McClellan Motorman of First Subway Train (1904)

From nycsubway.org

The New York Times · Friday, October 28th, 1904

Mayor Used Silver Controller to Start Official Train
Company Had Expected Its Motor Instructor to Replace Him After the Start

It was not part of the programme that Mayor McClellan should act as motorman of the initial train. The mere starting of the machinery was to be his duty, but he liked the job so well that he told general manager Hedley he wanted to stay at the controller all the way to Harlem. And stay he did, running the train to One Hundred and Third Street and Broadway before he gave way to George L. Morrison, the motor instructor of the company.

Although Mr. Hedley, who knows all the appliances of an electric car from the wheels up, stood beside him all the time, with one hand on the emergency brake and another ready to operate the whistle, the Mayor had qualified as an expert motorman before the train was one-third of the way up town. The northward trip to One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street and Broadway from the City Hall was made in exactly twenty-six minutes. The return trip, on which the train became a local and stopped at every station, took forty-one minutes, about ten minutes longer than schedule time.

The party that came from the opening exercises in the City Hall started toward the entrance kiosk over the Loop Station at 2:25 o'clock. Led by Mr. Hedley, the Mayor, Archbishop Farley and President Orr, they marched rapidly across the open space that had been roped off in front of the City Hall. Around this area a guard of more than two hundred policemen, under Inspector Titus, had formed a line beyond which, elbowing each other, was a crowd of 6,000 or 7,000, including many women.

The City's Glad Uproar. The tooting of factory whistles that had begun at 2 o'clock was still in progress, and a continuous cheering of the crowd marked the passage of the guests toward the station. From the Battery to Harlem, at the same time, the tugs, ferry boats, and steamships on the two riverfronts were blowing their greeting, vying with the steam whistle of hundreds of power plants, the chiming of church bells, and the cheering of the citizens. The city was in an uproar from end to end as General Manager Hedley opened the kiosk door and descended the steps to the station platform where the first train of eight cars stood waiting.

It had been understood that only those who obtained access to the City Hall would be admitted to the first or second train, which in railroad parlance was designated as two sections of the same train. In spite of the big police guard, however, there were many who managed to slip in, as a result both the two sections were crowded uncomfortably. Many passengers stood in every car, and the total loads probably aggregated at least 1,100 persons.

The first man to step aboard the first car was Mr. Hedley, Motor Instructor Morrison followed, bearing the mahogany case containing the silver controller with which Mayor McClellan was to run the train. The car, like two of those behind it, was one of the all-steel variety, silver-tinted as to its interior decorations, and as clean as when it came from the shops.

The Mayor, with President Orr and Archbishop Farley at his heels and the other officials crowding in after them, walked rapidly to the motor vestibule. Taking the silver controller from its case, Mr. Hedley fitted it on the motor.

"Doesn't fit very well," he remarked.

The general manager touched two or three of the complicated levers located roundabout. Then he gave some brief instructions to Mr. McClellan, whose hand was in place on the controller. Another crank was touched, and with a great hissing the electric power rushed on. It was 2:33 o'clock.

The Controller Inscribed. The Mayor, while Mr. Hedley poked his head out of a window and shouted an order to a man on the platform, stooped and read this inscription on the controller, just under the ebony handle:

"Controller used by the Hon. George B. McClellan, Mayor of the City of New York, in starting the first train on the Rapid Transit Railroad from the City Hall station, New York, Thursday, Oct. 27, 1904. Presented to the Hon. George B. McClellan by August Belmont, President of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company."

By this time the train was full. The only principals who had failed to come aboard were President Belmont, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Bishop Greer, each of whom had an important engagement.

"Are we ready?" asked the Mayor.

"All right," responded Mr. Hedley, who kept his hand on the emergency brake lever. "Slow at first, remember!"

The Mayor's wrist shot out about an inch, and the train began to move at 2:35:30 o'clock. Slowly it rounded the loop and entered the big Brooklyn Bridge Station, but just as it emerged toward Elm Street there was a violent jolt, a sudden stop, and the passengers were thrown forward as though the train had struck an obstruction.

"What's up?" asked the Mayor.

"It's all right," cried Mr. Hedley, "turn it the other way."

The train shot forward over a switch to the express tracks, and was passing through the Worth Street Station before those who were watching the motorman became aware that the sudden stop had been due to the emergency brake. The silver controller's bad fit caused it to come in contact with the brake lever when the Mayor turned it too far to the left, and Mr. Hedley had made a quick readjustment to prevent a recurrence of the jolt.

"Shall I slow her down here?" inquired the Mayor-Motorman as the curve into the Spring Street Station came in sight.

"You're going slow enough," was the reply, "but aren't you tired of it? Don't you want the motorman to take hold?"

"I'm Running This Train!"

"No, Sir! I'm running this train!"

The Mayor said later that his knowledge of automobiling had helped him to "catch on" in a hurry. As the train flew past the down-town stations his confidence grew. Mr. Hedley never let go the brake control, and Vice President Bryan stood behind the motorman, but it looked as though the Mayor was well able to take care of things alone.

Past Fourteenth Street, with a slight decrease of speed, and up Fourth Avenue the train sped, the momentum increasing steadily. All along the line, on both sides, were stalled train after train. As the special passed the crews lifted their hats and cheered, and on every station platform the guards and ticket men stood at attention, saluting as they looked into the motor car and saw behind the glass windows three men wearing silk hats, each peering out through the gloom with that alert expression that distinguished the motorman always on the lookout for danger.

It was 2:46:30 o'clock when the Grand Central Station was passed, and less than a minute later the train rounded the curve at the Times Square Station, on the westerly wall of which was the word "Times" shone in big electric lights.

"Times Square Station," called the Mayor, turning the controller so that the train started up Broadway at a forty-miles-an-hour speed.

With only an occasional slowing up for the slight curves of upper Broadway, the train dashed on until it was past Sixty-sixth Street. Once every few seconds Mr. Hedley would reach under the mayor's hand and touch off the whistle from the opposite side, and now and again there would be the low advice:

"Slower here -- slow-er! Ea-sy for the curve!"

Slows Up For Workman. Just a little south of the Seventy-second Street Station, as the Mayor was slowing a bit for the gradual curve, a workman with his red lantern appeared on the track a few hundred feet in front. There really was no danger, and the man was jumping off at the moment, but the motorman's grip tightened and his wrist turned with a jerk. At that instant, as the train was coming to a stop, the man stepped aside, and in another second the train had resumed full speed and was tearing through the station.

Gliding with decreased speed into the Ninety-sixth Street Station, the last express stop, the train passed over a switch to the right hand, or north-bound local track. It had taken nineteen minutes to reach Ninety-Sixth Street. Fourteen and a half minutes is the regular express time from the Brooklyn Bridge, but the mayor's run was not so bad, seeing that he had started from the loop station beyond the bridge and that his speed had not been very great during the stage of apprenticeship below Fourteenth Street.

Full speed was attained again before One Hundred and Third Street was reached and the Mayor had gotten enough of it by that time. Mr. Morrison took hold of the controller.

"Well," remarked the City's Executive, stretching his fingers, "that was a little tiresome, don't you know. Why, you have to keep pressing that thing down all the time, for if you relax your hand the train will stop."

"If the motorman should die--," the Health Commissioner began to explain from nearby, but he was interrupted when everybody turned toward the windows as the train emerged upon the viaduct over Manhattan Valley.

This viaduct was the only section where the public could view the first train, and a great crowd had assembled at every available place of vantage for blocks around. On the vacant lots, on roofs and in every window, men, women, and children cheered and waved their hats or handkerchiefs. Mr. Morrison slowed down and started the whistle. Every factory in that part of the city answered him, and the boats out in the river began a tooting that could be heard in the train until it dived into the earth again at One Hundred and Thirty-third Street. Then Mr. Morrison stopped his whistle, which had been going continuously, and put on full power once more.

First Train's Schedule. The next station seemed to be flying past, and One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street was reached at 3:01:30 o'clock--twenty-six minutes to the second from the City Hall Station. The schedule made by the train had been as follows, counting as stops the time it passed through each station:

City Hall (2:35:30), Brooklyn Bridge (2:36:30), Worth Street (2:37:30), Spring Street (2:38:15), Bleecker Street (2:39:30), Astor Place (2:42), Fourteenth Street (2:43), Eighteenth Street (2:43:45), Twenty-third Street (2:44:30), Twenty-eighth Street (2:45:15), Forty-second Street (Grand Central) (2:47), Forty-second Street (Times Square) (2:48), Fiftieth Street (2:48:30), Sixtieth Street (Circle) (2:50), Seventy-second Street (2:51), Seventy-ninth Street (2:52:15), Eighty-sixth Street (2:53), Ninety-first Street (2:54), Ninety-sixth Street (2:54:30), One Hundred and Third Street (2:56), One Hundred and Tenth Street (2:57:15), One Hundred and Sixteenth Street (2:57:45), Manhattan Street (2:59), One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street (3:00) One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street (3:01:30).

After a wait necessary for switching back the train started down town on the local track at 3:06 o'clock. While the stops were being made at each station the Mayor walked through all the cars and shook hands with many city officials and visitors, most of whom discovered for the first time that their lives had been in his hands on the upward trip.

"If I'd known that," remarked one engineer jocularly, "I'd have waited for the second section. A regular motorman at $3.50 a day for mine!"

The Rapid Transit Commissioners and principal guests stayed aboard all the way down, but many of the other passengers disembarked as the train proceeded, and those who remained at a more comfortable time than they did going north. Still, some were without seats to the end. Among those who saw it through was the Archbishop.

"It was a triumph," he said.

"Magnificent," echoed Bishop McDonnell of Brooklyn.

"The finest thing in the land," said Mgr. Lavelle, who sat near them.

Advertising Signs. It was noticed when the train had come down as far as Forty-second Street that workmen were beginning to place big framed advertisements along the floors of each station, leaning them against the wall in a slanting position. The car advertisements have been in place for some time, but until then the stations had depended upon their beautiful mural ornamentation for decoration. Everybody in the train was expressing regret that the fine appearance of things was to be marred. The Mayor was more emphatic than the rest.

"I've just been discussing it with Mr. Ahearn and Commissioner O'Donnell," he said, "I never knew about it until a few minutes ago."

"What do you think of it?" he was asked.

"Well, I don't know what is the legal status of the question. Why don't you ask President Orr?"

"From an artistic standpoint, what is your view?"

"They look very bad," he said.

Although holders of complementary passes for the afternoon were not supposed to be admitted to any station until the special trains had passed it, a few people managed to slip in, and the guards on the first trains were busy refusing to admit them.

"It's my orders," said conductor James C. Harrington of the Mayor's section, and the other platform men did the same.

At Eighteenth Street, when several passengers alighted, Police Inspector Walsh, without his uniform, tried to get on. Conductor Harrington "turned him down cold." At Fourteenth Street two women protested in vain that they should be permitted inside.

Two stations further down a woman rushed to the edge of the platform and threw a bunch of flowers into the motorman's window. It was assumed that she intended them for the Mayor, and he got them, although the regular motorman of the train, Thomas Pouler, was in charge at the time.

By the time the first train and the section following had reached the City Hall Station, the road was in operation throughout for the benefit of the pass holders, who had been waiting at each station in crowds. Hours before the formal exercises General Manager Hedley had made a last trip of inspection, and a guard train had preceded the Mayor's fifteen or twenty minutes to see that the track was clear as ordered.

By the time the first section of the special reached the Grand Central Station the order to "let 'em in" was telephoned to the up-town stations along the line below that point, and as the special proceeded station after station was opened. It was not until it had completed the return trip, however, that all the entrances were cleared.

Through the rest of the afternoon until 6 o'clock the ticket holders had the tunnel at their disposal, and the trains maintained their schedule without delays -- locals three minutes apart, and expresses of varying from six to five minutes. The passes issued numbered 5,500, each good for three persons, but it is estimated that many of them were unused. At six o'clock the guards and station men began to clear the tunnel, and then there was a short interval of final preparation before the road opened for paying "fares" at seven o'clock.

Night Crowd In Possession -- Jam At All Express Stations -- The Curious Preferred Fast Trains.

The traveling public dropped into its new possession last evening at seven o'clock sharp. At six o'clock the man who planned, financed, and built the subway gave it a final "godspeed," and an hour later the great trolley car public, who will pay the subway's dividends and keep it going, took possession.

The route of the subway was indicated any time after six o'clock by the crowds which gathered around many of the stations, big crowds around the express stations, such as Brooklyn Bridge, the Grand Central, and Times Square, and smaller crowds at all the intermediate stations.

When seven o'clock struck, the various sections of the New York traveling public which dotted the map of Manhattan all the way from City Hall to One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street and Broadway miraculously dropped out of sight and the Interborough Rapid Transit Company began to get back some of the $40,000,000 spent to build the great tunnel.

The crowds poured down so rapidly that for the first ten minutes the ticket sellers could not get their breath. So plentiful were the police, however, that there was no disorder inside the stations. Lines were formed, and although the people did not get on the station platform quite as quickly as they wanted to, there was no confusion at the ticket offices. The fact that every man had his nickel ready, and lone women their inevitable five pennies well in hand, greatly expedited the sale of tickets.

Biggest Jam at Bridge.The greatest crowd was at the Brooklyn bridge entrance, where, however, there were more than 300 policemen in anticipation of the rush. The crowd was formed into line four abreast and the column stretched far down Park Row, but the four ticket sellers within were able to supply them with tickets without any undue delay.

Another big crowd was at Times Square, Broadway and Forty-second Street. In the first five minutes 318 persons passed onto the up-town platform, and in the first half hour 900 persons had paid their nickels to go up town. There was great rivalry to get the first ticket sold, and Joseph Curran of 310 West Forty-eighth Street bound up town, got the first four at Times station.

On the down-town side the ticket agent received an offer of $25 for Ticket No. 1, but he wouldn't take it. He bought the ticket himself for 5 cents. After that he received two or three offers of $10 for it, but he preferred to keep the ticket.

Most of those who traveled last night did it just for the fun of the thing, and when they passed the stations at which they intended to get off, or if they happened to be on an express train which didn't stop at their particular station, they changed their plans to suit the circumstances. The majority rode from one end of the road to the other and manifested a preference for express trains and the novelty of riding from Brooklyn Bridge to One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street and Broadway in twenty four and a half minutes, and from the Grand Central Station to Brooklyn Bridge in eight minutes.

Many passengers, however, were business and theatre bound and a good many of them had criticisms to offer. In the first place the three minutes' headway called for by the local train schedule and the express trains' four minutes' headway for the first hour after the opening were seriously interfered with because the passengers had difficulty in getting on and off the trains.

The gates to the vestibules, particularly those on the copper-sheathed cars, are very narrow; so narrow that two persons can pass only with great difficulty. The guards, who are not accustomed to the sliding gates yet, were slow in opening them, and the simultaneous attempt of some to get on the car while other were getting off invariably resulted in a block, which was not broken until a policeman or station hand came to the aid of the guard. The trouble last night might have been averted if there had been a bigger force of station guards, particularly at the crowded express platforms.

Rode in Vestibules. Although passengers are not supposed to ride in the vestibules, this regulation was violated last night, for the same reason that the rule forbidding persons to ride on the platforms of elevated cars is broken-- because there is no room inside the cars. A few of the express trains were so jammed that seats, straps and standing room in the vestibules were occupied and great delays were occasioned by the efforts of others to board such trains. The vestibule had to empty itself before those inside the cars could get off, although in the new all-steel cars the difficulty was not so great.

When these various delays had broken up the regular schedule, some of the local trains attempted to make up time by skipping stations, which manoeuvre caused lots of trouble to those who were not riding around for fun.

The down-town local which left the Times Station at 7:45 o'clock stopped next at the Grand Central Station, and when it was ready to start the guards announced "No stop at Thirty-third Street", which was an unpleasant surprise to those whose business or pleasure took them off at that station. The passing up of the Thirty-third Street station chiefly affected those who were making an experiment of the Subway as a theatre route. Other locals passed by Twenty-third Street, and many had to ride down to Eighteenth Street. If they were not too angry they walked up to the street, crossed over, went down again into the Subway, paid another nickel, and rode back to Twenty-third Street.

There was more trouble when the delayed trains got down to the City Hall loop. All the novelty seekers naturally remained aboard the train, and between 8 and 9 o'clock, when the Subway circulation had fully established itself, great crowds alighted every few minutes at the City Hall terminal, and started to make their exits by way of the two kiosks in the park. Considerable crowds also were inward bound and the result about 9 o'clock was a jam, by reason of which people neither could get in or out.

Police Try Piper's Plan. Finally the police put into operation the street traffic plan originated by Col. Piper. Those who wanted to get in were held back until the congestion within was relieved, and then the outgoing crowd was kept in until the new-comers had crowded the platform. Thus both currents were allowed alternately an unobstructed course, and there was no trouble, but there was considerable delay and much impatience. Altogether, the crowd at City Hall and the Bridge Stations was not so great as had been expected, and the total number who were on hand at the two points waiting for the Subway to open did not exceed 5,000. The crush, however, on account of the number who wanted to have the honor of buying the first ticket, was considerable, but it was all over in less than half an hour, and Inspector Titus sent his reserves back to their station houses. At City Hall the first green ticket, which bore the number 12,000, was sold to H. M. Devoe, a Deputy Superintendent in the Board of Education.

Altogether, judging from the expressions of the travelers, New York is mightily pleased with its newest help to get around. Of all, the most delighted were the Harlemites, who, watches in hand, verified in delighted astonishment the realization of their dream of years, "To Harlem in 15 minutes."

Big Sign In Times Station.-- Extra Police Guard Because of the Crowds It Drew.

Subway passengers were greatly attracted by the bright sign, Times, on the down-town platform at Forty-second Street and Broadway. The light is the Cooper-Hewitt light, and the letters are four feet high and the sign is twelve feet long, the light being more than 7,200 candle power. The rays were so powerful that they shone clearly through the skylights on the Broadway sidewalk, and many went down from the street to ascertain the cause of the phenomenon. The curiosity was so great that Capt. Cottrell stationed one of his detail of sixteen policemen to guard the sign.

There are two entrances to the Subway through The Times Building, one from Broadway and one from Forty-second Street, and they were indicated last night by electric signs. The station was crowded all the evening.

Lost Diamonds In Subway -- Henry Barrett Reports Theft of $500 Pin to the Police.

Henry Barrett of 348 West Forty-sixth Street bought the third ticket at the Twenty-eighth Street Station of the Subway at the opening of business at 7 o'clock last evening, and walking down stairs took the first train at 7:02. At 7:03 he looked for his diamond horseshoe pin with fifteen diamonds for which he said he paid $500, and it was gone.

He had it when he boarded the train. He reported the theft to the West Thirtieth Street police and they sent out an alarm and notified Police Headquarters. The thieves will be looked for and the pawnshops watched.

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