Things Seen and Heard Along the Underground (1904)
The New York Times · Friday, October 28th, 1904
Experiences Here and There of Nascent Subwayites
MR. BAKER RIDES ON A PASS
Timid One Buys a Ticket to Use Five Years Hence
Admiral Coghlan's Final Word
Congressman Robert Baker, the man who wouldn't take a pass from the B. and O., was on the official train. A Republican fellow-passenger regarded him for some time with a malevolent glare, and then, touching him on the shoulder, said in icy accents: "Mr. Baker, did you pay for this ride?"
Of course everybody on that train was riding free. Baker gave a melodramatic start and hissed:
The ceiling of the official train was painted the color of a battleship. One of the passengers, looking up at it, remarked:
"If there was a Russian Admiral on this train he'd pull out his revolver and pump holes in that ceiling!"
"It's a good thing", answered his companion, "that the Subway doesn't run under the English Channel."
When the official train passed Bleecker Street, where the Subway Tavern is, everybody let out a cheer, but the train didn't stop.
"The train slowed down a little, however", observed one passenger, "expecting that Bishop Potter would come aboard."
"I thought I'd get away from babies on this occasion, at least", said a tall, hatchet-faced man as he boarded an express train at the Fourteenth Street Station and took a seat directly behind a young woman who was carrying an infant in her arms and trying to keep under some control a little shaver who was seeking to play tag with a passenger on the opposite seat.
"August Belmont's name is signed to the passes, and it takes a pass to get underground this afternoon. How did the babies butt in?"
At this point a youngster in the seat behind banged the kicker over the head with the cane his father had let him have to play with en route, and the hatchet-faced one started to make his way down the much-babied aisle to the door.
The man who couldn't be pleased was on hand, as usual. This particular one lived above Ninetieth Street.
"I don't see the use of stopping at Fourteenth Street, the Grand Central and Seventy-second Street," he said. "There's lots of people who live up in the Hundreds and never want to get off below. Why can't some trains run that don't stop between the Bridge and Ninety-sixth Street? If there was I'd save two minutes."
The cautious man rode all the way to the end of the line, and then back to City Hall.
"I don't see why you've got to get a 'Subway Eye'", he said, when he had completed the trip. "On the locals, it doesn't affect you to look outside at a wall of dull white and the expresses run so fast that you don't know what you see."
The show of policemen at the different Subway stations made a lot of talk. Their cordons about the entrances were impregnable unless one was armed with the right kind of credentials, but the man or woman who exhibited the cherished white ticket was ushered below stairs with an urbanity that was impressive.
"These are the nicest policemen I ever saw", declared an up-Stater.
"Mark my words," said the observant citizen, "the Subway is going to boom the newspaper business. When you get in, there's nothing to look at except the people, and that's soon a tiresome job."
In the crowd that bought tickets at Fourth Avenue and Eighteenth Street last evening was a jovial gentleman with his wife. While they were hanging to neighboring straps he remarked:
"You remember, my dear, that when I came home on the morning after New Year's Eve three years ago you doubted my word that I had been in a railway accident and insisted that I had been in a saloon. Well, we were both right. I met friends, and on my way home got into the first accident in the Subway. I landed in the bottom of a trench of the Eighteenth Street station. You are glad I was saved? Aren't you dear?"
"I am glad you were spared, dear," she replied sweetly, "and shall see to it that you are not in danger of another accident to-night."
"You ride like the wind," said an envious Congressman from Chicago, "but it smells like a cellar."
"Yes," replied a New York. "We ride like the wind, and there may be an underground smell to your sensitive nostrils, but what a relief from crossing half of Illinois breathing the odors of the Chicago River."
"The funniest thing to me", said an employe of the Subway at Grand Central, "is the questions the people ask. Summarized, they are: 'Where am I at?' They want to know whether they are on the east or west side of the city, which is up town and which is down. I would think that they could not read if I did not see them gazing at the advertising signs in frames around the stations. But I agree with them the advertising signs confuse travelers and spoil the effect of the tile work."
"Everything is running as smooth as oil,", said a guard, who had long been in the employ of the elevated roads, "and there is only one trouble for us that I can see. We're going to be bothered with sleepers. As we whizz along the pillars come so fast that they give a foglike effect to folks who are looking out the windows. They half close their eyes, and the next thing you know they are sound asleep."
There was an immense crowd at the Circle last night waiting for a chance to buy tickets for a ride on the Subway when it was opened to the public. Among them was a gray-haired gentleman who, in the rush for tickets, was carried along in the current. When he had been forced to the window he paid his nickel and stuffed the ticket in his pocket. Appealing to a policeman, he asked for guidance to the exit which the officer gave. "I didn't mean to come down here," said the unwilling patron. "The crowd brought me with them. I want to get out. I'm timid. I saw them build the Ninth Avenue elevated, and was sure that there was bound to be a terrible accident. I used the surface cars for five years until one day I was in a dreadful hurry and went down town by the elevated. I've ridden that way ever since. In five years, I may get my nerve up and ride on the underground. I'll save the ticket until then."
Included in the crowd that gathered around City Hall Park in the afternoon, trying to get as near as possible to the Subway entrance or to get inside it they could wheedle the police guards, was a woman clad all in black. She managed to persuade an officer to let her inside the lines, saying she "just must be the first woman to ride in the tunnel". When the procession entered the station, however, she found a less kindly policeman, who made her stand aside. She departed in tears.
Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., with a party of friends watched the first special go through. Mrs. Vanderbilt came down from the Grand Central Station, and some of the Subway attendants recognized her at once. The station agent, M. F. Maddigan brought chairs, which were placed on the platform overlooking the express tracks. After the first special went through, Mrs. Vanderbilt, with her party, went to the automobiles which were in waiting for them above. They did not ride on the cars.
Rear Admiral Coghlan during a ride in the Subway said to a friend:
"It is finished, and the New Yorker in answering the query of a stranger as to the nearest way to a hospital need no longer tell him, truthfully, 'Cross Broadway.'"
Police Fight Subway Mob
Trouble at Northern Terminal When First Public Train Arrives
When the crowd began to gather at the One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street terminal of the Subway, shortly after the arrival of the first public train last night, Police Sergt. John F. O'Brien was on hand with eight men.
The numbers increased so rapidly, however, that soon the narrow stairway was jammed, and women were shrieking and men shouting.
The few police exhorted the growing crowd in vain, and finally brandished their night sticks. This had its effect for a few moments, but the crowd backed up only to press forward again in greater numbers, and this was the situation when the matron in charge of the reception house of the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society, a few feet away, became alarmed and telephoned to the main institution asking that something be done.
In a short time eight reserves from the West One Hundred and Fifty-second Street station appeared on the run. The additional men, leaving those already there guarding the entrance, started in to scatter the crowd shouting, "For God's sake get back, there are women here!"
The throng respected the cry little until the new men drew their night sticks and charged in among the men and boys, hurling them to one side or the other. The wooden picket fence of the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society went down with a crash because of the tremendous pressure. Meanwhile patrolman Tom Costello, an old timer, had his coat nearly torn from his back. Numbers of the crowd pressing thickly about him pulled his belt until the fastening burst and then ripped his coat from coattail to shoulder. Costello did valiant work despite his rough handling and later turned his misfortune to good account by telling the crowd that he had a notion to pass the hat in order to get money for a new coat.
Subsequently it was explained that not only did the trains move more slowly than had been anticipated, but the lone ticket agent below the street had more than he could attend to. At last a line was formed, nearly a block long, and would-be riders had to get into line, and walk in a complete circle around the kiosk and then down the stairs, still in single file, before they could purchase tickets.
Later in the evening still more patrolmen arrived, but they had little to do. So far as could be learned a few bumped heads were the only casualties.
The Subway's Capacity
Maximum to be 50,000 an Hour -- Throngs for East Side Branch
Fifty thousand passengers an hour is to be the maximum capacity of the Subway, say the officials. With the present number of trains they can carry 25,000 an hour. The capacity will be increased gradually. With only the west side branch now operated up town, it is not prophesied that the four main line tracks will be taxed. If they are strained now it will augur ill for the comfort of passengers after the easterly line travel begins.
The Brooklyn extension, now under construction, with its two tracks, will be able to handle more than 20,000 persons an hour. The Rapid Transit Commission has under consideration many plans for future tunnels, but none of them has been adopted definitely. It is likely that the first to be built will be a through east side subway. A trunk line for the west side, too, will come up for a decision soon, and Mr. Parsons will submit early next year plans for more extensions into Brooklyn, and perhaps one penetrating Queens Borough.