• Philadelphia - Washington Avenue Trackage

  • Discussion related to the operations and equipment of Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) from 1976 to its present operations as Conrail Shared Assets. Official web site can be found here: CONRAIL.COM.
Discussion related to the operations and equipment of Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) from 1976 to its present operations as Conrail Shared Assets. Official web site can be found here: CONRAIL.COM.

Moderators: TAMR213, keeper1616

  by John Johnstone
Does anyone know the time frame, purpose, original railroad name and route of the occasional freight trains I would see on Washington Avenue in Philadelphia, slowly riding through the Italian Market until the mid eighties? Thanks
  by JimBoylan
The Philadelphia Navy Yard used to be near Delaware & Washington Aves., so there was an incentive to extend freight service East from the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore RR depot at Broad & Prime Sts. This was probably long before 1860.
  by John Johnstone
Thanks, Jim. I was under the impression that the tracks originated from the B&O around Grays Ferry and followed Washington Avenue to Delaware Ave. During the 1980, where did the tracks originate or which Pennsy named branch? Thanks, Jim
  by JimBoylan
Last access in the early 1980s was from Northbound on Delaware Ave. to Westbound on Washington Ave., cutting the corner sidewalk. Before that, there was a large wye, from Southbound on Delaware Ave. to Westbound in the Eastbound lanes of Washington Ave., so the sidewalk was not touched. The other leg of the wye used the yard which is now the shopping center on the SouthWest corner. I can remember that layout from the late 1960s.
Access from the Western end beyond 23rd St. to Grays Ferry Ave. and drawbridge was cut before the mid 1950s. There had also been a steep ramp from West on Washington Ave. to get to Arsenal drawbridge. There was "access" to the B&O through the industries on the NorthWest corner of 34th St. & Grays Ferry Ave.
  by Sir Ray
Oh noes, Zombie Thread Alert!

In a typical roundabout way, I found this thread (searched for it, figuring such a thread would exist) about this trackage after reading a short aside on the Roads of Philadelphia Crosstown Expressway entry (unbuilt), specifically
Furthermore, the railroad line that runs along the middle of Washington Avenue would have to be relocated, possibly leading to the loss of industrial jobs.
Well, the railroad was indeed "relocated" (to oblivion), as were many of the skilled industrial jobs (area looks to be light industrial, service, and retail nowadays), even though the Crosstown Expressway was never built.

My question is why did the railroad serve the Washington Avenue branch from the East via Delaware Avenue (as Jim Boylan stated) instead of from the West end? The stretch from 11th St. East seems commercial/residential even back in the day (and most buildings seem to be of 1960s vintage or earlier - also, I gather the 3 tall tower blocks near Jackson Square in 1967 were housing projects, as two of them are gone by 2002), while west of 11th St. looks to have been the stretch of Washington Ave. where the heavy industry was located (yes, buildings are being replaced here too, and Google Maps shows two big empty lots on either side of Broad St. which I'd guess were Industrial at one time) - one dead give-away is the (probably former) Frankford Chocolate factory on 21st and Washington - the 1967 Historical Aerial of the area seems to bear this out: most spurs are to the West of S. Broad St, including a freight yard about a block and a half in area one block West of Broad St. So, why not keep the Western connection (back in the 1950s)? In the 1950 Historic, I believe I see the ramp mentioned, but just to the North is two long nearly empty lots that slope down to Washington - they could have just laid a graded embankment, no steelwork needed! (And the lots are still mostly empty even today).

Bonus trivia - virtually zipping along via Google Street, I came across the "Philadelphia Beacons", 4 steel and glass columns on each corner of S. Broad and Washington, that I had previously read about in a rather salty and a bit opinionated blog post.

Bonus 2: You gotta love all the vehicles parked in the median of Washington Avenue.
  by JimBoylan
I can only guess that the serving yard was Delaware & Washington Aves., at the East end. The ramp from West on Washington Ave. towards Arsenal drawbridge may have been abandoned because it was too steep for Diesel locomotives that were able to go around its sharp curve. I don't know why the connection between Washington and Grays Ferry Aves. was broken.
  by Sir Ray
This thread arises again, due to the Sept 2015 issue of Model Railroader and the article "Scratchbuilding With Help From 3-D Printing".
As you may guess from this thread bump, the article involves modeling a freight station on the Washington Avenue branch, specifically the former PW&B Passenger Station turned freight terminal at the NW corner of Washington and S. Broad St.

The Philly History blog has quite a few images of the area back in the day, including an image of the freight terminal used to illustrate the article.
Posting as of now starts on this page, and there are at least three entries at this time.
  by GandyDancer1
Service to Washington Ave was supported from the Delaware Ave side during CR. Traffic moved into Greenwich yd., then Tidewater yd, finally to a support yd near Delaware and Washington. Domino Sugar (or was it Jack Frost lol) was the big industry at the small yd. The last holdout on Washington was S.Semple Flour. It was a long ride up Washington Ave. stopping constantly to have cars and delivery trucks moved, avoiding crowds in the market etc. :-)