Creisham Valley/Whitemarsh Branch

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Creisham Valley/Whitemarsh Branch

Postby Nacho66 » Tue Jun 08, 2004 1:24 pm

Last week I was at Barnes & Noble bookstore and saw a fascinating book with turn-of-the (last) century photos.
One picture showed an early '50's aerial photo of the building of the Rt. 309 Expressway in the area of the Springfield (Mont. Co.) High School. In the photo were clearly the remains of this branchline.
By far, the most interesting pic was an electric train with MP54's (!) crossing Church Rd. (Rt. 73) in 1940 in the same general area. The coolest part was I knew EXACTLY where the photo was taken.
Ever since I was a kid, I've always wondered what those (now gone) tracks with catenary supports were part of. Now I know! Apparently, the branch followed Creisham Valley Drive, then went along Ivy Ridge Ave. before hooking up along what is now the Rt. 309 alignment. In fact, you can still see the cut right before 309 where high-power electric towers follow.
Does anyone know where this branch ended? Did it connect with the Trenton Cutoff at Ft. Washington?
Also, if anyone knew where I could get more photos/info it would be much appreciated.
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Postby Chriss » Wed Jun 09, 2004 8:06 am

They still seem to be using the right of way for high tension lines.

I live about two blocks from there. Are you nearby?
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Re: Creisham Valley/Whitemarsh Branch

Postby AlexC » Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:36 pm

Nacho66 wrote:Does anyone know where this branch ended? Did it connect with the Trenton Cutoff at Ft. Washington?
Also, if anyone knew where I could get more photos/info it would be much appreciated.

It wyed at the Trenton Cutoff... There was a station there called Whitemarsh. It was once possible to take a train from BroadStreet Station to Trenton via this branch.
The book "Triumph IV" has the info.
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Re: Creisham Valley/Whitemarsh Branch

Postby Nacho66 » Wed Jun 09, 2004 3:41 pm

I live in Elkins Park and use Rt. 309 everyday.
In another photo (ca. 1903) they showed the Trenton Cutoff over Easton Rd. in Willow Grove and specifically mentioned that the line was always freight only.
I guess it would have made sense to continue to Trenton as both lines were electrified at the same time. It just seems strange that I've never heard of this before.
Thanks for the book suggestion. I'll definitely give it a look.
Also, if there are any oldtimers who have recollections of this branch please let me know. Thanks for the info all.
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Postby Urban D Kaye » Wed Jun 09, 2004 5:23 pm

Aah the Ft Washington branch...

Yep, it connected the Pennsy's Chestnut Hill branch with the Trenton Cutoff. It holds the dubious distinction of being perhaps the only PRR branch to lose traffic during WW2. If I recall, it was electrified in the 20s and de-electrified in the 50s. Nobody seemed to know what to do with it...except I s'pose Conrail, which abandoned it in 1978.

Here's one view of what's left...
Image
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Postby Nacho66 » Wed Jun 09, 2004 10:15 pm

Great pic! Yup, that's the section along Creisham Valley Drive.
So, it was still active in the '70's? I seem to recall seeing tracks still in place there as a kid then. I can't imagine what freight traffic would have been generated there, especially as how the branch was severed by Rt. 309 in the '50's.
I would still love any more pics/info/recollections of this branch if anyone has them. I find it unusual how little info is out there about this line.
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Postby RDGAndrew » Fri Jun 11, 2004 7:25 pm

Looking at old property maps from the early 20th century I found that the line connected with the Cutoff at Ft Washington, and interestingly, there was another connection just to the east that served a steel plant of some kind, where the Fort Washington office park is now. RDG also had a spur to serve this plant that came off the Bethlehem Branch south of their Ft. Washington station. Theoretically, they could have interchanged at that point, where the Turnpike interchange is now.

In another photo (ca. 1903) they showed the Trenton Cutoff over Easton Rd. in Willow Grove and specifically mentioned that the line was always freight only.
I think there might have been some local passenger service, again very early in the 20th century - SPV's RR Atlas of N America shows closed stations along the line. These could have been freight agencies only, but it makes sense that a) in the 1890's - 1900's the Pennsy would have taken a shot at passenger service, and b) the service died quickly because of no real population centers close to the Cutoff. Just my two cents.
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Postby Franklin Gowen » Fri Jun 11, 2004 8:19 pm

Nacho66,

I am aware of only one substantial text source of info about the PRR Fort Washington Branch. The Philadelphia Chapter of the PRR Technical & Historical Society printed one some decades ago. This magazine was Issue #6, printed in May 1982. The originals are all in the hands of SPFs (Serious Pennsy Fans). Luckily, it was re-printed in August 1997. This 40-page issue is mainly about the history of the PRR Chestnut Hill branch, but there are seven pages all about the Ft. Wash. Br. Included is a track map with the exact milepost locations of all stations on both branches, as well as considerable info on operations. Sadly, Ft. Wash. Br. photos are nearly non-existent. This is because the branch truly was an obscure little speck on the PRR's imperial map. That's not to say that it wan't interesting!

Visit the PRRT&HS' Philly Chapter website at http://www.prrths.com/Phila_New_Index.htm . Follow the links to the chapter's "E-Store". You appear to be in luck -- a copy of the 1997 re-print is available for $16.00.
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Postby Nacho66 » Sat Jun 12, 2004 12:47 am

Well, thank you Mr. Gowen.

I've just purchased said issue and can't wait to read it!
It seems that I've found the 'black hole' of the Pennsy empire!
There has to be tons of pictures somewhere out there though. All the local troops leaving for WW's I and II for example.
That's why I posted this forum; to seek out out anyone who has actual memories or old photos. This line did last until the '50's.
Again thanks for the tip and I hope to gain even more of this little piece of local transportation history.
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Postby Nacho66 » Sat Jun 12, 2004 12:57 am

Oh, one more thing: As soon as I read this magazine, I'll write a report on my findings.
Who knew I was a history nut as well as a R.R. nut?
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Postby Urban D Kaye » Sat Jun 12, 2004 8:15 am

For anyone interested, here's an old PRR map of the Ft Washington branch.

Image
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Postby Nacho66 » Sat Jun 12, 2004 11:14 am

Teriffic map! I can kind of see why this line never panned out.
Where the Fort Hill Station is (where McNeil Pharmacutical is today) there is really nothing there. I can't imagine this being much different 50 or a 100 years ago.
Also, according to the map, there aren'y many, if any, stations between Allen Lane and Fort Hill (Ft. Wash.).
To me, what especially makes this branch interesting is, that if this line wasn't built in the first place, the deathtrap known as Rt. 309 may never have been built!
This all leads to some interesting, parallel universe 'what ifs' in terms of today's transp. needs.
Again, thanks for the map!
Please keep the info coming.
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Postby choess » Thu Jun 17, 2004 8:27 pm

For what it's worth, while the Trenton Cutoff was primarily used as part of the PRR's Low-Grade Freight network (after some minor realignments early in the century to meet the grade standards, at Langhorne and one other place which escapes me at the moment), it did have passenger service at one time. I don't have the copies I made right now, but the Hagley Library has a copy of one of the passenger schedules.

RDGAndrew:
By "old property maps", do you mean Sanborn atlases? I can get them online, but I can't tell exactly which lines the two sidings from the Hoopes & Townshend mill are connecting to.

[1] Signs of native Philadelphianism: you can spell "Conshohocken" without looking it up.
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Postby Nacho66 » Thu Jun 17, 2004 10:40 pm

I really appreciate all the interest on this post!
I guess one of the creepiest parts of this branch is that a lot of the ROW looks like it's in even better better shape than most of the RDG's Newtown Branch - and that had trains back in the '80's!
I look at the above picture and can imagine a headlight in the distance...
Still waiting on the magazine, but be assured I'll write a follow-up as soon as I can.
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Postby limejuice » Fri Jun 18, 2004 9:35 am

Nacho66 wrote:I guess one of the creepiest parts of this branch is that a lot of the ROW looks like it's in even better better shape than most of the RDG's Newtown Branch - and that had trains back in the '80's!


I disagree. The Newtown ROW has most of its track still in place, and Sterling Street is the only location I'm aware of where the ROW was actually filled in. (I can't understand how they were allowed to do this.) There are only a few breaches in the track aside from paved over grade crossings, namely the missing culvert at Shady Lane, the missing Ayres diamond, the chopped off grade crossing in Southampton, and various random scavenged rail sections, mostly in Bucks county. The Cresheim ROW on the other hand, is filled in at many locations, and has no track north of Germantown Avenue, if any at all. But perhaps I'm being over analytical about this anyway.

One thing I found interesting about that stretch of ROW is where it intersects the R7. I was once told that the PRR had made it a point that no other railroad would be permitted to cross above a Pennsy ROW. This location obviously contradicts this. Has anyone else heard this before?
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