Trains 199 westward and 194 eastward (formerly the "Queen of the Valley" and "Harrisburg Special") were discontinued over the Reading Company portion of their route effective June 30, 1963. It was a through train up until that time. Since I'm more focused on their history and signifigance to Reading Co. operations, I'm not really conversant with what the CNJ did with the Jersey City-Allentown portions which remained to them afterwards, nor what the CNJ branded them as in public timetables after this major cutback.
At one time they were the best-quality trains on that run. What needs mentioning here is that by that final date, that round-trip pair was, itself, the last set of RDG Harrisburg trains. Once they were discontinued, the Lebanon Valley Branch became freight-only from Reading to the state capitol. RDG sold its enourmous and now-unnecessary 1902 Harrisburg passenger terminal to the US Postal Deptartment in 1956, to be torn down and the land re-used for a postal sorting facility. After that date trackage was truncated slightly; I believe that there was no smaller replacement or temporary structure in use for what was only two trains per weekday. I have seen photographs clearly showing that after that date, the trains now ended their run in a parking lot without overhead platform awnings or services of any kind; an arrangement sadly similar to what would happen in 1961 to Main Line trains in Pottsville once the 1887 station on Norwegian St. was torn down.
The announced total withdrawal of mail from Reading Co. RPO cars by the US Postal Dept. was the event which finally killed whatever remaining financial viability those two trains had held onto. Employe timetables show that in 1952 there were still three round-trip trains each weekday (with additional Sat.-only and Sun.-only trains), but by 1963 only the Queen and the Special remained as the final halves of the final round-trip train. Improvements to competing roads (Rt.422 Hbg.-Rdg., and Rt. 222 Rdg.-A'town) reduced travel time by auto and made elapsed time via train uncompetitive over longer distances. The loss of additional individual trains from the schedule led to the effect of remaining trains having major problems in offering departure and arrival times that were useful for attracting would-be passengers.
For example, Train 194 eastward had some partial benefit for persons living in Reading or points east who held jobs at the various state buildings in Harrisburg (4:05PM departure Hbg.), while Train 199 westward left Allentown after 8pm and didn't even arrive in Hbg. until nearly 11pm! (Great for Jersey City/Bound Brook folks who headed west after their workday, though.) The final two trains together really were no more than a commuter operation at best. That's a sad finale for what was once very comfortable (if not exactly "Crusader"-level) intercity, interstate service.
Highway trucking of local mail in the 1950s (as referred to in Bethlehem Jct.'s linked article) badly damaged the finances of the already weak and under-used Harrisburg-Allentown trains. By then, those postal revenues were usually the only thing keeping a train's "revenues earned" in the black.The 1963 announcement removing remaining local mail and all longer-distance mail was simply the final blow to a service which was already well into terminal decline.
As an aside, the RDG's Allentown-Harrisburg trains did not operate via Franklin Street Station in Reading. It was at the tremendous wye complex in Reading's Outer Station where passenger runs off of the East Penn Branch from Allentown swung west onto the Lebanon Valley Branch. Franklin St. was 1.9 miles south of the busy wye and situated largely for the convenience of Main Line trains up from Philadelphia on commuter schedules. While one could transfer between Main Line trains and East Penn/Leb. Vly. trains at Outer Station (and was often advertised as the main station in Reading for its long-distance trains), Franklin St. served a different travel market oriented much more along the Philadelphia-Reading axis, and to a lesser extent Reading-Pottsville.
Franklin Gowen • • • • READING COMPANY forum moderator
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