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Andén Cero, Estación de Chamberí

Platform Zero, Chamberí Station

Platform Zero, Chamberí Station

ABOVE: A vintage ad, made of ceramic tile, in Madrid's old Chamberí Metro station.

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 decades past.

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.

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