The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A visit to the Heinz History Center in Downtown Pittsburgh had been undertaken by Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself recently. That’s “Heinz” as in the Ketchup people with the 57 varieties, and one of the displays at this Smithsonian affiliated museum is centered around the iconic streetcars of Pittsburgh. The unit above went out of service in 1988, and it’s designated ‘Pittsburgh Streetcar #1724.’ I’ve come to understand that the high water mark for Pittsburgh’s streetcar system was in the middle 1950’s, when there were about 600 of the sort of vehicle pictured above roaming about. has a succinct description of this class of streetcar, once so ubiquitous in Pittsburgh, which can be accessed here. There used to be a serious network of public transit in these parts, in addition to the surviving inclines which get most of the modern attention. For a history of how mass transit rose and fell in Pittsburgh, check this out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the modern day equivalent of the historic streetcar display at the Heinz Center, which is dubbed the ‘T.’ When Our Lady and I were planning the great escape from New York, transit was definitively a part of the decision matrix, so we moved into an area which the T serves. I end up driving a lot here, but there’s days when I just want to scuttle about and not be tied down to wherever I parked the car. It was on just such a day that the shot above was gathered, after having ridden the Red Line service from HQ in Dormont here to the Station Square stop nearby the Monongahela River. Pictured is a Silver Line light rail T set, which is headed the other way and out of the downtown area.

The postindustrial gentrification forge has definitively been stoked here in Pittsburgh, and a lot of real estate in the urban core is being converted to or entirely replaced by residential buildings. Saying that, it doesn’t burn as brightly or rapaciously as it does back in NYC.

The mental map which I had made for the day involved skirting along railroad tracks and some of the still industrial blocks in the Southside Flats area. After debarking the T streetcar, one began kicking the dirt while depressing the shutter button and trying to notice everything.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This area is my sort of thing, incidentally, with a web of elevated ramps for the T and vehicle traffic which lead to bridges. Huge post industrial and still industrial buildings, broken and lonely streets with a hint of danger… there’s even a set of quite busy freight rail tracks woven into the tapestry down here. Additionally, there’s many interesting points of view from which to wave the camera about.

It was a perfect day for a photowalk, with temperatures in the middle 60’s – sweatshirt weather. I left most of the gear at home, and brought a handheld camera kit with me.

More tomorrow.

“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 17, 2023 at 11:00 am

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