Exploring the abandoned subway station of Rochester

If I could choose any place in the world to move to in a heart beat it would be Rochester in upstate New York. Its got my name all over it, and once the home of Eastman Kodak Company, commonly referred to as "Kodak". You all know that photography company right?

Kodak was founded there in 1888 and rumour has it that Kodak originally came up with the concept of the digital camera but never pursued it. Canon latched onto the idea - and launched its first digital camera in 2000. Interesting hey?

I have spent a good couple of months there over the last couple of years, visiting my very big Portuguese - American family. I have made some really amazing friends there to, and made a home for myself. I get warm and fuzzy just thinking of living in New York's third biggest city.

Its got loads of abandoned buildings to - you all know how how much I love photographing those!

The deserted subway station in Rochester dating back to 1918 was my absolute favourite. My friend Dan excitedly offered to take me in!

A short history

The Erie canal, responsible for much of upstates New York's economic growth was re-routed to bypass downtown Rochester, in an effort to build a freight interchange for the five railroads that served the city. The last boat traveled through the city in 1919, and 8 years later the Subway began operation from 1927 to 1956.

The empty section of the canal was used as the core of the subway. The train lines were built inside the canal while the subway's roof was turned into Broad street.

Subway station map

The subway is 7 miles (11,2km) in length but only 2 miles (3,2 km) were underground.The line was also used by interurban railways with Rochester and Eastern Rapid Railway, Rochester and Syracuse Railroad, and Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo Railroad running trains. The subway was never utilized to its full potential. The exception was the World War II era when the Subway ran four-car trains at the height of rush hour.

I found this photo of the subway online that best represents how the subway once looked when in operation.

Ultimately, the subway's inability to serve the outlying suburbs (due to the city's inability to justify the expenditure) led to its failure. After the Great Depression, New York State Railways fell into bankruptcy and from 1938 the subway was operated by the newly formed Rochester Transit Corporation. To cut costs, the company reduced weekday passenger services, and eventually ended all these services in 1956. Freight trains kept running on the underground part of the subway until 1996.

Today, few traces of the subway survive. The two stations that were in the tunnel, West Main Street and City Hall, have remained hidden from the public for over forty years, with little remaining to indicate they were ever there.

Exploring the Subway

Working around the city it seemed hard to believe that there was a whole subway system right underneath our feet. Dan and I ventured in on South Street, right downtown.

It is dark inside, and Dan and I never thought to bring a flash light with us. So we wondered around using our cell phone torches until the batteries died. Dan had been here before so he had vast knowledge of navigating is way around the inside. Knowing this put my mind at ease. The thought of possibly encountering a few poverty stricken people who have made this their home suddenly dawned on me.

We came across a large chamber filled with water, which apparently was the remains of Court Station. We walked through two stone archways, climbed up a short ladder, and accessed a few spider infested and fragile walkways that lead you over the water chamber. To the right go the chamber you can stare down at the Gennessee River.

I was fascinated to see an urban waterfall cascading down a smooth rock surface into a series of underground pools. The low cement arches allowed the water to drop into the Genessee River, cascading across flat smooth rocks.

We continued along the path and found ourselves at a scenic graffiti filled tunnel under the Broad Street Bridge. Light filtered through the open archways on either side with views of the Genessee River.

I got stuck here for quite a while, photographing all the cool artworks that covered the walls.

A little further down the tunnel, darkness invaded. It was here that I started to feel a bit edgy, and decided to call it a day and head on home.

The experience was amazing, and I am so happy that I got to witness a subway that has been abandoned for 61 years, especially in a city that I can call home.

Here are a few more images of my experience!