Alfred Speer

History, Transportation

In 1872, Broadway Almost Became a Giant Moving Sidewalk

By Dana Schulz, Tue, October 20, 2015

Alfred Speer, moving sidewalk NYC, never-built NYC, giant conveyor belt

Image via All Ways NY

6sqft readers may remember a 1951 proposal by Goodyear Tires for a giant conveyor belt to carry people between Times Square and Grand Central. And though this was certainly a wacky idea for the time, there was an even earlier proposal for a moving sidewalk that took the city by storm.

Back in the late 1860s/early 1870s, inventor and businessman Alfred Speer was fed up with street congestion in front of his wine store on Broadway near City Hall. Though elevated trains were popping up around the time, they were mostly above 14th Street, so Speer designed an aerial, steam-powered sidewalk (much cleaner than the locomotive trains) that would make a loop up and down Broadway to alleviate traffic. It would be constantly in motion at 10 miles per hour, carrying passengers by foot or in its movable chairs for five cents a ride. Speer even went so far as to patent the idea, officially called the “Endless Traveling” or “Railway Sidewalk.”

So what happened?