Chamberí Station, a trip to Madrid in the 1950s
25/05/2022 - Having a century-old past is a vein for good stories. Like the one in Chamberí, a station where you can 'travel' to Madrid in the 50s and 60s just by going down a few steps. To speak of Chamberí is to speak of the origins of Metro. Not in vain was it part of the first line of the Madrid underground, between Sol and Cuatro Caminos, inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII.
From 1919, it operated between the stations of Iglesia and Bilbao, but over time, the four-car trains became too small for the needs of the line. Metro then considered extending the platforms to accommodate trains with up to six cars and thus improve its capacity to carry more passengers. It was then that the feasibility of Chamberí was studied, but the station was on a curve, on a slope and too close to Iglesia and Bilbao. Its fate was sealed and in 1966, it was decided it would be closed. Its entrances were boarded up, the lights were switched off and the trains didn’t stop any more.
Chamberí was frozen in time and with it, all its treasures. Treasures that had one origin: the work of the brilliant Antonio Palacios, who opted for functional solutions for the routes and the organisation of the station, with simple but elegant finishes and relevant details such as the incorporation of natural light through a skylight in the hall.
For the interior, Palacios opted for ceramic cladding with ornamental decoration. The vault is covered with white bevelled tiles and its supports are decorated with Sevillian tiles. The advertising is preserved almost exactly as it was just over a century ago. Chamberí is the original metro, the one with the old turnstiles, the glass ticket offices and the painted tile ads showing the products of the time.
The magic of this station lies in how well preserved its elements are. The hall retains its half-shell vault, and the ticket office and turnstiles are the same as those used 100 years ago. Employee changing rooms and signage are also original.
After more than four decades being closed, a project was launched in 2006 to recover the station and convert it into a Metro museum. It opened as such in 2008, thanks to the restoration designed by architects Pau Soler and Miguel Rodríguez. The Chamberí entrance was refurbished and the original was closed. Currently, its stairs are used as an auditorium to watch a very interesting documentary on the history of Metro. And a special mention for one of the recovered platforms, which we highly recommend visiting... it is simply spectacular!
In the long years of being forgotten, Chamberí forged the legend of 'Ghost Station', a myth fuelled for a time by the presence of homeless people on its platforms who sought refuge from the harsh streets. And so, as the trains passed, travellers caught glimpses of moving silhouettes amidst makeshift bonfires... and imagination did the rest. A tale was born that quickly entered the history of Madrid's urban legends and is still alive today.
Chamberí belongs to the group of underground museums. The visit is free of charge, by prior booking, and lasts about 30 minutes. When you go to see it, we recommend you first watch the video on the history of Metro and then start the guided tour. An interesting fact: the seats in the stalls where the video is projected are the stairs of the old station entrance.
The tour ends at the platform. We recommend you stay there for a few minutes to enjoy the station at leisure and take in its details. The lighting is very evocative and enables you to fully immerse yourself in Metro's past.
FILM & MUSIC
Chamberí and its magic has served as inspiration for novels and films and has been used on many occasions for the filming of ads. In the film 'Barrio', by Fernando León de Araona (1998), there is a sequence shot in the station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z_yUepU-yQ
It also appeared in the 2010 film 'Pájaros de Papel', by Emilio Aragón, and served as inspiration for songs, such as the one composed by Los Coyotes in 1982: https://open.spotify.com/track/16tLUMWCJD8F6Ygcmn0sD9
Chamberí is a space of unquestionable historical value, a piece of our history that is also included in the Museum Passport initiative. If you love the history of Metro and Madrid and you still don't know about it, we can only tell you that you won't be disappointed, you'll love it. Come and see it and complete your tour to the eight museums on the Madrid underground. They are amazing!