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A photo journey through the creation of America’s first subway system

The first subway car in Boston took its maiden voyage on September 1, 1897. Arriving at that momentous occasion took years of planning and construction, not to mention a few setbacks along the way. In the end, a new era of man-made engineering was put into motion, revolutionizing urban transportation and broadening the perception of human capability forever. All of this was thanks to the brilliance of one man, Frank Sprague, an unsung hero in American engineering history and the deserving subject of a new PBS American Experience documentary, “The Race Underground.”

In these photos, you’ll take a ride through the past and watch the first subway grow from an idea to a reality along (and under) the streets of Boston.

Frank Sprague on railway flatcar in Manhattan where he tested his motor with Jay Gould, 1885

 

Washington Street, downtown Boston, extremely congested, ca. 1887

 

Workers overlooking construction of subway in Boston Common, April 24, 1895

 

Horses carrying dirt during subway construction, 1896

 

 

Bird’s-eye view of construction at Tremont and Park Street

 

Aftermath of gas explosion, March 4, 1897. Ten people were killed and over seventy five injured. Taken ten minutes after the explosion.

 

Boylston Street subway station prior to opening day

 

Motorman James “Jimmy” Reed steers out America’s first subway car at the Allston train shed, September 1, 1897

 

Opening day for subway, Public Garden entrance

 

Boylston Street subway entrance, September 15, 1897

 

Subway cars emerging from tunnel at Public Garden

 

Frank Sprague (center rear) standing behind Thomas Edison (center seated), 1910

 


“The Race Underground” airs on January 31 at 9 p.m. on WGBH 2.

This content was produced by Boston GlobeMedia's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.