A few months ago, this map landed in my inbox. For New York City subway history enthusiasts, it’s a fascinating document. As the excerpt above shows, it is a map of the system with historical annotations. Think of it as a visual timeline of New York City subway history. You’ll get lost in it for hours.
I’ll include the full map below for your perusal, and it comes with some accompanying text I’ll type out below. Basically, the excerpt offers up a simplified look at the political goings-on that led to the MTA and provides some insight into the now-defunct IRT/BMT/IND distinctions that I still use on Second Ave. Sagas.
Historical Map of the New York Subway
At the beginning of the 20th century, Manhattan had a large elevated system dating from 1870 run by the Manhattan Elevated RR Co., one branch of which reached inot the Bronx. Brooklyn had a large surface and elevated system operated by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Co (BRT). Construction of the first subway began in 1900, and the Interborough Rapid Transit Co (IRT) commenced operation in 1904. The original route ran from City Hall to 145 St. via Grand Central and Times Square. The IRT also leased the Manhattan Elevated Co. The IRT system was extended into the Bronx and Brooklyn through 1908. Around this time, the question of municipal ownership became an issue. In 1909 a master plan for a separate city built system – the Triborough System – was proposed. This plan specified a larger load gauge than used on the IRT to allow interchange with main line railroad equipment. Although not adopted, the Triboro plan produced the two different size specifications which to this day prevents total interchangeability between lines.
Instead, the so called Dual Contracts system was employed to draw together the IRT and BRT. Construction of the dual system lines began in 1931- more than half the mileage being of elevated structure, embankment or open cut. Some elevated lines were reconstructions of older pre-dual contract els. The BRT went into receivership in 1918 which ended in 192 when it was renamed and reorganized as the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corp (BMT).
In 1924 control over sorely needed new routes was returned to the city with the establishment of a Board of Transportation. The City of New York became a subway operator in 1932 when the municipally built Independent system (IND) was opened.
Unification took place in 1940 when the BOT aquired the BMT and bankrupt IRT systems. Elimination of original el routes was commenced.
BOT control ended in 1953 with the creation of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). The BMT and IND systems were merged in 1967 with the opening of the Chrystie St. connection in Manhattan. Control of the NYCTA passed to the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in 1968. Ex IRT lines were now known as the A Division and ex BMT/IND lines as B Dvision. The last pre-subway ‘el’ closed in 1973 with the end of the 3rd Avenue el Bronx service.
To view the entire map, click the image below. Be forewarned: The file is approximately 6 MB.