- Title: ARGENTINA: Decommissioning of Latin America's oldest subway
- Date: 11th January 2013
- Summary: BUENOS AIRES (JANUARY 11, 2013) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF PEOPLE WALKING UP THE STEPS AND OUT OF THE SUBWAY STATION ALBERTO ROSENBLATT PLAYING THE VIOLIN IN THE SUBWAY STATION
- Embargoed: 26th January 2013 12:00
- Location: Argentina
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: Quirky,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky,Transport
- Reuters ID: LVAAM807DB6T1YM7PDJWV7Y8EK9E
- Story Text: With its ornate, Belgian cars, Buenos Aires's subway was the first in Latin America, a symbol of Argentina's turn-of-the-century prosperity.
One hundred years after they were first installed, the city is retiring its antique wagons as part of an expansive rehabilitation program planned for its underground public transit system.
Passengers took a final trip on the wooden trains on Friday (January 11). The brass handles and tulip-shaped light fixtures are a vestige of a bygone era in Buenos Aires. A century ago, Argentina was among the wealthiest countries in the world.
Rider Miguel Tortolloni said he was reluctant to see the old cars go. "It makes me a little sad to stop seeing these antique wagons but, well, it is time for a remodel," he said.
In recent years, parts for the wagons have been harder to come by. They've been victim to vandals and a general state of disrepair in Buenos Aires' subway system.
Passenger Carolina Ocampo remarked on the wagons' staying power.
"In this country, my country, which is surely like your country, everything that is made of wood is considered mediocre. Nevertheless, this train made of wood lasted a century. Good-bye, wood," she said.
On its first day of operation, the Buenos Aires subway carried 266,000 passengers. Some 150,000 people still use the old line each day. It is unclear what substitute will be offered while the line is gutted and the new cars are installed, a project expected to last at least two months.
The carriages were prized for their comfort and natural ventilation system, also known as windows. Passenger Rodolfo Borret said they still hold up favorably compared to other, more modern subway cars.
"They are more comfortable for people, less enclosed. But, well, the modern tendencies that our politicians have say that change is necessary."
South America's first subway was inaugurated in 1913. The wrought-iron entryway to the A line in downtown Buenos Aires has outlasted many of the changes to the city around it.
The fate of those who do commerce on the platforms and passageways of Argentina's first subway line also remains unknown.
Violinist Alberto Rosenblatt said the renovation of the system marks the beginning of a new era for Argentina.
"This is a new opening for another one hundred years but of progress. Not going backward. We are not always looking back."
Post-retirement plans are already being drawn up for the historic, antique subway cars. The city's cultural minister spoke Friday of converting them into public libraries with WiFi and solar panels.
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