10 Abandoned Elevated Railways & El Train Stations Around the …
(Image: Google; el train: abandoned elevated railway in Brooklyn, New York City)
Congestion has always been a problem in the world s major cities, and over the years some have come up with a novel solution of taking passenger traffic not only underground, but above it too. Like their terrestrial counterparts, many of these elevated railroads and stations have outlived their useful life. Some remain intact; others are mere skeletons of their former selves. This article explores 10 abandoned elevated railways and disused el train stations across the world, from Europe to North America and Souteast Asia.
Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System (Thailand)
Also known as the Hopewell Project, the abandoned Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System was an ambitious project to establish an elevated transportation system installed between central Bangkok and the Don Mueang International Airport. The project kicked off in 1990, but was caught up in a debate between the government and Hopewell Holdings, the major contractor working on the line. Rumours of corruption and the 1997 financial crisis exacerbated the problems, as talks spiraled out of control. The project was eventually terminated in 1998 with only about 10 percent of the elevated railway completed. The completed sections included a series of support pillars that gave the Hopewell Project its nickname of Thailand s Stonehenge. Indeed, the pillars arguably do look like a modern update of the famous neolithic monument. Over the years several pillars have collapsed, and in 2013 official demolition finally began. The pillars of the abandoned el train were cleared for construction of a new railway line, which necessitated not only the destruction of the pillars, but more than 900 other structures also.
Liverpool Overhead Railway (Merseyside, UK)
Liverpool might seem like an unlikely place to have had an elevated railroad, but it did and the last remains of it are still around. If you re looking up, you won t see them, though: they re underground. The Liverpool Overhead Railway was built in the hopes of alleviating some of the congestion that came with being a bustling port city in the 19th century. The 5-mile-long line opened on February 4, 1893, was extended in 1896 with the construction of the subterranean Dingle station. While the rest of the railway was elevated, the rising terrain meant that this stretch of the now-abandoned railway was underground. By 1955, reports were starting to circulate claiming that the railway was growing increasingly unsafe. It was closed and mostly demolished in 1957. A single tunnel beneath Grafton Street still bears the etching L.O.R.Y. Southern Extension 1896 , and for a while it was used by Roscoe Engineering as a garage. When the company moved out in 2012, it left behind a whole host of abandoned cars.
Myrtle Avenue Broadway Upper Level, Brooklyn (New York City, USA)
The abandoned Myrtle Avenue station sits on the BMT Jamaica Line of the New York City Subway system. The lower platforms are still in operation, but there s also an upper level that s been abandoned since October 4, 1969. It s amazing to think that anything in New York City could stand empty for so long, especially after almost a century of use. (But as we ve seen before on Urban Ghosts, NYC has a wealth of abandoned subway stations.) The upper levels platforms opened in April of 1889, designed as a transfer station between lines. The two tracks and island platform still stand, with stairs that once allowed passengers to head up or down to catch their connection. The end of the transfer point s usefulness came with something rather anti-climactic: the establishment of the B54 bus. Myrtle Avenue s upper level, however, wasn t merely a minor part of the station. With only three lower tracks and two island platforms left in use on below, its closure effectively halved the size of the station.
Myrtle Avenue s Abandoned Elevated Railway (Brooklyn, NYC, USA)
(Images: Google Street View; Bing Maps; abandoned el train line in Brooklyn)
The closure of part of the Myrtle Avenue subway line near Bridge and Jay Streets in 1969 also brought the demolition of the section of elevated railway that was once an integral part of the MJ service. Except, that is, for this lonely stretch of track. A section of the old el train track still stands between Lewis Avenue and the Madison Theater, the only remaining part of an elevated railway line that once carried passengers across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. It originally opened alongside the aforementioned Myrtle Avenue station, and it s unclear as to why this part of the structure survived while the rest was torn down. Forgotten NY notes how this particular area is notable for another reason: it has an incredibly odd layout. While most of the Bushwick area is arranged in a grid that s common to more modern cities, the whole system rather falls apart in the area around Myrtle and its abandoned elevated railway. At one time, the station and el train line were at the heart of the surrounding community, and traces of that importance can still be seen today in the graffiti, street art and signs that were positioned at a level for those riding the rails, rather than walking in the streets below.
Manhattan s High Line Park (New York City, USA)
New York City s High Line Park is an epic example of the adaptive reuse of infrastructure that would otherwise stand abandoned. The project has been so successful that, in 2014, it greeted five million visitors who walked the elevated urban greenway where freight trains once ran.
The 1.5 mile-long linear park was built along what was once a part of the New York Central Railroad s West Side Line. It runs through Manhattan s Meatpacking District and Chelsea using the remains of a railway that was partially demolished in 1960 and 1991. In 1999, a group of neighbourhood volunteers formed Friends of the High Line, with the goal of re-purposing the abandoned elevated railway as a public space. Gradually, the idea solidified and saw the old el train line transformed into a park inspired by the Promenade Plantee in Paris. When fundraising efforts showed how much support the idea had, the city pledged $50 million to the project. The first section of High Line opened in 2009, followed by other stretches in the years since.
Siemensbahn Abandoned Elevated Railway (Berlin, Germany)
When Siemens built the massive 1897 modernist block that would become a site later protected by UNESCO, they found that doing so didn t come without problems. That was, namely, transportation, and the Siemensbahn was built in Berlin as an elevated railway to clear congestion and get workers safely to and from the Siemens company headquarters. The trains could run a staggering 65 times an hour, but the company was so large even that schedule couldn t keep up with the demands of the more than 55,000 employees on its books by 1925. That meant the railway needed to be expanded, and the company s growth didn t slow. By the 1930s, Abandoned Berlin reports that there were up to 67,000 people working at the Siemensstadt complex, and all but 15,000 allegedly commuted.
The war took its toll on the railway. Damage done by Allied bombs are troops wasn t fully repaired until the 1956. The rest of its life was to a short one, however; when Berlin was divided in 1961, trains were suddenly boycotted. Problems continued into the 1970s, and when workers went on strike in December 1980, Siemens abandoned elevated railway railway branch of the Berlin S-Bahn closed for good.
Racine Abandoned L Station (Chicago, USA)
Sitting abandoned on the Green Line of Chicago s rapid transit system, Racine Station offers an interesting glimpse back into early stations of its kind. Originally opened in 1907, Racine hasn t been renovated and updated little over the years. But unfortunately, its history hasn t been enough to give it any kind of security for the future. When the Green Line closed in 1994 in order for renovations to be carried out, Racine was initially slated to be overhauled and reopened. None of that happened, though, and when the line came back online in 1996, the CTA stated that Racine would be among those that remained mothballed. The decision not to reopen these abandoned elevated railway stations proved highly controversial. Some branded the closures as racially motivated, arguing that the move would seriously impact the economies of the poorer communities that they served.
58th Abandoned L Station (Chicago, USA)
Along with Racine, the abandoned L station 58th was also on Chicago s Green Line and never reopened after the planned, supposedly temporary closure in 1994. The fate of 58th wasn t as up-in-the-air as Racine s. Built in 1893 solely to serve the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the World s Columbian Exposition in nearby Jackson Park, it was ultimately demolished in 2012. While Racine remained untouched by progress, the 58th was rebuilt in 1983 when work was carried out on its once-iconic canopy and the island platform. The beginning of the end was marked by the delay of a full station remodeling due to lack of funds. Work stalled until 1988, when the station house was demolished and replaced with turnstiles. The project never progressed any further and the powers that be decided that 58th was too close to neighboring Garfield station.
For a while, the CTA s use of federal funds meant 58th had to be kept operational temporarily. But wear and tear to the platform made it unsafe, though, and the abandoned L train station was demolished in 2012. Today, all that remains of the disused station that once overlooked Chicago s tribute to Christopher Columbus is the elevated structure around the former platform site.
Sudringspitzkehre, Berlin Ringbahn (Germany)
The Berlin Ringbahn is a 23 mile-long circular railway that, as its name suggests, loops around Berlin. Its foundations were first laid in 1851, and since then it s been expanded and updated to carry hundreds of thousands of passengers every day. The Sudringspitzkehre was opened in 1881, a hairpin section of the railway that was originally intended to accommodate a transfer station for passengers riding through this largely working-class area of Berlin. It was originally steam locomotives that chugged their way up and down the railways, only to be replaced and updated when the track was electrified in 1929. After that, this section of the railway s days were numbered. Damaged by Allied bombing raids throughout World War Two, it was never repaired as the other trains on the circular line had been converted to full-ring travel, and the hairpin turn was no longer needed. Elevated sections of the railway survived until fairly recently, with one of the last surviving viaducts only slated for demolition in 2014.
Abandoned Hofplein Viaduct (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
When it was completed in 1908, the Hofplein viaduct was the first elevated railway to be constructed completely out of reinforced concrete. It was also a major part of the Netherlands first electric railway line. For years, it carried countless passengers from The Hague right into the heart of Rotterdam. With its 189 arches, the citizens of Rotterdam soon did what many city-dwellers do: they made the most of the space available. The area became a hub of fashionable shops and cafes, but the 1990s brought a major downward spiral. Over time, the Hofplein viaduct became more seedy than trendy. Crime skyrocketed, and more reputable people began to stay away. The ailing elevated railway was finally abandoned in 2010, and since then a massive movement to reinvent the area has gathered momentum. The vaulted spaces beneath the abandoned elevated railway were cleaned up and redesigned, once again the place to be for shopping, art, theatre and food. Above, plans got underway to turn the defunct tracks into a public green space, and the ongoing project shows just what a community can do when its residents work together to revitalize their neighbourhood and preserve their history.
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- ^ Related 11 Abandoned Monorails, Suspension Railways, Railplanes & Hovertrains (www.urbanghostsmedia.com)