North Pennsylvania Railroad

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North Pennsylvania Railroad (NPR) was a railroad company formed in 1855, and served Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Bucks County and Northampton County, Pennsylvania.


A two-car RDC train awaits departure at Bethlehem Union Station, March 11, 1978

Construction of the line started in 1852 under the name Philadelphia, Easton and Water Gap Railroad Co., and became operational three years later. The railroad formally opened on Monday, July 2, 1855, with an excursion from the Cohoquinoque station, at Front and Willow Streets, Philadelphia, to Wissahickon (present-day Ambler), an outlying area to the northeast.

In 1856, the company suffered its first accident in The Great Train Wreck of 1856. The following year, a branch was built from Lansdale to Doylestown and during the 1860s another extension was built to Sellersville, running parallel to Bethlehem Pike. This railroad was eventually completed to Bethlehem, and later became the Reading Company's Bethlehem Branch, a two-track main line, with one portion near Telford being three-tracked. A single-track tunnel is in Perkasie.

The Reading Company leased North Pennsylvania Railroad on May 14, 1879, which later led to the eventual demise of NPR due to the bankruptcy of the Reading Company and subsequent merger into Conrail.

As of 2011, the line is owned by SEPTA, which only operates its electric commuter trains as far north as Lansdale, where the Lansdale/Doylestown Line continues on a branch line to Doylestown. Freight trains are operated on the portion from Lansdale to Quakertown by Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad and East Penn Railroad.

The former Jersey City main line of the Reading branches just north of the Jenkintown/Wyncote station, although SEPTA only operates the West Trenton Line as far as Ewing, New Jersey.

A branch extends from Glenside to New Hope, although SEPTA only operates the Warminster Line line as far as Warminster. The 17 miles (27 km) portion from Warminster north to New Hope is owned and operated by the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad.

North of Quakertown, the double-track line is out of service. Until 2008, most of the rail infrastructure was intact except for a cut made near DeSales University to extend Preston Lane. In addition, the northernmost section between Bethlehem and Hellertown including Saucon Yard, which is owned by freight operator Norfolk Southern Railway, was removed.

North Pennsylvania Railroad in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, shortly before trackage removal.
North Pennsylvania Railroad in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, after trackage removal.

None of the former stations remain north of Quakertown, and all of the block signals north of Lansdale have been destroyed by vandals, although many are still in place.

2008 rail trail[edit]

Rail trail discussions began in 2008 between Hellertown, Upper and Lower Saucon officials and SEPTA. Talks of converting the unused, double-track rail corridor into a bicycle and pedestrian pathway had floated around for a while, but pro-rail advocates protested that commuter service be reinstated (it had terminated on July 1, 1981). Proposals had been made to reinstate passenger service north of Lansdale since the 1990s, but SEPTA showed little interest in operating trains without electrification. To remedy this, local residents along the line suggested that PPL Electric run their proposed high-tension electric line along the right-of-way, which would allow SEPTA to electrify the line.

Rather than abandoning the line outright, SEPTA leased the line to the communities, as the transit agency was looking for a "caretaker" for the line. SEPTA has emphasized that they are aware service restoration will terminate the lease with the communities. SEPTA currently owns the right-of-way and has no plans to abandon or sell the land.[1]

To this end, the trail will be a simple dirt path: a paved trail would increase the cost of the restoring the line should service be resurrected. Though the suggestion of maintaining one track and removing the other had been discussed—known as "rails with trails"—township officials balked at the idea, as it would still involve rail infrastructure maintenance and create a tripping hazard. Officials also cited the possibility of being struck by a train using the remaining track, though SEPTA had no plans of reinstating any sort of train activity.[2]

Railway Stations, Mile Markers, Present Day Bethlehem Branch Service[edit]

.0..... Reading Terminal (Currently the Pennsylvania Convention Center)

0.8... Spring Garden Street

1.8... Columbus Ave

2.9... North Broad Street

4.0... Tioga

4.3... Nicetown

5.1... Wayne Junction

5.9... Logan

6.7... Tabor

7.3... Fern Rock

8.4... Oak Lane

9.2... Elkins Park

10.8... Jenkintown (Wyncote)

11.9... Glenside

13.0... North Hills

13.9... Oreland

14.8... Fellwick

15.9... Fort Washington

17.3... Ambler

18.8... Penllyn

20.0... Gwynedd Valley

22.4... North Wales

23.5... Pennbrook

24.4... Lansdale........(2012) Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad, CSX, SEPTA

26.1... Orvilla............(2012) Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad

27.1... Hatfield...........(2012) Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad

29.6... Souderton.......(2012) Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad

30.9... Telford............(2012) East Penn Railroad & Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad

33.6... Sellersville......(2012) East Penn Railroad

35.0... Perkasie..........(2012) East Penn Railroad

40.2... Quakertown.....(2012) East Penn Railroad

43.7... Shelly..............(2012) Out of Service Track

45.8... Coopersburg....(2012) No Trackage, Future site for *Saucon Rail Trail Phase II

47.6... Centre Valley...(2012) No Trackage, Future site for *Saucon Rail Trail Phase II

50.5... Bingen.............(2012) No Trackage, *Saucon Rail Trail

52.6... Hellertown.......(2012) No Trackage, *Saucon Rail Trail

56.6... Bethlehem.......(2012) No Trackage, *Bethlehem Greenway Rail Trail

Bethlehem Branch Rail Service Timeline (1970-PRESENT)[edit]

Reading Railroad: (December 5, 1833 - April 1, 1976)

SEPTA Passenger Service: (April 1, 1976 - July 29, 1981)

Conrail Freight Service: (April 1, 1976 - June 1, 1999)

Conrail Freight Service: (1997 - June 1, 1999) Lansdale to Telford

EPRY/ESPN Freight Service: (1997 to PRESENT) Telford to Quakertown

CSX B738 Freight Service: (June 1, 1999 - August 12, 2011) Lansdale to Telford

PNRR Freight Service: (August 13, 2011 - PRESENT) Lansdale to Telford

Norfolk Southern: (June 1, 1999 - PRESENT) Bethlehem to Hellertown

Out Of Service Track (June 12, 1986 - PRESENT) Quakertown to Hellertown (OOS Track Includes Southbound Main between Lansdale and Quakertown)

Norfolk Southern Bethlehem Greenway Track Removal (March 11, 2004 - PRESENT) Bethlehem to Hellertown

Saucon Rail Trail Track Removal (October 6, 2008 - PRESENT) Hellertown to Coopersburg

Saucon Rail Trail: (May 13, 2011 - PRESENT) Active from Hellertown to North of DeSales University

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Morning Call; May 8, 2008.
  2. ^

External links[edit]