenue)!
Funimag, the web magazine about Funiculars
Funimag Blog

"Freight Trolley"

The engine, as noted below, is clearly not a trolley. It appears to be a "steam dummy," a small locomotive, largely enclosed, often looking like a streetcar so as not to frighten the horses. A conventional locomotive, even a small one, with large driving wheels and flashing connecting rods, would certainly frighten the animals.

Freight Trolley?

I don't think so, at least not by most definitions. A trolley draws power from overhead lines and I can't see any power lines above the tracks or the necessary connecting wires (and their poles) to keep it in place. I do see a steam engine [Coal-powered. See photo below. - Dave] of a fairly specialized type and in the distant background a line of freight cars crossing the street. Given the proximity of the location to the Hudson River (it's near what is now Chelsea Docks) it wouldn't surprise me if this wasn't a New York Central spur line to connect the docks to a main line, in the period before most of the rail traffic in New York City went underground. There is a street car in the shot, but I'm guessing that it's a horse car (pulled by at least one horse).

What I find really interesting is that there's not a motor vehicle in sight, just horses, and the sheer amount of what the horses left behind (to put it euphemistically).

What's she holding?

Out of all the details in this picture, there is one that has drawn my attention. On the left side of the street, about in line with the front of the train, there is a woman holding something white. Can someone with a better monitor tell what that is? I'm thinking large dog (though I think it's unlikely that a dog that large would be carried--unless maybe it was scared by the train?) or squirming child, or possibly a massive sack of flour (not that likely, I admit.)


[Looks like a bundle of packages wrapped in paper. - Dave]

Re: Freight Trolley

Here's a closeup of the engine. The coal seems to be in a bin on the front. Bain took several photos of this rail line and the freight cars. I'll post some more in the coming days. Any railfans out there who can tell us more about the 11th Avenue line?

A Freight Trolley

I think this is one of my favorite photos ever. There's so much going on here that is representative of the time that I could spend hours scrutinizing it. I'd never even heard of there being freight trolleys that would rumble down city streets (I know, I need to do my homework). All the activity and storefronts and normalcy of it all. Simply incredible.

"How do I get to the Susquehanna Hat Company?"

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