Pittsburgh, Pa. - P&LE Station
Edwardian elegance was in full vigor when the Pittsburgh and Lake
Erie Railroad erected its terminus in Pittsburgh at the close of the
19th century. This was the age of the railroad barons, and the
P&LE was in a mood to show off its wealth and prestige, especially
in a city dominated by the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1899,
construction was begun on the south bank of the Monogahela River at the
Smithfield St. Bridge for P&LE's station and trainshed at a cost of
the then enormous sum of $750,000.
The classically designed building's exterior is brick and
terra-cotta tile in a light brown color. While the exterior is
attractive, the truly amazing part of the P&LE station is its
Baroque interior furnished in a richness of marble, gilt, mosaic and
stained glass. A grand staircase descends from the Smithfield Street
entrance to a waiting room that must have awed many a passenger. The
interior is more akin to a grand European palace than to the grimy
industrial city that was Pittsburgh at the turn of the century.
After World War II, passenger service on the P&LE declined, as
it did on almost all railroads. Amazingly, the P&LE terminal was
kept intact. Pittsburgh, an enlightened city when it comes to saving its
landmarks, began a restoration / reuse project, and in 1976 a reopened
terminal was shown to the public. To the rear of the station, former
freight houses have been converted into an upscale shopping mall. A posh
restaurant, the Grand Concourse, occupies the former terminal waiting
room areas. Tables can be had along the river which also overlooks the
P&LE (now Conrail) trackage. One can dine in elegance at a genuine
railroad terminal, watch trains, and river traffic and enjoy the
Pittsburgh skyline view. A toast, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the
Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad!
P&LE station, Pittsburgh, Pa.
June 1993, photo by John C. Dahl