National GeographicNat Geo Wild


The subway has been a part of the New York City landscape for over 100 years. On October 27, 1904, the first underground train left the City Hall station.

Today, over five million people ride the NYC subway every day. That’s almost 2 billion passengers a year.

The subway’s current route extends to over 1,300 kilometres, has 468 stations and over 6,000 cars.

Each car can carry almost 250 passengers at speeds of almost 90 kilometres per hour. 

The trains weigh as much as 400 tons run along the tracks 24 hours a day.

Each car begins in Brazil where workers weld its body, a 23-step process done almost entirely by hand. The roof alone requires 3,500 spot welds.

Then workers in Hornell, New York assemble the subway car – also mostly by hand.

Each car takes almost 90 days to build. The factory in New York works on two subway cars per day with almost 800 employees working two shifts.

Each car has over 11,000 parts and 4,000 parts are typically fitted in a single day.

An ingenious African-American inventor, Granville Woods, pioneered a power distribution system that is still used by the New York Subway and around the world. Most people know it as “the third rail,” where electricity is transmitted to the train by a sliding “shoe” that maintains contact with an electrified rail.

The tracks of the New York City subway are made from 12 metre lengths of carbon steel, just six centimetres wide.

“Geometry trains” ride the rails non-stop taking laser-guided measurements of the tracks. Any track more than two centimetres out of alignment, requires a repair.


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