New York Underground

New York Underground

The MTA is one of the most amazing networks in the world. The complexity is staggering, but beautiful simplicity can be found throughout. Upon returning to New York, I joined the Transit Museum and have been able to explore long-forgotten corners of the system. The museum membership is worth it for the great museum exhibits alone, but the members-only events and tours are what truly make this membership worthwhile.

Here I’ll post some of the things I’ve learned from the museum, books, and exploration. Aside from its unique aesthetic qualities, the logistics of making such a system function are incredibly beautiful. Much like the Internet, this system grew organically and its lack of central planning has led to a messy, sometimes incomprehensible, system that functions better than anything that could have been planned.

Hidden Places

Trolley Ghosts, the tour behind the scenes at the Delancey-Essex station was an amazing experience. The current Delancey-Essex station is integrated into the the former Williamsburg Bridge Railway Terminal. The former trolley hub still exists under much of the current station and can be seen throughout the now-abandoned areas of the station. Remnants of the trolley lines can be seen in the ceilings throughout.20120607-DSC_0916


20120607-DSC_0972For more photos, see the MTA Gallery.

The Jewel in the Crown tour should be on everyone’s bucket list. It takes you to the old City Hall station, which is in remarkably good condition given the decades it has sat in disuse.


The vaults here are entirely made of tile produced by R. Guastavino & Co. While most vaults rely on stones resting on each other, these consist of 4 layers of tile and are just as strong as a stone vault. The glass in the center was clear, but years of exposure have left it with an assortment of stains that make it appear – well… stained. As in stained glass. It’s a very cool effect.


The windows between the vaults above would have originally provided much more light than is currently there, but they were tarred over during WWII so they wouldn’t be seen easily from above. In places where the glass has broken, you can get an idea of what it would have looked like on a sunny day.