In a previous blog, I wrote about the effect that Henry Chapman Mercer and his fantastic concrete buildings had upon my designs. There were many more architectural influences in the area where I was raised. In and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ran the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Reading Railroad; these both had a profound effect.
The “Pennsey,” as it was affectionately known, was among the largest and most powerful railroads. The Reading was a small regional line. They both moved goods to and from the rich, industrial regions of the state, and the lush farmlands. They also competed, bringing commuters from the suburbs and towns lying outside of Philadelphia.
Railroads were a profitable business; they created wealth wherever they ran. The buildings that they made to operate their systems reflected the riches and strength of their empires. Some were strictly for the operation of the lines: warehouses, freight stations, roundhouses, and switching towers, all handsome in their own right. But the passenger stations were the jewels of their stable of structures. These buildings did more than reflect the fashions of the architecture of their era; they were designed to market the fantasy of travel. Some had towers and spires, and all had magnificent roofs that dominated the structures: roofs that reached skyward, or like the most fashionable hat fitted to the most handsome, or beautiful person, were pulled down low over their facade.
Riding these Railroads as a boy, I felt a part of the whole stage, not just the train car that I sat in, but I felt the continuity of it all. The structures, the tracks, the various trains traveling to and fro, all an entity by design. Among the first things that I drew, and then built, were buildings for my model railroad layouts. I got to design a whole world: landscape, tracks, roads, villages, and farms. This taught me to look at building projects as a whole plan.
When I conceived the design of Tarleton Castle, somewhere in the back of my mind there was a boy looking up at a wondrous fantasy of a welcome to travel, a station to lead you to the beyond, and the faint clickety-clack of the train.