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The Reading Railroad

1) The Company:

While not really a New Jersey railroad, the Reading did run through the state. And since it is the railroad that I model...

The Philadelphia & Reading railroad was chartered in 1833 to serve the coal fields in Pottsville and deliver coal to the city of Reading. Construction was started two years later and service began in 1837, under horse-power.

It bought up many smaller railroads in the Schuylkill Valley area of Pennsylvania before setting its sites on the New York market. A lot more happened in here, but this is a page on New Jersey railroading :)

In 1879, the Reading entered New Jersey. This was accomplished by leasing the Delaware & Bound Brook railroad for 999 years. This road connected to the Reading in the south and the Jersey Central in the north. In conjunction with its lease and trackage rights on the CNJ, the Reading had its entry into New York.

The following New Jersey Railroads were acquired to build the Reading System. Two of them made up the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Lines.

Atlantic City Railroad. (Camden-Atlantic City) - PRSL

Cape May, Delaware Bay & Sewells Point Railroad (Cape May-Sewells Point) - PRSL

Delaware & Bound Brook (Trenton-Bound Brook) - RDG

In addition to these railroads, the Reading always had a strong hold over the Jersey Central. At various times, the Reading controlled the CNJ. In the 20th century, the Reading almost always used CNJ tracks and stations in New Jersey.

The Reading filed for bankruptcy three times in the 1800s before becoming a stable and profitable company. It continued to draw steady revenues from coal and passenger service.

Most of the Reading's 20th century activity in the Garden State was in South Jersey. The Reading had controlled the Atlantic City railroad and the Pennsylvania was in competition in the Philadelphia to Atlantic City run. Realizing that the economy could not support two competing railroads in this area, the Reading and Pennsylvania formed the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore lines to carry freight and passengers in southern Jersey.

In 1945, two important motive power events occurred. The first of the T1 class Northerns arrived. These were rebuilt from previous I-10sa 2-8-0s. Also, the Reading started to dieselize in this year. In 1951, the last of the camelbacks were retired and in 1956 dieselization was completed.

The Reading was still very dependant on coal. With the exception of the Jersey Central, the Reading was in the weakest position to recover should the bottom fall out the coal industry. When it happened, the Reading lost money fast. In 1961, the Reading lost money for the first time this century. The Reading re-entered the black as the result of some clever marketing and cost cutting. One the most innovative ideas during this time was the Bee-Line service. The Bee-line would dispatch an engine on demand to customers wanting to ship more then 5 cars.

But, in 1967 the Reading lost money again. Watching the cash reserves becoming depleted at a very fast rate, the Reading declared bankruptcy for the fourth and final time in 1971. The Reading never had any real chance of making it on its own. But, hurricane Agnes struck in 1972 to make sure that even that small change was removed.

The Reading entered Conrail along with all its subsidiary railroad properties including the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore lines on April 1, 1976. The Reading estate continued into the 80s and today operates as an entertainment booking company. *

*Note: I believe this is correct. But, I cannot recall where I read this.

2) The Equipment:

The Reading had a remarkably varied array of power for such a small railroad. It operated Camelbacks of several classes. There is one remaining B-8b 0-6-0 which is at the Pennsylvania railroad museum in Lancaster, PA.

The Reading also operated one of the most attractive non-streamlined engines. The Mighty T1 Northern-type was the most attractive 4-8-4s ever built. They were rebuilt from old 2-8-0s in the Reading shops. There are four remaining: One is on display at the B&O Museum in Freedom Train colors. The others are in Steamtown and Canada. They were also the last Reading steam operating in revenue service, when the Pennsy, short of power, leased some for its needs. In addition, the one owned by the Blue Mountain & Reading still is used for freight service.

Among anthracite railroads, the Reading was the only one to operate standard gauge articulated engines: N-1sd. These were 2-8-8-0 Mallets and generally used for short pusher duties.

When the Reading went to diesel power, they bought from a wide-variety of manufactures. RS and FAs were purchased from ALCO. FT and FP units from EMD. Later GE U-Boats and EMD GP units were purchased. The Reading even owned some of the first GP-38s, which may still be in service for NS.

The following roster information is from Northeast Railfan.  There are lots of nice pictures as well!

Reading Diesel Roster  by Clint Chamberlin

Reading Steam Roster by Clint Chamberlin

3) Named Trains:

The Crusader (New York, NY- Philadelphia, PA)

4) What's Left in new Jersey:

The Reading never had a strong physical presence in New Jersey. I think that the Manville Station still stands near the Jersey Central Airport. The Bell Meade Station is still standing and may be a candidate for future passenger service.

The mainline (now mostly single tracked) crosses from Bound Brook to the New Jersey border.

5) Information Sources:

The two volume set by James L. Holton is the definitive source of Reading history. These books entitled "The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire" Volumes 1 & 2 are published by Garrigues House Publishing.

The Morning Sun books offer a great variety of sharp color pictures. I think there are three or four books that cover the Reading. And the Jersey Central books also have some nice pictures.


Reading Railroad Museum 

The Reading Railroad: 1833-1976

(C) 1998 Phil Paone