A compelling work of narrative nonfiction, selected as a Discover Pick by Barnes and Noble, The Race Underground is a riveting true story of the dramatic and sometimes deadly competition between New York and Boston to build the first American subway. For readers who love Erik Larson and David McCullough, The Race Underground is peopled with the famous, like Boss Tweed, and Thomas Edison, a great American saga of two rival American cities, the powerful interests within, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.
The Race Underground
On November 3, 1849, Alfred Beach could see clear down to the Hudson River from his top-floor office in downtown New York. That morning, Scientific American had published an article he wrote suggesting just about the craziest idea that New Yorkers had ever heard. It would be laughed at, mocked, and, ultimately, ignored. Nobody took it seriously in the days and weeks after it appeared, except for the young man who wrote it.
Looking out from his window at the corner of Fulton and Nassau streets in one of the city's tallest buildings, Beach could look up and see the next tall building being built, or he could look out to the water and see the parade of boats floating past in the New York harbor. The waters used to be filled mostly with tugboats, fishing boats, sloops, and the occasional mammoth steamship pulling in from Europe after the long crossing. But more recently, Beach was seeing a new type of boat dominate the harbor: Ferry boats, operated ...
The Race Underground conveys a constant sense of motion, a dizzying energy going forward, the growth of new science and technology at a faster pace into the future. I loved the vivid descriptions of the city streets in the horse and carriage days, and can only imagine the joy when finally the cleaner, faster way of moving people was finally in place. This book is so rich and full of history and was much more satisfying than a novel.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (1039 words).
While Boston and New York might have been competing stateside to launch the first subway, across the Atlantic, London was already way ahead in getting its underground tube rolling.
In the mid-nineteenth century, congestion was getting to be an increasing problem in the city as the only way to travel around was by buses and cabs, not quite the mass transit system that was really needed.
The solution was a sub-surface system that would alleviate congestion by moving some of it below the ground. The initial method used to dig the tunnel was called "cut and cover;" in essence, a trench was dug and then covered over with materials that supported whatever passed over it. These "cut and cover" tunnels were only about 60 foot deep and ...
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