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The Railroad Photos of Jack Delano Transit Museum History Photos

July 10th, 2014

These days almost everyone has a camera – whether it be a point and shoot, an SLR, or just the stock camera that came with your cell phone. Despite all the criticism of people these days and what they’re photographing, part of me thinks that the people of the future who consume all their nutrients in pill form might find today’s photos of food taken by hipsters rather quaint. The fact remains that what is commonplace today may be noteworthy and historic tomorrow. Time has only proven this true – Boris Klapwald’s snapshots of Grand Central Terminal were boxed up and forgotten for nearly fifty years, until discovered by his daughter. She brought them to the MTA, and they were exhibited in the Terminal through Arts for Transit. Street photographer Vivian Maier was practically unknown until her largely undeveloped film was put up for auction after her death. Her discovered photos have since been exhibited around the world, and is the subject of a documentary. Although the good majority of the photos captured these days aren’t much to write home about, it is undeniable that we are well-documenting our world, and the things future generations will most likely interpret as just plain weird.

Though cameras were far less common in the past, there were many photographers that froze glimpses of what was then normal life. I’ve posted about the Depression-era photographers of the Farm Security Administration before – despite the name, the project yielded thousands of photos that had nothing to do with farms, but instead featured normal Americans living life – including two of the most iconic photographs of Grand Central Terminal. A similarly iconic photo of Chicago’s Union Station also came out of the project, captured by photographer Jack Delano. Delano’s railroad-specific work in the Chicago area is currently on display at the Chicago History Museum, which I recently got the chance to check out.

Portrait of photographer Jack Delano and a locomotive
Portrait of photographer Jack Delano and a locomotive

Though I’m not a frequent visitor to Chicago, I had been to many of its museums (including the Museum of Science and Industry where the legendary Empire State Express #999 now lives). This was, however, my first visit to the Chicago History Museum. The museum provides an interesting look at the history of this unique city – from railroading, to the origins of atomic chain-reactions, and yes, even that cow that supposedly started that fire.

Within you’ll find well designed exhibits, and signs that not only encourage photography, but invite you to share your thoughts and snaps on social media. Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography, as the exhibit is called, depicts the life of railroaders in the Chicago area during World War II, as part of the federal government’s Office of War Information (successor to the aforementioned Farm Security Administration). Besides showing the hardworking men (and women) that kept the country running during the war, Delano’s photographs capture the waning years of steam railroading in the United States.

If you happen to be in the Chicago area between now and next year, the exhibit is worth checking out. For more information, visit the museum’s web page.

 
  
  
  
   
  
  

Born Yakov Ovcharov in Voroshylivka (then part of the Russian Empire, now part of Ukraine), Jack Delano emigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. Delano studied graphic arts, photography, and music, and was talented in all three disciplines. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, he embarked on a photographic project documenting coal miners in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. With this portfolio, he applied for (and was accepted to) a job in the photography program of the Farm Security Administration. He remained in the program as the FSA was consolidated into the Office of War Information, where he captured railroads in the Chicago, Oklahoma, and California areas.

Below you’ll find a selection of some of my favorite Chicago-area Jack Delano railroad photographs, several of which were in the exhibit. Thousands of Delano’s photographs are available online to view at the Library of Congress, railroad and otherwise.

 
  
   
  
  
   
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
  
 

Beautiful Underground – Gems of the Berlin U-Bahn History Photos

July 2nd, 2014

For over 200 years railways have been constructed across the globe to carry freight and people. Besides the trains, the integral part of every railway is, of course, the stations themselves. Some stations are rudimentary and simple, but others are undeniable gems. We’ve spent the past few weeks touring Berlin’s U-Bahn, which has many interesting stations, mixed in with plenty more bare and utilitarian stops that are hardly noteworthy. We are, however, back again to check out more attractive locales of the Berlin U-Bahn.

From the attractive Oberbaumbrücke to the unexpected above ground stations, Berlin’s U-Bahn is a captivating transit system. I’m not a big fan of subway stations, likely because I love light, of which there is never quite enough underground. However, some of the U3 Line’s underground stations are hard to ignore. A handful of some of the U-Bahn’s earliest stations are attractive gems. Many were located in the city of Wilmersdorf – then a suburb of Berlin. Conceptually, the stations’ aesthetic was to represent the affluence of the city – represented through elaborate stonework. The resulting stations featured Doric columns, granite floors, wrought iron gates, mosaic tiling, and sandstone-carved sculptures. By 1920 Wilmersdorf was folded into Greater Berlin, but these stations retain both the character and history of its predecessor.

Heidelberger Platz, circa 1915
A circa-1915 postcard of Heidelberger Platz station. Image from the Berlin U-Bahn Archive.

Though there are about five stations on the U3 Line that fit that description, we’re going to visit three of them – Hohenzollernplatz, Fehrbelliner Platz, and Heidelberger Platz. All three were designed by architect Wilhelm Leitgebel, with construction beginning in 1909 and opening in 1913.

 
  
   
  
   
 

Our first stop is to Hohenzollernplatz. The station is decorated with ceramic tiling, mosaic inlays in the ceiling, and an eagle motif – representative of the House of Hohenzollern. On the walls of the station are photographs of Hohenzollern Castle, ancestral home of the Hohenzollern family, from which came several kaisers of the German empire.

 
  
  

Fehrbelliner Platz is the next station along the way, and you can board both U3 and U7 trains here. The U7 portion was constructed in the late 1960s, and opened in January 1971. It is much more modern, and lacks the charm of the original U3 station. Much of the U3 platform, however, looks similar to the way it did at opening in 1913. The station features both historical photos and ceramic tiling. Octagonal central supports are covered in ceramic plates, and the walls have an inlay showing a historical train car. Wrought iron gates and grilles, some of which remind me of Grand Central, were designed by Michael Römmisch.

 
  
   
 
  
 
   
  
 
  
 

The last station on this Underground tour is Heidelberger Platz, which was constructed deep underground to avoid another rail line. The station is comprised of several groin vaults supported by squat columns on an island platform. Sculpted on each of these columns is a different animal, all creations of sculptor Martin Meyer-Pyritz. Additional sculptural elements, like the traditional winged wheel symbol of transportation, can be found within. Mosaic tiles found at the platform entranceways complete the attractive aesthetic, and depict flowers and the coat of arms of Wilmersdorf.

A total of 170 stations across nine lines make up Berlin’s U-Bahn system, and it is obvious that not all of them are going to be amazing bits of architecture. However, stations like those on the U3 Line make the system a delight to explore, to photograph, and perhaps even to visit from thousands of miles away (and through a computer monitor).

A Farewell to White Plains station staple – Waxman’s News Events

June 20th, 2014

Any regular commuter through White Plains is likely familiar with Gary Waxman, proprietor of the station’s newsstand. And if you were a real regular, chances are Waxman even knew you by name. Last night, however, marked the end of an era – it was Waxman’s final day of work in the station.

Waxman's News
Some final sales are made at Waxman’s News in White Plains.

Years before Metro-North was even established, Gary Waxman’s father purchased the retail space for the newsstand in the long-gone Warren & Wetmore-designed White Plains station. The younger Waxman spent weekends working the newsstand, and ultimately opted to work there full time instead of heading off to college. The elder Waxman bowed out of newsstand operations in 1986 due to illness, and Gary has run the business ever since. Much has changed since then, most notably the old station being torn down and a new one constructed in 1987. Waxman’s News was, of course, reestablished in the new White Plains station.

Alas, after many years Waxman has called it quits. With the rising cost of rent, and the falling sales of newspapers, Waxman opted not to put in a bid for a renewed contract with the MTA. Reunion Coffee, the other establishment in the station, also did not get a renewed contract and the space has been sitting vacant since January. Plans for a Tim Horton’s in the space have not yet produced anything, leaving many commuters disappointed. The transition for the newsstand, however, will be far smoother. In fact, the new proprietor took over today. Undoubtedly some folks probably never even noticed, with the exception of some potentially higher prices, and an operator that didn’t know your name.

Although his job is done, Gary Waxman made an appearance at the station this morning to bid regulars farewell. Tom Roach, mayor of White Plains, will be holding a small farewell ceremony at the station for Waxman this morning. President of Metro-North Joseph Giuletti, who met Waxman when hosting a commuter forum at the station in April, was invited to attend.

Above-Ground on the “Underground” – Berlin’s U3 Train Photos

June 18th, 2014

Last week’s post featured photos from the Oberbaum Bridge as an introduction to Berlin’s above-ground “Underground” stations. This time we’re taking a look at some more of these above-ground stations, with a focus on the U3 Line. If I had to pick my favorite U-Bahn line, the U3 would probably be it. Not only does it include some of the system’s oldest stations, it has a great mix of beautifully designed underground stations and tree-lined above-ground stations.

Trains are plentiful in the German city of Berlin, with the both the S-Bahn, and the U-Bahn, along with all the other longer distance trains that pass through. There is a general misconception that the S-Bahn is all above-ground, and the U-Bahn all underground (after all, the U does stand for untergrund), but despite that moniker, the U-Bahn has plenty of stations that catch the rays of the sun.

Map of the U3 Line
Map of the U3 Line, showing the above and below ground stations.

The U3 Line starts at Nollendorfplatz station, which has trains running not only above ground, but above street level on a viaduct (the station serves four lines, so some do in fact operate underground). The above-ground portion of the station is known for its glass dome, a replica of the original that was destroyed in the war. Continuing on, the next noteworthy station is Wittenbergplatz, which operates underground, but has an attractive station house above. The station itself opened in 1902, making it one of the oldest U-Bahn stations, but the above-ground entrance was completed several years later in 1913.

The U3 line operates underground until it reaches Podbielskiallee station – the final six stations on the line are all above ground. Dahlem-Dorf station, originally constructed in 1913, is modeled after an old German thatch-roofed farmhouse – not at all what you’d expect for a subway station. The station has caught fire not once, but twice, and was most recently restored in 2013. Beyond that is the equally attractive Thielplatz, with a charming brick station house, featuring a decorative clock.

  
 
  

A historical look at the U3 line. Many of the stations along the line were impacted by war. Photographs from the Berlin U-Bahn Archive and the German Federal Archive.

Toward the end of the line is the amusingly-named Onkel Toms Hütte station. The name is a literal German translation of book title “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. As the story goes, a local owner of a beer garden named Tom constructed huts for patrons to enjoy. Apparently these little “Tom’s cabins” reminded people of the book, and entered the local lore. Though the beer garden is long gone, the name lives on through this U-Bahn station.

Anyway, here is a selection of photographs of the U3′s above-ground stations. Come back next week to check out the next part – a journey to some of the more attractive underground stops.

 
  
 
  
   
  
  
  
 
  

Riding Berlin’s U1 Line: The Oberbaumbrücke Train History Photos

June 13th, 2014

I’ve always said that my primary interest in railroads is not necessarily the machine that is a train, but instead the way railroad systems change over time, and how they influence the people and locations around them – or even how places influence the rails. For those with similar interests, the city of Berlin is a great case study. As I’m sure everyone is familiar, Germany and the city of Berlin were partitioned after World War II into areas occupied by the French, British, Americans, and Soviets. The Soviet portion became the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, and the three other sectors the Federal Republic of Germany, better known as West Germany. In Berlin, a transit system that once spanned the entire city became truncated by this political divide. With the construction of the Berlin wall, starting in 1961, the city became truly divided.

Bernauer Straße
Ghost station: The U-Bahn station Bernauer Straße was closed after the construction of the Berlin Wall. Here you can see the entrance to the station, blocked by the wall. The station was reopened after the reunification of Germany. Photo taken August 27, 1962 by Allhails.

The citywide network of trains in Berlin struggled to conform to the divisions forced upon it by politics. In some instances, stations were completely closed, and lines were truncated as to not operate in the opposite sector. In other situations, lines were able to operate across the border, albeit with restrictions. The U8 line, for example, started in West Germany, but traversed a portion of East German territory before returning to the west. Although the train was permitted to pass through East Germany, they were not permitted to stop at the stations there. Shrouded in darkness and heavily guarded, these shuttered stations became colloquially known as “ghost stations.” In a unique situation, Friedrichstraße railway station, located in East German territory, was open to citizens from both sides of the border, though the station was divided into isolated sections for each.

U-Bahn U1 Map
Map showing the history of the U1 line, and the Berlin Wall.

It seems appropriate that our first photographic foray into Germany focuses on the first line of the U-Bahn, the U1. The U in U-Bahn stands for Untergrund, but there are many instances where the lines are anything but. One place that seems to epitomize the “not underground” Underground is the Oberbaumbrücke, or Oberbaum Bridge. First opened in 1896, the bridge carried pedestrians, cars, and eventually trains over the River Spree. The first train ran from Stralauer Tor, a station established on the viaduct, to Potsdamer Platz. Eventually the line was extended to Knie (now known as Ernst-Reuter-Platz) in the west, and Warschauer Brücke (now Warschauer Straße) in the east.

1895 bridge construction photo
1985 construction photo of the Oberbaum Bridge. Photo by German photographer Hermann Oskar Rückwardt.

Postcard of the bridge, circa 1910
Postcard showing the Oberbaum Bridge and the original Stralauer Tor station, circa 1910.

Warschauer brücke station, 1932
Looking out toward the bridge from Warschauer Brücke station, 1932. Photo via the Bundesarchiv.

The route of the line has stayed fairly consistent over the years, though Potsdamer Platz, Zoologischer Garten, and Ernst-Reuter-Platz are now part of the U2 line. Stralauer Tor station, which was on the bridge viaduct, was damaged during World War II and never rebuilt. After the partition of Germany, the Oberbaum Bridge connected the American sector with the Soviet sector, and the bridge became a border checkpoint, allowing West German pedestrians to cross. Beyond the border was Warschauer Brücke, the only station on the line located in East Berlin. For the duration that the Berlin Wall stood, the station was closed, truncating the line at the border. It was reopened in 1995 under the name of Warschauer Straße.

Progression of the Berlin Wall
Progression of the Berlin Wall, alongside the Oberbaum Bridge – Photo at left taken December, 1964 by Allhails. Photo at right from 1984 by WhitePrince.

The Oberbaum Bridge, 1993
The Oberbaum Bridge in rough shape in 1993. Photo by Roehrensee.

The Oberbaum Bridge itself is quite a beautiful bit of architecture, and is a fairly photogenic landmark. The name literally translates to “Upper tree bridge” in English, a reference to a previous wooden bridge that stood nearby. Despite being heavily damaged at multiple points through history, it was never completely demolished. During World War II the Nazis bombed the center of the bridge to prevent the Soviet army from crossing. Though the East Germans made minimal repairs to the the bridge after the war (at least enough for pedestrians to cross), it was not truly restored to its original grandeur until after the German reunification. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the steel center portion of the bridge, while the rest was restored much as it looked originally. The bridge was reopened for cars and pedestrians in 1994, and subway traffic in 1995.

Anyway, here is a collection of some photos of the U-Bahn and the Oberbaum Bridge. Over the next few weeks we’ll be visiting some more interesting spots in Berlin, including a few more “not underground” Underground stations.

The Oberbaum Bridge, Berlin