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
Overview
HeadquartersPort Clinton, Pennsylvania
Reporting markRBMN
LocaleEastern Pennsylvania
Dates of operation1983–present
PredecessorConrail
Technical
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length300 miles (480 km)
Other
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 in eastern Pennsylvania. Its headquarters is in Port Clinton. The RBMN provides freight service on 300 miles (480 km) of track. Its mainline consists of the Reading Division between Reading and Packerton and the Lehigh Division between Lehighton and Dupont. Its main freight cargo is anthracite coal.[1]

Passenger excursions also run on RBMN tracks. The RBMN itself operates excursion service from Reading and Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe, while the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway (LGSR) offers service between Jim Thorpe and Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Main lines[edit]

RBMN operates two main lines:

Port Clinton Station entrance signs by anthracite coal boulder

History[edit]

The Blue Mountain and Reading 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 using two steam locomotives: ex-Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad 4-6-2 No. 425 and ex-Reading Company T-1 4-8-4 No. 2102. The BM&R also began operating three more state-owned lines, including the Allentown branch and Colebrookdale branch.[2] The railroad also entered into a partnership with the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society, which 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 renamed itself the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad and moved its headquarters from Hamburg to Port Clinton.[2] 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.[3]

Despite the discontinuation of the Hamburg to Temple excursions, steam operations continued. In 1995, No. 425 was present at the grand opening of Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton. No. 425 remained at Steamtown until 1997. Between 1998 and late 2008, all steam operations were suspended.

In 2005, regularly scheduled passenger excursions resumed with the introduction of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe.[4] In December 2016, the RBMN announced that it spent $2 million to build 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.[5] The first round-trip excursion from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe ran on May 29, 2017. It used refurbished Rail Diesel Cars built by the Budd Company in the 1950s and operated along the Pottsville Line between Pottsville and Philadelphia via Reading until SEPTA discontinued diesel service in 1981.[6]

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 update an outdated and lightly used Pittston Yard between Scranton and 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.[7]

In 2017, the railroad completed its connections to the Hazleton Shaft and Hazleton Hiller Drying Plant.[8]

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 Railway fought the tax bill in court, where the judge sided with the borough; the railway appealed the decision, arguing that the tourist railroad was "not an amusement".[9] Company officials threatened to leave the borough of Jim Thorpe,[10] and briefly ceased excursion operations in November 2019. RBMN officials shortly thereafter, negotiated a new agreement with the Jim Thorpe Borough government, and excursions resumed in February 2020.[11][12]

On May 6, 2021, railroad officials announced their purchase of the 19.5-mile (31.4 km) Panther Valley line from Carbon County for $4.7 million.[13]

On April 21, 2022, railroad officials announced their purchase of the property of the former KME Fire Apparatus plant in Nesquehoning for $2 million.[14]

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 operates occasional passenger excursions using restored steam locomotives #425 and #2102. In addition, RBMN operates the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a heritage railway based in Jim Thorpe. RBMN interchanges with these railroads:

Locomotive roster[edit]

Operating units[edit]

Numbers[16] Images Builder[16] Model[16] Status Quantity[16]
425 RBM&N 425 Jim Thorpe.png BLW 4-6-2 Operational 1
2102 Reading 2102.jpg RDG T-1 (4-8-4) Operational 1
270 EMD F9A Operational 1
275 EMD F7B Operational 1
9166 Budd RDC-3 Operational 1
9167-9168 Budd RDC-1 Operational 2
800-801 EMD SW8 Operational 2
802-803 EMD SW8M Operational 2
1540-1543 RBMNMP15PVOS.jpg EMD MP15 Operational 4
1546, 1548 RBMN1546LGSRY.jpg EMD SW1500 Operational 2
2000, 2003-2004 RBMN2003QAJT.jpg EMD SD38 Operational 3
2010-2017 RBMN2010JTOS2-27.jpg EMD GP38-2 2010-2015, 2017 Operational, 2016 Waiting Activation 8
2530-2535 EMD GP39RN Operational 6
3050-3069 RBMN-3050-NRPI-Glen-Onoko.jpg EMD SD40-2 3050-3059, 3068-3069 Operational, 3060-3067 Waiting Activation 20
5014, 5017, 5022 RBMN5017LeadsNRFF2-18-2022.jpg EMD SD50 5022 OOS. To Be Scrapped 3
5018-5021 EMD SD50-2 5018-5020 Operational, 5021 OOS 4
5033, 5049 ReadingandNorthern5049PVOS9-19.jpg EMD SD50M 5049 Operational, 5033 OOS. To Be Scrapped 2

Inoperable units[edit]

Numbers[16] Images Builder[16] Model[16] Status Quantity[16]
250-251 EMD F7A Out of Service 2
225 Hugh llewelyn 1098 (5957808910).jpg CLC 4-6-0 Display 1

Passenger excursions[edit]

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway station in Jim Thorpe

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway (LGSR) is a tourist railroad that operates 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.[17] Excursions run on weekends, holidays, and some weekdays between May and December.[4] The regular excursion consists 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 operates abbreviated 45-minute trips that offer views of fall foliage in Lehigh Gorge State Park. There are several special excursions that are operated by the LGSR. The Hometown High Bridge train is a 30-mile (48 km), 2-hour round-trip excursion that runs 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 is a 25-mile (40 km), 1-hour one-way trip from Jim Thorpe to White Haven and it allows 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 operates out of Jim Thorpe between the day after Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas, with a visit from Santa Claus aboard the train.[18] LGSR trains are usually diesel-powered and consist of an open-air car, standard coaches, a gondola car that allows passengers to transport the bicycles aboard the train and ride their bicycles back to Jim Thorpe, and a caboose.[17]

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.[19] 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.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vantuono, William C. "For R&N, a coal-fueled record year".
  2. ^ a b "History". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  3. ^ "A Brief History - Reading Railroad Heritage Museum - Reading Company Technical & Historical Society - 500 S 3rd St, Hamburg, PA 19526 - 610-562-5513".
  4. ^ a b "History". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  5. ^ Jones, Evan (December 14, 2016). "Railroad building train station in Muhlenberg". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  6. ^ Devlin, Ron (May 30, 2017). "Train makes inaugural round trip: Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Times Leader
  8. ^ Atlantic Carbon Group. "Current Operations – Hazleton Shaft".
  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. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Grohotolski, Cody (February 11, 2020). "Train rides to return to Jim Thorpe". Scranton, PA: WNEP-TV. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  12. ^ "Train rides back in Jim Thorpe". PAhomepage. February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  13. ^ "Carbon sells railroad to Reading and Northern for $4.7 million | Times News Online".
  14. ^ "Railroad buys KME campus | Times News Online". www.tnonline.com. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
  15. ^ per warning signs, July 2013
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "Roster". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  17. ^ a b "Our Trains". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  18. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  19. ^ "What's going on here? - Take a ride on the Reading". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  20. ^ "Reading Outer Station, Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe RDC Train Schedule". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bednar, Mike (1998). Anthracite Rebirth: Story of the Reading and Northern Railroad (1st ed.). Garrigues House Publication. ISBN 0-9620844-9-2.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Regional Railroad of the Year
2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by Regional Railroad of the Year
2015
Succeeded by
Preceded by Regional Railroad of the Year
2020
Succeeded by