On June 25, 1923, a tragic accident occurred on this line when two cars derailed and crashed to the street, killing eight people and injuring dozens more. According to reports, the accident was caused by a broken axle. In a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, one onlooker described the scene: “I don’t remember whether I heard them or not. I did hear the breaking of the timbers underneath. The car rolled along the ties like a drunken sailor. Nobody cried out. We were all petrified.”
The Fifth Avenue Line continued to operate after this event, but closed permanently in 1940. The elevated rails were dismantled by 1941. The Fifth Avenue Line was replaced by the Fourth Avenue subway, serving the D, N, and R lines.
Accidents on the elevated tracks were not terribly uncommon due to the lack of an emergency breaking system to stop fast moving trains. In fact, the Malbone Street Wreck, considered the deadliest train crash in United States history, occurred a few years earlier in 1918 and killed at least 93 people. To learn more about the Malbone Street Wreck, check out the fantastic book The Malbone Street Wreck by Brian J. Cudahy, available at the Othmer Library.
This photograph comes from the Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection which is comprised of roughly 1,400 black-and-white photographs taken between 1860 and 1920. The majority of the photographs in this collection were taken by amateur photographers and depict scenes in Brooklyn and Suffolk County. To view more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.
Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org