A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways

A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways

A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways

A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways

Synopsis

Brian Cudahy offers a fascinating tribute to the world the subway created. Taking a fresh look at one of the marvels of the 20th century, Cudahy creates a vivid sense of this extraordinary achievement-how the city was transformed once New Yorkers started riding in a hole in the ground.

Excerpt

A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York’s Underground Railways has been written to help celebrate the centenary of the New York Subway. A hundred years ago, on the afternoon of Thursday, October 27, 1904, New Yorkers walked into various entrance kiosks of the city’s new Interborough Rapid Transit Company, headed down a flight or two of stairs, and took their very first rides under the sidewalks of New York aboard a fleet of new, electric-powered, rapid-transit trains.

The subway line that opened for business on October 27, 1904, was 9 miles from one end to the other and included twenty-seven separate stations. On October 27, 2004, when the New York Subway celebrates its centenary, the system will encompass 247 miles, and passengers will be able to board trains at 468 different stations.

Mere growth, however it is measured, is not the principal accomplishment that characterizes the first hundred years of subway service in New York. More so than in any other city on the face of the earth, during its first century of service the subway has woven its way into the fabric of this exciting metropolis to the extent that one simply may not imagine New York, with all of its vitality and all of its dynamism, without the all-important mobility that is provided to the city’s denizens day after day by electric-powered subway trains speeding passengers uptown and downtown through a network of underground tunnels.

A Century of Subways is not a single narrative story. Rather, in an effort to present a sense of the context within which New York’s mass-transit achievement in 1904 should be appreciated and understood, it is a collection of five separate and different stories.

The book’s opening chapter, “August Belmont and His Subway,” talks about the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, its president, August Belmont, Jr., and the construction of the city’s first subway in 1904. It also traces the development of that initial subway into the IRT Division of today’s much larger and more comprehensive subway system. As a matter of usage, I have re-

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