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Planes Trains and Automobiles

A Brief History of Subway Cinema

Decades in the making, the Second Avenue Subway finally opened to the public this week, its glimmering new stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets heralded with the pomp and circumstance of a movie premiere. Of course, the subway doesn’t immediately come to mind as a photogenic movie star, but in fact, the various tunnels and […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

A city of bridges: One century ago, Scientific American predicted a future of elevated sidewalks

Imagine a city where the High Line isn’t just a novel park, but the primary form of urban conveyance. In 1913, with the proliferation of the automobile, it seemed humans were being crowded out at ground level.  People were beginning to think of themselves as removed from the street.  Daredevils were experimenting with flight, and […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

PODCAST REWIND: Remembering the original Pennsylvania Station

PODCAST The story of Pennsylvania Station involves more than just nostalgia for the long-gone temple of transportation as designed by the great McKim, Mead and White. It’s a tale of incredible tunnels, political haggling and big visions. Find out why the original Penn Station was built to look so classical, why it was then torn […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

100 years ago today: Seventh Avenue collapsed under rush hour traffic

One hundred years ago today, — a horrifying disaster on Seventh Avenue endangered the lives of New Yorkers on their way to work. Excavations for the new Seventh Avenue subway line (the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue line, aka the 1-2-3 trains) were proceeding well below an active thoroughfare.  On the morning of September 22, 1915, two detonations […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles Podcasts

TAXI: A History of the New York Taxi Cab

PODCAST The history of the New York City taxicab, from the handsome hansoms of old to the modern issues facing the modern taxi fleet today. In this episode, we recount almost 175 years of getting around New York in a private ride. The hansom, the romantic rendition of the horse and carriage, took New Yorkers […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

The Horror Underground: New York’s first subway disaster — during rush hour, one hundred years ago today

On January 6, 1915, a seemingly minor incident under the streets of Midtown caused a terrible panic, “the worst disaster in the history of the New York subway” up to that date, injuring hundreds of commuters and killing one.  That morning, two electrical cables feeding into manholes at Broadway and 52nd Street suddenly shorted out, […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

The New York City subway system opened 110 years ago today; An interview with The Race Underground author Doug Most

Crowds at the now-defunct City Hall Station of the brand new New York subway system. (NYPL) One hundred and ten years ago today, the first train of the New York City subway system began its first trip underneath the city, filled with eager and excited passengers.  Thousands lined up to take this revolutionary new ride, […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

New York City’s “stripped and abandoned” car crisis

The fate of an automobile at Breezy Point, 1973 (Courtesy US National Archives) The abandoned car, that most dramatic symbol of urban blight, is a sight that has pretty much vanished from most New York City streets. (Most, not all.)  In a city refitted for the automobile by the mid 20th century, people just began […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

History in the making 2/18: Pennsylvania Station edition

Aging beauty: The entrance of Penn Station, photographed by James Burke in 1957 for Life Magazine. — Tonight on PBS’s American Experience: The Rise and Fall of Penn Station, the story of McKim, Mead and White’s Midtown masterpiece and how its tragic demolition in the 1960s forced New Yorkers to consider the importance of historic […]

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Mysterious Stories Planes Trains and Automobiles

“This hypocritical, swindling world” — One hundred years ago, a mysterious suicide in the halls of Pennsylvania Station

The halls of Pennsylvania Station, conjuring the grandeur of a Roman temple, would have created an otherworldly echo at rush hour on January 22, 1914.  Thousands of commuters hurrying across the marble floors of McKim, Mead and White’s steel-latticed terminal, rushing to arriving trains pulling into the sunken boarding area from deep tunnels beneath Manhattan […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

History in the Making 11/21: Everybody Take A Cab Edition

Taxis, not as taxing! The caption for the photo above: “New York City Mayor’s Bureau of Licenses condemning a taxicab after new ordinance regulating taxicab meters went into effect on August 1, 1913.”  The law was withheld in state court 100 years ago today, kicking in a new set of lowered cab fares for New […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

The Dual Contracts: The New York City subway system gets a serious upgrade 100 years ago today

A subway map from 1924, illustrating the system created as a result of the Dual Contracts agreement. After years of negotiations, false starts and lengthy arguments played out in the press, a group of greatly relieved businessmen entered the large hearing room of the New York Tribune Building (at Nassau and Spruce, where Pace University […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

J. P. Morgan Jr. rides the subway and is accosted by a hat

Any of you who ride the 4-5-6 train in rush hour will especially relate to this story.  It takes place, in fact, on that very line, one hundred years ago. Will B. Johnstone, an artist at the New York Evening World, noticed an interesting sight on his subway ride that morning, February 1, 1913, the […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

History in the Making: Double Decker Delight Edition

Ladies in their most decorative hats enjoy a sunny ride from a double-decker in the fleet of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. Anybody recognize this street corner? There’s an advertisement for McMullen’s White Label Bass Ale, Guinness Stout, Appolinari’s mineral water on the building in the background. (Photo by Alice Austen, courtesy NYPL. Labeled 1896, but most likely […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles Podcasts

The Bowery Boys High Line audio walking tour, featuring tales of the Titanic, the Manhattan Project and 1,000 Stevies

Cookie heaven: Trains pull into a factory owned by the National Biscuit Company, between W. 15th and 16th streets, July 30, 1950. Could those cars be filled with crates of freshly made Oreo cookies? (See comments section below for the anser.) By 1958, the snack company had pulled all production from New York’s west side. […]