February 14, 2002


A few blocks from my house, the old Overbrook trolley line, which has been out of service for seven years, joins the Beechview light rail line, which was rebuilt about 15 years ago. That junction, and about one hundred yards of track adjacent to it, had been rebuilt to the high light rail standard and was regularly used as a siding for maintenance-of-way equipment and trains about to enter service. I was quite surprised, therefore, when workers began tearing up the rail there and removing the catenary and its steel supports.

The reason for the demolition is that a transit station is being built near the junction of the two lines, which will require a realignment of the right-of-way. The sudden removal of the catenary supports revealed an unobstructed sky, especially remarkable because Willow Street, which parallels the now-removed rails, is about a dozen feet lower than the roadbed.

We city dwellers (particularly suburban dwellers, anyway) often do not realize the degree to which our environment is cluttered with utility poles, wires, cell phone towers, and the like. We often excise these ugly modern appliances from our mental landscape, only becoming aware of them when they show up unexpectedly in our photographs or disappear to reveal sky or field or building that they used to obscure.

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