Illuminating PBS Documentary on the Reading Viaduct

Perhaps unintentionally, the film serves as a belated love note to the late Paul vanMeter.

reading viaduct pbs screen shot

A screen shot from PBS Digital Studios’ “Unusual Spaces No. 2”

Even those who oppose the idea of turning the abandoned Philadelphia Reading Railroad tracks into public space will have a hard time feeling cynical about this short film from PBS Digital, a series by Raymond A. Schillinger. Featured on Gizmodo yesterday, among other places, the four-minute documentary is told through the eyes of Paul vanMeter, the project’s most tenacious advocate, and the founder of ViaductGreene, who died shortly after this film was made. It’s safe to say that without vanMeter’s passion for the project, we would not be where we are today.

The film is probably the best primer for people looking to understand what and where the project is, both underground and aboveground, and what it looks like now. Even I, as someone steeped in this subject matter, feel like I have a better sense of what’s being proposed now that I’ve seen it. Certainly, the scenes shot underground are immensely helpful.

vanMeter makes one point that shows both his sincerity and his appreciation of the railroad’s role in the city’s trajectory:

“Of all these postindustrial places being turned into parks and green space, I don’t know of any that really speaks to its city’s history like this one does.”

The Eerie Abandoned Railway That Could Become Philly’s Next Park [Gizmodo]