A Grand Train Station: Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station

30th Street exterior 2

Does it happen to you that you live in a city, visit or pass by its landmarks often and don’t think twice about it? Then you see an Instagram photo or a blog post about your city and realize that sometimes you take its most treasured sights for granted? Or don’t stop to appreciate them more often?

I attended college in Philadelphia (at the University of Pennsylvania) and after graduating I lived in New York City and then northern Virginia for seven years, returning regularly to Philadelphia for visits back to campus or to see friends. Traveling to Philadelphia, I rode the train – NJ Transit and SEPTA to and from New York City or Amtrak to and from Washington, DC. I would get off the train at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and hurry on my way, rarely stopping to appreciate the station itself.

Once I moved to California, I returned to Philadelphia several times a year for work, but my arrivals into Philadelphia were via the airport. I rarely visited 30th Street Station.

Last week I returned to the east coast for a wedding and to visit family and friends. We were staying with friends in New Jersey, and since I did not have a car, I rode SEPTA from Trenton, New Jersey, to visit Philadelphia for the day.

As I arrived into 30th Street Station, I stopped to wonder. The station has been refurbished in recent years, returned to its original glory, and it is truly an architectural and historical sight to see.

30th Street hall

The main hall, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia

The ceiling is so high with columns at either end of the station, lending to its stately presence.

The regional SEPTA trains do not depart from the main tracks in the central hall, but to access those tracks you must walk through this grand space.

30th Street Statue

Angel of the Resurrection (1952) by Walter Hancock honors members of the Pennsylvania Rail Road that died in World War II.

The hall below is in-between the main center hall and the area of the station with Amtrak ticket windows and rental car agencies. I like that it is kept simple and open. Passengers are lined up for one of the Amtrak tracks accessed from the main hall.

30th Street side room

The sculpture on the wall is Spirit of Transportation (1895) by Karl Bitter

The flipping train schedule board is in the center of the main hall. A few days after I visited the station, news broke that the sign would be replaced by an LED sign. I wish I had recorded video of the sign changing. As I was taking pictures, I heard the clack, clack, clack as the train departure and arrival information changed, and it made me smile.

30th Street schedule

The central train schedule in the main hall. Amtrak and Acela trains are listed on this board.

I found this video by director and producer Max Goldberg of five five collective that pays homage to the arrival board. It captures the sound of the board changing!

 

The station’s exterior is covered with scaffolding as apparently work is being completed. There is a modern sign in front that is new. Behind the flags in the photo below the awning covering the SEPTA tracks can be seen. The area inside the scaffolding features a food court. There is also a news stand and florist.

30th Street exterior 1

Viewing 30th Street Station from the southeast corner.

Located across the Schuylkill River from Center City Philadelphia, 30th Street Station is a convenient hub for commuters and tourists alike to access Philadelphia. The building itself is worth a visit even if you are not taking a train into the city.

When I rushed to catch a train later that night, I did not have time to stop and take photos, but I did look around with wonder and appreciation of the architecture of this beautiful building.

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2 thoughts on “A Grand Train Station: Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station

  1. A great update on 30th St. Station, Kiera. I went through the Septa part and the big main hall many times in my Philly years – going to “Penngineering” Grad at night, with a day office on the east bank of the Schuylkill, and living on the Media Local. These architectural marvels fell on hard times as passenger train travel declined, and the name of the Terminal Bar across Market by the Post Office took on a new meaning. It’s wonderful to see 30th St. being both restored and brought to new glory. Thanks!

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    • I am glad you enjoyed the post on 30th Street Bill. I remember it being grand in my Penn days (early 90’s), but today it truly sparkles. It’s nice to see that Philadelphia is taking care of these local treasures.

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