Pomeranian

“He was a cute little rascal, and he was game. All he wanted was to get to his master. I’d somehow hate to be the kind of man who would run down a dog with a spirit like that.”–Joseph J. Krankoff, BMT Motorman

On August 29, 2013, two little kittens named Arthur and August shut down the New York City subway service for two hours on the Q and B lines in Brooklyn when transit workers spotted them on the tracks near Church Avenue. The two felines were rescued by a pair of cops and an MTA worker after officials cut power to the tracks. About 80 years ago, it was a littler Pomeranian that stopped the Astoria Line train in Queens. Here is that story:

To slow his train down and save a loyal dog’s life or continue at full speed to stay on schedule. That was the decision 38-year-old motorman Joseph J. Krankoff had to make one morning during rush hour in the summer of 1932.

Joseph’s full train was just about to start from the Ditmars Avenue (now Ditmars Boulevard) terminal station in Astoria, Queens, when he saw a little brown and white dog dash out onto the tracks from the platform. The dog, later identified as a Pomeranian, was in hot pursuit of his master, who had just boarded the previous New York-bound train on the Astoria Line (today’s N and Q trains).

The Pom had apparently followed his master to the station, only to have the gate slammed in his face when he tried to board the train. People on the platform shouted at him as he leaped, and one person even tried to grab him. But the Pomeranian had only one thing on his mind: to reach his master, whatever heroic efforts it took.

Although he was instructed to keep his train up to speed in order to maintain the schedule, Joseph decided to throttle down to a snail’s pace to avoid hitting the dog. As Albert P. Terhune reported in the Sioux County Index, “In another minute or less, ordinarily, Krankoff’s train would overtake him and the plucky little Pom would be ground to a pulp and left screaming his life out on the high tracks.”

For the next two miles, the Pomeranian continued to run after his master’s train as it stopped and started up again at the Hoyt-Astoria, Grand Avenue, and Broadway stations. Fuming passengers in Krankoff’s train made their way up to the front car to see what was causing the delay. Some passengers cursed at him, but most of them rooted for the little dog.

Type-D Triplex BMT Train

In 1925 the BMT introduced a three-car articulated unit called the D-Type or Triplex. The articulated design allowed passengers to walk from one car to another through an enclosed, swiveling passageway. Courtesy: BMT-LInes.com

“Some of the passengers yelled at the good little dog to make him get off the track,” Joseph told reporters. “But he kept scurrying on as fast as he could. He didn’t pay any attention to them at all. Those tiny legs of his were just flashing over the ties.

“I kept the train just a few yards behind him. He was a cute little rascal, and he was game. All he wanted was to get to his master. I’d somehow hate to be the kind of man who would run down a dog with a spirit like that.”

Luckily there was an employee walking along the tracks just beyond the Broadway station. He paused in wonder at Krankoff’s slow-moving train, but then saw the Pomeranian. He grabbed the dog by its leather harness and set him free on the street below.

Type-D Triplex interior

Here is the inside of a Triplex, which is on display at the New York Transit Museum. These cars featured a green and white color scheme, wicker seats, incandescent lighting, windows that opened manually, and ceiling fans.

Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to the little Pom after his near brush with death on the elevated tracks. However, Krankoff’s good deed came to the attention of Mrs. Phillip Clark (nee Greta Pomeroy), a philanthropist and fixture of New York’s high society who was very active in the New York Women’s League for Animals. The League awarded Joseph with its “distinguished humane service medal,” the TJ Oakley Rhinelander gold medal.

Krankoff was the first person to receive the medal, which was established that same year by real estate tycoon Thomas Jackson Oakley Rhinelander to be awarded yearly “to whoever performs the most notable act of kindness to a dumb animal.”

New York Women’s League for Animals gold medal

Motorman Joseph Krankoff was awarded a distinguished gold medal from the New York Women’s League for Animals for going very slow.

The Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT)
What would eventually be called the BMT lines began as a series of separate and independent steam railroads cutting through then-rural Kings County (Brooklyn) farms on their way to places like Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Bay Ridge, Gravesend Bay, Bath Beach, Canarsie Landing, and Sheepshead Bay. The history of the BMT is a complicated one, but to summarize, the BMT was incorporated in 1923 as the result of a reorganization of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT). The seven stations on the BMT Astoria Line opened on July 19, 1917.

1928 Astoria Line BMT

This ca. 1928 photo from the New York Daily News shows Brooklyn Union (BU) wooden elevated gate cars sitting on the center track of the Astoria line. The wooden cars were replaced by AB-Type Standard cars, also known as Steels, starting around 1914. The BMT added the Type-D trains in 1927 to supplement the AB cars.

If you enjoyed this story, you may want to click here to read about a New York heiress who also received an award for humane service from the New York Women’s League for Animals for saving six dogs in Ardsley, NY.

80 Years Later: Take a Ride on the N Train
Train enthusiasts may enjoy this 7-minute express ride on the N train from Queensboro Plaza to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. Try to go back in time 80 years, and just imagine a little brown and white Pomeranian running ahead of you. He doesn’t have a name, but maybe we can call him Ditmars.

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