8 Abandoned Tram Tunnels and Trolley Graveyards

abandoned-kingsway-tram-subway-london (Image: David Merrigan, cc-nc-4.0)

Ghost stations have been widely documented across urban exploration websites, and the silent platforms of subterranean Paris and abandoned Tube stations of the London Underground are among the most popular. But less well known are the former trolley stations that survive in long forgotten tunnels beneath a variety of cities from the UK to America’s Rust Belt. Their sunken tracks may have disappeared from the urban landscape decades ago, but as these examples demonstrate, relics of the streetcar age remain in unlikely places and in some cases are set to be incorporated into modern redevelopment. From abandoned trams to silent tunnels, here are eight trolley cemeteries and former stations that you may never have known existed.

Park Avenue Trolley Station, New York City

park-avenue-tunnel-nyc-trolley-abandoned (Image: urbandecay, all rights reserved)

The Park Avenue Tunnel in New York City is well known to drivers navigating the busy streets of Manhattan, but not many people know about the abandoned trolley station that still exists in the subway today. Built in 1834 as an open cut for the New York & Harlem Railroad (NY&H), the route later carried streetcars and was covered in the 1850s, forming the tunnel that runs towards Grand Central Terminal from East 33rd Street to East 40th Street. Also known as Murray Hill Tunnel throughout the years, the tunnel now serves northbound traffic only and the tram tracks have long since been removed. But all has not been lost to history, with these stone steps and metal footbridge surviving as reminders of the abandoned Park Avenue trolley station.

The Lowline (Former Williamsburg Trolley Terminal), New York City

williamsburg-trolley-terminal-abandoned-3

lowline-park-manhattan (Images: Delancey Underground; Raad Studios; reproduced with permission)

In November 2011, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority solicited proposals for the adaptive reuse of the abandoned Essex Street Trolley Terminal, which closed in 1948, Dan Barrasch and James Ramsey responded with an idea to turn the dank space into the world’s first underground park. Known as the Lowline – echoing New York City’s existing High Line linear green space – the project aims to create a sustainable subterranean utopia where an innovative system of fibre optics, domes and mirrors to capture sunlight and pipe it underground, allowing plants to thrive. The vast 60,000 square foot space (also formerly known as the Williamsburg Trolley Terminal), which boasts vaulted ceilings, cobbled floors and original streetcar rails, would also host social and cultural events and has been endorsed by local politicians and organisations.

Holborn & Aldwych Stations in London’s Abandoned Kingway Tramway Subway

abandoned-kingsway-tram-subway-london-2

abandoned-kingsway-tram-subway-london-3 (Images: David Merrigan (top, bottom), cc-nc-4.0)

Unlike the abandoned trolley stations of New York City (above), the Kingsway Tramway Subway remains more elusive, betrayed only by twin tracks travelling down a ramp and disappearing through a heavy steel gate into a tunnel. Opened in February 1906, this forgotten tunnel that once connected tramways on the north and south sides of the River Thames contains two abandoned stations that offer a unique glimpse into London’s past. The peeling Tube map above is located at the former Aldwych tram station, and is actually a movie prop from The Escapist, for which the location stood in for the fictional Union Street Tube station.

holborn-abandoned-tram-station

holborn-abandoned-tram-station-2 (Images: Reality Trip, reproduced with permission)

The southern end of the Kingsway Tramway Subway has now been adapted as a road tunnel carrying traffic under the Strand, while the northern section remains intact, complete with original tram rails. Holborn station (above) was originally known as Great Queen Street and connected the Angel in Islington with the subway’s other underground station, Aldwych, then east to Tower Bridge and south to Kennington Gate. Holborn tramway closed in 1952, around the time trams were phased out in London. The Kingsway Tramway Subway is rarely open to the public despite becoming an urban exploration hotspot. Interestingly, a tunnel is said to connect the abandoned Aldwych tram station with the more famous, disused Tube station of the same name.

Abandoned Cleveland Subway, Ohio

cleveland-subway-abandoned

cleveland-subway-abandoned-2 (Images: nanovid (see website), cc-nc-sa-4.0; Craig Hatfield, cc-4.0)

The lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio once boasted four sets of streetcar tracks that disappeared into underground trolley stations on either side of the Cuyahoga River. Rustwire reports that the subway closed in 1954 and some sections have since been sealed-off. But what remains reflects the elegant architecture of the subterranean space and bi-annual tours draw more than a thousand people. The abandoned tracks remain visible in places, but for the benefit of visitors who don’t know Cleveland’s streetcar history, a fake trolley front is a less than subtle reminder.

Dupont Trolley Terminal, Washington, D.C.

dupont-trolley-station-abandoned

dupont-trolley-station-4 (Images: Eric Purcell, reproduced with permission)

Little evidence remains at street level of the former streetcar station which occupies a 75,000 square foot space beneath Washington, D.C.’s popular Dupont Circle. Built in 1949 along with the Connecticut Avenue traffic tunnel in a bid to reduce congestion around the circle, Dupont Trolley Station is relatively modern by comparison to others on this list, and remained open for just 13 years. Closing in 1962, the crescent shaped tunnels retain their original tracks and characteristic white-tiled walls. The only signs of modern interference are the fake trolley fronts that were part of an ill-fated food court venture that ended in controversy in 1996. A group called Dupont Underground now hopes to transform the space into a arts and cultural venue.

Abandoned Trams of Sydney, Australia

abandoned-trams-sydney-depot

abandoned-trams-sydney-depot-2 (Images: Adam.J.W.C. (top, bottom), cc-sa-4.0)

Located in the Glebe neighbourhood of Sydney, New South Wales, the abandoned Rozelle tram depot provided work for 650 people when it opened in 1904. The last tram to operate on the city’s original streetcar network was among six stored in the depot after its closure in 1958. The remaining trams, along with one bus, were reportedly in excellent condition prior to 2000 but have since been stripped of their parts and heavily vandalised. Efforts to repurpose Rozelle depot appear to have been shelved and the site now looks set to be a turned into a housing development. Thankfully the historic 1930s trams are set to be restored.

Trolley Graveyard, United States

abandoned-trolley-graveyard-4

abandoned-trolley-graveyard-5 (Images: Abandoned America, reproduced with permission)

The derelict streetcars rotting away in this trolley graveyard in the United States were photographed by urban explorer Matthew Christopher. The trees that have grown in and around the rusting track – and in some cases, the trolleys themselves – are testament to how long these abandoned shells have lain here. Some remain on their wheels while others have literally collapsed into the dirt. Taken collectively, the gutted hulks represent a lost era in urban transportation that may be gone from many cities but nevertheless remains unforgotten – and ironically, is increasingly making a comeback.

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