For the past 99 years, Buenos Aires Metro Linea A with its unforgettable wooden carriage cars has been transporting its passengers beneath the equally renowned Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was the first subway to open in South America in December 1913. Running from Plaza de Mayo to Carabobo, its total track length is 6.5 miles (10.7 km).
What makes Linea A memorable, is that it is the only line on the Buenos Aires Metro that uses the original wooden carriage cars (built between 1911 and 1919) complete with wooden floors, windowpanes, doors and slatted seats.
The mystique of these time machine cars is added to by the soft white lights in their luminous globes, bringing the gentle feeling of romance and charm to the setting. Dangling white rings hanging from ceiling straps and long, white poles contrast against the dark and aged wood of the coach.
Scheduled Temporary Closure January 12 to March 8, 2013
At the opening of 2013, Linea A is scheduled to be closed for two months from January 12 to March 8, 2013 to upgrade the subway line. The old wooden carriages will be removed from service and replaced with new, modern cars. Buenos Aires City Deputy María José Lubertino as of January 7 submitted an appeal to this measure sighting the closure would be “grave harm” to passengers for lack of service and does not provide an alternative for transportation.
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, hopefully all is not lost for Linea A. Beginning in March 2013 when it reopens with new cars during the week; it sounds like the historic old cars will be put into service on the weekends for locals and tourists to enjoy – based on the quote below. This will be updated as information is available. “…at least fifteen will be preserved according to international standards so that tourists and citizens will be able to enjoy them as a touristic ride during weekends. The remaining carriages will be given to civil organizations and NGOs.”
Unfortunately, the old wooden carriages have not returned into use on Linea A.
Controversial Closure of Metro Line A
Control of the subway line was transferred from the national government to the city government in December 2012. Many in the government are unhappy about the decision to close the line for 2 months saying “Shutting down Subte A Line ‘stupid’, says Pianelli“.
Sounds of the Metro
The rickety sounds of the cars resonate through the tunnels as they whisk into the station and vanish just as quickly. With the sound of rushing wind through the windows, the cars hurdle you through the subway tunnels, shaking and noisy, catapult you through the narrow passage underground.
Breaks come grinding to a halt in the station, making you think that perhaps it is a good idea that they are upgrading the cars on the line in favor of newer, air-conditioned cars. (Yet Linea A has the “least registered faults and incidents in its 99 years of service”.)
The outside skin of the coaches do not do them justice. Repeatedly painted over through the years, it gives no indication of the beauty that is held inside with 99 years of Buenos Aires history.
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About the Carriage Cars
Built by Belgian manufacturer La Brugeoise, et Nicaise, et Delcuve, the cars have for years been a daily reminder to tourists and commuters alike of the stories of Buenos Aires and times gone by.
The first set of cars, numbered 5 to 50, arrived in Buenos Aires in mid-1913 ready for the initial tests of the system.
The second series of cars arrived in two batches – cars 51 to 84 arrived in December 1913. The remaining cars (numbered 85 to 120) arrived in 1919 – after the end of World War I in Europe.
Not to be Missed
If you want to experience the past life of Buenos Aires, taking a ride on Linea A is a true delight. Conveniently hop on at either end of the tourist route of Plaza de Mayo or Congresso and step into a part of Buenos Aires history.
Tickets may be purchased at the underground booths near the station platform.
More information on the historic Buenos Aires Linea A Subway: