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I swiped this post from a Fellow Blogger With my Thanks to Ronny Salerno of the Queens City Discovery Blog
The Catacombs of Cleveland
In Cleveland, beneath the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge, crossing over the Cuyahoga River, is an abandoned deck which once provided an exclusive right-of-way to Cleveland’s streetcars, while motor vehicles whizzed by overhead.
Making great time from Cincinnati I stopped only a few times to use the restroom and once to purchase a scrumptious lunch from a speedway gas station after constantly hearing their advertisements on 700 WLW. Following approximately 4.5 hours of driving, I pulled off of I-71 and onto W. 25th St. Cruising by dilapidated buildings advertising “peep shows, “W. 25th St. eventually turns from “blight” to “bustling” as I pulled by the West Side Market. I hadn’t been in Cleveland since 2005 and never really had the chance to look around the city, much less photograph anything. Aside from the SUV driving morons who don’t know how to parallel park, this was a nice area of the city. An accidental right hand turn forced me to drive over the bridge into downtown above the abandoned subway line and stations, turning around I pulled into the County Engineers Office at the southwest end of the bridge.
– The Subway entrance.
Every Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend the Cuyahoga County Engineers Office puts on free, self-guided tours of the subway. Immediately I was greeted by a friendly volunteer staff who guided me towards the subway entrance. As passengers would have entered back in the 1950’s, I strolled down the steps past the tiled walls, descending into the “Catacombs of Cleveland.”
I have to admit, I was wondering if this was going to be worth the drive, but as soon as I stepped onto the bottom deck of the bridge I knew it was. The first sight of the mammoth structure was pretty cool. The bridge really is a fine example of the kind of architecture you don’t see today and it’s underside is something most people don’t get to see or even know exists.
The lower deck of the bridge was once used to carry the Red Line of the Cleveland Transit System’s network of streetcars. And according to the free historical booklet given out at the tour: “…The Subway served as a major hub for commuter transportation until the discontinuation of streetcar service on January 24, 1954.”
From the historical guide: “The “Subway” contained six station areas, four restrooms, an electrical control center and pedestrian tunnels that provided access from one side of the Subway to the other beneath the tracks.”
– Descending to darkness, this end of the bridge is closed off to tours but would have eventually lead to the other set of stations beneath downtown Cleveland.
The lower deck of the bridge provides for some nice views of downtown Cleveland:
– Downtown Cleveland as viewed from the beneath the bridge.
– An RTA train on the active rail line in Cleveland as viewed from the bridge. RTA trains cruise right beneath the bridge and abandoned subway line regularly.
The most interesting part of the tour though is the station beneath Detroit Ave. and W. 25th St. In contrast to Cincinnati’s Abandoned Subway, Cleveland’s actually served passengers up until 1954. As you walk down the bridge into the station, big band music from that time era was playing over loud speakers the tour guides had set up.
Here in the station, remains of the tracks can been seen as paint peels off the wall and floodlights light up what once used to be a bustling public center, now abandoned.
– Remains of tracks can be seen here.
– These stairs would have once lead to a pedestrian path connecting the stations beneath the streetcar tracks. The tunnel is now flooded.
The “Cleveland Subway” is a testament to a time when public transportation in America was thought of differently. These days, many cities around the USA including Cincinnati, are seeing the benefits of and working to develop modern streetcar systems, just half a century after most of them abandoned streetcar service. The Cuyahoga County Engineers Office did a great job setting up the tour and I am glad I made the 4.5 hour drive both ways for it. Following the tour I decided to walk down to the West Side Market and catch a ride on the Cleveland RTA’s heavy rail line, walking from the abandoned subway station…
…to an active one:
Ronny had a little more than I swipped on the Blog Queen City Discovery