Thu, 23 June 2016
The first subway in New York -- the first in the United States! – travelled only a single block and failed to influence the future of transportation. And yet Alfred Ely Beach's marvelous pneumatic transit system provides us today with one of the most enchanting stories of New York during the Gilded Age.
With the growing metropolis still very much confined to below 14th Street by 1850, New Yorkers frantically looked for more efficient ways to transport people out of congested neighborhoods. Elevated railroads? Moving sidewalks? Massive stone viaducts?
Inventor Beach, publisher of the magazine Scientific American, believed he had the answer, using pneumatic power -- i.e. the power of pressurized air! But the state charter only gave him permission to build a pneumatic tube to deliver mail, not people.
That didn't stop Beach, who began construction of his extraordinary device literally within sight of City Hall. How did Beach build such an ambitious project under secretive circumstances? What was it like to ride a pneumatic passenger car? And why don't we have pneumatic power operating our subways today?
FEATURING: Boss Tweed at his most bossiness, piano tunes under Broadway and something called a centrifugal bowling alley!