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Review:  The Secret Subway – New York with Children

Review: The Secret Subway – New York with Children

Did you know that the first attempt to build a New York subway system occurred in 1866?  Traffic was already a nightmare, a combination of pushcarts, wagons, stagecoaches and buggies.  Lots of ideas were proposed: moving sidewalks, double-decker roads, a railway on stilts, but nothing was ever accomplished.  Ely Beach had another idea.  A pneumatic train, just like the way mail was sent through old buildings.  He knew that permission to build an underground train would be difficult to get approved, so he proposed building an underground mail tube.  “It wouldn’t be that big, it wouldn’t be that messy.  It wouldn’t be that complicated.” He rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing store.  For 58 days, under cover of darkness, he loaded wagons with dirt and rocks and hauled them out.  He built a tunnel 8 feet across and 294 feet long and February 26, he opened the tunnel for rides, making the train depot warm and inviting.   “Gaslights glowed, illuminating paintings and flowers and a fountain that glittered with goldfish.”  The opening went perfectly and throngs of visitors climbed aboard to ride the pneumatic train.  But when he asked for permission to expand, he was stopped; and by 1874, the train that went nowhere was abandoned and was forgotten.

Construction on the current New York subway system started in 1904.  Lots of things were found as they dug: sunken ships, fossilized bones, subterranean streams, and in February 1912, a brick wall.  When they broke through the wall, they found the forgotten subway including a pneumatic railway car.  The Secret Subway was once again, no longer a secret.

If you’re visitng New York with children, The Secret Subway is a great lesson in the history of the city, especially if you’re planning on taking the modern subway. If you’re interested in adding The Secret Subway to your child’s collection, click here :  The Secret Subway

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