New York Pennsylvania Station is not only Amtrak’s busiest station, but it handles nearly twice the number of passengers as the next busiest. In addition to Amtrak’s long distance trains are floods of Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit suburban runs.
Busy, yes; attractive no.
It’s been more than a half century since the Pennsylvania Railroad demolished its original Penn Station terminal buildings.
Back when I worked at Pentrex Publishing in the 1990s, every so often we would need an illustration of Penn Station for Passenger Train Journal. While photos of New York’s elegant Grand Central Terminal were a dime a dozen, decent photos of Penn Station were few and far between.
Now, when I visit Penn Station, I often try to make representative views.
So, can you make interesting photos in ugly places?
Once upon a time, long long ago, Pennsylvania Railroad’s New York City terminal was among the world’s greatest railway stations.
Its architecturally enlightened design cleverly blended classical motifs and modern engineering on a colossal scale. Electrified lines brought long distance trains directly into the station. It was beautiful and functional.
Fifty one years ago the wrecking balls put an end to the fairy tale. Although, from what I’m told, in its last years the old Penn-Station was a tired, tatty vestige of its earlier days. Yet, New Yorkers were justly disgusted when the Pennsylvania Railroad ruined its once-glorious gateway to the city.
In its place, PRR built the present uninspired maze of passageways and escalators. I find it more confusing than Heathrow Airport. It looks something like mall, feels a bit like an overgrown bus terminal, and seems to have very little to do with railways until you descend into its bowels to hastily board a train.
In June, I decided I’d try to make some photos of the place. After all, it is Amtrak’s busiest station, thus noteworthy.