Railroad apartment

A tenement of the old style, from Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890)

A railroad apartment or railroad flat, sometimes referred to as a floor-through apartment, is an apartment with a series of rooms connecting to each other in a line.[1] The name comes from the layout's similarity to that of a typical (mid-20th century or earlier) passenger train car.[2] Without hallways, it results in less semi-public space.[3][4][5][6][7]

This style is most common in New York City, San Francisco, and their surrounding areas. Railroad apartments are common in tenement buildings or even modern apartment blocks, and are sometimes found in subdivided brownstones.

Railroad apartments first made an appearance in New York City in the mid-19th century, and were designed to provide a solution to urban overcrowding.[8] Many early railroad apartments were extremely narrow, and most buildings were five or six stories high.[8] Few early buildings had internal sanitation, and bathrooms emptied raw sewage into the back yard.[8] In some cases, one family would take up residence in each room, with the exterior hallway providing communal space.[1]

Floor-through apartment[edit]

A floor-through apartment refers to an apartment that extends from the front of the building to the rear of the building, usually with front and back windows,[9] even if it does not occupy the width of the full floor.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sennett, Richard. The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992. ISBN 0-393-30878-2.
  2. ^ Cassidy, Frances Gomes. Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-674-00884-7.
  3. ^ "What Is A Railroad-Style Apartment?". The Spruce. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About Railroad Apartments". NY Rent Own Sell. 4 February 2022. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  5. ^ "The Underrated Apartment Layout That's Perfect for Renters on a Budget, According to Real Estate Agents". Apartment Therapy. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  6. ^ Frishberg, Hannah. "What Is a Railroad Apartment? A Guide to a Misunderstood Apartment Layout". Brownstoner. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  7. ^ "7 Railroad-Style Apartments That Will Shock You". Rhythm of the Home. 7 May 2021. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Eisner, Simon; Gallion, Arthur; and Eisner, Stanley. The Urban Pattern. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1993. ISBN 0-471-28428-9
  9. ^ "Floor-Through Apartments Available in NYC". cityrealty.com. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  10. ^ "Definition of FLOOR-THROUGH". merriam-webster. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Floor-through: definition and meaning". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  12. ^ Jennifer Ceaser (2011-12-08). "Gross, point blank: Michael Gross offers history lesson on his prewar pad". New York Post.