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Interpreting the Evidence

Elevated Train, New York City, 1936

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Elevated Train, New York City, 1936 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
An elevated train on Second Avenue in New York City’s financial district, 1936.
Historical Context
New York City's first elevated train opened in 1868.  This cable-powered train quickly became outdated; the New York Elevated Railway was already replacing their cables with small steam locomotives in 1871. By 1903, the elevated trains had converted to electric power, which provided a cleaner, smoother ride. Running three stories above city streets, elevated trains changed the look of the city and how people moved throughout it.
Essential Question
How does the availability of transportation affect the economic and cultural aspects of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of this technology on the local communities.
Historical Challenges
There was heated debate about tearing down the elevated train line shown in the photograph. What were some of the arguments for and against tearing down the Second Avenue el? When was it finally demolished?
What was the last elevated train line to close in Manhattan, and when did it close?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Compare and contrast steam power and electric power for transportation. Which is better? Why?
Math: Incorporate the many shapes in the picture into a geometry lesson.