The Rail Park, Phase 1

Correction appended

After many years of discussion, planning and renovation, Phase 1 of the Rail Park opened to the public on June 14.

Running a linear 1,400 feet from Broad and Noble streets to Callowhill between 11th and 12th streets, the project is a proof-of-concept for the reuse of the entire stretch of elevated rail line. Originally commissioned in the 1890s, the Reading Railroad Viaduct brought both freight and passenger trains into Center City. It had sat unused since the 1980s.

After a 2010 study determined that renovations would be less expensive than demolition, the Rail Park project kicked off. Community forums were held to hear concerns about how to make sure the park would benefit neighborhood residents.

Ground was broken for the first phase in 2016, followed by a $10.8 million construction project that included 19 months of removing contaminated soil, building new railings and stairways and planting greenery.

Leased by the Center City District during the renovations, the Rail Park is now owned by the City of Philadelphia. It will be managed jointly by the CCD, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Friends of the Rail Park, the group of volunteers who pushed the project through to fruition.

Check it all out in our drone video overview of the Rail Park, Phase 1.

YouTube video

What Phase 1 of the Rail Park has:

  • Two entrances, an accessible one that slopes slowly upward and one that’s a staircase
  • 1,100 plantings, including 30 kinds of perennials and 11 types of trees
  • A wide pathway covered in white gravel
  • Giant wood-bench swings
  • Various wide wooden platform benches
  • Artwork that depicts a map of the park, along with logos and info about various companies that used to produce goods in that area
Artwork at the Rail Park’s entrance acts as a map and tells a story Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

What Phase 1 of the Rail Park doesn’t have (yet):

  • A lot of shade (as the trees grow in, this will change)
  • Signage that directs people to one of the two entrances when viewing the park below the elevated line
  • Bathrooms
  • Water fountains
Credit: Center City District

Danya Henninger was first editor and then editor/director of Billy Penn at WHYY from 2019 to 2023.