On October 12th, the Society completed another major step in a project to preserve a Reading turntable. Since early this year, Society volunteers have been making plans and performing preliminary work to remove the turntable from the Reading’s former Saucon Yard at Hellertown (Bethlehem) and relocate it to for storage. On this day Society volunteers, working with contractors and the property owners, removed the turntable bridge from its pit and placed it out of the way of redevelopment work going on at the site.
We wish to extend considerable thanks to the property owners, Frank Casilio & Sons of Bethlehem, and to our contractors on the project: Dickinson Crane Service of Reading and Wayne Zellner Welding of Whitehall (Allentown).
The turntable being saved was built in 1917 by American Bridge Co. of Pittsburgh and was installed at Saucon Yard during a 1918 modernization. It is 100' long, of riveted steel construction, and the bare steel bridge alone weighs 126,000 pounds. Our eventual goal is to reinstall and use the turntable at the future Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Schuylkill Haven, PA.
On September 19th, the Society wrapped up another successful season with three passenger excursions over the former Blue Mountain & Reading Railroad line between Temple and Hamburg, PA.
This year’s trips were all record breakers for attendance, and we are very please to see such wonderful support and interest from our community and members.
September’s trip was our first dinner train, with a sit down chicken barbeque under the big top tent at Hamburg. We received many favorable comments, and we hope to continue to offer interesting (and tasty) trips in the future.
MAY/1998: Reading 4-4-2 Atlantic Steam Locomotive Displayed on RCT&HS Parade Float
On May 16th, the Society took part in the city of Reading’s 250th Anniversary parade. Our entry was lead by our parade locomotive #1176, followed by a Reading type 4-4-2 Atlantic steam locomotive and two coaches. Ok, you say, #1176 has rubber tires, but how in the world did we move a steam locomotive and two coaches through downtown Reading?
The 4-4-2, #121, is a 1-1/2" scale “live-steam” locomotive which was built in the Reading Locomotive Shops prior to World War I. It was the brainchild of mechanic Jack Daly, who wished to prove the effectiveness of a glass-centered staybolt he had designed. After its construction, the locomotive was displayed around the Reading system as a public relations tool. It was also shown in numerous parades and pageants, including the city of Reading’s 175th anniversary parade in 1923. After the death of Mr. Daly, the locomotive passed into private hands and disappeared.
Earlier this year, the Society discovered the whereabouts of the engine and made arrangements to borrow it and cosmetically restore it for use in the parade. Students at Blue Mountain High School in Schuylkill County restored the locomotive and coaches, and placed them on a trailer for display in the parade. The attractively decorated trailer carried the compact train through downtown Reading, crossing the original Philadelphia & Reading Railroad mainline at 7th street.
During our trips last October, we discovered our big ALCO C630 would require some surgery. Inside the hefty bulge behind a 630’s cab is a very large fan which cools the electrical system and combustion air going to the prime mover. Though the fan was removed from our locomotive some years ago, the shaft which drove it was not. The bearing on that shaft had about 1/2" of side to side play, where it should have a few 1/1000ths of an inch. Although the bearing never made much commotion, we figured it had better be aputated ASAP.
In May, volunteers from local company TELCO (Traffic Electrical & Lighting Company, Inc.) showed up with one of their boom trucks to help us remove the fanshaft and bearing. The following photos should give you an idea of the fun involved in handling locomotive parts.
On March 28th, we received a forklift donated by George Longenecker & Sons of Bernville, PA, who operate a contracting business, as well as an appliance and furniture store on Rt. 183 near Bernville.
A large part of the labor to restore this locomotive back to service was furnished by our group of teenage and early 20’s volunteers. A great big thank you goes out to all who helped so far with the restoration. Why not come out and lend a hand on Saturdays at Leesport or if that is not possible would you care to make a financial contribution towards the cost of painting the locomotive?
The forklift is an Erickson model F-7, built in the mid 1970s. It is propane powered, with a Continental engine, manual transmission, pneumatic tires, and an 8000 lb. capacity.
We are very grateful to the Longeneckers for this donation. As we develop our museum at Schuylkill Haven, we will be seeking donations of other equipment, including:
- Boom truck or small crane
- Stakebody truck, preferably with a liftgate
- Small dump truck
- Skid loader
- Metal and woodworking machinery
As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization, donations to us can be used as income tax reductions. If you or your company could help with these items or others, please contact us!
On March 17th, Reading baggage car #1715 was placed on rail in our collection. The car, which began life as a “combine” (combined passenger coach and baggage) was built for the Reading around 1924.
We originally believed it was one of the concession cars used on the famous “Reading Rambles” steam excursions of the late 1960s and early '70’s, although now we are not so sure. In later years, it was used on the Quakertown & Eastern Railway in eastern PA, and then the Southwest Virginia Scenic Railroad. It finally settled at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.
We purchased #1715 from NCTM in 1994, but due to the age of the car, it could not move on its own wheels. The car was finally moved on a TTX flat car, with its wheels in an accompanying gondola. On March 17th, local crane contractor Dickinson Crane and our volunteers restored #1715 to its own wheels and sent it to Leesport.
The following photos from Paul R. Troutman and Tim Weidner show some of the unloading and retrucking process.
The car is a rare class HTs or HTss, which began life as a composite (wood-sided) car during the steel shortages of WWII. It’s original number was unknown, and it was temporarily assigned #60097. Since then we have learned its original number, 66418.
For related information, please see our freight cars section on our roster page.
The Society’s 15-year search for a permanent home may be drawing to a close. At the January 27th general meeting, members in attendance unanimously approved the Museum Committee’s proposal to begin developing a permanent Reading Railroad Museum in Schuylkill Haven, PA, outside of Pottsville.