Gay Midnight Crowds Rides First Trains in New Subway (1932)

From nycsubway.org

The New York Times · Saturday, September 10th, 1932

Throngs at Stations an Hour Before Time, Rush Turnstiles When Chains Are Dropped.
But West Side Business Group Celebrates Midnight Event With Ride and Dinner.
Delaney, Fullen and Aides Check First Hour of Pay Traffic From Big Times Square Station.
By Paul Crowell

Operation of the Eighth Avenue municipal subway began at 12:01 o'clock this morning.

At that hour the public's nickels began dropping Into the turnstiles of the twenty-eight stations along the twelve-mile route between Chambers Street and 207th Street, with thousands of riders crowding into the commodious trains.

There was no official "first train," no official opening ceremony, no laudatory speech-making program. The chains which have blocked access to the turnstiles were removed just before midnight last night, and those who dropped their nickels in the turnstile slots were free to board a train at any station along the line. The full operating schedule has been in effect since Wednesday afternoon, and at every station on the line, uptown or downtown, a local or express was available within a few minutes after the prospective rider reached the station platform.

The new line, which took seven years to build and cost $191,200,000, was opened under the watchful observation of Transportation Commissioners John H. Delaney, Frank X. Sullivan and Daniel L. Ryan, who with General Manager John R. Slattery and the key executives of his operating force, gathered in the dispatcher's office at the south end of the downtown platform at the Forty-second Street station to check the first hour or so of revenue operation. With them were Chairman William G. Fullen of the Transit Commission and a group of Board of Transportation engineers.

Crowds Gather Hour Ahead. Crowds began to gather outside the railings and turnstiles of the stations an hour or more before the line was thrown open to the public and the actual opening hour was marked by a frantic rush by those who wanted to board the first train out of the particular station where they were gathered. The largest crowds assembled at the huge stations at Forty-second Street, Thirty-fourth Street and Columbus Circle, but at other points along the line hundreds were waiting for the chance to drop their nickels in the turnstiles long before the chain barriers were removed.

The largest crowd to board trains immediately after the official opening was at the Forty-second Street station. At that point Mr. Delaney gave the signal to throw the turnstiles open to the public. The first person to drop his coin into the slot was Billy Reilly, 7 years old, of 406 West Forty-sixth Street, who had been waiting several hours for his first ride on the new line. He got a preferred place on line when, Mr. Delaney learned that he was born March 14, 1925, the day ground was first broken for the new subway.

At this station, as well as at Columbus Circle and Thirty-fourth Street, a carnival spirit was manifested by those who waited to board the first trains. They rushed through the turnstiles, cheering and shouting and rushed down the stairways to the platforms. The first train to pull in was a southbound express. It was filled to capacity and carried the first load of straphangers to ride on the new line. Fifteen minutes after this train pulled out there was still a line in front of the main change booth at the Forty-second Street entrance of the station.

First Complaint Is Made. At the Chambers Street station the first complaint was registered by an indignant passenger who declared he had had to put two nickels in the turnstile before he could board a train. He argued for several minutes with the station agent, declared that it was "a rotten subway" and then made a mad dash for the train platform.

Mr. Delaney, after a short observation of conditions at the Forty-second Street station, said he was satisfied with the way things were going and was confident the new line would measure up to expectations. The damage done by vandals at fifteen stations along the line, he said, would be repaired at once, Attributing it to the "carnival spirit" of young boys, he voiced the belief that it would not be repeated, now that the line was officially open to the public.

The strain of months of grinding work in organizing the operating staff and getting the new line ready for operation proved too much for Colonel Slattery, who suffered a slight collapse a few minutes after the first carnival throng had rushed through the turnstiles at the Forty-second Street station. He was attended by Dr. John J. Moorhead, recently appointed official physician for the new subway system. He soon recovered and insisted upon remaining at the station to observe operating conditions.

2,808 In Hour at 42d Street. The turnstiles at the Forty-second Street station at 1 o'clock this morning shows that 2,808 persons had paid for entrance to the train platforms. Of this number not all were riders, however, for many were satisfied to pay their nickel, make a complete inspection of the new station and return to the street.

Nearly two hours after the line was opened to the public the trains were still crowded to capacity with paying passengers evidently bent on an inspection tour of the new transit line. At the forward end of the head car of each train was jammed a crowd of young men, watching the roadbed and station as the trains sped over the route.

The crowds commented on the absence of advertising matter in the stations and cars. They commented on the shining cleanliness of the cars, the wide expanses of the roomy mezzanines at the huge express stations and the smoothness of train operation. Long after midnight, they were still making the turnstiles click and voicing their belief that the new Eighth Avenue line provided a fast, comfortable ride for a nickel.

All preparations for the official opening of the line to the public were completed early to in the night. Station agents were in their change booths, supplied with plenty of nickels. The 300 shiny olive-green steel cars, each bearing the legend "City of New York," had been thoroughly cleaned and tested. The full operating schedule was functioning with smoothness and precision. The new line lacked nothing by passengers.

Many Turnstiles Disabled. But when the opening hour arrived it found "not working" signs on some of the turnstiles. especially in the Harlem district. Youthful vandals, invading the empty reaches of some of the stations, had inserted chewing gum, pins, and sticks of wood in the turnstile slots. In several instances they had hacked at the mechanisms with hammers and axes, going so far as to smash the locks on the coin receptacles.

Because or the large number of turnstiles along the line and the lack of a sufficient force to guard them all, employees of the Board of Transportation were unable to check their depreciations. The Police Department, it is understood, was asked last Wednesday, after similar vandals had been observed, to keep a sharp watch. Despite their cooperation, the vandalism was repeated only a few hours before revenue operation began. The damage will be repaired today and all turnstiles are expected to be functioning perfectly by tonight.

The Board of Estimate was formally notified yesterday that the new line would go into operation one minute after midnight. But there was no official opening ceremony. The West Side Association of Commerce celebrated informally at a dinner early last night, and some of its officials took a ride on the line soon after midnight, joining a Harlem group at the 125th Street station. The entire party then rode downtown to the Thirty-fourth Street station, and thence to a breakfast party in the Hotel Now Yorker.

The Board of Transportation designated the Varick Street branch of the National City Bank as the official depository for the nickels collected from the turnstiles. But first it distributed $600 worth of nickels at the change booths along the line, for the convenience of riders.

Seen As Business Aid. Representative leaders of the west side area served by the new line were unanimous in their belief that its opening marked the beginning of better business conditions in that territory.

"The opening of the Eighth Avenue subway, will, in my opinion, do more constructively to bring about the rejuvenation of the west side than any other single known factor," was the comment of former Governor Alfred E. Smith, chairman of the board of directors of the West Side Association of Commerce.

Similar opinions were voiced by Louis A. Kissling, president of the association; Ralph Hitz, president of the Hotel New Yorker, Ellwood M. Rubenfeld, chairman of the Clinton Trust Company; William G. Green, president of the New York Savings Bank, and L.A. Van Boniel, president of the Sheffield Farms Company. They voiced the belief that retail business, real estate values, and convenience to the traveling public would be largely enhanced by the new traction facility.

Tho new subway cost $191,200,000 to build and its construction took more than seven years, ground being first broken on March 14, 1925, at 123d Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

Twenty of the first 300 cars constructed were tested in passenger runs on the B.M.T. lines. The tests proved successful and provided the city's engineers with valuable data.

Underpin Buildings on Route. Before construction began, a detailed examination was made of every building along the route to determine the amount and type of underpinning required. This was done along the Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens routes as well as in Manhattan. The most modern methods were employed in the underpinning of buildings. Foundations were testing and braced where necessary. Structures ranging in size from two-story buildings to skyscrapers were reinforced at their bases and transferred to new and stronger depths without disturbance to occupants.

The Columbus Monument in Columbus Circle was underpinned for the second time in its existence. Thirty years ago it was underpinnned when the first subway under Broadway was constructed. Recently the 75-foot shaft, weighing 724 tons, was again "picked up" and reset on a new pedestal atop the Eighth Avenue tube, the work being supervised by Division Engineer John H. Myers, who supervised the same job thirty years ago.

The Board of Transportation announced that the entire fifty-seven route miles of the city's independent system was now nearing completion, except for the Sixth Avenue line, where contracts have not yet been let because of the necessity of first completing the new relief tunnel of the Board of Water Supply. It is expected that revenue operation of parts of lines in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx will begin early next year.

The board has awarded 612 rapid transit contracts for the system, the low bids on which amount to $304,451,874. Of this sum $104,000,000 was for eighty-one major construction contracts, $10,436,603 for thirty-eight station finish contracts, $6,410,047 for thirty-three track contracts, $55,596,155 for eight-four equipment contracts, and $27,997,827 for 376 miscellaneous contracts.

Construction contract payment vouchers approved by the board since its inception in 1924 amounted to $534,414,846, of which $466,783,813 was for the independent system.

Some Subway Statistics. The scope of the work done on the new system to date, including the Eighth Avenue line, is shown by figures dealing with materials used. Some 4,283,474 cubic yards of rock have been excavated and 17,808,140 cubic yards of earth removed, nearly half of which was used to improve park and waterfront areas owned by the city. The work to date has involved the erection of 682,172 tons of steel and the use of 3,452,072 cubic yards of concrete.

List of the 28 Stations on the New 8th Av. Line. Stations of the Eighth Avenue Subway are at the following Streets:

Chambers Street*, Canal Street*, Spring Street, Fourth Street*, Fourteenth Street*, Twenty-third Street, Thirty-fourth Street*, Forty-second Street*, Fiftieth Street, Fifty-ninth Street*, Seventy-second Street, Eighty-sixth Street, Ninety-sixth Street, 103d Street, 110th Street, 116th Street, 125th Street*, 135th Street, 145th Street*, 155th Street, 163d Street, 168th Street*, 175th Street, 181st Street, 190th Street, 200th Street, 207th Street. *Denotes express stop.

Thus far 102 stations have been designed and constructed, 1,872 signals installed, 50,054 tons of rails and track materials placed and 125 miles of third rail put in position. Eleven tunnels have been built under rivers, calling for the use of 123,584 tons of cast iron tubes. Fifty miles of street car track and 899 elevated pillars have been supported. The number of men employed daily has averaged 12,000.

The underpinning operations involved the supporting of existing rapid transit tubes at several points. At Broadway and 168th Street and at the intersections of Fifty-third Street with Broadway and Lexington Avenue, the Interborough lines had to be supported. At Fifty-third Street and Seventh Avenue, the B.M.T. line was underpinned, while at Fifty-third Street and Park Avenue the New York Central tracks had to be supported.

All material used was carefully inspected and tested by the board's experts in laboratories in the city and elsewhere. Tests in most cases were made not only on the job after delivery but at the source of supply during the process of manufacture.

The board has acquired $86,400,000 in real estate needed for right-of-way. It initiated sixty-one condemnation proceedings embracing 1,154 parcels taken in fee, 229 permanent easements, and 84 temporary easements. In the building of the subways under Church, Houston, and Essex Streets these thoroughfares were widened.

Stops Carefully Chosen. Subway stations have been located with respect to the density of population in connection with running distances between stops. The stations are at least 600 feet long, with provisions for extension to 660 feet if necessary. They will accommodate ten-car trains with ease. They are lighted under a new system designed to eliminate shadows. All platforms are straight-edged, locations on curves having been avoided.

The cars are designed in accordance with the view of a committee of experts which gave its services without charge. Tests conducted by the board's engineers indicate that the trains can be loaded and unloaded in 33.3 percent faster time than those on the B.M.T. and Interborough. Each car will seat 60 persons and provide standing room for 220.

Power for the new system is supplied by the New York Edison Company, the only bidder for the contract, at a price of 7.90 mills per kilowatt-hour. It is distributed though rotary converters and mercury arc rectifiers.

Five pairs of under-river tunnels connecting Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens were constructed in building the city system. The Gowanus Canal connection in the South Brooklyn line is a bridge of sufficient height to clear navigation. The bridge was more economical than a tunnel.

The tunnel under the East River from Fulton Street, Manhattan, to Cranberry Street, Brooklyn, is 8,487 feet long. This tunnel will carry trains from the Eighth Avenue line at Church and Fulton Streets, Manhattan, to the Jay-Smith-Ninth Street line in Brooklyn. At Rutgers Street in Manhattan another two-track tunnel goes under the East River to Jay Street, Brooklyn. This tunnel is 5,479 feet in length.

The Fifty-third Street tunnel will carry trains from the Eighth Avenue line through Fifth-third Street, under the East River and Welfare Island to Long Island City, where a junction provides for trains to go to either Jamaica or to Brooklyn. The Fifty-third Street tunnel is 5,589 feet long.

Under the Harlem River a three-track tunnel connects the Washington Heights line with the Bronx-Concourse line to Bedford Park. This tunnel is 5,397 feet in length. There are stations at the Polo Grounds and at the Yankee Stadium.

A tunnel under Newtown Creek connects the system between Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Long Island City. It is 4,790 feet long.

Dirt From New Tube Would Bury Park

1,400-Mile Trainload Dug Out.
Enough Concrete Put In to Build Road to Albany.
7,000,000 Man-Days of Labor Went Into Construction.
Air In Tunnel Changed Every 15 Minutes.

Facts and figured about the new Eighth Avenue subway, as compiled yesterday by the Board of Transportation, should bring joy to statisticians of the "end-to-end" school and good cheer to those who revel in startling comparisons.

Twenty-two million cubic yards of earth and rock were excavated. This material, if spread evenly in Central Park, would raise its level four feet.

It would take 108,000 freight cars, comprising a train 1,400 miles long, or the distance from New York to New Orleans, to haul this material away.

The new subway contains 1,000,000 cubic yards of concrete, or enough to build a new highway such as the Bronx River Parkway from here to Albany. The same concrete if cast into blocks one foot square and placed end to end would extend from New York to Buenos Aires.

The work required 6,700,000 bags of cement. They would fill a freight train fifty miles in length, and if laid out on a highway thirty feet wide would extend from the Battery to Albany.

It would take a fleet of barges forty-eight miles in length to carry the stone, gravel and sand used in making the concrete.

The steel used in the new tube weighs 150,000 tons, or three times as much as that in the Empire State Building. This is enough steel to build fifteen first-class cruisers for the Navy or five ships the size of the Leviathan. It would girdle the earth if drawn into a bar one inch in thickness.

The waterproof fiber in the structure would cover 480 acres if spread out in a single layer. If laid out in a sheet 100 feet in width it would extend from the Battery to Bear Mountain.

The timber in the track ties would cover a floor one inch thick 100 feet wide and ten miles long. The power ducts total in length 3,200,000 feet. If placed end to end they would reach from New York to Cleveland.

The material used in construction was shipped from 248 plants in 130 cities in thirteen states. The construction work required 7,000,000 man-days of labor, as compared with 1,000,000 man-days for the George Washington Bridge. Construction involved relocation of twenty-six miles of water and gas pipes, 350 miles of electric conduits and 18 miles of sewers. It was necessary to rebuild gas and electric service connections to 3,100 houses along the twelve-mile route.

About thirteen miles of pipe, ranging from six to twelve inches in diameter, were required for drainage of trackways. Sump chambers with a capacity of from 4,000 to 7,000 gallons were constructed for drainage purposes.

For the walls of the twenty-eight stations 750,000 square feet of glazed tile were required, or enough to decorate 5,500 average-sized bathrooms. There are 142,000 square feet, or about thirty-three and one-third acres, of ventilating gratings in the sidewalks over the structure.

Engineers expect the momentum of trains to change the air in the tunnel every fifteen minutes. There are fifty large ventilating fans, requiring motors furnishing 2,500 horsepower or enough to operate 40,000 fans of office or home size.

The roadbed is expected to last for at least thirty years, except for rail replacements. The total length of rails, including the 207th Street Yard, is 670,000 feet, or enough to reach to Atlantic City. The total weight of the rails is 21,000,000 pounds. There are 7,000 tons of third rail. There are 1,850,000 separate pieces such as track splices, splice bars, tie plates, insulators, and similar materials.

Business Men Fete Opening of Subway

West Side Group Dines and Rides--Deplored Absence of Official Ceremony
"Not a Night Mayor," Kissling Says -- Walker Regime Criticized for Long Delay in Starting Service

The opening of the new Eighth Avenue subway was celebrated last night by the West Side Association of Commerce with speeches deploring the lack of official ceremonies and the past reluctance of the city administration to put the subway into use.

Starting with a dinner at the Oyster Bay Restaurant, a succession of speakers paid tribute to the work of civic organizations, marshaled principally by the West Side Association of Commerce, in bringing pressure to bear on the Walker administration for more than a year.

Mayor McKee was to be present, but he sent word that he had gone instead to the Bronx with the District Attorney investigating the catastrophe of the steamboat Observation in the East River.

In his absence, Mayor McKee was praised as the man whom the civic organizations should support. Former Senator Elwood M. Rabenold, chairman of the Clinton Trust Company, said the public now "faced the dawn of a new day under a new Mayor."

Even Mr. McKee's unwillingness to join the members of the West Side Association later at a jubilee breakfast in the Hotel New Yorker at 1 a.m. after they had taken a ride in the subway as soon as it opened at midnight, was praised. Louis A. Kissling, president of the association, said, "Our present Mayor is not a late Mayor, a night Mayor."

Long Delays Reviewed. Mr. Kissling led the way in declarations that the subway would not yet be open but for pressure of civic organizations, and asked an audience of about fifty representatives of West Side interests to back the new Mayor.

James W. Danahy, managing director of the association, reviewed the efforts of more than a year, including the preparation of mandamus papers, to force the Walker administration to operate the subway.

"The City of New York has not seen fit to run even a special train to signalize the opening of a subway that cost $190,000,000," Mr. Danahy said, "so we feel that we owe it to ourselves, after taking such a part in bringing it about, to have a celebration of our own."

The gratification of the membership of the West Side Association and the cooperating civic associations, for the end of a long wait during which Eighth Avenue had been torn up and made almost impassable for business, was expressed at the dinner by Louis A. Trowbridge, president of the Franklin Savings Bank; John Gratke, president of the Broadway Association; Peter Forrest, counsel of the Twenty-third Street Association, Charles Smith, vice president of the Manufacturer's Trust Company, F. A. Reif, executive vice president of the Ludwig Baumann Company, and others.

Harlem Men Join Party. Immediately after midnight the association members entered the subway at the Forty-second Street station and rode to 125th Street, where they were met by a delegation from the Harlem Board of Commerce, founded by Ernest H. Mulligan, president. After an inspection of the station, the party proceeded south to Fourteenth Street for an inspection of the facilities there, and then returned to the Thirty-fourth Street station.

At the jubilee breakfast the prospective benefits of the subway to Eighth Avenue were proclaimed, and the importance of the undertaking as a municipal operation was emphasized in speeches by Senator Rabenold, Robert N. King, and others.

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