• branch from Philadelphia to Chester

  • Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.
Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.

Moderator: Franklin Gowen

  by SPUI
How did the Reading get to this line? Did they have trackage rights over the PRR's Junction Railroad (now the Belmont Branch and Northeast Corridor) or over the B&O through the tunnel under Fairmount Park?

  by Urban D Kaye
I don't believe the RDG needed the PRR's Junction RR to make this move.

The branch entering the main near RG Tower (north of Eastside yard), gave the RDG access to the B&O tracks along the east bank of the Schuylkill River, then up thru the Art Museum Tunnel to Park Jct, then reverse back onto the city industrial lead track and into the RDG Terminal. Awkward because the terminal was a stub-end facility, but no need to ask the Pennsy for any favors.

Freight access would use the B&O as well, past Park Jct and to the RDG main via the Columbia Bridge. Again, no Pennsy.

Correct me if I'm wrong on this. {See correction below}
Last edited by Urban D Kaye on Wed Jan 19, 2005 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by SPUI
OK, so it was the B&O. Thanks.
Did the RDG own the old PW&B all the way to the PRR junction at Grays Ferry, or only to the B&O junction?

  by Urban D Kaye
I believe that the Pennsy purchased the PWB to keep the B&O out of Philly...refusing to handle B&O traffic that once was handled by the PWB and forcing the B&O to forge its own route...the RDG and B&O then entered into arrangements that would allow the B&O's Royal Blue and other trains to use RDG trackage to access New Jersey and from there the New York area. Technically tho, the farthest eastward reach of B&O ownership was Park Jct. The Reading took over from there. As for the Junction RR, I believe that was owned entirely by the Pennsy, but was used to interchange with the RDG at Belmont.

Again, please correct me if I'm wrong.

  by SPUI
What I'm referring to is the original PW&B from Grays Ferry to Eddystone. A new alignment was built in 1873 (along the current Northeast Corridor), and the old PW&B was sold to the Reading, and became the Philadelphia and Chester Branch Railroad.
Do you know if the short piece of the Philly-Chester RDG line from the B&O junction to Grays Ferry was RDG or PRR?
When did the Art Museum Tunnel and associated B&O trackage (Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad?) open?

  by Urban D Kaye
Ah, sorry. Looks as if I misunderstood. Rather dramatically.

Did a li'l more research and found this. Here's a map from 1891 showing (at far left) the relationship between the PW&B, the Reading, and the B&O. It is clear that the Reading's Chester Branch did connect to the PW&B (i.e, Pennsy), rather than to the B&O as I'd earlier suggested.

Slightly more detail is revealed in the 1898 map of the same area. Again, the Reading's Chester Branch connects with the PW&B on the west bank of the Schuylkill, at what would become the PRR.

So, I'll withdraw most of what I said earlier. The only way the Reading's Chester Branch could ever have connected with the rest of the Reading system is indeed your first suggestion...that the RDG was granted trackage rights over the Pennsy via the Junction Railroad to Belmont. Trackage rights for which they must have paid dearly, given that the PRR was not in the charity business, particularly where its competitors were concerned.

As for the B&O, you can see where it is a distinct line crossing to the east side of the Schuylkill River, at a point north of what would become Eastside Yard (an awkward arrangement that requires trains to pass the yard, then reverse into it). B&O trains did use their track along the east bank of the Schuylkill to access the Reading at Park Junction to the north (timetable "east").

And for the Fairmount Park (or Art Museum) Tunnel. It opened December 15th, 1886 (and was enlarged in 1921).


  by SPUI
Interesting - the 1898 map does show the B&O connection near Grays Ferry. They probably decided it would be cheaper to get trackage rights over the B&O.

  by RDGAndrew
Interestingly, if you ride SEPTA's R1 from anywhere north of Market East through to the airport, you go from ex-RDG to ex-PRR trackage, then back to ex-RDG on the Chester Branch. I believe that's the only regional rail line that does that.
  by JimBoylan
Sources: "Centenial History of the PRR" and Jay V. Hare's "History of the Phila. & Reading".

The Junction Railroad was owned 1/3 each by the Phila. & Reading, PRR, and Phila., Wilmington & Baltimore (latrer Phila., Baltimore & Washington). Much of the south end was never built, instead the PW&B/PB&W allowed its tracks to be used. After PRR aquired the PB&W, Phila. & Reading trains encountered many delays from conflicting (now PRR) traffic. The new majority ownership of the Jct. Rwy. would not complain or sue about the obstructions, so the P&R and the B&O had to build a new line between Camden Station, Baltimore and Park Jct. to get around the mess.

  by Urban D Kaye
Stumbled upon an interesting tidbit...

Apparently when the PRR bought the PW&B, ostensibly to keep the B&O out of Philly, what they got was actually two lines:

1. The original alignment, along the Delaware River, and
2. The "Darby Improvement," a more direct route farther north and inland (which shows up on maps as early as 1870 and became active in either 1872 or 1873, depending whom you ask).

The PRR sold the original riverside alignment of the PW&B to the Reading (becoming the Reading's Chester Branch), which may explain why it seems somewhat isolated from the rest of the Reading system. The provision of the sale was that the Reading use the line only for freight (the PRR wanted neither the problem of duplicate trackage nor competition for passenger traffic).

The PRR kept the "Darby Improvement" as its main...and I'm guessing this is now part of the NEC between Phila-Balto-Wash.

The B&O, of course, was forced to build its own line to Philly in the 1880s.
  by pumpers
FUnny how it all works out. In the end of the reading/beginning
of conrail years, the Reading yard on the west side of the Schuykill
(Grays ferry yard), at the northern end of the Chester branch, was ripped up, including the "Gray's Ferry" reading connection to the PRR. I guess the cars went from the chester branch went right onto the B&O into
the B&O eastside yard east of the Schuykill, for reasons outlined above.

In early conrail years, when the routes were integrated across
ssytems, it was complicated to move freight coming up
the ex B&O to the PRR yard (Greenwich?) in South Philadelphia, as the cars went
on the B&O to eastside yard, and then had to reverse, and other complications to get to Greenwich.

So recently (still conrail?), the grays ferry connection was reestablished,
and traffic from the B&O can get onto the Reading Chester branch heading
north a short ways to get onto the PRR. (There was never a direct
B&O/PRR connection, I don't think). The cars can then go over the
large PRR freigth bridge (I forget the name) over the Schuykill to get to South Philly without reversing. THis Gray's ferry connection is also used a lot to send freight
from the B&O right up the high line to Belmont, where it can get
to the Reading/Trenton line, e.g., without having to go through the
Art Museum tunnel.


  by Urban D Kaye
pumpers, you are correct that there was not a PRR - B&O connection back in the day. The two RRs were bitter rivals. The PRR was always trying to find new ways to nudge the B&O out of the Philly to New York market. Fortunately for the B&O, they had a strong relationship with the RDG and CNJ.

  by RDG-LNE
Another reason for the connection of the P&R with the B&O at RG/Eastside was the reorganization of the RDG from it's last bankruptcyin 1893 (I think). As part of the reorganization set up by J.P. Morgan, both the NYC and B&O acquired 25% of the new P&R's stock. Over time, the B&O managed to acquire close to 50% of the RDG's outstanding stock while the NYC maintained its 25%. With the RDG controlling the CNJ through lease and stock over the years, the B&O had a secure route in to the NYC market. As the CNJ's finances declined, the RDG eventually lost control over the CNj and the RDG was dumped by the B&O when it entered its last bancruptcy.

Trains that served the Chester Branch operated over the B&O from Park Jct to RG, there was no backup maneuver needed. There is a photo showing the connection in RDG Diesels Vol. 2 by Dale Woodland at the branch/B&O meeting point.It was similiar to the junction still in service at Jenkintown. I have no idea (but highly doubt) the crossing was oif the moveable point type. Trains to Darby Creek originated in Allentown and Port Richmond over the years. Any other questions,let me know. I'll dig through my info and see what else I have. I almost modeled the branch when I was living in my last house, but settled for a Shamokin Div. based plan.