Early history of the IRT subway

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The original "H" system

The first regularly operated subway in New York City was built by the city and leased to the Interborough Rapid Transit Company for operation under Contracts 1 and 2. Until 1918, when the new "H" system that is still operated - with separate East Side and West Side lines - was placed in service, it consisted of a single trunk line below 96th Street with several northern branches. The system had four tracks between Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall and 96th Street, allowing for local and express service on that portion. Under the "H" system, the original line and early extensions are now as follows:

History[edit]

Political cartoon critical of the service of the IRT in 1905. The IRT is labeled as the "Interborough Rattled Transit". Nicholas Knickerbocker, personification of New York City, stands on the platform.

Planning for the system that was built began with the Rapid Transit Act, signed into law on May 22, 1894, which created the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners. The act provided that the commission would lay out routes with the consent of property owners and local authorities, either build the system or sell a franchise for its construction, and lease it to a private operating company. A line through Lafayette Street (then Elm Street) to Union Square was considered, but at first a more costly route under lower Broadway was adopted. A legal battle with property owners along the route led to the courts denying permission to build through Broadway in 1896. The Elm Street route was chosen later that year, cutting west to Broadway via 42nd Street. This new plan, formally adopted on January 14, 1897, consisted of a line from City Hall north to Kingsbridge and a branch under Lenox Avenue and to Bronx Park, to have four tracks from City Hall to the junction at 103rd Street. The "awkward alignment...along Forty-Second Street", as the commission put it, was necessitated by objections to using Broadway south of 34th Street. Legal challenges were finally taken care of near the end of 1899.[1]

A contract, later known as Contract 1, was executed on February 21, 1900 between the commission and the Rapid Transit Construction Company, organized by John B. McDonald and funded by August Belmont, for the construction of the subway and a 50-year operating lease from the opening of the line. Ground was broken at City Hall on March 24. A plan for an extension from City Hall to the Long Island Rail Road's Flatbush Avenue terminal station (now known as Atlantic Terminal) in Brooklyn was adopted on January 24, 1901, and Contract 2, giving a lease of only 35 years, was executed between the commission and the Rapid Transit Construction Company on September 11, with construction beginning at State Street in Manhattan on November 8, 1902. Belmont incorporated the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) in April 1902 as the operating company for both contracts; the IRT leased the Manhattan Railway, operator of the four elevated railway lines in Manhattan and the Bronx, on April 1, 1903. Operation of the subway began on October 27, 1904, with the opening of all stations from City Hall to 145th Street on the West Side Branch.[2] The original system as included in Contract 1 was completed on January 14, 1907, when trains started running across the Harlem Ship Canal on the Broadway Bridge to 225th Street,[3] and the Contract 2 portion was opened to Atlantic Avenue on May 1, 1908.[4] An extension of Contract 1 north to 242nd Street at Van Cortlandt Park was approved in 1906[5] and opened on August 1, 1908.[6] (The original plan had been to turn east on 230th Street to just west of Bailey Avenue, at the New York Central Railroad's Kings Bridge station.[7])

Service pattern[edit]

Express trains began at South Ferry in Manhattan or Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, while local trains typically began at South Ferry or City Hall, both in Manhattan. Local trains to the West Side Branch (242nd Street) ran from City Hall during rush hours and continued south at other times; East side local trains ran between City Hall and 145th Street. All three branches were served by express trains; no local trains used the East Side Branch to West Farms (180th Street).[8] Expresses to 145th Street were later eliminated; all West Farms expresses and rush hours Broadway expresses operated through to Brooklyn.[9] Essentially each branch had a local and an express, with expresses to Broadway (242nd Street) and West Farms and locals to Broadway and Lenox Avenue (145th Street).[citation needed]

When the "H" system opened in 1918, all trains from the old system were sent south from Times Square – 42nd Street along the new IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line. Locals (Broadway and Lenox Avenue) were sent to South Ferry, while expresses (Broadway and West Farms) used the new Clark Street Tunnel to Brooklyn. These services became 1 (Broadway express and local), 2 (West Farms express), and 3 (Lenox Avenue local) in 1948. The only major change to these patterns was made in 1959, when all 1 trains became local and all 2 and 3 trains became express.[citation needed] The portion south of Grand Central – 42nd Street became part of the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, and now carries 4 (express), 5 (express), 6 (local), and <6> (local) trains; the short piece under 42nd Street is now the 42nd Street Shuttle.

Stations[edit]

Station Tracks Opened Notes
Atlantic Avenue 2 May 1, 1908[4]
Nevins Street 2 May 1, 1908[citation needed]
Hoyt Street 2 May 1, 1908[citation needed]
Borough Hall 2 January 9, 1908[citation needed]
South Ferry 2 (loops) July 10, 1905[citation needed] Closed February 13, 1977
Bowling Green all July 10, 1905[citation needed]
Wall Street all June 12, 1905[citation needed]
Fulton Street all January 16, 1905[citation needed]
City Hall 1 (loop) October 27, 1904[10] Closed December 31, 1945[11]
Brooklyn Bridge all October 27, 1904[10]
Worth Street local October 27, 1904[10] Closed September 1, 1962[12]
Canal Street local October 27, 1904[10]
Spring Street local October 27, 1904[10]
Bleecker Street local October 27, 1904[10]
Astor Place local October 27, 1904[10]
14th Street – Union Square all October 27, 1904[10]
18th Street local October 27, 1904[10] Closed November 8, 1948[13]
23rd Street local October 27, 1904[10]
28th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
33rd Street local October 27, 1904[10]
Grand Central – 42nd Street all October 27, 1904[10]
Times Square local October 27, 1904[10]
50th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
59th Street – Columbus Circle local October 27, 1904[10]
66th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
72nd Street all October 27, 1904[10]
79th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
86th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
91st Street local October 27, 1904[10] Closed February 2, 1959[citation needed]
96th Street all October 27, 1904[10]
West Side Branch
(splits at 96th Street)
103rd Street local October 27, 1904[10]
110th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
116th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
Manhattan Street local October 27, 1904[10]
137th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
145th Street local October 27, 1904[10]
157th Street November 12, 1904[citation needed]
168th Street March 16, 1906
181st Street March 16, 1906
191st Street January 14, 1911[citation needed]
Dyckman Street March 12, 1906[citation needed]
207th Street local March 16, 1906
215th Street local March 12, 1906[citation needed]
225th Street local January 14, 1907[3]
231st Street local January 27, 1907
238th Street local August 1, 1908[citation needed]
Van Cortlandt Park – 242nd Street August 1, 1908[6]
West Side Branch to Lenox Avenue
(splits at 96th Street)
110th Street all November 23, 1904[citation needed]
116th Street all November 23, 1904[citation needed]
125th Street all November 23, 1904[citation needed]
135th Street all November 23, 1904[citation needed]
145th Street all November 23, 1904[citation needed]
West Side Branch to West Farms
(splits from branch to Lenox Avenue at 142nd Street Junction)
Mott Avenue all July 10, 1905[citation needed]
149th Street all July 10, 1905[citation needed] Free transfer to Third Avenue Elevated in same direction
Jackson Avenue local November 26, 1904[citation needed]
Prospect Avenue local November 26, 1904[citation needed]
Intervale Avenue local November 26, 1904
Simpson Street local November 26, 1904[citation needed]
Freeman Street local November 26, 1904[citation needed]
174th Street local November 26, 1904[citation needed]
177th Street local November 26, 1904[citation needed]
180th Street November 26, 1904[citation needed] The only part of the original subway to be completely demolished

References[edit]

  1. ^ James Blaine Walker, Fifty Years of Rapid Transit, 1864-1917, published 1918, pp. 139-161
  2. ^ James Blaine Walker, Fifty Years of Rapid Transit, 1864-1917, published 1918, pp. 162-191
  3. ^ a b New York Times, Farthest North in Town by the Interborough, January 14, 1907, page 18
  4. ^ a b New York Times, Brooklyn Joyful Over New Subway, May 2, 1908, page 1
  5. ^ James Blaine Walker, Fifty Years of Rapid Transit, 1864-1917, published 1918, p. 204
  6. ^ a b New York Times, Our First Subway Completed at Last, August 2, 1908, page 10
  7. ^ Burroughs and Company, the New York City Subway Souvenir, 1904
  8. ^ Commerce and Industry Association of New York, Pocket Guide to New York, 1906, pp. 19-26
  9. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac, 1916
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab New York Times, Our Subway Open: 150,000 Try It, October 28, 1904
  11. ^ "Historic Station Closed After 41 Years". The New York Times. January 1, 1946. p. 22. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  12. ^ Grutzner, Charles (September 1, 1962). "New Platform for IRT Locals At Brooklyn Bridge to End Jams". The New York Times. p. 42. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  13. ^ "IRT STATION TO BE CLOSED; East Side Subway Trains to End Stops at 18th Street". The New York Times. November 6, 1948. p. 29. Retrieved 2011-10-26.