New York’s Penn Station Commuters Looked Just as Miserable in the 1940s as They Do This Week

Hundreds of thousands of rushing travelers are flooding the train hub, which turns 93 on Wednesday.

Nov. 27, 2013, 8:11 a.m.

On this day in 1910, New York’s Pennsylvania Sta­tion opened its doors for the first time. And on this day, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans will be push­ing through them, suit­cases trail­ing be­hind, and rush­ing to catch their trains home for Thanks­giv­ing. The crowds will likely ex­ceed 650,000, the num­ber of people who pass through the 93-year-old sta­tion every day¡—more than Ne­wark, La­Guardia, and JFK air­ports com­bined. At this writ­ing, every train out of Penn Sta­tion is delayed.

Not ex­actly the birth­day party the famed trans­port­a­tion hub was ex­pect­ing. But trav­el­ers are Penn Sta­tion’s lifeblood, and there have been many in its his­tory. When you sprint down the es­cal­at­ors to your gate or squint at the flick­er­ing timetable this week, take a second to think of the mil­lions of anxious foot­steps that came through the con­course be­fore yours. Here are some visu­al re­mind­ers, cour­tesy of the Lib­rary of Con­gress Prints and Pho­to­graphs Di­vi­sion.

And, once you board your train, keep your eyes peeled for gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials chat­ting about non­hol­i­day top­ics.

Women waiting for their trains on a bench. National Journal
A waiting area by the telephones. National Journal
Members of the military take a break from standing and rest on their suitcases. National Journal
A family with surprisingly patient children. National Journal
The station's concourse from the southeast on April 24, 1962. National Journal
A baby in the middle of Penn Station. National Journal
Crowd gathered around exit at Pennsylvania Station awaiting the arrival of Billy Sunday, a famous baseball player-turned-evangelist. National Journal
Riders and a dog wait for their trains inside the station in 1942. National Journal
The concourse from the south on April 24, 1962. National Journal
Crowds inside the station in 1942. National Journal
Riders waiting for their trains in 1942. National Journal
People descend the stairs to their gates in 1942. National Journal
A group of women in hats await their train. National Journal
Adults and children alike pack onto escalators. National Journal
Riders at the station's information kiosk. National Journal

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