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Guide to New York City Railroads Car Body Reports
1908-1973 (bulk 1908-1943)
  MS 2112

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jan Hilley and Valerie Paley

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 02, 2011
Description is in English.

Historical Note

1832 The first street railway is built in Manhattan.
1868-1883 Elevated lines are built in Manhattan.
1885-1903 Elevated lines are built in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
1890 Above ground, there are approximately 24 street railway firms operating in the city running one main route or a branch. Most are consolidated by the Metropolitan Street Railway syndicate.
1902 The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) is formed to operate New York City's subway.
1904 The subway opens in New York City.
1913 The Board of Estimate and the New York State Public Service Commission approve a "dual system" that includes the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT), thus extending rapid transit lines to include two networks or broader routes. By 1913 the system carried 810 million passengers, and by 1930, 2,049 million.
1921 The earliest form of rapid transit in the U.S., the elevated railway (developed in New York City in the second half of the nineteenth century) reached its peak in 1921, when it carried 384 million passengers.
1923 The success and popularity of the subways renders the noisy and unsightly elevateds obsolete after 1923 and during the Depression they are eliminated. A majority of the lines are razed or abandoned in the late 1940s and 1950s.
1932 New York's Board of Transportation completes construction of the Eighth Avenue Line, creating the Independent City-Owned Rapid Transit Railroad (IND).
1940 New York City purchases BMT and IRT, becoming the sole owner and operator of all NYC subway and elevated lines.

At the turn of the century and for quite some time after, the heavy rail fleet was an amalgam of electric cars and converted steam coaches. The subway lines began standardizing car appearance although the propulsion, door and brake systems and other components could vary considerably between car types. The description and status of each company's various car body types were reported to the Transit Commission twice yearly. These records, beginning in 1908, comprise this collection.

[Sources: Kenneth T. Jackson, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); Robert A. Hall,  New York City Rapid Transit Chronology (Ann Arbor, Mich.: [Lithoprinted by Edwards Brothers, Inc.], 1945; and Gene Sansome,  Evolution of New York City Subways (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)].