The Hudson River made New York inaccessible by railroad at the beginning of the 19th century. The only way to cross was by ferry. Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge began in 1867 using a new engineering technique, the caisson. A California financier, D.C. Haskins, observed this technique of pressurized tanks that allowed digging in mud or sandy soil and began advocating its use for building tunnels. He formed the Hudson Tunnel Railroad Company and, after legal battles with railroad companies who owned the ferries, the tunneling began at Hoboken, N.J. It halted a year later after workmen had died of nitrogen narcosis, then known as "caisson disease" and there had been a blow up of the caisson. The company went bankrupt. As tunnels were successfully completed in the East River and in London attention was brought to finishing the Hudson tunnel. W.C. McAdoo and C.M. Jacobs formed the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Company and in 1902 they began tunneling using a new technique known as a shield which consisted of an inclined ram pushed by hydraulic jacks. The shield enabled the workmen to tunnel about 3 feet a day. In 1908 the first subway train left from Nineteenth Street and Sixth Avenue in New York for Hoboken; the trip took eight minutes. A rash of other tunnels were soon begun until commuting under the Hudson became routine. In 1954 the historic first subway station was closed to the public.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Reprinted from American History Illustrated, August 1974, The National Historical Society, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation

    1 Path Plaza
    Jersey City, NJ  United States  07306
  • Publication Date: 1974-8

Media Info

  • Features: Photos;
  • Pagination: 15 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00084774
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: Reprint
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 2 1981 12:00AM