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IRT East Side Line

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Contract I subway (IRT East Side Line) at 14th Street/Union Square on the station's 107th anniversary of opening. Photo by: Zach Summer, October 27, 2011.


The IRT line on the East Side of Manhattan comprises portions of several different subway construction contracts, including the 1904 Contract I "First Subway" from City Hall to 33rd Street, three 1905 Contract II Brooklyn Extension stations, and, from Grand Central northward, eleven 1918 Contract III, or "Dual Contracts" stations.

The Contract I and Dual Contracts construction is covered in-depth elsewhere on this site (The First Subway and The Dual Contracts), so this overview will consist of a few brief notes.

The contract drawings for the "First Subway" were completed in 1898 by chief engineer William Barclay Parsons. The engineering and design of the Contract I subway was divided into 15 sub-sections. The portion of the work included in today's East Side line include:

Section 1, Ann Street north to the center of Chambers Street, 0.5 miles of route including the City Hall station and loop, and Brooklyn Bridge station. The work included two tail tracks in a two track structure ending just north of Ann Street, for the switching back of express trains, and two tail tracks and the City Hall loop for layup and turnback of the local trains. The "express" tail tracks would be later used to connect the Contract II Brooklyn Extension subway work from Broadway. The Contract I subway's groundbreaking took place at City Hall on March 24, 1900 but actual construction on this segment didn't start until March, 1901.

Section 2, Center of Chambers Street north to the center of Great Jones Street, a four track subway running 1.13 miles under Elm Street (today's Lafayette Street). Cut and cover construction. Stations included: Worth Street (now closed), Canal Street, Spring Street, and Bleecker Street. At Spring Street there was a center siding track making the width of the subway at this point five tracks. Construction commenced July 10, 1900, and encountered some trouble near Pearl Street at the site of the old filled-in Collect Pond.


"View of the Tunnel, the Subway, N.Y.". Postcard view of a five-track portion of the subway, perhaps at Spring Street.

Section 3, Center of Great Jones Street north to approximately 34th Street, a four track subway running 1.5 miles under Elm Street (Lafayette Street), Fourth Avenue, and today's Park Avenue South and Park Avenue. Cut and cover construction. Stations located at: Astor Place, 14th Street (express), 18th Street (now closed), 23rd Street, 28th Street, and 33rd Street. Construction commenced July 12, 1900.

Section 4, Two separate deep rock tunnels from 33rd Street to East 41st Street, 0.38 miles of four track subway under today's Park Avenue. The two separate tunnels were required to avoid the existing street railway tunnel, built in 1850 for the New York and Harlem Railroad Company.

Section 5 included work taking the First Subway westward under 42nd Street to its Grand Central station (today's Shuttle station). On August 1, 1918, it was at this point that the new Dual Contracts "Lexington Avenue Subway" was connected to the Contract I subway. Some complex tunneling work was required to build the connection without interrupting existing service. Several articles describe this work, including Design of the Diagonal Station and Connection, and Opening a New Link of New York's Vast Subway System. Two more articles describe the August 1, 1918 service changes that would become known as the "H System": Great H System Put in Operation, and Approaching Operation of the H Lines/The H Lines In Service.

The Lexington Avenue subway line was known as Dual Contracts Route No. 5, and the work to the Harlem River was divided into seven subsections. Stations included: the new "Diagonal Station" mentioned above at Grand Central (express), 51st Street, 59th Street, 68th Street, 77th Street, 86th Street (express), 96th Street, 103rd Street, 110th Street, 116th Street, 125th Street (express). The subway was to be four tracks on two levels, with local service on the upper level and express service on the lower level, and included a complex junction at 125th Street to connect to the lines being built in the Bronx. 59th Street was later converted to an express station, with new side platforms built on the lower level.


Postcard view of a typical station on the Contract I subway.

The Brooklyn Extension, or "Contract II", commenced construction even before the first subway line opened in October 1904. Construction contracts were let by the city to the same Rapid Transit Subway Construction Company that was building Contract I. The Manhattan stations were opened in July, 1905. Through service to Brooklyn began in January, 1908. The sections of the route applicable to the East Side line are as follows:

Section 1, from the intersection of Broadway and Park Row to Bowling Green, a 2-track subway with side platform stations at Fulton Street and Wall Street, and an island platform station at Bowling Green.

Section 2, the so-called "Battery Loop", a two track loop around Battery Park including a station with a single side platform at South Ferry. This loop and station would later become part of the IRT West Side line opened in 1918. Section 2 also included the two tracks south of Bowling Green that lead to the Joralemon Street tunnel to Brooklyn.

The East Side subway is connected to the IRT Brooklyn Line at the south end, at the north end primarily to the Dual Contracts-era IRT Pelham Line and IRT Woodlawn Line. A connection was also built to the Contract I Bronx line running to [[IRT White Plains Road Line|White Plains Road].

Sources: The New York Subway: Its Construction and Equipment. The New York Subway Souvenir (1904). New Subways for New York, the Dual System of Rapid Transit. David Rogoff, "Contract I Construction", July 1962, revised July 1985, New York Division E.R.A. Other articles as linked.


IRT East Side Line

Woodlawn · Mosholu Parkway · Bedford Park Boulevard · Kingsbridge Road · Fordham Road · 183rd Street · Burnside Avenue · 176th Street · Mt. Eden Avenue · 170th Street · 167th Street · 161st Street-Yankee Stadium · 149th Street-Grand Concourse · 138th Street · 125th Street · 86th Street · 59th Street · Grand Central · 14th Street-Union Square · Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall · Fulton Street · Wall Street · Bowling Green · Borough Hall · Nevins Street · Atlantic Avenue · Franklin Avenue · Utica Avenue


Dyre Avenue · Baychester Avenue · Gun Hill Road · Pelham Parkway · Morris Park · East 180th Street · West Farms Sq.-East Tremont Ave.-177th St. · 174th Street · Freeman Street · Simpson Street · Intervale Avenue · Prospect Avenue · Jackson Avenue · 3rd Avenue-149th Street · 149th Street-Grand Concourse · 138th Street · 125th Street · 86th Street · 59th Street · Grand Central · 14th Street-Union Square · Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall · Fulton Street · Wall Street · Bowling Green · Borough Hall · Nevins Street · Atlantic Avenue · Franklin Avenue · President Street · Sterling Street · Winthrop Street · Church Avenue · Beverly Road · Newkirk Avenue · Flatbush Avenue

6.GIF Pelham Bay Park · Buhre Avenue · Middletown Road · Westchester Square · Zerega Avenue · Castle Hill Avenue · East 177th Street-Parkchester · St. Lawrence Avenue · Morrison-Soundview Avenues · Elder Avenue · Whitlock Avenue · Hunts Point Avenue · Longwood Avenue · East 149th Street · East 143rd Street · Cypress Avenue · Brook Avenue · 3rd Avenue-138th Street · 125th Street · 116th Street · 110th Street · 103rd Street · 96th Street · 86th Street · 77th Street · 68th Street · 59th Street · 51st Street · Grand Central · 33rd Street · 28th Street · 23rd Street · 18th Street · 14th Street-Union Square · Astor Place · Bleecker Street · Spring Street · Canal Street · Worth Street · Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall · City Hall

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