The H Lines In Service (1918)

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Public Service Record · Vol. V, No. 6, June 1918.

Approaching Operation of the "H" Lines.

By Daniel L. Turner, Chief Engineer

Inauguration of operation on the "H" lines by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, soon to be an accomplished fact, will increase the rapid transit facilities of the City of New York by the largest one-time addition since the first subway contract was entered into in 1900, eighteen years ago.

Furthermore, such operation practically consummates the Interborough portion of the Dual System insofar as Manhattan and The Bronx are concerned. Only the Southern Boulevard and Westchester Avenue line to Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx will remain to be completed.

This new operation means that the single subway line now serving Manhattan and The Bronx will be transformed into two subways, one on the east side and the other on the west side of Manhattan. Each of these lines will traverse Manhattan and The Bronx from the Battery almost to the City limits. With this operation the subway facilities for these two boroughs will be approximately doubled.

Changes in Routes. Marked changes in routes will occur when the East and West Side subways are in operation. A great portion of The Bronx traffic, particularly that from the West Farms branch, under the new arrangement will take the new short-cut route down the new Lexington Avenue subway to 42d Street and thence down Fourth Avenue. This will save the long detour which all these passengers now have to make by way of Lenox Avenue, Central Park, 103d Street to 96th Street, Broadway and 42d Street. In other words, The Bronx will be served by joining together at 42d Street the new Lexington Avenue subway and the existing subway, thus constituting the new East Side subway.

Broadway branch passengers all the way from Van Cortlandt Park south to 42d Street, who now ride across 42d Street and down Fourth Avenue to the Battery, under the new order of things will travel down the new Seventh Avenue subway past the Pennsylvania Station and through West Broadway to the Battery. That is, the upper West Side Section will be served by linking together the existing Broadway subway and the new Seventh Avenue subway at 42d Street, so constituting the new West Side subway.

At the most the distance between the subway in Fourth Avenue and the Seventh Avenue subway is only about half a mile, a ten-minute walk. Therefore, although many of the passengers from the West Side line may be bound to points along Fourth Avenue or nearby, they will not be greatly inconvenienced by this change of route. Certainly they will be as conveniently served as the millions who continue to use the west side elevated routes, the Sixth and Ninth Avenue lines. At the lower end of the City the old and new subway routes practically come together, so that south of City Hall there will be no choice. The alternative to traveling down Seventh Avenue will be to transfer across town at 42d Street and then go down by the old subway. But this will involve two changes, a transfer to the Cross-town shuttle at Times Square and another transfer from the shuttle at Grand Central. These changes, with the inconvenience and loss of time resulting, will be much more objectionable than the short walk across town from Seventh Avenue.

Increase in Service. Because of the deflection of The Bronx traffic down Lexington Avenue, the old subway between 96th Street and 42d Street can he used to a greater extent for Broadway traffic. This will permit a considerable increase in the Broadway branch service. In this way the upper west side will be greatly benefited by the new routing, it will secure a much better service than at present. Such general benefit is more than an offset to the inconvenience that some may experience by reason of having to travel down Seventh Avenue.

Bronx passengers wishing to reach Broadway and passengers from Lenox Avenue will be provided with service by way of the Lenox Avenue branch to 96th Street just as at present. From this point they will travel down Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

New Mileage Added. In addition to the new Manhattan and Bronx facilities, the Interborough is also operating the new lines provided for Queens; so that, with the "H" in operation, there will have been added to the rapid transit facilities owned by the City serving Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens, and operated by the Interborough Company 31 miles of new lines, aggregating 97 miles of single track and including 71 new stations, all at a total cost to the City for construction and to the Company for equipment of over $100,000,000.

But this does not tell the whole story. In addition to the City-owned facilities, the Interborough is already operating a large portion of the new facilities which it is providing with its own moneys. Also, the New York Municipal Railway Corporation is operating new City-owned lines, as well as Company-constructed lines. IN the aggregate all of these new subway and elevated lines soon to be in operation represent the enormous expenditure of approximately $232,000,000. The operation of all these facilities will have been effected within a period of 5.25 years after the signing of the Dual Contracts; whereas the first City subways, those which served Manhattan, The Bronx and Brooklyn, were over 8 years under construction and represent an outlay of only $76,000,000.

In other words, the City under the Dual System already has been provided with new transit facilities costing over three times as much as the original subways, and all within two-thirds of the time, with the world at war.

Credit Shared. No single agency is responsible for completing this stupendous project. Many have been engaged in the task. Teamwork has produced the result. The Commission and its forces, the City officials, the operating companies and the contractors all are entitled to the unstinted praise and gratitude of the community for the part which each has performed. But most of all to the contractors the largest credit is due. They have been the real builders. Their forces have actually produced the finished product: the Dual subways. Such credit as may belong to the Engineering Department of the Commission is due equally to each and every one in the organization, from the lowest to the highest employee. The conceptions and the plannings were by Alfred Craven, we of the department have simply been "carrying on."

The accomplishment of this great work is a monumental achievement. It would attract universal attention except for the fact that our country is engaged in a World War. Nevertheless, considering the problems involved, the innumerable difficulties which have been overcome, and the fact that the work of the construction has been carried on under the feet of the City's millions, it can be said with assurance that as a great work it has never been equaled. In time, this will be recognized.

Public Service Record · Vol. V, No. 8/9, August/September, 1918.

The "H" Lines in Service.

With ceremonies appropriate to so important an event, through service was begun on the new East Side and West Side Subway lines on the evening of August first, marking the opening of the "H" system, so called, and providing additional train service for thousands of passengers daily, by new and direct routes from upper Manhattan and the Bronx to the lower sections of Manhattan Island.

At the same time shuttle service was begun over the tracks between Times Square and the Grand Central Station, and was continued until the night of Saturday, August 3. Despite the efforts of the Commission, during a period of several months, to warn people of the changes. the riding public of New York failed to familiarize itself with the operation of the new lines, and a tremendous congestion was caused at both the Times Square and Grand Central Stations, the number of transfer passengers being considerably in excess of the advance estimates. Therefore it was found necessary to stop the shuttle service temporarily.

Shuttle Halt Temporary. When the traveling public has become thoroughly accustomed to the new routes of travel and the traffic generally directed along north and south lines, rendering unnecessary wholesale transfers at 42d Street, the service will be resumed: In addition, shuttle terminal arrangements at the Times Square and and Central Stations have been reconstructed since the opening of the new through lines, so that when the shuttle line reopens the transfer traffic will be handled with far greater facility than was possible during the brief initial period of operation. It was impossible to complete these additional facilities until the old form of operations along Fourth Avenue, across 42d Street and in Broadway had ceased.

The exercises at the opening of the "H" were striking in character. As it was not known until less than forty-eight hours before the actual opening that the beginning of service would take place on August first, it was possible to arrange the celebration only at the last moment. In making the arrangements the Commission co-operated with several civic bodies, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Merchants Association, the Broadway Association, the Bronx Board of Trade, and others.

Provision was made for the operation of a special official train from the Grand Central Station to the Times Square Station via the Battery, carrying the Commissioners, members of the Commission's staff, officials and employees of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, the Mayor and other City officials, and a number of invited guests.

After the train was run exercises were held in the grand ballroom of the Hotel Astor, at which a number of addresses were made. Just before the beginning of dual operation the last spike uniting the new lines was driven into the ties of the south-bound local tracks a few feet below the south-bound platform, of the new Diagonal Station. An accompanying illustration depicts this ceremony, alternate blows at the spike, which was of silvered metal, being struck by Chief Engineer Daniel L. Turner of the Commission and Chief Engineer George H. Pegram of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company.

As this ceremony was completed, Mayor John F. Hylan, escorted by Vice-President Frank Hedley, marched from the official train standing on the local tracks to a temporary switch signal at the south end of the station platform, where, at exactly 8:45, the Mayor pressed a telegraph key, marking the official opening of the new lines. A photograph was taken of the Mayor, Chairman Charles Bulkley Hubbell, President Theodore P. Shonts, Vice-President Frank Hedley and Superintendent A. L. Merritt, at the entrance of the train. The Mayor then stepped into the motorman's box and at a signal given by Mr. Hedley the train was started. the Mayor acting as motorman. It ran down over the new tracks to 41st Street, and thence over the old tracks to the Battery, passing around the Battery loop, and north again through the new Seventh Avenue Subway to the Times Square Station.

March to Hotel Astor. There the official party left the train and, preceded by the Interborough Band, marched to the Hotel Astor, for the official exercises. Chairman Hubbell presided and made the opening address, after which he introduced in turn Mayor John F. Hylan, Ex-Chairman Oscar S. Straus, President Theodore P. Shonts of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, Alfred E. Marling, President of the Chamber of Commerce, William R. Willcox, Ex-Chairman of the Public Service Commission, and George McAneny, former President of the Board of Aldermen.

Chairman Hubbell said:

"Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen: I congratulate all of you on the privilege that you and I have in being present on this, one of the most notable occasions in the history of New York. It is eminently fitting in the development of a great enterprise like the rapid transit system of New York, that its consummation should be attended with appropriate celebration. We have now reached the point in the development of this great system of rapid transit transportation in the City of New York that practically marks the completion of one of the most ambitious enterprises ever conceived in the history of any municipality in the world. When one reflects upon the tremendous difficulties that have been overcome, and the millions upon millions of dollars that have been expended in the establishment and development of this great system, it seems well to pause and congratulate ourselves that this great and splendid city has at last achieved what was dreamed of fifty years ago.

Honor to Departed. "There are those here to-night who will address you, and will doubtless summon to your attention the names of the men who should be remembered at this time for the initiation of the great idea that was back of this system of rapid transit, and for their unvaried devotion to transportation problems that are now approaching solution in our city. The names of some of those who have gone, it is appropriate, perhaps, that I should call to your attention: Alexander E. Orr, John Starin, Edward M. Shepard and George L. Rives, all have passed to their reward, all to lie gratefully remembered by New Yorkers for the services which they rendered in connection with this great work, and for their unremitting labor to bring about the accomplishment of that which to-night we celebrate.

"There are others who, fortunately, are still with us, some of them in this very gathering, whose names will he readily recalled, and who worked early and late to bring about that which will stand in the history of transportation, so long, perhaps, as the world may last, as one of the most creditable things achieved in connection with the solution of the traffic problems of a great city.

Acknowledges Efforts. "I desire publicly to acknowledge the efforts that have been made by the Interborough Company since I have been a member of the Public Service Commission, in bringing about the consummation of the improvements here celebrated- 'a consummation devoutly to be wish'd'. Nor can I allow this occasion to pass without paying public tribute to the man who, as much as anyone else, made possible the speedy accomplishment of the thing that we have witnessed to-night: the operation of the so-called "H" extension. And when I say that, in my opinion, Mr. Frank Hedley has proved himself, both with reference to this particular event and to the work that has preceded it, the most accomplished and efficient operator of local transportation facilities in this country, I pay him but faint praise.

"I hope it will not be considered out of taste for me also to make public acknowledgment of the splendid services contributed by our own efficient corps of engineers, who have labored long and late, in conjunction with the Interborough's engineers, in establishing the improvements that constitute the full up-and-down service on New York's East Side and West Side. To-night we have had the unique experience of being permitted to he among the first, indeed, to be the very first, who have made the circuit of lower Manhattan in subway transportation. It is a thing that you and I may well remember with great interest and pride.

Introduces Mayor. "The function of a presiding officer, on an occasion like the present one, is not to make a long speech, which thought gives me unmeasured comfort. My duty will be performed in presenting to you the gentlemen who will call to your attention the various phases of the work that we are celebrating to-night. We have had this evening the rather rare experience of a new engineer in charge of the train that brought us safely over the route to Times Square. I only want to say that if that gentleman will manage and operate the various activities with which he is charged in the City of New York as he did that train to-night, there will be no complaint from anyone. I have the honor and the pleasure of presenting to you the Mayor of the most splendid city in the world, the Honorable John F. Hylan."

Mayor Hylan, in his address, paid high tribute to the skill and the ability of the engineers who designed and constructed new lines.

"I want to say to you", said the Mayor, in part, "that I feel honored to-night to have had the privilege of running the first train over the new system known as the "H" System, or at least part of it. The men who have had charge of the work of this great subway scheme are to be congratulated. It has required ability, and ability such as has never before been exhibited in the construction of subways. When one thinks about the devious routes penetrating underneath the streets of our city, brought about by the ingenuity of the great engineers connected with the subway, one feels that they have performed miracles, a miraculous feat that is wonderful indeed.

"I know that the people of this city will be glad to learn on the morrow that a through service both on the east and west sides of the city has been put in operation."

Capital and Labor. Former Chairman Straus dwelt in his address upon the relations between capital and labor, with particular reference to his own interest in the prevention of labor difficulties on New York City's transportation lines. He said:

"This transportation system is the veins and arteries of our economic life, a factor in the life of this Metropolis, the gateway of the Nation, and it is of the highest importance that the several lines should not only officiate, but should absolutely officiate, to the highest point of efficiency, and that there never should be any occasion when anything could happen to prevent the effectiveness of their efficiency. It should be so arranged, and the plans should be so devised that the thousands of men who are working and carrying forward the transportation system, the engineers and conductors, and all who are connected with it, would be placed in such a position that the occasion of strikes would be entirely eliminated.

Prevent Strikes. "In these times of war, if our transportation system in this city should be interfered with or tied up, it would have a most damaging and unfortunate effect on the whole country, in the eyes of our enemies, and therefore there is a national reason and a very strong national reason why the necessary steps should be taken, why every means should be taken in advance to prevent anything in the shape of a hold up or a strike. In order to do that we ought to regard the workers upon our public utilities and upon our transit systems especially, as our industrial army. They should be looked after. I should like to see them receive an exceptionally good wage, with a guarantee of a pension, so that it would not only be a privilege but an honor to be a motorman upon this great municipal system. Something like that will have to be done and ought to be done, there is so much dependent upon it."

Mr. Straus was followed by President Theodore P. Shonts, who discussed various transportation problems, particularly financial, from the standpoint of the head of the operating company.

Mr. Marlin, of the Chamber of Commerce, the next speaker, congratulated the City upon the completion of the "H" lines, and all those having to do with their construction, equipment and operation.

Lines are City Owned. Former Chairman Willcox called special attention to the facts that the subway system of New York is owned by the City, and that the franchises are limited in duration; also to the possibility of other and great rapid transit developments in the future.

As the last of the list of speakers, Mr. McAneny, who represented the City government in the years of negotiations leading to the signing of the contracts, told of some of the difficulties met with in those negotiations, and how they were surmounted and the contracts finally signed and the work started.

On the Dais. The following were among those seated on the platform during the ceremonies: Chairman Charles Bulkley Hubbell; Mayor John F. Hylan; Ex-Chairman Oscar S. Straus; Commissioners Travis H. Whitney, Charles S. Hervey, F. J. H. Kracke and Samuel H. Ordway: President Theodore P. Shonts, of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company; Alfred E. Marling, President of the Chamber of Commerce: George McAneny, former President of the Board of Aldermen; William R. Willcox, former Chairman of the Commission; William C. Breed, President of the Merchant's Association; Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of the New York Times; Col. Jefferson DeMont Thompson, President of the Broadway Association; Frank Dowling, President of the Borough of Manhattan; Secretary James B. Walker; Chief Engineer Daniel L. Turner: Consulting Engineer Alfred Craven; William L. Ransom, Counsel; former Commissioner John E. Eustis; Major Leroy T. Harkness, former Chief of Rapid Transit; Frank Hedley, Vice-President and General Manager of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company; George V. S. Williams, former Commissioner, and James L. Quackenbush, General Counsel, Interborough Rapid Transit Company.

While the exercises were in progress gangs of workmen, laboring with almost incredible rapidity, were engaged in making the track connections at the Times Square and Grand Central Stations. At the latter only a few minutes were required to put all the tracks in shape for the running of trains, but at Times Square, where the problem was more difficult, all of the connections were not made until shortly before daylight. By that time, however, the old tracks had been broken, the new connections made and through service established north and south, and Cross-town on the shuttle. The work was done during the night hours, in order to prevent a general interruption of traffic.

Benefits Will Accrue. While it will require some time for the transportation benefits accruing from operation of the new lines to become fully apparent, the improved facilities provided by the new routes are already appreciated by a vast number of passengers. The new stations on both routes, placed in operation for the first time in July, as noted in the July Record, already show an astonishingly large and increasing passenger business, particularly those on Lexington Avenue.

Under the new operation on the West Side lines, south-bound express trains run to Wall and William Streets on the Clark Street tunnel branch, while down-town local trains run to South Ferry. The northbound express service divides at 96th Street, as before, a number of trains going up Broadway, while the remainder divert east-bound over the Lenox Avenue-West Farms branch. The north-bound local trains on the West Side line terminate, as formerly, at 137th Street and Broadway and at Lenox Avenue and 145th Street. On the East Side line, local trains run south from the Third Avenue Station of the Pelham Park branch to City Hall, but during rush hours in part to Brooklyn, while down-town expresses go principally to Brooklyn from Jerome Avenue and 167th Street, and from the West Farms branch, while a few are operated around the Battery loop.

More Trains Operated. The total of trains operated on both lines is considerably in excess of the total on the old line before August first, but it is not yet up to the standard desired by the Commission or by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, which operates the lines. The principal difficulty has been that of obtaining a sufficient man-power to operate the trains, the labor situation being acute. Increases in pay to various classes of employees have so far failed to attract a number sufficient to permit of one hundred per cent operation, but this condition is now improving.

Credit to Engineers. No account of the opening of the "H" lines is complete without mention of the men-of the Commission who have labored in field and office to bring the Lexington and Seventh Avenue subways and their branches into existence. Under Alfred Craven, first, and Daniel L. Turner, later, as Chief Engineers and Robert Ridgway as Engineer of Subway Construction the work has been pushed to conclusion. With them were Division Engineers John H. Myers, C. V. V. Powers and Frederick W. Carpenter and their staffs, Jasper T. Kane and C. M. Kendall and their staffs in the Station Finish Division, and Robert H. Jacobs and his staff in the Track Division. In the office were Messrs. Sverre Dahm, A. I. Raisman, Clifton W. Wilder, Charles N. Green, George L. Lucas and Louis D. Fouquet and their respective staffs.

All of the construction work was under the immediate supervision of the engineers of the Second, Third and Seventh Divisions, Mr. Myers being in charge of the first named, and Mr. Powers of the second named, until the consolidation of the two divisions. Mr. Carpenter was in charge of the Seventh Division until his resignation from the Commission's staff, since which time the work of that division, now being consolidated with the Sixth Division, has been directed by W. F. Stevenson, Senior Assistant Division Engineer.

Third Division. At various times during the period of construction, without particular reference to changes due to resignations, promotions, transfers, etc., Mr. Powers's staff included Messrs. F. W. Carpenter and Charles D. Searle as Senior Assistant Division Engineers, and Messrs. J. P. Locke, Arthur E. Clark, H. J. Alexander and M. H. Ryan as Assistant Division Engineers. Those in charge of Sections were:

  • Route No.5
    • Section 10. Cornelius J. Mulcahy.
    • Section 11. J. P. Hogan.
    • Section 12. F. E. Ferris and James Pearce, Jr.
    • Section 13. Arthur E. Clark, R. A. Fiesel and John C. Brigham.
    • Section 14. Howard B. Gates and Raymond S. Bennett.
    • Section 15. Edward Fortner and R. A. Berry.
  • Routes Nos. 19 & 22
    • Section 1. J. P Hogan and R. S. S. Guerber.
    • Section 1-A. J. J. Clarkin.
    • Section 2. R. J. Van Wagner.
  • Route No.16
    • Section 1. F. B. Barshell.
    • Section 2. J. A. Ruddy and Horatio Seymour.
  • Route No. 18
    • Section 1. George Paaswell.
    • Section 2. Isaac S. Matlaw.

Second Division. Mr. Myers's staff has been as follows, without special consideration of changes due to transfers, promotions and resignations: Senior Assistant Division Engineers Robert H. Jacobs and Charles D. Searle, and Assistant Division Engineers Andrew Veitch, John H. Madden, I. V. Werbin and Cornelius J. Mulcahy. Those in charge of sections were:

  • Routes Nos. 4 & 38
    • Section 5. 5. 5. Koronski.
    • Section 6. F. W. Chamberlin.
    • Section 7. E. D. Pildain.
  • Routes Nos. 43 & 26
    • Section 1. Stephen Schmidt.
    • Section 2. Melville S. Miller.
  • Route No. 5
    • Section 7. Cornelius J. Mulcahy.
    • Section 8. E. S. Closson, S. Schmidt and R. Coltman.
    • Section 9. F. H. Mellert and A. J. Daino.
    • Section 10. C. J. Mulcahy and C. M. Torpey.
    • Section 11. I. V. Werbin, J. F. Greathead and S. J. Walzer.

Seventh Division. Mr. Carpenter's staff was as follows, covering all the period of the work and without consideration of changes during its duration: W. F. Stevenson, Senior Assistant Division Engineer; M. H. Ryan and John H. Madden, Assistant Division Engineers, and Assistant Engineer C. R. Chase. Those in charge of sections were:

  • Routes Nos. 4 & 38
    • Section 1-A & 1. B. L. G. Rees and N. C. Hill.
    • Section 2. J. A. Connolly.
    • Section 3. F. P. Volckmann.
    • Section 4. J. F. Fouhy.
  • Route No.48
    • Section 1. F. H. Mellert.
    • Section 2. J. F. Greathead and F. P. Volckmann.

To the members of the Commission's staff who have entered its employ recently, the beginning of the Dual System project, the signing of the Dual System contracts in 1913, and the long course of difficult negotiations which preceded that culminating contractual act, are, doubtless, not as familiar as to others who have watched the development from the start. It is proposed here to outline a brief description of the new "H" lines and to recount something of the history of the Dual System.

Early Facilities Insufficient. As long ago as the completion of the First Subway, as the line from The Bronx through Manhattan to Brooklyn has come to be termed, it was seen that this transportation improvement would not, great as it was, after the passing of more than a few years be sufficient to meet the demands of the traveling public. As the centers of population have receded toward the suburbs and surface cars have proved increasingly unsuitable for the long hauls required, the need for additional and better service has become more and more apparent. This is not a fact of recent recognition, but was early and clearly seen by those who planned the First Subway. Insofar as they then could, with limited means at hand, they prepared for the future. They had, indeed, in mind the first outline of the "H" System.

The First Subway was, necessarily, a experiment from the engineering, operating, and transportation standpoints. Nowhere else had there been an attempt at anything like it. A four-track subway was then a novelty and, for that matter, is to-day so far as cities other than New York are concerned. Fears were expressed that people might not be willing to travel underground for long periods. The difficulties were overcome, the fears dissipated, and in the results of its actual operation the First Subway stands to-day pre-eminently as one of the most successful of railway projects.

Methods Improved. How far the science of subway construction has progressed since work under Contract No. 1 was begun, is familiar to every member of the Commission's engineering force and to every layman who recalls the great cavernous holes in Broadway, Fourth Avenue, and 42d Street in contrast with the vastly superior methods employed to-day. It is not necessary to do more than to mention one or two of the newer methods, namely, the cut-and-cover method of excavation, the underpinning of buildings, the tremendous advances in sub-aqueous tunneling, and the disposition of subsurface structures. Many others might just as readily be mentioned. The files of the Record serve as a running account of many of these changes and betterments as they have come about.

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