Visiting Sunday Crowds Swamp Subway Service (1904)

From nycsubway.org

The New York Times · Monday, October 31st, 1904

Out-of-Town Folks Made Picnic of It-- Brought Their Lunches.
Crush Greatest at Up-Town Terminals--Number May Be No Greater Than Saturday-- Distribution Worse.

Though it is doubtful if the Subway carried a bigger crowd yesterday than Saturday, the travel was distributed so as to make the crush worse, especially at the two furthest stations up Broadway. Without intermission the rush of passengers continued all day and there were four hours in the afternoon when the police at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street and Broadway had to keep the crowd in a waiting line that passed into the single down-town entrance at the rate of 100 a minute.

The Interborough offices were closed over Sunday, so neither the exact figures for Saturday nor an estimate for yesterday was obtainable. Mr. Hedley's estimate late Saturday afternoon for that day was 350,000, following Friday's record of 319,000. The hordes of sightseers jammed the up-town terminals yesterday, and the trains ran even slower than before and with less frequency. Thus, of course, a crowd no larger than Saturday's may have created more inconvenience at stations.

At least two out of every three passengers seemed to be visitors to the city, and at every steam railroad station throngs of suburbanites or strangers from further away poured in. Trains into the Grand Central Station and all of the ferries from Jersey came in loaded. The visitors, on arriving made a rush for the nearest Subway station.

Over the Brooklyn Bridge, by train and afoot, came thousands in an endless procession, beginning in the morning and lasting into the night. The station at the bridge's Manhattan terminal, despite its greater capacity than any other on the line, was far from adequate, and periodically the police had to halt the waiting crowd while the ticket sellers stopped work long enough to clear the platforms. The same conditions existed at the City Hall Loop station, while a hardly less annoying crush blocked Fourteenth Street and the express stations beyond.

CRUSH AT UP-TOWN TERMINAL. But at no down-town point was the overcrowding comparable with the rush at One Hundred and Thirty-seventh and One Hundred and Forty-fifth Streets. The stations down town are adapted to handling big crowds, and when they were overtaxed it was no wonder that the Washington Heights stations were even more inadequate. At One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street there is but a single entrance stairway on each side, one for up-town and the other for down-town passengers. Nearly everybody who boarded an express train yesterday rode all the way there, as the local passengers took the whole trip to One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street.

Express after express had to wait four, five, or even six minutes at the end of its run. The platform would be so crowded when it arrived that those inside, half of them strap-hangers, could not get out. Up the narrow stairway of the station marched a continuous stream of people, but even with the energetic assistance of many policemen they could not move fast enough to empty the station as rapidly as the trains came in.

"You see, we can't buck against this," said a guard, who had been there two days. "It makes no difference how many trains we are ready to run, we can't bring them in before those ahead are emptied, and we can't empty them any faster than the people leave the station platform."

It took an express train that left the Bridge at 3:13:30 o'clock exactly forty-nine minutes to reach One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street, and there was no derangement of machinery. A local that started down from One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street at 4:29 o'clock arrived at the Bridge forty-eight minutes later. These runs were fair samples for the hours between 9 A.M. and the close of the evening rush.

The express trains did not start to run until shortly after noon, and it was said that the officials did not expect such a big jam on Sunday. They found, however, that they could fill every train on all the tracks, but except for skipping stations there was little difference between expresses and locals. Sometimes the local leaving the Bridge at the same minute as an express would make a quicker run.

On emerging from the station at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street one came upon a scene that recalled a country fair. In every direction, as far as one could see, were crowds of people. Some were bound for the station, others were leaving, disgusted with the long wait to catch a train down. The line from the downtown entrance stretched back in single file for two blocks. Along its whole length policemen were acting as guides, explaining that there was no other way to avoid danger in the station below.

Police Captain Halpin of the One Hundred and Fifty-fourth Street Station remained in command through the day. He said it was worse than ever. There hadn't been such a crush even for a few hours except just after the crowd from the football on Saturday piled down to the temporarily opened station at One Hundred and Fifty-seventh Street.

BROUGHT THEIR LUNCHES. While the line, never diminishing, kept the police busy, a few thousand men, women and children were camping out around the neighborhood. In every vacant lot they were seated on the ground, some of them eating lunches, others just killing time. They did not seem to be in any great hurry. It was a fine day, and there was plenty of noise all around to make it different from the country. Dozens of peanut vendors, sandwich men, souvenir peddlers and newsboys reaped a harvest.

The company's officers-- with General Manager Hedley personally superintending things at the northern stations and Superintendent Merritt assisting him-- tried all sorts of schemes to remedy the delays. When the rush was at its height at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street. they began unloading some of the expresses at One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street. It simply transferred the scene of greatest stress temporarily. They ordered many of the trains, both local and express, to skip stations. The stations skipped became unbearably crowded. They tried switching some trains back at One Hundred and Third and Ninety-sixth Street.

These trains were filled as quickly as the rest, probably by people who would have fled from the tunnel but for unexpected prospects of a comfortable trip back downtown.

The long and short of it was that more people wanted to ride than the tunnel could hold. It carried all it could-- maybe less that it can accommodate after everything is in fine working order-- but as many as it wanted yesterday. If the elevated lines and surface cars lost any passengers on their upward runs, they must have gotten many back coming downtown, for thousands gave up any attempt to return by the tunnel after experiencing the slow trip north.

TORMENTED THE POLICE. It was a typical Coney Island sort of a crowd that packed the road. Children were on hand conspicuously, and the trainmen said they thought at least five per cent were of the under-five-years-old class. Little boys, whistling and making themselves generally obnoxious, crowded into the trains in droves. Roughs made life a misery for the police, mimicking them and shouting defiance to orders.

"And what can we do?" sighed a patrolman on the steps at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street, as he mopped his forehead. "We can't even move."

Just then the policeman's helmet was knocked from his head and trampled to pieces, and a gang of young boys hooted him. He swung out his arms, clearing a space by main force, and grabbed one of the offenders by the hair. Then he let him go, remarking: "What's the use?"

On one train that left the bridge in the afternoon there teemed to be an exceptional proportion of out-of-town visitors. An old man, with an up-the-State cut to his beard, managed to get in and grab seats for his whole family-- wife, daughter, and three grandchildren. A woman with purple dress, red trimmed, and a hat showing decorations of cloth foliage, dropped into the seat opposite, planting a youngster beside her. In less than a second the car was full to every strap.

Some of the stations were skipped. At others a few more passengers managed to squeeze in. Nobody had gotten off when Ninety-sixth Street was reached, and only a few left there. At One Hundred and Third Street began a series of delays, and some of the strap hangers were irritated into disappearing at the next stop. Then the train, which happened to get a clear track for a few hundred yards, dashed out to the Manhattan Valley viaduct.

Toward evening, when "Grandpa and the boys" or "Grandma and the girls" from out of town and the hundreds of children from everywhere were beginning to turn their eyes off the tunnel, the rush up town relaxed a little, but there was not enough difference to make sightseeing worth while. The Brooklyn Bridge saw no let-up in its throng until after dark, and as late as 7 o'clock there was a short interval during which the loop and bridge station entrances were flanked by a line of people waiting to buy tickets. At the loop the line stretched a distance of 200 feet several times.

The schedule of trains arranged for yesterday was not of much interest, as it never worked satisfactorily for more than a few minutes at a time, and then only along short sections of the road. Locals every three minutes and expresses every four-- that was what the guards would tell you in the afternoon. After waiting ten minutes you were likely to see a train bowl past you, while the children from inside whistled at you triumphantly.

MORE DELAY AT NIGHT. The vexatious delays continued last night. At first the express trains were affected, and then the local trains. The express service went wrong shortly After 7 o'clock, and for fully an hour the trains ran badly, while the local trains made good time. Many of the passengers of a local train at this hour got out at Grand Central Station and took an express train for the Bridge, thinking they would make time.

After a vexatious wait in the station, while the local train they had left started on its way, the express finally got started, but only to stop again and again between blocks on the way to Fourteenth Street. In the meantime several local trains passed. At Fourteenth Street many of those who had taken the express left it and took to the locals again. By this move they got along all right and passed several stalled expresses on the way down.

Shortly after 9 o'clock, when the express service was going properly, trouble started with the locals. A passenger on the downtown side of the Twenty-eighth Street station waited twenty-seven minutes for a local. In the meantime the up-town locals, the down and up town expresses, were moving smoothly.

The station master at the City Hall station, when asked about the delays, insisted that the trains had been running like clockwork all evening.

The officials of the Subway yesterday tried a plan at the bridge for controlling the crowds in the stations. At the Bridge particularly the streams of incoming and outgoing passengers came in conflict, and the result was much delay and confusion. According to the new arrangement the passenger, having bought a ticket, finds himself in a passageway marked by wooden railings. Following that, the passenger passes the ticket box and then down the stairs to the up-town track.

Coming down town the passenger on leaving the train and going up a single flight of stairs finds this course outside the railings which guide the incoming passengers. The new arrangement worked admirably last night, and the employees at the station said that it was likely that the same plan would be tried at the other stations as well.

Lad Faints In Subway Car

His First Trip Underground Brings on Attack of Nerves.

Richard Cowle, sixteen years old, of Third Avenue and Fourteenth Street, boarded a subway train north-bound at Fourteenth Street late yesterday afternoon for his first ride underground. He fainted away several times before the train arrived at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street. From there he was taken to the J. Hood Wright Hospital.

At the hospital it was said that young Cowle's illness was caused by nervousness. He was revived at the hospital and discharged early in the evening. He returned down town on the elevated.

Sad Boys From Quaker Town

Came Over to Ride Underground and Their Money Gave Out.

George Reese and George Dawson, both 12 years old and both of Philadelphia, got into town Saturday night as the guests of their pal, Bernard Samuels, 13 years old, also of Philadelphia.

Samuels is the only one of the three who works, and when he was paid Saturday afternoon he suggested to the two others that they come to New York to see the Subway. They had not more than enough money to pay their fares, but Samuels told them he had a friend in East Ninth Street.

The Bowery took up all their attention Saturday night with the exception of a view of the Subway as gained from a station platform. They did not have enough money to ride, and after trying in vain to find their friend in Ninth Street the trio slept in a hallway.

Things went no better yesterday, so toward evening they met John Schultz of 103 Avenue B and told him their tale of woe, and he took them to the Union Market Station. They were sent to the rooms of the Children's Society.

Arm Broken In Subway

Fell in Alighting from Train-- Caught Between Car and Platform.

Charles Marvin, fifty years old, a stationer of 276 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, was on his way to the Presbyterian Hospital with his wife and son yesterday when he fell in getting off at the Times Square station of the subway.

His right arm slipped in between the car and the platform as the train was moving. He was taken to Flower Hospital, where it was found that his arm was broken.

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