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Bill to Rename 30th Street Station; Bennett Levin's Response

As reported on

By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
POSTED: July 29, 2014
WASHINGTON - Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is on its way to getting a new name.

The city's rail hub would be renamed "William H. Gray III 30th Street Station" under a bill that passed the House on Monday in a voice vote. The plan would honor the late congressman, who long represented Philadelphia, secured millions of dollars in the 1980s to help renovate the station, and broke barriers as an African American.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), who succeeded Gray in Congress and sponsored the plan to change the name, said he hoped the Senate would pass the same bill this week, before lawmakers break for their summer recess.

"Not only did he serve as a congressman from Philadelphia who rose to the highest heights in the Congress, but also he was a great proponent of Amtrak, so this was a fitting tribute," Fattah said Monday.

Gray, also a longtime pastor at Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, served in Congress from 1979 to 1991. He died last July at 71.

Fattah praised Gray as a trailblazer - the first African American to chair the House Budget Committee and the first to serve as majority whip, the third-ranking position in the House - and for his push for sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid era. Gray also helped fend off proposed cuts to Amtrak in the 1980s, Fattah said.

The entire Pennsylvania House delegation cosponsored the plan to rename the station. Sens. Robert P. Casey (D., Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate, though the chamber could be crammed with votes before its August break.

The station opened in 1933 and is Amtrak's third busiest. Last year, 4.1 million tickets were purchased to and from its halls. Fattah said that most people would probably still call it 30th Street Station, but that markers inside would recognize Gray and his work.

An open letter from Bennett Levin to Toomey, Casey, Brady, Fattah, Schuster Fitzpatrick and others, via PRR-FAX...

Dear Senator Toomey

I have written you about this subject by USPS but have never received an answer so I will now try email.
My name is Bennett Levin and I have served as President of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society as well as the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners. I am a member of the National Railway Historical Society, the Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society, the Lexington Group in Transportation History and a member of the Advisory Board of the Railroad Museum of the State of Pennsylvania. I also served as a member of the Historical Commission of the City of Philadelphia.

I am the founder and director of the Broad Way Historic Preservation Conservancy which is actively engaged in the restoration and preservation of structures and equipment once owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Finally, I am the founder and the President of the Juniata Terminal Company which has restored and operates a pair of historic PRR locomotives together with several restored railroad cars including the car assigned to the President of the Pennsylvania. This equipment has traveled to every corner of our Commonwealth usually in the service of a charity or charitable endeavor. My wife, son, and I conceived planned and operated the LIBERTY LIMITED a very special train which carried our wounded from Walter Reed and Bethesda to the Army Navy Football Classic in 2005, 2006, and 2010.

I hope I have established my credentials to comment on the above captioned subject.

Pennsylvania Station, 30th Street, Philadelphia; as it is captioned on the National Register of Historic Places, is the most significant monumental structure remaining from what was at one time this nation's most significant corporation and transportation enterprise. The building itself and the "West Philadelphia Improvements" which accompanied its construction stands as testimony to vision and leadership that the company itself provided to not only the City of Philadelphia but to the Nation itself.

I knew Bill Gray. I did business with Bill Gray. I respect Bill Gray. However, Bill Gray has absolutely no connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad, or the neighborhood in which the station stands.

If there is such an overwhelming need to attach a name to this magnificent edifice then I would respectfully suggest that Congress consider several other Philadelphians who were national leaders and who were directly connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad and who had a far more significant impact on the history of this great nation than the current nominee who you are actively considering for this unique and distinctive memorial. I will mention just four for your consideration.

1. J. Edgar Thomson; the Penny's first Chief Engineer and Third President. The person who gave the Pennsylvania Railroad its foundation and form. The only railroad executive honored by both Fortune Magazine and Dunn's Review in 1976 as one of the greatest corporate executives and visionaries in their Bi-Centennial review of the American business landscape. He is credited with conceiving the form of the modern American Corporate structure. He left his entire fortune to a foundation, still located in this city, that provides for the children of parents who have been killed will working on railroads.

2. Thomas Scott; the Pennsy's fourth President; and, by an Act of Congress, appointed Ass't Secretary of War during the Civil War. Scott was in charge of all railroads and transportation lines and is credited with masterfully movement of troops and supplies into the western theatre of war which outflanked the Confederates and brought victory to the Union Armies. He was later the author of the "Scott Plan" which formed the basis for the Compromise of 1877 that brought an end to Reconstruction.

3. Herman Haupt; who succeeded Thomson as Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania. During the Civil War he was in charge of Military Railroads in the area of the Army of the Potomac. He was In charge of railroad operations at the battle of Gettysburg and commandeered a train to notify Lincoln that Meade was nor pursuing Lee. His skills as a bridge engineer caused Lincoln to comment, "That man Haupt has built a bridge four hundred feet long and one hundred feet high, across Potomac Creek, on which loaded trains are passing every hour, and upon my word gentlemen, there is nothing more it it than cornstalks and beanpoles".

4. Finally; General William Wallace Atterbury. He was the PRR president who envisioned and commissioned and during whose tenure Pennsylvania Station, 30th Street, Philadelphia was constructed. Atterbury's greatest contribution to this nation, aside from electrification of the PRR lines north of Washington and east of Harrisburg which enabled the Pennsylvania to handle the enormous amount of traffic entrusted to it during WWII, was his service to the United States and its allies during WW I when he earned the rank of General, being in charge of all Allied railroads of the Western Front in France. He was an honored and recognized international hero being by France with their Legion of Honor, and Britain's Order of the Bath as well as like honors from Belgium. Here is a genuine and recognized International Hero of universal renown with a direct and intimate connection to this building.

I ask you to pause and consider (with all due respect) the enormous challenges facing this nation this week and ask yourself; Do we really need to spend the time, money and energy to rename this iconic building after another politician? Maybe our fellow citizens would have a higher regard for Congress if serious issues were addressed rather than memorializing another member of Congress with building with which He or she has no connection.

Bennett Levin

Thank you, Bennett!

And finally, a petition on to stop the name change...

It was a travesty when Pennsylvania Station in New York City was razed. Help prevent another travesty!

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