Shawmont Station

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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Shawmont Station

Postby John Johnstone » Fri Mar 21, 2014 9:54 am

SEPTA announced at a Shawmont Community meeting, that they are acknowleging local architectural and financial support for a proper restoration of Shawmont Station. Future use is pending. Measures have been taken to better secure the building. Grounds are cleaned-up and a new heating system was installed to prevent further deterioration. The building pre-dates the railroad to 1826, according to deeds. Actual build date will have to be confirmed via Schuylkill Navigation Co. records. It is the only surviving multi-use building which facilitated the Pennsylvania Improvement Project of Canals, Roads and Railroads, written by William Strickland in the late 1820's. It was purchased by Henry Croskey, Lumber and Railroad Merchant in February of 1835. Croskey owned much of the acherage surrounding the Station and is said to have named; "Green Tree Run", "Green Tree Lane" and 'Green Tree Station". Croskey sold the well-established station to the Railroad in 1857. Croskey also became President of the Ridge Avenue Railway upon its opening in 1874. The name "Green Tree Station" was changed to "Shawmont Station " in 1873, years after inventor Thomas Shaw moved into Henry Croskey's residence and had invented several improvements for the Railroad. A history page will be posted on the internet as well as an updated historic video, in months to come.
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Re: Shawmont Station

Postby John Johnstone » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:55 pm

I confirmed and notified SEPTA, that the Station was built in 1826, as a country vacation home belonging to Nathan Nathans, Esq., who tried to sue the Railroad in 1834, lost, and then sold it to Lumber and Railroad merchant, Henry Croskey in 1835, who named it "Green Tree Station". It can been seen with its nearby docking area on an 1827 Schuylkill Navigation Company Map, #101, at the PA State Archives. Not only is it the oldest passenger station in the United States, it is the oldest building owned by any railroad, in the world. Thank You for all your support, John Johnstone
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Re: Shawmont Station

Postby John Johnstone » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:38 pm

Here's a photo from an 1827 Schuylkill Navigation map. The Station and its grounds are outlined, facing the turnpike before tracks were put in and bordering a towpath and boat house.
Attachments
1827Crop.jpg
John Johnstone
 
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Re: Shawmont Station

Postby John Johnstone » Thu May 29, 2014 2:01 pm

Here is the URL for a new Shawmont Historical Webpage, which I wrote for Philanet. At the top-left of the page, there is a "photo gallery" tab. Click on that to see several associated photos, some of which have never been seen before on the internet.

http://philanet.com/Philadelphia/railro ... ation.html

Enjoy & share!

Thank You,

John M. Johnstone
John Johnstone
 
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Location: Philadelphia

Re: Shawmont Station

Postby John Johnstone » Mon Aug 04, 2014 1:13 pm

Here is an updated architectural addendum that will be submitted to the Philadelphia Historical Commission, regarding the history of Shawmont Station & the Schuylkill Navigation Company:

Shawmont Station Addendum
(1826-2014)
William Louis Breard,
Historic Preservationist
Glenside, PA
July, 2014

Since 2008, when the original Shawmont Station Historic Report was written, a considerable number of additional historic documents have been discovered. These documents date to the earliest known history of the Station House property. They include a series of owner-signed Deeds to the property, which form a Chain of Title. Also included were an 1827 Schuylkill Navigation Company Property map, material on a previously unknown owner, local lumber entrepreneur Henry Croskey, and various printed Railroad Company Annual Reports. These documents indicate that the Station House was built as a country house in 1826. For several years, the House was considered to be a ca. 1834 station, built during the construction of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad. This Railroad Line was the ancestor of today’s SEPTA R6 Regional Rail Line. The newly discovered group of historic documents has necessitated an addendum of new text to be added to the Station’s historical record. The additional material will serve to clarify and enhance the historic significance of Shawmont Station and underscore the need of its preservation for posterity.
The construction of the Shawmont Station House coincided with the early industrial development of the Schuylkill River Valley. In the early 19th Century, two parallel power and transportation technologies were built along the Riverbanks. These technologies were waterways (canals) and steam engines (railroads). The two competing systems developed along the Schuylkill were some of the earliest examples of these technologies in North America. The Schuylkill Navigation Company Canal System was built first. This System once held a virtual monopoly on the transportation of Pennsylvania Anthracite coal, a key 19th Century industrial commodity. The Canal System was highly successful and prospered for about 40 years. The Railroads were initially developed as an alternative coal transportation system. But the development of the Railroads’ steam engine technology quickly outpaced the Canal System’s hydraulic technology. As a result, The Schuylkill Navigation Company went into decline. Eventually the Railroads purchased a 110-year lease on the Canal System, effectively eliminating it as serious competition. Steam engine technology had won, and then there was an era of competition between rival Railroads. After World War II, automobile technology arrived along the River, riding by on the new Schuylkill Expressway. From the 1950’s onward it has been the Railroads’ turn to operate on the sidelines, transitioning into both privately held and publicly subsidized (SEPTA) transportation corporations.
The Schuylkill Navigation Company (1815-1827)
In the early 1800’s the property that would eventually become Shawmont Station was mostly dense woods, owned by the Criedlands family of Philadelphia. The first notable nearby man-made development of that area was by the Schuylkill Navigation Company. That Company’s impressive feat of early-American Civil Engineering was inspired by New York State’s successful Erie Canal. The Schuylkill Navigation Company was also a State chartered organization, but it was also a privately owned business venture. Founded in 1815 by Philadelphians Josiah White and Erskine Hazard, the Schuylkill Navigation System was designed by its Chief Engineer, Thomas Oakes. Construction of the System took 11 years to complete (1816-1827). The Schuylkill Navigation was technically not a single canal, but an inter-connected system of; dams with adjoining lift locks, slack water pools and separate linking canals. At a length of 108 miles and passing through five counties, the Canal System was massive. It included 34 dams and 92 lift locks, which created 46 miles of slack water pools (essentially large mill ponds), in turn connected by 62 miles of separate canal segments called "Reaches”. The Schuylkill Navigation’s two principal functions were Transportation and Water Power. In Transportation, the Navigation’s manually-operated lift locks enabled mule-drawn barges loaded with bulk cargo to negotiate the 588 foot difference in grade between the System’s terminal points. In Water Power, part of the Navigation’s water flow was channeled to water wheel powered mills along its route. This hydraulic power served mills in Reading, Norristown, and Manayunk’s textile mills. The Schuylkill Navigation System started out from Port Carbon, in the Anthracite coal fields near Pottsville, and ended past Manayunk at Locks #69 and #70 where the 1-mile long Manayunk Reach (today's Manayunk Canal) emptied back into the Schuylkill River. One final Lock was located at the Fairmount Dam. This Lock and several water wheel improvements to the Fairmount Waterworks were also designed by Engineer Thomas Oakes.
At Shawmont, the main Schuylkill Navigation features closest to the Station House site were the Towpath, Flat Rock Dam (Dam 31), and Lock #68, which originally passed through the Dam structure. These features formed the "head" of the Manayunk Reach, which in turn, formed the northern edge of Venice Island. As a mill town, Manayunk itself did not exist prior to the construction of Flat Rock Dam to provide the necessary industrial power source. From October 1825 until the Civil War, the Schuylkill Navigation was the primary means of transporting bulk raw materials down from Pennsylvania's interior to supply Philadelphia’s burgeoning industrial base. Making a long trip from the Schuylkill Valley hinterland, these products included grain, flour, wool, whiskey, iron ore, the lime and limestone used for iron manufacture, and lumber. But above all, there were barge loads of Anthracite coal, which often constituted two thirds of the Canal’s cargo traffic. In addition to Philadelphia, much of the coal was shipped to New York City.
By 1825, the Criedlands Family had apparently fallen on hard times and their property in Roxborough Township, was put up for Sherriff’s Sale. In June 1825, young Center City Philadelphia lawyer, Nathan Nathans (born 1798) purchased the Criedlands' tract of land. He designated its southwest corner to be used to construct a vacation home, between the Schuylkill Navigation Company’s Towpath and a country lane that the Company would soon rebuild as the Schuylkill Turnpike. For generations of Philadelphians, it was a common practice to own both city and country residences. The country houses were used to escape Center City Philadelphia’s oppressive summer heat and potential Yellow Fever epidemics. Nathans’ parents’ generation would have remembered Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, a fearful association of summer in Center City with a deadly pestilence. Also, the Shawmont site was picturesque, with its panoramic view of Flat Rock Dam, its Lock and slack water pool, and canal boat traffic. The site would have been visually attractive enough at that time to encourage Nathan Nathans to build a vacation house there.
A Country House (1826 -1835)
In 1826, Nathan Nathans original 18'x36’ Wissahickon Schist stone house was completed. The rectangular house had a symmetrical center hall plan with a single run stair on each floor and rooms opening off of the center hall. This was a common local vernacular house layout used during the 1820’s. These houses were not typically designed by architects, but built by teams of carpenter builders working with commonly used house construction details. Fast forwarding to our winter 2014 Site Inspection, several previously unseen original construction details were discovered. The two masonry end gables are connected to the timber roof framing with wooden tiebacks. These are tiebacks are regularly spaced along the gable edges and set into the stone masonry. Each tieback is connected with wooden pegs to the adjacent roof end truss. Each timber truss is built with wooden peg mortise and tenon joinery, and is marked with hand chiseled Roman numerals for assembly and final positioning in the structure.
Nathan Nathans retained ownership of his riverfront property and house for only four years. In 1830, he sold his country home to John Wise, a local grain Miller. Mr. Wise’s age and personal condition at this time is questionable, since in connection with the purchase agreement, Nathans was given the title of legal executor of Mr. Wise’s estate.
But even as Nathan Nathans was building what he intended to be a pastoral retreat, the industrialization of Philadelphia was moving forward through the ongoing expansion of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. In 1826, as another component in their transportation network, The Company completed laying their new Schuylkill Turnpike over the earlier Pebble Road right of way. This new road ran between Domino Lane in Roxborough and out to Montgomery County. By 1827, one year after the Nathans’ House was completed, the main Navigation System was completed. The Schuylkill Navigation Company’s Directors decided to map the entire completed System between Schuylkill County, PA, and Philadelphia. These maps were to include prior land purchases for the Company’s Towpath, as well as their new Turnpike roads and bordering buildings.
Also in 1826, the famous architect William Strickland returned to Philadelphia from an extended sketching trip to England. He had made this trip under the sponsorship of The Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Internal Improvement. This was an influential group of Pennsylvania politicians and businessmen intent on developing and exploiting the State’s industrial potential. The purpose of Strickland’s trip was not for him to observe the latest British architectural achievements, but instead to study the impressive examples of British civil engineering and transportation system design. Strickland was building on his earlier engineering training under his British-born mentor Benjamin Latrobe. As a result, Strickland wrote his “Reports on Canals, Railways, Roads, and Other Subjects”, for the Internal Improvement Society. Strickland’s report was well received by the Society. But as many members were also investors in the Schuylkill Navigation Company, they asked him to tone down his preference of Railroads over Canals. Later in 1826, Strickland was placed in charge of the proposed Pennsylvania Mixed System, an early design which featured both rail and canal transport.
In 1831, partly as a result of Strickland’s Report, but also to break the Schuylkill Navigation Company’s monopoly on Anthracite coal transport, the Pennsylvania Legislature approved the Charter for the State’s first rail line, the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad. Once the Railroad was incorporated, two routes were laid out, a North Route to Germantown and South Route to Norristown. In 1833, William Strickland teamed with Engineer Henry R. Campbell, to design the Railroad’s Norristown branch. In July 1833, a detailed engineering report was issued to the Railroad’s management and stockholders, and the Construction Phase was soon initiated. The Railroad’s south route tracks along the Schuylkill River were laid quickly, being completed through Manayunk in late 1834. The continuation of tracks to Norristown was soon being laid and within weeks, these tracks were in sight of the Nathans/Wise property.
According to court records, Nathan Nathans was not pleased by the approach of a powerful new transportation technology. He had deliberately sited his Country House close to the quiet and picturesque Schuylkill Navigation while the System itself was still under construction. Nathans probably dreaded the idea of the smoke and noise from steam locomotives that would soon be passing alongside what had been his quiet country retreat. As a result, in 1834 Nathan Nathans sued the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad for damages associated with laying tracks in front of what was now John Wise’s house. But the Railroad’s legal and financial means were too powerful for Nathans, and by 1835, he had lost the lawsuit. The Railroad then continued to lay its South Route tracks on to Norristown. Frustrated with his failure in the courts, On February 24, 1835, Nathan Nathans sold John Wise’s house and property to Henry Croskey (1815-1899), a prominent local lumber merchant and passenger railway enthusiast. Croskey absorbed the small Nathans/Wise property into a much larger land tract which was to eventually also contain his own main house and separate lumber milling and shipping operations. The Railroad completed its South Route, and service to Norristown was initiated in August 1835.
1830’s Railroad Technological Development
In June 1832, to a crowd of thousands of curiosity seekers, the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad’s north Germantown route was inaugurated with horse-drawn railcars. In November 1832, The Railroad placed Matthias Baldwin’s first full scale locomotive engine and tender, “Old Ironsides” in service on Philadelphia’s first steam-driven passenger train between their Station at 9th & Green Streets in Philadelphia, and Germantown. “Old Ironsides” was a 2-2-0 type locomotive (using the traditional Whyte railroad locomotive notation system). This meant that the locomotive was equipped with one stationary front axle and one large rear-driving axle. At first, “Old Ironsides” was only used in fair weather, because its 5-ton weight did not give it sufficient traction to hold the rails in rain. At an under 30 mph top speed, “Old Ironsides” was not fast, efficient or mechanically reliable. It presented a fire hazard when passing through built-up areas of Philadelphia. So the Railroad used horse-drawn trains until steam locomotives became more reliable, plentiful, and had smokestacks equipped with spark arrestors. By 1834, horse-drawn passenger trains operated regularly from 9th and Green Streets to Manayunk on a set of single tracks, while the next set of tracks was being laid to Norristown.
By 1836, Engineer Henry Campbell competed against Matthias Baldwin to design some early steam locomotives for the PG&N’s Norristown Branch. The Railroad did buy some Campbell Locomotives, but their running gear was poorly designed and these locomotives easily derailed on steep grades and sharp curves.
Matthias Baldwin’s designs however, improved rapidly and the Baldwin Locomotive Works became the primary producer of Locomotives for the PG&N. Baldwin’s improved locomotive technology eventually fully replaced horses on the Railroad. It was through Matthias Baldwin’s 1830’s contracts for the PG&N that The Baldwin Locomotive works was founded. Between the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 and the opening of the American West in the 1870’s, the Baldwin Locomotive Works became the world’s largest manufacturer of steam locomotives.
Later in 1836, freight branches were extended to the Plymouth Limekilns from Conshohocken and to Corson’s Quarry in King of Prussia, from Norristown. The Norristown Branch became double-tracked to facilitate higher traffic for both passengers and freight. The Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad was beginning to expand, and was positioning itself to compete with rival freight carriers: Schuylkill Navigation Company, and other railroad companies.
Green Tree Station 1835 - 1873
Through his lumbering process, Henry Croskey created a runoff stream on his property to better facilitate the building of a connector road between the Ridge Turnpike and Schuylkill Turnpike. This stream led from freshwater springs down into the Schuylkill River. Croskey named the stream “Green Tree Run” possibly a play on the term for raw, “green” saw logs typically found at sawmills. Croskey’s access road between the Ridge Turnpike in Upper Roxborough and the Schuylkill Turnpike was named “Green Tree Lane”. For the former Nathans-Wise House he had recently acquired alongside the Railroad, Croskey named it “Green Tree Station”. The existing country house was then re-purposed to shelter passengers and to provide part of the freight service for Croskey’s lumber business. At the same time, Croskey was also using the Schuylkill Navigation Canal System for lumber transport. As part of his contract with the Schuylkill Navigation Company, Croskey often housed Canal System workers overnight at Green Tree Station, which occurred into the 20th century. These Canal workers loaded large shipments of Croskey’s newly milled lumber onto Canal barges for shipment downriver. Thus, Green Tree Station served as a mixed-use link between the two competing transportation modes.
From 1837-1840, Henry Croskey continued to purchase nearby land for his lumber business. He built a new homestead on a hill above Green Tree Station. He is noted to have made vast improvements to the land he purchased, having facilitated both the Railroads and the Schuylkill Navigation System, consistent with the Pennsylvania Internal Improvement Plan.
In 1840, Both the Coleman and Crawford stagecoach companies started transporting passengers from the Ridge Turnpike to Railroad stations on the Norristown Branch. This development vastly improved the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad’s passenger service business.
In 1842, the newly formed and well financed Philadelphia and Reading Railroad opened passenger and freight service from their Main Terminal at Broad and Cherry Streets in Philadelphia. They offered service between Center City and Pottsville, PA, with a branch to Port Richmond, on the Delaware River, for coal transport. The Philadelphia and Reading Main Line was built along the west bank of Schuylkill River, opposite to and competing with the Norristown Branch of Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad.
In 1843, the PG&N combined freight and passenger service with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The two companies shared mutual access to the Delaware River docks at the foot of Noble Street, from the 9th and Green Street terminus. Shawmont’s Henry Croskey opened a second lumber business at the Railroad dock, and began utilizing the Railroad more so for lumber transport between Green Tree Station and the Delaware River. The Schuylkill Navigation Company continued to do business with Croskey, but not on a smaller scale to the Railroads. In this period, the Canal System not only began to lose industrial customers and revenue to the Railroads, but also the Canals began to suffer flood damage from the Schuylkill River. The Schuylkill Navigation Company was now forced to make expensive Canal and Lock repairs. Also, the Railroads could now complete a typical run from the Pennsylvania Coal Regions to Philadelphia in five hours, as opposed to the Navigation Company taking six days.
In spring 1850, a Freshet occurred on the Schuylkill River, from a sudden spring melting of snow and ice in the Schuylkill Valley, causing severe flooding. As a result, a bridge in Conshocken broke free, floated down the Schuylkill River and smashed the Flat Rock Bridge below Flat Rock Dam, ceasing travel between Lower Merion and the Schuylkill Turnpike. To facilitate travel close to the two points, a ferry was operated upstream between Rose Glen Station in Gladwyne, and Shawmont’s Green Tree Station. The Schuylkill Navigation System sustained heavy damage to many of its dams and locks, and a number of the Canal Reaches were clogged with flood debris.
By 1853, Henry Croskey had accumulated enough wealth from his lumber business to build himself a luxurious new townhouse at 1912 South Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. His lumber business continued to be based in Roxborough. Always interested in Railroad promotion, Mr. Croskey became a leader in planning for inter-city public rail transportation and became Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Presidents of the City Passenger Railways of Philadelphia.
In 1857, Henry Croskey sold Shawmont’s Green Tree Station and its grounds of approximately seven by ten perches, to the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad for the token sum of one dollar. Shortly after this purchase, the Railroad built a freight station across the tracks. Henry Croskey also sold his manor house above Green Tree Station to Thomas Shaw, an inventor, who would develop several important technological improvements for the Railroad. Also in 1857, The University of Pennsylvania began having boat races on the Schuylkill River, between Green Tree Station and Spring Mill. These boat races were held annually, and the event continued to be held through the early Twentieth Century. This development marked the beginning of the transition of the Schuylkill River from commercial transport and waterpower usage to the recreational purposes it is used for today.
In 1859 Schuylkill Navigation Company enjoyed its peak year, when 1,400 boats traveled the Canal System carrying 1.7 million tons of merchandise. Of that merchandise, 1.4 million tons was coal. But even with record business, disastrous floods continued to occur. Another flood happened during the critical Civil War year of 1862, when much of the cargo was needed for the Union war effort. The damage from these floods sometimes halted Canal traffic for months at a time.
In 1869, the Schuylkill Navigation System was heavily damaged again by a Schuylkill River flood. After steadily losing business to the Railroads for almost 30 years, by 1870, the financially troubled Schuylkill Navigation Company arranged a 110-year lease on its waterway to the now very successful Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. Under the Railroad’s control, the Canals would continue to decline until the early 20th Century. The Philadelphia and Reading Company also permanently leased the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad.
Green Tree Station received several upgrades in 1870, including; a tin, fireproof roof with remodeled chimneys, and a rear addition to house a permanent resident Station Master. The passenger platform was replaced. The House’s scored stucco exterior was then painted white, a color it was to remain for many years. The Station House’s central doorway was removed and replaced with a bay window. Inside, the original stairway was removed, and the stairwell opening to the basement was filled in. These First Floor alterations allowed the Railroad to install a telegraph operator’s station and counter space behind the new bay window. Windows facing the Station House’s platform were converted into doorways, one of which was for a Waiting Room. During our winter 2014 Inspection, the heavy machine-cut stone sills for these converted doorways were clearly visible from the Basement. These massive sill blocks had been inserted into the earlier schist rubble wall construction, and some previously existing wood floor framing had also been cut back to accommodate the new sills.
Shawmont Station 1873-1991
The Pennsylvania Railroad built a station in nearby Chester County, which was also named “Green Tree”. So, in 1873, the Philadelphia and Reading Company changed Roxborough’s Green Tree Station in Philadelphia County to Shawmont Station, in honor of nearby resident and inventor, Thomas Shaw.
In 1874, Henry Croskey founded and became President of the horse-drawn Ridge Avenue Railway, operating from North Philadelphia into Roxborough and Barren Hill. This Railway eventually became electrified in 1894. The inventor, Thomas Shaw developed a plan for an inclined railway to travel between Manayunk and Roxborough on Levering Street, but it never materialized.
In 1884, the Pennsylvania Railroad opened their Schuylkill Branch for service, between Manayunk & Pottsville, PA, with through service to Wilkes Barre. This Line paralleled the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad’s Norristown Branch and Main Line, Also on this Line; the Pennsylvania Railroad opened their own Shawmont Station, 300 feet north of the Philadelphia & Reading’s Station of the same name. Also in the 1880’s, the Pennsylvania Railroad bought New Jersey’s Delaware and Raritan Canal System. Their ownership of that System denied access to canal boats coming from the Schuylkill Navigation, as that Canal System remained under the control of the rival Philadelphia & Reading Railroad.
In 1891, the portions of the Schuylkill Navigation above Port Clinton were abandoned due to their being filled with coal silt. This accumulated runoff waste material was produced when Anthracite Coal was washed prior to shipment; a practice that had continued since the Canal System was first opened. In 1904, the last canal boats loaded with Anthracite coal journeyed down the Navigation to Philadelphia. After 1913, only an occasional canal boat cargo would pass between Port Clinton and Philadelphia. By 1915, only 30 canal barges remained in use.
In 1909, The Brendel Family moved into Shawmont Station to serve as both permanent tenants and resident Station Masters, an arrangement that was to last for generations of the Brendel Family.
In 1912, The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad closed passenger operations on the West Side of the Schuylkill River, below Bridgeport, and began to use that section exclusively for freight. The Norristown Branch was used for all local and express trains between Center City Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal and Reading, Pottsville, Williamsport, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Gettysburg, and Shippensburg. Also in 1912, the ferry between Rose Glen Station and Shawmont was closed and dismantled.
By 1916, the last freight barge had traveled down the locks of the Schuylkill Navigation Canal System. By 1917, the Schuylkill Navigation Company had virtually ceased operations. The now untended locks were left open for recreational boating use.
In 1929, the shutters on the windows of Shawmont Station were removed and put into storage. The original scored stucco on front façade, meant to imitate expensive cut stone, was replaced with flat unlined stucco.
In 1940, all locks along the former Schuylkill Navigation route were closed. No recreational boating was permitted between Shawmont and East Falls. The Pennsylvania Railroad cut back passenger service along the Schuylkill from Wilkes Barre to Pottsville. In 1947, the now officially bankrupt Schuylkill Navigation Company deeded all of its properties to the State of Pennsylvania. Also in 1947, the State of Pennsylvania revived an earlier dredging program to remove the accumulated coal silt from the Schuylkill River. This program, originally begun during the 1930’s, now vastly improved the River’s depth and water quality. But much of the removed silt was deposited into the now defunct Canal Reaches.

Decline of the Railroads (1951-1991)
By the beginning of the 1950’s and continuing through the 1960’s, American Railroad Companies suffered a catastrophic loss of business to the Automobile and the new Interstate Highway System. Symbolic of this trend in the Schuylkill River Valley was the new Schuylkill Expressway, built in 1949-1959. The principal local Railway companies, the Reading Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad, saw their Philadelphia and in-state Passenger Service business go into steep decline after the Schuylkill Expressway was completed. By 1951, The Reading Railroad cut back express passenger service from Williamsport to Shamokin. By 1953, The Pennsylvania Railroad cut back passenger service along the Schuylkill from Pottsville to Reading. In 1960, The Pennsylvania Railroad cut back passenger service along the Schuylkill from Norristown to Manayunk. Their circa 1884 Shawmont Station was demolished, though that line continued to carry freight. In 1963, The Reading Railroad cut service to Shamokin and Harrisburg. Other than local commuter trains, the only express trains travelling on Reading’s Norristown Branch were to Reading and Pottsville.
By the 1970’s the major local Railroad companies had begun to fade away as corporate entities. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused severe flooding along much of the Schuylkill River, but Shawmont Station was spared. In 1974 Shawmont Station received its last exterior paint job. In 1976 Conrail took over the Reading Railroad’s passenger operations. In 1979, SEPTA took over Conrail’s passenger operations and the Norristown Branch became the R6 Regional Rail Line. In 1980, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Branch above Manayunk/Ivy Ridge was completely closed. The tracks above Port Royal Avenue in Shawmont were converted into a bike path.
In 1983, SEPTA cut back passenger service from Pottsville to Norristown. In 1986, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Branch was cut back from Ivy Ridge to Cynwyd. A new Ivy Ridge Station was built on the R6 Norristown Branch, one mile south of Shawmont Station.
Shawmont Station as Potential Historic Site 1991-2014
By 1991 Shawmont Station was no longer a scheduled Railroad stop, but it was retained as a whistle stop and its waiting room was closed. The station’s exterior signage was left behind in the abandoned waiting room, where it remains today covered with dust. By 1995, Shawmont Station was no longer a whistle stop, but remained as a tenant-occupied rental house still occupied by Brendel Family descendants. With no new paint work and maintenance now reduced to that of a typical Roxborough residential rental property of the era, the Shawmont Station House exterior began to deteriorate.
In 2008, Historic Preservationist William Breard wrote the first version of the Historic Structure Report for Shawmont Station. Through this report, Shawmont Station was nominated and then placed on Philadelphia Historic Register as the oldest passenger railroad station in America. The Station now had the potential to be nominated to the both the Pennsylvania State Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
By 2013 the last Brendel descendants moved out of Shawmont Station, after occupying it continuously for 104 years. With the Philadelphia Historic Preservation community in support at this point, SEPTA decided to have the Station restored. Searching through their archives, they found and submitted a remarkable cache of historic railroad documents on Shawmont Station to Roxborough-Manayunk historian John Johnstone. A lifelong resident of the area, Mr. Johnstone is the son of a Reading Railroad civil engineer and planner, John Johnstone Sr. (Reading/Conrail/SEPTA 1949-79). Through his father, John was inspired to launch the initial grassroots campaign to preserve Shawmont Station.
In spring 2014, further research and documents proved that Shawmont Station, originated as an 1826 country house, and is not only the oldest passenger Station in America, but the oldest building owned by any railroad, in the World. At this point, Historic Preservationist William Breard was recalled to make an Addendum Text to the original Report.
Shawmont Station: Beyond 2014
The Schuylkill Navigation Company’s Lock #69 structure is still in place. The lock was plated over and partially filled in after 1947 when the defunct Canal System properties were donated to the State Of Pennsylvania. Also, Lock #69 is positioned close to Venice Island, which is under developmental pressure by local real estate interests. One complete historic lock of the old Schuylkill Navigation Canal System, Lock #60 near Mont Clare, PA has been fully restored. Through its rebuilt miter gates, Lock #60 opens into Oakes Reach a section of Canal named in honor of Thomas Oakes, the original designer. Oakes Reach and the Manayunk Reach are the only two remaining watered sections of the historic Schuylkill Navigation Canal System. Two positive waterway restoration precedents have been set by the Lock #60 Restoration, and in Philadelphia, by the Fairmount Waterworks Restoration. In the late 1980’s, William Breard collaborated on the planning of the Fairmount Waterworks Restoration with local Architect Marianna Thomas and the Philadelphia Water Department.
If Shawmont Station is restored as planned by SEPTA, then the nearby Lock #68 into the Manayunk Canal could also one day be revived. Thus, at Shawmont Station, all the elements of the 1826 historical site could be reassembled. This would be an exciting potential achievement locally in Philadelphia City Planning and nationally in American Historic Preservation and Industrial Archaeology.

William Louis Breard
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