The following excerpt from my novel is from my young narrator, Brooklyn’s point of view. It was inspired by an abandoned subway station—Myrtle Avenue—a ghostly platform that the Brighton Beach Express sped past throughout my childhood.
At last I find a platform. I sit down on a bench and wait and wait, but trains just keep speeding by. Maybe I’m supposed to go back upstairs. I look, but the stairway’s bricked up, so I climb down the steps at the end of the platform and walk into the dark train tunnel. I walk and walk and as I walk I run my fingers along a snaking yellow pipe, like a handrail on the sooty wall. The tunnel gets narrower and narrower and then it’s painted with red and white stripes and the words: Danger, No Clearance.
The ground starts shaking. Two lights like yellow eyes rush at me, getting huge, filling the tunnel. I slam back into a niche just as the train rushes by, rattling and clanking. In the cars whizzing past I glimpse blank-faced people, mostly old, not one of them looking out of the dirty glass windows.
And while I’m at it:
Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue is the terminal stop—come here and you leave Manhattan behind, one reason it’s ideal for escapism.
The train to Coney Island wasn’t always elevated. It started out as a steam line in 1875, which opened the island to the millions. It was electrified in 1899, and elevated in 1919. I’m told that the inhabitants of the shantytown I described in a previous post came there to build it and stayed. There were also trolley cars. I remember seeing the tracks when I was a kid.
This is romantic, is it not?
And so is this:
These look something like the subway of my story:
There are literally hundreds of great train songs. I asked Jim to come up with a playlist, but he couldn’t get it down to less than thirty, so I took an ax to it myself. Please add your favorite train songs through comments.