Once upon a time, long before the NYC subway was born, there was a proposal to build a steam-powered locomotive under Manhattan, running from South Ferry all the way to 59th Street and 5th Avenue. Given the city's population growth and crowded streets, the Metropolitan Railway Company estimated that there would be 20 million riders in its first year, paying 7 cents a ride. The bold plan was actually passed by the NY State Legislature in 1865, but Governor Reuben Fenton scuttled the plan, because streetcar companies opposed the potential competition.

Artist Jacob Berman has been researching and drawing the "lost" subway and streetcars systems of America, and he pointed out that NYC has a "rich" history of transportation dreams and realities. He loves the 1865 proposal because just the very "idea of having a steam railroad under 5th Avenue" seems unreal.

He posted his rendering of the 1865 plan on Reddit, noting, "In the end, New York opted to build elevated railways instead, starting with the Ninth Avenue El in 1868. It would take nearly four decades until New York opened its first subway line."

Berman spends about a month researching maps to get all the details before he draws them, which takes about 10-15 hours. "I've done a lot of research into what old maps look like—they show a granular level of detail. [Previously] the idea was to use a high quality map for everything, versus now when you're just using your phone," he explained. "The idea then was to throw in all these details, which would show the skills of the mapmaker."

Of his own interpretations, he told Gothamist, "I've tried to modernize them so that it looks accessible to a modern audience. Full color printing was expensive in previous decades and centuries, so for instance, the 1899 map of the old Manhattan railway is what it would have been at stations if they had the printing technology."

Berman hopes he will be able to turn his maps into a book, and while he loves the NYC subway system (his favorite transit map is the 1939 Hagstrom), he's fascinated by Los Angeles's forgotten mass transit system as well. "It used to be possible to take a train from one end of L.A. to the other," Berman remarked. "It's unthinkable now that it's the freeway capital of the universe."

In fact, Berman notes that "the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was based on the General Motors streetcar conspiracy that got rid of all the trains... that part where Judge Doom buys out the streetcars—there's a certain amount of truth in that."