Amtrak Turns Train Route Into An Outdoor Art Gallery

Arts & Culture

Colorful murals along the tracks experiment with scale, perspective and the passage of time.

Ross Brooks
  • 15 may 2014

There are already plenty of amazing things to see through a train window, but Amtrak passengers traveling between downtown’s 30th Street Station and North Philadelphia Station will soon be see a unique collection of brightly colored murals hurtle past. It’s part of a collaborative project between the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, and Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse called psychylustro.

Passengers will be able to experience seven different passages, from vast, dramatic warehouse walls to small buildings and stretches of green spaces, all of which are designed to explore scale, perspective and the passage of time.

“We really want people to see what we see,” says Jane Golden, Mural Arts executive director. “We see the deterioration, but we also see the beauty, we see the history, we see Philadelphia’s past.”

The temporary exhibition will be completed in mid-May, but it’s designed to change over time as the elements gradually reclaim the space. As the official project page puts it, think of psychylustro as a “real-time landscape painting, where the ever-evolving city is the canvas and your window is the frame.”

While the paintings are clustered around one particular section of track that goes downtown, and sees more than 34,000 passengers everyday, the exhibit looks just as good from other angles. Where you’re sitting in the carriage, speed, which track the train is on, and direction of travel can all influence the experience.


The work shifts your notion of size through movement, so when you stand in front of it, it’s huge, but when you pass it by on the train it becomes small. This kind of experience — that your life is constantly in that kind of changing mode — is something I’ve always been fascinated by. And this time we have an extra tool, which is the train. In a museum you walk, and that’s the way you move. Here, you can fly.

Passengers will be able to get more information on the project through special cards placed in Amtrak seats, along with a dial-in line that provides more information about what they’re seeing outside the window.

Amtrak // City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program

[h/t] The Atlantic Cities

Images by Steve Weinik


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