Willow & Noble Street 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.

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Historical Discussion

Postby DireFreights » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:48 pm

I figured this was a good place to bring up this question:

I was browsing through an old 1985 Rand McNally road atlas and looked up Philadelphia. There was a small map called "Central Philadelphia" which contained some railroad track mappings. It still noted Reading Terminal and the viaduct, stretching north into the large wye separating the underground freight tracks and the old Reading Mainline. Around here I noticed a small branch, running between Noble and Callowhill Streets, towards the Delaware River. What happened to this branch? It appears that its right of way is now "Willow Street" and "Noble Street", with a former bridge now carrying automobile traffic: 39.96019,-75.1597

Any history on what kind of railroad traffic used to go through this area?
How long will it take SEPTA to restore service to Newtown?
Almost as long as it takes to get onto I-95!
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Willow & Noble Street Branch

Postby Quinn » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:36 am

When I pulled up the coordinates posted, the arrow pointed to where the City Branch used to be.
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Re: Historical Discussion

Postby tgolanos » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:27 am

DireFreights wrote:I figured this was a good place to bring up this question:

I was browsing through an old 1985 Rand McNally road atlas and looked up Philadelphia. There was a small map called "Central Philadelphia" which contained some railroad track mappings. It still noted Reading Terminal and the viaduct, stretching north into the large wye separating the underground freight tracks and the old Reading Mainline. Around here I noticed a small branch, running between Noble and Callowhill Streets, towards the Delaware River. What happened to this branch? It appears that its right of way is now "Willow Street" and "Noble Street", with a former bridge now carrying automobile traffic: 39.96019,-75.1597

Any history on what kind of railroad traffic used to go through this area?


Sounds like the remnants of the original North Penn alignment that then runs up American Street. This branch eventually winds up at present-day Fern Rock Transportation Center. You can see the ROW branching south-east from the track that SEPTA used to store the push-pull set.
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Re: Historical Discussion

Postby DireFreights » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:11 am

Quinn wrote:When I pulled up the coordinates posted, the arrow pointed to where the City Branch used to be.

That's the bridge that now carries Noble Street I was trying to point out. If you go on street view, it looks an old railroad viaduct that had been paved over. Follow that ROW East to the Corner of 10th and Noble, and you'll see what I was talking about.
How long will it take SEPTA to restore service to Newtown?
Almost as long as it takes to get onto I-95!
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Re: Historical Discussion

Postby westernfalls » Sun Apr 28, 2013 3:51 pm

DireFreights wrote: Any history on what kind of railroad traffic used to go through this area?
What happened to this branch?


There was industry along the line but the goal was the Delaware River piers. Known as the Willow & Noble Sts. branch, it shared the route with whatever vehicular traffic dared to use those streets. The last customer in the 1970's was around 10th Street; the Willow Street portion was gone before that. The bridge over 13th Street was probably built to accommodate both Noble Street and the railroad. Of course, it has nothing to do with SEPTA; it was a Reading Company line.
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Re: Historical Discussion

Postby Quinn » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:39 pm

DireFreights wrote:
Quinn wrote:When I pulled up the coordinates posted, the arrow pointed to where the City Branch used to be.

That's the bridge that now carries Noble Street I was trying to point out. If you go on street view, it looks an old railroad viaduct that had been paved over. Follow that ROW East to the Corner of 10th and Noble, and you'll see what I was talking about.


Ah! Now I understand. Interesting!
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Re: Historical Discussion

Postby DireFreights » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:19 pm

westernfalls wrote:There was industry along the line but the goal was the Delaware River piers. Known as the Willow & Noble Sts. branch, it shared the route with whatever vehicular traffic dared to use those streets. The last customer in the 1970's was around 10th Street; the Willow Street portion was gone before that. The bridge over 13th Street was probably built to accommodate both Noble Street and the railroad. Of course, it has nothing to do with SEPTA; it was a Reading Company line.

I didn't know if this branch was gone before Septa's days with the Reading. As I said it was clearly marked in a 1985 map just blocks north of Reading Terminal, and piqued my interest. Thanks for the answer though.
How long will it take SEPTA to restore service to Newtown?
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Re: Willow & Noble Street Branch

Postby trackwelder » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:48 pm

hmm, there's a turning loop for the old rt 23 streetcar line between 11th and 12th on noble st. wonder how it managed to coexist with a freight line?
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Re: Willow & Noble Street Branch

Postby westernfalls » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:35 pm

jtaeffner wrote:....wonder how it managed to coexist with a freight line?


It didn't; temporal separation by more than a few years. The trolley turning track was installed for the Welcome Line, a downtown tourist loop that ran for a couple years.
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Re: Willow & Noble Street Branch

Postby RDG467 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:49 am

The branch ran from the Piers on the Delaware at Willow and Noble Sts. across the city to a connection near Park Junction with the Reading (and B&O). The branch went below grade at Broad St. and then traveled in an open cut to the area of 22nd & Hamilton, where the junction was made and the tracks then swung NW under Pennsylvania Ave. The Phila Inquirer used to get newsprint at an underground yard at Broad and Noble. There's a grain elevator around 20th St. that used to be served by the Reading before the big elevator was built at Port Richmond. It's currently being converted into condos.

The curved viaduct heading west over 12th St was a connection to Reading Terminal, and the other viaduct was part of the 9th St. Branch that was abadonded after the Communter Tunnel was opened in 1984. I-95 construction in the '70s cut the line at 2nd St. The Willow and Noble St yards were served by both this branch and the Bethlehem Branch, which ran up Front St, turned left-ish onto Germantown Ave, right-ish again onto 2nd St. (where Schmidt's brewery used to be) and then over to American Street on it's way to Fairhill Jct, Erie Ave yards and the connection at Tabor Jct.

The W&N branch served a handful of warehouses along the Willow St. portion of the branch. I think the Willow St. portion also used to be a creek which was covered over and the street was laid out on top. That's why the street doesn't folow the grid pattern.
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