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August 15, 2003

What about those people stuck on the subway? Amy Langfield tells what it was like. Followed by a strikingly accurate description of our neighborhood in the blackout. (We should have gone to Two Boots!) [10:20 PM]
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Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on What about those people stuck on the subway?:

Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 04:23 AM:

Of course, Patrick, the email I sent to you bounced. All it said was that I hope you two were okay. I had heard (via Jonathan via Heidi) that you'd walked home.

You should rather be in Scotland where, under a lovely blue sky and summer sun, it's remained constantly in the low to mid 70s. Except with a housefull, I'd have to put you on the floor! Much less adventure--but much more fun.

All in all, though, it sounds as if New Yorkers managed this crises with aplomb.



Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 01:22 PM:

Depends which bits of Scotland -- Fife last weekend was baking, felt like low eighties or higher.

As a point of curiosity, doesn't the New York subway have its own power stations and distribution system? (The London Underground has three 200Mw power stations and isn't dependent on the grid, by design -- at least it did, as of about two years ago.)

Graham Sleight ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 04:14 PM:

The London Underground power plant at Lots Road in Chelsea - a great bit of over-the-top Victorian industrial architecture, as I remember - was shut down in late 2001 for conversion into luxury flats. LU are now taking their power from the National Grid instead:


Nicholas ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:41 PM:

New York followed a similar path - two of the three original subway companies built their own powerhouses, which were sold to Con Edison in the 1940s. (The third, city-owned company got its power from Con Ed to begin with; the plant selloffs were after all three were unified under city control.)

If you're in Manhattan and walk or bike down the Hudson River pathway, the plant at 59th St. is one of them. On the 11th Ave. side, the words INTERBOROVGH RAPID TRANSIT COMPANY are still visible.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 04:31 PM:

Did anyone else notice the strained quality of commentators' tactful remarks about Cleveland being wholly dependent on electrically-powered pumps for its water system, but not having a backup power supply for use in emergencies?

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 06:25 PM:

Nicholas, that's probably a substation (AC-DC transformer doohickey), of which I encountered a wonderful specimen in Washington Heights (191 St 1/9) last summer while on a job interview. Very Medici-villa ambiance. Someone has written a book on NYC substations which I'll need to find a citation online for at some point.

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 09:49 AM:



The name of the book is New York's Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway by Chris Payne.

Another amazing area of architecture are the water tunnels; there is a city beneath the city, to bring us water, power, steam, and move people that is just beyond comprehension-- but was largely installed 75-100 years ago!

Amazing, all things considered, when nowadays, just conceiving of the environmental impact statements and the NIMBY suits such things would entail is mindboggling.

Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 11:42 AM:

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a lovely panoramic view of NYC lit mostly by the moon (and Mars) during the outage:


Nicholas ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 12:37 AM:

Chris, the 59th St. edifice is indeed the original IRT power plant, and a most impressive structure it is.

Selling the plants has probably been an improvement overall. Metro-North (the commuter rail to points north of NYC) used to generate their own power at a single plant in Cos Cob, which was notoriously problematic; reliability has improved since they retired it -- fortunately, these situations when an isolated power plant would have been handy are uncommon!

Back above ground, several restaurants in my neighborhood were serving food for a couple of hours - then they ran out. I walked into a deli at around 10 PM, where you could order anything you wanted... so long as it was flatbread with either tuna salad or cream cheese, the toppings each being stored in a near-empty tub sitting on a pile of ice. They'd emptied their entire soda fridge in about twenty minutes!

James D. Macdonald COMMENT SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 05:31 PM:

Comment spammers will die slow, horrible deaths. They are all criminals and maggots.