Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

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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Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

Postby scotty269 » Tue Sep 18, 2007 6:39 pm

At Fern Rock, looking towards Track 0, you see some old abandoned tracks next to some warehouse.

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=40.0 ... &z=19&om=1

You can clearly track the former ROW via google maps all the way down to where it appears to end, around Girard Ave between the El and the SEPTA Mainline.



Here, the tracks are visible in the ground and on overpasses. http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=39.9 ... &z=19&om=1


It then runs down the center of American, down to what appears to be an old train yard or something of the like, not too far north of Girard ave.

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=39.9 ... &z=18&om=1


It looks to have 3 tracks at the widest point, possibly sidings though, and single-tracked through the streets of North Philly. I'm going to go out and assume this may have been an old freight branch of the Reading? That is, based upon where it starts up at Fern Rock, being EX-RDG territory.
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Postby westernfalls » Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:43 pm

This is the remains of the Reading's Bethlehem Branch to the original North Penn depot at 3rd & Berks and to the waterfront. The Tabor Branch to Wayne Jct., SEPTA's present route, enabled the consolidation of the Philadelphia & Reading's subsidiaries' passenger service. Between Hunting Park Ave. and Erie Ave. were a large yard and roundhouse. The route was of major importance for ore trains from Port Richmond to Bethlehem and, in later years, piggyback traffic from a modern facility on the site of the former yard. Conrail had no use for the route north of the Richmond Branch, and little use for it south of there.
Last edited by westernfalls on Wed Sep 19, 2007 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Franklin Gowen » Wed Sep 19, 2007 3:33 am

Thanks to learned forum member westernfalls for his quick response. I always appreciate your contributions to our forum. :)

By the way, do you happen to know just when the Tabor Branch was put into service? A quick look through Holton vol. 1 came up dry, yet I'm thinking that surely it must've been prior to 1900. I'm guessing after the 1879 lease to the P & R...I just wish I could nail down the exact date.

A1, the area in question is a tangle of dead railroads' right-of-ways mixed with those that are still hanging on, and others which are still very healthy. I've steadily become frustrated with my inability to quickly point to a diagram and say, "here is (fill in the blank)!" during several of the occasionally-struggling discussions on the Reading Company, SEPTA or PA. Railfan forums. That changes tonight! So...

I am uploading a diagram from my own archives. It is an extreme close-up of an old street and rail map of Philadelphia. Please forgive the crudity of my color highlighting efforts; this was meant to be quick and simple.

Red is for the original North Pennsylvania RR's main line (later RDG's Bethlehem Branch), with all of its trackage completely removed here.

Green is for the RDG's Richmond Branch, now a lightly-used single track which sees only the occasional switch job near Port Richmond.

Blue is for the PRR's New York-Washington mainline (Amtrak's NEC).

Image

Near the top edge of the map you can see Erie Avenue, where the south end of the large Erie Av. freight yards, coaling dock and engine terminal once proudly stood. I believe that part of the property is presently a tractor-trailer storage facility; I believe that the rest is a vacant moonscape of weeds and rubble.

Now for a pic-by-pic analysis of what fellow forum member A1 linked to at Google Maps.

The first image is of Tabor Junction...or, what *used to be* Tabor Jct. That is where the Reading's Bethlehem Branch originally continued south-by-southeast. Bear in mind that when SEPTA built what is now the Fern Rock Transportation Center, they situated it about halfway between the very-closely-spaced stations (only 0.7 mile apart) of Tabor (to the south) and Fern Rock (to the north). Both of those old RDG-era stations were then discontinued. Since Conrail neither wanted nor needed the Bethlehem Branch south of Tabor, the interlocking linking its with the Tabor Branch from Wayne Junction was eventually removed. Soon it merely became a paper listing as a timetable station, then later vanished from all but historical existence.

A1, your second link shows the overpass atop West Allegheny Av at North 3rd Street. That is just north of the next location referenced...

The Bethlehem Branch met the Richmond Branch at a large multi-level connection named Fairhill Junction. The present remains of it are to be seen in the third link in A1's original post. Beth. Br. went high; Richmond Br. went low. I think three out of four quadrants at this spot featured sloping connection tracks.

Of interest to me is what my map reveals as North Penn Junction, near the top center of the map. This is where the PRR (now Amtrak, and SEPTA R7 to Trenton) connected with the Bethlehem Branch! I find that to be quite cool. Ask most railfans where the Pennsy connected with the Beth. Br. and they'll look at you like you're a total joker, but connect they did.

Different, but still likewise cool is the location where RDG's Richmond Branch met the PRR. Eventually the PRR crossed atop the RDG, whose line went thru a newly-dug cut beneath the Pennsy's overgrade bridge. But not too long before the time that this map was created (1907), that was an at-grade crossing! I believe that it was still set up as such until perhaps a decade or two prior to this map. Can you imagine the noise of so many trains clattering across the diamonds there? It must have been amazing. As the PRR was there first, when the RDG showed up it was up to them to pay for building a manned signal tower to safely administer this delicate super-connection of multiple-tracked lines.
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Postby JimBoylan » Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:10 pm

Franklin Gowen wrote:By the way, do you happen to know just when the Tabor Branch was put into service?
From J.V.Hare's History of the Reading, the Connecting RR between Wayne Jct. and Newtown Jct. was just before 1876. I forget if both Newtown Jct. to Tabor Jct. for the North Penn RR. and Newtown Jct. to Olney for the Philadelphia, Newtown & New York RR. were both laid at that same time. I think the Newtown connection was a bit later because of the next comment.
Near the top edge of the map you can see North Penn Junction, near the top center of the map. This is where the PRR connected with the Bethlehem Branch!
Until the 5th St. bridge was replaced in the 1980s, you could see the gaps in the East side railing for the stairs to the PRR's North Penn Jct. Station platforms. Note that the Philadelphia, Newtown & New York RR. next to Front St., to the right or East of the North Penn (Bethlehem Branch) connects with the PRR's Connecting RR. This line, between Zoo and Frankford Jct., was rushed to completion for the Centennial Exposition in 1876 to get Philadelphia & Trenton and United New Jersey Railroads & Canal Co. passengers to the Fair. It also allowed Philadelphia, Newtown & New York RR. trains to run to the PRR's Centennial Station in Fairmount Park. I don't think that the PRR's Connecting RR. trains had access to the Reading's Centennial Station, although the PRR's Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore RR. trains did. In 1876, the present Fox Chase - Newtown Branch was allied with the PRR, and was having a Frog War with the Philadelphia & Reading's Delaware & Boundbrook RR. at Hopewell, N.J.
Different, but still likewise cool is the location where RDG's Richmond Branch met the PRR. Eventually the PRR crossed atop the RDG, whose line went thru a newly-dug cut beneath the Pennsy's overgrade bridge. But not too long before the time that this map was created (1907), that was an at-grade crossing! As the PRR was there first, when the RDG showed up it was up to them to pay for building a manned signal tower.
The Philadelphia & Reading's Port Richmond Branch was built at least 10 years before the PRR was even chartered, maybe as early as 1834. There had to be some place to send all that Famous Reading Anthracite. There wasn't much vacant land on Delaware Ave. at the East end of the tracks on Willow and Nobel Sts., so very early, Philadelphia & Reading bought up Port Richmond and aimed their tracks in that direction. There must be some other reason why the senior road got stuck with the costs of the crossing.
I suspect the map is much older than 1907, just reprinted then. The only horse car line shown is on Germantown Ave. and 10th St., and there are additional old diagonal streets imposed on the rectangular street grid.
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Postby scotty269 » Thu Sep 20, 2007 6:11 pm

Thanks a bunch. The old portion of track next to Fern Rock was really bugging me, and I was curious as to the history of it.

Thanks again!
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Postby RDG467 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 12:05 pm

The American Street portion of the N. Penn was four tracks down to 3rd and Berks, with sidings outside of these tracks for local industries. The outer two tracks were for local switching.

There were two dirt roadways for truck traffic near the buildings. There was a team track yard (8-tracks) at Lehigh Avenue, and another team yard at Master Street. Berks St. was the major yard here and had a 28 stall (give or take) roundhouse in the late 1800's. This was torn down after the roundhouse at Erie Ave. was built.

South of Berks St. was two tracks until the Master St. yard, where the line became single track and headed down Cadwallader St. The lead tracks for this yard are still visible in the Google photos.

At Girard Ave, Cadwallader met with 2nd Street, and the line angled across Girard to the middle of 2nd St. This was the sight of the Schmidt's Brewery, now razed.

It swung to the left onto Germantown Ave. This section is currently being obliterated by the development of the Schmidt's site.

The last turn was a right on to Front St. and under the Market-Frankford El structure. This area has completely changed with the construction of I-95 and the relocation of the El structure.

It crossed Spring Garden St. en route to the Willow and Noble St. yard. Tracks are still visible in the street, along with the yard leads. There is a self-storage facility on this site now, but you can see some of the curved foundations of the freight stations that used to exist here.

Another branch ran west from this yard along Willow and Noble St's to connect with the 'Subway' near Broad St. There was also a ramp to the Reading Terminal around 9th St. Tracks are also still visible in the streets between 5th and 9th St's.

The City bought this part of the Branch from CR and rebuilt it to the present configuration, since it was practically impassable by cars and trucks. I think the scrapyard at Master St. was the last customer on this portion of the railroad.
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Postby CarterB » Fri Oct 12, 2007 8:27 am

Anyone happen to have link/s to any photos showing the C. Schmidt Brewery train operations? (or others in that general area?)
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!
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Re: Abandoned Branch in North Philly

Postby Suburban Station » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:52 pm

I think the fern rock waterfront ROW would make an excellent light rail line.
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Re: Abandoned Branch in North Philly

Postby green77 » Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:47 pm

Suburban Station wrote:I think the fern rock waterfront ROW would make an excellent light rail line.


I agree, at least as far as hoping that city sees the value of this corridor and others like it that cut right through the city. Both the old North Penn alignment and the Port Richmond line should be looked at for cross-city travel.
There could be a way to link the El and and the Broad Street lines right across North Philly.
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Re: Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

Postby RDGCrusader » Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:55 am

Given how close the south end of the ROW is to Girard Ave, you could widen the track gauge to fit the trolleys and then connect it with the Girard line.
You would have a direct connection with the streetcar system to Fern Rock TC.
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Re:

Postby pumpers » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:24 am

RDG467 wrote: The American Street portion of the N. Penn was four tracks down to 3rd and Berks, with sidings outside of these tracks for local industries. The outer two tracks were for local switching.
......

Another branch ran west from this yard along Willow and Noble St's to connect with the 'Subway' near Broad St. There was also a ramp to the Reading Terminal around 9th St. Tracks are also still visible in the streets between 5th and 9th St's.

The City bought this part of the Branch from CR and rebuilt it to the present configuration, since it was practically impassable by cars and trucks. I think the scrapyard at Master St. was the last customer on this portion of the railroad.

A few questions:
-- what was the part the city rebuilt? just in the American Street area, or all the way down to Willow and Noble and then west on Willow?
-- also, near the end (whenever that was), how was American Street reached? Was there a connection to the Port Richmond Branch (Fairhill Jct?), or was the old North Penn RR main used all the way up past the Erie Ave shops to Fern Hill?
-- when was the end, finally? SOunds like it was at least into the 80's or 90's if the city bought parts from CR and rebuilt it.
THanks, JS
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Re: Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

Postby JimBoylan » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:44 am

At the very end before 1996, a new U-turn South to North curve that had been laid about 1976 through the Self Storage facility at Willow St. between Delaware Ave. and Front St. was used so that the brewery could be served from Port Richmond without using American St. Earlier, I'm sure that the Reading Co. used any and all of their available routes as they wished.
I doubt that anyone actually bought the American St. tracks from the railroad, although some government probably paid for most of the rebuilding.
Front St. between Germantown Ave. and Willow - Nobel Sts. was rebuilt about 1950, and not as part of the American St. project.
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Re: Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

Postby pumpers » Sat Aug 20, 2011 9:22 pm

JimBoylan wrote:At the very end before 1996, a new U-turn South to North curve that had been laid about 1976 through the Self Storage facility at Willow St. between Delaware Ave. and Front St. was used so that the brewery could be served from Port Richmond without using American St. Earlier, I'm sure that the Reading Co. used any and all of their available routes as they wished.
I doubt that anyone actually bought the American St. tracks from the railroad, although some government probably paid for most of the rebuilding.
Front St. between Germantown Ave. and Willow - Nobel Sts. was rebuilt about 1950, and not as part of the American St. project.

Interesting. So the Belt Line was still in place and active from Richmond down to Front St. ~1996 - didn't know it was so late. Thanks, JS
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Re: Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

Postby hammersklavier » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:15 pm

At one point part of the Belt Line was strung over with wire and used as a trolley line too, right? I have a vague youthful memory of a trolley running down the middle of Delaware Avenue...
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Re: Abandoned RDG branch in North Philly

Postby delvyrails » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:17 am

The Philly Trolley website includes some very old PRT track maps which should identify trackage around Delaware Avenue.

I recall riding one post-WWII fantrip on to pier 34, where PRT got some of its material by water transport. The PRT access track(s) crossed the Delaware Avenue railroad tracks.

Much more recently, a trolley museum operated on the remaining track in the center of Delaware Avenue south of the Franklin bridge.
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