Tunnel Through the 20th Century

A Visual History of Manhattan's Underground Transit Tunnels


Just 58 days after the start of construction, Alfred Ely Beach and his Beach Pneumatic Transit Company of New York opened a one block subway running under Broadway from Warren Street to Murray Street

Piano maker William Steinway started to fund the Steinway tunnel between Manhattan and Queens through the East River

June 2, 1892
Construction for the Steinway tunnel began

May 22, 1894
The Rapid Transit Act was passed, which created the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners. This initiated the planning of one of the first full subway lines in NYC.

New York, Kings and Richmond Counties, and parts of Queens and Westchester Counties and their constituent cities, towns, villages, and hamlets, were consolidated into the City of Greater New York


February 21, 1900
A contract, later known as Contract 1, was signed for the construction of the subway and a 50-year operating lease from the opening of the line

March 24, 1900
Ground broke in City Hall for the subway from Contract 1

September 11, 1901
Contract 2, giving a leave of 35 years, was executed between the commission and the Rapid Transit Construction Company. This plan calls for an extension from City Hall to the Long Island Rail Road’s Flatbrush Avenue.

October 27, 1904
New York City's first official subway system opened in Manhattan. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) operated the 9.1-mile long subway line that consisted of 28 stations from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway. 

The IRT expands service to the Bronx

Construction on Penn Station begins

September 24, 1907
The Steinway tunnel opens with demonstration trolley cars. The concession to operate the tunnels had expired on January 1, 1907, and the city of New York was unwilling to renew the contract. The city did not tolerate privately operated subways and legally prevented the IRT from operating the tunnel with the trams. So for the next five years, the tunnels, with trolley loops on both the Manhattan and Queens sides, remained inoperative.

The IRT expands service to Brooklyn


Penn Station (original, prior to 1963 demolition) opens

March 19, 1913
The expansion of rapid transit was greatly facilitated by the signing of the Dual Contracts on March 19, 1913. Contract 3 was signed between the IRT and the city; the contract between the BRT and the city was Contract 4. The majority of the present-day subway system was either built or improved under these contracts.

The IRT expands service to Queens. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company began subway service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1915. The Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation took over a few years later.

September 4, 1917
The BRT opened the first segment of its Manhattan main line subway, the Broadway Line, as far as 14th Street – Union Square 


Construction for the Holland Tunnel begins. The project was started by the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission. The first man to oversee the project was Clifford Holland, whose name the tunnel now bears.

Unfortunately, Holland had a nervous breakdown in 1924 and died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.

Holland Tunnel opens as the longest underwater tunnel in the world at 8,557 feet (more than 1.5 miles)


The NYC Board of Transportation completed construction of the Eight Avenue line and created the Independent Rapid Transit Railroad (IND), the first city-run subway service.

Construction for the Lincoln Tunnel begins

Construction for the Queens Midtown Tunnel begins

The Lincoln Tunnel opens at a cost of $85 million


The city-run IND purchases both the BMT and the IRT, becoming the sole operator of all New York Subways. The Queens Midtown Tunnel opens under the purview of the New York City Tunnel Authority, which later became part of the MTA. The total cost was $58 million. Construction begins for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel

The north tube of the Lincoln Tunnel opens, 4 years later than intended


Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is opened. At the time of opening, this tunnel was the longest vehicular tunnel in the United States.

June 15, 1953
The New York State Legislature created the New York City Transit Authority (now MTA New York City Transit) as a separate public corporation to manage and operate all city-owned bus, trolley, and subway routes. 

July 25, 1953
Tokens debut in the subway.

October 30, 1954
A track connection between Brooklyn's Church Avenue and Ditmas Avenue stations establishes single-route service (on the ) from the Bronx at 205th Street to Brooklyn's Coney Island.

May 12, 1955
The Third Avenue El, last elevated line in Manhattan, closes.

December 1, 1955
NYC Transit opens a track connection between the 60th Street tunnel and the Queens Boulevard line, to link former BMT and IND lines in Long Island City, Queens.

June 28, 1956
Subway service to Rockaway Park and Wavecrest (Beach 25th Street) in Queens begins.

October 31, 1956
NYC Transit discontinues its last two trolley lines, along Brooklyn's McDonald Avenue and Church Avenue.

January 16, 1958
Subway service extended to Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue in Queens.


July 19, 1967
The first successful train of air-conditioned subway cars, composed of ten R38 cars, goes into service on the image line. On June 24, 1975, two air-conditioned 10-car IRT trains enter service, the first air-conditioned IRT trains since the subway system opened nearly 70 years previously. This caps more than two decades of work to produce air-conditioning units small enough to fit IRT cars and powerful enough to handle a large number of customers traveling during rush hours. More than 1,300 IRT “Redbird” subway cars are retrofitted with air-conditioning until 1982. In 1983, new air-conditioned subway cars begin arriving. The entire fleet of 5,800 cars now has air-conditioning.

November 26, 1967
The Christie Street connection opens, enabling BMT lines that cross the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges to stop at Broadway-Lafayette (an IND station). The Grand Street station also opens to serve trains using the Manhattan Bridge.

March 1, 1968
The New York State Legislature creates the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to oversee transportation operations in 12 counties. The MTA becomes New York City Transit's parent agency.

July 1, 1969
NYC Transit introduces reduced-fare on buses and subways for senior citizens.


July 1, 1971
The city purchases the Staten Island subsidiary of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and creates the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority (now called Staten Island Railway or SIR) to operate NYC Transit-managed rail service on Staten Island.

September 2, 1975
Reduced-fare introduced for people with physical disabilities.

July 1, 1976
The Transit Exhibit (now called the New York Transit Museum) opens in the former Court Street shuttle station in Downtown Brooklyn.


Jan. 1, 1982
NYC Transit begins the first of its five-year Capital Improvement programs.

December 11, 1988
The Archer Avenue line opens, consisting of three stations and linking the Jamaica and Queens Boulevard lines in Queens. Six southeast Queens bus routes are rerouted to serve the city's first modern intermodal (bus-rail) transfer facility at the new Jamaica Center (Parsons-Archer) station.

May 12, 1989
NYC Transit establishes graffiti-free bus and subway fleets.

October 29, 1989
Service begins to the 63 rd Street Extension's three new stations: Lexington Avenue, Roosevelt Island (Manhattan) and 21 st Street (Long Island City, Queens).


January 6, 1994
Automated Fare Collection (AFC) turnstiles go on-line at the Wall Street and Whitehall Street stations.

September 22, 1994
Construction begins on the 63 rd St. Connector to link the 63 rd Street tunnel to the Queens Boulevard line in Long Island City, Queens.

September 19, 1996
Two MetroCard buses travel to community centers, shopping centers, and other locations to promote the fare card and help senior citizens and people with disabilities get or replenish the Reduced-Fare MetroCard.

May 14, 1997
The entire subway system accepts MetroCard.

July 4, 1997
MetroCard Gold debuts, allowing customers to transfer free from bus to subway, subway to bus, or bus to bus.

January 1, 1998
A new MetroCard feature lets customers get 11 rides for the price of 10.

July 4, 1998
First sales day for the Unlimited-Ride 7-Day MetroCard and the 30-Day MetroCard, which let customers take as many trips as they want for a fixed price.

Oct. 12, 1998
Lenox Avenue Invert is completed in less than eight months. The $82 million project rebuilds the flooded invert (floor) of the Lenox Av and line between 110th and 116th Streets and restores the 116th Street station.

January 1, 1999
An unlimited-ride, 1-day MetroCard, the Fun Pass, is introduced.

January 25, 1999
The MetroCard Vending Machine (MVM) debuts in two subway stations. By the end of the year, 347 MVMs are in service in 74 stations

October 18, 1999
The Franklin Avenue Shuttle reopens after a $74 million rehabilitation, three months ahead of schedule. The 15-month major reconstruction of the 1.4-mile line rebuilds the Franklin Avenue and Park Place stations virtually from scratch and restores the Prospect Park and Botanic Gardens stations.


http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/bridge-pics-article-1.2576529 http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ffhist.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steinway_Tunnel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_New_York_City_Subway#Beach_Pneumatic_Transit https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027/tab12.txt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_Rapid_Transit_Company https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_Station_(1910%E2%80%931963) https://www.american-rails.com/pennsylvania-station.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Central_Terminal