book review

Tracks of the New York City Subway  
by Peter J. Dougherty


Title:  Tracks of the New York City Subway, Second Edition
Author:  Peter J. Dougherty
Publisher:  Self Published
Date Published:  September 1999  
Format:  Spiral bound, 11" x 8.5", xviii + 102 pp. with card covers
Ordering:  See Peter's website. This book has also been available at the New York City Transit Museum

Incredible Detail for the Subway Buff
and Interested Tourist

Reviewed by Paul Matus

It would be hard to think of anything more New York than its extensive and complex subway system. The intracacy of the system is daunting to even the most experienced urbanite, not to mention the casual visitor.
Over the years, many maps, both official and commercial, have been produced which have tried to simplify the task of navigating the system for the mere mortal. But what of the person who wants to know more than is provided by a route map of the subway? One who wonders where that spur line goes to. One who stares out the front window and tries to mentally plot the ins and outs of a complicated junction.
     For those for whom your standard subway map is just not enough , nothing beats a track map, one with every twist and turn, every switch and side track. Such maps are hard to come by, and, even if you are able to find them, difficult to read, usually being drawn for internal use by the electric engineering or maintenance departments, not the casual reader.
     Now Peter Dougherty has assembled a detailed, comprehensive and comprehensible book of all of the New York City subway system's trackwork, and much more. One wonders who this New Yorker is who undertook such a labor of love, and finds out that he is not a New Yorker at all, but a Canadian.

The Origins of the Book
In 1975 Dougherty was doing a grade 10 project on urban transportation for his Montréal high school. Naturally, he has commented with a grin, he chose to do his work not on his city's famed Métro, but on the New York subway system. He wrote to the New York City Transit Authority asking for maps or plans he could use for his project, and received, in a fit of uncommon generosity from the system's operator, a huge envelope stuffed with information. Among these treasures was a track map, 12 feet high and 4 feet wide, depicting the entire system. Dating from just before Unification, the merging of New York's private and public rapid transit in 1940, the map showed the entire system, revised to November, 1967.
     Long after his project earned him an "A," the map remained in Dougherty's imagination. Until the Fall of 1995, however, he could think of nothing more to do with it. From then, and continuing right up to the present.he worked on scanning and re-drawing the entire map, and made it available online at David Pirmann's nycsubway.org website.
     Though the online maps were well received, Dougherty was still asked for a printed version (perhaps so it could be taken along on a railfanning excursion), and this book is the result.

You want detail? This excerpt from the mid-Manhattan portion of the track map book shows some of the level of detail provided in the printed book. The printed version is sharper than this scan. Tracks of New York City Subway.

Continued on page 2





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