Book Review: Manhattan Railway Company

Frank K. Hain and the Manhattan Railway Company: The Elevated Railway, 1875-1903; by Peter Murray Hain; published 2011 by McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson: North Carolina; ISBN 978-0-7864-6405-0; 7 inches x 10 inches hardbound; 163 pages, black and white images.

“…No other railroad system in the world, great or small, carries so many passengers and probably none other carries them so safely….  In the 16 years that Colonel Hain [was in charge], the roads carried 2 ½ billion people, and not one passenger has ever been killed in a train on the system.” – Railway Gazette, May 15, 1896 in an editorial regarding Frank K. Hain’s death.

Like some people in Berks County, who have never ventured outside the county boarder to visit Philadelphia, not every New Yorker has traveled to “the City”.  I however, have made several trips to NYC to visit my best friend, and anyone who has ever gone there used the “trains” at one point or another.  Passengers relying on the mass transit system of trains (the terminology used for the Subway), cross-town busses and taxies have probably put very little thought into its development.  In Frank K. Hain and the Manhattan Railway Company: The Elevated Railway, 1875-1903, author Peter Murray Hain chronicles the birth of the elevated railway in Manhattan from a succession of failed companies to the conglomeration of tracks united under the Manhattan Railway Company, which went from receivership to a successful corporation, until it was replaced by the Subway (the last elevated car stopped running in 1958).  Juxtaposed against the rise of the Manhattan Railway Company is the story of Frank K. Hain, who rose through the ranks, starting with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad to become the General Manager and Vice-President of the Manhattan Railway Company. Born in 1836 in Stouchsburg, PA, Hain’s life, while difficult, was extraordinary.  As an engineer, Hain served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.  His ship the U. S. S. Iroquois, after barely escaping fire from the C.S.S Louisiana is credited with capturing New Orleans in 1862.  Through hard work, foresight and luck, Hain met and became friends with Jay Gould and landed the job and responsibility of running the then failing Manhattan Railway Company.  Under Hain’s determination and dedication, the company rose to prominence and Hain and his wife rose as well and became part of the elite society in New York City.  While his status within the company came with certain obligation, Hain never got caught up in the lifestyles of the rich and famous and worked hard to keep his working class passengers safe and moving through the City.  Frank K. Hain and the Manhattan Railway Company: The Elevated Railway, 1875-1903, is a story of constant struggle and defying adversity in order to succeed during a time when the world was modernizing in a city that is never satisfied and constantly on the move.  This is a must read for anyone interested in the rise of mass transit transportation.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Manhattan Railway Company

  1. Because Hain is such an important name in the Wernersville community, I must ask whether Frank K. Hain had any family link to the Hain family that donated the land for St. John’s (Hain’s) Church. Do you know or did the author mention this?

    • It is the same Hain Family. Peter had written another book, which I reviewed and will post regarding the Hain Genealogy and mostly about their experiences immigrating to Pennsylvania. I’m not sure of the exact lineage, but it is the same family.

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