The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

There and back again

with 3 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Birmingham Bridge which a tugboat is navigating up the Monongahela River under, here in Pittsburgh. Where the bridge comes back to land on the southern shore, seen on the right hand side of the shot, is where my car was parked. Due to construction, my original plan to walk across Birmingham Bridge was thwarted, and also due to that project a humble narrator was forced to just keep on going in a generally westwards direction until a river crossing manifested itself. This is from the northern shoreline of the waterbody, and I needed to get to the south side and then back to my waiting automobile.

That’s the quandary. I solved it by doing what I do, which to just keep on walking. Scuttling, actually, but let’s call it walking. Luckily, an apparently quite energetic young woman jogged past me, hopping a couple of feet into the air with every stride, and since she seemed to know where she was going I kept an eye on her path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path which that fitness enthusiast blazed led me directly to the South Tenth Street Bridge, which I’ve actually mentioned before. The bridge connects several levels of the north side area together, including leading up to Duquesne University via a very steep staircase set against a bluff. There’s also a vehicle only tunnel punched through the base of the bluff which leads out to local streets. On the river facing side, you can navigate down to the waterfront and it’s trails, as well as to ‘for pay’ parking lots surrounding several governmental buildings. On the other side of the river, the bridge enters the South Side Flats neighborhood. That’s where I needed to go, to find my way back to the car.

Luckily, protected pedestrian and bike paths on bridges are pretty common hereabouts. One hung a left, and away a humble narrator went.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty pleasant walking experience, actually. Separated from vehicular flow by steel girders, but few chain link sections of fencing. One of my most sincere complaints about NYC DOT’s Bridge operations revolves around the prison yard fencing that they throw up everywhere they can. One of my proudest moments along Newtown Creek was convincing the NYS DOT not to chain link the new Kosciuszcko Bridge and instead install a model of fence which didn’t occlude the views. I talked them into creating a fence not dissimilar to the one surrounding Calvary Cemetery, arguing about visual continuity with the designers. It’s just a coincidence that the width between the bars of that fence happen to be 1/2” bigger than the barrel of my favorite lens. Coincidence, I say.

It’s only about 1,200 feet across, the South Tenth Street bridge, so it’s a fairly quick walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I heard it right about here, I’ll cryptically mention.

The ‘quality rolls’ place in the background was some kind of metals mill, not too sure about what they roll or the quality thereof. As has been the case every time I’ve left the house for the last month, I’m not pretending to myself that I’m going to “photograph” anything (I’ve taken a lot of ‘crime of opportunity’ photowalk “shots”) and that my order of the day continues to be scouting in pursuance of future photo outings which will be more in depth.

Is it a Morning thing? Summer or Fall thing? What time of year do these sticks and twigs flower? All that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, I heard it back on the bridge. Luckily for me, the crew was stuck at a signal and I had all the time in the world to get into position before they blew the horn and started moving.

I have been extremely unlucky as far as timing goes when it comes to freight rail. That construction detour back on the Eliza Furnace Trail on the north side of the Monongahela River actually set me up. Serendipity, I tell’s ya, serendipity.

That’s a CSX train set, on the Pittsburgh Subdivision. There were tanker cars in the line, but who the hell knows what was in them or maybe they are empty inside. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a photo of a CSX unit towing Army Tanks and military looking container boxcars along these tracks. Was there ammo on board? Who knows? There’s supposed to be a ‘no hazardous material’ rule within the city’s limit, I’m told, but is that enforced? By who? Is there a formal compliance agreement between the carrier and the State or the Feds? Have dirty rotten cheaters gamed the system?

Who knows?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That derailed Norfolk Southern business in Ohio is about 50 miles away from HQ. I’ve been watching the social media ripples of the event splashing about, and all I can say is that maybe when the Union wanted to go out on strike last month we should have listened to them and the members if Congress shouldn’t have engaged in a rare bipartisan alliance to crush their right to strike. Joe Biden joined a long list of American Presidents who have orchestrated against Labor when the industry involved is Rail – and that includes FDR, Truman, Nixon, Reagan etc. This sort of thing goes beyond party, btw, and has nothing to do with that. It’s national security, supply chain, mega capitalism.

Vital industries depend on rail, and the last thing you’d want to do is increase the amount of volatile material that travels around the USA in trucks. The fact that the sort of disaster which the people in Ohio, just an hour’s drive west of here, are living through is rare and comment worthy is a testament to how good American rail workers are at their jobs, and how robust the American Rail system actually is. The problem right now is success, as in the success of the company in the eyes of Wall Street.

Not enough butter is getting spread over too much bread in the name of growing the profit margin, in order to make Norfolk Southern and CSX look good to the Wall Street hedge fund managers. That’s why corners get cut, maintenance deferred, and the trains and yards are undermanned.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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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

February 16, 2023 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. Tug boats that operate on rivers are called tow boats-even if they push the barges.

    Michael Keit

    February 16, 2023 at 6:56 pm

  2. All these bridges, highway overpasses, and hilly streets – it’s all looking the same. Very claustrophobic as well.

    georgetheatheist . . . what gives

    February 16, 2023 at 6:57 pm

  3. I agree with your analysis.


    March 19, 2023 at 8:20 pm

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