Virtual Ride on the Rochester Subway

By ArianDavidPhotography

I’ve posted a great deal about Rochester’s abandoned subway system, which consists today of just under a mile of empty space beneath the heart of the city.  The last subway car to roll through Rochester was in June 1956, but that hasn’t stopped urban explorers and graffiti artists from enjoying these underground passageways.  A few years ago, the subway tunnel was legally opened to the public, allowing residents and visitors a peak into one of Rochester’s most interesting historic structures.

I’ve seen lots of YouTube videos featuring people walking the length of the tunnel, but I really wanted to simulate the feeling of riding a subway through the tunnel in 2016.  I decided to bike through the tunnel at relatively high speeds with a GoPro camera and simulate the essence of what it must have been like to ride a train through it 60 years ago.  To do this, I realized I needed a lot of light and a bike with decent stability.  I chose my Dahon Vybe folding bike, which is small and easy to control in rough terrain, and outfitted it with an Ion 700 bike light, which puts out as many lumens as your average car headlight.  It worked perfectly.

Photo Apr 09, 6 19 39 PMPhoto Apr 09, 6 21 44 PMPhoto Apr 09, 6 22 19 PM

The video is very shaky (it’s a rough ride!), dark and grainy, but it sort of adds to the haunting effect.  At about the two minute mark, the ground smooths out and I am able to get up over 20mph.  I overlaid some subway audio that really gives the experience a kick.  At about the 2-minute mark, I get up over 20mph (crank the audio, or throw one some headphones for the best effect), and you begin to forget I’m riding a bike and really start to feel like you’re riding a train that’s come back from the dead.

Will we ever see a subway again in Rochester?  That’s extremely unlikely.  But I am very sure that eventually, this whole subway space will be repurposed into something spectacular!  Until then, here’s one last ride on the Rochester Subway, 60 years later.