Not Just the High Line: 10 Lovely Parks That Used to Be Railroad Lines
Want to feel like you’re walking above the city? Here’s your ticket!
Everybody knows about the High Line in New York City, that blissful stretch of park space on an elevated former rail line. But did you know similar spaces exist in Chicago, Seoul, and Jerusalem? When trains stopped running through these areas, and weeds sprouted up in their place, locals hit on a genius idea: Why not turn these underutilized spaces into parks? Here are 10 parks carved out of former rail lines around the world. Slip into comfy shoes, grab your smartphone or camera, and see the neighborhood from a new perspective. Bonus: Many further utilize the space by showcasing murals and street art by local artists.
Georgia’s largest city is constantly thought to be linked with auto congestion but when you hop onto the BeltLine on foot or by bicycle you can easily traverse from one neighborhood to the next—no traffic jams at all. While the first segment opened back in 2010, born out of a Georgia Tech student’s master-degree thesis 10 years earlier that was built around frustration for the lack of viable transportation alternatives, more are still being added. Total length expects to be 22 miles. However, upon completion in 2022, and finalizing connection with the Silver Comet Trail, there will be 300 miles total, making it the longest paved trail surface in the country.
James Duckworth/ACVB & AtlantaPhotos
With pop-up art murals and installations, plus occasional events like a guided garden meditation, this 2.7-mile trail (also called The Bloomingdale Trail) in the Logan Square neighborhood debuted in 2015 only after 11 years of intense planning. During the 1990s this rail corridor came to a screeching halt. Combined with the discovery that this neighborhood had the lowest amount of green space per capita, green-space activists formed the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, and folded their dreams into the 2004 Logan Square Open Space Plan, working with the Trust for Public Land to secure private donations as well as manage the project.
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The High Line
WHERE: New York City
Tucked into Manhattan’s West Side Meatpacking and Chelsea neighborhoods, The High Line consists of sections that, combined, clock in at 1.45 miles. The first debuted in 2009 in the Meatpacking District, followed by the rest in 2011 and 2014, then 2019 (as the final piece). It’s on the former New York Central Railroad’s West Side spur. Along the route are attractions like the Diller-Von Furstenberg sundeck and water feature (at 14th and 15th streets), a birch grove, a lawn (at 23rd street), and 120 plant species curated by a Dutch landscape architect.
The Goods Line
WHERE: Sydney, Australia
Although traversing only a half-mile, The Goods Line in a suburb (Ultimo) of Australia’s largest city is optimally perched, utilizing a former freight line between Sydney Yard and the Darling Harbour shipping port, and packed with things to do, or simply congregate. This includes a waterpark area for kids, lawn space, table tennis dining tables. One end is at the southern end of Central Station (also home to the beginning of the 984-foot-long pedestrian Devonshire Street Tunnel). The two sections opened in 2012 and 2015.
Wpcpey [CC BY 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons
The Bridge of Flowers
WHERE: Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
The colorfully-named Bridge of Flowers lies in Western Massachusetts, on a former trolley bridge that since 1983 has allowed pedestrians to easily cross over on foot. Spanning 400 feet, anybody with a green thumb can appreciate all the work that goes into this vista, which is accessible between April and October and features somewhere around 500 plant varieties, including roses, dahlias, sunflowers, vines, shrubs, and other flowers.
The Rail Park
Open since the summer of 2018, The Rail Park —in Philly’s Center City—is the result of eight years of planning by Friends of the Rail Park. It’s located on what used to be a rail line for both passengers and freight, servicing Reading Terminal (you may know it for the food hall). Imagine three miles of elevated space that’s now home to bench swings (yes, really!), paths and greenery. Currently, just the first phase is open but the rest—totaling three miles—is in progress. Once it’s complete, 10 neighborhoods (or 50 city blocks) will seamlessly be connected via The Rail Park.
Michael Stokes [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons
WHERE: Seoul, South Korea
More of a “plant village” than a walkway, Seoul Skygarden—also called Seoullo 7171—was built in 2017, two years after the highway overpass closed and designed by Dutch firm MVRDV. The closest Seoul Metro subway stop is exit #1 and it’s a little more than a half-mile in length. While still evolving, plans call for there to be nearly 25,000 plants in the space, making it a definite green oasis in the middle of this large city. There’s also a strong educational component to the design: plants were arranged in order of the Korean alphabet, to entice visitors to learn their names.
Coulée verte René-Dumont
WHERE: Paris, France
Dating back to 1993, but conceptualized five years earlier, what is also called “promenade plantée” (in French, this means “tree-lined walkway”) has inspired many similar projects around the world, including New York City’s The High Line. Tucked into the 12th arrondissement, the walk stretches for 2.8 miles, featuring a mix of wild vegetation and carefully manicured sections, including lime and hazelnut trees, and rose bushes. One access point is easy to find: behind the Opéra Bastille.
WHERE: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
This former viaduct debuted in 2014 as a 1.25-mile pedestrian bridge packing in green spaces like a meadow, an orchard, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and children’s play areas. It’s on the grounds of the former Hofplein Rotterdam train station and, in its new chapter, has served as a venue for local arts organizations over the years to host performances, such as dance and theatre companies, and a silent-theatre group’s rooftop cinema.
Train Track Park
WHERE: Jerusalem, Israel
Locals use the 4.3-mile Train Track Park—where the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway operated until 1998—for walking, jogging, and bicycling as it travels through seven different neighborhoods. Playground equipment, water fountains, open-air bookshelves (free for the taking), and benches provide ideal resting spots as well as places to congregate. Over three years (2010 to 2013), sections of the park were developed, with lots of input from locals who lobbied for its creation.
Yoninah [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons