A hundred years ago, Baltimore was a dangerous place in a different way. Its rail station was not only “drafty, antiquated and lugubrious,” it was occasionally lethal: according to the Baltimore Sun, (2011 edition) “travelers risked their lives crossing busy tracks on foot at the signal of conductors to catch their trains. Many, unaware of approaching trains, were either killed or maimed when struck by locomotives.” Or the Sun (1907 edition): “It is probable that no city in the United States of the size of Baltimore or anywhere near its size and importance, is so poorly provided with railroad terminals as is this city. The passenger stations of the Pennsylvania Railroad here are most discreditable to the company and most uncomfortable, not to say dangerous to passengers who travel on that road.”
Which is why we should all find a way to celebrate the hundredth birthday of Penn Station this week (it’s a Virgo!), ugly man-woman statue notwithstanding. Penn Station is the eighth busiest rail terminal in the country, and even though they replaced that wonderful clicking/flipping arrivals & information board with a digital one, it’s still an endearing place to linger while you wait for your delayed Northeast Regional. It’s got the scruffy charm that DC’s Union Station lacks, and its less overwhelming than New York’s Penn Station. Now if they could only open a cafe that would sell me a Naked Juice for less than $5, I’ll be happy.
(Stop by the station over the next month to view artifacts, photos, and memorabilia commemorating the station’s centennial.)