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All Things Brooklyn – Brooklyn Sting: Transit Museum Shenanigans

Posted Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 9:00 am by Julie in Cultural Bees. More in 11201

On yet another chilly afternoon, I ventured to the New York Transit Museum for my weekly dose of culture. The green globe at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street marks the subterranean entrance to the museum, housed in the now-defunct Court Street station.

Our first stop on the Transit Museum tour was Steel, Stone & Backbone: Building New York’s Subways 1900-1925. My friend and I marveled at images of the old City Hall station. With arches and intricate tile work, why can’t all our subway stations be that beautiful? (Maybe because the MTA has that pesky little budget shortage.) After perusing displays about Robert Moses, the evolution of rider currency, and the newly-renamed Triborough Bridge, we were ready to move to the hands-on exhibits.

The highlight of the Transit Museum is the collection of vintage subway cars lined up at the old station’s platform. Dating from the 1880s to the present, the cars are completely retrofitted to appear as they did during their heyday. Look up and check out the period ads that line the ceiling of each car. My favorite was “One Day Women Will Vote…For Gold Dust.” Since this ad featured little babies in blackface, we couldn’t really tell what exactly Gold Dust was.

We opened every door and pushed every button on the classic cars, but my friend and I still couldn’t answer my most burning question about the subway system: where do conductors go to the bathroom? All but one of the mysterious conductor rooms were locked, but the one unlocked room had some fun buttons and switches we could play with. Obviously, these buttons and switches weren’t part of the museum’s exhibits, but we couldn’t resist. The first switch started some sort of engine in the defunct subway car. Oops! We turned that one off right away. We’ll never know what the second switch does, because sparks flew as soon as we turned it on. We nearly got electrocuted, but it was damn funny. Note to the MTA: you may want to lock that door.

The Transit Museum is a great place to bring a kid or to unleash your inner kid.  The pint-sized patrons were more than amused by small scale buses and interactive exhibits with lots of flashing lights and shiny objects. Being the big kids that we are, my friend and I had entirely too much fun turning the old subway cars into our own jungle gyms. (Seriously, it’s a wonder we didn’t get thrown out.)

If you ever wanted to jump a subway turnstile without getting fined 100 bucks, the Transit Museum is the place for you. Oh, it’s also a good place to learn a little history. With admission at just $5 for adults, this museum is a bargain.

New York Transit Museum // Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn Heights // 718-694-1600 // 2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall, M/R to Court Street, A/C/G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street, A/C/F to Jay Street/Borough Hall

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