RDG Co. Bethlehem 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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Today (03/11/2004): end of the line for the end of the line

Postby jrevans » Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:37 pm

Well, there's a big Google archive of the data. I plan to grab it and create a PDF file like I did when the previous version of railroad.net went down. :-)

Anyways, today 03/11/2004 is the official day that NS can abandon the last 3.7 miles of the Bethlehem Branch. I haven't seen the formal decision on the STB website yet, or the letters that I and other people wrote, but I guess it's happenening.

There was a new STB posting yesterday, saying that there are additional environmental regulations that have to be followed before the track can be removed, but it doesn't appear that affects the actual abandonment. :-(

Here's a link to the new STB document, since we can now do inline links.

And here's a picture of the line that's soon to be ripped out for a greenway.

Image

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Last edited by jrevans on Mon Mar 22, 2004 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby rushhour » Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:46 am

Shame. I remember as a little kid seeing that line look in better shape than it does today. Just why exactly are they getting rid of this portion?
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Postby jrevans » Fri Mar 12, 2004 9:08 pm

rushhour wrote:Shame. I remember as a little kid seeing that line look in better shape than it does today. Just why exactly are they getting rid of this portion?


After Bethlehem Steel shutdown and the coke works also ended operation, Conrail closed down Saucon yard and removed the tracks (except for parts of one track). Without the trains for Saucon yard there wasn't much of a reason to use the tracks. The tracks South past Hellertown are out of service, so no traffic down there.

I understand that for a time, Conrail still used the Bethlehem Branch as a way to wye locomotives which would then cross the ex-LV and then use the ex-CNJ bridge over the Lehigh to get to the yard. But, that probably wasn't a good enough reason to keep the line open.

The tracks from the diamond (now gone) and the switch that connected to the ex-CNJ bridge were removed since at least 2002. Here's a picture of the removed switch:
Image

Now, the entire diamond is gone, and the tracks by the station are buried under dirt and grass. (At least I think that they are still under there.)

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Letter FROM the STB

Postby jrevans » Sat Mar 13, 2004 12:46 pm

Today, (saturday, 03/13/004) I received a letter in my mailbox from the STB. It's a copy of the document that was posts on the STB website the other day, dealing with the environmental regulations that surround abandonment.

Here's the link again to the document on the STB site:
STB Document

In reading the document again, "it is ordered" that "1. This proceeding is reopened."

Does that mean that the NS was not permitted to abandon the line?

I guess that the STB received my letter, since they sent me a personal follow up of a document related to Docket No. AB-859 (Sub-No. 1X).

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Postby Saucon Flyer » Sun Mar 14, 2004 12:04 am

Good to hear that the STB might not let the Bethlehem portion of the branch be abandoned. Thats what that STB reply is all about. There is some contention on who owns the branch. SEPTA, CSX, and the NS. Since NS is trying to abandon it I would go with them, but remember the merger was less than 5 years ago and not all of the bugs have been worked out. Yes the branch is cut off at the diamond end and there is talk of uping the speed through CP Bethlehem on the main line.
At the Perkins the right of way has been paved over and from there to the signal is a grass field. Don't give up hope though the signals are still there good sign. Below former Saucon yard toward Hellertown there are sections of track missing from a midnight scapper (he was arrested) and track not put back in. As far as I know the Saucon Runner was still intact.
Below Saucon most of the road crossings were paved over but the track was not pulled up. There was a movement in the LV area to return rail service to the area. The sticking point was that SEPTA on runs caternary powered trains and were not going to invest in Diesel sets of equipment.
Interesting to see what they do with the Harrisburg line from Philly to Reading same problem. But thats another story
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Another dream

Postby jrevans » Mon Mar 15, 2004 10:29 pm

Some more "madman" thinking on my part.....

When the Conrail purchase/split occured, CSX got freight rights up the Bethlehem Branch to Lansdale. Rumor has it that if the coke works at Bethlehem stayed open, CSX was possibly interested in reactivating the rest of the Bethlehem Branch in order to run coal trains up to there. As we all know, after the Steel Mill in Bethlehem closed, the coke works closed soon after. Bummer. (And I never saw the mill operating, besides what I saw a few times when I drove by on I-78. At least I got to the them pouring hot slag down the hill from rail cars.)

But.... what if CSX was still interested in purchasing that last 3.7 miles of track from Hellertown to Bethlehem, just in case they wanted to preserve the connection in Bethlehem or wanted a piece of the intermodal action at the new yard? Okay, the realistic answer is no, but wouldn't that be funny if CSX applied to the STB to purchase the tracks that NS is abandoning? To make it really entertaining, they'd of course need to reactivate the line from Quakertown to Hellertown so they'd have a through route to run their intermodal trains South.

Maybe I should send a quick FAX to CSX. ;-)
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Send that fax to CSX

Postby Franklin Gowen » Wed Mar 17, 2004 9:02 pm

Sounds like a scene from "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Go for it!

The potential confusion that could stem from your good deed is nothing when compared to the chaos produced by all of the big "playas" already in the game...Bethlehem city government, NS, the STB, Bucks & Mont. Counties, SEPTA, etc....
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Norfolk Southern Replies to my letter

Postby jrevans » Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:03 pm

I didn't get a copy of it in the mail yet, and my original letter never appeared on the STB website, but there is now a letter from NS on there that replies to my letter:

Very defensive sounding in my opinion.

Mr. Evans has not shown that the subject line does not meet the criteria for a notice exemption of abandonment or that the PRR/NSR notices were false or misleading.


But they also state that they haven't fully determined the disposition yet.

And they were wrong about my picture, as it clearly shows the HEM signal next to the hopper cars....
Last edited by jrevans on Mon Mar 22, 2004 10:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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I FAXed CSX...

Postby jrevans » Fri Mar 19, 2004 12:13 am

I figure, what do I have to lose? I probably already look unstable by my letter to the STB. ;-) So, I wrote up a quick, one page letter to CSX's Asset Management Department, and explained why it would be good for them to purchase this trackage. (I mentioned access to the other rail lines in the area, the former Bethlehem Steel facilities, and the intermodal yard(s) that PB&NE services.)
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Lost Threads

Postby Mark Smith » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:21 pm

I emailed Michael Roque' the webmaster just after the new startup inquiring about whether the old threads had been saved and could be made available in some format for a fee. There was a lot of info gone forever that will never be replaced.

He replied that he was expecting to get a dump of the data and would think about what might be done.

I'd definietly suggest emailing him about this idea if you think it worthwhile. I suspect like Frank and myself there are others who are dismayed by what has been lost. If so, let's see what we can get to happen.

Email Michael at:
webmaster@railroad.net <webmaster@railroad.net>

BTW: JimE- you may save the Bethlehem branch all on your own. Great work.
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Re: Lost Threads

Postby jrevans » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:48 pm

Mark Smith wrote:I emailed Michael Roque' the webmaster just after the new startup inquiring about whether the old threads had been saved and could be made available in some format for a fee. There was a lot of info gone forever that will never be replaced.

He replied that he was expecting to get a dump of the data and would think about what might be done.


I tried Googling for the cached Bethlehem Branch threads last night but I could only find one or two of them. Soooo... I spent two hours digging though my MSIE cache files and eventually found all four Bethlehem Branch threads and some other associated threads. Of course it took me until 2am and I was practically falling asleep, but I wasn't going to stop and risk losing the data. I'm glad that I didn't clear my cache recently. :-)

BTW: JimE- you may save the Bethlehem branch all on your own. Great work.


Ha! I doubt that I'm having any effect at all, but at least I'm trying. I'm curious if I'll get a response from CSX....
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STB letter

Postby TuckertonRR » Sun Mar 21, 2004 4:57 pm

I also received a letter from the STB regarding this. But I haven't received a direct reply from NS or STB regarding my protest letter. But "the proceeding has been re-opened" is a good indication that all these letters are perhaps doing something! I'm still hoping there may be a hearing regarding this, so I can tell them in person not to abandon this.

Mr Evans: Great work on your letter! Could you provide the link to it again? Thanks!

Another, couldn't Lehigh Valleys' transit operator, or NJTransit purchase the line?
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Re: STB letter

Postby jrevans » Sun Mar 21, 2004 7:03 pm

TuckertonRR wrote:I also received a letter from the STB regarding this. But I haven't received a direct reply from NS or STB regarding my protest letter. But "the proceeding has been re-opened" is a good indication that all these letters are perhaps doing something! I'm still hoping there may be a hearing regarding this, so I can tell them in person not to abandon this.


It would be nice to have the possibility to publically address our concern, but it probably wouldn't matter much. Maybe I should enter politics. :-)
I'm glad to hear that you also received a copy from the STB. I received a US mail copy of the letter from NS yesterday. I feel so special....

Mr Evans: Great work on your letter! Could you provide the link to it again? Thanks!


Thanks for the compliment. I had forgotten that we lost the links to the STB documents in the last RR.net crash....

Here is the big mamma-jamma 3.2MB PDF file from NS about the abandonment.

Here is the BCTMA document protesting the abandonment.

Here is a copy of the protest document (1.5MB PDF) that I submitted to the STB (which hasn't appeared in the STB site).

Here is a copy of Norfolk Southern's response to my document.

Another, couldn't Lehigh Valleys' transit operator, or NJTransit purchase the line?


I suppose that LANTA could attempt to purchase the line, but notice that their web page is named "www.lantabus.com"..... From what I understand, if LANTA was more involved in this situation to begin with (e.g. spending some $$$) we might still have passenger trains running to the Lehigh Valley. I believe that NJT is not permitted to spend funds outside of their state, and besides that, I can't think of a reason that they would want to buy the Bethlehem Branch, as it has little to do with NJ.
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LANTA? Bring it on.

Postby Franklin Gowen » Tue Mar 23, 2004 12:12 am

I'd personally love it if LANTA wanted to get involved. Of course, what they'd have to be doing is opening their check-book and writing sums with lots of zeroes on the end. Heck, if Lehigh and Northampton Counties ever wake up on their own (or are kicked awake by Bucks County), the state DOT would likely use LANTA as a local conduit to funnel operating subsidy funds for trains all the way to Bethlehem. After, Lehigh & Northampton Counties put the "LAN" in LANTA...
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PASSENGER EXCURSION !

Postby Franklin Gowen » Mon Mar 29, 2004 5:09 pm

As posted on the Lansdale mailing list:

" Bethlehem Branch Passenger Special

For the first time since 1987 a passenger train will operate
through the Perkasie, PA tunnel on what was the Reading Railroads
Bethlehem Branch. Perkasie and Quakertown Boroughs are sponsoring
the event on May 15, 2004 as part of community celebrations in each
town. The last passenger trains to go through the tunnel were part
of the Souderton Railroad Days event held June 20-21, 1987. The East
Penn Railway will operate a three-coach train with its GE B23-7
#3153 (ex-CSX #3153, CR #1933) pulling three ex-LI coaches from the
NH&I Railroad. Trains will leave Perkasie at 9 & 11AM, 1 & 3PM, and
Quakertown at 10AM, Noon, 2 & 4PM. The half hour ride will cost $10
roundtrip. Riders may stay over in either town for their festivities
and board a later train. In addition to passing through the 2,150-
foot long tunnel the train will pass through the Great Swamp just
south of Quakertown. A scenic highlight for railfans will be the
former RDG wooden water tank still standing at Rock Hill, PA. There
is a possibility the trains may run again on Sunday should ticket
sales justify the extra trips. Regular passenger service on the line
ended July 27, 1981 when SEPTA stopped running its RDC's. "

Unfortunately, I do not yet have information on ticket arrangements. I hope that advance ordering will be possible, -in addition- to cash sales on May 14. Who does one need to contact for buying a fare? Do they have a website? Even though the Bethlehem Branch is mostly a dead chunk of railroad, there will certainly be interest in a trip through Perkasie Tunnel! :D
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