Over the past few years I have taken on the project of riding the various commuter lines between Philadelphia and its suburbs. My purpose is not to present an accurate representation of trains, but to leave the viewer with my impression of train travel.
My first exposure to this system was as a student at Villanova University in the mid-1960s, riding what was then called the Paoli Local. Here's a link if you would like to read about the history, development and evolution of the Philadelphia & Columbia Railway and the Paoli Local: www.lowermerionhistory.org/texts/first300/part08.html
Train photography is a well-established tradition in the history of photography. The works of Otto C. Perry and O. Winston Link in the United States; Ivo Peters, H. Gordon Tidey and the Rev. Eric Treacy in the United Kingdom, W. W. (Bill) Steward in New Zealand; and Carl Bellingrodt in Germany are a few of train photography’s trail blazers.
Like a dream that cannot quite be remembered, my train photos play with time. These are not the decisive moment, but, rather, an interval with no measure. The present becomes a blur reaching back and extending to the future all in the same an instant. Momentarily disoriented we are in touch with flashes not completely forgotten.
Travel by train has an important place in my childhood memories. I remember my first train trip as my first great adventure. I was in the first grade and my parents and I traveled all the way from Newark, New Jersey to Hollywood, Florida by train. Those were a magical 24 hours that opened my young eyes to new people, experiences and places.
About the same time as my initial train explorations (the early 1950’s) Walker Evans wrote in Fortune that, “He who travels by rail. . .clangs and shunts straight into his own childhood.” This is certainly true for me. These days, I can’t even ride the local commuter train without thinking back to my early initiation. Train travel, like a time machine, hurls us back into our past. The receding track points back in time and space -- the past, present and future are one.
The entire contents of this web site are copyrighted by John A. Benigno. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.