5 years, 8 months ago
They say that cities never sleep; that they stay awake for 24 hours a day, every day, brimming with life, activity and energy. And that’s exactly why city-break-addicts like you and me love them. But many of the world’s most famous cities have another side to them; a side that lies dormant, abandoned and asleep deep underground – their lost subway stations.
Hidden beneath the earth, these disused railway stations, or ghost stations, have become popular sites for urban explorers as tributes to bygone eras or unfinished urban developments. Here are 10 lost subway stops to think about exploring on your next city break.
credit: Duncan WJ Palmer
There are over 50 abandoned underground stations on the Tube (see all of them on a map here) and for many years London Transport Museum has been offering tours of Aldwych station, the crimson-tiled entrance to which can still be clearly seen on the Strand, one of London’s busiest streets. A trip down, and under, memory lane shows off features rarely seen on the Tube these days including Aldwych’s wonderfully preserved original lobby, wooden-panelled lifts and a vintage train. Keep an eye on London Transport Museum’s website to get tickets for the next tour.
City Hall, New York City
It’s a little ironic that one of Manhattan‘s most beautiful subway stops is one that lies unused by commuters every day. Built in 1904 as a showcase station for the rest of the Manhattan Main Line, at the time the grandeur of City Hall station was compared with that of Central Station. However, despite its charm the station closed in 1945 and the only way you can still see its elegant tiled arches and original glass skylights for yourself is by staying on Line 6 after its Brooklyn Bridge stop, when it travels through City Hall station before turning around. Worth the detour!
credit: Michel Bricteux
Found between the stops of Bilbao and Iglesia but disused since 1966, Estación de Chamberí was closed because it couldn’t be lengthened to accommodate Madrid‘s newer and longer trains, a common ‘cause of death’ for many ghost stations. After lying forgotten for many decades, in 2008 it was made possible to walk down the steps to Estación de Chamberí once more after it opened as a museum showing how Metro travel used to look in Madrid. Look for the posters from the early 1900s which show how Madrid phone numbers used to have only four digits!
Lower Bay, Toronto
Lying under busy Bay station in downtown Toronto is Lower Bay, one of the most short-lived stations in underground railway history. Opened in February 1966 with the name Bay Yorkville, it was closed in September of the same year as part of a failed experiment to create three separate routes from two pieces of track. Due to it still being in relatively good condition, the platform is often used as a set for films and TV shows, with movies like Bulletproof and Johnny Mnemonic being filmed there. TTC has opened the gates to LowerBay to the public on a number of occasions in recent years, including Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event, so keep an eye on their website to find out when you can access LowerBay station.
Spring Garden, Philadelphia
It’s only possible to see Spring Garden by travelling on one of the SEPTA trains that pass through the tunnels between Fairmount and Chinatown in downtown Philadelphia. Even a passing glance is worth it as this abandoned station has become a mecca for graffiti and street art, offering an unexpected burst of colour and urban art. The magic of this station, which was closed off from public access 20 years ago, is that the tags and art on the walls change so regularly it’s like an ever-changing street art gallery, and even plays host to specially-made art installations.
Porte Molitor and Saint-Martin, Paris
In the last few months Paris have begun to publicly discuss ways it can breathe new life into many of its abandoned Metro stations, meaning long locked-up stations like Arsenal, Croix Rouge and Haxo will rise from the dead and be converted into restaurants, swimming pools and even underground gardens. One fantôme station that is unlikely to get a makeover is Porte Molitor which is actively used by the network to store trains and carriages and to also offer the public rare access to an old disused station. Be sure to also keep your eyes and ears open to find out if any events are taking place at Saint-Martin station, a popular spot for cutting-edge art exhibits.
Rapid Transit Subway, Cincinnati
Self-proclaimed as the most famous abandoned subway system in the world, Cincinnati doesn’t just have a handful of ghost stations for visitors to explore, but a whole underground subway tunnel. Explored on foot as part of a “Walk and Talk” tour and you can discover over five blocks of the city’s Rapid Transit Subway. Built in the early 1900s the system was somewhat doomed from the start with lots of stop-start attempts to give Cincinnati an underground railway. Sadly due to escalating costs the project was completely abandoned by the late 1920s and 16 miles of underground tunnels were left abandoned having never transported a single paying customer.
credit: Ville Miettinen
In the north-western suburbs of Helsinki lies the unassuming suburb of Munkkivuori, a mostly residential area that was to be home to the city’s first underground railway station. However, it never saw a single train arrive at its platforms due to a change of plans. You’ll need to use your imagination and observation skills to identify this station, because compared to the others on this list it isn’t particularly ghostly. In fact it’s disguised as a small but busy 1960s style shopping centre, though signs of the station’s lobby features are easily identifiable and a section of the train tunnel remains underground.
Lerchenfelder Strasse, Vienna
In the heart of Vienna’s beautiful old town is Lerchenfelder Strasse, an underground station that trains haven’t stopped at since 2003. The main reason for its closure was its close proximity to Volkstheater and Rathaus, thus making it redundant. The only way you can catch a glimpse of this ghost station is by taking the U2 line between these two stations. Up above the ground, the street of the same name is one of Vienna’s best shopping streets.
Gaojin and Fushouling Stations, Beijing
If you find yourself in Beijing, and you’d like to escape the hustle and bustle of the country’s ever-populous Capital, take Line 1 out to its most westerly stop, Pingguoyuan Station. Here you’ll notice that the station number is 103, which is weird considering it’s the beginning of the line. This is because stations number 101 and 102 are now no longer in use and the overground stations of Gaojing Sation and Fushouling Sation are now ghost stations believed to be used for training new drivers, but most often they lie spookily empty and silent.
Did I miss an underground station stop you’ve seen or heard about?