IRT — New York City's First Subway

by Larry D. Lankton, Historian; American Engineering Record, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, Washington, D.C.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1979, Vol. 49, Issue 11, Pg. 71-75

Document Type: Feature article


In October 1904, New York City opened its first subway, the Lexington Avenue IRT line. It was the nation's first subway to operate with trains of cars (Boston's is older but ran only single-car streetcars). Before that 1904 opening, New York had been trying for some 40 years (since just after the Civil War) to build a subway to relieve the heavy congestion of horse-drawn traffic. Here are highlights of its background, including a heavy emphasis on the socioeconomic reasons for its finally coming into existence. A sidebar article deals with the three men most influential in making the first subway possible; they are Abram S. Hewitt (the politician), William Barclay Parsons (the engineer) and August Belmont, Jr. (the financier).

Subject Headings: Urban areas | Subways | Railroad trains | Traffic congestion | Social factors | Financial management | New York City | New York | United States

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