The Brooklyn Bridge, a yellow taxi speeding along the 5th Ave leaving behind itself a trail of blurred colors, the Statue of Liberty standing out on a cobalt blue sky or the unmistakable profile of Manhattan, took in turn from the New Jersey coast or from the Brooklyn Promenade.
There are several pictures, almost postcards, we unconsciously associate to the idea of New York, almost it is a perfume, a savor, a smell, an indelible memory.
If I think over New York, its old and fascinating stories and life flying unstoppable through its five boroughs, one of the snapshots (perhaps it would be better to say stop-motions) that occur to me forcefully is that one of an old subway station with its name framed in an odd majolica collage.
Then a bench darkened by time and a light tremor heralding the arrival of the next car, in the middle the neon lights, the variegate New Yorker melting pot passing next to me, the far music of a street artist and the feeling (almost surreal) to be in a non-place, suspended in spaced and time as if by magic.
A magic that you can relieve every day, thanks to an emotional historic trail with a leap in the past over 100 years ago, into the old Court Street subway station in Brooklyn, at the crossroads between Boerum Plaza and Schermerhorn Street, today seat of the New York Transit Museum.
Just around the corner on the right in Schermerhorn St you’ll find yourselves in front of the entrance of a common New York Subway station: go downstairs, pass the iron turnstile and stop at the old ticket office for the admission ticket ($7 adults, $5 children, free admittance with the New York Pass).
Don’t be frightened if you’ll find yourselves at the beginning in a sort of 4D museum for children: the expo of this story is dedicated mainly to them and if you have some little visitors with you, a stop is definitely recommended.
Have a short look at the photographic exhibition on the right and at the little museum about the New Yorker subway history on the left. Then go downstairs to the lower story: there comes the best of it!
You’ll find yourselves catapulted suddenly back in time.
An old bench with the “Court St.” sign, the wood benches, the little bricks vault marking the passage of the two lanes on both sides, the stationmaster’s old control office with direction boards and control levers.
And even 13 New York subway trains of all sorts of periods: from the super elevated lines of the early 1900s ones until nowadays, all strictly authentic, furniture included, and perfectly working.
Court Street was closed in 1946 because it was too little (only two lines) to get the raising traffic moving in Brooklyn towards Manhattan. Anyway, it worked (actually today it is still working) and was used for the passage of some quick trail.
From 1960 people began to warehouse here the old obsolete cars and the whole station became a movie set for really many movies: still today during the tours it’s easy to run into some troupes shooting scenes or short ads.
Always make sure about the opening schedules before your visit: sometimes the whole area is closed to public because it is used for important public and private events.
Get the time to dream, to go into the cars, to sit on old and worn straw-bottomed seats or to lean against the hemp-covered handrails. Have a look at the old posters, the windows, the floor: you’ll be able to recognize alone the several historic periods.
Try even only for a moment to think about the quantity of people and stories passed by here and in the middle the events and the roll by of time.
From the charm of the cars of the early 1900s to the bright and sparkling silver of the 1950s ones, from the minimal and creepy cars of the detective movies of the 1980s as far as arrive to the cars of a definitely sadly famous trail: that one of the trains that until September 11 2001 passed under the World Trade Center in Ground Zero.
And if all this isn’t enough, you know that some of these trains, know as Nostalgia Trains, every year at Christmastime, in some scheduled days – usually on Sundays in December, you can find the dates on the MTA (the New York subway) – take life again and go along again some trails of the M lines, specifically between Queens Plaza and Second Ave.
Once aboard it’s possible to run into downright extempore parties with characters wearing vintage costumes (1930s, 1940s, 1950s and sometimes 1970s, too) with theme music and dances.
Sometimes some cars are completely rented and used for some particular night event (receptions, parties or launching parties) and the lucky guests are invited to show themselves strictly dressed as the vintage dress code.
A real luck to be able to meet one at your subway stop and take some photos.
It will be enough to keep in mind day and schedule and buy a normal subway ticket to relive the myth of the Belle Époque, the Antebellum America or the unconventional New York of the 1980s.
For the lovers of the vintage transit, some trails on board the Nostalgia Bus Highlight (the old city buses – in this case, too, you can find dates and schedules on the MTA official website) are scheduled, always in the same period.
There is nothing left to do but wish you to enjoy the ride.
So, enjoy the ride!