When I was first dropped off and walked over to the entrance of the subway I certainly had to take a step back. I was not expecting to see a hole in the ground, or should I say a large tube measuring about 40 ft in all directions except down. That seemed to be about five floors lower. It was massive and looked like I was about to go into an underground bunker. But nevertheless I boarded the escalator and took the ride... taking what seemed to be several minutes to get to the bottom. ( I read on the net that the escalator belt is apparently the longest in use in all of the US.) And even then, you had to go down some stairs yet another level to get to the actual train platform. The image on the right was what greeted you on the return trip. All you could see was the sky above and it gave me the initial image of eventually having to step off a space ship when I finally got to the top.
Before you get to the entrance gate that led to the train platforms you had to buy a ticket. It is automated. You feed money, in my case $5.00, and it spits out a card with that amount stored into the card some how. If you lose the ticket on route, you are in serious trouble as you can not get out of the system till you feed that same card into a machine at the other end. It determines where you got on, how much you owe, how much is on your card, (it charges by distance and time of the day,) and then subtracts that amount and spits out your card with whatever is still left on it.
One the first day I missed my stop. I carefully calculated how much I needed one way, paid that amount and missed the stop. Someone showed me how to cross over to the others side and back track one stop on the next train and then get off. They of course did not tell me that the ride back one stop would cost me another fare. Upon arrival I fed my ticket into the machine, it was ejected and the gate would not open. An operator standing by told me that I owed more money and to go and pay it at yet another machine and then insert the ticket to exit. They get you coming and going. hehe.
But it did not always cost $5.00 to ride the subway. The Mole only charged 3 cents and probably took you to anyone on the 87 stops it made along the way. It was called the MOLE as the critter was known to burrow through the ground and every now an again pop its head up to see what was going on. Note the MOLE had 87 stops and today's system has only 86.
The mole operated in DC way back in the 1860's and used air pressure to hurl the train along a tube. Escalators were unheard of in those days and folks had to climb down very long and I suspect dangerous circular staircases to get down to the train or back up again. Folks did not like the fact that as a train entered to station the blow back from the hurtling train in the tube knocked everyone's hats off. Soon it fell into disuse, the owner went bankrupt and returned to Europe. Parts of the tunnel still exists today and entrepreneurs take folks on tours of the parts still accessible. A most interesting site on the net talks about the old system and I've borrowed the images on the right from that site. Check it out at... http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-31/local/38170964_1_metro-station-subway-system-joe-kerr
The folks on these Segways, are actually on a guided tour by the licensed guide in yellow, and about to enter the Gettysburg National Cemetery. But I also saw a similar group doing tours around the most impressive Naval Memorial located right across the road from the National Archives in DC and which I will be discussing in another blog.
The fellow on the right was laying on a medal grill. I think warm air comes up from the subway system below and keeps this fellow warm. Two and one half hours later I walked by this same spot and the fellow was still there. More upsetting, within two car lengths, parked at the side of the road was a police car... with lights flashing. Nothing apparently unusual for downtown DC. They are parked with flashing lights at just about every corner... or second corner for blocks on end. All occupied by officers who seem to be doing little other than watching what was going on around them. A cruiser was beside this fellow laying down when first observed by me and the same or another cruiser was on the same spot later and seemed to care less about this fellow laying there.
Much more in a few days.