Rewind: The Construction of Penn Station

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Manage episode 281328336 series 1530999
By Tom Meyers and Bowery Boys Media. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

On January 1, 2021 Moynihan Train Hall officially opens to the public, a new commuters' wing catering to both Amtrak and Long Island Railroad train passengers at New York's underground (and mostly unloved) Penn Station.

To celebrate this big moment in New York City transportation history, we’re going to tell the entire story of Pennsylvania Station and Pennsylvania Railroad over two episodes, using a couple older shows from our back catalog.

The story of Pennsylvania Station involves more than just nostalgia for the long-gone temple of transportation as designed by the great McKim, Mead and White. It's a tale of incredible tunnels, political haggling and big visions.

Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest railroad in the world by the 1880s, but thanks to Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York Central Railroad, one prize was strategically out of their grasp -- direct access to Manhattan.

An ambitious plan to link New Jersey to New York via a gigantic bridge fell apart, and it looked like Pennsylvania passengers would have to forever disembark in Jersey City.

But Penn Railroad president Alexander Cassatt was not satisfied. Visiting his sister Mary Cassatt -- the exquisite Impressionist painter -- in Paris, Cassatt observed the use of electrically run trains in underground tunnels. Why couldn't Penn Railroad build something similar?

One problem -- the mile-wide Hudson River (or in historical parlance, the North River).

This is the tale of an engineering miracle, the construction of miles of underground tunnels and the idea of an ambitious train station to rival the world's greatest architectural marvels.

ORIGINALLY RELEASED AS EPISODE 80 -- APRIL 10, 2009

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