Project
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station
Wilmington, Delaware, USA

Architect
Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects PC
Wilmington, Delaware, USA

Window Installer
Graboyes Commercial Window Co.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

General Contractor
Shoemaker Construction Co. 
West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, USA

Traco Products
TR-9000 – 4" Double Hung Tilt Thermal Aluminum Window
TR-9500 – 4" Fixed Thermal Aluminum Window
TR-7900 – 3-1/4" Fixed Thermal Aluminum Window, with some curves

During his 36 years in the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden rode Amtrak every day from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington, D.C. and often talks about his experiences on the trains – the people he met and the importance of trains in America. According to Delawareonline.com, Biden has said, “Everything, good or bad in my career, the first people I encountered were getting on the train. They were the first ones there for me.” To honor the Vice President and his dedication to the railroads, the Wilmington Amtrak train station was renamed the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station. The station renaming occurred on the heels of an extensive two-year, $37.7 million renovation project, which included $20 million in federal stimulus money.

The newly dubbed Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station (also known as the Wilmington Station) began operating in 1907 and was renovated to not only be more modern, but also improve the transportation function and utility for passengers. Originally designed by renowned architect Frank Furness to celebrate America’s industrial strength, the station now serves as an icon of Wilmington. Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects PC, based in Wilmington, was selected to design the renovation and was immediately challenged with finding a way to integrate modern technology while retaining the station’s historic charisma. The renovation included detailed restoration of various parts of the station including the lobby’s grand staircase and the historic men’s and women’s waiting rooms on the second floor as well as constructing a larger concourse, making safety improvements and adding a new passenger display system.

At the onset of the project, the team was faced with budgetary challenges. In an article in retrofit magazine, William Holloway, AIA, LEED AP, with Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects PC, noted, “Amtrak’s funding is uncertain, and they just didn’t have the dollars when they thought they were going to have them. Then the stimulus money came out, and Amtrak realized the project very readily met the stimulus criteria.”

With funding available, the project team then had to address the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, as the station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. This meant a great deal of attention focused on restoring the building’s façade. In the retrofit interview, Holloway said that one of the biggest challenges with the restoration was related to the building’s windows. He said, “Original windows are often the most revered part of a historic building because they don’t make windows the way they used to – with the sight lines, the thickness of frames and the muntins.”

After much discussion with the state preservation office, the architectural team was able to replace the windows that were exposed to weather with “custom-made historic-quality aluminum windows that feature 1" double-pane insulated glass with low-E coating.” The original windows that were protected against weather were kept and restored. In addition to having to follow stringent requirements for the historical replication of the original windows, there were unusual custom color requirements that not only specified that the interior color had to differ from the exterior color, but also the exterior panning and window frame color had to differ from the window sash color. Additionally, the selected interior/exterior colors varied depending on the windows’ location in the building. A range of windows from Kawneer’s Traco division were selected to achieve these needs, and Philadelphia-based Graboyes Commercial Window Co. designed, purchased and installed the custom Traco windows for the station.

The TR-9000 – 4" Double Hung Tilt Thermal Aluminum Window, TR-9500 – 4" Fixed Thermal Aluminum Window and TR-7900 – 3-1/4” Fixed Thermal Aluminum Window (with some curves) were used in various locations throughout the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station. These windows provide thermal performance, and as they are made from aluminum, they will never rot, warp or buckle due to moisture and weather exposure, and they attain outstanding condensation resistance. The TR-9000 windows are easy to maintain and clean and offer standard 1" insulating glass. Likewise, the TR-9500 windows also offer standard 1" insulating glass as well as frame corners that are designed for strength and durability, adding to the longevity of the renovation work and, ultimately, the station. And, Traco’s TR-7900 windows also provide strength and versatility by accommodating deeper panel depths, which helped contribute to the historic nature of the building. In addition, Traco developed the custom extrusions and fabrication techniques needed to install the new aluminum windows in a way that replicated the station’s old wooden windows.

According to Amtrak, the Wilmington Station is the 12th busiest station in the Amtrak system. The station was one of the first American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects to be released by the federal government. After the renovation/restoration was completed, the architecture firm received a prestigious 2011 Brunel Award for their work on the station. The award was given by the Watford Group, an international volunteer association consisting of railway architecture and design professionals.