A 4300-series CAF trolley leaves First Avenue on its way into the old railroad tunnel that leads to Steel Plaza. Pittsburghers count First Avenue as part of the “subway” section of the system (which in Pittsburgh terminology includes the stations from Station Square to Allegheny), but it is an elevated station; not until further in does the line actually go underground.
Into the Subway
Gateway Subway Station
The Gateway station is full of fascinating geometries. These pictures were taken shortly after the station opened in 2012.
Old Gateway Center Station
You used to come down these stairs from the street to enter Gateway Center, and if you were lucky you would hear the sound of wheels squealing around the loop, indicating that you were just in time.
The old Gateway Center station closed forever on October 30, 2009, as the new line to the North Side was under construction. These pictures were taken on the old station’s last night in service. A new Gateway (not Gateway Center) station, much larger and more pleasant, is open now, but the old Gateway Center is still there as a ghost station, almost unchanged since the day it was abandoned. If you are leaving Gateway headed for Wood Street, you can see the old station on the right side of the car.
Approaching the platform…
The last time old Pa Pitt glanced out the window at the ghost station, those posters on the right were still there.
There was only one platform. Gateway Center was the end of the line, so the cars came in from the east (above), passed the station, went around a squealy loop, and came back in from the west. Watching the car pass straight through the station often gave out-of-town visitors a moment of panicked confusion.
Here we are looking toward the loop, listening to the squealing wheels as our car comes around for us.
At last our car enters the station. Note the lower-level platform, blocked off by this time, that was built to accommodate the old PCC cars, some of which ran in Pittsburgh until 2003. (Some of those same cars, completely rebuilt, are now running in San Francisco.) These lower-level platforms can still be seen at Steel Plaza and Wood Street. The PCC cars were also the reason for the loop: the more modern Siemens and CAF trolleys are double-ended, but PCC cars went in only one direction.
We board our car for the very last time, knowing that we will never hear that loop squeal again.
For some time after the new station opened, the announcements on the cars were still clearly the old recorded announcements, but truncated: the professional announcer voice said “Approaching Gateway C—” as the car rolled into the station. Those announcements have now been re-recorded, but old Pa Pitt secretly enjoyed them. Many cities have ghost stations in their subways, but Pittsburgh was the only city with a ghost sibilant.
Station Square Station, 2001
A view from the outbound platform of the Station Square subway station in 2001. Except for the signage, not much has changed.
A Ride on the Brown Line
Although the Brown Line through Allentown is no longer in regular service, the Port Authority keeps it active for use as a detour when the Transit Tunnel under Mount Washington is closed. For several weeks in August of 2019, the tunnel was under construction, and all Red Line and Blue Line cars had to go over the Brown Line route. This is a simple record of what you see out the right-hand window on a car inbound from South Hills Junction to Steel Plaza. We go up Warrington Avenue and down Arlington Avenue, over the Panhandle Bridge, and into the subway.
If you are not a trolley geek, this may possibly be the dullest video you have ever encountered. If you are a trolley geek, you are already panting and drooling, so go to the Wikimedia Commons hosting page..
Wood Street Station
The Wood Street subway station and the Wood Street Galleries occupy the old Monongahela National Bank building, one of the many peculiarly shaped buildings along Liberty Avenue where the two grids collide in the John Woods street plan from 1784. This one is a right triangle.
The picture is a composite, and if you click on it to enlarge it, you can have fun pointing out several ghosts among the people waiting for buses outside the station.
Wood Street Subway Station and Wood Street Galleries
This building now houses the Wood Street station on the ground floor (and below, of course) and the Wood Street Galleries, a free museum of installation art, on the upper floors. It was put up for the Monongahela National Bank, and the architect was Edward Stotz, who also gave us Schenley High School—another triangular classical building. It makes one wonder whether Mr. Stotz printed “Specialist in Triangles” on his business cards.
The elevator towers at the corners are later additions. They make a mess of the carefully worked out proportions of the building—Father Pitt thinks they make the whole structure look a bit like a fat rabbit—but at least they are done with similar materials.
Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS.
Wood Street Station
Two colliding grids make up downtown Pittsburgh’s street layout, and the collision happens at Liberty Avenue, giving us a fine array of odd-shaped buildings. This triangular structure, built as a bank, now houses the Wood Street subway station below and the Wood Street Galleries, an important contemporary art gallery, on the upper floors.
While the Gateway Center Station is closed, Wood Street is the terminus of the subway downtown.
This picture was taken with a Kiev-4 camera, a Ukrainian rangefinder that Father Pitt loves with an unreasoning passion. He would like to state for the record that the hideously rusted car in the foreground is not his fault.