• Philadelphia & Thorndale Branch

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania

Moderator: bwparker1

  by choess
That's the former Philadelphia & Thorndale Branch, which connected the Trenton Cutoff at Glenloch to the main line at Thorndale via a low-grade route, using heavy cuts and fills and the Downingtown high bridge. The "Philadelphia" in the name comes from the original plans to construct a Darby Creek Low-Grade line from Malvern to Overbrook, but this was never carried out.

The line was originally double-track and electrified, reduced to single-track during the late PRR era. I don't know offhand when it was de-electrified. With Conrail's rerouting of freight via Reading and the Pottsville Line, the line was of less importance, and the rail was lifted about 1990.

  by transit383
Would this be the same unelectrifed line that parallels Route 202 north of West Chester for a few miles?
Last edited by transit383 on Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by wis bang
It crossed Rt 202 just south of Exton & ran paralell to Boot Rd and used to serve the Sonoco Mill in Downingtown...

  by transit383
Why was the line built on such a higher grade and almost on top of an existing rail line? The bridge alone at Whitford is very impressive and just seems out of place there. How long was the branch and is the entire line as elaborately engineered as it is near Whitford and Exton?

  by choess
The abandoned line parallel to 202 N of West Chester is the PRR Frazer Branch (ex-West Chester RR), which ran from West Chester to Frazer. It was abandoned in 1932. I suspect the line that served Downingtown Paper was either the RDG Chester Valley Branch or PRR New Holland Branch; the P&T Branch skirted around Downingtown to the south, and I'm not sure it actually had any freight sidings on it.

The Trenton Cutoff (Morrisville-Glenloch), P&T (Glenloch-Thorndale), and the Atglen & Susquehanna (Parkesburg-Wago Jct.) were built as part of the PRR's Low-Grade freight line program. (Actually, the Trenton Cutoff was built slightly prior and realigned a little as part of the program.) These lines had low grades and few curves, necessitating extensive cutting and filling, and were intended more or less exclusively for rapid movement of heavy freight trains, relieving congestion on the Main Line and reducing the need for helpers. As I said, the P&T was conceived of as part of a larger project, never completed, to avoid grades on the Main Line from Philadelphia to Glenloch, but it also allowed freights to bypass the climb out of the valley of the East Branch of the Brandywine at Downingtown. The line connected to the Trenton Cutoff on the north side of the main line at Glenloch and kept its elevation as the main line descended towards the Brandywine. The jumpover at Whitford allowed the P&T to maintain its elevation on the flank of the South Valley Hills, although immense fills were still required. ("Triumph III", if I'm not mistaken, has some impressive photographs of the construction.) West of Downingtown, the P&T converged with the main line again and entered Thorndale Yard via a classic PRR flying junction, terminating as #5 and 6 running tracks at Caln.

The line was 12.72 miles long, according to PRR track charts, and more or less all of it heavily engineered. And if you think that's cool, check out the remains of the Atglen & Susquehanna: running through more or less the middle of nowhere Atglen-Quarryville-Safe Harbor, with absolutely *colossal* fills, cuts, underpasses, and so forth. (If you turn onto Pennsy Road and go west, just north of Quarryville, you may not realize that the hill on the left-hand side is all a fill until the road ducks through the stone tunnel under it--I didn't.) There are also impressive high bridges, as on the P&T at Downingtown, at Martic Forge and Safe Harbor.

  by transit383
Are there any photos or websites online with information about these low grade lines? They are truly fascinating and engineering masterpieces.

  by choess
Capsule description of the A&S here: http://kc.pennsyrr.com/guide/as.html with postcards of the high bridges at Martic Forge and Safe Harbor.

Only picture of the P&T I could find was here: http://www.roadfan.com/2long322.jpg showing part of the Downingtown High Bridge.

(Tangentially, my 1932 date for abandonment of the Frazer Branch was wrong. I think that was the end of passenger service; it was used for freight until sometime after 1945.)

  by Nacho66
Actually, the line that paralled Rt. 202 between W. Chester and King of Prussia was still active thru the late '70's.
I can clearly remember boxcars at industry sidings as late as 1979 near the area of the old Valley Forge Music Fair.
I also remember the track being pulled up sometime in the early '90's.
I also remember a short Reading(Conrail) freight going behind the Music Fair in 1976 when I was there for a field-trip in my 4th grade class.
I can still clearly remember the green and yellow caboose.

  by AlexC
Nacho... you may be thinking of the Reading's Chester Valley Branch. The A&S, P&T and the Trenton Cutoff are not related.

  by glennk419
AlexC wrote:Nacho... you may be thinking of the Reading's Chester Valley Branch. The A&S, P&T and the Trenton Cutoff are not related.
That is correct, the tracks that paralelled 202 from King of Prussia to Great Valley were the RDG Chester Valley branch. Many parts of the ROW are still visible. It would have made a nice rail trail but they tore all the bridges out about 10 years ago. Ironically, during the recent 202-76 construction project, Conrail swung their tracks over the Schuylkill Expressway at K0P over to this branch while the new truss bridge was put in place for the ex-PRR ROW.
  by JimBoylan
choess wrote:The "Philadelphia" in the name comes from the original plans to construct a Darby Creek Low-Grade line from Malvern to Overbrook, but this was never carried out.
Tax and other maps show it starting at 62nd St., Malvern & Lancaster Aves., running down Malvern Ave., turning NorthWest in Morris Park, crossing Township Line Rd. at Darlington Rd. behind the gas station on the NorthEast corner (that's why the rear property line and fence are at about a 45 degree angle), running in the corridor between various diagonal streets like Juniper and Valley Rds., and Twin Oaks Dr. and Manor Rd., then up the Newtown Square Branch to Darby Creek. I forget exactly how it got from the creek to Malvern, but apparently it was to go under the Main Line and make an arc to the West to connect with it, taking out most of the houses in Malvern North of the Main Line! The way streets and property lines were laid in Haverford Township makes me think that some property was acquired in that area. In Malvern, that great curve just shows superimposed on the existing property lines.

  by Red Arrow Fan
In the area from the former Valley Forge Music Fair, west to Rt 29 near Malvern, The Trenton Cutoff and the Chester Valley line were pretty much parallel, and very close to each other, possibly causing the confusion for someone above.
  by Big Bri
The P&T Branch was single tracked in 1970 during the early PC era. The westbound track was retained because it was in better condition than the eastbound track.