MikeBPRR wrote:I also noticed on my Bing maps journey that there was space for a third track at the Melrose Park station. Did an express track exist here, or did the Reading just design the station that way?
Ding-ding-ding...jackpot! Yes, a third track was indeed formerly used in the vicinity of Oak Lane (Melrose Park) on the Bethlehem Branch.
If there was a third track, how often was it used in its heyday? Would it be useful today?
I believe that this track was to aid in getting Bethlehem-bound freight trains over the road more smoothly. I admit that I am a trifle confused about exactly *how* the use of this track generated the benefit. The Oak Lane Middle Siding was not a very extensive length of third track...less than a mile, I think; perhaps even just half a mile.
I wonder if it was used as a staging-point to hold a freight that did
have enough time to tie up the Tabor Jct. interlocking as it struggled upgrade from Philly's Erie Ave. yard, but did not
have enough time to do that *and* clear the main as far as Jenkintown/Glenside for a scheduled passenger train coming up the line for Hatboro/West Trenton. Melrose Park is only 1.4 miles from Tabor Junction, where the Bethlehem Branch from Erie Av. met the Tabor Branch from Wayne Jct., and only one mile south of Elkins Park. The grade between Erie Ave. and Oak Lane was very unfriendly - ranging from 0.93% to 1.16% at its worst! Not an easy move. The Beth. Br. segment immediately around Oak Lane was a nearly-level plateau, which would have been useful for letting the freights "catch their breath."
Sooo...if my conjecture is correct, then the middle siding would have been a very convenient point to temporarily store a freight train.
In another topic, R3 Passenger wished for there to be a third track between Jenkintown and Wayne Junction. Just from cruising Bing maps, it seems to me that a third track would require some serious re-engineering. Did the Reading ever have plans for a third track and thus designed the Melrose Park that way, or did they build/plan for a third track through Melrose Park alone?
As stated above, built just through Melrose Park alone. Interestingly, the Oak Lane Middle Siding was wired for electric MU operation just as the Beth. Br. mains were. Good example of operational flexibility. By the way, evidence of this unused track was still to be seen as late as autumn 1991, shortly before SEPTA embarked on its ambitious (and desperately needed) "Railworks" reconstruction project.
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