Get us in your inbox

Search

Nine historic photos and illustrations of the New York subway

By Tolly Wright
Advertising

Sure, New York might have the dirtiest subways in America, but, since the naked eye can't see bacteria, let's appreciate the subway system for what it is: a stunning achievement of engineering. With over 659 miles of tracks, travelled by 6,366 cars carrying over 2 billion annual riders, New York's system deserves its place as an icon of the Big Apple. It's been around for over 110 years (here are the pictures to prove it), and to honor our favorite super-centenarian we delved into New York Public Library's archives to find early photos, postcards and illustrations. The images below show our favorite system's predecessor, the air-powered pneumatic subway tunnel, as well as the subway system's construction process and early years.

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

 Subway construction photo from 1901. Note the fancy hats.

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

 This picture is called "The Underground Tunneling Machine" (1872), but that machine appears to be sad laborers with a wheelbarrow. 

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

Construction site 33rd St and Fourth Ave, 1901 

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

Columbus Circle, 1901, lacking a looming Time Warner Center.

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

Rendering of the rather luxurious pneumatic passenger car, 1872 

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

Broadway at 135th Street, 1901.

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

 The pneumatic subway tunnel (1872). It should be mentioned that it was only one city block long. 

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

Postcard of the City Hall Subway Station (1906). Look at all that opulence.

Photograph: Courtesy NYPL

Postcard of a Brooklyn subway tunnel, 1911. We're pretty sure it wasn't safe to stick your body out a moving vehicle in an enclosed space, even in those simpler times.  

Recommended

    Popular on Time Out

      Latest news

        Read next

          Advertising