Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cola Pier #18

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Coal Pier 18 in Philadelphia was once a key transfer point where rail cars loaded with coal from the mines were pulled up a steep ramp, picked up bodily and dumped into waiting barges which brought the coal to world markets. It was a hub of activity. 

The only way to reach it now is along a cinder and rubble trail through a trash-filled forest of willows and brash brush. It is the stuff that roots and widens crevices anywhere it can find a grip. The trail gets darker and then before you know it, you're under the ramp. 

Coal Pier 18 is a part of the furious clammerings of a great city, cut off only by an unbroken rumble from six, sometimes eight lanes of traffic and acres of chain link fence. Regulars know its ways.

There are other abandoned coal piers in what was once the Richmond Yards, but Coal Pier 18 stands out because of the steep concrete ramp that supports the remnants of two tracks and extends like a scorpions tail 500 feet into the Delaware River.  It is a four-story high monument to the great and grimy in our fading industrial heritage, and the shadowy spaces beneath it invite exploration.  

Both times I was there it was spring, and the tangle of leaves and branches that surround the pier and the ramp felt a bit like the Forest of Arden inviting exploration into a forbidding maze of passages and spaces beneath the ramp.