News & Politics

Watch a Video From the 1970s About Metro’s Construction

An old video shows how Metro built its first rail tunnels under downtown DC.

Photograph by Flickr user Anuska Sampedro.

Ever wanted to see how subterranean rail systems get built? As much fun as it is to complain about Metro, Washington’s rail-transit network is also a feat of civil engineering. And a three-decade old video dug up by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority shows how.

Metro today uploaded “Earth Tunnels,” a video it produced in the 1970s to inform Washingtonians of the era about how it bored under downtown DC to build its first two rail tunnels. The video reaches as far back as the 13th century to detail medieval coal-mining processes, though the pencil drawings and Renaissance fair-style music quickly give way to grainy video and schlocky, mid-20th century documentary music. The video includes footage of the massive steel shields that protected workers as they bored through Washington’s bedrock and the laying of the first tracks.

Dated aesthetics aside, the video is a reminder that Metro, for all its contemporary faults, is still pretty remarkable. Watch:

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.