Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

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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Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby train2 » Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:53 pm

Looking for some historical prospective on Readings lines upriver from Philadelphia: From Philly to Norristown/Abrams it appears Reading had two lines, one on each side of the river. Even will years of changes, it looks as if the main route at Norristown crossed the river to Abrams. To this day, you can tell it was once a double track route across the river to the Abrams side.

Which side of the river was the mainline so to speak? Was one side of the river freight and the other passenger? I would think the northside of the river lead to the Reading terminal. But where did the southside go to? A station? a yard?

Was the Phonexiville tunnel double track?

Then at Reading who's route was what NS calls the Turkey Path?
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Re: Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby Franklin Gowen » Mon Nov 24, 2014 2:16 am

train2 wrote:Looking for some historical prospective on Readings lines upriver from Philadelphia

Happy to help.


train2 wrote:Which side of the river was the mainline so to speak?

At Norristown, the Reading Main Line is on the southern bank of the Schuylkill River and passes through Bridgeport.

On the northern bank of the river is the Norristown Branch of the former "Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad", which was leased in its entirety by the Phila. and Reading RR in 1870. This is the current SEPTA electrified railroad line to Norristown.

In 1903, the double-tracked bridge (still standing but now freight-only) of the "Norristown Connecting Railroad" was built across the river at Norristown. This allowed trains running via Manayunk to join the Main Line almost immediately after making the passenger stop at Norristown.

Prior to that time, through passenger traffic between Philadelphia, Reading and points beyond stayed on the Main Line until much closer to Reading Terminal, Phila. (see below). The ever-increasing number of freight trains on the Main Line made that impractical, hence a permanent diversion of the traffic.


train2 wrote:Was one side of the river freight and the other passenger?

Generally speaking, yes. Both routes merged at Norristown Junction interlocking, 1.1 miles east of Abrams yard.


train2 wrote:I would think the northside of the river lead to the Reading terminal.

You are correct.


train2 wrote:But where did the southside go to? A station? a yard?

East of Bridgeport, the Main Line led to what were, strategically speaking, some things which were important to the Reading as a whole. These include, but are not limited to, the following locations in Philadelphia:

    West Falls - wye connection to Wayne Junction and Port Richmond
    Belmont yard
    connection leading towards PRR's "Zoo" interlocking
    the Columbia Bridge across the Schuylkill - RDG Main Line now crosses to east bank of the river
    Park Junction - connection with the B&O's Philadelphia Division
    City Branch - and via that, the "backdoor" to Reading Terminal


train2 wrote:Was the Phonexiville tunnel double track?

Once upon a time, yes. Just like at Flat Rock Tunnel farther east in Gladwyne, it was single-tracked in order to provide better clearances for higher freight cars after World War II. Both tunnels have since been improved in the late Conrail era even more for passage of double-stacked containerized freight.


train2 wrote:Then at Reading who's route was what NS calls the Turkey Path?

That is the southeasternmost extent of the Reading Belt Line, which generally skirts the city of Reading's west side. The Belt Line served primarily as a convenient by-pass which avoided what were once frequent grade-crossings, as well as congestion in and out of the main freight yard in the city. The part of the Belt Line that's nicknamed the "Turkey Path" is the segment between Birdsboro and Cumru.

The Belt Line's opposite extent lies to the north of the city, where it connects with Norfolk Southern's [also ex-RDG] Reading Line to Allentown. At that same location, the RDG Main Line once connected here on its way south from Pottsville, too.
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Re: Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby JimBoylan » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:01 pm

Franklin Gowen wrote:In 1903, the double-tracked bridge (still standing but now freight-only) of the "Norristown Connecting Railroad" was built across the river at Norristown. This allowed trains running via Manayunk to join the Main Line almost immediately after making the passenger stop at Norristown.
Prior to that time, through passenger traffic between Philadelphia, Reading and points beyond stayed on the Main Line until much closer to Reading Terminal, Phila.

Before 1903, was there was a Schuylkill River bride about 2 miles South, so that North bank trains via Manayunk could stop at Bridgeport instead of Norristown, or even directly reach the Chester Valley branch to Downingtown?
Trains that stayed on the South Bank could also cross the Schuylkill River at West Falls and use a connecting track at 28th St. to get onto the Norristown branch and serve North Broad St. or Columbia Ave., which were busier passenger stations than Lemon Hill.
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Re: Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby Franklin Gowen » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:57 am

JimBoylan wrote:
Franklin Gowen wrote:In 1903, the double-tracked bridge (still standing but now freight-only) of the "Norristown Connecting Railroad" was built across the river at Norristown. This allowed trains running via Manayunk to join the Main Line almost immediately after making the passenger stop at Norristown.
Prior to that time, through passenger traffic between Philadelphia, Reading and points beyond stayed on the Main Line until much closer to Reading Terminal, Phila.

Before 1903, was there was a Schuylkill River bride about 2 miles South, so that North bank trains via Manayunk could stop at Bridgeport instead of Norristown, or even directly reach the Chester Valley branch to Downingtown?

Your query about a hypothetical, earlier Schuylkill River rail bridge a bit farther south of Norristown is the first mention I have ever heard of such a possible structure. I freely admit I have no knowledge of it, either pro or con. Been scouring my dead-tree archives tonight, and have not found a single clear statement (or even a mere hint) of such a bridge. Stumped! If anyone out there has the time to visit Hagley and pore over their P&R (or even PG&N?) records, perhaps they'll find something to shed more light on this enigmatic what-if.

JimBoylan wrote:Trains that stayed on the South Bank could also cross the Schuylkill River at West Falls and use a connecting track at 28th St. to get onto the Norristown branch and serve North Broad St. or Columbia Ave., which were busier passenger stations than Lemon Hill.

That's right...the former Bellevue Branch. I wonder when that was finally removed; it was still extant at least as late as 1943.
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Re: Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby westernfalls » Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:35 pm

Franklin Gowen wrote:Your query about a hypothetical, earlier Schuylkill River rail bridge a bit farther south of Norristown is the first mention I have ever heard of such a possible structure.

The bridge at Ford Street was that of the "President, Managers and Company of the Schuylkill Bridge at Swedes Ford". It was the PG&N's connection to the Chester Valley, which railroad they operated for five years before the P&R took over. It may originally have been the P&R connection with the PG&N as they were authorized to lay track on their bridge. After the rails were removed, it remained a highway bridge, maybe a toll bridge, into the 1930s. Both Holton in his history and Strock in his compilation of Hare's history articles shed some light on the subject. A more recent book, “The Railroads Of King of Prussia, PA: The Past Leads To The Future” by Michael Shaw also enlightens this topic.
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Re: Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby CarterB » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:43 am

1886 of Swedesburg showing the Ford St. bridge:

http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/ ... urg+Right/
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Re: Reading's two lines to Norristown/Abrams

Postby John Johnstone » Thu Jan 22, 2015 9:23 am

Note that originally in 1836, The Norristown and Valley Railroad, before it became Chester Valley Railroad, branched off of the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad, just South of Norristown Station, crossed the Schuylkill into Bridgeport on a different bridge and ran as far as Henderson Quarry. At that time, there was no Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in operation. Similar to the Norristown and Valley Railroad, was the Plymouth Railroad, which also branched off the P,G & N Norristown Branch from Conshohocken and ran North of the Plymouth Limekilns to an Ore Quarry.
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