Rail service Philadelphia to Reading PA

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There was an interesting article on this topic in the latest issue of Passenger Train Journal by Richard Rudolph of the Rail Users Network. (Copies of PTJ can be obtained from White River Productions). This route has been talked about since 1981 when the original Reading RR service then ran by Conrail was discontinued and is identified as a future route in Amtrak's Connect US plan.

There appears to be 2 routes under consideration. One would be using the Norfolk Southern mainline from Reading as far as Norristown then using the tracks of SEPTA's Norristown Regional Rail line to the main north trunk at 16th St. Junction then to center city and 30th st. Upper level via the tunnel. Since the NS line is not electrified and the tunnel is not set up for Diesel operation this would require dual mode power.

An alternative route is to build a short connection at Ivy Ridge from the Norristown line to the right of way of the former PRR branch that was operated as SEPTA's Manayunk/Ivy Ridge line until the 1980s when the line was abandoned North of Cynwyd due to the condition of the Schuylkill River bridge. This would require replacement of track removed from the right of way plus the bridge may need work to make it useable for trains again. One complication is the line was converted to a rail trail and I do not know if the line can be restored and keeping the trail access as well. This scheme would allow trains to operate into 30th Street lower level via the connection at 52nd St. to the route used today by the Keystones and the Pennsylvanian.

Of course either of these options would require buy in by Norfolk Southern and undoubtedly they would want track improvements to deal with the increased traffic.

Things are starting to move on this project with the formation of a Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority that will have the ability to oversee planning, reception of federal funds, and working with agencies such as Amtrak, PennDOT and the feds.

Also Amtrak has started Thruway bus service from Philly to Pottstown and Reading which should help build a base for future rail service.

Of course a lot has to happen yet before actual work starts on this project but one can at least be hopeful.
 

jis

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Without the benefit of any detailed studies but from just staring long enough at the SPV Railroad Maps of Pennsylvania I had come to the conclusion that those two are the most likely alternatives, and had mentioned the first one in a discussion in a discussion thread here on AU. I thought that the Cynwyd Line extensions to be logistically difficult and possibly much more expensive because of the work that will be necessary on the bridge. But the entire thing was a bunch of SWAGs in my head. Glad to to see reality aligns well with it.
 
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Agreed there are a lot of issues with the Cynwyd route. However besides not requiring dual mode equipment it also has the advantage of running into 30th st lower level which besides already being under Amtrak control would also allow services to continue to New York like the Keystones. But I suspect they will go with the Norristown Line routing given that dual modes are becoming a lot more mainstream.

Actually it just occurred to me that you could continue East from the upper level of 30th st as SEPTA's Trenton line trains do today.
 

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Agreed there are a lot of issues with the Cynwyd route. However besides not requiring dual mode equipment it also has the advantage of running into 30th st lower level which besides already being under Amtrak control would also allow services to continue to New York like the Keystones. But I suspect they will go with the Norristown Line routing given that dual modes are becoming a lot more mainstream.

Actually it just occurred to me that you could continue East from the upper level of 30th st as SEPTA's Trenton line trains do today.
Arriving into the upper level would not be a hindrance to continuing on in either the direction of New York or Washington DC. SEPTA service goes both ways from the upper level today.
 

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There's also a connecting track from the ex-Reading to the ex-PRR just south of North Philadelphia, which wouldn't require re-activating any ROW or running through the Center City Tunnels.
I was thinking of that just moments back, but did not quite recall if the connection was at the right position and orientation for a train coming in from the Reading side to get onto the NEC at the North Philadelphia interlocking.
 

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I was thinking of that just moments back, but did not quite recall if the connection was at the right position and orientation for a train coming in from the Reading side to get onto the NEC at the North Philadelphia interlocking.
I looked at open railway map and it does show an industrial trackf romthe Reading to PRR in the SW corner. However inbound OK but there are no CPs for out bounds to get to Reading outbound track unless outbounds run wrong direction main?
 
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Arriving into the upper level would not be a hindrance to continuing on in either the direction of New York or Washington DC. SEPTA service goes both ways from the upper level today.
Yes I realized that after I had made my original post, since SEPTA trains to Trenton depart regularly from the upper level.

As for the connector at North Philadelphia, I believe that is referred to as the Swampoodle connector and I do not know what condition it is in or how useable it is.
 
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As a longtime Manayunk resident, I can pretty much guarantee that running trains over the Manayunk Bridge again would be opposed vigorously by the communities that have enjoyed the open space (more than a trail) and fabulous views for the past seven years. In general I think it's a huge mistake to remove track and that the movement Rails WITH Trails makes a lot more sense than Rails TO Trails, but once the whole bridge has been wonderfully available to The People, it can't go back again.
 

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Personallly I think service to Reading is imperative. It’s a beautiful and vibrant city and I feel not only should it have service to Philadelphia but be a central rail hub for eastern Pennsylvania with hourly service to Allentown, Scranton, Pottsville, and Harrisburg. This area of Pennsylvania is ripe for economic regrowth that could be easily jumpstarted with the availability of superior transit connections; many of these small cities economically collapsed such that they remain easily built from in a TOD way, and could provide a blueprint for American regrowth in the current climate reality.
 
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Personallly I think service to Reading is imperative. It’s a beautiful and vibrant city and I feel not only should it have service to Philadelphia but be a central rail hub for eastern Pennsylvania with hourly service to Allentown, Scranton, Pottsville, and Harrisburg. This area of Pennsylvania is ripe for economic regrowth that could be easily jumpstarted with the availability of superior transit connections; many of these small cities economically collapsed such that they remain easily built from in a TOD way, and could provide a blueprint for American regrowth in the current climate reality.
Completely agree. Upriver of Reading is also surpassingly beautiful. Hamburg and Port Clinton, en route to Pottsville, are railroad history meccas! TOD is an apt comparison because many of the towns along the Schuylkill are canal towns (my area of research/photography) that are largely still compact and walkable.
 
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I think that Septa should run this route instead.
Reading is outside the 5 county area that constitutes SEPTA, so its charter would have to change to add Berks County.

Perhaps there should be a separate organization for the whole southeastern area including Berks, Northampton, and Lehigh counties (for eventual service to Allentown/Bethlehem) or it be run under PADOT.
 

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Reading is outside the 5 county area that constitutes SEPTA, so its charter would have to change to add Berks County.

Perhaps there should be a separate organization for the whole southeastern area including Berks, Northampton, and Lehigh counties (for eventual service to Allentown/Bethlehem) or it be run under PADOT.
I mean, some sort of joint deal shouldn't be impossible...but I realize the mechanics would invariably be rather more of a mess.
 

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Reading is outside the 5 county area that constitutes SEPTA, so its charter would have to change to add Berks County.

Perhaps there should be a separate organization for the whole southeastern area including Berks, Northampton, and Lehigh counties (for eventual service to Allentown/Bethlehem) or it be run under PADOT.
PADOT running it would most likely mean Amtrak running it as a Section 209 train. I hardly believe that PADOT would set up yet another passenger rail operating authority beyond one that contracts out the operation of service. They can barely keep the Pennsylvanian funded as it is.
 

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PADOT running it would most likely mean Amtrak running it as a Section 209 train. I hardly believe that PADOT would set up yet another passenger rail operating authority beyond one that contracts out the operation of service. They can barely keep the Pennsylvanian funded as it is.
Didn't SEPTA used to finance the trains from Philly to Pottsville during the Conrail era?
 
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Penn Central was absorbed into Conrail in 1976. Conrail ran the service to Reading and Pottsville until December 1982. This was a result of the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981 which finally relieved Conrail of the responsibility to run the remaining passenger services. Services either had to be picked up by state or local agencies or they would be discontinued. SEPTA only picked up that portion of Conrail services that ran in their 5 county area which excluded Reading and Pottsville.
 

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Penn Central was absorbed into Conrail in 1976. Conrail ran the service to Reading and Pottsville until December 1982. This was a result of the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981 which finally relieved Conrail of the responsibility to run the remaining passenger services. Services either had to be picked up by state or local agencies or they would be discontinued. SEPTA only picked up that portion of Conrail services that ran in their 5 county area which excluded Reading and Pottsville.
In effect SEPTA discontinued all diesel service at that point and became an all electric outfit. They have been very reluctant to consider the possibility of operating any diesel service since then.
 
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In effect SEPTA discontinued all diesel service at that point and became an all electric outfit. They have been very reluctant to consider the possibility of operating any diesel service since then.
Very true, especially once the Center City Tunnel was complete which had no provision for Diesel power thereby eliminating any possibility at least on the former Reading side. There was the half hearted attempt to run the shuttle from Fox Chase to Newtown which did not last long especially with the NIMBY opposition to rail service in that area.
 

railiner

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Penn Central was absorbed into Conrail in 1976. Conrail ran the service to Reading and Pottsville until December 1982. This was a result of the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981 which finally relieved Conrail of the responsibility to run the remaining passenger services. Services either had to be picked up by state or local agencies or they would be discontinued. SEPTA only picked up that portion of Conrail services that ran in their 5 county area which excluded Reading and Pottsville.
So Conrail wasn’t receiving any subsidy while they ran it?
That’s very surprising to me…
 

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Penn Central ) or its predecessor railroads had nothing to do with the Philadelphia - Pottsville service, as that was provided by the Reading Company. While I always thought that SEPTA had some hand in funding the service, my memory must be mistaken about the Reading/Pottsville trains, as they are, indeed, outside the SEPTA service area. It's possible that SEPTA at least partially funded the diesel service, as it did serve Norristown and Pottstown, which are both in the SEPTA service area. In any event, there must be some reason that the Reading didn't dump the service in 1971 when Amtrak was formed, and there must be some reason why Amtrak didn't take it over.
 
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