Thursday, February 26, 2015

NYC Life: New York Transit Museum

Worlds' Fair Manhattan-Queens Subway Car
My favorite kinds of museums are the interactive ones. It dates back probably to the Please Touch museum in Philadelphia. I'm a tactile, kinetic person, and touching and experiencing speak to me more than looking.

So when I learned that the MTA runs the New York Transit Museum in a working subway station in Brooklyn, I couldn't wait to check it out! New York schools were off last week, and it was the perfect time for me to see the museum, since it's only open until 4 on weekdays.

Since the Transit Museum is in a real working subway station, this is the entrance:

When you walk down and purchase your ticket, the first exhibit walks you through the construction of the subways. For many of the lines they actually dug pits in the ground, constructed the tracks, and then built back over the top, rather than tunneling through. The construction work was incredibly demanding, and the men were, predictably poorly compensated.

Once you walk out of the construction exhibit, you're in the main hall. There's an interactive exhibit on electricity. It was overrun with screaming and running kids (school's off, remember?) so I didn't get to spend much time there. It looked really interesting though!

Then came the cool part, and the REALLY cool part.

Buses and subways! There were REAL buses and REAL subway cars in the museum!

The bus/tram/streetcar exhibit came first.

Original streetcar replicas from the BRT

Bus maps

Old streetcar
 There was a timeline with public transit history and trivia. Who knew about the Brooklyn Dodgers?

The history of the Brooklyn Dodgers

Horse-drawn trolleys were in operation until 1917!
Fossil fuels and busses exhibit
In the main exhibition hall, there's a subway staircase going down:

Better be careful:

It leads to...

...a subway platform with real subway cars dating from the early 1900s through today (!!!!!!!!!). And just like your average subway platform in the winter, it was FREEZING.

The cars are open, and you can walk through them, sit on the seats, and look at the ads. Very, very cool.

There are also some non-subway cars. There are trolleys, part of an LIRR train, and some maintenance trains. These are all closed off, but you can look in the windows and read the signs.

Each car had ads from the era:

Fun fact: 75% of statistics are made up.
Wish they still had this one running...
There were tons of these.
Back up the stairs, and the last exhibit you go through is a turnstile retrospective!

And you can buy yourself a shirt on the way out:

The transit museum made for a good trip. I only spent an hour or so there, but there was enough to do to make a full morning or afternoon of it, especially with kids. An adult's ticket is $7, and there was certainly enough to see that I felt I got my money's worth.

Bear in mind: While the exhibits were all kid-friendly, the layout wasn't good for strollers or wheelchairs. This isn't the museum's fault, it's just what happens when you build in a subway station. The underground part where the trains are is not safe for small children to roam in. There are plenty of gaps between the trains and the trains and the platforms where a person could fall in. The third rail is electrified, since the station is operational.

If you're looking for an indoor interactive experience in New York, this is a great bet.

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