Of all the projects in Philadelphia, some are so transformative that it feels like a dream to work on them. In the case of The Rail Park, it really is a dream come true for the J2 team. We’re excited to be working alongside the Board of The Rail Park to build a website that conveys the full reach and potential for this project and creates a new platform for members, donors, and partners. At J2, we all thought we knew about The Rail Park, but we were left wide-eyed after a recent tour with Michael Garden, one of The Rail Park Board Members and an incredible tour guide. Most Philadelphians probably don’t yet understand the scope of the project and the impact it could have on the city, and we’re looking forward to creating a digital space to educate and inspire.
After walking along a portion of The Rail Park, here are 11 things we learned that make us even more excited to work on this project:
1. The Rail Park, when fully built, will be The High Line times two = twice as long and twice as wide. The full project, running between The Tunnel to The Cut and The Viaduct, totals 3 miles and connects 10 neighborhoods.
2. The train path, from 31st and Pennsylvania to 9th and Fairmount dates back to Philly’s industrial heyday and serves to highlight some of the few remaining structures.
3. As the Workshop of the World, Philadelphia led the country in manufacturing from roughly the 1880s to the 1920s. Much of the industry centered around the Callowhill neighborhood, including the massive Baldwin Locomotive Works complex.
4. The Baldwin 60000 steam locomotive was rolled from 24th and Vine to its current location at the Franklin Institute, where the building was completed around the stationed train.
5. Paulownia’s trees grow along train tracks because they were the OG packing peanuts — i.e. their dried seed pods are so hard yet light that they were used for shipping along train lines. When the crates were unloaded, the seeds inevitably sprouted along the tracks. There are still a ton of Paulownia trees along The Rail Park, especially around The Cut.
6. Part of The Viaduct was demolished to make way for the Vine Street Expressway and the Convention Center, but it used to connect directly into Reading Terminal.
7. The TV Guide headquarters was located adjacent to the old Philadelphia Inquirer building, which is located directly next to the old train line. This facility was known for producing some of the highest quality printing in the industry.
8. The Cut section of The Rail Park is 1.75 miles long and runs parallel to Callowhill. It’s below grade based on a deal between the Reading Railroad Company and the city. They were allowed to build Reading Terminal, but had to suppress or elevate their tracks because they were so dangerous at street level.
9. The incline on the elevated Viaduct section is exactly the grade needed for ADA compliance, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the building of Phase 1.
10. Many of the buildings adjacent to The Cut are parking garages with elevators accessing the basement levels — meaning that potential entrances to future sections of the park are numerous.
11. That crazy huge building (the Terminal Commerce Building) at Broad and Noble is as almost as big as Comcast 2 and is Philadelphia’s largest server farm with over 1.3 million square feet.
To learn more about The Rail Park, and to donate to this great project, check out their current website. If you’re free on Friday, October 7th, be sure to check out the installation Unsung at the Rail Park.