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Nostalgia & History > Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR P & T


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Date: 11/07/11 18:12
Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR P & T
Author: inCHI

I'm from northern Delaware, a state where the second highest point is a landfill. Driving one day to Downington, PA, I was stunned at the sight of this enormous trestle - I never imagined such a structure would exist in the area. And more than that - abandoned. I couldn't help investigating further.

The following pictures are from a few years ago, but I doubt anything has changed. I know vaguely that PRR built this line as a low grade alternative for freight ( out_of_service gives some detail here: http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?2,2606945 ) but it would be great to learn more of why the line was built, what kind of traffic it had, and why it was abandoned.

Another item - I have never seen a picture of trains on this route (even on certain other rr photo sites online.) Does anyone have pictures? The image of GG1's or E44's on a trestle like this seems magnificent, making it all the more surprising that I haven't seen a picture.

Pictures 1 and 2 - this is the view from route 322 as you drive north.

Picture 3 - looking up and west.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/08/11 03:30 by inRVA.








Date: 11/07/11 18:23
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR P & T
Author: inCHI

4: There is alot to marvel at

5: I couldn't help going up to investigate; this is a view from the western end.

6: up top



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/08/11 03:29 by inRVA.








Date: 11/07/11 18:25
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: inCHI

7: Never did I think in southeastern Pennsylvania that I would come across a scene and think "Milwaukee Road"

8: a view of the walkway.

9: signals at the west end of the bridge.








Date: 11/07/11 18:28
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: inCHI

10: Close up of signal

11 and 12: a bit farther east, at Whitford, lies this massive bridge to cross over the original mainline. What an impressive span!








Date: 11/07/11 18:32
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: OhioRails

Really cool!



Date: 11/07/11 18:41
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: ns2557

If its the Trenton Cut-Off out of Glen Int then I believe its still in operation under NS. Should be the main route into and out of Morrisville Pa. Built to bypass Philadelphia as Morrisville was the major PRR/PC/CR Yard in the area. Looking at maps that I have, it still should be operating. The A&S or Atglen & Susquehanna, is the line that was abandoned. This was a cutoff of sorts from the line on the west shore of the Susquehanna out of Enola that crossed at Shocks Mill, just north of Columbia/Cola Int.As far as I know, all of the A&S was abandoned. Structures are still extant but the track is gone. The A&S diverged just south of Columbia and went east towards Parkdale (Known as the Susquehanna Branch,it re-joined the Main Line at Roy Int., in Royalton Pa., just a stones throw from Middletown Pa) But yes indeed it was a marvelous engineering feat, what with all the trestles and such. Ben



Date: 11/07/11 18:44
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: inCHI

This is the first few miles of the Trenton cut-off, not the A&S. This portion is indeed abandoned; NS uses the portion from roughly US202 east. Which from what I see also happens to be the boring looking portion...



Date: 11/07/11 19:14
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: BlackWidow

I would think it was abandoned because Conrail chose the old Lehigh Valley route across NJ and the old Reading route across PA to go from Newark to Harrisburg. The eastern terminus of the cutoff is on the NEC at Morrisville, which would make it impractical for a through freight line. Once Conrail took over and the NEC went to Amtrak, all the old PRR lines from Newark to Philadelphia and Harrisburg gradually became pretty much passenger only as time went by. That is why the Trenton Cutoff and the A&S were abandonded.



Date: 11/07/11 19:20
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: inCHI

BlackWidow Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I would think it was abandoned because Conrail
> chose the old Lehigh Valley route across NJ and
> the old Reading route across PA to go from Newark
> to Harrisburg. The eastern terminus of the cutoff
> is on the NEC at Morrisville, which would make it
> impractical for a through freight line. Once
> Conrail took over and the NEC went to Amtrak, all
> the old PRR lines from Newark to Philadelphia and
> Harrisburg gradually became pretty much passenger
> only as time went by. That is why the Trenton
> Cutoff and the A&S were abandonded.

Is another component of this a decline in industry in the Philadelphia region, and loss of traffic there? Or did neither of these lines provide access to the Philly region?



Date: 11/07/11 19:53
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: rob_l

inRVA Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> Is another component of this a decline in industry
> in the Philadelphia region, and loss of traffic
> there? Or did neither of these lines provide
> access to the Philly region?

No. BlackWidow got it right. The Trenton Cut-off was for PRR freight traffic between Western points and North Jersey to bypass congestion in the Philly area and to reduce the grades that traffic faced.

The Pennsy of the 30s was an incredible property, truly the "Standard RR of the World" in its day.

And yes, the abandonment of electric freight operations in the East is as sad as the loss of Milw out west.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Date: 11/07/11 20:07
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: jgilmore

Definitely the abandoned A&S and not the Trenton cutoff. Lots of freight pics in one of the PRR Triumph volumes...

Joel Gilmore



Date: 11/07/11 21:11
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: inCHI

jgilmore Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Definitely the abandoned A&S and not the Trenton
> cutoff. Lots of freight pics in one of the PRR
> Triumph volumes...
>
> Joel Gilmore

I just checked what reference sites I can find, and they all say this is not the A&S. I'm sure someone else can confirm...



Date: 11/07/11 22:32
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: Kemacprr

It's not the A&S or the Trenton Cutoff. It's the P&T. Line ran from Thorndale Pa to Frazer Pa. At Frazer at an interlocking called Dale it joined with the Trenton Cutoff. It was a low grade freight only line that connected the Trenton Cutoff with the Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main line. The Trenton Cutoff also connected at a Frazer connection that was called Glen. Tall steel bridge on piers is called the Downingtown High Bridge. The large truss bridge is Whitford bridge. The P&T was in service till 1984, single remaining track was removed in 1989.Line was double track in PRR era. PC removed one track back in 1971. Freight traffic that used to utilize the line is either now on the ex Reading Mainline or has gone away. . The Trenton Cutoff still exists from Morrisville Pa to Glen. Section from Morrisville to Earnest still has thru freight traffic on it. At Earnest it connects with the Reading. From Earnest west to Glen it's now a single track welded rail dark territory with one freight per day. It's used to move Arcelor-Mittal steel traffic between Conshohocken and Coatesville Pa. A sad remonder of what used to be a very busy heady duty RR. In the early 1900's there was a plan to make a connection with the P&T and what is the NE Corridor near Chester Pa. This would have been a freight only bypass of Philadelphia for Wilmington area traffic. ------------ Ken



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/07/11 22:39 by Kemacprr.



Date: 11/08/11 05:12
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: resqjon

Ken has the history exactly correct. Conrail built the connection from Earnest (CP King) down through the SEPTA Norristown Transportation Center and over to the former Reading at CP Norris.....so that traffic to/from the Morrisville corridor could head to Harrisburg via the former Reading. Some of the final trains to operate via the Trenton Cut-off and the A&S were TV1/TV2M, MOPI/PIMO, and LMPI/PIML. But in the interest of shedding parallel routes, the former PRR freight route lost out due to having to run on Amtrak from PARK to THORN or GLEN, the catenary not being cleared for double stacks (which was becoming a high priority in Pennsylvania), and the concern over the condition of the trestles along the route (Downingtown, Marctic Forge, and Safe Harbor).

In the early 2000s, there was talk that NS was considering reopening the PRR freight route in order to allow SEPTA trains to run again over the former Reading between Philly and Reading. SEPTA was even considering helping NS fund a connection at King of Prussia using the old Reading Chester Valley Branch, so that trains could run directly from Harrisburg to Philadelphia over this route. But once again, the concern about the high trestles and the catenary prohibiting double stacks quickly sent this idea down the toilet. But it would have been great to see NS trains 20Q/21Q, 24K/21E, 14G/17G, and even some coal, steel slab, and the CP trains running over these old PRR lines again!



Date: 11/08/11 05:32
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: bluesboyst

Yes Jon, it would be great to see trains running on the old P&T again.....I remember reading in railpace when the line was abandoned...

Steve



Date: 11/08/11 05:45
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: RDG630

Photo from 1971




Date: 11/08/11 07:32
Re: Stunning engineering, adandoned - PRR Trenton Cutof
Author: knotch8

Yes, this is incredible railroading. PRR knew how to build and make it last for a long time.

The Conrail birth made this superfluous. Once Conrail included the Reading and Lehigh Valley, freight to and from Enola/Harrisburg could use the shorter route on Reading/Lehigh Valley between Harrisburg and Oak Island and, just as important as being able to abandon miles of trackage and stop paying taxes and maintenance on it, it allowed Conrail to get its through freights off the NEC between Morrisville and Lane, just west of Newark. Conrail could run all the trains it wanted any time it wanted to. It didn't have to deal with all the passenger trains on the NEC.

Sad though it is to see, this scene has been repeated hundreds of times across the Northeast and Midwest. Think of all the lines that have been abandoned through mergers and rationalizations. This line was built to serve PRR/PC, and it did so with excellent results for many, many years. But once an alternative arrangement became possible, it was much to Conrail's advantage to reroute the freights, abandon the line, stop maintaining it and stop paying taxes on it.

There's no online traffic, and basically never was. The line was built as a funnel between Enola/Harrisburg and Morrisville to operate lots and lots of trains at the most efficiency. I might be wrong about this but I think that PRR worked very hard to keep the grades to a maximum of 1%. The P&T could have used the existing mainline from Frazer west through Downingtown but PRR wanted to avoid the curves and grades of the old, original Main Line as it passes through the town, so it built this line as a "bypass" around Downingtown. The P&T ends at Thorndale, just west of Downingtown, where it rejoins the original Main Line to proceed west across the valley at Coatesville, through Parkesburg to Atglen, where the Main Line swings to the northwest to go to Gap and Lancaster, while PRR built the Atglen & Susquehanna (A&S) to proceed straight toward the Susquehanna River basin, including the magnificent viaduct at Safe Harbor, scene of so many striking photos. Searching online, or looking in the excellent PRR Triumph book on the area, you can see photos of the large Thorndale yard, including its huge coaling facility which stretched across the yard. The land exists to this yard, basically a very wide spot in the Amtrak Main Line, with an interlocking and a track connecting the eastbound and westbound main lines stretching across the yard, and it takes a train forever to cross that track, on the rare occasions the dispatcher/operator ever routes one that way. Last time I was up there a few years ago, there was also an old wooden ex-PRR shanty at the west end of Thorndale Yard, actually at an interlocking called Caln (pronounced "Cal'lin") at the far west end of Thorndale Yard. I hope it's still there; it was an historical remnant of the old PRR.

As mentioned above, the P&T survives east of Exton. You can see it on various satellite maps just east of where US 202 crosses the Main Line. The large building with the white roof, between the two lines, is SEPTA's Frazer car shops.

As well-engineered as the PRR lines were, the Downingtown high bridge needed work in the last days of Conrail operation and had a 25-mph speed restriction on it before the line was finally shut down.



Date: 11/08/11 10:22
Re: PRR low grade
Author: timz2

> I might be wrong about this but I think
> that PRR worked very hard to keep the
> grades to a maximum of 1%.

Eastward grade Enola to Trenton on the
low-grade was mostly 0.3% or less.
Maybe all 0.3% or less.



Date: 11/08/11 10:27
Re: PRR low grade
Author: rob_l

timz2 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> > I might be wrong about this but I think
> > that PRR worked very hard to keep the
> > grades to a maximum of 1%.
>
> Eastward grade Enola to Trenton on the
> low-grade was mostly 0.3% or less.
> Maybe all 0.3% or less.


If this was true, why did Pennsy buy the GN Class Y electrics to use as helpers on lines east out of Enola? Were they only pushing westbound? I thought they pushing eastbound. If not on this line, where did those pushers operate?

Thanks in advance,

Rob L.



Date: 11/08/11 10:48
Re: PRR low grade
Author: timz2

I'm guessing they didn't buy them to
use out of Enola.

Remember the low-grade just went to Trenton--
there was no low-grade to Philadelphia.
Eastward trains to Philadelphia faced...
0.55%, maybe? on the main line east from
Thorn (west end of the P&T). Anybody seen
any pics of GN or other helpers west of
Thorn?



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