Members of Congress fled to the basement to board a special train

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

Many people have begun to wonder why hiding in the basement of the National Capitol would have provided any protection for Members of Congress, when thousands of rioters were swarming all over the building for 2 ½ hours on January 6, 2021.  There is more to the story that has not been told.

When 27 years ago, I was being interviewed for becoming the next Architect of the National Capitol, I got to see things that tourists never see and know things that our current batch of journalists don’t seem to know.  The reason that the members of Congress were told to put on gas masks was that if the rioters had broken into the chambers of the House and Senate, while still occupied by elected officials, a “knock out” gas would have been released into the chambers, causing the rioters to hit the deck like flies.

The members of Congress and their staffs fled down the stairs to catch the Midnight Train to Georgia.  Well, not exactly, but there is a special people mover system underground in the Capitol Complex, which would speed its riders to safety.  The official description of the special subway system of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. states that it consists of three underground electric people mover systems that connect the United States Capitol to all three of the Senate office buildings and one of the four House office buildings.  There is also a train serving the White House and Treasury Building.

The original Capitol Subway in the early 1900s

The real system is much more than that today.  The Capitol Hill Subway was initially designed in 1908 to interconnect an office building for Members of Congress with the Capitol, but today has extensions in classified (top secret) locations to speed Congress, the White House staff and senior members of the federal bureaucracy away from a threat, whether it be a pending nuclear attack or 30,000 crazies.  The original system provided protection only from conventional bombs, but the newer extensions also provide protection from nuclear blasts.

Location: United States Capitol Complex, Washington, DC

Operator: Architect of the Capitol

Began operation: March 7, 1909

Subway connecting the National Capitol with the Library of Congress


The National Park Service became interested in me as a candidate in early 1993, when Director Roger Kennedy learned that I not only had a heavy background in historic preservation, but had worked on the planning and design of the Midtown Atlanta subway section of MARTA, plus had a year of post-graduate Civil Engineering courses in the design and planning of rapid transit systems. At the time, there was a proposal to build a nuclear blast proof subway that could whisk government officials at 150 mph to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  In the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia are several underground “hotel complexes” which would enable our government to function after a large-scale nuclear attack.  I do not know if this rail line was constructed . . . but I suspect it was . . . at least a version of the original concept.

The initial letter from the NPS stated that I was ranked number one on technical qualifications and the examination.  A second letter said that I was ranked number three because two other candidates got 10 points for being veterans and 10 Affirmative Action points for being in a minority ethnic group.  One of those other two also got another 10 points for being female.

In the meantime, my former wife urged me to visit my parents in Georgia during Easter weekend.   In my absence, she cleaned out the bank accounts, ran all our credit cards to the limit and filed for a marital separation.  While I was doing odd jobs in Georgia to scramble up enough money to get back to Northern Virginia, pay a motel bill and hire a lawyer, the NPS sent a third letter.

The reviewers of my application had forgotten to award me 10 points for being a Creek Indian, plus had not given me credit for managerial positions in the private sector.  Thus, now again I ranked number one among candidates.  I did not know about that letter until 3 1/2 years later, when I was in Roger Kennedy’s office on another matter.  My wife had told the National Park Service that she didn’t know where I was!

Well, at least the experience enabled me to 27 years later tell readers something that they didn’t learn from the major TV networks.  LOL 


  1. As a child of about five my grandfather took me down to see his work place under the capital…….. so I saw some of the pedestrian passages that ran down there. Huge and well lit with super smooth surface. My main memory of it was, “Oh, I need my roller skates!.” This was probably 1956.
    Off topic, I drove thru Dillard last week and noticed there has been some excavations at Nacoochee school. Looks like some drainage work at the base of slope not far from the road. Oh, how I would love to poke around in those dirt piles and ditches, That school site gives me tingles every time I go past. Perfect spot to view and protect the kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tsali’s farmstead was just south of the Rabun-Gap Nacoochee School. His real name was Charlie of Tchali. He lived in a Uchee village, which was on the edges of the Cherokee Nation.


  2. Yes Richard. The Greenbrier Hotel and Resort in W. VA. was at the end the end of the RR line for a long time. Giant fallout shelter for those running the Government during the worst scenario.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did not know that. There was an underground shelter in North Mountain, just west of my farm. One night, two huge flat bed trailer trucks hauled two M1 Abrams tanks out of what was made to look like a barn.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Richard, “And the Kings of the Earth and the rich man…shall flea to the cracks of the Mountains…” all this has been written down for all long time. I don’t think people understand “the Kingdom of the Beast is on the way” and just how anti-bible these people are. “Take heed no man deceive You” as Native people know Evil man says one thing and does the other. We should all review what this country has become with its massive Drug problems and open borders in the A-bomb age? We are now a 3 Trillion benefits a year country that is going to go dead broke.

    Liked by 1 person

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