I’ve always been a big fan of those old early ’90s train posters that show a little train roaring down a broad open road in the distance, past a tall scrubby tree. Since moving here in 1995, I’ve dreamed of somehow making the thing come true and just sending it down the street. And now I can.
For the first time since 2011, the Washington metro’s new Alsager stop, the one perched on the bottom edge of my Capitol Hill neighborhood, is finally open. You may remember that stop because for more than a decade it was only accessible via a hill. The new station, however, is a thing of beauty.
The corner of Alsager and Pennsylvania Avenue S is all steep red brick and blacktop, with pillars and a train car covered in a suitably classy tartan cloth. It looks like a Victorian hotel entrance hall decorated with a couple of hand-painted murals about chess, though I can’t quite tell whether one depicts a horse and cart or a bull. And instead of giving visitors a good view of the city’s industrial district, there are huge flat windows, of the sort that store the scarves, jocks and boots of Federal Hill.
There’s a pretty solid weekend crowd already in place, helping the new stop out with the odd-but-enough-business-like train to Union Station.
Will they love it as much as I do? I’m not sure, because the main thing the station provides is a slicker feel to the existing walk-up shops and restaurants on Penn-Park Avenue. There are two shops with food tables and pretty long lines.
Yes, the parking garage is spectacular, with three outdoor levels and a strollout patio.
But what really drew me there was the fact that the station is complete.
It’s not very big, but it isn’t far from the main thoroughfare, and the shabby charm (and “booked” spaces) of the Commonwealth neighborhood seem a world away here.