BuddCarToBethlehem wrote:While I too lament the loss of the Bethlehem Branch, I must admit that it outlived its usefullness. The last 15 years or so that Bethlehem Steel operated the Bethlehem plant, Conrail shipped the iron ore via Reading.
That's not surprising in the least, since from 1978 to 1993 SEPTA - not Conrail
- owned the entire Bethlehem Branch except for the last 11 miles north of Hilltop.
When SEPTA killed the diesel passenger trains to Bethlehem in the summer of 1981, what remained of the branch north of Lansdale was allowed to simply decay in place. Up until that time, SEPTA had already allowed the branch to slip pretty far down the quality scale due to an ever-increasing shortage of cash for needed maintenance. While the full extent of the trackage was still passable despite being increasingly tired, Big Blue was not interested in paying the big bucks needed to maintain and operate a through freight route which it did not own
Let's not forget that in its early years, Conrail also mercilessly cherry-picked the well-maintained locomotives of the Reading and moved them elsewhere on its new system, while choosing to fulfill those demanding Bethlehem Branch assignments with Erie-Lackawanna and Penn Central engines that were often in poor condition. The ex-PC diesels chosen for this duty were especially prone to be ones that were very under-maintained. Sometimes Conrail had to assign five or more engines to a loaded ore train, in the hopes that at least two of them might still be operating fully by the time they reached Quakertown. I'm not wholly unsympathetic to Conrail's problems in those years, but they made their choices and then reaped the expected results.
BuddCarToBethlehem wrote:The line from the diamond at Union Station to the 4th Street bridge was mostly used for delivering the ore to the ore pit and car storage. The ore trains often stalled while climbing what was one of the steeper grades in the Lehigh Valley. Several times each year the newspapers would have a piece in the police blotter about the some dispatcher for Conrail being fined for blocking traffic on the south side. A few times when I was on the south side and parked on New or Adams streets, I had to walk several blocks to go around a stalled train to get back to my car (I'm too old or too wise to go under trains anymore). The line had way too many grade crossings. Thankfully the state wouldn't pay for any of the trail-conversion because SEPTA does have the right to take the line back.
A shame that there wasn't an alternative
route for all of those loaded ore jennies by then. Oh, wait...coming in from the west via Union Station was
the alternative. I guess that trackage coming up from the south hadn't outlived its usefulness after all, eh?
BuddCarToBethlehem wrote:But if service is ever restored, which I unfortunately doubt, the Saucon Yard would be the best place for the terminus. Plenty of space for parking and a station along with I-78 exit right across the street makes it convienent for anyone in western Lehigh or eastern Northampton counties to get the station.
I have to agree with you. It's very hard to come up with a superior location. If only we had the funding to do better than those ridiculous hike-and-bike trails. [-heavy sigh-]
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In 2020, the late, great RDG overlaps with SEPTA, NS, CSX, RBM&N, and several shortlines - that's life . . .