Broadway Subway Now Open (1917)

From nycsubway.org

Public Service Record · Vol. IV, No. 9, September 1917.

Broadway Subway Now Open.

By direction of the Commission, the New York Consolidated Railroad Company began the operation of the Broadway Subway on September 4, an occasion which will be marked in the annals of rapid transit in New York City, not only because of the importance of the service then instituted, but because of the new era in transportation then begun. For the first time, as stated editorially in the Record of last month, the Brooklyn Company carries passengers into and from the heart of Manhattan Island by a rapid transit route.

While it is altogether too early to determine the effect of the new operation in its entirety, ticket sales at the several Broadway Subway stations now open have been surprisingly large and indicate the popularity of the line.

Opening Celebration. The celebration which marked the opening of the line was in part under the supervision of the Commission. The exercises which followed the running of the first train were carried out under the direction of the Borough Park Heights Civic Association of which Mr. Maxwell S. Harris is President and active head. The Commission issued nearly a thousand invitations for the special train.

The official special train bearing members of the Commission, some of its engineers and other officials, City officials, officers of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit and allied companies and members of the Borough Park Heights Civic and other Brooklyn taxpayers' associations and organizations, left the Union Square station exactly on the minute of 2 o'clock, making, so far as is known, the fastest time ever recorded by train service between 14th Street and Coney Island. The train consisted of eight of the new B. R. T. steel subway cars and was well filled, with Wilbur Lewis, Supervisor of Motormen for the B. R. T. elevated and subway lines, at the controller and Conductor James McKeon in charge of the train.

Guests of Occasion. Members of the official party included Commissioners William Hayward and Travis H. Whitney; President Timothy S. Williams of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company; Comptroller William A. Prendergast; Borough President Lewis H. Pounds of Brooklyn; Chief Engineer Daniel L. Turner; Robert Ridgway, Engineer of Subway Construction; Sverre Dahm, Deputy Engineer of Subway Construction; Robert H. Jacobs, Engineer, Track Division; J. O. Shipman, Division Engineer, First Division; Frederick W. Carpenter, Division Engineer, Seventh Division; George L. Lucas, General Inspector; William L. Ransom. Counsel; Arthur W. McKinney, Assistant Secretary; J. P. H. DeWindt, Chief of the Transit Bureau; John J. Dempsey, Superintendent of Transportation for the B. R. T.; W. S. Menden, Chief Engineer of the B. R. T. and associated companies; S. W. Huff and C. D. Meneely, Vice-Presidents of these companies; William McCarroll and George V. S. Williams, former Public Service Commissioners; President Maxwell S. Harris; John B. Creighton, President of the Brooklyn Civic Club; Henry B. Seaman, former Chief Engineer of the Public Service Commission; Congressman Daniel J. Griffin; Bird S. Coler, and many others.

Some of the many organizations represented were: South Brooklyn Board of Trade, Parkville Club, Citizens' Association of Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton, Sunset Park Civic Association. Southside Board of Trade, West End Board of Trade, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst Board of Trade, Fort Hamilton Citizens' Association, South Brooklyn Business Men's League, New Utrecht Improvement Association and Lefferts Park Improvement League.

Route Chosen. The West End line route through Brooklyn was chosen as the route of the official special, although regular operation, which began on the evening of September 4, is had by way of the Sea Beach line. The special passed the Canal Street station three minutes after leaving Union Square, a brief stop being made. One minute later the train was mounting the grade at the Manhattan Bridge approach. The Pacific Street station was reached at ten minutes past two and there a second stop was made. At fourteen minutes past the hour 36th Street was passed; at sixteen minutes past, the train swept by 44th Street, and reached the terminal at Coney Island at twenty-seven and one-half minutes past the hour.

There the Commission's direction of the arrangements ended and the Borough Park Heights organization assumed charge. The party marched to Stauch's Pavilion, Coney Island, where luncheon was served, covers being laid for two hundred and fifty. Later a number of speeches were made, the speakers including President Harris, who acted as toastmaster, Commissioners Whitney and Hayward, Borough President Pounds, ex-Justice Ransom, Chief Engineer Turner, Superintendent Dempsey, Mr. Creighton, Mr. Coler and Jeremiah O'Leary. At the conclusion of the luncheon the party returned to New York by way of the Sea Beach line.

Operating Schedule. Officials of the operating company assured those present that a regular schedule of about thirty-five minutes between Union Square and Coney Island would be maintained by the company. It is hoped, however, later to reduce the running time between the two points to about thirty minutes, or only two and one-half minutes longer than was required to reach Coney Island on the initial trip during which, as stated above, practically no stops were made.

Regular service was established on the evening of September 4, with trains operating from Union Square to Coney Island over the Sea Beach line and from Union Square to the Culver line and West End line station at 9th Avenue in the 38th Street Cut in Brooklyn. The last named short line service provides connection to and from 14th Street with the Culver and West End lines. The operating headway from Union Square was established on a three-minute basis, trains alternating to Coney Island and 9th Avenue.

History of Line. While the history of the construction of the Broadway Subway is familiar to many of the employees of the Commission, it may not be out of place to recount one or two of the principal features. It will be recalled that a portion of the Broadway line from Canal Street to 11th Street was first a part of the old Tri-Borough Route. Construction was begun in 1912 following the awarding of the first contracts. The Dual System negotiations, however, provided a better use for the lines than was originally contemplated in the Tri-Borough plans; and the portion above mentioned, together with other portions of Route No. 5 to the south, were included in the list of lines assigned for operation to the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company through its subsidiaries. Actual construction, however, had only begun south of Bleecker Street prior to the signing of the Dual Contracts and later the remaining contracts were let.

At first no such connection as that by way of the Manhattan Bridge was contemplated, but subsequent to the signing of the Dual System contracts, however, an agreement was reached between the Commission, acting for the City, and the New York Municipal Railway Corporation, by which, as a result of a contribution of the cost, about $500,000, by the Brooklyn Company, a physical connection at Canal Street was determined upon. The wisdom of this plan is now apparent as it has made the beginning of operation possible considerably in advance of the date when operation may be obtained by the originally planned connection of the Broadway Subway to Brooklyn, namely the Whitehall-Montague Street Tunnel and the Montague-Willoughby Street line.

Contracting Firms. The contractors for the several sections of the lines now under operation were the O'Rourke Engineering and Construction Company, which had the contract for Section No. 2-A, from Walker to Howard Street, delivered on July 17,1912, at a price of $912,351.60; The Underpinning and Foundation Company, Section No. 3 from Howard to Bleecker Street, which was delivered on January 19, 1912, at a contract price of $2,295,086.50, and also the section under Canal Street, known as the Canal Street Subway, from the Bowery to Broadway, which was delivered on July 16, 1914, the contract price being $1,822,994.25. The Dock Contractor Company built Section No. 4 from Bleecker Street to Union Square, the contract for which was delivered on August 19, 1913. at a price of $2,578,078.

The contract for station finish from the Battery to 14th Street was delivered on April 25. 1916, the original contract later assigned to the D. C. Serber Company, at a contract price of $344,716.35. Station finish for the Canal Street station was included in another contract subsequently executed with the same company and delivered on October 20, 1916, covering not only the Canal Street, but the 23d Street and 28th Street Stations, for which the bid was $149,324.75. The contract for the installation of tracks, which included several other sections was delivered to the T. H. Reynolds Contracting Company, on August 13, 1916, the Contract price being $288,400.

Public Service Record · Vol. V, No. 1, January 1918.

Broadway Subway Operation to Times Square.

The Broadway Subway was placed in operation for local service between the Times Square and Rector Street stations on January 5, supplementing the service between Brooklyn and Union Square which was begun on September 4 last. Strenuous efforts were put forth by the Commission and the operating company, the New York Consolidated Railroad Company, to institute the new service on December 31, 1917. These efforts did not meet with success, however, owing to the extreme cold weather prevailing at the time, which so slowed up the work as to make the opening on the desired day impossible.

Additional facilities provided by the new line, however, were of so important a character as to warrant the Commission, despite the incompleteness of the work on January 5, to order the running of trains, although the operation must for a time be carried on under difficulties. Temporary stairways at Times Square and other expedients at still other stations were necessary, but will be replaced with finished work at the earliest date possible.

New Route Downtown. Introduction of service between Times Square and Rector Street has already proved another endorsement of the judgment of the Commission in placing lines and parts of lines in service at the earliest possible dates. Thousands of passengers are daily taking advantage of the new facility, utilizing it as a means of transportation between homes in Brooklyn and business places in central Manhattan, and also between central and downtown Manhattan. Passengers between the financial and theatre and hotel districts have already found in the Broadway Subway's local service a new, direct and reasonably quick method of getting uptown and downtown, with the added advantage of being free from the congestion which prevails in the First Subway.

Following the usual custom on such occasions a celebration was arranged to mark the event. The Broadway Association in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Civic Club co-operated in the arrangements, which included the operation of an official special train, formally opening the line, followed by a luncheon at Murray's Restaurant, adjacent to the Times Square Station. Speakers at the luncheon included Chairman Oscar S. Straus; President Timothy S. Williams of the operating company; Victor Lersner, president of the Brooklyn Civic Club; Sheriff Knott of New York County and Stanley Y. Beach, grandson of Alfred Ely Beach, the projector of the first Broadway subway, built in 1870.

The Earliest Subway. The presence of Stanley Y. Beach and of his father, Frederick C. Beach, was an interesting feature of the ceremonies. The story of the Beach tunnel is familiar to most of the readers of the Record, who recall how the Commission's engineers and the contractor's men uncovered the old short stretch of tube between Murray Street and Park Place when construction of the new Broadway Subway reached a point opposite the City Hall. The Beach tunnel was to be operated with small passenger cars forced through the tunnel by compressed air. Portions of the old car of the Beach line were found when the work of removing the old tunnel began, and small pieces were retained by some of the members of the Engineering Department as souvenirs of New York's earliest subway.

Among those on the official train were Commissioners Travis H. Whitney, F. J. H. Kracke and Charles Bulkley Hubbell; Robert Ridgway, Acting Chief Engineer; James B. Walke, Secretary; ex-Justice William L. Ransom, Counsel; LeRoy T. Harkness, Chief of Rapid Transit; Timothy S. Williams, President; John J. Dempsey, Vice-President; W. S. Menden, Chief Engineer; George S. Yeomans, Counsel, and other officials of the B. R. T.; W. C. Fisk, President of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Company; Lewis H. Pounds, former Borough President of Brooklyn; John E. Eustis, former Public Service Commissioner; E. W. Estes, Secretary of the Broadway Association, and John B. Creighton, Secretary of the Brooklyn Civic Club.

Other representatives of the Commission in the party included J. O. Shipman, Division Engineer, First Division, and staff, under whose immediate direction the Broadway Subway was constructed; R. H. Jacobs, head of the Track Division, who was in charge of the track-laying work; C. M. Kendall. of the Station Finish Division, in charge of the work of station finish; Sverre Dahm, Deputy Engineer of Subway Construction; A. I. Raisman, Engineer of Designs; George L. Lucas, General Inspector; and Division Engineers John H. Myers, Frederick W. Carpenter and George S. Rice.

Train from Brooklyn. The Commission's party and the Brooklyn Civic Club, together with officials of the operating Company, boarded the special train at the Pacific Street station, Brooklyn, shortly after 11 o'clock. The train Came through the Fourth Avenue Subway, over the Manhattan Bridge, and through the Canal Street Subway into the Broadway Subway, proceeding north on the local tracks to the Union Square Station over potions of the line in operation since September last. The special train made one or two stops to take on other members of the party waiting at some of the stations and then proceeded north to the new Times Square station where a brief halt was made while the party examined the station and then again entered the train, together with members of the Broadway Association, for the trip to Rector Street and return.

About eighteen minutes was consumed in the trip to Rector Street, the special leaving Times Square southbound at 11:35 A. M. A brief stop was made at Cortlandt Street where President Fisk of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Company boarded the train, using for the first time the new passageway entrance between the Concourse of the Hudson Terminal Building and the Cortlandt Street station.

Members of the official party had a fine opportunity to observe completed work and construction work in close proximity, inasmuch as there is no crossover at Rector Street and in order to turn the train it was necessary for the special, as it is for all other trains, to proceed to the Whitehall Street station in order to reach a crossover. At the Whitehall Street station construction work is still in progress and will require several months yet to complete.

The return trip consumed about l7.5 minutes, no stops being made. At each station passengers were awaiting the.beginning of regular passenger service. The train on its return trip reached Times Square shortly after twelve o'clock, being followed closely by the first regular train, filled with passengers.

Statements by Commissioners. In connection with the beginning of the new service public statements were made by Chairman Straus and Commissioner Kracke. That of the Chairman was as follows:

Although the celebration is held in Manhattan over the opening of a new subway link in Manhattan, the chief beneficiaries of the completion and beginning of operation of this great work are the people of the former "City of Churches." Consolidation took place as a matter of legislative fiat many years ago, but Manhattan and Brooklyn were still separated by the great East River barrier. The celebration today marks the breaking of that barrier partially begun by the operation of the first city subway into but not through Brooklyn. From now on and in increasing degree Brooklyn and Manhattan are going to be bound together by the great transportation systems now approaching completion.

It was hardly more than ten years ago when something like sixteen elevated tracks spreading fan-like through Brooklyn were throttled down into two tracks crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn passengers bound to and from Manhattan subjected to one of the most severe instances of traffic congestion on record, and even then inadequately served by merely being carried from or to Manhattan instead of to or from the points in Manhattan where business or other interests called them. The construction of this great Broadway subway, with its tunnel and bridge connections, not only relieves the traffic throttling of the past, that so hindered the proper development of Brooklyn, but will permit of the people of Brooklyn being carried with speed and in comfort to the business, shopping and theatre districts in Manhattan.

Dual Benefit. While Brooklyn will be the chief beneficiary of the operation of the Broadway Subway, nevertheless, the benefit to Manhattan is very great and far-reaching. Aside from the connections with Brooklyn and Queens, with its express service to the Coney Island beaches, Manhattan secures a trunk line subway built for express service extending from the Battery to 59th Street. It is an interesting commentary of the time it takes to accomplish great public works that in 1865 a committee of the State Legislature, after investigation, reported the then pressing need of a subway under Broadway.

For various reasons Manhattan has had to wait for over half a century for its Broadway Subway. But it is here now and Manhattan is to have the benefit from its operation that it has been awaiting all these years. But it is not only the Broadway Subway, important as it is in itself, that is Manhattan's gain today, but the connection of that subway with the rapid transit systems of Brooklyn and Queens, that not only will give the people of Brooklyn and Queens rapid and convenient access to the financial, shopping and theatre districts in Manhattan, but will afford the crowded districts of Manhattan proper outlets to the nearby thinly settled districts of two great home boroughs. These benefits we are unable now properly or adequately to appraise: but as the Broadway traffic develops and the new links are thrown into operation those benefits will be great and lasting and will accrue in increasing degree.

Central Brooklyn Plans. In this connection I wish to refer for a moment to one unfortunate omission in the original Dual subway plans. Greatly as they provided for most districts in the greater city they left out of the subway system the great Central District of Brooklyn with a population measured by hundreds of thousands. It is the desire of the Commission promptly to remedy this omission and if has lately authorized and transmitted to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment contracts and plans whereby for less than two and a half million dollars this section of Brooklyn can be connected with the Broadway Subway system with great and lasting benefit both to Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The property owners and business people along Broadway will welcome, I know, the relief from the street conditions attending the building of this subway. The inconvenience and real hardship necessarily occasioned to property and business interests by the building of a great four-track subway in a city street are very great and as Chairman of the Commission I wish to express appreciation to the property owners and business people along Broadway for their co-operation and patience during this work. The Commission has tried to alleviate those conditions but from the nature of things in many and perhaps in most cases any real alleviation was impossible.

nycsubway.org is not affiliated with any transit agency or provider.
Not mobile.