Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Station

View Looking East toward UF Interlocking from tracks 7 and 8, former Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Station.

View Looking East toward UF Interlocking from tracks 7 and 8, former Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Station.

Built by noted Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, and completed in 1903, Pittsburgh's Union Station served the PRR and several subsidiary lines, making it unique, as typical Union Stations served several roads. Later renamed Pennsylvania Station in 1912 to reflect specifically the Company it served, this Station was the Gateway to Pennsy "Lines West" including the Panhandle Line to St Louis and the Fort Wayne Division onward to Chicago. While the historic office tower and trademark rotunda has been saved, its importance as a long distance hub of train travel has dwindled. Currently, one through route to Chicago via Washington DC is available on the Capitol Limited and the station also serves as the Western terminus of the Pennsylvanian, which utilizes the former PRR Mainline from NYC to Pittsburgh via Philadelphia. Perhaps someday, with push for more high speed rail in this country, this terminal will once again look like it did circa 1940, with rail activity under the now mostly empty station shed.

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.

Downingtown

The Downingtown Station area as it appears today is one of the Stops of both the SEPTA regional Thorndale trains and Amtrak Keystone Service.

The Downingtown Station area as it appears today is one of the Stops of both the SEPTA regional Thorndale trains and Amtrak Keystone Service.

Having both the PRR Mainline and the Philadelphia and Trenton Branch also known as the Trenton Cut-off approaching the junction of Thorndale, Downingtown had significance for the PRR. The Interlocking "Down" was the Eastern end of of three interlockings including the Junction with the New Holland Branch and Chester Valley Yard. Further West at "Thorn" block and interlocking station, the junction of the Mainline and P&T Branch and "Caln" the Western Limits of the small yard facility, a one time Coaling Station and Junction of the P&T. The Downingtown area provided many car loadings with textile mills, manufacturing as and quarry activity in the area. The train station located along West Lancaster Ave is now a simple affair, the original being destroyed by fire in 1992. With few signs of it's former owner, the Station area still presents some references to the past when one looks across the tracks at businesses and historic buildings on the North Side of Lancaster Ave, some dating back to the early  1900's.

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.

A story from Pier 122

Below is a story from Randy Leiser, who came across the post on Pier 122 and 124. I really enjoyed his story and graciously, he has agreed to post it here as a tribute to his Grandfather, Ted Leiser and the many other men and women that worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. My grandfather worked at Pier 122 for twenty plus years, from when it was new in the 1950s till the late 1970s or early 1980s (I don't know exactly when he retired).  When I was a kid (I was born in 1971) I knew that he "drove a pusher locomotive on a pier," but not much more.  Being a kid, I guess I just never asked--even though I liked trains.  He passed away when I was 16.

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Views of Pier 122 including the Unloading Cranes and loading tipple and Narrow Gage Pusher Engines that Ted Leiser operated  .

Views of Pier 122 including the Unloading Cranes and loading tipple and Narrow Gage Pusher Engines that Ted Leiser operated.

When my kids came along (the first in 2004, the second in 2006) I began to get them interested in trains, too, which revived my interest in them as well.  I began teaching my boys all about trains--steam, diesel, passenger, freight, etc.

One day around 2008, I asked my dad about where my grandfather had worked.  He told me that it was "on a pier, south of the Walt Whitman Bridge, unloading ore ships.  You know, those big black cranes."  As soon as I heard that I recalled my grandfather having brought home a box of different ore pellets, each labelled with its country of origin.  I also recalled seeing the cranes every time we crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge--even though I didn't know what I was looking at.

I told my kids about their great grandfather, and how he operated a locomotive, etc.  They were quite interested, but I didn't have much more to offer them. A few months later, in 2009, I began Googling "Pennsylvania Tidewater Dock Company," which my dad had told me was the name of the company that operated the locomotives on the pier.  There were few references, and most entries referred to the company's Ohio location.  However, I found an obscure reference to Pennsylvania Tidewater Dock that mentioned Pier 122--the first time I heard the pier's name.  I began Googling "Pier 122" and back came a flood of entries.  I began reading everything I could find.  Before I knew it I'd found a ton of info on the pier, and even photos of the four locomotives they had.  I kept reading, and discovered that one of the four locomotives was saved by the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, PA!  Pier 122 imported ore that was sent to Bethlehem Steel, and when the steel plant closed, they made provisions for a museum--the narrow gauge locomotive was of interest to them, and they moved one into storage there, awaiting restoration.

In the space of a few hours I went from knowing very little about my grandfather's job and worksite, to knowing quite a bit, and even discovering that one of "his" locomotives was still around. Still not certain, I showed the pictures I'd found to my dad, who confirmed that it was the same pier, same locomotives, etc.  He even recalled riding in one with my grandfather when he was a kid.  I later found out that my uncle (my dad's brother) worked at the pier as a summer job, working on the locomotives, too.

At this point I was intent on getting to Bethlehem, but it was not going to happen soon, as my wife was pregnant with our third, and road trips were not in our immediate future.  We were, however, traveling to Philadelphia for my wife's care during the pregnancy, and I began wondering what was left of the pier.  I prepared myself with maps and Google satellite images.  On our next trip to Philly, we left early, and I detoured to the Pier.  To my surprise, it was not gated, and we drove right in.

Randy Leiser with his two boys, Paul(left) and Dan(right)on his Grandfather's locomotive.

Randy Leiser with his two boys, Paul(left) and Dan(right)on his Grandfather's locomotive.

To my delight, I looked to the left as we drove in, and still sitting on the narrow gauge horseshoe track were two of the pusher locomotives.  I parked the car, stepped out, and shot a couple dozen pictures.  Then (by this point somewhat sure I wasn't going to get arrested for trespassing) I got my two boys out.  My wife snapped a picture of the three of us, standing in front of one of the locomotives.  I now cherish that shot. My daughter was born just a few weeks later, and on a later trip, we took her and my dad to the pier, where he stared in disbelief at the locomotives, too.

I've always been interested in trains, history, and family, and in this case I had the rare chance to tie them all together. I've done periodic Google searches to see what turns up on the Pier.  That's how I found your blog--and I enjoyed reading that post immensely. In the time since I saw the locomotives the cranes on the pier have been toppled and dismantled.  They're making way for the new Southport container facility.  It's progress, I guess, but I hate to see it go.  Every time I cross the Walt Whitman Bridge, I glance southward toward the pier.

Recently, I acquired a Pennsylvania Railroad 1957 calendar, entitled "Vital Links to World Trade."  It features a view of the Pier 122 cranes, with the horseshoe track visible in the back ground.  (PRR built and owned the pier.  From what I gather Pennsylvania Tidewater Dock operated the pusher locomotives.)  The calendar is in great shape and will hang on the wall of my office, as a reminder of my grandfather.

Randy's Grandfather and former Tidewater Dock Co. Employee Ted Leiser with his wife Grace.

Randy's Grandfather and former Tidewater Dock Co. Employee Ted Leiser with his wife Grace.

Schuylkill Branch on the Philadelphia Terminal Division

Although the Philadelphia Terminal Division has quite a bit of its original infrastructure in tact, serving its predecessors well, there are a few relics left that fell victim to redundancy during the Penn Central Era and into the creation of Conrail and local Commuter  Agency SEPTA. The PRR Schuylkill Division left the Mainline at Valley Junction located at 52nd Street in West Philadelphia and ran North along the Namesake River, through Norristown, Pottsville, and on to Wilkes-Barre, giving a direct access to the Anthracite Fields and lines North and West via Scranton. The Schuylkill Division followed the Mainline of long time rival Reading Company  often times following each other on opposite sides of the River.

Former PRR Bridge from Green Lane Bridge on the Schuylkill River.

Former PRR Bridge from Green Lane Bridge on the Schuylkill River.

Manayunk, a Northern manufacturing center in Philadelphia, situated on the East Bank of the Schuylkill River was one of the first towns the Division encountered, marked by a branch on the West Bank to serve Pencoyd Steel and beautiful Reinforced Concrete Arch Bridge across the River and Canal entering Manayunk proper near Green Lane slightly North of the downtown business district.

Perched on the hill above the commercial area, the station was located at the corner of Dupont and High Streets in a residential area, far less convenient than the Reading Company's direct access to the business district from their service that paralleled Main St by a block on a dedicated grade separated mainline running South to North through town.

View of the Southbound Platform and Catenary Post Guide Wires.

View of the Southbound Platform and Catenary Post Guide Wires.

Although the division and it's northern reaches were severed in 1976 with the formation of Conrail, SEPTA continued to use the Line into Manayunk until 1990 as part of the R-6 Service. At this point service was cut back due to deterioration of the Concrete Bridge across the Schuylkill, which consequently has been restored but has had all tracks and overhead catenary removed.

Although, really a separate Division, the Schuylkill Division played a major part in supping the home city of the PRR with a steady stream of clean burning Anthracite coal for heat, manufacturing, and export via Pier 124. In addition it provided access to the Lehigh Valley Railroad creating a gateway to New York, New England, and Canada.

View of Mainline Looking North from from abandoned Platform.

View of Mainline Looking North from from abandoned Platform.

Today the mainline right of way is void of trackage and often a dumping ground, strewn with trash through the norther part of Manayunk, until one reaches the bike path on the North Side of town near the site of the former Spring Mill train station. From there one can bike all the away to Valley Forge and eventually it is hoped that the path will be reclaimed to extend through the historic Anthracite Regions of North Eastern Pennsylvania

Five Years Past: The Loss of a Philadelphia Landmark

Its been almost five years since the last remains of the Philadelphia Civic Auditorium were torn down to make way for the now complete Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital System. Completed in 1931 the Art Deco Auditorium graced Civic Center Boulevard in West Philadelphia as part of a complex of buildings that began with the National Export Exhibition in 1899. There were two important buildings on the site. The Commercial Museum, built in 1899, was one of the original exposition buildings and The Municipal Auditorium (Convention Hall), built in 1931, by Philip H. Johnson.

This is what the site looked like when I began the documentation. The East side (left) housed the stage and mechanical support, while the West side (right) housed the Public Receiving areas, concessions, and several smaller private rooms and a Ballroom.

This is what the site looked like when I began the documentation. The East side (left) housed the stage and mechanical support, while the West side (right) housed the Public Receiving areas, concessions, and several smaller private rooms and a Ballroom.

During the Demolition I worked with permission from Keating Corporation and Mazzocchi Demolition to Document the the remaining interior and exteriors of the massive structure. They were very gracious in helping with many photographs, providing insight on the structure, unlimited access to their employees and the work site. During the three month time span I spent there I got know every passable inch of the building and made well over 100 photographs of the site from about mid demolition to the final removal of the of the East end of the building which was very heavy and supported the massive stage and support infrastructure, water chillers, pipe organs, and mechanical equipment. It was an incredible opportunity for which I will be grateful for the rest of my career. From this building spurred the Relic Project, documenting Historic Interiors of the Philadelphia area while "In transition", some being demolished, others being saved and given new purpose.

Below are images from the first month, showing the overall site and some of the first images I made in and around the building during April of 2005

South Wall from Auditorium Floor: This was my first image I made on the site. Later that evening, under darkness the last remaining roof trusses to the upper right were pulled down by several excavators and carefully planned cuts in the steel superstructure supporting the North side of the truss.

South Wall from Auditorium Floor: This was my first image I made on the site. Later that evening, under darkness the last remaining roof trusses to the upper right were pulled down by several excavators and carefully planned cuts in the steel superstructure supporting the North side of the truss.

Rear Staircase, Stage access and Support Area: This area served as an access to both the mechanical facilities to raise and lower the main stage and orchestra pit and also the off stage areas to the North on the second floor.

Rear Staircase, Stage access and Support Area: This area served as an access to both the mechanical facilities to raise and lower the main stage and orchestra pit and also the off stage areas to the North on the second floor.

Concession Area, East End, South Side.

Concession Area, East End, South Side.