clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why a Green Line trolley has stopped permanently at the Brooklyn waterfront

It starts in a tunnel

The O’Connell Organization

There is a Green Line trolley from Boston parked permanently on the waterfront of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

Standing near it, one can see much of New York’s upper harbor, including the coastline of Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty. Behind the trolley, a Fairway supermarket does brisk business beneath a building chock-a-block with lofty apartments carved from an old industrial warehouse.

How did the Green Line come to stop here, a good 220 miles from Boston?

It all started in the early 1980s, when a Brooklyn resident named Bob Diamond discovered an abandoned Long Island Rail Road tunnel. That gave him an idea: To build a trolley line throughout Brooklyn, utilizing existing infrastructure (or installing his own) and older, perhaps out-of-date train cars.

Thus the Green Line car. It was once part of a trio that Diamond acquired, all dating from 1951 and each a veteran of decades on the T. Diamond also acquired cars from Germany by way of Norway and from Ohio.

New York City initially backed his trolley idea and for a couple of years an abbreviated system ran. In the words of the Forgotten New York blog, which chronicled Diamond’s ups and downs, “tourists marveled” as the trolley cars “clanged along the waterfront.”

Then Diamond ran out of funding and had trouble getting more; and the city wearied of the idea. The financial crash of 2008 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 didn’t help matters. The latter walloped much of the Brooklyn coastline.

By 2014, Diamond’s trolleys were disappearing, shunted off to transportation museums or the scrapyard.

The trolley cars in 2009, after Diamond’s idea fizzled.

The lone Green Line one remains. It is apparently permanently parked outside of Fairway and only steps from the water’s edge in an increasingly hip and gentrified area of Red Hook—there’s a winery, an artisanal bakery, and an Ikea nearby; plenty of parks; and lots chic residential space converted from factories, foundries, etc.

The car is in pretty good shape now after a period of disrepair (and then repair). And, while visitors cannot go inside it, they can still take in the signage on the outside.

On an early June visit, the front placard read “Boston College.”