Check Out This PBS Documentary on the First Electric Subway Motor in New York City, 1886

The Race Underground is a PBS documentary series that tells the story of how public transportation in the United States went from trains and carriages above ground to subways in many of our largest cities. This clip from the series investigates the history behind one of the most important inventions that pushed the industry forward, the first Electric Subway Motor designed by naval officer Frank Sprague.

On a short track in on an alley between two brick buildings near the Durant Sugar Factory off East 24th Street near the East River, Sprague met Jay Gould to give a test run. Sprague puts Gould at the front of a flatbed train car as a showman's move, giving the industrialist a literal front row seat. But Sprague became "a little overzealous," says Doug Most, the author of The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway in which the documentary is partly based on.

Matt Coneybeare

Matt Coneybeare

Editor in Chief

Matt enjoys exploring the City's with his partner and son. He is an avid marathon runner, and spends most of his time eating, running, and working on cool stuff.

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