Primary Sources: NYC Subway History

Primary Sources: Books


Note: Because I’m researching transportation to the area around the Farragut Houses, both now and in the past, I’ve selected books about New York City subway and elevated train history. I’ve included below descriptions of their content taken either from the website, from, or from both.

See: for all these resources.


  1.  A History of the New York City Subway System

Joseph Cunningham and Leonard De Hart

Published by the authors, 1976

Available at NYU’s Bobst Library, Brooklyn Historical Society Main Collection, TF874.N5 C78 1976

“Vol 1: The Manhattan Els and the I.R.T.; Vol 2. Rapid Transit in Brooklyn; Vol 3. The Independent System and City Ownership. Hard to find history of the Manhattan els and the Interborough; Brooklyn els and the BMT; and the Independent subway and city operation.”


  1. BQT: The Brooklyn & Queens Transit, From Coney Island to Flushing

Harold A. Smith and Frederick A. Kramer

Flanders, NJ: Railroad Avenue Enterprises Publishing, 2002
ISBN: 1882727193

Available from

“Contains a brief historical review of B&QT operations and many b&w photographs of trolleycars in Brooklyn and Queens, including the PCC cars.”


  1. Brooklyn Manhattan Transit: A History as Seen Through the Company’s Maps, Guides and Other Documents: 1923-1939

James Poulos

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011

ISBN: 1466260165

Available from


“This book reproduces, in full color, BMT route maps, service guides, track maps, rosters, and promotional material from the period 1923-1939.”

“A history of the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation from 1923–1939 as seen through original source documents such as maps, guides and brochures. Includes full color images of every map and service guide issued by the company as well as brochures for all of the experimental cars in its roster. Finally, it includes a map of the BMT trolley and bus routes as well as the service guide the BMT issued for its bus services. The section on trolleys also includes excerpts from the BMT Monthly describing the PCC car. A must-have for anyone interested in the history of the New York Subway System. This book expands upon the magazine entitled Mapping the BMT that was sold at the 2010 Mass Transit and Trolley Modeler’s Convention. The guides are larger and easier to read, the map collection was completed, and additional material was added.”


  1. New York Subways: An Illustrated History of New York City’s Transit Cars

Gene Sansone

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the New York Transit Museum, 2004; Centennial Edition

ISBN 0801879221

Available at NYCCT Stacks, HE4491 .N65 S26 2004


“The centennial edition of this book is the definitive guide to the rolling stock of the NYC subway and elevated system, covering the first elevated line in 1867 thru the R-142 car contract of 1997. Each car type is illustrated with photos, mostly black & white, and a writeup, as well as the diagram sheets from the NYCT internal publication Revenue and Non-Revenue Car Drawings where available. This book is a good general introduction to the car types, but the other books in this section go into further detail and illustration about the “sub-classes” (no pun intended) of the cars (early IRT, early BMT, and R-types). There are some color photos but New York City Subway Cars is the clear winner in that category. This book is unique in one other respect: it is the first comprehensive book about any aspect of subway history published by MTA New York City Transit, and hopefully not the last. This book is a necessary addition to any subway fan’s collection. First two editions titled The Evolution of New York City Subways: An Illustrated History of New York City’s Transit Cars, 1867-1997.”


  1. The Brooklyn Elevated

James C. Greller and Edward B. Watson

Hicksville, NY: N.J. International, 1987

ISBN: 0934088209

Available from

“Handsomely done collection of photos of the Brooklyn elevated system. Based largely on the collection of Edward Bishop Watson, past president of the Brooklyn Historical Society and dean of New York transportation history, this collection is definitive and well-chosen. The book covers early steam railroads to Brooklyn’s beaches and over the Brooklyn Bridge as well as the elevated lines. Shows Classes 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, rebuilt, C, Q, and work cars (including crocodile-style electric locomotives). Includes rosters of BRT equipment. Illustrated throughout with black and white (and some color) photos. With several maps, including one showing service to the 1939 World’s Fair.”


  1. The New York Subway: Its Construction and Equipment

Interborough Rapid Transit; Brian J. Cudahy

Fordham University Press, 2004

ISBN: 0823224015

Available from

“First published in October 1904 by the Interborough Rapid Transit Corporation, the company that built New York’s first underground railway, this unique facsimile edition is a lavishly illustrated guide to one of the century’s greatest engineering feats. Here in twelve detailed chapters, are the routes, stations, and tracks, the rolling stock, signal systems, and electric supply stations of the new subway that ran under the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx. Beautifully reproduced photographs, maps, line drawings, and other illustrations complement the text, written by the IRT’s own engineers. It covers the construction methods, architecture, station and rolling stock design, and the political groups responsible for the creation of New York City’s first subway. An online version is available: The New York Subway: Its Construction and Equipment (1904).”

1 thought on “Primary Sources: NYC Subway History

  1. Buster Cassada

    Hey! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!


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