The Evolution of the Philadelphia Terminal When William H. Rau was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Railroad he found himself illustrating a company on the verge of unprecedented growth and change. Through the rest of the 1890s and well into the 20th Century the Pennsylvania Railroad would embark on some of its most ambitious system improvements to expand main line and terminal capacities. Philadelphia, the corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad was a focal point for many of these improvements, including new yards, stations, grade separations and electrification projects.
During this evolution the railroad commissioned photographers like Rau and William N. Jennings to meticulously catalogue the progress of various projects. This effort by the railroad connects to an important part of the Main Line Project, the use of historical imagery to inform viewers (and photographer) of the past significance of a given subject or place. This imagery allows us to visualize the continual change of the Philadelphia Terminal from the original Broad Street Station to construction of the north-south gateway we know today as 30th Street Station. By examining the images we gain a perspective of the complex changes during the Philadelphia improvements, a subject which will warrant further in depth discussion at another time.
This post is part of a lecture I will present this Thursday, March 7th from 6-7 PM at the Library Company of Philadelphia, who has on deposit over 450 original Rau images from the Pennsylvania Railroad Commission, as well as an extensive collection of William Jennings photographs. If you are in the Philadelphia area I encourage you to RSVP for the lecture at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The presentation will discuss how the dialogue between a historic and contemporary photo project evolves and will include a few original prints from Rau and myself in addition to the excellent exhibition, Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads. The Furness installation includes an amazing collection of artifacts, photographs and architectural drawings of architectural commissions for the Reading, Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio Railroads.