Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad

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Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad
RBMN Logo.jpg
Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad system map.svg
Reporting markRBMN
LocalePennsylvania
Dates of operation1983–present
PredecessorConrail
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length300 miles (480 km)
HeadquartersPort Clinton, Pennsylvania
WebsiteReading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad

The Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad (reporting mark RBMN), sometimes shortened to Reading and Northern Railroad, is a regional railroad operating in eastern Pennsylvania, with headquarters located in Port Clinton. The RBMN provides freight service on 300 miles (480 km) of track, with its mainline consisting of the Reading Division between Reading and Packerton and the Lehigh Division between Lehighton and Dupont. In addition to freight service, passenger excursions also run along the RBMN system. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway (LGSR) was a tourist railroad that operated passenger excursions along the RBMN between Jim Thorpe and Lehigh Gorge State Park, that discontinued service effective November 25, 2019 due to a dispute over an amusement tax levied by the Borough of Jim Thorpe. [1] The RBMN also operates passenger excursions from Reading and Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe.

Main lines[edit]

RBMN operates the following two main lines as part of its 300 miles (483 km) of track:

Commodities[edit]

The main transported freight of Reading & Northern is anthracite coal.[2]

History[edit]

Originally known as the Blue Mountain and Reading Railroad, the railroad was founded in 1983 to provide freight service on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Division between Hamburg and Temple. Starting in 1985, the BM&R began operating passenger excursions over the line, and two steam locomotives, ex Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad 4-6-2 425, and Ex Reading Company T-1 4-8-4 2102. The BM&R also began operating 3 additional state owned lines.[3] Additionally, the BM&R entered into a partnership with the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society who leased track space in Leesport and in return leased two diesel locomotives and assorted passenger cars for use on the line.

In 1990, The Blue Mountain and Reading took ownership of 150 miles of track located in the Coal Region north of Reading. Shortly thereafter, the company was renamed Reading Blue Mountain and Northern and relocated its headquarters from Hamburg to Port Clinton.[3] Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the RBMN acquired more lines in northeastern Pennsylvania, primarily of Reading Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey, and Lehigh Valley Railroad heritage.

In the mid 1990s, the RBMN discontinued the regularly scheduled passenger operations between Hamburg and Temple and instead focused on occasional excursions throughout the rest of its system. The partnership between the RBMN and Reading Company Technical and Historical Society had more or less ended by this point, but the group still leased track space in Leesport until 2008 when they moved to the Hamburg yard and opened the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum.[4]

Despite the discontinuation of the Hamburg to Temple excursions, steam operations continued. In 1995, both of the RBMN's steam locomotives were present at the grand opening of Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, though only 425 was operational. The two would remain at Steamtown until 1997. Between 1998 and 2009, all steam operations were suspended.

In 2005, regularly scheduled passenger excursions resumed with the introduction of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe.[5] In December 2016, the RBMN announced that it invested $2 million to construct a train station at Pennsylvania Route 61 and Bellevue Avenue in Muhlenberg Township outside Reading called Reading Outer Station, with plans to operate passenger excursions from there to Jim Thorpe.[6] On May 29, 2017, the first round-trip excursion from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe operated, utilizing refurbished Rail Diesel Cars that were built by the Budd Company in the 1950s and formerly operated along the Pottsville Line between Pottsville and Philadelphia via Reading until SEPTA discontinued diesel service in 1981.[7] In 2019, an audit by the borough of Jim Thorpe revealed the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway owed the borough $90,000 in amusement tax. The issue went to court and the judge sided with the borough; the railway appealed the decision. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway has threatened to leave the borough of Jim Thorpe over the unpaid taxes.[8] The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway will cease operations in November 2019 as the RBMN refuses to pay the amusement tax, saying the tourist railroad is "not an amusement".[9]

Between 2009 and 2010, RBMN expanded operations due to the emergence of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in northeastern Pennsylvania. The railroad spent $100,000 to transform an outdated and lightly used Pittston Yard near Wilkes-Barre. RBMN also purchased two new locomotives, 101 rail cars and 6 miles (9.7 km) of track between Monroeton and Towanda where much of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale economic activity is focused.[10]

In 2017 the connection of the Hazleton Shaft and Hazleton Hiller Drying Plant to the railroad was finally finished.[11]

Connections[edit]

Reading and Northern (RBMN) hopper cars loaded with anthracite in the trainyard of Blaschak Coal Company, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. Owned and operated by the RBMN, it is a remnant of a combined yard that contained 20 miles (32 km) of trackage when the nearby Old St. Nicholas coal breaker—the world's largest—was in operation.

RBMN operated occasional passenger excursions utilizing restored steam locomotive #425. In addition, RBMN operates the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a heritage railway based in Jim Thorpe. RBMN interchanges with the following railroads:

Locomotive roster[edit]

Builder[13] Model[13] Quantity[13] Numbers[13]
CLC 4-6-0 1 225
EMD F7A 2 250-251
BLW 4-6-2 1 425
EMD SW8 2 800-801
EMD SW8M 2 802-803
EMD SW7 1 1201
EMD MP15 4 1540-1543
EMD SW1500 2 1546, 1548
EMD SD38 3 2000, 2003-2004
EMD GP38-2 3 2010-2012
RDG T-1 (4-8-4) 1 2102
EMD GP39RN 6 2530-2535
EMD SD40-2 9 3050-3058
EMD SD50 3 5014, 5017, 5022
EMD SD50-2 4 5018-5021
EMD SD50M 2 5033, 5049
Budd RDC-3 1 9166
Budd RDC-1 2 9167-9168

Passenger excursions[edit]

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway station in Jim Thorpe

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway (LGSR) was a tourist railroad that operated passenger excursions along RBMN trackage from the former Central Railroad of New Jersey station in Jim Thorpe to Old Penn Haven, following the Lehigh River through Lehigh Gorge State Park.[14] Excursions ran on weekends, holidays, and some weekdays between May and December.[5] The operation will shut down in November 2019. The regular excursion consisted of a 16-mile (26 km), 70-minute round-trip out of Jim Thorpe, following the Lehigh River to Lehigh Gorge State Park. In October, the LGSR operated abbreviated 45-minute trips that offers views of fall foliage in Lehigh Gorge State Park. There were several special excursions that were operated by the LGSR. The Hometown High Bridge train was a 30-mile (48 km), 2-hour round-trip excursion that ran on the first full weekend in October from Jim Thorpe through Nesquehoning to the 1,168-foot (356 m) long Hometown High Bridge that passes 168 feet (51 m) over the Little Schuylkill River, offering views of fall foliage. The Bike train was a 25-mile (40 km), 1-hour one-way trip from Jim Thorpe to White Haven and it allowed passengers to ride their bicycles for the 25-mile (40 km) journey along the Lehigh Gorge Trail from White Haven back to Jim Thorpe. The Santa Claus Special train operated out of Jim Thorpe between the day after Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas, with a visit from Santa Claus aboard the train.[15] LGSR trains were usually diesel-powered and consist of an open-air car, standard coaches, a gondola car that allowed passengers to transport the bicycles aboard the train and ride their bicycles back to Jim Thorpe, and a caboose.[14]

The RBMN also operates passenger excursions out of the Reading Outer Station located outside of Reading in Muhlenberg Township, with Rail Diesel Car trains running from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe with an intermediate stop in Port Clinton.[16] The train runs from Reading and Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe in the morning, allowing passengers time to explore Jim Thorpe. The return trip leaves Jim Thorpe in the late afternoon and returns to Port Clinton and Reading in the evening. This excursion operates on select weekends and holidays from May to November.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.rbmnrr.com/happenings
  2. ^ Vantuono, William C. "For R&N, a coal-fueled record year".
  3. ^ a b "History". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  4. ^ http://www.readingrailroadmuseum.org/rcthshistory.shtml
  5. ^ a b "History". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  6. ^ Jones, Evan (December 14, 2016). "Railroad building train station in Muhlenberg". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Devlin, Ron (May 30, 2017). "Train makes inaugural round trip: Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  8. ^ Koltnow, Bo (October 8, 2019). "Legal argument over taxes threatens to derail popular Carbon County tourist attraction". Allentown, PA: WFMZ-TV. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  9. ^ "Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to close in late November after tax dispute". Allentown, PA: WFMZ-TV. October 16, 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  10. ^ Times Leader
  11. ^ Atlantic Carbon Group. "Current Operations – Hazleton Shaft".
  12. ^ per warning signs, July 2013
  13. ^ a b c d "Roster". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Our Trains". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  15. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  16. ^ "What's going on here? - Take a ride on the Reading". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  17. ^ "Reading Outer Station, Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe RDC Train Schedule". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Wisconsin and Southern Railroad
Regional Railroad of the Year
2002
Succeeded by
Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad
Preceded by
Arkansas and Missouri Railroad
Regional Railroad of the Year
2015
Succeeded by
Central Maine and Quebec Railway