Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad
|Headquarters||Port Clinton, Pennsylvania|
|Dates of operation||1983–present|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Length||300 miles (480 km)|
|Website||Reading 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) is a tourist railroad that operates passenger excursions along the RBMN between Jim Thorpe and Lehigh Gorge State Park. The RBMN also operates passenger excursions from Reading and Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe.
RBMN operates the following two main lines as part of its 400 miles (644 km) of track:
- Reading Division: Reading, Pennsylvania–Packerton, Pennsylvania, along the Lehigh River.
- Lehigh Division: Lehighton, Pennsylvania–Dupont, Pennsylvania (was Mehoopany, Pennsylvania).
- This line forms a fork from Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, one branch running westerly through Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania and connecting via a junction to Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, or Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and the second branch runs northerly via the Lehigh River Gorge, climbs to Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, with a double track running from there most of the way to the Duryea Yard (or Coxton Yard, or Muller Yard) at Duryea, Pennsylvania, and Taylor Yard in Taylor, Pennsylvania, outside Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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. 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 Railroad and relocated its headquarters from Hamburg to Port Clinton. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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 threatened to leave the borough of Jim Thorpe over the unpaid taxes. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway briefly ceased excursion operations in November 2019, with the RBMN citing a refusal to pay the amusement tax, stating the tourist railroad was "not an amusement". Following a new agreement with the Jim Thorpe Borough government, excursions resumed in February 2020.
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 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.
In 2017 the connection of the Hazleton Shaft and Hazleton Hiller Drying Plant to the railroad was finally finished.
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:
- Norfolk Southern Railway – Reading, North Reading, Temple, Lehighton, the historic Mountain Top Yard at Penobscot Knob, and Taylor, where it connects to former Delaware and Hudson Railway trackage in New Jersey, New York, and New England. The northern spur connects the yard in Binghamton, New York, and thence to lower eastern New York State
- Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad – Pittston at the Duryea yard, which is operated by the RBMN.
- Lehigh Railway – Mehoopany, Towanda
- Luzerne & Susquehanna Railroad – Pittston
- Shamokin Valley Railroad – Locust Summit
|EMD||SD50||3||5014, 5017, 5022|
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. Excursions run on weekends, holidays, and some weekdays between May and December. 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. 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.
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. 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.
- Vantuono, William C. "For R&N, a coal-fueled record year".
- "History". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- "History". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- Jones, Evan (December 14, 2016). "Railroad building train station in Muhlenberg". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
- Devlin, Ron (May 30, 2017). "Train makes inaugural round trip: Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe". Reading Eagle. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
- 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.
- "Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to close in late November after tax dispute". Allentown, PA: WFMZ-TV. October 16, 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
- Grohotolski, Cody (February 11, 2020). "Train rides to return to Jim Thorpe". Scranton, PA: WNEP-TV. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
- "Train rides back in Jim Thorpe". PAhomepage. February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
- Times Leader
- Atlantic Carbon Group. "Current Operations – Hazleton Shaft".
- per warning signs, July 2013
- "Roster". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
- "Our Trains". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- "What's going on here? - Take a ride on the Reading". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
- "Reading Outer Station, Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe RDC Train Schedule". Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
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