Social networks are often sewer networks, they only serve for anonymous people to write their hatred and frustrations. But other times, especially if we decide to follow interesting people and not haters, we can discover great data. It was like today the wall of Diego Zigiotto reminded me that On January 11, 2013, ten years ago, the wooden wagons on Line A stopped circulating from the Buenos Aires subway. The author of the post added more data. The wooden wagons originated from Belgium, the La Brugeoise brand cars, with some reforms, ran between 1913 and 2013. Amid controversy, they were finally radiated from the service to be replaced by new units of Chinese origin. The line was closed to the public for almost two months so that tests could be carried out with the new rolling stock. The wooden wagons were declared Cultural Heritage of the City. Some of them are in the process of restoration; others are abandoned.
Zigiotto’s information caused me a mixture of joy and melancholy. One of the favorite rides or the favorite ride of my twin sons -teenagers today- was to travel on the old subway and go from Acoyte to Plaza de Mayo, round trip. On Saturdays or Sundays we would get into the first carriage and take the seat next to the driver’s cabin. There we lived the first joy. It is that there was an unwritten rule but strictly respected by all passengers. If they occupied that seat and children got on, they would immediately get up and give it up. They could be tired or cranky or bored, they could be young or fortyish, female or male, but the seat almost always gave up. And if some made the otario another always reminded him that “there are boys, let them look through the window.”
It is that the joy of the boys as the formation advanced through that tunnel, was contagious. The tour was transformed into a magical journey. There were real milestones. Discover the “ghost” station between Miserere and Alberti, going from the gloom of the tunnel to the light of the station, the little descent and ascent before Miserere, the expectation when another formation advanced in the opposite direction. For what they cost just a ticket we received a mixture of roller coaster and time tunnel.
I still remember the fascination of other passengers with the fascination that the boys showed. That trip that they had made dozens of times, was resignified with the eyes of the boys. More than once I saw someone “stopping their ears” to listen the story of the ghost station. Is about South Pasco and North Alberti. They were built in 1913 and closed in 1951. One version indicates that they were closed because they were too close, which caused the formations to stop very often. Another version indicates that they were abandoned after the attack that set fire to the Casa del Pueblo (Headquarters of Socialism and in retaliation for the bombs in Plaza de Mayo while Perón was speaking in 1953) and a last one indicates that it was to avoid helping possible boqueteros since one of them was close to a Banco Nación vault.
Of all the versions, the most frightening is the one repeated by the former subway employees. They ensure that at night the souls in pain of two Italian workers who died in the construction of line A roam the platforms. They say that if you pay attention and they want it, you can still see them sitting or standing on the tracks, looking at passengers and flashing the lights without anyone touching switches.
None of these stories was fit to be told to small children. However, by leaving Miserere and telling them to keep an eye out for the ghosts of the ghost station there was no way not to catch them. It is that even in digital times, an invented ghost is more interesting than the best app.
It is true that with ghosts or without ghosts if you had to use the subway every day, as a means of transportation it was uncomfortable, without air conditioning, with uncomfortable seats. But on weekends and for a walk it was great. At some point it was ensured that some wagons would run again on Saturdays and Sundays. Is that for the foreign tourists can traveling in early 20th century carriages that still worked was as strange as the bullet train is strange to us Argentines.
Ten years ago they stopped circulating. The current formations are comfortable and air conditioned. But they have no window seat next to the driver, no sympathetic passengers with knowing looks, no children who see ghosts in abandoned stations. They have plenty of functionality but they lost magic. Hopefully the initiative to make them work on the weekend can be rescued. Borges already said “There is not a day that one does not spend a moment in paradise” and sometimes paradise is about two children who with their eyes help us find ghosts traveling in a subway that is as old as it is magical.