LVfastfreight wrote:With NS/CP already in Bethlehem and CSX having it own intermodal terminal only 60 miles away in Philly, this service was dependent on an existing infrastructure. Without the Bethlehem Steel business, nothing warranted the rebuilding of the Beth branch.
Indeed so. Evidently the Reading itself felt somewhat the same way, as the branch's increasing scruffiness in the post-1960 era attests. Even before the RDG's final bankruptcy, the physical plant between Philly and Bethlehem (most particularly north of Lansdale) was starting to get shoddy -- simply not enough incoming revenue to spread around the entire system. Despite being an important on-line customer, earnings gained from servicing The Steel wasn't enough by itself to keep the branch in top condition.
Once you were off of the Main Line, the New York Branch or the Allentown-Harrisburg crossline, you could see and feel the difference. Compared to those three critical freight arteries, the Bethlehem Branch was underutilized as well as visibly undermaintained in certain areas during that time period. The loaded ore trains could occasionally still be seen kicking up a storm as they roared due north, but was that as great as it looked
to the casual trackside bystander? Ore extras (as well as general freight) on the Bethlehem Branch were actually limited to a maximum of 45MPH in the 1970s. Passenger-train speeds were down, too, on account of that same reduction in maintenance.
LVfastfreight wrote:Had the Coke works stayed open without a doubt this line would have been rebuilt for the coal business. It would have probably ended up full of storage cars from the east penn RR but who knows what oppurtunitys may have come about with the line back intact. The breakup of Conrail would have saved this line, but the loss of Beth steel was the final nail in the coffin.
The whole issue of the Coke Works as a future profit center for freight railroading -- and instigator to reopening the northern third of the branch -- is such a tantalizing
what-if. Instead, we plummeted downhill from that glittering possibility to.....a silly hike-and-bike trail. What a mockery.
LVfastfreight wrote:I do think in my lifetime I will be able to ride a regularly scheduled passenger train from Bethlehem to Philly. Though it will be by way of a NJT train from Bethlehem to Newark and down the NEC to 30th st.
I'm not sure I'd even bet on that much of a half-solution [-sigh-].
Franklin Gowen • • • • READING COMPANY forum moderator
for "America's Largest Anthracite Hauler"!
In 2020, the late, great RDG overlaps with SEPTA, NS, CSX, RBM&N, and several shortlines - that's life . . .