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The Pennsylvania Lines Conservatory

Signals, April 2011

This article first appeared on page 7 of the January 23, 1904, issue of The Weekly Herald.

One notable feature of the landscape which appeals irresistibly to the traveler over the Pennsylvania Lines West in the spring and summer seasons is the neat and attractive appearance of the grounds surrounding the various station houses along the line. Beauty and originality of design are distinctive features of the landscape adornment, and evidence an artistic taste and skill above the ordinary.

To the Pennsylvania Lines should be awarded the distinction of originating this plan of beautifying the station grounds. Especial credit is due Superintendent of Freight Transportation, Mr. A. B. Starr, a resident of this place [Sewickley], through whose efforts the work was begun and successfully carried on. And last, but not least, honor is due to "the man behind the gun"—the one whose genius and artistic ability have brought this floral department to its present flourishing condition—Mr. R. W. Hutchison, superintendent of the railroad conservatory in [Sewickley].

About sixteen years ago Mr. Hutchison had charge of the Jacks Run station—abandoned some years after. His artistic temperament could not resist the temptation to make an effort at beautifying the grounds around the station there. So successful was he that he attracted the attention of Mr. Starr, who succeeded in having him advanced to the position of Superintendent of Parks, which position he has ably filled for the past sixteen years. In this work he has been ably assisted by Engineer of Maintenance of Way, Mr. W. H. Potter.

The conservatory lying west of the Sewickley station, under the immediate supervision of Mr. Hutchison, furnishes the plants and flowers for embellishing the grounds along the road. Here are nur- tured tens of thousands of the rarest plants and shrubs, both domes- tic and foreign.... Ferns are best for dining-car purposes, as they make such a graceful appearance. Besides these, there is a large assortment of hardy shrubbery.... Perennials are planted in all the shrubbery beds.

The decoration of the station grounds at Alliance, Wooster, Dunkirk, Lima, Columbia City, Valparaiso, Ind., South Chicago, and Englewood has been completed. The latter is laid out in an artistic manner. At Mansfield, Crestline, Etna Green and Pullman the work is not finished. Pullman will be one of the finest on the Southwest Division.

On the first of this month three new Pennsylvania café cars, built by the Pullman Company, were put on the road to run on the Northwest System. These cars were built after plans especially prepared by officials of the Pennsylvania Lines at a cost of twenty thousand dollars each, the chief item of expense being the interior decorations, which are elaborate. They are finished in mahogany and are lighted with electricity. The exterior is in tuscan red, the standard equipment row [?] used on the Pennsylvania fast train service. The floral decorations for these cars were furnished by the Sewickley conservatory. Several more of these cars will be put on [this] coming spring and will be a feature of the special service that will be installed for the World's Fair trade. These café cars are under the general management of Mr. Charles Watts, of [Sewickley], assisted by Mr. E. W. Westlake, superintendent of the dining car department.

The new hotel will be opened at Alliance on Monday, January 18, for the accommodation of the traveling public. It will be one of the finest along the line and up to date in all its appointments. The floral decorations have been furnished by the [Sewickley] conservatory. It is the intention of the company to spare no expense in making the hotel, restaurant and dining car service all that it should be.

Besides providing for the embellishment of the various station grounds and small parks all along the lines, and the decorations of the dining cars, the conservatory also furnishes a large amount of trailing vines to cover the car houses, watering stations and other buildings. Boston ivy and sweet-scented honeysuckle are mostly in demand for the purpose.

The fountain in the small park at the station will be in operation this summer and will add much to the beauty of the surroundings. This whole plan of floral decoration is one which cannot be too highly commended. Not only does it prove to be a source of pleasure to the traveler, but it has an educative influence, producing a commendable rivalry along the lines of aesthetic culture. We feel a sense of pride in the fact that Sewickley is the source from which all this floral beauty emanates.



Part spy story and part historical epic, McIlnay’s book, The Horseshoe Curve: Sabotage and Subversion in the Railroad City, blends information from 300 sources, including diaries, biographies, military records, histories, engineering studies, court briefs and FBI files to tell the thrilling story of three inter-connected but little-known events:

- The human and organizational drama of founding the Pennsylvania Railroad and building the Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania

- The Nazi plot during World war II to destroy the Horseshoe Curve, the Mecca of American railroading

- The FBI’s search of the homes of 225 Altoonans on July 1, 1942, as “alien enemies”—suspected Nazi sympathizers—and the controversial internment of 15,000 German and Italian Americans in the United States

Dennis P. McIlnay is also the author of Juniata, River of Sorrows (2002). He is a retired professor of Management at Saint Francis University, where he received several teaching awards. He lives with his wife, Kathy, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, ten miles from the Horseshoe Curve.

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