Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Small Mysteries

When I was a kid I used to go up to the little train station on Karakung Drive.  It was really "up," too - the tracks were about twenty feet above the road, at the top of a hill, and there was a long set of stairs that led up to them.  

I rarely took the train from there - if you got on from the street side the one-car trolley-like trains would take you to Norristown, where I rarely had any particular need to go.  If you crossed under the tracks through the tunnel the train would take you to 69th Street, which was another place I had no call to go. You could get on the El from there and go to Center City Philadelphia, but there were easier and faster ways to do that.

Mostly I went because it was on the way to a friend's house and it was a fun place to hang around.

Back in those days there was a concrete tower that rose out of the hill just to the right of the platform, a few feet downslope from the tracks.  It wasn't much to look at, really - four vertical concrete beams about eighteen inches thick connected by horizontal squares of those same beams at both the top and midway points.  The whole thing was maybe twenty feet tall from the ground (so maybe forty from the road, and another ten or fifteen down to the creek on the other side of the road) and ten feet on a side.

We always wondered what that tower was there for.

Eventually we learned that at one point in the unimaginably distant past (well, unimaginably distant for us - it was probably the 1920s) that station was the end of the line, and the railway owners wanted to get some use out of it on the weekends, when nobody was commuting to work.  So they had built a small amusement park there.  It even had a roller coaster, whose main drop was supported by that concrete tower.

Try as we could, we could never figure out where an amusement park would have fit in that particular bit of land.  It's hilly, for one thing.  There's a ridge on the one side of the road, where the trains ran, and a wide creek down a steep embankment on the other side.  The one bit of flat land is up from the station about fifty yards and across the road.  

No wonder it didn't last.

But it left us that concrete tower, and we thought that was just the coolest thing in the world.

There are still mysteries out there, if you look hard enough.  Some of them right underfoot.

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