9 Creepy and Cool Hidden Roads and Rail Lines

Extra subway lines below New York City, tunnels winding underneath England, and abandoned metro lines make a list of the best hidden transportation locations.

Waldorf Astoria, New York

New York's Waldorf Astoria has as much intrigue below ground as above. During construction in 1930, the hotel created its own private rail platform and track, called a siding, for use by the crazy wealthy. FDR used the track while president, in part to arrive and depart in secret to prevent the public from seeing him in a wheelchair.

The Waldorf Astoria was built over the then-recently vacated Grand Central lots, leaving plenty of track already tied to the New York subway system. Track 61 running beneath the hotel isn't a regular stop on the subway, but the line was accessible as far back as the 1930s. Today, it is still kept secure for potential presidential-size retreats when the leader of the country stays or works at the Waldorf.

A New York Times article from 1929 spells out the entire plan, saying, "Guests with private rail cars may have them routed directly to the hotel instead of to the Pennsylvania Station or the Grand Central Terminal." Now that's riding in hidden style.

Mail Rail, London

There's another 23 miles of London Underground most folks have never traversed. Dubbed the Mail Rail, this line took mail by train in riderless cars from the East End's Whitechapel to west London's Paddington under Oxford Street in central London, mere feet from the Bakerloo Line. Completed in 1927, the Mail Rail line was in use until 2003, employing over 200 people at its prime. The 20-minute ride included eight Mail Rail stations. Eventually above-ground transportation caught up to the 40-mph speeds of the trains, and stations started closing—it proved more costly to run the Mail Rail than to simply move the mail by truck. If some Londoners get their wish, the Mail Rail will reopen as a tourist attraction.

Metro-2, Moscow

The Metro-2, a supposedly hidden metro system with tracks parallel to all public routes and stretching farther than the "real" Moscow subway system, may be a myth. Still, the U.S. Department of Defense has included diagrams of the system in published documents, so somebody up there believes in it. While a sprawling yet completely hidden train system is hard for some to believe, a more believable idea holds that secret tracks run underground to connect key government buildings such as the Kremlin, the Federal Security Service, Moscow State University, and an underground city called Ramenki.

Freight Lines, Chicago

The first decade of the 1900s saw Chicago go tunnel-happy. As Illinois Telephone and Telegraphy started carving out tunnels for its burgeoning home-phone service, the entrepreneurial spirit took over and the company morphed into Chicago Tunnel Company. By 1906 it had created a network of freight-capable tunnels, allowing businesses connected to elevators to bring in merchandise from underground. However, the main use of the rail tunnels was supplying businesses with coal. As both the need for coal and the price of moving it aboveground decreased, the tunnels' practicality diminished. They were sealed off in 1959.

L.A. Subway, Los Angeles

Even before 1900 Los Angeles was boring tunnels through the local geography to cut commute time, but the subway system's tunnels really started taking shape in the 1920s and the most famous of the subway stations, the Subway Terminal Building for the Hollywood line, opened in 1925. L.A.'s love of the subway—whether the red or yellow lines—didn't last long. Trains were shutting down in the 1950s. But hidden and almost completely sealed off below town are the Subway Terminal Building, which is now a luxury apartment building dubbed Metro 417, and the remains of a series of tunnels.

Planned Subway, Cincinnati

Cincinnati almost had a subway—it was just rail and trains away. The city saved enough money to build two subway tunnels between 1920 and 1925 that stretched 6 miles in a former canal covered by a new street, Central Parkway. But then the money dried up. The grand staircase entrance was eventually closed off and the tunnels have sat vacant for nearly 90 years.

City Hall Station, New York

Beauty in a subway station: New York's City Hall station, closed in 1945 after opening in 1903, has kept the splendor of its brass fixtures, decorative tile, and wrought-iron skylights. While the station closed because it couldn't handle newer, longer trains, New York subway riders can catch a glimpse of the closed station if they're willing to spend an extra few minutes on the 6 Train. Stay on the southbound train after its final stop, Brooklyn Bridge, and catch a glimpse of the spectacular curvy station as the train turns around to head north again. Enjoy the ride—for decades, the Metropolitan Transit Authority wouldn't let riders stay on the 6.

McCormick Place Busway, Chicago

Built in 2002 as a way to quickly whisk folks to Chicago's McCormick Place convention hall, this 2.5-mile road instead has turned into a semisecret path, open only to special convention-going buses and a few of the city government's most connected people. Once called the Bat Cave by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the lower level of Randolph Street helps buses heading to the convention center bypass heavy traffic. Sure, not everyone is pleased that there's a lightly used roadway taking up space in the heart of one of the nation's busiest downtowns, but if you have access to this stretch, feel fortunate.

Site 3 (Burlington), Corsham, England

Cold wars make folks build some crazy things, including the 35-acre city 100 feet beneath Corsham, England. Constructed in the 1950s, this secure bunker-like space was designed to house many of the most important people in England in case of a nuclear attack. It has 60 miles of roads laid out in a city grid. Also called Burlington and Site 3, the area was vacated in the 1980s but not decommissioned until 2004. We hope they turn this one into a museum too.


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