The Cincinnati Subway is by far the most famous abandoned subway on the planet. It's also one of Cincinnati's most infamous landmarks, and aside from randomly scheduled and extremely expensive tours, no one ever gets to see it. Conveniently, it's a stones throw away from the Local Architecture headquarters. So myself and Gordon Bombay from Queen City Disco decided it was about time to make a visit.
The subway was built by the City of Cincinnati between 1920 and 1925. Seven miles of the line were constructed in some way, from downtown Cincinnati beneath Central Parkway, and on up to Norwood. Construction was stopped in 1925 when the city ran out of money to continue. The project ran extremely over budget as a result of inflation. The bonds taken out to provide the funding for the project were taken in 1916, shortly before the US entered WWI. As a result of the war effort, construction was put on hold until 1920. By the end of the war, inflation had made the $6 million worth of bonds worth just a fraction of what they had been 4 years prior, and the budget for the project had more than doubled due to increased supply and labor costs. Currently, there's a little over two miles of tunnel that exist, and four underground stations. To read up about more of the history of the subway, visit Cincinnati Transit.
On a beautiful, calm night the gang and myself set out to find the hidden entrance into the subway. While most of the old entrances that visitors of the past have snuck in through have been sealed, as we have found with most abandoned buildings... it's very near impossible to seal a place up entirely. Especially one that's two miles long.
We were in pretty easily, with all our gear and enough flashlights to suit an apocalypse. The hustle of late night, after hours downtown Cincinnati continued above us, but we enjoyed the eerie, serene scene that was the abandoned subway. All in all, it was one of the most well planned and executed series of trips we've been on in awhile. The fact that the destination was a major historic icon probably played a part in that.
The following images are arranged station by station, starting from the southernmost station at Race St. to the northernmost remaining station, Brighton Corner.
Race St. Station
The Race St. Station is the largest station in the system, and would have been one of the main downtown hubs. It's the only station that has a central platform, and three tracks (the center track is a stub on either side).
Liberty St. Station
The Liberty St. Station is the first stop north of Race Street. This station is infamously well known for Cincinnati's attempt to retrofit it as a faux-fallout shelter during the 1950's and 1960's, under the false pretenses that A) Cincinnati was important enough to even be a target, and B) the entire population would be able to survive together in a tunnel with a few boxes of "survival biscuits" for longer than about 10 minutes.
Liberty St. Station. The fencing and lights were presumably installed during the fallout shelter retrofit.
The platform at Liberty St. The booth was of newer construction, and likely a part of the fallout shelter.
Linn St. Station
Linn St. Station is the least exciting of all the stations, because it's been completely sealed over at the edge of the platform. I'm not sure why it was down, but it seemed as if Linn St. would have looked very similar to the upcoming Brighton Corner Station.
Brighton Station is the northernmost subway stop that was built, past this point a few more above ground stations were built at places like Ludlow Avenue, Clifton Avenue, etc. on the route up through Norwood. Brighton was my personal favorite station because it represented what would have otherwise been the standard station, had the rest of the system been built. The other stations all have their eccentricities: Race St. being the hub, Liberty St. being a bomb shelter, and Linn St. being nothing but a solid concrete wall. That said, my favorite photos came from Brighton.
Looking at the platform, and up the long sealed stairs to the street above. One of the gang, Lance Delune, was up the stairs with a flashlight.. it was 3:00am and the stairs end in a solid concrete slab, so there's no outside light coming in at all, ever.
Looking south down the tunnel. The uptown bound platform is on the left, and the water main can be seen in the other tunnel to the right.
The entrance on the downtown bound side, looking into the subway platform and track area. There are stairs and provisions for bathrooms to the right and left of where this photo was taken.
The rest of the shots were taken in the tunnels themselves. Besides the stations, the two miles of tunnels have some interesting features as well.
The gang - part of C8P
Be sure to check out Queen City Disco for some more photos of the subway. And remember to follow Local Architecture on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the latest updates!