As The Eternal Space has developed, we have been fortunate to stumble across huge collections of Penn Station photographs taken by many different photographers over the course of the station’s life as well as during its demolition.
Choices, choices, choices. Sure, there are hundreds of familiar photos of Penn Station available in the public domain. I am sure you may have seen the ones circulating on websites and blogs and appearing in articles about Penn Station. Notable New York Times photographers captured pivotal moments and Alfred Eisenstaedt covered wartime farewells in a 1943 Life Magazine piece. But from the beginning, it was our intention to make The Eternal Space different. We settled on five photographers, from varied walks of life, whose photographs offered unique perspectives and were often never published. With each photographer came a different life story, a different motivation and a different camera angle. Today, we offer the first hint at the story behind photographer, Ron Ziel.
We’ve spent countless hours on the phone with Ziel, who now resides in Tuscon, Arizona. His photographs of Penn’s demolition offered the perspective of the LIRR commuter. As an advertising executive and editor his daily commute continued while the building came down around him. As an avid train enthusiast, he felt that the opportunity to snap pictures was too great to miss.
His fondness for trains began earlier in his life as Captain in the U.S. Army and casual traveler. He travelled to 54 countries and amassed a person portfolio of over 25,000 photos. His love of trains and history motivated him to author and collaborate on over a dozen books on a variety of topics. His passion for rail preservation during rail travel’s decline led him to found the Long Island chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.
And, Ziel collected everything from railroad ephemera to photographs taken by others. Kickstarter backers will enjoy a replica of his original ticket for the LIRR ceremony train into Penn Station. As Ziel relocated to Tuscon, The Archives at the Queens Library purchased a portion of his collection. The Ron Ziel Image Collection at The Archives of the Queens Library today features 6,435 images by 31 photographers spanning the years of 1874-1996. Today these images are open for research to the public, without restrictions, at the Long Island Division of the Queens Library in Jamaica, Queens.