Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Baltimore Pennsylvania Station

Baltimore Penn Station in 1926, from Maryland Historical Society
On September 14, 1911, the first visitors were allowed into the brand new Baltimore Pennsylvania Station after a year-and-a-half long construction period. At 1:35am on September 15th the first trained pulled into the station.

The current Pennsylvania Station is actually the third to sit on the sight. The first, wooden structure, having served Baltimore between 1873 and 1886 and the second until 1910. The third station had many improvements over the previous two. The new station had an elevated concourse above the train tracks with stairways that went down to the platforms between the tracks. Previously, passengers had to cross the tracks at ground level, which could be dangerous. There were waiting rooms, lounges, baggage checking areas, a lunch counter, plus offices for the Pennsylvania Railroad on the upper floors.

At one point trains stopped at Penn Station that were travelling along the Pennsy's main line between Boston and Washington, D.C. as well as those that ran along the Northern Central Railway to Harrisburg. The Western Maryland Railway also served Penn Station until the late 1950s.

Today, Baltimore is still a busy passenger station for both Amtrak and MARC. Over 925,000 passengers went through Baltimore on Amtrak in 2010, making it the 8th busiest train station in the US. Roughly 2,600 MARC passengers board at Penn Station every weekday. Together about 150 trains pass through Penn Station every day in both directions.

Penn Station also serves as a major hub with the Midtown-Belvedere neighborhood to the south and Station North to its north. With MICA and the University of Baltimore adjacent to the west and south, there is a lot of activity during here. BoltBus makes its runs to and from New York and Newark, NJ at a stop on St. Paul Street while the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator makes its northern loop around the station picking up visitors and residents on its way back downtown and into Federal Hill. The MTA runs its Penn-Camden shuttle from Penn Station as well, although this is an underutilized service with 30-minute headways, and could be drastically improved if light rail trains could service directly BWI (or made to serve the northern end of the line).

Although not as large, or famous as some of the other landmarks of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, our Penn Station still makes a large mark on Baltimore and is daily utilized by thousands of riders. There will be an exhibition of the station history through the next couple of weeks.

Baltimore Sun article

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