Friday, April 1, 2011

Construction on Cincinnati's Subway to Resume, First Train Delivered!

- The idea for a subway in Cincinnati was born out of constructing it in place of the Miami-Eerie Canal. Construction was abandoned in 1927.

It's been 84 years since construction of the Cincinnati Subway halted. Nearly two miles of unused tunnels have been sitting silently beneath the city streets since 1927. Despite efforts to try and revive the project - political corruption, economic climate, changing population trends and even war were one of the many historical circumstances that prevented the subway from ever seeing a train or rider. That is, until today.

The history of the subway's demise has been chronicled here on Queen City Discovery before. However, here is a brief synopsis: The subway was an ambitious project, Cincinnati was one of just a handful of American cities constructing extensive, rail based public transportation systems. In 1914, construction began on a rapid transit line after voters had approved its construction - twice. The line would have made a loop around downtown, out to the then northernmost suburb of Norwood, out east and down around Mt. Adams, and then back to downtown.

- The entrance to the abandoned Hopple St. tunnel section.

Things soon went wrong. There was debate over contractors, political corruption, opposition at the state level and the onset of World War One. With all the delays and changing economic situation, inflation soon gave way to rising costs. By 1927, money ran out and the project was put on hold. The subway has sat idle since and even its most recent attempt at revival in 2002 was met with local political opposition.

- The rent sign is a remnant of when the city tried to market the tunnels as a "fix it up" two bedroom apartment.

There hasn't been much news about the subway in recent years and the city likes it that way. I had only heard vague rumors and hadn't been told the exact details until today. Given Governor Kasich's opposition towards rail projects in the state of Ohio, the city was eager to keep political opposition away until they were ready to announce their plan. Today, construction has resumed for the first time in nearly a century. The "Cincinnati Subway Program" is being partially funded with the help of a private company whose name may surprise you.

- The abandoned Hopple St. tunnel.

The announcement and its subsequent details are covered in this local news video:

Given my experiences chronicling the subway on this website, I was invited to attend a media tour of the construction.

- The first train of the "Green Line" sits ready on the track.

When I got to the site, construction was underway on the first line of the system aka the "Green Line." The Green Line will run from downtown, shoot west to West Chester (with a stop at IKEA and EnterTRAINment Junction), then north to Northgate (with a stop at Surf Cincinnati), followed by going east to Eastgate (stopping at two DIFFERENT Applebees (the one with the good potato skins, the other with good fried cheese sticks)) and finally back to downtown.

- Track, supports and trains on site and ready to go!

The construction process is utilizing revolutionary new technology that makes construction within the tunnels easy.

- Two cranes erecting track.

- The final piece is lifted into place by the crane.

We watched as the last piece was put into place. Completion of construction was celebrated in a fashion resembling that of when the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States were connected via railroad at Promontory Point.

- Workers celebrate completion of the Green Line.

- Workers celebrate at Promontory Point.

As mentioned in the above video, construction has been funded with generous grants from the Walt Disney Corporation - including the donation of the first subway train.

The trains are environmentally friendly, electrically powered via two AA batteries. When loading and unloading passengers, a pre-recorded spiel reminds them that there is no smoking while on board and to please stand clear of the doors.

- Smoking is not allowed on the trains, please extinguish all smoking materials before riding.

To celebrate the line's completion and take a ride on its first train, Mickey Mouse was in attendance.

- Mickey Mouse sitting in one of the subway's new trains.

- Goofy also paid a visit, overseeing the investment his company had made.

Not everyone was happy with the construction of the project though, one of the reasons why the city had kept it a secret. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who had previously killed the proposed 3C Rail Line and is attempting to kill state funding for the Cincinnati Streetcar, was not surprisingly opposed. It is no secret that Kasich is no fan of rail projects, even this one. He was quoted as saying "This is stupid, this has to be a joke." He then vowed to ask Disney if they would shuffle the funds to help pay for his private security forces - since he refused to move into the Governor's Mansion, insisting on living in a mansion of his own. Although Kasich was not invited to the ceremony, he did send some envoys.

- Kasich dispatched the Ohio National Guard to the scene and his personal German Tiger Tank from WW2. The tank was a gift from Heinrich Himmler, who said he likes Kasich's leadership style.

The situation was diffused however, when Captain Jean Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise stepped in. Picard, who was giving the keynote speech for the subway dedication, was able to use the diplomatic skills he had learned in his tenure at Starfleet to calm Kasich down. Kasich then drove home and was pulled over for speeding, he called the cop an "idiot." Kasich's main complaint was that the Green Line doesn't serve the airport in neighboring Kentucky, which he so deeply loves.

- Picard (left) cut the ribbon and said "Make it So," sending the subway on its first trip.

In case you haven't realized this yet (I really hope you have, if not, that may be a problem), this was obviously an April Fools Day joke. Currently, there are no definite plans for the subway. A study in 2008 estimated that it would cost upwards of $100 Million to bring it up to modern operating standards and around $20 Million to fill it in with dirt. In the past two years, the city has been doing extensive repair work to maintain the subway's integrity in case of future use. The tunnels currently house a water main. Despite being over 80 years old, the underground system has held up remarkably well. As of April 1, 2011 - the only train to have ever run in the system was a toy monorail.

If you want to read more about the subway and see additional photographs of how it looks today, check out the previous QC/D updates here. While this post has been a joke, I personally feel that the subway should be used and that rail transportation needs to be a part of Cincinnati's future.

And if you didn't watch the video, you need to, it's the kicker to all of this.

My apologies to anyone on Facebook and Twitter who saw me hinting at this and thought real news on the subway was coming, hopefully you took it in good humor.

Thanks to Ryan "RC" Suhr, Lester and Jeff Jarrett who all contributed to this project.

Update | Oct. 18, 2017:
  • John Kasich was successful in killing state funding for the streetcar, but the rail line did finally open in 2016. Despite his anti-rail stance, Kasich has been one of the few Republicans to stand up to President Trump, though. 


  1. Couldn't you have just let us believe it was all true? We would be happier! :-)