Train Geeks Freaking Out Over 30th Street Station Renaming

Not so fast, Chaka Fattah!

30th Street Station. Photo | Jeff Fusco

30th Street Station. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Earlier this week, we told you that United States Congressman Chaka Fattah wants to rename 30th Street Station after his barrier-breaking predecessor, William H. Gray III, making it the clunkily named William H. Gray III 30th Street Station that precisely zero people will call it. It’s a nice enough idea and not one that you’d expect people to get up in arms about. But you apparently have never met a train geek.

One such train geek is Bennett Levin, who is not just a train geek but a train geek with credentials. Here’s a sampling of Levin’s CV:

• President of the PA Railroad Technical and Historical Society
• President of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners
• Member of the National Railway Historical Society
• Member of the Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society
• Member of the Lexington Group in Transportation History
• Member of the Advisory Board of the Railroad Museum of PA
• Former member of the Historical Commission of the City of Philadelphia
• Founder and director of the Broad Way Historic Preservation Conservancy
• Founder and president of the Juniata Terminal Company

Oh, and he also headed the Liberty Limited, a special train to transport injured soldiers from the Walter Reed and Bethesda military hospitals to Philadelphia’s Army Navy football game in 2005, 2006 and 2010.

Levin is none too happy about Fattah’s proposal, which seems certain to become a reality in the very near future (it just passed in the House).

In an open letter to Fattah, Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, and Congressman Bob Brady, among others, Levin has opposed the measure, suggesting that Gray is the wrong guy for this particular honor.

Here is part of the letter:

Pennsylvania Station, 30th Street, Philadelphia; as it is captioned on the National Register of Historic Places, is the most significant monumental structure remaining from what was at one time this nation’s most significant corporation and transportation enterprise. The building itself and the “West Philadelphia Improvements” which accompanied its construction stands as testimony to vision and leadership that the company itself provided to not only the City of Philadelphia but to the Nation itself.

I knew Bill Gray. I did business with Bill Gray. I respect Bill Gray. However, Bill Gray has absolutely no connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad, or the neighborhood in which the station stands.

If there is such an overwhelming need to attach a name to this magnificent edifice then I would respectfully suggest that Congress consider several other Philadelphians who were national leaders and who were directly connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad and who had a far more significant impact on the history of this great nation than the current nominee who you are actively considering for this unique and distinctive memorial.

Levin then goes on to suggest people that you’ve likely never heard of, but all people who were much more significantly involved with trains in Pennsylvania than was Gray.

And Levin’s not the only one upset about it. There’s now a petition over on (where else?) to demand that Mayor Nutter put a stop to the new name. As of Thursday morning, it had 306 signatures.

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