Blast from the Past: Metro Here and Now

June 5th, 2013

We were made aware of this video entitled, “Metro: Here and Now.” Take a look:

The video contains footage on the initial operating segment of the Metrorail Red Line from Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood to Farragut North, with a strip map including Dupont Circle as well as several shots of Metro CenterSo we can surmise that Given some of the points made in the comments, the video probably dates from 1976 sometime in the period from 1975 – 1977, around the time that first rail segment opened in 1976. Aside from the interesting clothing and hairstyles of the time, one of the things that stands out is the operation of 2-car trains. This is difficult to imagine today, when 6-car and 8-car trains are the norm during all operating periods, and plans are being developed as a part of Metro’s Momentum Plan to operate 100% 8-car trains during peak periods.

Another interesting feature of the video is the landscape surrounding some of the stations. While the properties near Judiciary Square, with the DC courthouses, the National Building Museum, and Metro’s Jackson Graham Building appear mostly unchanged today, other station areas look different. At 8:44 in the video, you can see a train pulling into the (temporary) terminal station at Rhode Island Avenue. At 8:50, you can see the surface parking lots to the east of the line where a recently built joint development project now sits.

What else do you notice from the video?

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  1. June 5th, 2013 at 15:04 | #1

    The 2 car metrorail train looks comically short.

    Did any of those trip durations include any assumption for how long it takes to transfer, including weekend headways?

    “No traffic jams, no stop lights, no waits. Just train after train.” Hrmm….

    Computer operation to maintain schedule and spacing 1976-2009.

    84 seats plus room for 94 to stand seems like a very, very high loading.

    I think I saw someone taking a wheelchair up the escalator.

  2. Tim
    June 5th, 2013 at 15:42 | #2

    Actually, between 2:30 and 2:45 there is a view of a strip map that includes Dupont Circle, which presumably would mean this was made after that station opened in January 1977. (For the same reason, since Gallery Place is shown as open, the video couldn’t have been made before that station opened in December 1976.)

    In the early 1990s, WMATA experimented with using two-car trains late evenings. I recall being quite put out one night when I had worked in Rosslyn until almost 10 p.m., and when my train home (to Dupont Circle, changing at Metro Center) arrived at Rosslyn…it was only two cars! I had to stand all the way to Metro Center after working that late. I was not pleased. And apparently I wasn’t alone, because the experiment didn’t last all that long.

  3. Nick
    June 5th, 2013 at 15:57 | #3

    I noticed working escalators.

  4. JDC
    June 5th, 2013 at 20:51 | #4

    I noticed the board on the car’s wall displaying the current station and next station with lights tracking the progress. Looks just like what they have in NYC. When did this stop being on the trains???

  5. James
    June 5th, 2013 at 21:25 | #5

    The most recent experiment with 2-car trains was in the summer 2004 – I was teaching at Shady Grove in the evening & living at Rhode Island Avenue- I distinctly remember the dinky trains!

  6. Stephen
    June 6th, 2013 at 10:38 | #6

    I would think that this stopped because, in the days before LCD displays, Metro would not be able to change the route displayed, meaning that cars could only operate on one route. The 7,000 series cars will have them, right?

  7. Stephen
    June 6th, 2013 at 10:39 | #7

    Also, on a frivolous note, I would like Metro to bring back the wide ties, big eye glasses, and wrap dresses that passengers are rocking in the video.

  8. Jonathan
    June 6th, 2013 at 11:12 | #8

    @Michael: Several of us thought those times seemed a bit on the optimistic side, considering connections. Its also interesting that the some of the stations and travel times recited included stations that were years, or even more than a decade from opening.

    @Tim: good catch.

    @Stephen: The 7000 series cars will be able to operate on all lines, though they will not be able to be paired with older railcars due to technical compatibility issues. Here’s a video that describes some of the features of the 7000-series:

  9. Matt Dickens
    June 7th, 2013 at 09:40 | #9

    The strip maps were connected to the roll signs on the outside – so when the sign was switched to a red line terminal the strip map inside would show the red line. When the destination station sign was changed to blue it would show the blue line, etc.

    I looked around and found some journal articles that mentioned the filming of this movie, and someone in the GGW comments found an even older comment about the film from someone who claims they were in the film ( Both of these lead me to believe this was filmed in 1975, before the system opened. The same person comments here:

  10. Latrice Mack
    June 10th, 2013 at 09:50 | #10

    Did anybody else notice at 13:07 there a was guy pushing another person in a wheelchair up the escalator??? That’s a safety “no-no”. Metro has come a long way!! :-)

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