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Abandoned diner car to become Rail Park’s welcome center

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With help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Bruno Mars, and Heineken

Funds raised from Cities Project will be used to turn an abandoned rail car on North Broad into the Rail Park’s Welcome Center.
Rendering by Studio Bryan Hanes

With help from an unlikely trio, an abandoned rail car that sits forlornly on North Broad is set to become the official welcome center for the Rail Park.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Bruno Mars, and Heineken have teamed up for the Cities Project, a crowd-sourced fundraising initiative that aims to help improve 10 cities around the country. Folks who contribute at least $150 to one of the city projects will automatically receive two tickets to a Bruno Mars concert in the city of their choosing this summer.

Philly’s Rail Park, which is currently under construction, was selected as one of the 10 projects, along with D.C.’s Union Station restoration project, LA’s Triforium, and other preservation-minded efforts.

Funds raised from the crowd-sourcing campaign will go toward the design elements of the Rail Park, as well as the restoration of the abandoned Reading Railroad dining car. Friends of the Rail Park plans to turn the icon into the Rail Park’s welcome center.

This rail car, officially named the Reading Railroad Car 1186, sits overgrown with weeds and such at North Broad and Noble streets. It dates back to the 1920s when it served as a luxury dining car for the rail line.

When Reading sold the rail car in the 1970s, it set up permanent shop on North Broad, where it continued operations as a diner. It’s been vacant since 2012 after its last tenant, the Philly Express Steak and Bagel Train, moved out.

Like the rest of the Cities Project campaigns, the Rail Park has a $15,000 fundraising goal. At the time this article was published, $1,350 had been raised.

According to Center City District’s latest construction update, a little less than $300,000 is still needed to meet the first phase’s $10.3 million budget. The first phase is still on track to finish construction by January 2018.