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Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad
Logo
System map
Reporting mark RBMN
Locale Pennsylvania
Dates of operation 1983–present
Predecessor Conrail
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 300 miles (480 km)
Headquarters Port Clinton, Pennsylvania
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.

Main lines

RBMN operates the following two main lines as part of its 400 miles (644 km) of track:

Commodities

Station railroad signs, Port Clinton, PA
Port Clinton Station entrance signs by anthracite coal boulder

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

History

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 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.

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

Connections

FAB's IMG 4509 Reading and Northern Anthracite Loads at BlaschakCoalCompany
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:

  • 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.
    • Connects along the left bank trackage along the main branch Susquehanna River to New York State railways via the former Lehigh Valley Railroad through the yard at Sayre, Pennsylvania, reaching Rochester, Buffalo, and Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Lehigh Railway – Mehoopany, Towanda
  • Luzerne & Susquehanna Railroad – Pittston
  • Shamokin Valley Railroad – Locust Summit

Locomotive roster

Builder Model Quantity Numbers
CLC 4-6-0 1 225
EMD F7A 2 250-251
EMD F9A 1 270
EMD F7B 1 275
BLW 4-6-2 1 425
RDG T-1 (4-8-4) 1 2102
Budd RDC-3 1 9166
Budd RDC-1 2 9167-9168
EMD SW8 2 800-801
EMD SW8M 2 802-803
EMD MP15 4 1540-1543
EMD SW1500 2 1546, 1548
EMD SD38 3 2000, 2003-2004
EMD GP38-2 8 2010-2017
EMD GP39RN 6 2530-2535
EMD SD40-2 19 3050-3069
EMD SD50 3 5014, 5017, 5022
EMD SD50-2 4 5018-5021
EMD SD50M 2 5033, 5049
EMD GP38-3 1 5831

Passenger excursions

Central Railroad of New Jersey Station, Jim Thorpe, PA 06
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. 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.

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