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Philly NRHS - Railfan Pictures of the Week


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The Philadelphia Chapter of the

National Railway Historical Society

Established in 1936


Railfan Pictures of the Week - 05/04/2008

SEPTA Route 23 and Pennsylvania Railroad Whitemarsh Branch

Mount Airy Philadelphia PA May 4 2008


View from the former PRR Whitemarsh Branch Bridge at Germantown Avenue and Cresheim Valley Drive shows the progress made in the last month.
Concrete has been poured, curbs have been set, tracks have been laid ...
and on either side of the trolley tracks, cobblestones are being installed over a bed of asphalt and concrete, bringing back the quaintness of the former kidney-busting roadway.
One thing that is not coming back is the Mermaid Lane Loop, as the exit switch has not been put back as part of the "improvements", illustrated by this view from the end of rail on the loop.
And what of the Whitemarsh Branch? Except for the PECO overbuild, it is has almost vanished.
From this view of the underside of the bridge over Germantown Avenue, one would surmise that the Whitemarsh Branch was, at least at this location, double-tracked and as business declined, was later single tracked. But according to available maps and information the line was always single tracked, which raises the question of why construct a double track bridge for a single track line. Answer seems to be that the line had been planned as a double track branch, but for some reason or another, it never got the second track.

More information on PRR/PC/CR Whitemarsh Branch

Although passenger service ceased in March 1952 (line opened July 1893, electrified service began in February 1924), freight customers on what was now called the Fort Washington Running Track remained through the Pennsylvania Railroad and later Penn Central Railroad eras. In the 1950's, the northern portion of the line eventually became the roadbed for Route 309 from Laverock Station south of Papermill Road to Fort Washington. According to the USRA "Final System Plan for the restructuring of Railroads in the Northeast and Midwest Region pursuant to the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973" dated July 1975, the only remaining portion of the line still in service at the time consisted of 1.4 miles from the Chestnut Hill West connection at Allen Lane to East Lane and was averaging 1 carload per week. The two customers on the line, A. Z. Bogert Co. and National Crucible Co., projected 85 carloads in 1975, and if the line was abandoned, A. Z. Bogert would be forced to close. Unfortunately to offset the cost of upgrading the line to even excepted track status, either the shipping rates were projected to have to be increased by 92% or traffic would have to increase by 32 times, neither of which looked promising. Not wanting to saddle the new Consolidated Railroad Corporation with losers such as this, the USRA did not designate the branch for transfer to the new railroad. Nevertheless, the branch was included in Conrail but quickly abandoned in 1978.


All pictures May 4 2008 Copyright © 2008 John P. Almeida

Photographs for personal use only. All rights reserved by original owner of image. Reproduction or redistribution in any form without express written permission is prohibited.

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Last Updated May 4, 2008

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Website created June 12, 2002

Website copyright © 2007 John P. Almeida