Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Holiday Wishes - From The Main Line

A light set of Norfolk Southern helper locomotives nears the Allegheny Summit in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, on the original line opened by the PRR in 1854. 

A light set of Norfolk Southern helper locomotives nears the Allegheny Summit in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, on the original line opened by the PRR in 1854. 

Since the Pennsylvania Railroad started moving trains across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a railroad empire began to take shape, eventually becoming a leader in the industry, an innovator of technology, and the model of the modern corporation. The storied history of the Pennsylvania Railroad is a big part of the American story, connecting people and industry, moving them safely and efficiently across the land. 

When I set out some time ago to document the Pennsylvania Railroad, I had an idea of what to expect, what I might learn, and what I would see along the railroad. What I did not anticipate, is how many wonderful individuals and organizations I would come to work with or the opportunities I would have to share the Main Line project. Reflecting on another incredible year, I would like to thank you all for your continued support. The Main Line project and all its associated endeavors continue to move ahead, and 2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year for new projects, exhibitions, and opportunities. I have put together some of my favorite holiday posts for you to enjoy and as always new content will resume in the new year.
 
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may you all have a safe and healthy New Year!

Sincerely,
 
Michael Froio


Of Railroads & Holidays | For many, the railroads have long been associated with the holiday season. The notion of the long journey home to see loved ones or the family tradition of setting up the model trains from generations ago under the tree seems universal. TV and Cinema have celebrated the train countless times during the holiday season, like when Ralphie, his brother, and friends marveled over the window display of Lionel trains in the cult classic, A Christmas Story. Or when the Hollywood production based on Chris Van Allsburg's 1985 book, The Polar Express has the Pere Marquette 1225 take a central role in making the journey to the North Pole. (Read More)


The Liberty Limited "AND NOW, in time for the holidays, I bring you the best Christmas story you never heard." A heartwarming story from Ronnie Polaneczky's article published in the Philadelphia Daily News on December 22, 2005

It started last "We have to let them know we care," Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philly, on Dec. 3. Christmas, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. (Read More)


Holiday Traditions - This time of year, family and friends come together to celebrate the holidays with traditions developed over generations. As a part of our family tradition, I have the pleasure to read to my children on Christmas Eve as my father did before, the fabled poem, The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore. First published anonymously in December of 1823, it is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem on Christmas Eve.

The story and illustrations presented here were made in 1953 by Pennsylvania Railroad employee, William W. Seigford Jr. who maintained an office at the Harrisburg Passenger Station. (Read More)


Model Trains | A Holiday Tradition -  As a welcome change from my normal writing and research I have often celebrated the tradition of digging out the model trains of various vintage after Thanksgiving for the Christmas season in various articles and images. Last year I highlighted an icon of the 20th Century: The Lionel Company. I grew up with my father's Lionel trains, loving the idea of these rugged three-railed trains, the smell of ozone and smoke pellets, the automated accessories, the die-cast metal, but in reality, the noise of those things scared the hell out of me! (Read More)

Christiana | Last Stop in Lancaster County

Previously, on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline we left off in Lancaster County at Mine Ridge, the highest point on the PRR east of the Alleghenies. The route closely follows the original 1834 alignment of the PRR's predecessor, the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, crossing through a gap in the ridge between Lancaster and Chester Counties and the divide between the Susquehanna and Deleware Watersheds. From the west, the line climbs the grade between Kinzer and Gap on a series of reverse curves in short succession following a brief tangent, attaining the summit at roughly milepost 50. The eastward descent starts into another  1-degree curve positioning the line into a long straight until reaching Christiana, the last station along the line in Lancaster County. In Christiana, the line again navigates another series of reverse curves flanking the town center followed by a sharp curve at North Bend where the line crosses into Chester County.

A modern-day view of the 1912 era Christiana train station. While manufacturing has left communities like this, the historical character and old buildings speak to the Borough's importance in industrial history throughout the United States in the 19th Century .

A modern-day view of the 1912 era Christiana train station. While manufacturing has left communities like this, the historical character and old buildings speak to the Borough's importance in industrial history throughout the United States in the 19th Century.

The area around Christiana took root in the 1690's after King Charles II granted William Penn 45,000 square miles of land west of the Delaware River. Originally part of Chester County, Sadsbury Township was part of a land transfer to establish Lancaster Country in 1729. As a result, Sadsbury Township spanned the new county line, and thus became two separate townships by the same name in each of the neighboring counties. By the dawn of the 19th Century, Christiana began to develop around the crossroads of the Lancaster and the Gap & Newport Turnpikes, both major eastern trade routes. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 would rival many of these roads taking away commerce and trade from the port city of Philadelphia, thus affecting developing towns along the way. The Commonwealth's answer was to build a state-owned system utilizing a railroad between Philadelphia and the Susquehanna River and a canal system west to Pittsburgh, including a series of inclined planes to cross the Alleghenies. The new rail line, called the Philadelphia & Columbia, brought great promise for developing communities like Christianna. The railroad and the larger Mainline of Public Works would allow people and industry to connect with markets outside their region, providing a potentially unlimited opportunity for commerce.

The P&C commenced operations in 1834, around the same time local businessman, William Noble constructed a foundry and blacksmith shop along the line in Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County. Ten years later Hugh McClarron opened a grain and produce business, and by 1846 Samuel L. Denney purchased the foundry from Noble, adding a machine shop to the operation. By 1847 the growing village became officially known as Christiana, named for Noble's first wife. Denny's endeavor followed suit, and the new Christiana Machine became a focal point of industrial commerce in the area. 

View looking west from the mainline, showing the old (left) and new (right) alignments of the right of way. Soon the old right of way and overpass would be removed. Cattle pens and a siding in the immediate foreground are in the vicinity of the freight house which still stands today. Note the absence of the fourth track which indicates that this view was before 1895. Library of Congress HAER collection.

View looking west from the mainline, showing the old (left) and new (right) alignments of the right of way. Soon the old right of way and overpass would be removed. Cattle pens and a siding in the immediate foreground are in the vicinity of the freight house which still stands today. Note the absence of the fourth track which indicates that this view was before 1895. Library of Congress HAER collection.

Annotated map of the Borough of Christiana illustrating the original P&C alignment (red) and the relocated mainline (white), part of the PRR's line improvements completed in 1895. Note the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch in the bottom left, which would not be completed until 1906, joins the right of way to the east of here.

Annotated map of the Borough of Christiana illustrating the original P&C alignment (red) and the relocated mainline (white), part of the PRR's line improvements completed in 1895. Note the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch in the bottom left, which would not be completed until 1906, joins the right of way to the east of here.

By the 1880's the failed Mainline of Public Works had long since been sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad, putting Christiana alongside one of the most ambitious interstate rail transportation systems in the land. The town itself thrived, now a borough of 800 residents, complete with a new library association, bank, and town newspaper. Christiana was home to a diverse base of manufacturing with much of its output shipped by rail. Christiana Machine, once again under new ownership, evolved from making farming implements to the production of water turbine equipment and later other elements for power transmission systems for shipment all over the developing nation.

Growing with the ever-increasing traffic demands the PRR was amidst an era of improvements in the 1890's, addressing both capacity and infrastructure limitations. Symbolized by the PRR's impressive stone bridges and four-track system, the improvements program targeted issues that stemmed from the early construction of the right of way. In this particular region, the engineers and contractors building the P&C mainline encountered springs, and quicksand while excavating the pass over the Gap Summit. The compromise was less cutting to avoid the muck resulting in steeper grades. Cheif Engineer William H. Brown looked to finish what the P&C could not accomplish some fifty years before.  As a result, measures were taken to re-grade and realign the railroad between Gap and North Bend. 

In Christiana, the tracks were shifted from the old P&C right-of-way to a new alignment altogether, moving the tracks some  150' to reduce the curvature and accommodate the expansion of the right of way to four tracks. The realignment necessitated moving the large brick freight house some 40' east and the abandonment of the existing Bridge Street overpass. Construction of its replacement called for the use of a "new" Whipple style iron truss span, repurposed from improvements undertaken on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore, where the mainline crossed White Clay Creek below Wilmington. 

The remains of the original Philadelphia & Columbia stone arch bridge crossing Pine Creek still survive despite being part of the right of way that was abandoned during the 1890's line improvements between Gap and Atglen, Pennsylvania. The structures at the left are part of what was Christiana Machine, one of the first industries in Sadsbury Township to take advantage of the railroad's expanded market reach.

The remains of the original Philadelphia & Columbia stone arch bridge crossing Pine Creek still survive despite being part of the right of way that was abandoned during the 1890's line improvements between Gap and Atglen, Pennsylvania. The structures at the left are part of what was Christiana Machine, one of the first industries in Sadsbury Township to take advantage of the railroad's expanded market reach.

At North Bend, where the railroad arcs from a north-south to an east-west orientation through the gap in the North Valley Hills, a substantial cut was excavated at the base of Zion Hill,  accommodating the wider right-of-way, reducing curvature from the previous P&C alignment. The 1895 annual report from the PRR notes the completion of this segment of four track line from Atglen to Gap, among other places. Not much else would change in Christiana except for the construction of a modest new passenger facility and pedestrian subway along the Gay Street underpass in 1912. 

While Christiana lost passenger service in 1952, the station remained open as a Railway Express office until 1962. Though much of the region's manufacturing shifted away from smaller communities like Christiana, the landmark brick freight house and passenger station survive, the former becoming the home of the Lancaster Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society who restored the building to its original condition. The Lancaster Chapter, chartered in 1936 is the founding Chapter of NRHS and a very accomplished group in the field of preservation of railroad structures and equipment.  The mainline today serves the Amtrak Keystone Corridor, hosting some thirty trains a day, still rolling through Christiana and the right of way improvements of the late 1800's.

 

Summer News and Events

Greetings! I hope everyone is having a great summer and taking some much deserved time off to enjoy the season with family and friends. Here is a quick list of some upcoming and ongoing events pertaining to the Main Line Project! 

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   Semi-automatic signals beckon outside the window of the station waiting room in Chester, Pennsylvania on the former Chesapeake Division   mainline   to Washington D.C., 2016.

Semi-automatic signals beckon outside the window of the station waiting room in Chester, Pennsylvania on the former Chesapeake Division mainline to Washington D.C., 2016.

They All Fall Down | Lamenting the loss of a classic PRR Signal - The Position Light
I am very excited to have a new article featured on the blog, The Trackside Photographer this week. The piece focuses on the Pennsylvania Railroad's classic Position Light signals, many of which face an uncertain future as railroads push to implement Positive Train Control. It's a sizable article featuring a lot of imagery, several which have never been published. Please pay the Trackside Photographer a visit if you haven't already, they are doing a fantastic job featuring a diverse range of photographers and writers whose work focuses on the railroad landscape, it's an honor to have work published there! 

Plate 36. B.Q. Tower and Signals - Bellewood, Pennsylvania, Middle Division (III-895), William H Rau, Altoona Public Library Collection. One of 27 images currently on display in the exhibition William H. Rau: Urban, Rural, Rail at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art - Altoona.  

Plate 36. B.Q. Tower and Signals - Bellewood, Pennsylvania, Middle Division (III-895), William H Rau, Altoona Public Library Collection. One of 27 images currently on display in the exhibition William H. Rau: Urban, Rural, Rail at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art - Altoona.  

Ongoing Exhibition: William H Rau: Urban, Rural, Rail

On view through September 9th, 2017. Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art - Altoona

The current exhibition on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Altoona has more than a month remaining and is generating a lot of great feedback so far. The exhibition features a selection of Rau's Pennsylvania Railroad images from the Altoona Public Library collection, along with several images from the Main Line Project. If you are in the area, the exhibition at SAMA - Altoona is a must see! 

Rau Symposium - SAMA - Altoona: August 16

In conjunction with the ongoing exhibition, I will be speaking at a symposium along with Penn State - Altoona history lecturer Julie Fether who curated the show. My talk will focus on Rau's imagery and how it continues to inspire my project, while Julie will discuss how the show evolved, tying in influences from Harvard Landscape Studies Professor, John Stilgoe's writings and ideas on the "art and practice of 'seeing' landscape." 

The event is at the SAMA - Altoona location on Wednesday, August 16th from 11AM-1PM, lunch provided, and costs $15 ($14 for SAMA members). Reservations are required by calling the museum at (814) 946-4464 or emailing altoona@sama-art.org. 

Pop- Up Exhibition: The Study at University City - Philadelphia
On display through September 30th. 

An excellent opportunity came up recently to showcase some work from the Main Line Project, at the Study, a beautiful new Hotel in University City, central to Drexel University's campus at 33rd and Chestnut Streets, in Philadelphia. The small show includes ten pieces from the project and is free and open to the public. If you're in the area, please stop in and have a look! 

The Study at University City, 20 S 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA

Spring News and Events

 Historical Image Credits (bottom row) L,R. W.T. Purviance, Collection of the New York Public Library, C. Frederick Gutekunst, Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

 Historical Image Credits (bottom row) L,R. W.T. Purviance, Collection of the New York Public Library, C. Frederick Gutekunst, Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

The Pennsylvania Railroad | A Legacy in Images
Please join me Tuesday, May 9th for the rescheduled lecture for the Harrisburg NRHS chapter, exploring the important role historical imagery plays in my ongoing project, From the Main Line, A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The lecture is part of the Harrisburg Chapter’s monthly meeting and is free and open to the public.

May 9th, 2017 | Meeting begins at 7 PM
National Railway Historical Society
Harrisburg Chapter

Hoss’s Steak and Seahouse
743 Wertzville Road
Enola, Pennsylvania


The 2017 Mainline Art Center Spring Gala and Fundraiser Exhibition

Buy a Print, Support a Great Cause! This piece will be part of the Main Line Art Center's 2017 Spring Gala and Fund Raiser exhibition. The Gala is Saturday, April 29th, and the exhibition runs April 30th through June 3rd, 2017. Please visit the Main Line Art Center's Website for more information. 

Creative Commissions | Upcoming Lecture

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Please, join me for a lecture I will be giving Saturday, April 29th, exploring how my creative projects lead to large scale project documentations for Conrail Shared Assets. The lecture will discuss the technical challenges, equipment, and logistics of documenting three major railroad infrastructure projects in the Delaware Valley. Through previously unreleased images, videos and plenty of behind the scenes views, the presentation illustrates what was required to accomplish a cohesive and creative documentation of classic large-scale railroad engineering projects.

April 29th, 1:30 PM. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society
Philadelphia Chapter

Drexel Hill Methodist Church | 600 Burmont Road, Drexel Hill, PA   

NRHS Harrisburg | Lecture Postponed

One train in an endless parade of eastbound traffic works its way slowly up the West Slope on the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line in Portage, Pennsylvania

One train in an endless parade of eastbound traffic works its way slowly up the West Slope on the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line in Portage, Pennsylvania

Due to the impending Nor'easter, the Harrisburg Chapter has decided to cancel the lecture for Tuesday, March 14th; the event will be rescheduled for May 9th. I will send out more information as the new date gets closer.

Upcoming Lecture | The Pennsylvania Railroad: A Legacy in Imagery

Stone bridges crossing the Neshaminy Creek, Pennsylvania Railroad Trenton Cut-Off, part of the Low Grade Freight Line between Morrisville and Enola, Pennsylvania. Join me March 14th to learn how historical imagery inspires new works in my ongoing project documenting the former Pennsylvania Railroad and the landscape it travels.  

Stone bridges crossing the Neshaminy Creek, Pennsylvania Railroad Trenton Cut-Off, part of the Low Grade Freight Line between Morrisville and Enola, Pennsylvania. Join me March 14th to learn how historical imagery inspires new works in my ongoing project documenting the former Pennsylvania Railroad and the landscape it travels.  

"In the Packsaddle, On the Conemaugh" Vintage photomechanical reproduction. Images like this were mass produced in travel books to entice travelers to ride the rails or to provide a visual memoir of one's trip. Today these images provide a unique view into the PRR's past taming the wilds of Pennsylvania. 

"In the Packsaddle, On the Conemaugh" Vintage photomechanical reproduction. Images like this were mass produced in travel books to entice travelers to ride the rails or to provide a visual memoir of one's trip. Today these images provide a unique view into the PRR's past taming the wilds of Pennsylvania. 

At the dawn of the industrial revolution, the American railroad became the vehicle at which life’s pace was set. Growing in the east and expanding across the western frontier the railroad was responsible for America’s success. Engineering such a system at such a rapid speed was no small task, the men who ran these companies understood the value of their accomplishments and wanted to share it with the world. To tout their new transportation systems, luring travelers to ride this modern marvel and experience the American landscape railroads turned to another new product of the industrial age: photography. Railroads employed some the most preeminent photographers of the time, outfitting darkroom cars, placed under the direction of senior passenger agents to see that their photographer had the best accommodations to illustrate their pride and joy. 

While photography and the railroads redefined the 19th century’s perception of space and time, surviving imagery leaves us a rich visual legacy to derive tremendous amounts of information about the railway, the landscape and the energy of the industrial age. It’s this imagery that feeds my creativity and imagination, allowing me to visualize the prominent role the Pennsylvania Railroad played in developing the United States.  These volumes of visual assets are the foundation of what inspires my work; the photographer’s technical and aesthetic ability, the conceptual ideas and the resulting images rich with information foster a dialogue with my image making, inspiring new works from pictures of the past.

Please join me Tuesday, March 14th for a lecture exploring the important role historical imagery plays in my ongoing project, From the Mainline, A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The lecture is part of the Harrisburg Chapter’s meeting and is free and open to the public.

March 14th, 2017 | Meeting begins at 7 PM
National Railway Historical Society
Harrisburg Chapter

Hoss’s Steak and Seahouse
743 Wertzville Road
Enola, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia | Lecture Friday, February 17th

Susquehanna River Bridge, Perryville, Maryland. Images like this provide the visual clues of the evolution of the PRR network; the surviving piers of the 1866 Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna stands adjacent to its replacement completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906. Learn how I draw inspiration from historical imagery to create contemporary images that explore the surviving infrastructure of the PRR while considering its impact on the surrounding landscape. 

Susquehanna River Bridge, Perryville, Maryland. Images like this provide the visual clues of the evolution of the PRR network; the surviving piers of the 1866 Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna stands adjacent to its replacement completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906. Learn how I draw inspiration from historical imagery to create contemporary images that explore the surviving infrastructure of the PRR while considering its impact on the surrounding landscape. 

Please join me Friday, February 17th at the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society's monthly meeting conveniently located on Drexel University's main campus. I will be presenting a lecture on my ongoing photographic project, From the Main Line: A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The project explores the Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the most celebrated corporations in American history, operating the largest railroad in the United States for over 120 years. The PRR, as it was known, developed a unique high-capacity network that still carries trains throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. After the merger of the PRR with long-time rival New York Central in 1968, the network has changed considerably, separated by various successors into distinct corridors for both freight and passenger operations. What remains provides the visual clues of the PRR's monumental infrastructure and its contributions to developing the American way of life.

Inspired by the work of William H. Rau, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Road in the 1890’s to document the railroad and its destinations, "From the Main Line" is an exploration of the landscape along the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Examining both the inhabited landscape developed along the line while celebrating the grace of an engineering marvel undertaken over 150 years ago. Through a two-fold approach, photographs look at the context of the railroad in the landscape and also work to emulate the viewpoint of what the passenger might experience from a railcar window. The story of how this railroad influenced the development of United States is told by illustrating the transitioning landscape, uncovering the layers of growth, decline and rebirth of small towns, industrial areas and city terminals that were once served by this historic transportation system.

The lecture is Friday, February 17th, 2017, part of the NRHS Philadelphia Chapter’s monthly meeting. The program is free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 PM in 121 Randell Hall (accessed though the Main Building), Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. Drexel University's campus is centrally located near 30th Street Station and is easily accessible by bus, rapid transit and regional rail. For more information please contact me directly at Michael@michaelfroio.com. 

Winter News & Events

Northbound waiting room, Pennsylvania Station, Wilmington, Delaware. This remarkable space is part of the 1907 Frank Furness station in the city of Wilmington and is one of two new images included in the Professional Artist members Exhibition. 

Northbound waiting room, Pennsylvania Station, Wilmington, Delaware. This remarkable space is part of the 1907 Frank Furness station in the city of Wilmington and is one of two new images included in the Professional Artist members Exhibition. 

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST MEMBERS EXHIBITION 2017

Opening Reception Tonight: Friday, January 13th, 2016. 5:30 - 7:30 PM

I have two new prints from the Main Line project included in the 2017 Professional Artists Network Exhibition at the Main Line Art Center. The group exhibition features the work of roughly 50 artists and runs from January 13 – February 11, 2017. Gallery Hours are Monday – Thursday: 10 am to 8 pm and Friday – Sunday: 10 am-4 pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Mainline Art Center | 746 Panmure Road in Haverford PA


Mainline Art Center | 2017 Meyer Family Award for Contemporary Art Finalist
For the second year in a row The Mainline Art Center of Haverford, Pennsylvania selected the Main Line project as one of seven finalists for the 2017 Meyer Family Award for Contemporary Art. The competition featured over 200 applicants, awarding three solo shows to artists representing a diverse base of mediums while honoring an additional seven finalists with Professional Artist programming throughout 2017. For more information on programs and exhibitions at the Mainline Art Center visit their website


Some new work for the Mainline Project was recently included in Alexander Benjamin Craghead's article for Railroad Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. Image credits, clockwise from the top left; John Sanderson, Stuart Klipper, John Sanderson and Travis Dewitz.  Reproduction courtesy of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Some new work for the Mainline Project was recently included in Alexander Benjamin Craghead's article for Railroad Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. Image credits, clockwise from the top left; John Sanderson, Stuart Klipper, John Sanderson and Travis Dewitz. Reproduction courtesy of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

The [Rail]Road Belongs in the Landscape | J.B. Jackson and the Photographic Depiction of American Railroads

I am honored to be part of a fantastic article written by Alexander Benjamin Craghead for the Center for Railroad Photography and Art's quarterly journal Railroad Heritage. The article delves into the writings and lectures of landscape studies scholar John Brinckerhoff Jackson, exploring how his work has influenced several generations of noted photographers who's imagery focuses on the railroad landscape. It is a privilege to be featured among several accomplished photographers and peers including Edward Burtynsky, Jeff Brouws, Travis Dewitz and John Sanderson in a thoughtful piece that celebrates work about the railroad but not implicitly the trains themselves. The Center has taken significant initiatives to expand the horizons of both rail enthusiasts, historians and photographers alike while broadening the reach of this genre beyond the average audience. Craghead teaches American Cultural Landscapes at the University of California, Berkeley, a class started by J. B. Jackson many years ago. He'll be presenting more on the subject of Jackson and railroad photography at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art's annual Conference in Lake Forest, IL at the end of April. 


Upcoming Lecture | Philadelphia Chapter, National Railway Historical Society

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I’ll be presenting a lecture on my ongoing photographic project, From the Main Line: A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad for the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Inspired by the work of photographer William H. Rau, who was commissioned in the 1890’s to document the PRR and its destinations, the project explores the transitioning landscape along the former PRR main line from New York to Pittsburgh, highlighting the unique vernacular of facilities and infrastructure built by the PRR. This project combines historical research and original imagery to present a creative documentation of one of the most important railroads in American history.

The NRHS was founded in 1935 by a group of rail historians. It has since grown from 40 founding members to include over 13,000 men and women of all ages and professions in every state and many foreign countries, making it the nation’s largest rail preservation and historical society. The Philadelphia Chapter, established in 1936 is one of the founding chapters and has been instrumental in preserving the local railway scene. The lecture, on Friday, February 17th, 2017, is part of the Philadelphia Chapter’s monthly meeting. The program is free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 PM in 121 Randell Hall, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. More information to follow as the date approaches. 

Of Railroads and Holidays

The 1932 painting "On Time!" by Griff Teller was part of a series of paintings commissioned for the PRR's annual calendar. Reproduced countless times author Dan Cupper wrote in the book "Crossroads of Commerce" that Teller's celebrated painting, "stirs a longing for - and makes a powerful statement about - railroading that melts boundaries of time and geography." This painting was an image used time and time again to illustrate the ability of the Pennsylvania, particularly in the Holiday season. Grif Teller reproduction collection of the Author

The 1932 painting "On Time!" by Griff Teller was part of a series of paintings commissioned for the PRR's annual calendar. Reproduced countless times author Dan Cupper wrote in the book "Crossroads of Commerce" that Teller's celebrated painting, "stirs a longing for - and makes a powerful statement about - railroading that melts boundaries of time and geography." This painting was an image used time and time again to illustrate the ability of the Pennsylvania, particularly in the Holiday season. Grif Teller reproduction collection of the Author

1948 holiday advertisement for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

1948 holiday advertisement for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

For many the railroads have long been associated with the holiday season. The notion of the long journey home to see loved ones or the family tradition of setting up the model trains from generations ago under the tree seems universal. TV and Cinema have celebrated the train countless times during the holiday season, like when Ralphie, his brother, and friends marveled over the window display of Lionel trains in the cult classic, A Christmas Story. Or when the Hollywood production based on Chris Van Allsburg's 1985 book, The Polar Express has the Pere Marquette 1225 take a central role in making the journey to the North Pole.

For over fifty years trains were just as essential to the holiday as the Christmas tree itself. Railroads prided themselves on the herculean effort of moving passengers, mail, and packages to ensure everyone and everything arrived on time for Christmas. Seasonal ads illustrated a concerted effort between Santa Claus and the transportation networks while traveling children slept snug in the berths on the latest streamlined train. Toy trains have been part of the American experience since the turn of the century. Lionel became the gold standard, leading the pack in producing electric powered trains for well over 60 years but some also took preference to the American Flyer and smaller competitors when constructing a holiday layout.

Today trains still play an integral part of the holiday season; at home, families continue the model railroad tradition started generations ago.  On the rails, our mail and packages don't specifically travel in railcars, but the trucks they get loaded into and containers they are shipped by are neatly stacked on the decks of flatcars making up one land ship after another of merchandise, parcels, and gifts heading for a coveted spot under the tree. Like the golden years of the railroads, armies of men and women work around the clock to keep the trains rolling; on the ground, in the cab and remote dispatching centers, often missing time with their loved ones to ensure the trains get through.
 

An eastbound container train descends the Allegheny mountains approaching the famed Horse Shoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. The contemporary railroad still plays a vital role in transporting the goods to stores and packages to homes around the country. Container ship lines as well as UPS, Fed Ex and trucking companies J.B. Hunt among others rely heavily on the use of the railroad to ensure merchandise makes it to the stores and packages get delivered in time for a spot under the Christmas Tree.

An eastbound container train descends the Allegheny mountains approaching the famed Horse Shoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. The contemporary railroad still plays a vital role in transporting the goods to stores and packages to homes around the country. Container ship lines as well as UPS, Fed Ex and trucking companies J.B. Hunt among others rely heavily on the use of the railroad to ensure merchandise makes it to the stores and packages get delivered in time for a spot under the Christmas Tree.

Whatever place the railroad has in your holiday season, share it with future generations. Consider expanding upon the trains handed down from family or start a new tradition of visiting a local model railroad, or perhaps take the kids or grandkids for a ride on a holiday themed excursion. While the train has been central to the holidays for many years, today it serves a different role, a diversion from the fast paced electronic lifestyles we indulge in day after day. An excuse to slow down and celebrate family time and traditions over generations. May you all have some time to rest and relax during the holiday season celebrating friends and loved ones!

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may you all have a safe and healthy New Year!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

 

Managing the Line: Communications on the A&S

This 1906 view shows the wood frame tower at Quarryville (Milepost 10.8), the first interlocking tower west of Parkesburg. "Q" had control over the two main tracks and four additional sidings to manage helper movements assisting trains to Mars Hill Summit. Additionally four water columns were available to top off steam locomotive tenders on their journey east or west. Image collection of William L. Seigford

This 1906 view shows the wood frame tower at Quarryville (Milepost 10.8), the first interlocking tower west of Parkesburg. "Q" had control over the two main tracks and four additional sidings to manage helper movements assisting trains to Mars Hill Summit. Additionally four water columns were available to top off steam locomotive tenders on their journey east or west. Image collection of William L. Seigford

Running over 53 miles in length the PRR's Atglen & Susquehanna Branch was a shining example of modern railway construction, running across rolling countryside and up the Susquehanna River on a gentle gradient. Fittingly for such a contemporary piece of railroad engineering, another advancement of modern times accompanied the line; the telephone. By the time the A&S opened for business in 1906, the PRR was rapidly working towards constructing one of the world's largest private telephone networks, laying cable along its system for critical functions like dispatching trains in addition to providing an extensive "in-house" communication network. The PRR's interest in telephone technology dates back to 1877 when officials invited Thomas A. Watson, assistant to Alexander Graham Bell for a demonstration in Altoona. While the railroad made a modest investment for non-critical communication following this meeting, it wouldn't be until 1897 when the technology was employed to dispatch trains entirely by phone on the South Fork Branch of the Pittsburgh Division.

The Pennsylvania Railroad maintained standard plans for watch boxes and telephone shelters among countless other items on the property. These structures were common along the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch; At one point there were 11 watch box locations in addition to line side telephones were spaced approximately 1.25 miles to provide direct contact with block operators and dispatchers in the event that a track inspector needed to report a problem with the line. Collection of Pat McKinney, courtesy of  Rob Schoenberg's PRR page

The Pennsylvania Railroad maintained standard plans for watch boxes and telephone shelters among countless other items on the property. These structures were common along the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch; At one point there were 11 watch box locations in addition to line side telephones were spaced approximately 1.25 miles to provide direct contact with block operators and dispatchers in the event that a track inspector needed to report a problem with the line. Collection of Pat McKinney, courtesy of Rob Schoenberg's PRR page

As technology was improved, the PRR began investing heavily in building a communication network, and by 1920 almost the entire system was dispatched by telephone. East of Paoli in the electrified territory, cable was laid in an underground duct system, west of Paoli the cable lines were often above ground on lineside poles and west of Harrisburg an extensive line side open wire system was employed. By 1955 the PRR boasted some impressive statistics in their company magazine, The Pennsy stating, "Today the PRR's network is generally accepted to be the largest private telephone system in the world. Its transmission lines stretch 41,000 miles. It's cost, together with that of the associated Teletype network, totals $35 million. On any typical day, PRR lines carry an estimated half-million calls." 

With the start of operations, the A&S was dispatched by phone from Harrisburg, out on the line local control via eight block stations provided the means for changing tracks and relay orders to passing trains. These included Parkesburg (PG), Atglen (NI), Quarryville (Q), Shenks Ferry - (SF - later Smith), Cresswell (CO), Columbia (LG-42), Marietta (RQ) and Wago Junction (WJ). Additionally, the PRR constructed 11 watch boxes along the A&S that were staffed 24/7 due to the continuous risk of washouts and cave-ins with the numerous cuts, fills, culverts and bridges along the line. Track inspectors could reach dispatchers via the watch boxes or line side phone boxes spaced roughly every 1.25 miles for field access in the event a situation should arise.

L.  Shenks Ferry (Smith) interlocking tower circa 1967. This tower survived the electrification and addition of automatic block signals in 1938 and was employed as needed in the event of a wreck or track work in the area. Photo by William R. Fry, Jr.  R.  LG27, one of 11 watch boxes on the A&S Branch, located just west of the Safe Harbor Viaduct where sharp cliffs and rock cuts posed concerns. These were staffed 24/7 and equipped with the necessary tools, a stove and telephone box for inspectors to conduct their work while staying in constant contact with block operators and dispatchers. Collection of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

L. Shenks Ferry (Smith) interlocking tower circa 1967. This tower survived the electrification and addition of automatic block signals in 1938 and was employed as needed in the event of a wreck or track work in the area. Photo by William R. Fry, Jr. R. LG27, one of 11 watch boxes on the A&S Branch, located just west of the Safe Harbor Viaduct where sharp cliffs and rock cuts posed concerns. These were staffed 24/7 and equipped with the necessary tools, a stove and telephone box for inspectors to conduct their work while staying in constant contact with block operators and dispatchers. Collection of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

Consolidation of block station and train order offices began during the Depression, with Quarryville placed out of service on August 11th, 1928. More change in operations came with the final phase of electrification completed in 1938. The project, which included the installation of automatic block signals and the implementation of established Current of Traffic Rule 251 eliminating the need for intermediate manned block stations. An additional benefit of the signal system was the integration of slide detector fences in areas prone to rockslides, eliminating the need for staffed watch boxes. Cola tower opened in Columbia sporting a 120 lever centralized traffic control machine, dispatching over 175 miles of freight only territory.  Under its jurisdiction on the A&S were Cresswell, LG-42 and Marietta (Shocks) as well as trackage down the Port Road south to Holtwood. Parkesburg was also rebuilt, relocated to a one of a kind brick single story building, containing a 39-lever Union Switch & Signal Model P interlocking machine. The last block station of note proved to be a bit of mystery, NI at Atglen just a few miles west of Parkesburg closed sometime between 1928 and 1945 based on various employee resources, but at this time I have found little else to narrow the dates of its demise. By the time electrification was complete all but one remaining manned block station survived on the A&S between Parkesburg and Cola; Shenks Ferry (SF), later renamed Smith, was retained as a part-time facility due to its location approximately midway between Cress and Parkesburg. While Smith ultimately met its demise, Cola survived into the Conrail era, closing in March of 1987, followed by the A&S in 1988. On the opposite end of the line, Parkesburg survived well into the 21st Century under Amtrak. The closing of Parkesburg during the Keystone Corridor improvements was the first in a string of tower closures that mark the end of an era in technology and dispatching that lasted longer than the company that helped pioneer the technology.

 

Fall News and Events

Well its fall, the weather is cooling off, the light is getting nice and its time to get back to work! I have a lot of good stuff in store for next couple of months including a big update of work on my website, a lecture for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and an article feature on the blog The Trackside Photographer, a platform that explores the larger idea of understanding the historic nature of the railroad landscape. Additionally I have a lot of great material in the cue for the blog Photographs & History, rounding out the exploration of the former Pennsylvania Railroad Atglen & Susquehanna Branch and continuing east exploring the mainline into Chester County, Pennsylvania. 


View of Peter’s Mountain from Sherman’s Creek, Duncannon, Pennsylvania

View of Peter’s Mountain from Sherman’s Creek, Duncannon, Pennsylvania

Feature Article | The Trackside Photographer
A new article on the Main Line project goes live Thursday, October 13th on the blog The Trackside Photographer, a wonderful online publication that features photographers who's focus is documenting the ever changing railroad landscape.  The article provides insight on my creative process while working on the Main Line project and is complemented by a cohesive gallery of imagery from the project. 

Continuing a Legacy | Photographing the Pennsylvania Railroad

I am honored to once again present for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the NRHS. My lecture will explore the legacy of photographic imagery undertaken by the Pennsylvania Railroad and how it has influenced my own work. The presentation looks at several noted photographers commissioned to photograph the railroad while tying them to a visual dialogue with my own contemporary works exploring the former Pennsylvania Railroad. 

Delaware Valley Chapter, National Railway Historical Society | Friday, October 21st, 2016 | Lecture begins at approximately 8:30PM
Morrisville Public Library, 300 North Pennsylvania Avenue, Morrisville, Pennsylvania

New Work from the Main Line Project

The image above is one of many that is being readied for a big update of new work on the Main Line project. The update will include a new gallery of imagery which includes additional views from PRR divisions already represented as well locations on the New York and Maryland Divisions which were not previously represented in the project. Once live a series of singe image posts will begin in addition to the regular format to highlight the new work and the significance of these places in the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

A Little Love From the Home Office

As many of you know I am a working professional photographer and educator, having run the facilities at Drexel University's Photography Program, part of the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design for 15 years. The last 12 of those years I have also taught various subjects in the medium sharing my experiences in photography with the next generation of great image makers. This week the College spotlighted my work documenting the Pennsylvania Railroad and it comes with great pride that I can share the piece here. Having the opportunity to work in a creative environment has largely shaped who I am and having my alma mater and employer recognize this work is a great honor.  Enjoy! 

MIKE FROIO'S RAILROADS

August 4, 2016

Michael Froio, Professor and Photography Facilities Manager, is often found in the Paul Peck Center’s Photography studios. However, if you’re lucky, you might find him at the break of dawn just about anywhere there’s train tracks, rail yards, or train stations. It’s not that Michael is a solitary individual, it’s rather that the focus of his work is largely based on lush landscapes, historical architecture and all aspects of the former Pennsylvania Railroad, which he uses to produce stunningly rich black and white photography. “From the Main Line,” Froio’s impressive ongoing project, operates as an homage to the industrial achievements of the past 150 years in which he documents the infrastructure and landscape that’s developed alongside the Pennsylvania’s ecology. “Much of what they engineered and built over 100 years ago remains a vital part of the Mid-Atlantic’s railroad infrastructure today, a testament of their foresight and engineering abilities” says Froio. His gorgeous photography is generally accompanied by meticulously researched text that recounts and pays tribute to the importance of railroads in our region and the nation. We strongly suggest you visit Michael’s terrific website and consider signing up for his pictorially vibrant, textually rich, and fascinating newsletter. 

Froio is inspired by the work of William H. Rau, who documented the railroad in the 1890’s, and by the social and industrial history and landscape studies writers John Stilgoe and Robert Adams. His earlier works were made possible by using a large format view camera, a process that forces the photographer to spend a dedicated time with the subject. In recent years he’s begun utilizing digital formats, yet he still treats his work with the same emphasis as with the view camera: spending time with the subject.

Froio most recently served on a panel as part of The Muse Behind the Artist at The Print Center, an event sponsored by Penn’s Village. In March, From the Main Line was exhibited at the Camerawork gallery in Scranton, Pennsylvania. 

The Print Center | The Muse Behind the Artist

Dear Friends,

Please join me in Philadelphia at the Print Center next Wednesday, July 20th from 5:30 - 7:30 for The Muse Behind the Artist, an event sponsored by Penn's Village. The Print Center's Executive Director, Elizabeth Spungen will moderate a panel discussion focused on where we as artists draw inspiration, followed by a wine and cheese reception. I look forward to discussing the influences behind the ongoing project, From the Main Line, a contemporary survey of the landscape and surviving infrastructure of the Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the most celebrated railroads in American history. 
 
Penn’s Village ask that you RSVP by email at info@pennsvillage.org or by calling 215-925-7333. There is a requested donation of $5 for guests. The event will be held at the Print Center from 5:30 - 7:30 at 1614 Latimer Street, Philadelphia, PA. 

End of an Era

One of the last remaining Amtrak AEM-7s heads north with a regional train through Holmesburg Junction in Northeast Philadelphia shortly before retirement in February of 2016. Photograph by Patrick Yough

One of the last remaining Amtrak AEM-7s heads north with a regional train through Holmesburg Junction in Northeast Philadelphia shortly before retirement in February of 2016. Photograph by Patrick Yough

Class GG1 electric locomotive number 4868 pulls The Congressional circa 1965. Amtrak's AEM-7 was the successor of the highly regarded GG-1 both of which had successful careers on the Northeast Corridor, only time will tell if the Siemens ACS-64 will prove to be a worthy replacement.

Class GG1 electric locomotive number 4868 pulls The Congressional circa 1965. Amtrak's AEM-7 was the successor of the highly regarded GG-1 both of which had successful careers on the Northeast Corridor, only time will tell if the Siemens ACS-64 will prove to be a worthy replacement.

While I don’t typically write about motive power and rolling stock on the railroad, this week, with much fanfare a workhorse of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor will go to the stables for the last time. The venerable Amtrak AEM-7 locomotive fleet built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors has been the common face of regional and long distance trains up and down the Corridor for over 37 years, logging over 220 million miles in the process. Developed after testing Swedish and French electric locomotives in the 1970’s the units were designed after the successful Swedish class Rc4. Ultimately the AEM-7 fleet would replace Amtrak’s hand-me-down fleet of 30 class GG-1 electrics of Pennsylvania Railroad/Raymond Loewy fame after the purchase of General Electric E60’s failed to deliver in the mid-70’s. Utilizing electrical components supplied from Swedish company ASEA and shells constructed by the Budd Company in Philadelphia, EMD manufactured 54 of the units for Amtrak in three separate orders; 1977 (30 units), 1980 (17 units) and 1988 (7 units). Maryland Area Regional Commuter Service (MARC) and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa) also made subsequent orders while New Jersey Transit purchased a fleet of its successor, the ALP-44. The boxy double-ended 7000hp motors (PRR term for electric locomotives) were considered lightweight, weighing just 101 tons and were capable of a maximum speed of 125mph

Over the years they have affectionately received the nickname Swedish Meatball or Toasters because of their origin and size and were widely regarded as a success, being the second long-standing fleet of electric locomotives to ply the former PRR territory since the GG-1. The AEM-7s have been replaced by Amtrak’s new fleet of 70 Siemens built ACS-64 class motors, based on the successful EuroSprinter platform. Only time will tell if the Sprinters prove to be a match to the durability of the Meatball or the holy grail, the GG-1. While the last AEM-7 on Amtrak’s roster is dropped, several remain in service for Septa and MARC but on short time; Septa has placed an order for 13 new ACS-64 units and MARC will drop all electric powered service all together, converting all Penn Line trains to diesel with new Siemens Charger series locomotives. While it can always be argued that the lines and styling of the GG-1 coupled with its battleship like design will never be replicated the AEM-7’s durability has certainly made it a worthy successor in hauling passengers safely up and down the Northeast Corridor for almost 38 years. 

The Cost of Labor | Constructing the A&S

Today when you walk along the path of the former Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade it is a very peaceful experience. There’s no shortage of lush foliage shrouding rock cuts blasted out of the rolling hills, the elevated fills and stone masonry look they were there since the beginning of time, and the railroad itself is long gone. Today it is hard to fathom the purpose of such a resource and even more difficult to imagine the human struggle that was involved in creating such a line.

Workers pause for a photograph, likely made by Lancaster based photographer Harry P. Stoner who was commissioned to document the construction of A&S. Blasting, the high cliffs and large loose rock along the stretch in Manor Township presented many hazards to the men while constructing the final few miles of the A&S along the Susquehanna River. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

Workers pause for a photograph, likely made by Lancaster based photographer Harry P. Stoner who was commissioned to document the construction of A&S. Blasting, the high cliffs and large loose rock along the stretch in Manor Township presented many hazards to the men while constructing the final few miles of the A&S along the Susquehanna River. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

Early in the era when railroads engaged in a wave of line and capacity improvements across the country, construction of the A&S commenced in 1903. Its scope was compared to that of the Panama Canal, which began around the same time, but took three times longer to complete.  In the course of three years the PRR spent $19.5 million to build an engineering marvel that completed the final piece of a freight by-pass collectively referred to as the Low Grade between Morrisville and Enola, Pennsylvania. With curvature limited to no more than 2% and the maximum grade held to 1% or lower the high cost of building such a line was justified with improved operating ratios and a reduction in fuel and crew demands while providing additional capacity to move freight trains away from the congested main line. With no grade crossings, local industry or stations the A&S was strictly a conduit to move freight to and from the New York and Philadelphia markets across southern Lancaster County to the west via Enola. The premise of the Low Grade is pretty simple until you consider the topography the line spanned; In order to maintain such gradients the PRR had to wage war against the landscape employing thousands of men to construct the line between Parkesburg and the Susquehanna River. The western highlands and the descent into the Susquehanna valley was perhaps the most difficult aspect of the project. It entailed erecting a massive bridge at Safe Harbor to span the Conestoga gap and carving a path high above the river that continued down to Creswell where the line joined the Columbia & Port Deposit Branch. Other notable challenges included the spanning of the Pequea Valley at Martic Forge and the 90-foot deep cut excavated out of solid rock near Quarryville.

An excavation crew pauses with a rail mounted steam shovel that appears to be down for repairs. Steam shovels and air powered drills were initially utilized to excavate the right of way in Manor township as well as the deep cuts along the line to the east. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

An excavation crew pauses with a rail mounted steam shovel that appears to be down for repairs. Steam shovels and air powered drills were initially utilized to excavate the right of way in Manor township as well as the deep cuts along the line to the east. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

According to the late Ernest Schuleen who managed the Safe Harbor Water Power Corp, "The major portion of the laborers were immigrants from Italy, Turkey, Syria and the other southeastern European countries, who were taken directly from incoming boats to do the job... Getting the job done was the thing; safety was secondary.'' Roughly 1000 men and 150 horses were deployed along the bluffs of the Susquehanna and hundreds more worked east and west from Quarryville. Obstacles were met with steam shovels and drills, finishing work executed with pick axes and shovels. Dynamite was a necessary tool to complete the work in a timely manner but its nature made the job that much more hazardous, premature explosions killed some, flying debris others. In the course of three years over 200 died while working to complete the A&S. On a weekly basis headlines pitched tragic stories of workers killed on the job with hardly a mention of who they were. One of the most tragic incidents occurred near Colemanville, the location of a dynamite factory employing local residents to produce materials for the PRR and more recently the construction of the nearby Holtwood Dam. On June 6th, 1906, just weeks before the public dedication of the A&S, a blast ripped through the stamping house containing 2400 pounds of dynamite, triggering a subsequent explosion of nitroglycerin, the disaster killing eleven men. The only identified remains was the arm of 25-year-old Frederick Rice, the rest, all in their late teens or early 20’s were laid to rest in a single common casket. Despite the fact that the plant was no longer producing dynamite for the PRR’s A&S project the railroad faced continued criticism for their lack of concern for their seemingly disposable immigrant work force which ultimately brought such tragedy to southern Lancaster County. 

One of the deep cuts near Quarryville takes shape as crews blast and dig their way through solid rock to maintain the 1% maximum ruling grade on the A&S branch. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

One of the deep cuts near Quarryville takes shape as crews blast and dig their way through solid rock to maintain the 1% maximum ruling grade on the A&S branch. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

Regardless the project continued and on July 27th of the same year the PRR publicly dedicated the A&S line in the deep cut near Quarryville, where prominent Quarryville citizen George Hensel drove the final spike made of silver. Sadly the human tragedy and loss of life behind the construction of the A&S was the norm rather than the exception. Labor laws and unions had yet to gain a foothold and agencies like OSHA and the FRA had yet to exist. The Industrial Revolution was still very much a time where money ruled and the bottom line far outweighed the value of human life. The human story of the A&S was a dark reality repeated time and time again to build some the most important engineering accomplishments and transportation networks in the country.

Spring News & Events

Allegany National Photography Competition and Exhibition: I am very pleased to have a piece from the Main Line Series included in the 2nd annual Allegany National Photography Competition. This exhibition runs from April 8th to the 30th in the Allegany Arts Council’s beautiful Saville Gallery in historic downtown Cumberland, Maryland. Situated in the beautiful Allegany mountains the exhibition melds the region's rich concentration of photographic artists with an influx of national photographers through the juried competition. Juror Stephen Perloff is founder and editor of The Photo Review, a critical journal of fine art photography. Publishing since 1976, The Photo Review covers photography issues and events throughout the country and serves as a central resource for the Mid-Atlantic region. Perloff is to host a lecture Friday April 8th in the Schwab Gallery and the opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Saturday, April 9th from 6-8 PM. Gallery hours for the exhibition are Tuesday - Saturday, 11AM-5PM. The Allegany Arts Council is located at 9 N. Centre Street, Cumberland, MD 21502. For more information on the lecture, exhibition and the Allegany Arts Council please visit their website or call (301) 777-ARTS (2787).

From the Main Line | Exhibition: Continuing in its second month, my solo exhibition featuring work from the Main Line project is on display at the Camera Work space, located in the Marquis Gallery, in the historic Laundry building in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania. Plan a trip to see the exhibition and visit some area attractions; the city is very easy to navigate and there are several wonderful places to stay in town and of course, plenty of choices for lunch and dinner. The exhibition runs through April 30th and is open M-F 10 AM - 6 PM, Sat. 10 AM - 5 PM. The Camera Work space, located in the Marquis Gallery, in the historic Laundry building, 515 Center Street, Scranton, PA 18503. 

 

40 Years | A Brief History of Conrail

Two Conrail trains part ways at iconic Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line over the Alleghenies, October 21, 1988. Image courtesy of  Mike Danneman

Two Conrail trains part ways at iconic Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line over the Alleghenies, October 21, 1988. Image courtesy of Mike Danneman

At the close of the 1960’s railroads of the Northeast struggled with mounting debts, declining traffic and deferred maintenance. Coal, once the railroads mainstay traffic source, took a nosedive as the nation’s appetite for oil increased, triggering financial panic among many rail carriers in the Mid-Atlantic. The Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central, once bitter rivals, merged into the Penn Central creating perhaps the most infamous face for the ensuing financial disaster seven major carriers faced in the early 1970’s. In order to avoid the complete collapse of railroading in the east, congress enacted the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1974 (commonly referred to the 3R Act). The Act provided interim funding for the struggling carriers while creating Consolidated Rail Corporation, a government funded private company. Under the Act the United States Railway Association prepared a plan to determine what lines of the seven carriers would be incorporated in the final system plan to be transferred to Conrail. This plan would be approved by congress under the subsequent Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4R Act) which was signed into law in February of 1976.

The original Conrail system map circa April 1st, 1976. Note the absence of the iconic Conrail logo. Collection of the Multimodalways Project

The original Conrail system map circa April 1st, 1976. Note the absence of the iconic Conrail logo. Collection of the Multimodalways Project

Conrail was incorporated in Pennsylvania the same month and began operations April 1st 1976. The company’s function was to revitalize freight service between the Northeast and Midwest, operating as a for-profit operation. In 1981 Conrail’s economic standings began to turn around showing its first profit since incorporation. Under the leadership of L. Stanley Crane, a former Southern Railway CEO, the railroad flourished, shedding an additional 4100 unprofitable and redundant miles from the system between 1981 and 1983. The Staggers Rail Act of 1981 also provided much needed deregulation of railroad rates and tariffs allowing for changes in rate structuring that dated back to the turn of the century, giving railroads the ability to better compete with trucking companies. By the time Conrail approached its 10th birthday the railroad was ready to return back to the private sector. In the fall of 1986 congress signed in the Conrail Privatization Act authorizing a public stock offering that resulted in one of the largest IPOs in US history raising $1.9 billion in 1987.

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   Tony Palladino worked for design firm Siegel & Gale when he developed the iconic Conrail logo and identity, shown here in a lettering diagram. Collection of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives. 

Tony Palladino worked for design firm Siegel & Gale when he developed the iconic Conrail logo and identity, shown here in a lettering diagram. Collection of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives. 

Conrail’s ubiquitous blue locomotives and “can opener" logo developed by designer Tony Palladino became the symbol of a profitable network, a success story for a new era of railroading which also saw the creation of Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. Ironically in the 1990’s NS and CSX engaged in a takeover battle that would have created an unhealthy imbalance in northeastern rail service, the compromise was instead a split of the Conrail system. CSX would take 42% of Conrail’s assets and the former NYC properties with NS assuming the 58% balance and much of the PRR network. Interestingly enough, the final split of Conrail is similar to a merger proposal from the 1950’s in response to the proposed marriage of the New York Central and Chesapeake & Ohio. The PRR had looked to join forces with the N&W and Wabash, both of which it already had a controlling interest in. Regardless, the ICC rejected both mergers but the net result some fifty years later is the same. Outside of the major split of Conrail assets three terminals where competition was in jeopardy continues to be serviced by the jointly owned Conrail Shared Assets Operation, providing equal access for both railroads in Detroit, Northern and Southern New Jersey/ Philadelphia continuing the Conrail name that began operations 40 years ago today. 

 

In Memoriam

Donald T. Rittler: 1919 - 2016

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of Donald T. Rittler, a former Pennsylvania Railroad train director who lived and worked in the Harrisburg area for most of his life.  In 2012 I had the privilege to meet Mr. Rittler during a private tour of the Harris tower museum, arranged by NRHS Harrisburg Chapter members. When Don arrived he brought this already fantastic interactive site alive with first hand experiences of running one of the most important interlocking towers on the PRR Philadelphia Division. Since to that meeting I had several opportunities to talk with Don about his experiences on the railroad including a very special return visit to Harris that I was so lucky to share with my father and son.

During my visit to Harris in 2012 I had some time to chat with Don while photographing him with the 4x5 view camera. I am lucky to have this image of Don at the train director's desk, a familiar place throughout his 42 years of working in interlocking towers for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central and Conrail.

During my visit to Harris in 2012 I had some time to chat with Don while photographing him with the 4x5 view camera. I am lucky to have this image of Don at the train director's desk, a familiar place throughout his 42 years of working in interlocking towers for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central and Conrail.

Don Rittler started his career with the Pennsylvania Railroad on October 11th, 1937 as a messenger for the interlocking towers on the PRR Philadelphia Division. The first person to be hired since the 1927 furlough of employees as a result of the Great Depression, Don worked the introductory job spending his days relaying messages and paperwork from tower to tower as needed, gaining a familiarity to the basic operations and chain of command among the many towers on the system.  On December 1st, 1940 Don posted his first position as a block operator and leverman, working the Philadelphia Division extra list, filling in at different towers over the years.

Detail of Don's home away from home, Harris Tower's interlocking machine and train director's desk, a post Don worked for many of his years during his tenure with the PRR which began in 1937.

Detail of Don's home away from home, Harris Tower's interlocking machine and train director's desk, a post Don worked for many of his years during his tenure with the PRR which began in 1937.

In 1944, like many other PRR employees Rittler was summoned to serve his country in World War II. Holding the title of Master Sergeant in the Army’s 775th Railway Grand Division and the 3rd Military Regiment, Don’s deployment centered in the Pacific Theater during the height of the war. Initially working in the Philippines operating the Manila Railway Don’s unit moved to Japan to secure a railhead for military transport inland in the event of land attacks. As a result of the infamous atomic bombs, their services were not needed for this purpose but they did continue to work keeping the Japanese rail systems functional. Returning to the US a short two years later almost exactly to the day, Rittler resumed his tenure with the PRR, holding tower positions as both leverman and eventually train director for State and Harris towers near the Harrisburg passenger station.  Rittler, who’s father was a master machinist for the Pennsy in Enola was always fascinated with the railroad, as it was always apart of his life, with many friends, neighbors and family also employed by the PRR.

Don and his wife Mary built a house in New Cumberland near Lemoyne and lived a wonderful life with their daughter Donna, sharing the family like atmosphere and camaraderie of the many railroaders Don worked with on a daily basis. He continued to work in the Harrisburg area well into the Penn Central era eventually moving to Conrail after the 1976 consolidation. Amtrak was slowly taking over operations on the Keystone Corridor in the mid 1970’s and Don’s choices of where to work were becoming increasingly limited. Don ultimately worked first shift at Lemo tower in Lemoyne, which he described as a welcome break from the busy towers he was accustomed to like Harris, finishing out a spotless 42 year career in railroading in 1979. After retirement, Don was very gracious with his time and experience in the towers, helping the NRHS Harrisburg Chapter develop the interpretive exhibit for the Harris tower project. He would also on occasion visit with small groups at the museum to provide first hand working knowledge of his craft like I was so fortunate to experience. Don’s presence at Harris will be greatly missed but thanks to his generosity, his legacy and knowledge will live on with the Harrisburg Chapter and the Harris tower museum.


May your presence always be felt at Harris tower, rest in peace Don.


For more information about memorial services for Mr. Rittler, please click here

 

From the Main Line | Upcoming Exhibiton

I am excited to share the details on my upcoming exhibition in Scranton, Pennsylvania featuring work from the ongoing project, From the Main Line. Scranton, though never served by the PRR could not be more of an appropriate venue to put together an exhibition exploring the relationship between railroads and the landscapes they travel. The Electric City is situated in the heart of Anthracite Coal Country and has a rich history largely associated with being at the crossroads of six railroad companies at its peak and home to the the sprawling Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad locomotive shops.  The railroads played an important role in the city of Scranton, providing extensive access to the nation's rail network while providing a wealth of jobs to the regional economy, much like the many places I’ve photographed throughout my time on the PRR.

Today Scranton is home to several major universities, the Steamtown National Historical Site as well as several other interpretive museums that explore the role railroads and coal played in the regional economy. Plan a trip to see the exhibition and visit some area attractions; the city is very easy to navigate and there are several wonderful places to stay in town and of course, plenty of choices for lunch and dinner. The exhibition opens next Friday, March 4th and will run through April 30th at the Camera Work space, located in the Marquis Gallery, in the historic Laundry building in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Hope to see some familiar faces at the opening!

Sincerely, 

Michael Froio