Monday, September 19, 2011

Railway Bar

My apologies for the month of “radio silence” on this blog.  My energies have gone toward edits to the neon book, which is now back at the publisher for another go-around. 

I thought I’d break the silence with a little tribute to a sign I never got to see (at least I don't remember it): that of the Railway Bar, which stood on 8th Avenue just below Penn Station.  I came across this while surfing through the archive of NYC tax photos taken in 1980, housed at the Municipal Archives.  What can I say, love at first sight.  This looks like a place for people who knew how to have a good time.

Municipal Archives

The Railway Bar is long gone now – a Google search turns up almost nothing, nada, bupkis, zippo.  The only other trace I could find was in one of Matt Weber’s great photo-montages of New York neon from days past.  A liquor store occupies the space now (thankfully it’s not a Starbucks or an ATM depot, though that’s probably a matter of time). 

The former Railway Bar today.

The photos show that the sign had red tubes in stainless steel channel letters set against a backdrop of green porcelain enamel, with nice stainless steel stripe moldings to each side.  Records at the DOB suggest an installation date in 1947.

Sign montage by Matt Weber, showing the Railway Bar at 2nd row center, just below Small's.  All but two of the signs pictured here have vanished.
There is still a nice amount of tenderloin grit on this stretch of 8th Avenue, which I enjoy any time I make the schlep between my apartment and Penn Station.   Some good neon survives here, too.  The Penn Bar & Grill on the corner of 31st and 8th made way for Brother Jimmy’s a number of years back, but the new place did a good turn and installed a decent neon sign in place of the old one.
Just down the street, the 8th Avenue Blarney Stone still has a great sign, even if the bar inside looks nothing like it did in the old days.  And over across the street there’s still D’Aiuto, whose sign went up in the days when you could have grabbed a snack here and caught the Broadway Limited to Chicago in the late, great Pennsylvania Station.

Choo-choo and RIP, Railway Bar!  If anyone has any memories of this place, feel free to drop me a line.

Nice deco brickwork on the facade of the ex-Railway Bar.

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