• Oak Lane Middle Siding

  • Discussion of the historical operations related to the Central Railroad of New Jersey; Lehigh & Hudson River; Lehigh & New England; Lehigh Valley; and the Reading Company. Visit the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society for more information.
Discussion of the historical operations related to the Central Railroad of New Jersey; Lehigh & Hudson River; Lehigh & New England; Lehigh Valley; and the Reading Company. Visit the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society for more information.

Moderators: metman499, scottychaos, CAR_FLOATER, Franklin Gowen, David, Marty Feldner

  by Franklin Gowen
Would someone in the know please explain for me the reason that the "third track" middle siding was built at Oak Lane (Melrose Park), between Fern Rock and Elkins Park on the Bethlehem Branch? I am increasingly curious why it was built and how it was routinely used. What was its role - expediting passenger or freight or both? When was it installed and when was it last used? On the SEPTA Forum I made some cautious guesstimates concerning this track, but I would really like to know more facts about it. Your help is eagerly sought, forum members!
  by delvyrails
I was told, although I never saw it so used, that the main purpose of Oak Lane Middle Siding was as a refuge for local freight trains moving in either direction.

There was also at least one spur track at Oak Lane station, equipped with a pillar crane, on the outbound side.

When I saw the siding in the 1950s-60s, it was connected with main tracks at three points; only an entrance track from the inbound track was missing and may never have existed due to the location on a curve. Inbound local freights would have backed in.
  by jadebullet2
I know that there was a similar style of siding on the Shamokin Division and that it was used like a regular siding, though most of the time it was just a storage siding for hopper cars.
  by amtrakhogger
IIRC, the Oak Lane Middle was also a place to turn electric m.u. passenger trains on short runs to/from Reading Terminal.
  by Clearfield
It was removed following the construction of the new station at Melrose.

I believe it extended south as far as the original Oak Lane station on the Philadelphia side of Cheltenham Avenue.
  by scotty269
I could see a restored middle track in assisting during the peak hours; hold the local on the outer track at Melrose, and run an Express around it via the middle track.
  by JimBoylan
I cannot remember the siding in existence, so it must have been removed before 1969, when I started commuting. There were similar middle sidings out near Soudertown, and a "side" siding at Forest Hills, on the inbound side. There was a coal customer near Ashbourne Rd., South of Elkins Park, on the outbound side. The way freight could hide on the middle siding while the engine switched that customer and the Oak Lane team track. When New York trains ran every hour, and there were more trains to Bethlehem and beyond, there could have been more need for this siding.
  by westernfalls
It was listed in a 1930 time table as a 39 car northward siding. That was before the electrification, so it likely never had a southbound entrance switch.
  by rdgrailfan
I was looking at a few early pictures of the OAK Lane station and freight yard.

I have one shot from 1960 that shows a large string of coal hoppers sitting on the siding, they sat at that location for a few weeks.. I can't make out the switches but memory says a north bound exit only just south of the foot bridge. but electrified the whole length.

I would see freight trains sitting at various times of the day for whatever reason. Reality it was not used much at all.

I do know that down the street on Coventry Ave was "ELWOOD IVINS STEEL TUBE WORKS" that would receive and ship items from the freight yard. The freight train would pull into the middle siding, go north, reverse with the car or cars back past the station and switch, then into the yard and reverse the procedure to link up with the train.
They had a large crane that would go up the street into the yard and back when they had to ship or receive. I did see them use the hand crank crane that was their also on occasion. Elwood closed about '61 and that was the end for anything at that yard.
  by delvyrails
Another related curiosity is that the P&R around 1900 contemplated triple-tracking of the line as far as Glenside. The bridge abutments just north of Melrose Park station (inbound side) are long enough for a fourth track (third main track) there. The previous outbound Jenkintown station was set back one track space to allow for a third track. Finally, the abutments at Keswick Avenue allow for a third track space on the north side.

As an alternative, there was also considered a cutoff line, the Philadellphia & Northern, which would have run directly northward from near former Fishers station on the Chestnut Hill branch to merge with the Bethlehem Branch approaching the Edge Hill cut. It shows in an old real estate atlas.
  by JimBoylan
Was the Philadelphia & Northern between Fishers and Edgehill proposed instead of or in addition to the Connecting RR between Wayne Jct. and Fern Rock (Tabor Jct.)?
  by glennk419
As a side note, the middle track was actually reinstalled in the late 70's / early 80's when the Valley Road bridge adjacent to Melrose Park station was replaced. It was alternately connected to the north and south tracks while they replaced the sections of the bridge, one track width at a time. I also recall the outbound track having continuous welded rail between Melrose and the Elkins Park footbridge back during that time period. It was the only section on the Bethlehem branch to have CWR at that time and the ride and (lack of) noise was very noticeable.
  by delvyrails
Regarding the Philadelphia & Northern, the only comment on it that I have seen in any kind of official or railfan source is that the company sold land it had acquired for the project after it was dropped (I cannot remember that source).

P&N would have been shorter and would have avoided junctions at Fern Rock (which over a century ago was aligned for the route down to American Street; the line toward Wayne Junction was the diverging route), Jenkintown, and YM/Glenside. In steam days, it would have been significantly faster and would have eased the likely-approaching capacity constraints of the older routing.

Most of its alignment showed a routing via then-open land, except for a village around Chelten Avenue. Even so, someone platted a "Waverly Heights" town plan around the right of way north of the later Beaver/Arcadia college site. It, too, was never realized.

After the Reading abandoned the project, the route 49 (later, 6) trolley line was built on nearly the same alignment through the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia.
  by JimBoylan
You seem to have explained how wide Ogontz Ave. got built when older Limekiln Pk. was nearby.