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Thread: accessing abandoned subway tunnels

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    accessing abandoned subway tunnels

    I know that abandoned subway tunnels/stations exist in most cities with large subway systems (New York, Boston, London, Rome, etc.). What are some of the ways these abandoned tunnels can be accessed by someone other than a subway employee?

    The only way I've read about is the semi-suicidal "jump onto the subway tracks, run down the tracks until you get to the abandoned tunnel, hope another subway train doesn't run you over before you get there".

  2. #2
    Professor of applied misanthropy Drachen Jager's Avatar
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    There is a semi-secret society in Paris that is occupied entirely with finding, mapping, and using the tunnel system under Paris for creative and artistic purposes. I forget the name, but you can probably find out about them if you look for articles, they became quite well known after they used the tunnels to sneak into and renovate a beautiful old building that had fallen into disrepair, and the landlord took them to court over it.

    I believe there are offshoot groups working in other major cities.

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    In Ghostbusters II they just jackhammered through the road above.

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    Professor of applied misanthropy Drachen Jager's Avatar
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW amschilling's Avatar
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    Depending on the city, some have service walkways, and/or small cutouts like doorways at regular intervals for maintenance workers to duck into. The service walkways would only require an initial death-defying hop onto the track. But it really depends on the location and their transit system. What city are you specifically looking at?
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by amschilling View Post
    What city are you specifically looking at?
    Thanks ALL for your help!!

    I am leaning toward Boston and the T (perhaps the abandoned south tunnel of the Tremont Street subway? Though any abandoned subway tunnel would work... hmm)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tremont_Street_Subway

  7. #7
    Not as trollish as you might think Torill's Avatar
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    There are groups of people in many cities who call themselves Urban Explorers. Check out this site for instance: http://www.urbanexplorers.net/

    They say this about subway exploration: Exploring active and abandoned subway and underground railway tunnels, bores and stations is often considered to be trespassing and can result in civil prosecution. As a result, this type of exploration is rarely publicized.

    Which sounds like it does happen, but they rarely post about it on the internet.... This site has networking, too - but you must join them (for free) to access their network. Maybe you could try, and see if you can get in touch with someone who has actually done this sort of thing, and would be willing to tell a writer about it?

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    Finestkind underthecity's Avatar
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    Subways have vents along the aboveground street, but you have to know where they are and what they look like in order to gain entry. They could even be as simple as small metal bars in the curb. Just need a hacksaw and rope.
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  9. #9
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    Any city with subways, caves or other hidden places will tend to have an urbex (urban exploration) community. Have a google for urbex forums and message boards; there are some good galleries of trips to places including subways. I'd start with 28dayslater.co.uk (I think I remember seeing some shots of the London Underground on there) and undercity.org (some good shots of utility tunnels and waterways beneath some US cities).
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  10. #10
    Geekzilla BigWords's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torill View Post
    There are groups of people in many cities who call themselves Urban Explorers. Check out this site for instance: http://www.urbanexplorers.net/
    As the forums have gone (which is a damn shame, as the details posted have been fascinating) it is hard to explain, but I'll take a stab - some of the underground tracks have access points on streets, which are often merely doors at the side of bridges, or freestanding structures with a door in them. Once you get into the upper levels, there are clear (and sometimes not very clear at all) routes down to where the tracks are. Now... this is where it can get dangerous for people. Some of the tracks which are "unused" are, in reality, still traveled on. Trains will go back onto those tracks to make way for other trains to pass at changing points, or they will be held on an unused piece of track for a while as things are done to the main track.

    I wish I had saved some of the threads when I was scouring the forum for information... There are other sites with similarly detailed research, and the warnings about trespass posted should be taken seriously.
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  11. #11
    Feeling lucky, Query? jclarkdawe's Avatar
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    The interesting question with the internet is what is public and what isn't. For instance, the fact that the Green line's tracks join Amtrak's tracks at Riverside isn't publicized, but is known by a lot of people and easily observed.

    Below is a blueprint of the Boylston Station (available through Wikipedia), which is where the south tunnel branched off from the rest of the Green line. It's the two tracks to the lower left. The outbound track crossed the other Green line tracks by an elevation separation.



    Now I haven't been to Boylston in years. Nor do I know what the T's inactive fleet looks like these days. (According to Wikipedia it's approximately a 150 cars.) I was down there mainly during the Boeing fiasco, when the T was having to put a lot of the Boeings into storage, and bringing out the retired Pullman's.

    A lot of these cars are (were) stored at Riverside, which is also where the Green line's main repair shop is located. However, at least in the past, the T had cars stored in all sorts of weird location, utilizing tracks that were no longer in use. These stored cars, even if used as scrap, have a substantial value, and the T police are concerned about vandalism problems. My guess is there now exists a very extensive video monitoring system.

    If you go to Boylston station, especially armed with the blueprint, I think a lot of your questions will be answered. Also, if you travel between Park Street and Government Center, you'll see a lot of signs of the Scollay Square station and trackwork.

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  12. #12
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    I think NYC has occasionally offered train rides to abandoned stations because there has been an interest in them. It's not often but I think it has happened once or twice.

    I suggest either going on the website of the local train company to see if your city offers such a service. Or you could go speak to someone from the company about it, mentioning you're a writer. You may get 'shot down' so to speak but you might get someone who'd be willing to speak to you. Couldn't hurt to try.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I don't live in Boston or even in a city with a subway/metro (I live in Kansas City, where we have a bus system that is kind of a joke), which is part of the reason I'm casting out online to find these answers. The urban exploration websites/forums look promising, thanks!!!

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