Saturday, 27 September 2014

The weird afterlife of the world's subterranean 'ghost stations'

In 1920, construction began on what was to become an important new transportation system for Cincinnati, Ohio. Local voters had given near-unanimous support to a $6m (£3.7m) municipal bond, and despite wartime restrictions and shortages, the project began. Little did the city’s officials know that the system they were building would never carry a single passenger. Five years later, the money had run out, the federal government refused to help and construction was halted. Today, there is an entire six-mile subway system abandoned underneath the Cincinnati streets. Though Cincinnati’s empty subway is an extreme example, it’s part of a global phenomenon that’s actually quite common. Underground travel has become a familiar routine for millions of urban dwellers, but most commuters are unaware that lurking on the other side of the walls are the remains of abandoned stations, slowly deteriorating. Known as “ghost stations”, they are silent but powerful reminders of forgotten history. Tom Moran, editor of the website Urban Ghosts and an expert on abandoned stations, says: “For me, what makes abandoned subways more compelling than other subterranean infrastructure is the fact that they were built to cater for large crowds of people – unlike sewers and utility tunnels – and thus contain all the necessary features of a public space, from fire escapes to ornate signage and advertising on the walls. It’s that missing human element that makes them more eerie.” In the west, many stations were abandoned due to the boom and bust cycles of capitalist markets; in former or current communist countries, ghost stations are symbols of the excesses of authoritarianism. But their histories remain local. Though no longer part of the daily lives of people, each abandoned station is firmly rooted in its city’s past – and may yet become part of their city’s -READ MORE-

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