This was the first subway line opened in Buenos Aires, and it still retains its original cars. The line was opened in 1913 and is the 13th-oldest subway system in the world, the oldest in South America, and the fourth-oldest in the Americas as a whole (after New York, Boston, and Philadelphia). This line runs under Avenida de Mayo, beginning at Plaza de Mayo, running through Congreso, which was its original terminus, though it now continues on to Primera Junta thanks to a later extension. Trains are wooden, old, and rickety, and as they proceed along the bends underground, you can watch the whole car shimmy and shake. The cars' wooden side panels are made to bend and slip into each other, which is fun or scary depending on how you look at it. Windows are still wooden, with leather pulls to open and close them. Rings, now plastic, are also held by leather straps. Unlike those on the cars of the other four subway lines, the doors on this line do not always open and close automatically, something to be aware of when you reach your station. The system has begun adding new cars to this line, meaning fewer of these wooden trains are running, but about every third car passing will be one of these historical treasures. It's worth the few minutes' wait to ride one.
The stations between Plaza de Mayo and Congreso still retain most of their ornamentation from the very beginning, but the best station of all is Perú. Here, mock turn-of-the-20th-century ads and ornamental kiosks painted cream and red recall the very beginning of underground transport on this continent. The Congreso station has a minimuseum inside some glass display cases, with revolving exhibitions related to the history of the Congreso building. Well-worn old wooden turnstiles throughout this line remain in use for exiting and still have the old token slots, which are no longer operational. I know of no other place in the world where you can experience firsthand how magical a subway must have been when it was the highest form of transportation technology at the turn of the 20th century. With the system approaching 100 years, the A Line stations have been renovated, and the line itself extended, but in keeping with an eye to the past. The renovations, however, have removed the old painted-glass station signs that once adorned the entrances at street level, replacing them with colorful and garish plastic signs that ruin the once romantic notion of stepping into another era underground.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010