• Reading and WM relationship?

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This forum is for discussion of "Fallen Flag" roads not otherwise provided with a specific forum. Fallen Flags are roads that no longer operate, went bankrupt, or were acquired or merged out of existence.

Moderator: Nicolai3985

  by Otto Vondrak


Why does it appear to me that WM and RDG shared lettering styles?? Were they somehow related through corporate ties? Or was it just a random coincidence?

  by Tom Jacobs
The Reading and WM were both part of the alphabet route, connecting at Lurgan, PA, and also interchanged at Gettysburg, PA. Power was pooled between Hagerstown and the Reading's Rutherford Yard outside of Harrisburg. Eventually they did share corporate ties as both were controlled by the B&O. The caboose in the photo in your post follows the "Northeastern" design which was developed by the Reading. I am not sure if the speed lettering was a coincidence or whether it was planned, but I do know that the two roads were "friendly" rather than in direct competition a la the Reading and the Pennsy.


  by geep39

The WM and RDG were "Friendly Connections", and there was a lot of cooperation between the two. The power pooling or run throughs referred to between Hagerstown and Rutherford (Harrisburg) dated back to steam days. Western Maryland came up with the "speed lettering" first in the early 1950's, and Reading officials liked it so much they adopted it, too. The Reading-designed caboose in the photo was assembled from a Bethlehem Steel "kit" in WM's shops, just like LV did.

Later, the Reading assembled/built several classes of WM Gondolas in its Reading Shops.

When the Reading couldn't float the cash for a bunch of new 100 ton hoppers in the 1960's, they were built and financed under a WM equipment trust. There were dual trust noticess on those cars. After the Conrail takeover, they were sent back to WM (CSX). You can spot them by their twp reinforcement angle irons on the top chord.

In an ironic twist to the speed lettering copying, WM officials liked the way Reading was painting its cabooses from solid bright red to imitation gold and green, and designed the "circus colors" scheme for its cabooses. I wouldn't doubt that WM's red, white and black scheme for its diesels was also influenced by those bright imitation gold and green Reading units coming into Hagerstown.

  by ThePointyHairedBoss
Hey! I never noticed that the two lettering styles were the same until now!

Many of the other forum members have touched on the fact that the Reading and the Western Maryland were members of the "Alphabet Route." Despite being a coalition of railroads that were intended to compete with the B&O, The Reading, CNJ, and Western Maryland all fell under the B&O flag eventually. The stopped using the same lettering styles after the Readings bankruptcy, and after B&O(Controlled and influenced by the C&O) divested itself of the Reading. Basically, to understand how they were connected, just remember that the Reading and the Western Maryland had alot in common in terms of equipment and standards, while the B&O and CNJ were fraternal twins. Ironically, just before Conrail was created, Chessie tried to pry the Reading away from them, without getting it's debt. Pretty sneaky, don't ya' think? :wink:

To put a long story short, the B&O Controlled the Reading through the Western Maryland-RDG partnership, aka. the "alphabet route," therefore they shared a degree of commonality.
  by geep39
I think you're a bit confused about who owned whom....Western Maryland was majority controlled by B&O by a very high percentage. Reading was also controlled by B&O by a much smaller percentage. CNJ was a Reading subsidiary. I believe that the "Alphabet Route" was a way to get east-west traffic away from NYC and PRR, not necessarily B&O. There was a move by C&O/B&O to merge with the Reading, but the unions wouldn't have any of it, so they backed off. I wonder if those geniuses would have been better off than the "deal" they got via Conrail.

The commonality of equipment between RDG and WM wasn't due to some "edict from above", like the Harriman System, but due to the fact that the two roads served a major customer and carbuilder--Bethlehem Steel. It's quite evident when you look at the types of cars that BSCo was strong in, i.e., Hoppers and gons, and even cabooses, that THERE is where there's a lot of commonality.

The RDG and WM were friendly, but independent of each other. It's not like they had interlocking boards.
  by rdcjay
Yes, the B&O/WM relationship was much tighter than the WM/RDG or B&O/RDG ever was. A better comparison would be B&O/WM was much like RDG/CNJ. There were merger plans afoot in the early 60's between the B&O and Reading but, as already mentioned, it never came to pass. The Reading GP30s were renumbered from the 55xx series to the 36xx series in anticipation of the merger that never was.

And yes Chessie System was trying very hard to get Reading instead of RDG being absorbed into Conrail. Makes me wonder what (if anything) would be different in and around Reading, PA these days.

I never noticed the thing with the WM and RDG speed lettering being the same though. Cool!
  by Tadman
I just found the April 1971 trains magazine, with an article about construction of CNJ's Baldwin dual-end babyfaces. The units were lettered for another level of subsidiary, the W&A. I don't even remember what W&A stood for, but it was a small branch that didn't even see use by the babyface Baldwins. I think the use of W&A had something to do with the CNJ bankruptcy at the time. (1947)
  by metman499
W&N or Wharton and Northern, which was part of what is better known today as the High Bridge Branch.