• Thoughts from inside a railway station

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by gt7348b
The thought that all we needed new, modern looking railroad stations gave us gems like this is Savannah:


A station doesn't have to be new and sleek looking; a passenger, any passenger wants several basic things from a station:

1. Information in terms of schedules and fares and connections
2. Well lit
3. Shelter from the elements
4. Restrooms
5. Vending or food

The surrounding elements are what creates a station's unique identity. The new construction found in NC and on MAX are where no stations existed. Yes, a station is the first introduction to the system, but service to the station and station location are equally important. Architectural style and decoration of the station is at most irrelevant as long as travelers have what they need and the station is well maintained and clean. Mr. Wigwag made a good point about all the yuppie professionals in the Pearl district probably not like the Portland station - after all they only live in old buildings built around the same time. I'm sure it is the historical, old fashion station building that is keeping them from taking the train rather than the lack of service to almost anywhere except Seattle.

  by wigwagfan
gt7348b wrote:Mr. Wigwag made a good point about all the yuppie professionals in the Pearl district probably not like the Portland station - after all they only live in old buildings built around the same time. I'm sure it is the historical, old fashion station building that is keeping them from taking the train rather than the lack of service to almost anywhere except Seattle.
Actually only a few buildings in the Pearl are "historical in nature", the majority are new (or so heavily modified that only a facade remains from its former self; the rest of the building - walls, ceiling and all - are new.)
The old railroad freight houses on NW 10th Avenue (which was at one time the passenger depot for the Oregon Electric Railroad, as they were banned from using Union Station as the Southern Pacific's Red Electrics used Union Station), are hardly recognizable as historical buildings other than the brick.

True, MAX is a brand new system, so all of the stations are obiviously new - but architechural design played a major role in the construction of stations (as simple as they may be). A facility that looks outdated, obsolete, or out of place, simply doesn't attract people. Look across the river to the Rose Quarter - the original intent was to keep the 1960s era Memorial Coliseum open as a second, smaller venue to the 1990s era Rose Quarter; now the discussion is how to tear it down, because sports teams and concerts don't want to use it - and thus it sits empty, while various travelling groups bypass Portland (or just go to other places in town). The Galleria was once an aspiring downtown "mall" in an old 1920s era building; today it sits empty, while the 1980s era Pioneer Place has had several additions and is fully occupied.

  by EastCleveland
wigwagfan wrote:As my comparison to Portland's Pearl District illustrates - people are drawn to the new. There are many similarities that outline that maybe sticking to nostalgia for attracting new Amtrak riders is not exactly a success.
Yes, a certain segment of the population does have a jones for shiny new architecture. But I think you're overestimating the extent of its appeal.

In the residential real estate market, "old" continues to be far more desirable -- even among the young and supposedly hip. "Old" also commands the highest prices -- whether you're talking about a Vermont farmhouse from the 1700s, a pre-war apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, or a 5000 square foot residential loft in a converted 19th century corset factory in Toledo. And if the buildings still have all their original features? The price instantly doubles.

It's not necessarily due to a limited supply either. Even in eastern cities, where "old" buildings greatly outnumber new ones, the demand shows no sign of abating.

And let's not forget the trend among today's suburban property developers: constructing acre after acre of brand new houses festooned with Corinthian columns, gabled roofs, brick chimneys, bay windows, front porches, gingerbread woodwork, and other architectural hallmarks of a bygone age.

My point: If the majority of Americans (and not just the Blackberry-wielding denizens of places like the Pearl District) truly wanted glass and bare metal, that's what those developers would be building throughout the land. And Bob Vila and his hordes of TV imitators would have no audience.

Urban developers have also jumped into the act, converting block after block of abandoned warehouses into shops, art galleries, restaurants, and living spaces. Are the results invariably overpriced, pretentious, and anything but hip? Sure. But it's all done with the aim of preserving and enjoying, rather than destroying. And no one turns up their nose because the buildings are "old."

Then too, a number of cities are finding that the public responds favorably to forms of ground transportation once considered outdated. The popularity of San Francisco's F Line trolley service among locals and tourists (using PCC cars from the 1930s) is a good example. Philadelphia is also returning classic old trolleys to city streets. And in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, ridership on the intercity Trinity Railway Express (which includes a fleet of Budd RDCs from the 1950s) has increased far more rapidly than either city expected.

As for airports? I don't know anyone who's ever decided to not travel by plane because they felt the air terminal was old and unappealing. Likewise, I don't know anyone who has ever decided to fly simply because they can max out their credit cards in the terminal shops while they wait to board. People take the form of transportation that best meets their needs, tastes, and time frame.

All airports look the way they do for a simple reason: they were designed during an era when glass, steel, and plastic were the fastest and cheapest way to build. If commercial air travel had existed in 1902, you'd still see plenty of surviving terminals filled with their original wainscotting, ceiling beams, cast iron, and -- yes --- old wooden benches.

What's more, millions of air travelers would still be using those hundred year-old terminals each day. And if the American appreciation for old architecture any indication? My guess is that most people would enjoy those old air terminals far more than they enjoy the airports we actually have today.

As for the demise in popularity of Portland attractions you mentioned. . . .

Many factors affect the success and later failure of a business venture. Architecture is often the least of them. The 1980s Pioneer Place might be doing well compared to the 1920s Galleria. But in many places, the reverse is true -- shopping meccas from the 60s, 70s, and 80s are now "dead malls," while facilities dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are doing well.

As for places like the Memorial Coliseum. . . Sports teams demand (and usually get) flashy new stadiums and arenas, whether or not the cost of such stadiums and arenas is warranted. And concert promoters and rock bands simply opt for the venue that offers them the best deal. It's nothing personal, and it's rarely truly architectural. It's just business.
Last edited by EastCleveland on Mon Nov 14, 2005 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Ken W2KB
Is the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport in NYC still in use? I believe that it is for some flights. A real gem constructed for the flying boats in the 1930's art deco style.

Newark Liberty's original terminal building, complete with one of (or the?) orginal control towers in aviation was moved afew hundred feet to preserve it a few years ago. Not used for passengers anymore, but saved for its historical value.

  by george matthews
EastCleveland wrote:What's more, millions of air travelers would still be using those hundred year-old terminals each day. And if the American appreciation for old architecture any indication? My guess is that most people would enjoy those old air terminals far more than they enjoy the airports we actually have today.
The church in my home town has just celebrated its 1300th anniversary.

  by vector_one75
I do not think that one must go the "either / or" way of modern or nostalgic. Both really are necessary, for both the functionalities of reality and for the sense of quality, permanence, continuityy and history that any industry should foster. Why is it that some beers and bourbons promote the use of kegs that grandpa made when he started his company, even though the the shelves and bottles are made under the most modern equipment? In any industry that solely promotes a plastic temporary, disposable, almost "shyster" type of marketing rather than quality which really requires the years of experience of the makers, which is really the sum total of the history of science and engineering even the new hi-tech computer products is the result of, I think both are needed in the full context of having it all, provided that the "comforts and amenities" expected by the progress of consumers that the "goods be delivered as public expectations of being advertized".

For rail passenger service, any shortcomings of the "delivery of goods as public expectations expectations of being advertized" are generally due to the lack of sufficient resources to create a critical mass volume to sustain the system. Plus the fact that a lot cold hard facts of "opportunism and expediency", rather than the superficial awareness of "right" or "left" political tendencies which create anti-passenger train promoters who are "capitalists" regarding Amtrak but are "socialists" regarding road funding, in other words, thery have no real political belifs other than personal preference for car or train travel, and that is squarely opportunism and expediency, nothing at all about conservatism or liberalism. If you put all transport, or even all industry, under either a pure lezzez faire or a pure controlled society, in both cases, travellers would be chjanging in droves from cars to passenger trains, since under the same pure policies of either side will be obvious that passenger trains win hands down. Its when people and politicians start mixing and matching conflicting ideologies to tweak policies for their own agendas, that's where the controversies start as to what is more expensive than what, what is nostalgia or modern, and all these other controversial issues that society is wasting its time, effort, and resources about.

For me, my ideological preference is for lezzez-faire, accross the board, which includes full cost recovery by the motorists, cash up front, at point of driving out of the driveway. Because the passenger train is expected to do this, so too then the road/car system (yes, total system, including even police traffic management) must be done on the same basis. On the other hand, if it were to be a purely planned controlled society as opposed to lezzez-faire, the way to the bottom line may be another route, but in the final analysis it would be the same result: the passenger train will win. It is the mis-mix-match of inconsistent ideologies as apply to the road system and the rail system that creates all the angst, and because the real bases are opportunism and expedience rather that real ideology, there will never be any final solution or even compromise.

Train service must be up-to-date, convenient, and comfortable, but a MacDonald's type approach will eventually tire of the blandness of it all. There is nothing "outmoded" about a sense of history. We are not the only "transportation fans" around in the world. There are bus fans, modellers, bus magazines, bus museums, aviation fans, modellers, magazines, museums, ship and ferry fans, modellers, magazines, and museums, and even NASA space matters as well, and all of these have a component of nostalgia that does create an aura even in the modern day and age.

While I have generally preferred rail travel, pre- and post- Amtrak and now in Australia where I now live, there were trips I had to use bus or air. But for those, I had tried to make a more interesting trip. For example, once I had to fly from New York to Cleveland, and a host of flights were available, but instead of the usual non-stop flight, I chose an Allegheny Convair 580 turbo prop for the more interesting run, stopping in Allentown, Binghamton, Elmira, Rochester and Buffalo (low altitude between Rochester and Buffalo because of the short leg to skim over the landscape, almost over backyards!).

There are a lot of nostalgic DC3 runs even here in Australia which are as packed with passengers as steam rail excursions. Any industry that turns its back on its past will not have much of a future, even in terms of learning from its mistakes, and boy, in terms of the entire transportation industry, there have been mistakes and as a result, progress for the better.

Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Ausatralia

  by Ken W2KB
Another example at a major airport, to wit DCA Washington Reagan National Airport. I had occasion to visit Terminal A this past Thursday to get fingerprinted as part of the process to get TSA approval to fly into the Washington, DC flight restricted zone without acquiring a fighter escort. :wink:

As I walking through the terminal I noted a large photo gallery with historic aviation photos, though since I was pressed for time, I did not get a good look. That's for a future visit.
  by metrarider
Ken W2KB wrote:
wigwagfan wrote:Airports and airlines don't tell stories of the past, when travelling by DC-3s were popular; in fact many travellers are surprised that propeller driven aircraft are still used today on regional flights. Airports are often modern, sweeping facilities; older terminal buildings extensively remodeled or razed completely and replaced. The airports I have been to don't feature photographs of old aircraft or the airports' history, nor do they have models of antique aircraft. One has to leave the airport and travel to an aircraft museum.
This may be true of some giant international airports, but even there I know I've seen photos, etc. of DC3s and their ilk. Of the 10 or so smaller airports I've visited in the last couple of years, each served by a regional carrier or a major airlines regional service, most had a number of old photos, etc.
Indeed, I can't even think of one airport I've frequented that does not have some sort of nod to the past - be it in an old aircraft or tug or collection of photos. It's perhaps not as pervasive, but it is there if you chose to seek it out.

at least on this point, I really don't see where wigwagfan is coming from.

  by NY&LB
DCA terminal A does indeed have a large collection of Historic photos, in fact Continential Airlines Presidents Club in DCA also has a large number of historic photos. American Airlines Newark terminal has a restored baggage cart "tug" out near the gates and their Admiral's Club has a display of historic items at Newark as well.

However, the most interesting use of historic items may be Cincinnati's airport which has the tile mosaics from Cincinnati Union Terminal displayed...so here we have transportation historic items from a rail terminal at an airport!

  by Gilbert B Norman

I believe this topic has evolved in manner that best renders it placed at the Rail Travel Forum.

So, here is comes over to you, Mr. Benton