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NYC Subway Buff Chronicles Past In Full Detail

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A New Jersey man has taken more than three decades and several thousand pages to tell the story of the city's subway system, and he's not even half done yet. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

Philip Copp carries pens and sketch pads as he creates volume after self-published volume of "Silver Connections", a New Jersey man's nearly 40-year quest to richly chronicle the history, art and architecture of every station in the city.

A scholar of the subway, he's been at it since 1978 and is not done yet.

"I have a commitment. I want to continue it. The idea is to make a record of the system stations as they are, or were," Copp said.

In July, Copp published a revised edition of 1984's Volume I. It details the nooks and crannies of stations along the the numbered subway lines as they looked when they opened more than a century ago. Next up: Volume V, which is taking him to stops on the J and Z lines, like the Canal Street station.

"Let's say there's about five rows between the C and the edge and the L for another five rows there, too," Copp said.

Filmmaker Jeremy Workman featured Copp's subway history project in a 2005 documentary, "One Track Mind."

"Whether people are interested in it or not, he doesn't care at all. What his focus is is creating the best study that he possibly can that would really capture everything that he loves about the New York City subway stations," Workman said.

Yet, Copp called the city home for just three years.

He hasn't lived in the city since the early 1970s, that's years before he even started this project. But it's his fascination with the project that keeps him coming back at age 65 from his home in New Jersey.

It's a curiosity piqued by his dad's long-ago subway stories.

"I found out more and more about the history of the system, and who were the engineers, the contractor, the financier, and eventually the architects and all that. That laid the groundwork for my history," Copp said.

And history is what's guided him from the start.

"I says, 'Gosh, I better start making a record of all this stuff while I still can because who knows how much more will change in the years to come'" Copp said.

Copp says he would love to publish more volumes and finish the job by 2030.

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