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Cincinnati: The Secret Subway


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Most likely, not many of you know about Cincinnati's abandoned subway, however, it does exist and today I went on a tour of it. It was constructed around 1920 to meet passenger rail lines to help transport the arriving people around the city on a 6 million dollar bond (it was originally supposed to be a loop with express service, but that would cost $13 million, so the cut it down to a C shaped local system), but by 1925, they ran out of money and the passenger rail lines to the city were going bankrupt due to cars. A total of 4 stations were constructed under ground: Race St, Liberty St, Mohawk St (actually not a "real" station, it has an 8" platform obstructed by pillars and no stairs, constructed to appease a political official), and Brighton St. We started off the tour with a short slide show about its construction. Amazingly, almost all the path was laid, but the elevated section was demolished leaving 2 miles of underground tunnel virtually unused. Constructed via cut and cover, the subway took the place of the old canal. First off, we went in a small access trap door on the surface into Race St station. You can see me on the door after the tour.


Under the door is one of the sets of stairs to the platform. The platform, and the whole tunnel, was very damp (my socks are still wet) and everything was covered in dust, grime, and a little graffiti. You can see me in this picture standing in front of the stairs that would have led to tunnels to commercial buildings. The picture was taken right in front of the stairs down and in the background you can see the other set of stairs.


Sorry for the dark pictures from here on no flashes permitted (or technically cameras, but they didn't care), I did my best to lighten them up. Heres the same picture, more or less, without me.


From there, we went back behind the stairs where there is a layup trackway that would have been for trains. To give a good concept of this, imagine five tunnel sections. The outside two are for trains, the next two to the center are platform, and the middle section is platform in the middle with track at each end. We then turned around the other way and went down a set of stairs on the uptown side of the platform onto the roadbed. In the other trackway is a large water pipe, best pictured here.


We went for a ways straight that way, through the sole large puddle of water, pictured below.


The tunnel then began to turn to the north, best illustrated by this picture of the pipe.


Right before the curve was a short tunnel that branched off in anticipation of a downtown loop... sorry, none of those turned out well. The tunnel straightened out, if it was light enough, you could have seen Liberty St station down the tracks before a subtle curve ruined the line of sight. At this point, the tour guide stopped us and turned us around due to the deteriorating conditions in the tunnel ahead. I snapped a pic or two, before turning around. You can see the fiber optic cable boxes along the tunnel. The two uses of the tunnel are for these cables and the 54" diameter water pipe. We went back to Race St station and exited. However, the trip wasn't quite over yet. We drove down the street and found the two other station entrances.

Liberty St


Brighton St


As well, here are the portals at the end of the tunnel. The interstate (I-75) is directly to the right in these pictures, they are in plain sight and were once easy to get into, but alas there was too much vandalism, so they were tightly sealed (with steel doors, the water company can still get in).

Downtown tunnel


Slightly farther down is the Uptown tunnel.


There were recent developments to put it back into service, but the 2 miles of tunnel would cost $150 million to refurbish, not to mention rebuilding the elevated portions and buying cars. The subway has held up well to time, being a good 88 years old in the underground portion, it still looks solid, despite the dust and water.

By the way, here's a map.


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Interesting i never knew that cincinnati was planning a subway system.....


No one ever expects the inquisition! Seriously though, subways are amazing efficient mass people movers that cities over a million people should have them, even if it's an elevated one. Philadelphia needs to have an expanded subway, and better regional rail service, making it a sister to (NJT) instead of the sapling in the shadow of the 1000 year old redwood. :D


- Andy

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Thanks. It's a really cool place to visit, but not widely publicized and little access is permitted by the city... I just wish we could have taken pictures with flashes... but oh well. The agency that does the tours is limited to one tour per year due to the city's government's reasons (one major reason for that is due to them having to turn off the large water main for us to go down there, but it's a backup, so there's not a large hit).

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I am currently reading a book on this subject. They would like to use those tunnels, but footing bill completely on their own make it improbable, not impossible. If you Google it, you'll find pictures and story there.

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