This is the incredible story of the visionary engineer who built New York City’s first subway. The Secret Subway is the gripping tale of a man whose vision was years ahead of his time; a man whose dream was crushed by the greed and political jockeying for power that characterized the city in the days of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.
In the late 1860s New York was congested and dangerous, a place one terrified commentator described as "bedlam on wheels. "Alfred Beach, a multitalented young man, set out to solve the problem. Rather than just addressing the chaos on the streets, he looked deeper for a solution, into the very foundations of the city. He financed the subterranean project himself, and pledged his workers to secrecy. When the fruits of his plans were revealed the public raved about his new tunnel, single station and subway car. Many believed this new system would relieve some of the congestion aboveground, and could be the first step toward a wider transportation network. But perceiving such ideas as a direct threat to his power, Boss Tweed intervened. The subway system Beach envisioned remained buried in the realm of dreams.
Between 1900 and 1904, a subway line was finally built in NYC. Workers extending that line cut right into Beach’s tunnel, which remained intact. The station, tunnel, and car—except for the decaying wooden parts—were just as Beach had left them. To this day they lie buried beneath the city’s streets, an interred monument to a dream cruelly killed by political greed and jealousy.
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|Publisher:||National Geographic Society|
|Product dimensions:||9.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||10 Years|
About the Author
Martin Sandler is an historian and the author of more than 50 books. He is the winner of a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award for The Story of American Photography: An Illustrated History for Young People. He has won seven Emmy Awards and was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has taught American history and American studies at the University of Massachusetts and Smith College.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pack the traffic of the busiest street of London into one boulevard, and still you will not have an idea of the crush in Broadway... it is bedlam on wheels. New York City in the 1800's was a traffic nightmare. Horses, wagons, pedestrians all jammed together in one of the busiest cities on the planet, and the lack of public transportation made it dangerous as well as unsanitary (tons of unshoveled horse manure everywhere). Alfred Beach, owner of the Scientific American magazine and its patent agency, decided to do something about it. In designing the first workable subway system for New York, he not only had to design and engineer the subway, but also invent new machines to create the underground tunnels needed for it. He also had to figure out how to get around the corrupt politicians of the time, led by none other than Boss Tweed himself. This is an incredible story of solving problems through science and creativity -- and secretly to boot! The first subway line was built without anyone knowing other than the workers who were building it... and it was quite a surprise for the city. The Panic of 1873 ruined the financial markets and left Beach no money to keep building his subway, but as the nation recovered from the financial disaster, so did New York. However, it wasn't until the Blizzard of 1888, in which 400 people died trying to get home from work, that the city created plans for what would become the New York City Subway system. Excellent writing! 6th grade and up.