New York City Transit Scenes

New York City Transit Bibliography

The following is a list of books that I have seen pertaining to the New York subway. Several are no longer in print, but all may be found at the New York Transit Museum Archives in Brooklyn. There are numerous books in which the New York subway is mentioned, but this list includes only those specifically about it, or ones which devote a significant section to it. If there are others which should be on this list, feel free to send me mail at

Under the Sidewalks of New York - The story of the greatest subway system in the world

  • by Brian J. Cudahy
  • First edition - c1979, Stephen Greene Press
  • Revised edition - c1988, Stephen Greene Press
  • Second revised edition - c1995, Fordham University Press
  • This is an excellent introductory book to the New York subway system. The book follows a chronological order, starting with the els of the 1800's, debates about a subway and the Beach pneumatic subway, and then the 1900 groundbreaking of the IRT. The BRT/BMT and IND are well covered, as are more recent developments in the subway, from the creation of the Transit Authority to the present.

Uptown, Downtown: A trip through time on New York's subways

  • by Stan Fischler
  • c1976, Hawthorn Books
  • Written by Fischler, of NHL fame, this book gives a good brief history of the New York rapid transit system, but its main strength is in its anecdotes. One section is entitled "Subway Superstars," in which he chronicles the lives of several people whose lives have been affected by the subway. He also has a subway "report card," with his "rating" and description of each line.

722 Miles: the building of the subways and how they transformed New York

  • by Clifton Hood
  • c1993, Simon and Schuster
  • Paperback edition - c1995, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • This book covers the history of the subway from the IRT to the formation of the Transit Authority. It presents many of the legal and technical details that led to the building of the first subway, and hence is not as easy to read as some of the other popular accounts of the subway's history.

Labyrinths of Iron: A history of the world's subways - Subways in history, myth, art, technology, and war

  • by Benson Bobrick
  • c1981, Newsweek Books
  • c1986, Quill
  • c1994, Henry Holt and Company
  • This book is an excellent account of the origins of underground transport, from ancient times to modern, with descriptions of the beginnings of the London, Paris, New York and Moscow subway systems. Beach's pneumatic subway is described in detail.

The New York Subway: Its Construction and Equipment

  • c1904, Interborough Rapid Transit Company
  • reprinted at least once since then
  • This book was distributed by the IRT as part of opening festivities in 1904. It was of course intended to promote the IRT, and has many excellent photos of stations and other aspects of the original system before the subway was opened to the public.

Subway Ceramics: a history and iconography of mosaic and bas relief signs and plaques in the New York City subway system

  • by Lee Stookey
  • c1992
  • Second edition - c1994
  • This small book is a collection of photographs taken by the author of the great range of mosaics and tile work in the stations of the New York subway (the IRT and BMT, actually). From the beavers at Astor Place and the eagles at 33rd Street to the Wilson Avenue station on the L, Stookey describes the evolution of the subway station from 1904 Heins and Lafarge to Squire Vickers and the BMT.

Silver Connections

  • by Philip Ashforth Coppola
  • Volumes 1 (Books 1 and 2), 2 and 3 - c1984-1994, Four Oceans Press
  • This ongoing series is a self-published work by Mr. Coppola, and each edition is only available in limited numbers. Coppola's goal is to give a detailed account of the present condition of the entire NYC rapid transit system (a truly lofty goal). Each volume examines the physical state of a portion of the system, detailing, for example, exactly how specific stations have changed since they opened, and how evidence of these changes is still visible. The volumes are accompanied by Coppola's excellent drawings of various parts of the system and stations. In the process, Coppola tells the story of how the subway came to be what it is now, in a fluid, engaging manner. Volume 1 examined the original IRT, and Volume 2 looks at Brooklyn, particularly the els. The amount of work that has been spent on this work is evident on every page.

Subway Lives: 24 hours in the life of the New York City subway

  • by Jim Dwyer
  • c1991, Crown
  • Written by Dwyer, of the late New York Newsday, this book chronicles a day in the lives of several people whose life is affected by the New York subway, from a token booth clerk to a conductor to a group of graffiti artists, and how they all relate to each other. Along the way, Dwyer throws in many tidbits of history. The net result is to give an excellent picture of what makes the New York subway the greatest in the world.

Building the Independent Subway

  • by Frederick Kramer
  • This book describes the building of the IND from the political forces that brought about its existence through beginning of construction through later developments, and includes many excellent photos.

New York City Transit Scenes