Monday, August 30, 2010

Going Underground

By Dave Brigham:

I've lived in the Boston area for 20 years, but I've learned more about the Hub of the Universe in the last two years than in the previous 18, thanks to a series of subterranean tours with my subway-loving son. He loves everything about the trolleys -- the screeching sounds they make going around curves, the different models, the types of doors, what the wheels look like, you name it -- while I thoroughly enjoy people-watching and exploring new parts of the city.

I've taken countless photos of trains, tunnels, stations, buskers, funny graffiti, interesting buildings we see when we venture above ground for lunch, etc. But I'm equally fascinated by stuff like this litter-filled stairway that used to take folks down into Park Street station, the oldest subway destination in America, as seen through a grate.

Litter-filled Stairway (former Park St. entrance)

There's so much that doesn't meet the eye when traveling on the T (as the Boston subway system is known, short for MBTA). As you motor along between stations on the Green Line, you spy doors in the tunnel walls -- leading into the basements of certain buildings, so I've heard. There are doors in the stations that only T employees can access, and while most likely the only things back there are bathrooms, I want to see. I want to take a tour of the abandoned tunnels all around the city to learn how the different parts of Boston used to connect underground.

I can't do that, though, but others have. Check out Abandoned Subway Tunnels for some cool black-and-white pix, and this story and video from the Boston Globe.

Here's another photo shot through a grate, this one of a vent shaft near the Government Center T stop.

Vent outside Gov't. Center stop

As much as I've come to enjoy my subway jaunts, I'm always well aware of how old and fragile so much of the system is. Many stations have been upgraded in recent years, and plenty are in the process of being renovated. Below is a shot of a concrete wall, at State Street station on the Blue Line, that has been scraped away, exposing rebar underneath.

Wall under repair, somewhere on Blue Line

I look forward to many more years of exploring Boston and discovering the nooks and crannies that make the subway system special.


  1. There's a very interesting book out called The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Below New York City which is along these lines, although it involves the NYC subway system.

    I read it several years ago after being fascinated by the abandoned tunnels, doors going to who-knows-where and obvious “homes” which are visible underground as you travel the commuter line into Grand Central Station.

  2. Mike -- I recall seeing that book, or maybe it was even something on TV about these people. Fascinating. I haven't heard about people doing this in Boston, but it wouldn't surprise me.