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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 9th was a day I had no reason at all to wake up for. Nothing in the schedule, or at least nothing I wanted to do, and the following three days were filled with a loathsome schedule of “have to’s” and zoom meetings as well as a patch of rainy weather. Thereby, my goal for the day was to fill up my camera cards with images that would need processing, something I could do while listening to the virtue signaling and “blah, blah, blah” of the various meetings I had to attend.

Thereby, off to the NYC Ferry did I go, and an entire day was spent bouncing around from place to place in the Harbor of New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My first leg involved the Astoria line ferry, which leaves from a dock adjoining the campus of the NYCHA Astoria Houses nearby Vernon Avenue. The route moves south, and makes several stops. First up is Roosevelt Island, then LIC North nearby Anable Basin, then 34th street in the City. It continues to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and then the terminal stop is at Pier 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan.

The game I like to play with the ferry is to see how far I can can get on one ticket by transferring from one line to the other, your ticket stays active for 90 minutes, whereas the Astoria Route is about 45 minutes from Queens to Pier 11.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Pier 11, and I should mention that the shot above is from the Brooklyn Navy Yard stop, a quick scan of the scheduling screens revealed that a Rockaway bound boat would be leaving within my allotted transfer time, so that’s where I would be heading.

The Rockaway Boat leaves Pier 11 and makes a stop at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, after that they open up the engine and gun it for the peninsula. The “One way trip” to Rockaway is functionally an hour on the ferry from Pier 11.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The route carries you past Erie Basin and Gowanus Bay, and follows the Ambrose Channel towards the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. Keep your eyes peeled, as there’s all sorts of interesting maritime industrial stuff you might encounter along the way.

I outfitted myself with my least favorite lens, a 70-300 consumer level zoom. It’s nowhere near as reliable as my other lenses, and is one of the oldest parts of my kit. I’d love to replace it, but can’t really justify spending the $ on doing so at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tugboat called the Schuylkill passed the NYC Ferry I was riding on, and it’s named after the river flowing through Philadelphia which was recently discussed here after a day trip.

Coincidence? I don’t think so, as the entire world does actually revolve around me. I’m special, just ask me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ferry continued on its Rockaway bound heading, and I became entranced by a cargo ship sitting off the coast of… Staten Island… loading a barge with what appeared to be soil or gravel at the narrows.

More tomorrow.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2022 at 11:00 am

mute granite

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A pre dawn Amtrak ride, some 90 minutes in length, had delivered a scuttling horror – familiar to NYC – to the banks of the Schuylkill River in the city of Philadelphia. America’s consolation prize didn’t disappoint, and a humble narrator had spent a very productive morning and early afternoon photographing the bridges spanning the banks of the Schuylkill and working through an extensive shot list. My last stop along the Schuylkill River Trail is pictured above – the Fairmount Water Works.

This operation was designed in 1812 and principally installed between 1812 and 1815, with work continuing at the site until 1872. Fairmount was Philadelphia’s second attempt at creating a municipal water delivery system. It was operational until 1909, and included a nearby three million gallon reservoir contained in a monumental earthwork, which the Philadelphia Museum of Art now sits atop (looming in the top left background). All of the Neo Classical styling you see is purely facade.

After 1909, the site became the home of the Philadelphia Aquarium (until 1962), and later housed an indoor swimming pool (until 1973). These days, there’s an educational operation there called the “Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center,” and a fancy pants restaurant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What really drew my interests here, however, is the Fairmount Dam. A tidal River, much like the East River back home in NYC, the Schuylkill experiences a mix of brackish and fresh water. The Fairmount Dam, completed in 1822, raises the level of the fresh water flowing down to Philly all the way from distant Pottsville and rural Pennsylvania to the north. Above the dam it’s fresh water, below – brackish.

The spill way creates a basin, referred to as the “Schuylkill Pond” by the cheesesteak eaters, which seems to have drawn large numbers of collegiate rowers to its placidity over the centuries. That line of structures on the horizon in the shot above form up “Boathouse Row.” Its seems that local universities including Drexel, Penn, and La Salle have rowing teams based here, and the basin is the setting for multiple rowing regattas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Simple engineering like this spillway dam is something which I bring up during superfund conversations about my beloved Newtown Creek all the time. Our problem on Newtown Creek is ultimately about “flow” and quickening the pace of water flowing through the channel. I like any solution to this problem which doesn’t require pumps or “adding” energy into the system via mechanical means. This dam functions purely on gravity, and also serves as a fish ladder for critters returning form the sea to lay clutches of eggs upriver.

This was the last entry on my shot list for the Schuylkill River, and it was long past time for a meal and a whole lot of liquid. I was hungry, and thirsty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One clambered over the artificial hill that the Philadelphia Museum of Art squats upon. Yes, these are “those” steps. The ones from the Rocky movies. Dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dan dun de dun

I’m told that the cheesesteak eaters get all livid if you refer to this area as the “Rocky Steps.” Once again, I will state plainly – I’m from Brooklyn and shit talking Philly is just ingrained in me. I also don’t get upset when cinematic references are made about my own – far superior – City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While watching tourists discover that running up these steps is actually quite the athletic endeavor, a humble narrator was busily scrolling through a Google map describing eateries and restaurants nearby.

Eastern State Penitentiary was just a few blocks away, and a long line of bars and restaurants which seemed to be open were described as being just across the street from the decommissioned prison.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was converted over from landscape to handheld modality, the tripod tied up to my bag, and a general policing around my person accomplished. One set off to the presumptive northeast, in search of sustenance and refueling.

More tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 2, 2022 at 11:00 am

crystal lakelet

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling along the Schuylkill River trail in Philadelphia, my extensive shot list included the two bridges pictured above. The smaller one, which passes under the larger specimen, is called the West River Drive Bridge, and the larger one above is the Spring Garden Bridge.

I found this section, which adjoins the Philadelphia Museum of Art, quite visually intriguing. It might have been the hunger and thirst, however. I had left HQ in Astoria before dark, boarded an Amtrak and travelled to Philadelphia where I encountered a quite warm morning, and started getting busy by about 8 a.m. The last drops of my Gatorade bottle were swallowed by 10.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless, a fellow suffers for his art. This heavily oxidized span over the Schuylkill River is – as mentioned above – the West River Drive Bridge and it’s one year older than I am, having been built in 1966. West River Drive has subsequently been renamed as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive but the bridge is still identified by its original name.

The West River Drive Bridge is 701.1 feet long, and 36.1 feet wide, constructed of steel girder and concrete, and it’s supported by two piers. It carries local traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above it is the Spring Garden Street Bridge, which carries highway bound traffic over first railroad tracks, then the Schuylkill River, and then Schuylkill Expressway. This is the 4th bridge to stand at this spot, with the first one being an all wooden 1812 giant called “The Colossus” which burned away in 1838.

I found the interplay between the two structures – as mentioned above – very interesting visually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things which caught my eye was the presence of big chunks of lumber and driftwood that had managed to jam themselves into the arrangement. This was still a part of the Philadelphia section of Schuylkill River Trail, incidentally. The River itself flows all the way down from Pottsville in the north, eventually joining into the Delaware River to the south. The trail, apparently, will one day stretch from the Delaware River in Philadelphia to Pottsville.

I was continually reminded of the central role that Philadelphia played in the formation of this country, from a civil engineering point of view, on this walk. Of course, when the Erie Canal opened in 1817, the East Coast crown of mercantile and financial dominance was seized by NYC and the slow decline in “importance” of both Boston and Philadelphia began. This is something that didn’t really become apparent until the decades after the Civil War, of course. If you were taking bets in 1800 on which one of the three would end up becoming the dominar “best in class” on the East Coast, NYC would have been a long shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They really must get some crazy floods moving through here during storms and springtime thaws to deposit huge logs like those onto the bridges. Wow.

My ambitious shot list began to look more and more impossible by this particular moment, and all I could think about was finding a place to sit down for an hour and eat a meal while drinking gallons of water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, the shot list had one more Schuylkill River destination on it – the Fairmount Water Works – that I needed to handle. They’ve got a 19th century dam/fish ladder here, and there was no damn way I’d miss that, lords and ladies.

More next week, from Philadelphia, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

longer known

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One enjoyed a momentary sit down for a couple of minutes after the CSX train passed me by, along the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia. I guess that I’m an Internet troll, as this photo was captured from under a bridge…

The point of view is looking (presumptively) south at the path we’ve explored over the last few posts, with the JFK Blvd. bridge, the Market Street Bridge, and a bit of the Walnut Street Bridge peeking through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The stout masonry bridge which I was taking five under is a railroad bridge, which I understand to be called the SEPTA Schuylkill River Bridge. It carries four sets of tracks into 30th street Station. SEPTA is Philly’s MTA – the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. The bridge, I’m told, is 385 feet long and 125 feet wide.

Apparently, this span is part of something called the “Center City Commuter Connection.” The history of this bridge is somewhat obscured by several urban renewal projects, but I’ve found a source or two that dates the structure to July of 1903.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading north (presumptively) and the sky began to noticeably darken while the wind was picking up speed. Whereas there had been occasional gusts all morning, the wind had now grown steady and in some moments – quite blustery. The forecast had indicated rain for later in the day, but things began to look dire a bit earlier than the prediction indicated.

This section of the Schuylkill River is a bit wider than the one which I had been walking along all morning. It had to be “lunchtime” by now, and a humble narrator had long ago consumed any liquids purchased at 7:30 a.m. when I had arrived in Philadelphia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Vine Street Expressway Bridge, pictured above. Built in 1959, and rehabilitated in 1989, Vine Street carries Interstate 676/US 30. It’s fairly huge, with a total length of 887.2 feet and a width of 83 feet. There are three steel spans which are supported by 2 piers.

Highway traffic is fed onto the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76), and onto local streets at JFK Boulevard at 30th street. It carries about 60,000 vehicle trips annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as that ambitious shot list I had scribbled down, I was about an hour behind my extremely optimistic schedule at this point. I was also extremely thirsty and getting quite peckish for a bit of luncheon. Luckily, I always have a pack of gum with me. The gum helped the “spit start flowing” and the peppermint flavoring of the stuff ameliorated the desire for sustenance.

Saying that, I had accomplished most of the Schuylkill section of my list, but I wasn’t done yet. I happened upon another opportune spot to have a quick sit down as I continued heading north.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While sitting down, I soon realized that this seemed to be one of those urban areas where sensitive young men meet to discuss art and jazz with each other, in a somewhat private setting, not unlike the rambles section of Central Park. Being an insensitive old man, I got back to walking along the waterfront. To each his own I always opine. Mazel tov.

North, ever north (I think) scuttled a humble narrator through the city of Brotherly Love, and I now understood why they call it that.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Philadelphia’s Market Street Bridge, in its modern or fifth incarnation, is pictured above. Leading directly to 30th Street Station, Market Street bridge was erected in 1932. It sports ornate masonry along its roadway, including four “Pennsy” eagle statues salvaged from New York City’s original Penn Station. This November of 2021 post describing a previous visit to Philly – “Menacing Dreams” – shows what the scene looks like from above, rather than below, here on the Schuylkill River Trail.

The history associated with this crossing is fairly ancient for the United States, and includes a ferry which crossed the River as early as 1673.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, the pathway I was using here in Philadelphia – the Schuylkill River Trail – was very, very well used by the locals. As always seems to be the case with me these days, when people see the camera on the tripod they want to come over and talk cameras with me. Tell me what camera they have, or want, or ask about where they might sell some old equipment which they inherited from a dead relative. Find out what I think about the Sony vs. Canon ecosystems…

I try to be polite, but… c’mon… I’m obviously, and literally, focused in on what I’m doing… sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To my understanding, there’s a subway tunnel under the water here leading into 30th Street Station’s innards. If I’m reading things correctly, it’s in between the John F. Kennedy Boulevard Bridge (left) and Market Street Bridge (right). Called the Market Frankfort Line Tunnel, it carries local subway and streetcar traffic of Philly’s SEPTA and PATCO transit operations into the intermodal sections of the rail facility. Grain of salt on the location, btw, as mentioned – I’m a tourist here, not an expert.

Of course, when the shutter was open for the shot above… that’s when I heard the jingle jangle of an approaching railroad train behind me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had to quickly “rekajigger” the camera from “dreamy landscape” to fast motion capture modality, but managed to do so before the freight train got to me. It was a CSX freight unit.

Funnily enough, since the camera was firmly affixed to the tripod and that fence in the shot above was at least five feet high, I just hoisted the thing above my head with the swing out screen pointing down. Clumsy, but effective. Click, click, click.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Conrail came into existence in 1976 at the behest of the Federal Government, which combined the bankrupt (private capital, publicly traded) but strategically and macro economically important holdings and routes of the Penn Central and Erie Lackawanna outfits (amongst others) under a single management team. Conrail became profitable by the middle 1980’s, and in the northeastern USA, two privately held companies – CSX and Norfolk Southern – ended up absorbing the Conrail property and stock (42% and 58%, respectively). Conrail is still around, and owns a significant amount of rail tracks which they perform “maintenance of way” work on.

CSX operates 21,000 miles of track all by itself. Its business ranges from Canada’s Ontario and Quebec, and all over the eastern coast of the United States – including servicing the Atlantic and Gulf coastal ports, as well as the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. CSX is what is referred to as a “Class 1 railway.” They do freight, not passenger. A Fortune 500 company, CSX’s total assets are worth (as of 2018) $12.25 Billion in Shareholder’s equity, and CSX has a portfolio of assets which is worth $36.729 Billion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

CSX engine no. 104 was pulling this train along these tracks by the Schuylkill River. Built by General Electric Transportation Systems sometime between 1993 and 2004, the model GE AC4400CW’s manufactured during that interval generate 4,400 horsepower of motive force. A diesel electric locomotive, some 2,834 of them were produced for CSX and other freight operators including Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, Ferromex, and Cerrojón, and others.

Choo Choo! More tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

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