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06.02.2014
A dear old friend of mine (the friendship is old, not the friend) invited me to her birthday party so I thought I’d make the trip to just outside of Philadelphia to reconnect and help her celebrate. I was thrilled to see an old sign painted on the tiles there in the corridor, partly obscured by a modern florescent light. On my return underground I sat in the waiting room watching travelers come and go and writing a birthday card to friend. The first sights I recognized when aboveground were similar to what one passes when driving on I-95.
I conjectured ahead of time that we’d be going through Secaucus Junction, the location of a recent excursion. The next beautiful scene we encountered was a stretch, I believe of I-95, elevated over the Hackensack river.
Before I knew it these sights had flown by and we were pulling into Trenton Transit Center.
I had about fifteen or twenty minutes to change tracks and wait for my SEPTA train, so I tried to absorb as much infrastructure information as possible. As I walked around in somewhat of a tired traveler daze looking at the architecture and trying to decide what to eat, I noticed a couple of groups of men packing up tables and supplies. I grabbed some food and headed up to the platform to wait for my final train to Paoli, a town nearish to where friend lives.
When I deboarded at the Paoli station, text messages revealed I had a few minutes before friend’s boyfriend arrived to pick me up for the party. Soon, my gracious co-host for the evening arrived and drove us the 15 minutes or so back to their house in Phoenixville. Before reversing my train-filled journey, friend treated me to a tour of little downtown Phoenixville. This entry was posted in And travel, Excursions and tagged Bridges, Manhattan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Trains.
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I had traveled to a town nearby via train several years ago to visit this same friend and thought that would be a nice, stress-free way to travel. I actually initially power-walked right by it, but just had to backtrack to study and photograph it. When I gauged it nearly time for the track to be announced I got up and got closer to one of the screens.


The beginning of our journey reminded me a bit of my short ride on Amtrak to Yonkers – passing through the tunnel and speeding by sights almost too fast to take them in and certainly too fast to photograph without motion blur. I’ve driven the stretch of 95 between the George Washington Bridge and Staten Island so many times, and one of the things that always captivated me were these towers (possibly radio towers) standing tall out in the meadows and marshes.
Visible further away and closer to the river’s surface, a train swing bridge stood in the open position.
Though I had purchased my ticket from NJ Transit all the way through to Philadelphia, it was required that I transfer here to a SEPTA train. I watched an Acela train (a luxury I didn’t choose for this trip) speed by as I stood on the platform.
I remembered the big, main lobby a little from my previous trip, but again I was happy to have some time to explore more and to eat lunch! The antique-looking benches brought to mind typical old movie scenes of train waiting rooms, always with dramatic moments occurring in them. There had clearly been some sort of event here that was just wrapping up, but I couldn’t quite make out what.
Since it was a weekend, these probably usually bustling commuter lots and train platforms looked as if they could have been abandoned for years. Many stations had a road passing underneath the tracks with steps down to it for pedestrians. I stood by the smaller of the two parking lots, up on a ridge leading to the bridge over the train tracks, and watched other trains roll by. The trail’s namesake river runs alongside it, and I enjoyed looking up and over at the different pedestrian and car bridges that span the water.
With hugs, I was deposited back at the Paoli station and on a train back to 30th Street Station. Perhaps I was on the other side of the train or just didn’t notice before, but this time I could see the Pulaski Skyway from the train.
It was good to see this now familiar place, and the sight of it signaled that I’d soon be home.
I am currently designing the musical Bye Bye Birdie and need to create both Penn Station and a small town station.
I post them here because I truly believe in the work they do, and that they deserve my support! Plus, with my newfound love for all things infrastructure, I’d have a whole new appreciation for the trip.
This sign drew my attention particularly because I had recently read this long but amazing article on AGIA.org about the Helvetica font and the NYC subway system. On my way back I photographed another relic of old Penn Station – one of the 22 stone eagles used in its original architecture now guards one side of the 7th Avenue entrance.
I giggled at going up stairs inside a train car and settled into a comfy window seat on the upper level.


I always wanted to pull over on the interstate at night, hop out, and take some long exposure photos as the stoic towers softly flash red in the dark.
I marveled (as I had the first time I took this trip) how the different regional rail providers make it so easy to get from here to there. If I had taken an earlier combination of trains I would have seen model trains set up and other festivities in 30th Street Station. Children still excited from National Train Day festivities milled about with their parents.
Between last bites of salad I took in my new surroundings as we pulled out of the station and away from Philadelphia.
The hut-like station buildings themselves were in a variety of architectural styles and states of disrepair. Then we turned down one street to see the Phoenixville Foundry – a former iron foundry turned glamorous event facility. It is, more accurately, a history of signage in the NYC subway system in general, but with an emphasis on typeface. Another is on the other side of the entrance, and the remaining survivors are scattered around the city and beyond.
Something about that scene and seeing it from the elevated highway has always been appealing. The sights from this train were also pretty; this time more suburban and lush, less industrial. Had this not been a somewhat of an infrastructure excursion I probably would not have picked it up, but one of my personal rules for my excursions are that I must follow my instincts and do what my impulse is at the moment. Some looked like quaint cottages, some very typical-New-England-train-station, and some more utilitarian. I stood near the end of one of the platforms, bathed in afternoon sun from the glass ceiling, and took in the sights. I don’t yet know these answers but it is a continuing process for me to try to get closer to them! I am also always very moved by learning about old Penn Station, for example in the NY Transit Museum’s annex exhibit. This day from the train, the towers seemed further away and acted as just faint reminders of this familiar night scene.
At the same time, most of the interior was glossed and glammed up to make it suitable for brides and other revelers. I cling to these relics of the old building as if my love for them could make it still exist.



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