900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

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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900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

Postby David Hutchinson » Sun Dec 28, 2014 6:25 pm

I lived about 75 feet off the Port Reading mainline in Metuchen, NJ. I was reviewing a log I kept for 1964 and noticed that in October of that year, a coal extra from Bridgeport to Port Reading had an Alco RS3, FP7 and a Trainmaster. It came through Metuchen at 3:30 AM, so I was not sure of the exact road numbers. I also have a Form D from PD Tower in Port Reading made out in 1962 for a 900 class FP7 in the lead on a westbound. I thought it might have been a business train, but the form was written around 8 AM, so it was most likely a freight. One of my favorite consists was on an eastbound B&O Unit train in 1963. It had 274A (F7), 490 (RS3), 803 (Trainmaster) and 5515 (GP30).
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Re: 900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

Postby glennk419 » Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:24 pm

I have seen pictures of RDG FP7 903 in freight service on, of all things, the New Hope Branch in 1966. There was no trailing engine. I'm not sure if the turntable was still in service at NH at that point or how the engine returned.
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Re: 900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

Postby Franklin Gowen » Tue Jan 06, 2015 4:52 am

David Hutchinson wrote:I lived about 75 feet off the Port Reading mainline in Metuchen, NJ. I was reviewing a log I kept for 1964 and noticed that in October of that year, a coal extra from Bridgeport to Port Reading had an Alco RS3, FP7 and a Trainmaster. It came through Metuchen at 3:30 AM, so I was not sure of the exact road numbers. I also have a Form D from PD Tower in Port Reading made out in 1962 for a 900 class FP7 in the lead on a westbound. I thought it might have been a business train, but the form was written around 8 AM, so it was most likely a freight. One of my favorite consists was on an eastbound B&O Unit train in 1963. It had 274A (F7), 490 (RS3), 803 (Trainmaster) and 5515 (GP30).

Prior to the mass use of Budd 'Rail Diesel Cars' that replaced all but one of the locomotive-hauled coach consists, sometimes there were obscure but intriguing operational quirks in how RDG ran their passenger trains.

Between the arrival of the first-generation passenger diesels and RDCs demoting them from that same service, photos show that when passenger diesel locomotives & their steam-heat generators were temporarily in short supply, the Reading was not always hesitant to use freight diesels to pull coaches. When possible, this was typically only done in the hot months of summer, when steam heat was the very last thing that was needed for passenger comfort. :-)

Concerning Port Reading in 1962, Philly-New York intercity psgr. service had already contracted severely when compared to 1940s-50s levels. It's possible that by that time, one of the FP7As from the passenger fleet could (easily?) be spared for temporary freight duty. What's the month and date on that '62 Form D?

As for the October 1964 sighting of an FP7A helping to pull a freight consist through Metuchen, at first it sounds like the wrong time of year for the Reading to swap that kind of engine out of passenger service. However, by that rather late date in the game, the overall number of non-electric-MU passenger trains on the Reading lines was shrinking quickly. Somebody may have decided that one of the diesels used in passenger service could safely be spared for that unusual duty. In 1964 the Reading had bought four additional Budd RDCs, and those reinforcements to the existing RDC fleet made several 900-series FP7As surplus to passenger requirements.

Alternatively, a few of the EMD cab units bought for freight service might have still been on the roster. However, I am not presently able to confirm this. I do know that the EMD FTs were gone by that time, but am unsure about the freight F7s and F3s. If your sighting was at 330AM, and road numbers definitely were not visible, there is a chance that what you spotted that night may not have been one of the FP7As.
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Re: 900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

Postby Franklin Gowen » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:07 am

glennk419 wrote:I have seen pictures of RDG FP7 903 in freight service on, of all things, the New Hope Branch in 1966. There was no trailing engine. I'm not sure if the turntable was still in service at NH at that point or how the engine returned.

Glenn, I've seen one of those peculiar New Hope Branch photos. :-) The one in my memory was a mid-1960s color image of one of the remaining FP7As hauling a single boxcar at Rushland station. I can't recall if the train was simply passing by at the time, or preparing to service Davis Feed Mill at Rushland.

If the FP7A photo that you saw was taken after June 20, 1966, then it was no longer the Reading's New Hope Branch north of Ivyland. (NH&I didn't buy to Warminster until 1976, BTW.) From time to time when Ten-Wheeler 1533 was not in service, the early NH&I folks would often short-term lease a RDG diesel, and they did lease a surviving FP7A at least once.

As for turning the leased RDG FP7A at New Hope during that era, I am honestly unsure if there was an operable turntable. Was there also a wye there, once upon a time? My 1965 RDG employe timetable makes no mention of one, nor does the Special Instructions in my 1949 ETT. That 1965 ETT is last one I have before the north half of the branch was purchased by NH&I the following summer.
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Re: 900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

Postby David Hutchinson » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:25 pm

Thanks to everyone on the replies...... I had a pretty decent flashlight that I would use to ge the engine numers as the trains went by. Some of the crews would put each unit's number boards on, which really made it easy. I am sure it was a 900. F3 # 262B ran after the 6500 GP35s were delivered and I have a slide of F7 280A on train MB1130 in the summer which I wrote "last run F7" on the slide. The Form I was talking about was a Clearance Form issued by PD Tower and it was around May, 1962. I would go and get it, but there are a bunch of different boxes it might be in. Just noticed an entry I made for a coal train with three Train Masters on it...........
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Re: 900 Class FP7s in Freight Service

Postby glennk419 » Wed Jan 07, 2015 8:28 pm

Franklin Gowen wrote:
glennk419 wrote:I have seen pictures of RDG FP7 903 in freight service on, of all things, the New Hope Branch in 1966. There was no trailing engine. I'm not sure if the turntable was still in service at NH at that point or how the engine returned.

Glenn, I've seen one of those peculiar New Hope Branch photos. :-) The one in my memory was a mid-1960s color image of one of the remaining FP7As hauling a single boxcar at Rushland station. I can't recall if the train was simply passing by at the time, or preparing to service Davis Feed Mill at Rushland.

If the FP7A photo that you saw was taken after June 20, 1966, then it was no longer the Reading's New Hope Branch north of Ivyland. (NH&I didn't buy to Warminster until 1976, BTW.) From time to time when Ten-Wheeler 1533 was not in service, the early NH&I folks would often short-term lease a RDG diesel, and they did lease a surviving FP7A at least once.

As for turning the leased RDG FP7A at New Hope during that era, I am honestly unsure if there was an operable turntable. Was there also a wye there, once upon a time? My 1965 RDG employe timetable makes no mention of one, nor does the Special Instructions in my 1949 ETT. That 1965 ETT is last one I have before the north half of the branch was purchased by NH&I the following summer.


The photos I have were taken in July 1966 and show FP7 903 pulling five boxcars north (east) bound so it was very likely the early lease arrangement that you speak of. These photos are all B&W so they're obviously different from the one you saw. I do not believe that there was ever a wye at New Hope, and see no evidence of one on Google aerials, so that would have made for an interesting return south if the engine could not be turned. I also have an undated photo of RDG SW? #12 at New Hope that appears to be from the early NH&I days based on the passenger equipment in the yard but that's OT for this thread.
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