Read GOING TO PHILADELPHIA II of Plum Pudding, free online book, by Christopher Morley, on

The other day we had a chance to go to Philadelphia in the right way ­by the Reading, the P. and R., the Peaceful and Rapid.  As one of our missions in life is to persuade New York and Philadelphia to love one another, we will tell you about it.

Ah, the jolly old Reading!  Take the 10 o’clock ferry from Liberty Street, and as the Plainfield kicks herself away from the slip with a churning of cream and silver, study Manhattan’s profile in the downpour of morning sun.  That winged figure on the Tel and Tel Building (the loveliest thing in New York, we insist) is like a huge and queerly erect golden butterfly perched momently in the blue.  The 10:12 train from Jersey City we call the Max Beerbohm Special because there are Seven Men in the smoker.  No, the Reading is never crowded. (Two more men did get on at Elizabeth.) You can make yourself comfortable, put your coat, hat, and pipecleaners on one seat, your books, papers, and matches on another.  Here is the stout conductor whom we used to know so well by sight, with his gold insignia.  He has forgotten that we once travelled with him regularly, and very likely he wonders why we beam so cheerfully.  We flash down the Bayonne peninsula, with a glimpse of the harbour, Staten Island in the distance, a schooner lying at anchor.  Then we cross Newark Bay, pure opaline in a clear, pale blue light.  H.G.  Dwight is the only other chap who really enjoys Newark Bay the way it deserves to be.  He wrote a fine poem about it once.

But we had one great disappointment.  For an hour or so we read a rubbishy novel, thinking to ourself that when the Max Beerbohm Express reached that lovely Huntington Valley neighbourhood, we would lay down the book and study the scenery, which we know by heart.  When we came to the Neshaminy, that blithe little green river, we were all ready to be thrilled.  And then the train swung away to the left along the cut-off to Wayne Junction and we missed our bright Arcadia.  We had wanted to see again the little cottage at Meadowbrook (so like the hunting lodge in the forest in “The Prisoner of Zenda”) which a suasive real-estate man once tried to rent to us. (Philadelphia realtors are no less ingenious than the New York species.) We wanted to see again the old barn, rebuilt by an artist, at Bethayres, which he also tried to rent to us.  We wanted to see again the queer “desirable residence” (near the gas tanks at Marathon) which he did rent us.  But we had to content ourself with the scenery along the cut-off, which is pleasant enough in its way ­there is a brown-green brook along a valley where a buggy was crawling down a lane among willow trees in a wealth of sunlight.  And the dandelions are all out in those parts.  Yes, it was a lovely morning.  We found ourself pierced by the kind of mysterious placid melancholy that we only enjoy to the full in a Reading smoker, when, for some unknown reason, hymn tunes come humming into our head and we are alarmed to notice ourself falling in love with humanity as a whole.

We could write a whole newspaper page about travelling to Philly on the Reading.  Consider those little back gardens near Wayne Junction, how delightfully clean, neat, domestic, demure.  Compare entering New York toward the Grand Central, down that narrow frowning alleyway of apartment house backs, with imprisoned children leaning from barred windows.  But as you spin toward Wayne Junction you see acres and acres of trim little houses, each with a bright patch of turf.  Here is a woman in a blue dress and white cap, busily belabouring a rug on the grass.  The bank of the cutting by Wayne Junction is thick with a tangle of rosebushes which will presently be in blossom; we know them well.  Spring Garden Street:  if you know where to look you can catch a blink of Edgar Allan Poe’s little house.  Through a jumble of queer old brick chimneys and dormers, and here we are at the Reading Terminal, with its familiar bitter smell of coal gas.

Of course we stop to have a look at the engine, one of those splendid Reading locos with the three great driving wheels.  Splendid things, the big Reading locos; when they halt they pant so cheerfully and noisily, like huge dogs, much louder than any other engines.  We always expect to see an enormous red tongue running in and out over the cowcatcher.  Vast thick pants, as the poet said in “Khubla Khan.”  We can’t remember if he wore them, or breathed them, but there it is in the poem; look it up.  Reading engineers, too, always give us a sense of security.  They have gray hair, cropped very close.  They have a benign look, rather like Walt Whitman if he were shaved.  We wrote a poem about one of them once, Tom Hartzell, who used to take the 5:12 express out of Jersey City.

Philadelphia, incidentally, is the only large city where the Dime Museum business still flourishes.  For the first thing we see on leaving the Terminal is that the old Bingham Hotel is now The World’s Museum, given over to Ursa the Bear Girl and similar excitements.  But where is the beautiful girl with slick dark hair who used to be at the Reading terminal news-stand?

How much more we could tell you about travelling on the Reading!  We would like to tell you about the queer assortment of books we brought back with us. (There were twelve men in the smoker, coming home.) We could tell how we tried to buy, without being observed, a magazine which we will call Foamy Fiction, in order to see what the new editor (a friend of ours) is printing.  Also, we always buy a volume of Gissing when we go to Philly, and this time we found “In the Year of Jubilee” in the shop of Jerry Cullen, the delightful bookseller who used to be so redheaded, but is getting over it now in the most logical way.  We could tell you about the lovely old whitewashed stone farmhouses (with barns painted red on behalf of Schenk’s Mandrake Pills) and about the famous curve near Roelofs, so called because the soup rolls off the table in the dining car when they take the curve at full speed; and about Bound Brook, which has a prodigious dump of tin cans that catches the setting sunlight ­

It makes us sad to think that a hundred years hence people will be travelling along that road and never know how much we loved it.  They will be doing so to-morrow, too; but it seems more mournful to think about the people a hundred years hence.

When we got back to Jersey City, and stood on the front end of the ferryboat, Manhattan was piling up all her jewels into the cold green dusk.  There were a few stars, just about as many as there are passengers in a Reading smoker.  There was one big star directly over Brooklyn, and another that seemed to be just above Plainfield.  We pondered, as the ferry slid toward its hutch at Liberty Street, that there were no stars above Manhattan.  Just at that moment ­five minutes after seven ­the pinnacle of the Woolworth blossomed a ruby red.  New York makes her own.