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Cincinnati's Incomplete Subway: The Complete History [Paperback]

Jacob R. Mecklenborg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 5, 2010
What of those ghostly catacombs that lie dormant below city streets? Those subway tunnels, never finished, never filled with the screeches of trains and the busy commotion of commuters. Just there. Dead. You've heard of the subway's demise. The tunnels were too narrow. The city was too broke. A grand miscalculation. Well, most of what you've heard is, sorry to say, untrue. The popular story of the subway's demise is myth-laden and as incomplete as the original plan. The full story, long buried in mounds of public records dispersed in the city's libraries, is now revealed. Local author Jacob Mecklenborg emerges from those dusty tomes with a fresh, thought-provoking, full examination of the subway's demise and what its future might hold.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jake Mecklenborg is a Cincinnati native and a 1996 graduate of St. Xavier High School. He has worked as a photojournalist, a graphic designer, a teacher and as a towboat deckhand.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (November 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596298952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596298958
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete History of an Incomplete Project December 14, 2010
I've been waiting for Jake Mecklenborg's research on the subway to be published into a book for quite some time. For locals familiar with his work, he has run a website dedicated to the transit history of Cincinnati for some time. His website was known (and still is) one of the best resources of Cincinnati Subway info on the net. It's what got me interested in the project when I first heard about it from my father. A few of the other reviews criticize the book because it features a lot of railroad history, but they failed to draw the connection as to why this was important to the subway's development. It was from these former railroads that plans for the subway materialized and were demanded. It was just a passenger transit system, but it had the ability to help move freight into downtown and the existing infrastructure and right-of-way's from the past railroads were just as integral to creating the subway route as the canal was.

The book takes a good look at some of the urban legends that still exist about the project and lays flat out what still exists, how well its kept up and if there's any truth to said legends. Not to mention, the beautiful color photographs help show the vast size of what still remains underground.

For me, the most interesting part was not just how the book shows what the subway could be used for in the future, but how the project has been used by various politicians. The book references numerous Cincinnati newspapers from the past and today to show how politicians used the project as a political took from it's inception all the way up to eighty years later in modern times. It's really fascinating how despite never being finished, the subway project has played an important political role without most evening knowing it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Subway's History Didn't Happen in a Vacuum February 4, 2011
By Jeffrey
Some reviewers decry this book's focus on the broader rail pattern of Cincinnati and other related railroad projects. However, these are things that must be dealt with in order to properly understand the subway project's context within Cincinnati's broader transportation system. Jake's analysis of the political implications of the subway project is something that's far too often neglected or ignored altogether when discussing the history of transportation. Most historical accounts deal with the "who, what, where, when, and how," but only give the question of "why" a cursory glance, or brush it off as changing attitudes or trends.

The reason why the subway project failed is almost universally misunderstood, and these misunderstandings continue to pollute the discourse of modern transportation projects in Cincinnati. This book dispels those misunderstandings, and if that makes it come across as somewhat negative, then so be it. Politics and special interests are an ugly business.

It's nice to see many new visuals in the book, both current and historical photographs as well as diagrams and maps from the various reports. As a reference, it's quite valuable, though some of the sections could use a little bit of fleshing out. The chapters on the construction of each segment of the subway for instance seem a bit anemic in certain parts. There's a few factual questions about specific routing and some of the short suburban tunnels that I was hoping to find but that weren't dealt with, for instance.

There were also a handful of things that were mentioned in the book with the expectation that the reader would know what they are, but which most people probably wouldn't understand, such as the abbreviated names of some of the interurban railways.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most comprehensive Cincinnati subway book to date December 13, 2010
By Randy
Many writers and historians have dove into the topic of Cincinnati's abandoned subway, but no one has captured the history and impact in such a comprehensive way as Mr. Mecklenborg in "Cincinnati's Incomplete Subway: The Complete History".

The book sheds new light on historical events that have yet to be reported on. The book also offers new perspective about what went wrong and how Cincinnati got to where it is today with regards to the abandoned subway and other forms of transport.

Beyond the unique historical perspective, the book offers up a wonderful look inside the subway as it exists today. Many previous pieces of literature used recycled historical images, while Mr. Mecklenborg went out and got breathtaking new photographs both inside and outside of the abandoned subway tunnels.

This book is perfect for any transportation history buff whether they are interested specifically in Cincinnati or not. Cincinnatians will also take particular enjoyment out of this book thanks to its new insight and perspectives about one of city's most interesting pieces of history.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cincinnati's Subway - The Full Story December 6, 2010
This book is one that will fully educate you on the Cincinnati Subway. Yes there is history on Cincinnati's railroad plans, but it ties in with the subway almost seamlessly as they directly affect each other. The author provided photos offer great visual's for those who enjoy seeing what the unfinished subway currently looks like. Overall, this book is perfect for the transit history buffs or for those who want the real story on the subway.
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