I have felt the romantic allure of trains since I was a small child. Trains symbolized travel and the unknown adventures that unfold as the tracks and miles are eaten up by the Iron Horse. I was quite young when I began taking the train around Brooklyn by myself: 7 or 8. I had to visit the dentist and assorted other "fixers" on my own because my parents worked during the day. Even more mysterious than the trains themselves where the train platforms. Mysterious and I might add scary: dark tunnels that held only pinpoints of light and mystifying sounds. These elevated wooden see-the-street-from-above or black-hole-subway stations were far more frightening surely that the Horror movies I dragged my younger brothers to.
However, the elation of a train ride was probably all vastly increased by the chilling aspect of my perceived danger at the prospect. The one constant that enabled the waiting for the trains was the wonderful signage signaling the station and architecture of the platforms. The elevated consisted of huge metal stanchions that were riveted with large shiny bolts. Although I was terrified when I sneaked peeks through the wooden slated platform, the elegant patterns of light and shadow fascinated me. But above all travel experiences for an 8-year-old Brooklynite was descending to the underground and the very real prospect of a deserted station. On these occasions, I fixated on the subway tiles. These are magnificently crafted and put together in stunning designs. Still I am transfixed when I see the old tiles today. The Deco numbers and letters; the elegant arrangement of parts to form an announcement of place.
NYC has updated and repaired many of the subway stations. Thankfully, the subway tiles are close replicas of their former selves. The tiles echo the enchantment of train travel for me and tell of exciting places that are just beyond the turnstile.
To learn more about NYC subway tiles visit: