Overbrook To Paoli: The History And Future Of The Main Linex19'S Train Stations

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One of the first railroad lines in the United States, the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad was formed by the government of Pennsylvania in the early 19th century. Eventually, this line stretching west from Philadelphia was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad, helping that corporation to become one of the most powerful in the world. A group of small depots were built along the portion of the line closest to the city, eventually leading to the development of a string of commuter suburbs collectively known as the "Main Line." Today, 17 of these train stations continue to serve the towns of the Main Line, all of which date back to the Pennsylvania Railroad era or earlier. Of these, several retain their historic station structures that are in continuous daily use by the commuter railroad that still ferries thousands of passengers to Philadelphia each day. These historic depots range in condition from well-maintained to nearly abandoned. Some communities have taken active roles in restoring their stations, from performing small tasks such as planting flowers on surrounding land to taking the lead in extensive restoration efforts. In Merion and Wynnewood, for example, the nearby communities have taken to performing basic tasks that mainly serve to keep their stations visually attractive. In Wayne, an effort started in the 1990s aimed to do more, including restoring windows, re-constructing canopies and repairing roofing. Other historic stations are in dire need of help. Devon, whose historic fabric is essentially intact, is badly damaged after years of neglect. Associated railroad buildings located variously along the line, such as signal towers, have been made obsolete by modern technology, and thus are crumbling away. The Main Line is an affluent area known for its large homes, impressive schools and attractive commercial districts, and yet its railroad infrastructure is treated as an afterthought. The Main Line's train stations exist in a constant state of flux, as the needs and funding of the current transit operators change. Several depots are slated for imminent changes, while others continue to languish and face uncertain futures. Whether or not the historic and architectural legacy of these stations will continue to thrive and be maintained will largely depend on their users and surrounding communities; the transit agencies alone cannot be expected to provide solutions that are timely, sensitive to local identity, and in keeping with historic character.

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Historic Preservation; Pennsylvania Railroad; Train Stations


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Tomlan, Michael Andrew

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Chusid, Jeffrey M.

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Historic Preservation Planning

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M.A., Historic Preservation Planning

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Master of Arts

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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