Subway Day celebrates 115th anniversary of the New York City Transit system

Oct. 29, 2019
The MTA and New York Transit Museum bring history to life throughout the day.

The New York City Transit (NYCT) subway system celebrated its 115th anniversary with special events including vintage train rides, extended hours at the New York Transit Museum and historic photo digital messages at all stations throughout the original Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Line.

IRT opened Oct. 27, 1904 and was the first rapid transit subway, which connected City Hall with Harlem. The four-track line began at City Hall Station and ran along the east side of Manhattan to Grand Central, across 42nd Street to Times Square and up the west side to 145th Street, passing through 28 stations, along 9.1 miles of track.

At the time, the IRT system was a privately-owned company. It expanded to three of the outer boroughs in the ensuing years and was joined by two competing companies -- Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) and the city-owned Independent Subway (IND). In 1940, these companies were unified and today comprise the current New York City Transit subway system.

“The subway system has come a long way since October 1904 and we will continue to take it into the future with our Fast Forward Plan,” said (NYCT) President Andy Byford. “Modernizing signal systems, redesigning bus routes, making stations accessible and implementing a new fare payment system are just some of the ways we are going to contribute to New York City Transit’s history."

New York Transit Museum Director Concetta Bencivenga added, “115 years ago, after the speeches and the opening ceremonies had concluded, more than one hundred thousand New Yorkers arrived at 28 intersections on the island of Manhattan, descended stairs and boarded Interborough Rapid Transit electrified trains- and thus the subway was born. The subway helped to make New York and it continues to make New York what it is today. Whether you live here or you’re visiting, the city you experience was brought to you by the subway.”

Vintage Train Rides

The public was able to be part of the IRT’s first run with Lo-V rides back and forth from Times Square-42 Street to 96 Street.

The four-car nostalgia train originally entered service in 1917 and worked into the early 1960s. The IRT Lo-V cars pre-date roll signs and a significant portion of their operating lives were spent running before the numbered lines had numbers. Back then, the IRT trains were named – Jerome Avenue Express, Pelham Local, the Flatbush Express and Broadway Local, to name a few. The names corresponded to the routes or terminals and were printed on wooden boards situated in window-mounted destination sign boxes.

Subway Then and Now Digital Exhibition

Historic New York Transit Museum Collection photos of the subway system before, during and after the construction of the subway were displayed on screens at stations throughout the original IRT route. Each of the historical displays are unique to the station where they are featured.

New York Transit Museum Events

The New York Transit Museum’s main location in Brooklyn opened one hour earlier on Sunday and had themed tours and activities for all ages.

The Changing Signs, Changing Times: A History of Wayfinding in Transit exhibit traces the evolution of wayfinding in transit through photographs, objects and archival materials drawn from the museum’s vast collection. The exhibit will be on view through Nov. 6 at the New York Transit Museum Grand Central Gallery, located at Grand Central Terminal shuttle passage on 42nd Street and Park Avenue, adjacent to the Station Master’s Office, and is free to the public year-round.