The New York Rapid Transit Railway Extensions (1914)

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The New York Rapid Transit Railway Extensions (Building the New Rapid Transit System of New York City).
By Fred Lavis, Consulting Engineer, Engineering News, 1914

These articles were originally published in Engineering News, 1914, and reprinted in book form in 1915 under the title Building the New Rapid Transit System of New York City.

Table of Contents
Preface Chapter VII, Methods of Timbering to Support the Street Surface
Chapter I, History and Extent Chapter VIII, Excavation
Chapter II, Organization and Personnel of the Engineering Staff Chapter IX, Underpinning Buildings Along the Line
Chapter III, General Arrangement, for Construction Chapter X, Tunnels in City Streets
Chapter IV, Design of Structure and Track Chapter XI, The River Tunnels
Chapter V, Ventilation, Drainage, and Waterproofing Chapter XII, Concrete Work
Chapter VI, Sewers, Pipes,, and Conduits Chapter XIII, Design of Steel Elevated Railways


It is not generally realized how huge an engineering work it is which is now going forward in the city of New York on extensions of the underground rapidtransit railway lines. The best way to compare the relative magnitude of engineering works is to compare the total expenditure involved. The total cost of building and equipping New York's new rapid-transit lines will be in the neighborhood of $366,000,000. This is substantially equal to the entire cost of the Panama Canal. It is three times the cost of the New York barge canal. It is a greater amount than the total investment in road and equipment of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, or the Rock Island, or the Chicago & North Western, or the Great Northern, or the New York Central & Hudson River.

The building of underground rapid-transit lines in great cities is comparatively a new development in engineering. New York was not the pioneer in this field. The first underground city railway lines were those in London, operated for many years with steam locomotives. Underground lines operated by electric traction were built in London and Budapest and Boston before the first New York rapid-transit subway was in operation. The development of the system in New York, however, has far exceeded that in any other city of the world. In fact, with the completion of the new extensions the investment in underground rapid-transit lines in New York will probably be as great as that in all the other great cities of the world combined.

The building of subways, however, is well recognized to be the next step in rapid-transit development for the congested districts of other large cities. Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and a number of other American cities have subways under way or projected. The work carried on in New York during the past dozen iyears, and especially that now in progress, has developed a large amount of experience in street excavation with avoidance to traffic interruption, in the underpinning of buildings, and in the solution of a hundred different problems in connection with the work of construction which are of general interest to the engineering profession.

The editors of Engineering News deemed it important that a thorough expert study of the New York subway work should be made for the benefit of its readers, and arranged with Mr. Fred Lavis, M. Am. Soc. C. E., to.undertake this work and present the results in the columns of Engineering News. The articles written by Mr. Lavis were published in Engineering News, beginning Oct. 1, 1914, and concluding Dec. 31. In response to numerous requests it was deemed advisable to reprint these articles in book form.

Acknowledgment is here made to the engineering and executive staff of the Public Service Commission for the courtesies and aid extended to Mr. Lavis and to the editors in connection with the preparation of the articles here reprinted and for the furnishing of the drawings and photographs here reproduced. In fact, it was only through the cooperation of the engineering staff that it was possible to prepare an adequate account of the work.

As was remarked in an editorial published in the issue of Engineering News in which Mr. Lavis' first article appeared, the greatest difficulty in describing a work of such a magnitude is to know what to put in and what to leave out. As every engineer who has been connected with a great enterprise knows, the complete story of the work, with all its problems and difficulties, from the original plans to the final completion, would make a volume of ponderous size. The attempt of the author has been to record in this book the facts of chief importance and interest to the engineering profession at large, and to do it in such a manner as will make the articles of general interest and at the same time convenient for reference by those who at any time may have to deal with similar problems.

The preparation of the present book was delayed to secure the addition of a paper by Mr. Maurice Griest, of the design staff of the Public Service Commission, on the design of the elevated railways which form part of the new rapid-transit system. This paper, which appears in Engineering News of May 20, 1915, is printed as the last chapter. It is a notable contribution to the literature of structural engineering, being the first discussion of elevated-railway design that has appeared for 15 years or more.

More than this, however-every engineer interested in the extension of rapid transit needs to study this paper. For some years fashions have run to subways, while elevated railways have been under a cloud. There is good prospect that views will shift again on these subjects. The tremendously heavy cost of subway construction, which already has discouraged or postponed progress in rapid transit in more than one city, will lead to recognition of the fact that subways are suited for only the heaviest traffic requirements. The elevated railway, bridging the long gap between trolley-car conditions and subway conditions, is sure to receive increased attention in the future.

Editor, Engineering News.

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