I grew up around the Trenton Cutoff (Intersection of Twining Rd and Moreland Road in the 60's and 70's) just across from what is now the Prudential mid-atlantic campus.
Back then it was fields, some woods, a some small farms. The Pennsylvania Railroad ran parallel to the Pennsylvania turnpike in that area (probably less than 50 yards apart. It had two rail lines (instead of one as it does now), both were electrified.
Traffic was moderate to heavy during those times and as a kid we spent lots of our time waiting for and watching the trains. Most of the time back then you didn't have to wait long for a train. To this day I will never forget the thrill of having the big headlight GG1 come barreling around the bend heading to Trenton / New York loaded with heavy freight most of the time.
The engines leading the trains were mostly GG1's and E44's. Every once in a blue moon we'd see a diesel but that was rare. Most of the trains that went by were unit coal, tanker trains, or mixed freight (box cars). For a time I remember seeing a lot of piggy back trailers on the flat bed cars.
Some of the unusual trains I saw moving through this area of the Trenton Cutoff were a circus train a couple of times, military trains with all sorts of equipment including tanks and jeeps, and several trains that were nothing but brand new U.S. Postal service delivery vehicles. In the 60's I remember seeing a lot of car carrier trains for a time. At first they had no protection from people who threw rocks at the trains, but this quickly changed to car carriers with protective sides.
I never saw any live passenger service on the Trenton Cutoff, but I did see on one or two occasions some passenger cars that did not have passengers in them. My Dad told me that the Trenton Cutoff did have some passenger traffic during World War II but mostly because their was a problem (derailment or other) on the mainline. Historically it does sound like there was some passenger service (late 1800's to early 1900's) when there was a station in the Ft. Washington area (Susquehanna and Limekiln Pike area).
I never saw any trains wrecks in that area, but did see on multiple occasions wheel boxes that were on fire or engines that broke down several times where a replacement engine had to come. I do remember one time where a freight train uncoupled somehow mid-train and had to stop to fix the problem. As we approached the Penn Central time frame around 1968 you could see the deterioration in how the Pennsy was being maintained. There were a lot more problems along the rails at this time due to less maintenance and upkeep. At the time I didn't realize just how difficult things had become for the railroads.
I also remember the Moreland Road black truss bridge (two lanes) that crossed the two lines of the Pennsylvania Railroad at that point. It was replaced by a modern steel and concrete structure (4 lanes) that is still there today. At what is now the eastern entrance to the Prudential business campus was a family farm house and barn just ten yards off Moreland Rd. The family that lived there (the Shockey family if I remember right). I remember playing in the barn with their kids. I think one of the boys names was Ed Shockey.
I have fond memories of the railroad in that area and am now building an HO layout modeled after the Trenton Cutoff in the 60's. So far I have had lots of fun in the preparation stage, buying the right rolling stock for that era, figuring out the actual layout and doing all the research. That research led me to this site. It's a shame there isn't more history about these things. Hanging out near the rails and watching the trains was a big part of my childhood. We built elaborate tree forts near the tracks on multiple occasions. We followed the tracks on major hikes in both directions.
I do remember there were quite a few deer in the area in the 60's that used the right of way of the railroad for their cover. On one occasion somewhere around 1964 I remember a deer had gotten spooked and jumped through one the big panes of glass at the A+P grocery store (now a Super Fresh I believe on the corner of Moreland Rd and Twining Rd. on a Sunday when it was closed. The deer was crashing through the store doing all sorts of damage. The police came along with quite a few spectators including myself. Everyone was standing outside the store when all of a sudden the deer came crashing out another big pane of glass clearing a police car and 10 feet deep of people. The deer ran down under the black truss bridge and died along the banks of the railroad.
Several times we saw evidence of deer that had been poached out of season near the rails in that area, but most of the deer were gone by the 70's.
Next to the GG1's, my next fondest memories of those times were the wonderful designs of the cabooses. The railroads just don't seem the same without them.
If time travel were ever possible, I'd love to go back and relive those times.