Taking The Coney Express
But at one time there was a direct route to Coney Island from mid-town Manhattan. As posted on the Coney Island USA bulletin board by Captain Nemo, the Sea Beach Line was indeed the Coney Express. The tracks that for the most part start at 57th Street, in Manhattan, stretch all the way down to the Stillwell Avenue Station in Coney Island. Originally, the tracks were not meant to provide service to Sea Beach riders – they were meant for the Express train to Coney.
This fast train to the south end of Brooklyn goes back to the days of the steam railroad.
According the Rapidtransit.net:
The Sea Beach Line was built primarily to carry resort goers and day-trippers from the hot city to the breezes and amusements of the shore in the era before air conditioning.
A combination of events doomed the service. Coney Island, while still a big attraction for bathers, declined steadily as an amusement resort. One of Coney Island's two huge amusement parks of the subway era, Luna Park, suffered disastrous fires, closing in 1949. "Master Builder" Robert Moses had his hand in there, too. Moses hated "tawdry" entertainments. He felt the modern urban beach-goer would be more ennobled looking at fish than peep shows, so he moved the New York Aquarium to a large portion of Coney real estate. Actually, the fish are very nice, but they don't attract the huge crowds.
Follow the discussion at the CIUSA board
Those Sea Beach Express Tracks [rapidtransit.net]
Riding the Coney Island Express and 3rd Avenue El [MyRecollection.com]
BMT Sea Beach Line [Answers.com]