Traveling Around Philly

One of the reasons I have stayed in the area is the pleasure and ease of visiting Philadelphia. The SEPTA trains, such as the one that stops at Lansdowne, fan out in all directions and cost only $1 for senior citizens. You can see a map and all the schedules at

My wife and I often take the one from Marcus Hook that has convenient parking and a surprisingly pleasant station.  Your proof of age is your Medicare card and nothing else, not white hair, wrinkles, or even a driver’s license, so be sure to have it with you.  You cannot travel during rush hours, but who would want to anyway?  Once in Philly, you can ride any bus, subway, or El for free.  Just flash your Medicare card and step right on.  Amazing!

There are now four train stations in Philly. Coming in from the southwestern suburbs, the first station is University City, right in the shadow of Franklin Field.  Just observing the fantastic activity around the University of Penn campus is a pleasure.  There are many quality eating places and the University of Penn Museum is world-famous.  You can even get Chinese food from a hot dog stand.  Drexel is also within walking distance.

The next is 30th Street Station, still a magnificent building and a connecting point with other trains.

This is followed by the familiar Suburban Station at 17th Street, which, unfortunately, looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since our times. The problem is that it is much too big for today’s needs, but they are refurbishing it.  It’s the station to walk to Logan Square, the Franklin Institute, etc., and to get a bus to the Art Museum and Zoo.  You can also walk to the Mutter Museum, a little-known medical museum that will give you conversation topics for years to come, and the center city area with City Hall and the new Kimmel Center that replaced the Academy of Music for many functions.  The Kimmel Center has two separate concert buildings under one huge glass enclosure.  There are free hourly guided tours.  On a sunny day, you can walk to Rittenhouse Square and share a fabulous take-out deli sandwich on a bench (it takes two to eat one).  On Chestnut Street is a branch of the National Archives where you can do genealogical research without going to Washington, D.C.  All these places are shown on a free map of downtown Philly available at the information counter at the major stations.

The last station, Market Street East, at 10th and Market, is new, at least to us. A beautiful station, it connects to the new Convention Center and is part of the Gallery, a downtown mall.  So, if you have to wait for a train home, browse in the mall. Step out the door and you will be at Chinatown with fabulous eating places.  A block down is the famous Reading Terminal Market with more good food.  The often-overlooked Academy of Fine Arts is nearby.  This whole area is a far cry from the desolate Arch and Race Street area it used to be and is now the heart of the city.  And, yes, the Troc is still there, but without the burley-Q.

Also from Market Street East, you can walk or take the subway (free, remember) down to the Independence Hall area, Elfreth’s Alley, and Penn’s Landing, all good areas for browsing. Around 2nd Street is the Historic Area with many galleries and more eating places.  It also has several restaurant supply stores that has any type or size cooking or eating utensil you can imagine. And, this is where you can walk to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

A word of warning — don’t go further on the train than Market Street East unless you want to see what downtown Baghdad looks like. The next stop is for Temple University, but, believe me, just like Baghdad, you don’t want to walk around there holding a tourist map.

Whether you take the train into the city from Marcus Hook, Lansdowne, or any of the other outlying stations, you will pass through miles of the most desolate areas of abandoned warehouses and factories. Some find this appallingly depressing, but I love it. I look on them like Greek ruins or remains of once grand cathedrals.  I even take pictures whenever possible. “Life marches on!” as they used to say in the old newsreels.  From Marcus Hook, I pass the old Armstrong linoleum plant, the Fels Naphtha soap factory, and countless metal fabricating buildings with once proud names now forgotten.  Most have rusted remains of railroad sidings and walls of frosted glass windows with weeds growing through the broken panes.  It’s easy to imagine the hordes of workers that once changed shifts there, and is this any different than imagining hordes of worshipers at now-ruined English cathedrals?

In Marcus Hook, near the train station, is the old American Viscose plant that made rayon fiber. The main administration building (where I once applied for a job) is a large building of magnificent red brickwork, right on the main street.   Across the street is a community of houses on curving streets looking much like Gladstone Manor, except, I suddenly noticed, they all had one wall of the same red brick mirroring the same architectural details of the administration building.  Where else could you see that today?

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About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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