MOTU@5 | How We Got Here Online Exhibit | Hauling 16 Tons

Throughout October, MOTU and the Free Library of Philadelphia will be showcasing unique archival images from Philadelphia’s transportation and utilities history in an on-line exhibit called “How’d we get here?”.  Every and Monday and Wednesday in October we will be showcasing a certain segment of the exhibit (all photographs are from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Print and Picture Collection).

Last week Wednesday we took a look at the history of transportation daredevils and today we’ll be taking a brief look at the history of the people who built Philly’s transportation system and the tools they used by selecting five of our favorite photos from the “Hauling 16 Tons” portion of the exhibit (usually we do only three, BUT THESE WERE JUST TOO COOL).  You can check out all of the historic images online here and in person at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Branch (1901 Vine Street).

The people and tools they used to build Philly’s transportation system – Our infrastructure and transportation systems don’t fix themselves. The City relied on labor forces such as the over 1,000 workers who worked directly and indirectly to re-open the South Street Bridge in 2011, on budget and ahead of schedule. These infrastructure networks don’t come cheap, SEPTA needs $6.5 billion over the course of the next 10 years to achieve a state of good repair. It is incumbent on us to keep these systems strong for the next 100 years, now let us look at the previous 100 years.

Street car with plow, 1918

streetcar, plow, 19181

The eight foot plow attached to the trolley helped keep Philadelphia’s streets clear during snow storms.

Philadelphia Rapid Transit sprinkler car, 1918

streetcar, 1918 email

This Philadelphia Rapid Transit sprinkler car is washing City streets, with an admonishment from Dr. William Pepper, University of Pennsylvania Provost from 1881 to 1894. Dr. Pepper helped found the Free Library of Philadelphia and was active in City affairs.

Construction of the Market Frankford El

elevated 4

Seen here, workers are building the Market Frankford El. Construction started on the El tunnel below the Schuylkill River in 1903. Eighty-five years later, SEPTA started a massive reconstruction project that lasted 15 years, and cost close to half a billion dollars.

Construction of the subway system

elevated 7

Seen here, workers stationed on the City Hall apron are helping complete the subway system.

PGW Truck, 1935

delivery truck 1935

While PGW trucks have changed designs many times over the years, PGW continues to service 6,000 miles of gas mains, a system that serves 500,000 customers.


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