On July 3, 1868, Charles T. Harvey conducted the first test of New York’s first elevated railway. The experimental section of the rail was built on lower Greenwich street and was designed to be pulled by cables according to a system that Harvey had invented and patented. The New York Times reported on July 4 that “the trial trip upon the elevated road in Greenwich street having been postponed on Thursday on account of an accident to the machinery came off yesterday at noon and was very satisfactory. The car ran easily from the Battery to Cortlandt street, starting at the rate of five miles an hour and increasing to a speed of ten miles. The company does not pretend with its present machinery to run the cars faster than fifteen miles an hour; but during the next two months will make arrangements for much more rapid motion.”

Harvey’s line would eventually become the Ninth Avenue El, and by mid-1879 it had reached 81st Street. Two years later, it was extended further, turning on 110th Street to Eighth Avenue, where it continued up to the Harlem River at 155th Street.


Edwin G. Burroughs and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (Oxford UP), pp. 1053-54.

James Blaine Walker, Fifty Years of Rapid Transit (1918), available online at

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