Here is one New York reporter’s account of his ride on a newfangled elevated train, August, 1878:
The east side branch of the New York Elevated Railroad fulfilled part of the promise of rapid transit yesterday by beginning to run trains from the South Ferry to the Grand Central Depot in Forty-second street.
A reporter of THE WORLD road on a train that left South Ferry about 1 P.M. This station is a common one for both branches, and many crowd in waiting started for the door when the agent called out “All passengers for the east side or Third avenue.” There were two handsome cars – each accommodating forty-eight persons – on the train of maroon color, touched with gold and light paints, and glistening with varnish. The engine also was new and was provided with a regular locomotive cab. The cars within were finished entirely in wood, the seats being of perforated pattern now so common, and running lengthwise of the car. The roofs were slightly decorated, and there was an appearance of neatness without the attempt at elegance of the Metropolitan road.
While the reporter was examining the cars with a critical eye the train was already far on its way through the narrow down-town streets. Through Pearl street it ran, making a deafening clatter with the rattle of the road itself, the grinding of the wheels and the reverberations from the buildings. People in the street below, however, seemed to pay no attention to the engine and cars and the horses stood quietly in front of their trucks and carts, without drivers near, and munched their fodder. In Third avenue the horses of the surface cars and of wagons jogged along, people looked into shop windows and not to the sky, and the only difference was the train, having more room on each side, did not make so much noise.
By this time, after one or two stops, the two cars were comfortably filled, several of the passengers being women. The reporter, for lack of anything else to do, attempted to read the store signs, as he was rapidly carried along. Only the big ones were readable. A woman knitting at a window was unpleasantly confounded with a man pressing hats, and a barber in the second story of a house, leisurely shaving a customer, became by a sort of dissolving view arrangement a fat German woman energetically spanking a child.
There was not much of the journey left after this, nor much novelty. There was the same round of women sitting at windows, sewing and occasionally half lazily looking at the cars that shot past their houses; and of people quietly walking along the streets, until the train turned to Forty-second street, frightened a team of horses attached to a brewer’s dray and then halted at the Grand Central Depot. It is certain that a horrible shriek and squeak of metal on metal, as if the cars were dragged over the track with brakes down, is sometimes to be heard on the east side and strange to the west.
The following answers about the noise on the road were collected by the Post reporter:
At Lamke Brothers’, grocers, No. 103 Third avenue: “Naw, we are used to noises on this avenue.”
At Charles Eitenbenz’s boot and shoe shop, No. 89 Third avenue: “No, in about a week we don’t hear it no more.”
At Meyerholz & Blum’s florists, No. 77 Third avenue: “No, we ain’t got no time to notice it.”
At George P. Lies’s cigar store, No. 59 Third avenue: “No, it doesn’t make as much noise as Sixth avenue.”
At George W. Hamill’s, undertaker, No. 26 Third avenue: “No, you listen now: it’s not as loud as that street-car.”