Alfred Ely Beach: Difference between revisions

In 1870 New York state senator [[William M. Tweed]] introduced a bill to fund construction of Beach's subway which did not pass.<ref name=tweed>"New York Herald" and "New York Tribune", March 11, 1870.</ref> By the end of 1871 Tweed's [[Tammany Hall]] political machine was in disgrace and from then on Beach, in an effort to gain support from reformers, claimed that Tweed had opposed his subway.<ref name=beach_revisionist>Alfred E Beach, "The Broadway Underground Railway". New York: Beach Pneumatic Transit, 1872.</ref> The real opposition to the subway was from politically connected property owners along Broadway, led by [[Alexander Turney Stewart]] and [[John Jacob Astor III]], who feared that tunnelling would damage buildings and interfere with surface traffic.<ref name=stewart>For example see "New York Herald", March 21, 1871, and "New York Tribune", Mar 29, 1871, and "New York Times", March 30, 1872.</ref> Bills for Beach's subway passed the legislature in 1871 and 1872 but were vetoed by Governor [[John T. Hoffman]] because he said that they gave away too much authority without compensation to the city or state. In 1873 Governor [[John Adams Dix]] signed a similar bill into law, but Beach was not able to raise funds to build over the next six months, and then the [[Panic of 1873]] dried up the financial markets.<ref name="walker"/>
During this same time, other investors had built an [[elevated railway]] at [[Greenwich Street]] and [[Ninth Avenue (Manhattan)|Ninth Avenue]], which operated successfully with a small steam engine starting in 1870. This elevated railway gave an Idea to [[James Henry Greathead]] for the [[Docker's Umbrella]] in Liverpool which, was a similar idea for an overhead railway for the purpose of easing congestion on the ground in England. The wealthy property owners did not object to the New York railway well away from Broadway, and by the mid-1870s it appeared that elevated railways were practical and underground railways were not, setting the pattern for rapid transit development in New York for the rest of the 19th century.<ref name="walker" />
Beach operated his demonstration railway from February 1870 to April 1873. It had one station in the basement of Devlin's clothing store, a building at the southwest corner of Broadway and Warren St, and ran for a total of about 300 feet, first around a curve to the center of Broadway and then straight under the center of Broadway to the south side of Murray St.<ref name="beach_opening"/> The former Devlin's building was destroyed by fire in 1898.<ref name=fire>"New York Times", "New York Herald", "The World", "New York Tribune", Dec 5, 1898.</ref> In 1912 workers for Degnon Contracting excavated the tunnel proper during the construction of a subway line running under Broadway. The tunnel was completely within the limits of the present day [[City Hall (BMT Broadway Line)|City Hall]] station under Broadway.<ref name=tunnel>Walker (above), and "Scientific American", Feb 24, 1912 and September 7, 1912, and "New York Times", Feb 9, 1912.</ref> The British pneumatic tube also failed to attract much attention and eventually fell into disrepair and disrepute in spite of the fact that [[Royal Mail]] had contracted to use the tunnels. Ultimately the English experiment failed due to technical issues and lack of funding, also.