Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Penn Coach Yard Power House: Lost Facilities of the PRR

View of powerhouse and neighboring coach yard facilities prior to demolition.

View of powerhouse and neighboring coach yard facilities prior to demolition.

View of powerhouse and neighboring coach yard facilities prior to demolition. On November 15th, 2009, the 425 foot tall chimney of the Penn Coach Yard Power Plant, built for the former Pennsylvania Railroad, was demolished after standing prominently on the West Bank of the Schuylkill River since the late 1920's. It was part of a power plant constructed to provide steam and power for the massive coach yard and roundhouse complex that was part of the massive Philadelphia Improvements Project taken on by the Railroad and City Planners to redevelop Center City,  phasing out Broad Street Station and introducing Pennsylvania Station for through passenger service connections.

Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White and constructed in 1929, the facility was built to accompany Pennsylvania Station which was also built by the same firm. The structure was similar in design without some of the more elaborate details that the beautiful station still shows today.

The power plant was used into the 1960's until decommissioned and for many years, was left neglected and vacant as the building changed hands from the PRR to the ill fated Penn Central Merger, development of Amtrak and later South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa).

Several discussions surfaced over the years to redevelop the facility as a condominium and mixed residential district, keeping the historic building as a centerpiece of the new project. Unfortunately, after many ideas and proposals, it was decided to bring down the building for what Amtrak considered a security risk among other concerns. Sadly what will take the building's place will be a parking and storage facility for the local Amtrak maintenance of way base, located between Septa's Powelton Ave Coach Yard, the elevated freight bypass know as the Highline, and Amtrak's Penn Coach Yards.

In the early hours of Sunday November the 15th, many came out to watch the massive stack be "dropped" to the south onto the neighboring Pullman Commissary another historic structure that fell victim during this project. Over the following weeks the remaining power house was taken down with heavy equipment and a wrecking ball forever removing a piece of railroad and industrial history from Philadelphia's skyline!

In the company of former PRR Silverliner cars, we see the remaining moments of the unofficial "Drexel Shaft" as it drops to its final resting place.

In the company of former PRR Silverliner cars, we see the remaining moments of the unofficial "Drexel Shaft" as it drops to its final resting place.

Remembering the Conrail OCS

While I typically keep this to fairly current work of my own, I was recently going through some old slides that I made through the 1990s. Finding the images below were pretty special considering two of three of these locomotives would be lovingly restored to their Pennsy liveries by Bennett Levin and his Juniata Terminal Company. Although the Conrail "Office Car Special" (OCS) trains are of the past, their legacy lives on.

Having made its reverse move from the High Line onto Amtrak at Arsenal Interlocking, the consist runs its final few miles North into 30th Street Station, seen here coming and going near South Street.

Having made its reverse move from the High Line onto Amtrak at Arsenal Interlocking, the consist runs its final few miles North into 30th Street Station, seen here coming and going near South Street.

In July of 1998, I was a student in Philadelphia and was in close proximity of Amtrak's 30th Street Station. Through a friend I learned that Conrail would be running a series of "Farewell" trips with their beautiful business train complete with all three E units and a full assortment of cars including the Budd built full length dome car #55, a former Santa Fe car that graced the San Francisco Chief among other consists, and of course the former VIA Rail Pullman Standard Car #9 a Theater Observation Car. When I received the call in regard to its evening arrival in Philadelphia, a good friend and I ventured track side for one of the last views of a Conrail "OCS" train. Within months the process of Norfolk Southern and CSX carving up the Conrail system would begin and the trademark Brunswick Green train set would be spit up or auctioned off.

CR 4020 a former Pennsy E8A, one of two that would go on to be restored by Bennett Levin's Juniata Terminal Company shares company with NJT GP40PH-2 No. 4146. This former GP40 locomotive that was actually rebuilt by Conrail's Juniata Shop in 1993 in a program for NJT. The photo was taken within Penn Interlocking located on the north side of 30th Street Station.

CR 4020 a former Pennsy E8A, one of two that would go on to be restored by Bennett Levin's Juniata Terminal Company shares company with NJT GP40PH-2 No. 4146. This former GP40 locomotive that was actually rebuilt by Conrail's Juniata Shop in 1993 in a program for NJT. The photo was taken within Penn Interlocking located on the north side of 30th Street Station.

Coatesville

View from the remaining canopy looking East toward Philadelphia at the Coatesville Train station, September 2010.

View from the remaining canopy looking East toward Philadelphia at the Coatesville Train station, September 2010.

Further West of the Junction of the Mainline and Philadelphia and Trenton Branch in Thorndale and East of the Junction of the Atglen and Susquehanna Branch, the Freight bypass to Enola Yard in Harrisburg, lays an Industrial town called Coatesville. Situated in the Brandywine Creek Valley, Coatesville, plays host to the former Lukens Steel Mill Complex, a "mini mill" facility that produces high quality plate and slab steel. While the mill is still active the town is very reminiscent of areas like Johnstown and Bethlehem, some neighborhoods in need of much attention. The station house, located at Third and Fleetwood Streets, is currently shuttered and vacant. The historic structure dates back from 1865, according to the City and has served a long career for the PRR and its predecessors. Currently, one or two sections of the Eastbound canopy still stand, and the Westbound Platform has a lone and battered bus shelter for passengers. While not all buildings have the opportunity to be saved or restored, this Station would certainly be a great candidate and much needed anchor for the surrounding neighborhood.

Philadelphia Division Travels

Overbrook

Overbrook Station is a great example of the Old Mainline of the PRR. With the original train station complete with intricate woodwork, position light signals and functioning interlocking tower one could only wonder when the Broadway Limited is going through! Overbrook tower originally served the West End of sprawling freight yards in West Philadelphia that served the PRR at the Junction of the Mainline, Schuylkill Valley Branch, West Philadelphia Elevated Branch, PB&W, and Tidewater terminals at both Greenwich and Girard Point.