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Train Service Normal As Fire Cleanup Continues at 30th Street Station

December 24, 1991 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Amtrak service was back to normal Tuesday after fire damaged 30th Street Station, but regional commuter trains bypassed the newly renovated station as water and soot cleanup continued.

″We’re in good shape operationally,″ said Sue Martin, an Amtrak spokeswoman. ″We had cleanup crews at the station all night.

″Our ticket office is in operation, and although there is still a good bit of cleanup we are in good shape. There was no damage to the track bed.″

The fire Monday shut down travel for some 12,000 passengers in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor serving Boston, New York, Washington, and points in between. Many continued their trips on buses.

Trains were halted at Wilmington, Del., to the south, and at Trenton, N.J., or North Philadelphia on the north side.

The fire erupted at about 5 p.m. in a remote area below street level that once housed a bowling alley. Tracks run above and below that area.

The 58-year-old station recently completed a 2 1/2 -year, $100 million renovation, and the area that caught on fire was used to store construction materials.

Fire commissioner Roger Ulshafer said the building suffered extensive damage, although the main concourse was spared. He said the fire appeared to start near trailers where propane was kept, but stressed the investigation was continuing.

Martin said she couldn’t estimate the amount of damage, although the former bowling alley area was reduced to ashes.

″We are assessing the damage, and talking to the fire department about how it started,″ the Amtrak spokeswoman said.

The ticket offices and platforms used by SEPTA regional trains were closed Tuesday because of debris from the fire. But the tracks, which are above the source of the fire, did not suffer structural damage.

Trains operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority went through 30th Street Station Tuesday without stopping.

SEPTA offered free transfers to subways connecting 30th Street and Suburban Station, a stop 15 blocks east of the damaged station.

David Murdock, a SEPTA spokesman, said it would be Thursday before the regional transportation authority could use its part of the terminal.

″That’s the only glitch in our service,″ Murdock said. ″All trains are running. There are some delays and our trains are skipping 30th Street. Everything else is normal. It’s turning out better than we expected.″

On Tuesday morning Amtrak cancelled two trains - the 6 a.m. Metroliner out of New York, and one between Springfield, Mass. and Philadelphia - because equipment wasn’t available.

Eight firefighters and two civilians suffered smoke inhalation and minor injuries. Four firefighters were hospitalized.

Capt. Thomas Brennan, 43, was downgraded from critical to good condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Capt. Michael Bean, 47, and firefighter Stephen Montemuro, 41, were in satisfactory condition at Hahnamann University Hospital.

One firefighter, Lt. Fred Endrikat, 37, was released from Hahnamann Tuesday morning.

More than 300 firefighters braved thick, noxious smoke and fought the roaring flames that burned out of control for nearly five hours. They had to hack holes through the station’s brick walls for ventilation.

The 30th Street Station is the second busiest rail center in the nation, next to New York’s Pennsylvania Station. It is used by 400,000 Amtrak and SEPTA passengers every month.

Scenes from the 1985 movie ″Witness″ were set in the station. Its classic, Greek-style pillars in the main concourse rise eight stories to an ornate ceiling. Underground, besides the train tracks, is a 425-car parking garage.

The building was newly dedicated last June after a 2 1/2 -year renovation that included installation of energy-efficient windows and conversion of a mail sorting room into a garage.