Constructing New York's First Subway
Clip: Season 9 | 1m 23s
Construction on New York's Interborough Rapid Transit, or IRT, began in 1900. William Parsons, the project’s chief engineer, used a variety of techniques for underwater digging. Sometimes hydraulic shields were used; other times methods were improvised, like digging a trench in the riverbed, then sinking the tunnel roof down on top of it. At least 7,700 men would be needed to build the IRT.
Problems Playing Video?
In June, 1902, subcontractor, Ira Shaler, suffered a fatal accident in the east tunnel.
Running New York's subway would require the most powerful electrical plant in the world.
In the late 19th-century, an engineer was regarded as a god-like figure.
New York’s topography presented a special engineering challenge for subway planners.
Alfred Ely Beach had an idea for a pneumatic subway, pulled by a rope of air.
The first effort to build a subway dates back to the 1850s with Alfred Ely Beach.
The Pennsylvania Railroad announced they would be tunneling into Manhattan.
The masonry work on Pennsylvania Station began in 1908.
Measurements showed that the Pennsylvania RR Hudson River tunnels were shifting.
Tunneling under the Hudson river proved easy, but the East River was becoming a nightmare.
In 1961 the Pennsylvania Railroad announced it had sold the air rights above Penn Station.
Two city blocks, or 28 acres, were initially cleared for Penn Station’s construction.
Excavation workers, called “sandhogs,” faced many dangers working in a confined space.
Corporate sponsorship for American Experience is provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Consumer Cellular. Major funding by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.