Reading's Catawissa 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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Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby carajul » Sat Sep 05, 2009 2:12 am

Can anyone give me a brief history of the RDG's Catawissa Branch...

It seems to have left the RDG at Haucks, PA and go north, under I-81 thru a tunnel, and follow Rt 309 to Catawissa, PA where it connected to another track. I'm not familiar with the area but I've seen many photos of the Lofty tunnel still in use in the 1970s.

Why was the line abandoned and what did it serve?
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Re: Info on the "Catawissa Branch" plz

Postby JimBoylan » Sat Sep 05, 2009 9:25 am

It had very little local business at the end, and ConRail didn't want it as a through route, since it had acquired other lines with less hills. Service on the East end as far as Ringtown was subsidized for about 3 years. There were about 2 other private sidings remaining in 1976, and they were West of Cattawissa. Any team track business could go elsewhere. There was nothing more active until East Milton, and ConRail did get a few feet at that end of the line.
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Our Home Turf

Postby 2nd trick op » Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:14 pm

From Ringtown, "the Catawissa" followed its namesake stream through Mainville to the Susquehanna. It turned north, paralell to the river but a few hundred yards further inland, for about a mile before a crossing at grade with PRR's Wilkes-Barre Branch at a manned interlocking designated NORCA. A second crossing with PRR's truncated Scotch Valley line, which once went all the way to Rock Glen and Hazleton, lasted until about 1950, but the tower, designated REDPEN, was manned only on an as-needed basis.

The Susquehanna River bridge, while unused since 1975, remains intact. Fom there, the Reading crossed over DL&W's Bloomsburg Branch, but not at grade, at Rupert; a branch line to Bloomsburg proper, Orangeville, Stillwater and Benton diverged here. The line then turned south toward Danville, paralelling US route 11 in Frosty Valley, then reached Milton via Mausdale and Mooresburg, paralelling PA routes 54, 642, and 45.

Traffic held up well through the 1960's, with two daily freights in each direction between Philadelphia and NYC's Newberry Yard just west of Williamsport; there was also a daily Newberry-Haucks schedule to serve a CNJ connection via Jim Thorpe. At least one Reading Iron Horse Ramble used the Catawissa during the early 1960's, but the line could not handle T-1 steam power, so Diesels were substituted for that portion of the trip. When the Penn-Central alliance threatened the stability of an Erie-Lackawanna connection operated via the former NYC Pine Creek line, that traffic was diverted via the "Bloom" and interchanged at Rupert 1968-1975.

The Hurricane Agnes flood of 1972 put all the lines in the North Branch vallley out of commission for at least a month. The EL-RDG connection was revived first, but the PC(PRR), which had lost a lot of its New England traffic base to a direct western connection on NYC routes, was inactive for well over a year, and only an eventual sale to the Delaware and Hudson began its revival. NORCA never reopened, and the reorientation of all the Eastern bankrupts into Conrail in the spring of 1976 made the EL-RDG interchange redundant, so the line was the quickly abandoned, as was also the case for the "Bloom" north of PP&L's new nuclear power plant about 8 miles north of Berwick.
Last edited by 2nd trick op on Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Our Home Turf

Postby JhnZ33 » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:57 pm

2nd trick op wrote:At least one Reading Iron Horse Ramble used the Catawissa during the early 1960's, but the line could not handle T-1 steam power, so Diesels were substituted for that portion of the trip.


I believe more than one Ramble was run on the Catawissa Branch in the early 60's. Footage of these trips can be seen in the video "Iron Horse Rambles to West Milton", available from the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum store. And yes, diesels were coupled to the train when it reached Tamaqua and were the motive power over the branch. The T-1 went ahead to West Milton light via the route through Gordon and Locust Summit. At West Milton, the T-1 was reconnected to the train for the trip back via the route taken by the T-1 to get to West Milton.

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Re: Our Home Turf

Postby Steam man » Wed Sep 09, 2009 4:21 pm

2nd trick op wrote: At least one Reading Iron Horse Ramble used the Catawissa during the early 1960's, but the line could not handle T-1 steam power, so Diesels were substituted for that portion of the trip.

I was fortunate to have rode one of these Rambles,but don't ask which one in what year. But if it narrows it down any,I do remember that the 2100 was doing honors on that trip. An F-Unit lashup handled the train on the Catawissa Branch as previously stated.. There was a stop/photo op at on the the big fills (seems it was on a long curve to me) on the branch. My Pop and me rode the train from Reading Terminal and they put the steam power on at either Norristown or Wayne Jct.
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby pumpers » Wed Sep 09, 2009 4:50 pm

For Philadelphia /Williamsport (Newberry Yd) traffic, (or Williamsport/Haucks) which was a better freight route -- the Catawissa or the Gordon/Locust Gap/Mt. Carmel route (Shamokin branch?)? Given the T1's couldn't run on the Catawissa, I would have guessed the other route, but it sounds like the Phil-Williamsport traffic went on the Catawissa. JS
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby 2nd trick op » Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:29 pm

The Sunbury route had far greater population density with the communities of Shamokin, Sunbury and Lewisburg (home to Bucknell University), so it was a more appropriate choice for passsenger moves. In addition, the Shamokin area was home to a number of anthracite breakers generating local traffic. There was also a grade in the vicinity of Gordon, Penna. which replaced a former inclined plane, and required helpers on most, if not all freights in the steam era.
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Re: Our Home Turf

Postby Schuylkill Valley » Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:27 pm

Steam man wrote:
2nd trick op wrote: At least one Reading Iron Horse Ramble used the Catawissa during the early 1960's, but the line could not handle T-1 steam power, so Diesels were substituted for that portion of the trip.

I was fortunate to have rode one of these Rambles,but don't ask which one in what year. But if it narrows it down any,I do remember that the 2100 was doing honors on that trip. An F-Unit lashup handled the train on the Catawissa Branch as previously stated.. There was a stop/photo op at on the the big fills (seems it was on a long curve to me) on the branch. My Pop and me rode the train from Reading Terminal and they put the steam power on at either Norristown or Wayne Jct.


That would be the mainville fill , there was a trussle there years ago. the fill replaced that Trussle. The two tunnels on the line were Loffty and Shumans.
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby Highball116 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:42 pm

2nd trick op, that's a great history. Thanks! I recently met with someone in Benton and retraced the Bloomsburg & Sullivan branch. I'm told that the B&S was promptly abandoned after Agnes in 1972. He said there was only a weekly train at that point, and it wasn't considered much of a loss. When were the rails removed on the Catawissa branch? And, for that matter, on the B&S?

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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby JimBoylan » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:11 pm

Tracks removed West of Ringtown, 1978 & 9, East to Lofty, about a year later, all done for the Trustees of the Reading Co.
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby HarryE » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:18 am

Speaking of the Bloomsburg & Sullivan branch, I traced it as far as the old lumber camp of Jamison City, but there is no trace of a roadbed past there. There is a rumor that an overturned steam loco lies somewhere near there. Any further info is appreciated.
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby Highball116 » Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:02 pm

My tour guide, Nate McKenzie, confirmed that the B&S right of way terminated at the lumber camp, and while proposals were made to continue northward, nothing ever came of it. I'm not sure if any grading was completed, but certainly no track was laid.

Here's another interesting tidbit. Nearby Jamison City (like, less than half a mile to the southwest) is a hamlet called Central. There was a wye in Central that the B&S used to back its trains into Jamison city, and for a time the wye served as an interchange point with another logging railroad, the Sonesville & something-or-other. This offshoot originated at the wye and of course never actually made it to Sonesville. The B&S was scrapped back to Benton in the 1930s, and I think the Sonesville arrangement was scrapped even earlier.

Nate showed me the remnants of yet another railroad in that area, a line that came into Orangeville from Muncy. I'm very sketchy on these details; I was so engrossed in the B&S tour that Nate's sidetrack was lost on me. He seemed to suggest that this outfit intended to go all the way to Scranton, but it was all scrapped before the B&S even opened. Like I said, I'm very sketchy on the details.

One last thing. If you go to Central and drive northwest on Central Road, there's a restaurant on your left after you cross the creek. They have a ton of historic photographs specifically relating to the railroads and logging operations in the immediate area. They also have some pretty slammin' sourdough pancakes, which are totally appropriate for exploring old logging towns.

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And Further Back in the Woods .....

Postby 2nd trick op » Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:43 am

And although it hasn't been brought up as yet, rail historian Tom Taber III produced a series of paper-bound studies on logging railroads in Pennsylvania about twenty yerars ago, also republished in hardcover.

Here's a link:

http://openlibrary.org/b/OL14179643M/Lo ... nnsylvania
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby Metal Man » Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:38 pm

This page has some very early history of the Catawissa.
http://caboosenut.com/railroad%20history.htm
This has some info on the filling in of the high bridges.
http://books.google.com/books?id=jfcdAQAAIAAJ&pg=RA1-PA155&dq=reading+railroad+stranger+hollow+fill&cd=6#v=onepage&q=reading%20railroad%20stranger%20hollow%20fill&f=false
I rode bike last week on it from Mainville towards Ringtown. I went 20 miles round trip.
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Re: Reading's Catawissa Branch

Postby hechto » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:08 pm

Hello, I have a photo of the WYE tower on the Reading. I believe this tower was near Sunbury PA. Can anyone confirm this? Any other info would be great.
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