Sunday, February 23, 2014

Subterranean Two City Blues

The Race Underground – Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway – Doug Most (St. Martin’s Press)

Rail mass transit in the form of underground subways seems so synonymous with New York and Boston that it may seem hard to believe the difficulties and hurdles that had to be overcome for it to become a staple of those two cities.
Author/journalist Doug Most explores those difficulties, the numerous early incarnations and the tale of two cities that dueled to develop the first underground rail system in, The Race Underground –Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway.  It is a story of dogged determination, startling innovation and a strenuous rivalry.

While the story centers on brothers Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York, the cast of colorful characters included in the mix Boss Tweed, Thomas Edison, Fredrick Law Olmstead and Grover Cleveland.
The tale includes political intrigue, insider manipulation, high level real estate transactions, and financial shenanigans. While most folks consider today’s political machinations to be at an all time low, they pale in comparison to the underhanded actions that stifled and road blocked these projects.
The Race Underground is an interesting look not only at the subway story, but also provides a snapshot of the times and the growth of the nation.

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