The original City Hall subway station in New York City
By reading first-hand accounts of the opening day of the New York City subway, October 27, 1904, you get a picture of the excitement, madness, and sheer feat of the construction of the underground system. The first subway line, the Interborough Rapid Transit, ran from the glorious City Hall subway station (now decommissioned) to 145th Street, proclaiming “City Hall to Harlem in 15 minutes,” though as you’ll discover, even the first day wasn’t without delays.
1. The Mayor of New York City Drove the First Subway Train (And Wouldn’t Give It Back)
While New York City Mayor George B. McClellan may have been a bit un-fun as a mayor, revoking motion picture licenses (apparently, movies were a danger to the morals of society), he showed some spirit on October 27, 1904, the day the subway opened. He was given the honorary duty of starting the first train at City Hall station and was supposed to give the controls over to an IRT motorman but instead, he took it all the way to 103rd Street. Replying to the query “Don’t you want the motorman to take hold?” McClellan said, “No sir! I’m running this train!” The New York Times referred to McClellan as the “Mayor-Motorman” in a 1904 article about the opening ride.