• RDG Co. Bethlehem Branch

  • 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

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  by adamkrom
It sounds like Bethlehem is not buying the rails through Hellertown for a trail.

If that right of way is destroyed, it would be a crime against the future.

Isn't there any kind of coordinated rail corridor preservation plan for the Lehigh Valley?
  by jrevans
adamkrom wrote:It sounds like Bethlehem is not buying the rails through Hellertown for a trail.
You are correct. I believe that the trail will only go to Buchanan Street or so. <opinion>I still think that the whole trail thing is a farce, so that the city can get the land to sell for some other development project. I mean, they will probably put the trail in at the West end, but something else is going on. The deal just reeks to me.</opinion>
adamkrom wrote:If that right of way is destroyed, it would be a crime against the future.
Yes. That would be a true shame to destroy the short link in between a preserved rail line (the bethlehem branch) and an active rail line (the ex LV main).
adamkrom wrote:Isn't there any kind of coordinated rail corridor preservation plan for the Lehigh Valley?
I don't believe that there is anything like that in existance.
  by jrevans
TuckertonRR wrote:jrevans:

I was thinking of taking a trip up to Bethlehem one of these weekends, and checking out the area. Would you know any decent places to park, and is the area OK to walk through/around (from Hellertown, through So Beth, up to Union Station)? I dont want to get up there and have any sort of nasty suprises!
From the Bethlehem end, you could probably park at the new/old station facility, or at the Perkins. I've parked at the Perkins before for a few hours with no problems. The Iron Hill Yard is posted with no trespassing signs, but not until you hit the Southern end of the yard, after walking through the whole thing. Obviously the whole area is private property, so be careful and wear good footwear.

From the Hellertown side, you could probably park at Wendys. The only area that I felt "unsafe" walking through, is the area from Hayes street to Webster street. That's not the nicest neighborhood, but go early in the morning and you'll probably be okay....

  by Franklin Gowen
Post number 50...yay! :P

OK then, since my life circumstances mostly keep me from being trackside, I can reply to TuckertonRR with findings from my former adventures in and around Bethlehem.

As for walking from Hellertown to Bethlehem, my thoughts are mostly identical to those of jevans.

I have to admit I have found that going on foot into Norfolk Southern's Saucon Yard site at the south end (near I-78) to the north end (near the Lynn St. bridge) is a little creepy. It's due to 2 combined influences: my sense of history concerning all that was once there, and the stark desolation of how nearly none of it is there now. Allow me to explain.

If you enter NS property near the south end of the yard, you rapidly come into an area with almost no other way in or out except for the opposite ends of the yard. Despite the great width of the property, it is isolated by geography; a PB&NE connecting track on the east side that is atop a high retaining wall, and a very dense thicket of trees along the west side. As you go north, Saucon Yard narrows considerably, making the wild overgrown vegetation practically surround you.

This is just about all that will surround you, due to all (and I mean ALL) of the tracks being removed from Saucon's south end. It is a bizarre sight. This was once a huge, very busy facility. Now it is just ghostly desolation. The only exceptions are the butchered-up roundhouse and the coal dock near I-78. The old powerhouse has already been torn down, and the turntable pit is filled in. That immediate area has been leased by a construction supply company, and I think that those structures are really on borrowed time.

At this point, the yard's width "funnels" down to just a few tracks, which actually stem from that PB&NE connecting track - which has now sloped downgrade to your level. You also see that you are now atop a rather high fill above ground level. Then you cross above Saucon Creek, which is about 60 feet down!

On the other side of the bridge, you can see PB&NE's Iron Hill Yard on the right side, immediately next to where the north half of Saucon Yard used to be. I say "used to be" because, like the south half, it has also been completely destroyed. All yard tracks have been pulled up, and nothing but long grass remains. It is eerie. All the more so because of the elevation above ground level, and the sight of Bethlehem Steel's empty buildings along the entire horizon ahead of you.

PB&NE's Iron Hill Yard is active, though it may just look like it's being used for railcar storage. Be aware of the possibility of a switcher engine or crew on the ground seeing you. Most of their activity seems concentrated at the north end and northeast corner of their yard, so if you stick to the western side of the ex-Saucon Yard you should remain unseen.

At Iron Hill, the two adjacent yard properties curve around from north to west. Immediately to the left (west), the elevation quickly goes from below grade to a high, steep hill well above grade, "walling in" that side of the property until you reach the Daly Ave. bridge at 4th Street. The Bethlehem Branch single main (good luck finding it there; a backhoe is needed!) then runs nearly due west all the way to New Street (Fahy Bridge across the river) before curving northwest towards the ex-Union Station building.

I'm somewhat reluctant to venture through the yard(s) again if by myself. I did it twice before, and once in the company of others (much better!). I just don't like the possibility of meeting someone by chance while by myself, deep inside the yard - it is so very hard to safely get off the property in a hurry, because of the lay of the land.

Please don't consider this a story to scare you. Rather, I think you should know in advance that it's quiet and isolated in there, so expect that if you go. If you run into trouble, be sure you at least have a cellphone. That''s just common sense. If the yard was not adjacent to economically depressed reisdential areas, I would feel differently. If the yard was also not on the edge of a medium-sized city, I would also feel differently. I'm much more comfortable doing my "railfanning" out in the countryside.

I agree about not feeling real secure in the Hayes-to-Webster Sts. area of South Bethlehem. You'll attract attention if you take photos of the old automatic block signal near Hayes St., due to the busy intersection nearby and the exposed area of the rail right-of-way (next to Daly Avenue [Route 412], which is heavily travelled).

Along the single, former main track, it feels safest near the Union Station area. St. Luke's Hospital has a nice big parking lot there, but using it on a weekend makes your car very conspicuous. I always park across the street in the lot at Perkins' Restaurant. I have never had a problem taking photos at or around Union Station. Then again, I only go on weekends, and I stay well away from any trains coming through on NS. Being on the ground around the east, south, and west sides of the building seems OK. But you really should think twice about crossing the tracks to see Union Station from the north. There is a strip of land between the NS Lehigh Line (ex-LV mains) and the river, but NS does not like non-rr folks using it. Conversely, staying along the south side of the tracks while east of the station (basically, at CP-88) seems ok with NS as long as you remain well away from the tracks.

I have previously taken photos from atop the Hill-to-Hill Bridge at Union Station. However, in the present security-conscious climate (i.e., f---ing hysteria on the part of non-railfans), no way! Here's why. With the huge amount of auto traffic on the bridge, it is a near certainty that someone will eventually drive by who doesn't like your appearance, or sees you're still at the same place on the walkway later during their return drive, or jumps to conclusions because you have a camera. It was stressful enough when I did this back in February. I freely admit that, while the views are excellent, I am not willing to risk it now.

  by glennk419
I was in South Bethlehem this week and noticed the the ROW had been mowed and/or cleared of some of the larger brush. Unfortunately, all this did was to expose the poor condition of the track. Does anyone know why or by whom this may have been done? Hopefully this is not being done in anticipation of removing the rail. I also noticed that with the exception of one or two gates, all of the crossing protection is still intact.

  by TuckertonRR
Well I -finally- made it up to Bethlehem & Hellertown, and all the track seems to be in place. I first had breakfast a Perkins & started walking the ROW south towards the ?5th St? bridge overpass. Not feeling all that comfortable (not familiar with the area, alone, etc) plus some over-sized vegitation, along with seeing the same Beth PD car twice, I crapped out and headed back, taking a few pics of the now vacant steel facilities on the other side of the street. Personally, the area looked a bit run-down, but I've seen 10x worse in bad parts of Philly! So, the area wasn't too much of an issue for me. I saw the HEM signal was there (NS lied on their reply to your letter!) as well as taking a few pics of the other signals along the line. The two mile markers are all there, as well as all the grade crossing equipment (one or two gates are missing, though).

A note: At someof the grade X-ings (at least the ones I paid attention to) had new circular RXR signs with "EXEMPT" sign below it. Am I correct that building that parking lot and connecting road, they just paved over the tracks? It looks like it to me.

Anyway, I ended up going to Hellertown and parked near MP 52.6 where the old station was. Got a few pics of the nice signal mast near there. The foliage in the ROW was taller than myself, but there was an almost-adjacent trail a few people were walking their dogs on. I walked down there maybe 1mile??. I knew it veered off to the left, so I must've been at least 100 feet from the tracks. I didn't have a maschetti with me, and didn't fancy getting mosquito bites, ticks, poison ivy, & whatever else was out there, so I mostly stayed off the ROW. Most likely winter when everything's dead or dormant would be a better time. I was sneezing up a storm too! If I venture up there again, I think I'll do it with someone else & bring somehting to cut down that forest a bit!

Anyway, re-reading the STB's decision on this (AB-859 Sub no IX) Pennsylvania Lines (aka NS) must
a. "consult with the USFWS State College PA priour to conducting any abandonment or salvaging activities, to asses potential impacts to the bog turtle or tother Federally threatend or endangered species..."

b. 'consult with the PNDI prior to salvage activities..."

c. "contact the PADEP hazardous sites cleanup program prior to abandonment activities..."

d. "notify the NGS 90 days prior to salvage activites..."

e. retain its intrest in and take no steps to alter the historic integrity of all sites and structures on the ROW that are 50 years old or older until completion of the sec 106 process of the NHPA.

If we want to be real hardasses about it (and I'm all up for that!) let's monitor if they follow all these conitioins to the letter!

I figure they won't tear up the tracks for at least a few more months, if they folllow all these things.....but we'll see....


  by SteelWheels21
Been a while since I posted, but I found this GREAT link to some awesome pictures of the Beth branch when still passenger active. My favorite one, of course, is the Perkasie picture. Pre-fire, signal lit...just like when I was a kid!

  by jrevans
SteelWheels21 wrote:Been a while since I posted, but I found this GREAT link to some awesome pictures of the Beth branch when still passenger active. My favorite one, of course, is the Perkasie picture. Pre-fire, signal lit...just like when I was a kid!

I haven't been there for a while, but those sure are good pictures.

In other news, regarding the North end of the line in Bethlehem, I stumbled across some info in a Rails-to-Trails article on the PA website dated back on May 6, 2004:

http://papress.state.pa.us/parelease/da ... 06.005.htm

Northampton County
Bethlehem City, $100,000 – to acquire about 10 acres of abandoned railway in
the City of Bethlehem between Hill to Hill Bridge and Hayes Street for use as a
pedestrian and bicycle trail.
Interesting. Instead of the city paying for the line, it can be a RTT grant? Are there any provisions in RTT grants which state that the line is technically "rail-banked"? I seem to recall something about that.

  by Stevescan
I am a newbie to th group and been going to the Allentown Hump off River Rd and over to the Canal side and never had any problems. However sitting at CPBurn is no longer allowed sine the Trainmaster chased us out. I even had my 4 year old son with me!

Anyway parking in Bethlehem is hard to find a good spot, Normally by Perkins there is Riverside Drive which takes you to a dead end and to the Mens Correctional Facility for Lehigh co and I am guessing part of the allentown Yard.... We sat along Riverside drive as a set of Tripple Crown trailers were headed in, There was enough room to pull over but wouldn't trust it back there?
  by geep39
In Bethlehem:

Well, you've been half way there! Instead of going straight past Perkins, turn right into St. Luke's parking lot, go to the end of the lot, and you'll find local fans congregating there. That's the junction where the trains also come from across the river (and the yard). That's east of the hill-to-hill bridge.

In Allentown:

Get off I-78/PA 309. (Lehigh Street) Head south toward Emmaus. Turn left at the first light (Turkey Hill Mini-Mart). Go to the end, turn left, behind the Dan Schantz Greenhouse. You should find several cars parked there with people in them (or out). You can usually bet that they're railfans. Even though it's within spittin' distance of the NS line, you're on a city street. That's where all the congregants at Burn went.
  by Stevescan
Thanks for the info, You never know where you can sit anymore!! Dan Schantz I am framiler with.. Bethlehem wasen't sure about.

  by wis bang
This past sunday was the hillclimb in Steel City; a section of Lower Saucon Twsp along the river across from Freemansburg and south of the remains of Beth Steel. As usual, I lost count of the number of trains I noticed, but there are quite a few on a Sunday. This is the old LV comming up the river from Easton and Richards yard. The road along the ROW is narrow ans has a one-way section south of the MC club's property. The ROW is higher than the road along the club's property w/ a few parking spots and little traffic; this may be a good site to railfan. going past the clib's site you enter a narrow, one way section that is above the rails as the mountainside squeezes the two together. There are a few more wide spots [it used to be a two way street] that you should be able to park at. following this road till it turns right and leaves the river valley takes you up under Rt 78 and at teh stop sign, a left takes you to Glendon & Easton while a right will bring you back to Apple Butter road and back to Hellertown & Bethlehem
  by jrevans
Since I wrote my letter to the STB, I get a hard copy of related decisions via snail-mail.

Here is the request made by NS:
Norfolk Southern Request

Basically, the NS petitions the board to remove the historical preservation aspect of the abandonment.

And it was just decided on October 6th:
STB Decision

The STB agreed to remove section 106.

I guess that this makes it easier and quicker to abandon.

  by glennk419
Sounds like the bog turtle is our only hope at this point. :(
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