The secret world behind New York City's subway, which millions of people use every day

The New York City subway system is one of the most iconic in the world, servicing over five million people every weekday. But its also been mired in budget problems, and some parts of its technology have remained largely unchanged since its inception in 1904.

The combination of these two things makes working on the subway quite the task for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). And the MTA's Instagram does a good job of showing what it's like, taking you behind the scenes of flooded tunnels, snowy tracks, and welding jobs.

Here are 24 photos that show what it takes to keep one of the world's biggest subway systems running:

The secret world behind New York City's subway
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The secret world behind New York City's subway
Happening now: Crews are preparing to scrape old paint off the tunnel ceiling at 59 Street on the 4/5 lines as part of #FASTRACK. Visit later today for a recap of the work accomplished on the Lexington Avenue line this week! Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so MTA New York City Transit had to bring in their own water to perform a “wet test” of the flood barrier protection at the Bowling Green Station in Lower Manhattan. The testing, carried out on Saturday morning, was deemed as a success as the station remained dry despite the simulated flooding conditions. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
Third Rail Operations corrected 27 defects along the G line in Brooklyn during FASTRACK this week. Here, an old section of the third rail is hoisted up onto a work train near Classon Av early this morning. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
Our crews were literally immersed in their tasks during overnight #FASTRACK work on the G line in Brooklyn this week. Chambers like this collect water from drains in the roadbed, where sump pumps remove it from the system. However, silt can rapidly accumulate and reduce our ability to handle the approximately 13 million gallons-per-day we pump out. So, we have to get in there with a suction hose and a shovel to keep things flowing, ultimately preventing a flood in the subway system. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
Signal maintainers were out performing maintenance on the vital junction at Broadway & Myrtle Av today where the J/M/Z lines diverge in Brooklyn. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
#TBT The City of New York Board of Transportation was abolished in 1953, replaced by the New York City Transit Authority...but we couldn't throw this relic out! This safe was repurposed and still does duty as a secure storage cabinet at our Consolidated Revenue Facility. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
TurnStyle, a collection of shops and restaurants, opens in the concourse of 59 St-Columbus Circle today. Visit @turnstylenyc or for more info! (Photo: M. Hermann / MTA NYCT)
2:18 A.M.: Infrastructure crew grouts leaks in the tunnel ceiling under Broadway north of 157 St on the 1 line as part of a second week of FASTRACK work. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
Teamwork is everything...especially when you need to have the tracks ready for the morning rush! Here, track workers move in to hoist some of the 35 lengths of rail that were replaced this week during overnight FASTRACK work on the B/D/F/M lines in Manhattan. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
For a second week, crews were along the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6 lines between Brooklyn and Manhattan performing FASTRACK work. A major part of the work on this line includes the installation of Continuous Welded Rail, a more durable option that gives a smoother ride. Here, north of Bowling Green, with a dramatic flash of light and puff of smoke, molten steel flows into the a rail joint by the thermite welding process. (Photo: M. Hermann / MTA NYCT.)
MTA New York City Transit personnel are out dealing with the #winterstorm that has had a severe impact on travel in the region. All above ground New York City Transit lines will begin shutting down at 4:00 p.m. Real-time updates will be posted at Here, a Signal Maintainer clears snow from a stop arm on the West End line in Brooklyn. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
Crews spent the overnight hours this week under Nostrand Avenue completing the year's first round of FASTRACK work on the 2 line in Brooklyn. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
Beginning January 18, 2016, long-term service changes will begin at nine subway stations along the Sea Beach N line as part of a station renewal project being conducted by MTA New York City Transit. The nine stations that will be renewed are: 8 Av, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, New Utrecht Av,18 Av, 20 Av, Bay Pkwy, Kings Hwy, Avenue U, and 86 St Go to for more information. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.)
A pop-up jazz concert was held on Sun., November 29, 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of "Take the A Train" composer Billy Strayhorn. @mtaartsdesign, #MusicUnderNewYork, @jazzdotorg and @nytransitmuseum teamed up to host a special "nostalgia train" trip from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle with jazz performances aboard the vintage subway cars. #Strayhorn100 #MTAMusic (Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)
Detail from the former Brooklyn Rapid Transit's WWI memorial, located alongside the East New York bus depot. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.) cc: @nytransitmuseum #wwi #veteransday
Bus Maintainers at work in the Charleston Depot, Staten Island, this morning. (Photo: M. Hermann / MTA NYCT.)
A member of Track Department cuts down a length of new rail to the correct size north of Chambers St on the 7th Ave 1/2/3 line early this morning during #FASTRACK operations. Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT
Welding sections of a new third rail along the R line in Bay Ridge overnight as part of #FASTRACK. Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT
#FASTRACK wrapped up on the Brighton line in Brooklyn early this morning. Here, a giant fan is deployed aboard a work train to alleviate the dust that's kicked up when the ballast tamper evens out the roadbed. (Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT)
Crews worked through the night at 14 St. on the 1/2/3 lines after a water main break in the street. Full service was restored before the Thursday morning rush. Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT.
Cleaners give a good scrubbing to the historic terra cotta reliefs in the Boro Hall station during overnight FASTRACK work on the Lexington Avenue line. Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT
Nothing like a fresh coat of paint! #FASTRACK
Adam Meagher surprised his girlfriend, Carolyn Grossman, over the weekend with a marriage the middle of the Second Avenue Subway! The two are urban planners, and were part of a preview tour of the project hosted by MTA Capital Construction. #shesaidyes Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT
Jamie Benson performing in "Party To-Go" during last night's "Platform" event at the New York Transit Museum. Photo: M. Hermann/MTA NYCT

Additional reporting by Graham Rapier.

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