City’s First Subway Car Found

citydesk_icnThe second week of June 1901 saw the formal opening of the City’s first subway- what was to become today’s Brown Line- a modest straight line connecting the old Central Depot (across from Old City Hall, now Ludlow Plaza Station) and the Ostahanoc River, taking in the Downtown/Central Corridor areas, as well as the bustling Fifth and Second Wards. With a flourish and burst of a Champagne bottle, the very first car to travel the line was the “Jenny-Anne,” an elaborate ceremonial car outfitted with carpeting, electric chandeliers, upholstered seats and even a small wet bar. The car was constructed at the behest of L. Mathewson Burlsworth, whose Ostahanoc Valley Northeast Line railroad was a partner in the project. From this point on, throughout the expansion of the subway system in the early 20th cetury, the car was occasionally pulled into service for various heads of state and other dignitaries, including President Theodore Roosevelt (It can be presumed that, for certain reasons, President Taft was not offered a ride during his 1911 visit).

In 1914, the “Jenny-Anne” (named after the daughter of Mayor Orson Winthrop) was decommissioned and put on display at the Commercial Museum (adjoining the Atlas Exhibition Hall), where it sat for 28 years, until the museum’s demolition in 1942. Now, this is where things get a little hazy. By this time, the Commercial Museum was largely disused and many of the exhibits were disposed of as scrap metal, patriotic fervor and limited resources overriding preservation concerns. The “Jenny-Anne” was forgotten and thought to be lost forever. That is, until last month.

When Sam Brunetti died this past summer at the age of 79, he left his modest house in the Upper Carsonhurst section of the city to his nephew and namesake, Sam Doyle, 34. After Doyle took possession of the property last month, he was doing some exploring, checking everything out- especially the old ‘root cellar’ in the backyard. Brunetti had installed it as a fallout shelter in 1961. As a child, Sam the younger remembered using the underground structure as some sort of fort. Now, in exploring the stale, open space, he found a small plaque exposed by some crumbling concrete. After some digging, he was able to read the rusted sign-


Apparently- and the details are lost to history- in the early 60s, Sam Brunetti went looking for a sturdy steel shell which would form the basis of his shelter from the threat of nuclear armageddon. Somehow, he ended up with the shell of the first car to traverse the city’s subway system at the dawn of the 20th century.

There was some talk of trying to extract it from its concrete tomb, but what’s left of the “Jenny-Anne” is largely just the steel shell. The plaque, however, has been removed and is being cleaned and restored, to be displayed in the lobby of the City-Suburban Transit Authority’s downtown headquarters. Says Sam Doyle- “At least it’s back underground.”
– RJ White

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