1865 Washington DC Subway: Mole Way

This here was supposed to be an April Fools Prank published on April 1, 2013 by John Kelly, Washington Post. I'm wondering how much of a joke this April Fools joke contains. For a casual reader the contents of the article have to sound somewhat bananas.

  • We were 60 feet underground, and Joe , president of a D.C. urban exploration group called Friends of Outrageously Obscure Locations, was about to show me the remnants of Washington’s first subway system.
  • The light illuminated a cathedral-like space. The walls were covered in light green tile and inset every 20 feet or so with wooden benches. A wrought-iron railing ran along the platform’s edge, interrupted at regular intervals with sliding gates. Above an ornate booth was an enameled metal sign reading “TICKETS.”
  • Construction started in 1865, just as the end of the Civil War unleashed a wave of cheap labor.
  • The first 13 stations opened on April 1, 1870, and included stops near the Capitol, the White House, each of the city’s markets and an adults-only nude beach near the Tidal Basin.
  • By 1873, 74 more stations had opened, for a total of 87, one more than the current Metro system. There was a stop at what was then called Tyson’s Farm in Fairfax County and another at a hot-air balloon depot near Sterling.
  • I followed - and in the process dropped and broke my camera. Down the tunnel, halfway buried under a collapsed portion of the roof, was an odd, bullet-shaped vehicle. It was a train carriage!
  • The Mole Way’s carriages were propelled by compressed air, a system scaled up considerably from the pneumatic tubes Witzmann used in his headquarters to send messages from office to office.
  • The Mole Way lasted just 13 years. Why did it fail?
    • “The compressed air system broke down a lot,” Joe said. “And even when it worked, it was problematical. Passengers complained that every time a train entered a station their hats would be blown off their heads — and everyone wore hats back then.”
    • Another problem was access. The escalator wasn’t invented until the 1890s. Instead, the Mole Way used spiral staircases that rotated like drill bits to carry passengers from street to platform and vice versa. The “spinners,” as they were called, were plagued with glitches.
Source: Imagining D.C.’s underground history
Reddit: Link

KD: Considering that we did have similar things in existence at the exact same time frame, this April Fools prank is only marginally funny, IMHO. At the same time, just like I said in the beginning of this article, how much of a joke do we really have in this prank?

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