The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

lingered so

with 2 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

An Amtrak train carried me from NYC to… Philadelphia… for a day trip. I had rolled through here not too long ago, but my visits were only as part of a layover on two trips to and from the pretty city of Pittsburgh on the western side of Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh postings from my first autumnal visit, listed in chronological order – Great Elms, Gnarled Orchards, Ancient Walls, Lower Meadows, Choked Fissure, Human Clothing, Other Constellations, Certain Circumstances, Terrestrial Gravity, Needed Form, Without Dissolution, Calculations Would, Grave Doubt, Luckily Obtainable, Abnormal Toughness, Prodigious Time, Unexampled Flight, Earthward Dreams, and finally Bacterial Agent.

Both times I was in Philadelphia in 2021, my schedule was extremely limited, and a decision was undertaken just after Christmas to return to Phillie in 2022 and do my thing in a planned and intentional fashion.

Here’s what I gathered last time I was passing through the Brotherly Love Capitol in November of last year – “hideous gnawing” “menacing dreams” “every hand” and “passed close.” Again – I had little idea what to expect there, and a very limited time to shoot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This time around, there was a plan, and a rather ambitious shot list. When designing the list, I was fully cognizant of the fact that there was practically zero chance of getting through the entire thing in the roughly 13 hours I’d be spending in the municipality.

On our way into 30th street Station, which is “the Penn Station of Philadelphia” and pictured above and below, I spotted the historic rolling stock of an outfit called “Catalpa Falls” which offers luxury rides on heritage Pennsylvania Rail Road executive cars that have been lovingly restored to their original glory. Neat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of things to state;

First – I only possess a tourist’s level of knowledge about Philadelphia. Ok, I’m not an ordinary tourist, but if I state something in this or subsequent posts that’s wrong, I’d beg for corrections in the comments. Unlike the sort of “deep dive” stuff you associate with me on the waterways of NYC, I haven’t got a lived experience for these posts that I can lean on to inform the narrative. I ain’t from here.

Second – 30th street station, pictured above, is found along the Schuylkill River. The Schuylkill is 135 miles long, stretching from Pottsville to Philadelphia, and is a tributary of the larger Delaware River. Given that I have to analogize everything to NYC as that’s my frame of reference – the Delaware is like the Hudson, and the Schuylkill is like the East River. I spent most of my day along this path, and the Schuylkill River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a post industrial series of landings and pedestrian/bike piers set along the Schuylkill’s shoreline, which follows along active freight rail tracks, and form what’s known as “The Schuylkill River Trail.” I’m told that “Schuylkill” is pronounced as “school kill” which is dumb and the reason why Phillie is stupid as compared to New York. Sky Kill would be better, and they should have checked with a New Yorker before working out a pronunciation.

A third thing for these series of posts that I’m going to warn you about – I’m from Brooklyn, and shit talking Philadelphia is a part of my DNA. I like using “America’s Consolation Prize” best for the place, when throwing shade. Saying that, it’s still one of the great American population centers, a significant contributor to our ancient and current culture, and one of the major nodes found in the North American Megalopolis. Philadelphia is actually a very cool and fairly astounding place, but I’ll never let one of those cheesesteak eaters hear me say it out loud.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My fourth caveat in these posts is that I’m not 100% on cardinal directions since I’m largely unfamiliar with Philadelphia, but I’m pretty sure that the initial point that my shot list started at (above) was southeast of 30th street Station. I walked as far as the Schuylkill River Trail allowed me, which was right alongside a power plant and a set of railroad tracks.

The rail trackage seems to be the property of the CSX outfit, and later on in the day, I saw one of their trains using the right of way. You’ll see that too, but sometime next week, so at least now you’ve got something to look forward to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An energy outfit based in Boston, dubbed Vicinity Energy, operates a gas powered electrical generating mill here, in what I’m told is South Philadelphia. They pump out some 163 megawatts of electrical juice from this “cogen” plant as well as supplying steam to hundreds of buildings. “Cogen” means that they co-generate steam and electric, just like Big Allis on the East River in LIC. The landward sections surrounding this plant are called Gray’s Ferry and Forgotten Bottom.

An attempt at finding out a bit more about this power plant was subsumed and overwhelmed by tales of racial tension and ethnic clashes in the neighborhoods surrounding the plant. Apparently, the residential areas nearby this section of the Schuylkill have been a flashpoint for turmoil and animus along social class and racial lines for decades, if not centuries.

Next week – more from Philadelphia’s Schuylkill waterfront.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 22, 2022 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Great reporting. I found two websites you may not know about relating to the neighborhood of Schuylkill Station:


    April 22, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    • Yup, the first one confirms a bunch of what I read about, which included some sort of early 21st century nightmare scenario that drew in Louis Farrakhan and the Nation.

      Mitch Waxman

      April 22, 2022 at 11:48 pm

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