Park Row was a major elevated railway terminal in Manhattan for BMT train services operating over the Brooklyn Bridge. Until the opening of the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges, Park Row was the ONLY Manhattan station available for elevated trains from Brooklyn. For the first decade and a half, 1883 - 1898, it was used exclusively by trains of the New York & Brooklyn Bridge Railway, a cable hauled line that spanned the length of the bridge between Park Row and another terminal on the Brooklyn side called Sands street.
On June 18, 1898 elevated trains of predecessor companies of the BMT began using Park Row as a terminal. At the height of its success, it had 4 platforms on 4 tracks in the main part of the terminal and another 3 on two tracks west of the main train shed. From 1898 - 1913, lines that served this terminal were the Fulton street el, Lexington el, Myrtle Ave el, Fifth Ave el (from Bay Ridge), Third Ave el (from Bay Ridge, not the Manhattan Third Ave el), and the ones still around like the Culver, West End, Brighton Beach, and Sea Beach lines. The early routes to these lines were as follows:
The Fulton street el went from City line to Atlantic Ave. After Atlantic Ave it continued the Fulton street el to Court street, switched to the Fifth Ave el at Sands, and finally across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Myrtle Ave el went from Metropolitan Ave to the upper level of Myrtle Ave el (still there but abandoned), continued along a NOW demolished portion of the Myrtle Ave el to Navy street, switched to the Fifth Ave el from Bridge to Adams streets, went to Sands, then finally across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Lexington Ave el went from Cypress Hills along the Park Ave el to Broadway Junction, switched to the Broadway el to Reid, switched to the Lexington Ave el to Washington Ave, switched to Myrtle Ave el to Navy street, continued along Fifth Ave el from Bridge to Adams streets, went to Sands, then finally across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Fifth Ave el went from 36th street (Union Depot) to Myrtle Ave, switched onto the Myrtle Ave el at Navy street, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Third Ave el went from 65th street to 36th street (Union Depot), switched onto the Fifth Ave el to Navy street on the Myrtle Ave el, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Culver line went from Culver terminal on Surf Ave and W 5 ST along McDonald Ave as a surface railroad to 36th street (Union Depot), switched onto the Fifth Ave el to Navy street on the Myrtle Ave el, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Sea Beach line went from Sea Beach Palace Hotel on Surf Ave and W 10 ST along the rural farmlands of Bensonhurst to 62nd street as a surface railroad, switched onto the West End surface railroad at 39th street, switched to the Fifth Ave el at 36th street (Union Depot), switched to the Myrtle Ave el at Navy street, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The West End line went from West End terminal on Surf Ave and Stillwell Ave (the site of today's Stillwell Ave terminal) as a surface railroad throughout Bensonhurst, switched to the Fifth Ave el at 36th street (Union Depot), switched to the Myrtle Ave el at Navy street, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
The Brighton line went from Brighton Beach terminal on Surf Ave along the rural farmlands of Midwood as a surface railroad, switched to the Franklyn Ave shuttle at Prospect Park, switched to the Fulton street el at Franklyn Ave, traveled the Fulton street el, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Row.
Park Row declined as a terminal for elevated trains between 1913 and 1950. This was the time when newer bridges and subways were being built on Fourth Ave, Brooklyn as well as Broadway and downtown Manhattan. As people preferred the more modern subways, all the Brooklyn lines changed routes and connected with the Broadway subway. These were the changes below:
10/27/1913, last day of "older" Sea Beach service in preparation for the current Fourth Ave subway, Broadway, and Sea Beach line on 6/22/1915. It should be noted that the "older" Park Row to Coney Island route came back very briefly along the current Sea Beach line when it was first built! This was probably to exploit the middle express tracks, (mostly neglected since 1968).
6/23/1916, the West End el began using the Fourth Ave subway to Broadway exclusively.
8/1/1920, the Brighton line began using the Fourth Ave subway to Broadway. The orphaned stations became the Franklyn Ave shuttle which was cut from the Fulton street el to the north.
5/30/1931, Some Culver trains were rerouted to the Fourth Ave subway to Nassau street loop when the later opened in 1931. This was known as the BMT 5a service. The original Culver service, renamed the BMT 5b service hung on for another 9 years co-existing with the Culver 5a train. In recognition of Park Row's declining use, the station was configured to two tracks to simplify operations.
5/31/1940, In preparation of the NYC takeover of the BMT system, the Fifth Ave and Third Ave els were abandoned which also ended the original Culver 5b service to those lines. The Fulton street el was abandoned in parts as well creating a newer Fulton-Lexington Ave el service. This was on the surviving outer portion of the Fulton street el over the Lexington and Myrtle Ave lines to Park Row.
3/5/1944, all remaining elevated lines stopped running to Park Row. The Myrtle Ave el, Lexington Ave el, and Fulton-Lex were cutback to Bridge-Jay street. Brooklyn Bridge street-cars were shifted to the elevated tracks that year up until 1950 when ALL transit was removed from the bridge COMPLETELY. After 1950, the street-cars continued using trolly loops beneath the Park Row train shed which was eventually torn down.