Beginnings

The Reading Company Technical & Historical Society (RCT&HS), was incorporated July 16, 1976 to preserve the rich history of a pioneering railroad. As an all-volunteer, non-profit, educational corporation, the RCT&HS is a repository for knowledge, artifacts, and memorabilia related to keeping alive the memory of one of America's greatest transportation institutions. Now over 30 years old, the Society is composed of about 1000 members inmany areas of the USA and even abroad.

The seed for the Society was planted by Bill Whitman in an advertisement he placed in the January/February 1975 issue of the Extra 2200 South Locomotive Newsmagazine. About a dozen members began meeting in a home in Reading, Pa. and started collecting Reading Company memorabilia. The group more or less adopted the Outer Station in Reading as theirs until the station was destroyed by fire in February 1978. Meetings were discontinued until Norman Rhoades of Morgantown brought the Society back to life.

The new group, which met in the Elverson, PA Passenger and Freight Station, began publishing a magazine called the Bee Line. The idea for the title, Bee Line, came from a slogan the Reading used to tout a new service offered its customers in the mid-1960s. The group also began removing Reading Company paper and photographs from the company offices on Sixth Street in Reading. In 1982 the Society helped with restoration work on Reading equipment at the State Railroad Museum at East Strasburg. The groups first modular HO scale layout was constructed in 1983, the same year it held its first banquet to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad.

Growth

As the Society grew it worked to preserve the history of the railroad in many ways, including an archival collection of Reading Company documents, blueprints, rolling stock, equipment and locomotives. Until 1988 its collection was housed at the locomotive shops in Reading, PA. When the owners of the building wouldn’t renew the lease the collection was relocated to Leesport, PA along the Blue Mountain & Reading Railroad right-of-way. While at the shop complex the Society’s monthly membership meetings were held in preserved MU car #863. Since the move to Leesport the Society’s monthly meetings are held in Grace Bible Church in Blandon. Once the new museum opens in the fall of 2007 the Society will meet there. In 2001 the Society held a banquet to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Since its founding the RCT&HS has been very active in a variety of ways. It sponsored an open house at the Reading Shops September 7, 1985 to celebrate the return of former Reading T-1 steam locomotive #2102. Part of the celebration included a series of passenger excursions behind the 4-8-4 over former Reading Company rails in October, 1985. Most years since 1988 the society has operated a series of Moonlight Specials (usually three each year) over the Blue Mountain & Reading Railroad between Temple and South Hamburg using former Reading diesel locomotives for power.

The group has sponsored hikes along abandoned rights-of-way, sold Reading memorabilia at train shows, participated in parades (including the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia) with a replica of A5a steam locomotive #1176 mounted on an auto chassis, set up its HO scale modular model train layout in shopping malls and train shows throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, established a Website, sold model Reading locomotives and cars, continued to acquire an extensive collection of Reading motive power and rolling stock and maintained a museum site in Leesport, Pa. The Society continues to publish the Bee Line quarterly, a monthly newsletter called the Crusader (named in honor of the Reading’s most prestigious streamlined train), and an annual calendar with themes featuring some aspect of the Reading Railroad each year.

Future Plans

At the beginning of the new millennium the Society began planning for a larger permanent museum site to display its unique collection. Meetings were held with paid consultants and goals were established. A plan has emerged from these sessions to develop a three fold approach. An anchor site would be created at South Hamburg, Pa. using existing former industrial buildings. Two satellite sites would also be developed, one at Temple, Pa. and the other at Schuylkill Haven, Pa. These additional sites would benefit the museum plan by adding additional storage/display space and provide destinations for possible excursion train operations from South Hamburg.

The RCT&HS continues to meet its goal of making known the heritage of one of the most influential railroads in the history of the eastern United States.

  (last updated: 10/07)