20 Cool Facts About The New York City Subway When It Was Brand New
109 years ago on October 27, 1904, the New York City Subway was opened to an enthusiastic public with great fanfare and accolades.
New Yorker’s were proud of this engineering sensation and its features were highlighted in newspapers and magazines around the world.
On the occasion of the opening, the New York Evening World published a “Subway Souvenir Special” to commemorate the event. With articles describing many aspects of the subway, the special issue compiled a list of 100 facts about the subway. Here are some of the better ones:
1. In 1894 the people of New York voted to create a tunnel for a subway which was to be owned by the city. After six years of preliminary work by the Rapid Transit Commission, bids were accepted to build and operate the subway on November 15, 1899.
2. Only two companies bid for the job. John B. McDonald and the Onderdonk Construction Company. McDonald’s bid was accepted January 15, 1900.
3. McDonald proposed to construct the tunnels for $35 million with an additional $2,750,000 for station sites, terminals and other incidentals.
4. The money for the construction was loaned by the city. It was to be paid back with interest in fifty years.
5. McDonald organized a construction company with August Belmont as its president. Another company within this company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was organized to operate the subway.
6. The IRT had the privilege of operating the system for 50 years, with an option for a 25 year renewal. When the subway passed into the hands of the people, the equipment was to be purchased by the city at a valuation to be determined by arbitration.
7. McDonald sublet the construction to thirteen sub-contractors. Ground was broken March 25, 1900 in front of City Hall.
8. McDonald pledged to have the subway ready in four and a half years. The actual time spent on construction was only 1275 days.
9. The final amount spent was just $40 million.
10. There were 120 lives lost during the construction.
11. The average number of men employed per day was 4,661.
12. The greatest number of workers during the construction in a single day numbered 12,000.
13. Measured by men employed, the number of working days was 5,943,917.
14. The subway initially was laid out from City Hall to Kingsbridge, on the West Side line, a total of 13.50 miles. The East Side line would go from Broadway and 103rd Street to Bronx Park a total of 6.97 miles, making the total system just 20.47 miles long.
15. There were 48 stations on the entire system, 33 underground, 11 on viaducts, three partly on the surface and partly underground and one partly on the surface and partly on a viaduct.
16. When the subway initially opened, 28 stations were operational.
17. The starting gait speed of the trains would be twenty-five miles an hour for express trains and fifteen miles an hour for local trains. The maximum speed of the express trains would be forty-five miles an hour.
18. In the rush hours, between 7 and 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., express trains would run four minutes apart and local trains three minutes apart.
19. 400 subway cars initially served the entire system. 500 cars were ordered but they were not all ready when the subway opened.
20. McDonald estimated that when the subway was fully functional it could carry 200 million people per year.