Looking Back on a Logo.
When I was growing up in New England, Penn Central was a railroad that everyone loved to hate.
It was hated for representing a decaying industry. It was hated for its unimaginative paint scheme and its Spartan image.
It was hated for not being the sum of its parts and not being the railroads that spawned it. It was hated for its financial debacles.
I didn’t hate Penn Central.
To me it was fascinating, and in my earliest memories, it was the railroad. It was E-units and passenger trains. It was GG1s under wire. It was yards full of freight cars worked by old Alco S-switchers. It was Grand Central Terminal and Boston’s South Station.
But by the time I really become conscious of Penn Central, it had already been melded into Conrail. I have a few true Penn Central photos, but they aren’t very good.
I made this image in 1986, ten years after Penn Central’s operations had been conveyed to Conrail. At the time I often made ‘details’—close up views of railroading.
For me the texture of the image shouts the ‘Penn Central’ of its detractors.
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