Train under the capitol

The Capitol Subway System

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you have probably noticed our obsession with novel ways to move around. We’ve been on a train/bus hybrid in Bolivia, the Schwebebahn in Germany, and the transportation pods at Heathrow… and now we can add another to our list: the little-known subway lines that run below the Capitol in Washington DC.

Capitol Subway System

This underground train system is one of the first things I came across when starting to research our time in DC. I wasn’t sure that regular people were allowed onto it, but while organizing our Capitol tour, we asked if the subway would be included. And it was!

The Capitol subway “system” consists of just three lines, two of which connect the Senate offices and one for the House. We didn’t see the two-car Rayburn line which serves House members, and built in 1965. But we did see the 1960 Dirksen line, as well as the Russell line, which was constructed in 1902.

The Dirksen line was modernized in the 1990s, and reminded me of the autonomous trains which connect airport terminals. We weren’t allowed to ride this one, as it’s only for staffers. But that was okay, because the Russell line was way more interesting to me: a crewed two-track system connected to the tunnel ceiling for electricity. The ride was just a couple minutes, but it was fun! They also had one of the original, decommissioned trains on display.

crewed two-track system old train

This subway system is very utilitarian, made for the purpose of getting congressmen and women, along with their aides, quickly to the Capitol and back to their offices. And I’m pretty sure our tour guide thought I was weird for wanting to take so many pictures of the trains. After all, we were en route to one of the most iconic buildings in the country — and we’re wasting so much time at a monorail?

But what can I say? I like trains!

More Photos of the Capitol Subway System:

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