ABOVE: A vintage ad, made of ceramic tile, in
Madrid's old Chamberí Metro station.
by Anders Imboden
One of Madrid’s newer attractions is actually quite old: If you have ever ridden Madrid’s Metro Line 1, you may have noticed an
abandoned station between the Bilbao and Iglesia stops. This is the Estación de
Chamberí, a station closed since 1966, but now fully restored and reopened to
the public as a museum.
First used in 1919 as part of Madrid’s inaugural Metro route, Chamberí
station served riders continuously for over four decades. In the 1960s, new
trains too long for Chamberí’s boarding platform came into service. This--combined with bigger stops nearby and the difficulty of expanding a station
built on a curve--led to Chamberí’s abandonment in 1966.
In the subsequent decades, the sealed-off station fell into disrepair, only
visited by maintenance workers keeping the tracks and overhead wires working for
the popular Line 1, which continued to pass by the forsaken stop.
Restoration work began in 2006, with the intent of recreating
Chamberí exactly as it was during its heyday. Everything from the ticket office
to the elaborate ceramic-tile advertisements were repaired, brought back from
their dilapidation with original materials and now reborn as they looked in
Visitors descend into the station, now dubbed
Andén Cero (Platform Zero),
through a modern spiral staircase and glass elevator (the only new additions to
the station). Immediately to the left upon entering is a small theater created
from the old street entrance, which repeats a 20-minute film summarizing the
history of the Madrid Metro system. While fascinating, the movie is in Spanish,
without subtitles. Some of it is quite self-explanatory, however, so it may be
worth watching even if your knowledge of Spanish is tapas-sized.
Lining the curved walls of the platform itself are old advertisements for
light bulbs, mineral water, and more. These bright ads have been hand-crafted,
made up of many small ceramic tiles that put modern billboards to shame.
Opposite this wall, on the far side of the platform, projectors display films of
Madrid’s past (and on the day I visited, a Microsoft Windows screen view). A
clear glass barrier separates visitors from the tracks, as trains still speed
through the station every few minutes.
The Estación de Chamberí is a captivating step into the past. Especially
given that admission is free, there are few compelling reasons to skip this
small portal into Madrid’s history, even if the topic is more foreign than the
Spanish language. There are few museums that really give visitors the sense of
being in a different time: Andén Cero is one of those few.
For visitor information and more
captioned photos, continue to pages 2 and 3 of this article.