Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa!

I suppose I should say it a third time, adding another “mea maxima culpa”! All the while beating my breast. At least that is what the Confiteor in the Roman Rite prescribes, when acknowledging having made an avoidable mistake.. Well, I am not going around beating anything. Though I will admit that not writing a blog for ten months is regrettable. I shall make up for lost time!

A Ride on the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad

The Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad (RBMN) is a short line railroad headquartered in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania. The RBMN has roughly 300 miles of track, a good portion of it acquired from Conrail in 1983. More track was subsequently bought from the Reading Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey and Lehigh Valley Railroad. The railroad’s main freight cargo is anthracite coal, which is abundant in that part of Pennsylvania. One of the major uses of anthracite coal is in steel making. (Click here for a more detailed history of the RMBN)

The RBMN also runs passenger excursions between Reading and the small town of Jim Thorpe. The run is a bit over 60 miles and traverses some intriguing country side, at times rather boastfully called “The Switzerland of America”. Some of these excursions are hauled by steam locomotives. The RBMN owns a 4-6-2 “Pacific” steam locomotive, number 425, built by Baldwin in 1928. Another steam locomotive on the rooster is number 2102, a 4-8-4 “Northern”, constructed by Baldwin as a 2-8-0 in 1925, but rebuilt by the Reading Railroad to it’s current configuration in 1945. It was used for heavy coal drags.

Our excursion train was pulled by “Pacific” 425 with an assist from a diesel locomotive. The train had 19 coaches which would have been impossible to be hauled by 425 alone. We left Reading Outer Station right on time at 09:00 for the 2 1/2 hour run to Jim Thorpe. The train quickly leaves the industrial area around Reading, heading north through small towns and mostly rural areas. The area is not part of Appalachia, but it does resemble it a lot.

The rail line is mostly single track with ATC. The track was surprisingly well maintained, no bumping or swaying around, and mostly continuous welded rail. Top speed was around 30 mph. Brad and I had splurged and booked tickets for the First Class Lounge and Observation Car, named “King Coal”.

“King Coal” Observation Car at the Jim Thorpe station

We had roughly 3 hours to spend in Jim Thorpe. The town may have quite a few buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is a tourist trap. Prices for refreshments and food were downright usurious. The town was also mobbed. Basically it was no fun.

The Reading Blue Mountain and Northern also runs a diesel powered excursion from Jim Thorpe to the Lehigh Gorge State Park. It’s a short back and forth trip along the Lehigh River, taking about an hour. We decided to take the trip, because we did not want to sit in Jim Thorpe for three hours.

A GP38-2 bought from Norfolk Southern, built by GM Electro Motive in 1973. One of the locomotives top and tailing the excursion train to the Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Our steam excursion train was turned around on a “Y” at Jim Thorpe and we began our return trip around 3 pm. Just like on the way up to Jim Thorpe there were a lot of train enthusiasts track side taking videos and photographs. I must admit that I was surprised on how many people were watching the train go by.

It was an interesting day. Not sure I would go back though and repeat it.

Here are some more photographs:

The Reading Outer Train Station

Our train waiting for departure at Reading Outer Train Station

2102 in the Port Clinton yard

425 waiting at Jim Thorpe while an excursion train to Lehigh Gorge State Park is departing on the left

425 at Jim Thorpe

Lehigh Gorge State Park excursion train arriving at the Jim Thorpe station

A pretty face: 425


All photos by Ralf Meier unless otherwise noted.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice post. My siblings and I talked of doing that ride this fall but didn’t get it done. Dave Y

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