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Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
March 04, 2015

Circa 1910 train passengers await the arrival of the train as it approaches the Red Hill station on the tracks of the Perkiomen Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading railroad. 

                March 17, 2015 will mark the 125th anniversary of the first passenger train trip that traveled the nearly 40 miles of the Perkiomen Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading railroad line on its way from Allentown to Philadelphia.

                There will be no celebration.  The passenger trains were discontinued more than a half-century ago and the tracks that ran to Perkiomen Junction (below Collegeville) no longer exist south of Pennsburg's Pottstown Avenue.  But for more than 60 years, those passenger trains brought visitors and workers into the communities along the Perkiomen and gave residents an alternate way to travel and visit the "big cities."

                The first passenger excursion left the Allentown station on March 17, 1890 and passed by every station along the Perkiomen Branch for the very first time, opening a new era for the people, farms and factories along the way.  The entire trip took about 2 hours and 8 minutes.

                According to a 1916 account in the Town and Country newspaper, in 1868 the Perkiomen line was opened and operated four trains (two each way) from Perkiomen Junction to Skippack Station, which was located just south of Schwenksville.  Two were passenger trains and the other two a mix of passenger and freight cars.  The 10-mile trip took 40 minutes or about 1 mile every four minutes.  The Skippack Station was short-lived and by 1916 was long gone. 

                The Perkiomen Branch was built in stages and eventually completed through Pennsburg and on to Emmaus (Emaus) by 1874.  But using it to connect as a full passenger service from city to city didn't come until 1890 when the Allentown train station was completed.

                The Town and Country reported that not only had the Perkiomen Branch become a local service line but also a trunk line from the west. 

                "Trainloads of grain are being transported over this line during the fall of each year enroute from Canada, over the Great Lakes by vessel, transferred into train cars in Buffalo, thence forwarded by rail over the Lehigh Valley and Perkiomen Railroads to Port Richmond for export to foreign countries."

                The same was true for passenger service.  With the completion of the Allentown Station, local travelers could connect to the Lehigh Valley Railroad which was a trunk line to the west. 

                The Perkiomen Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad created jobs and fed the area's ice industry, cigar factories, tourist and hospitality trades, and more.  Large quarries were dug along the Perkiomen to supply Philadelphia with cobble stones for their streets.

                Learning more about the history of the Reading Railroad can be easy and fun with a trip to the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society (RCTHS) Museum. 

 

Circa 1910 train passengers await the arrival of the train as it approaches the Red Hill station on the tracks of the Perkiomen Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading railroad. 

                Located at 500 S. Third Street in Hamburg, the group will be running an exhibit titled "Building the Reading" from March 7 through October 2015 (end date to be determined).

                The exhibit will highlight contributions of ethnic groups in building the railroad, as well as tools and tools used to create it.

                Beginning this weekend, the museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.  Admission is $7 for adults; seniors 65 and older is $6; children 5–12 years of age are $3;  children under 5 are free.

                Admission is also free for members of the RCTHS and if you're interested in joining or need additional information, visit their website at www.readingrailroad.org.

· End of article ·  


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