Logo and Link Home

The History of Passenger Rail Between Reading and Philadelphia

Passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia has a long history dating back to the early 19th century. The first rail service between the two cities was established in 1838 by the Reading Railroad, which initially operated as a cargo carrier, primarily transporting coal from the mines in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania to the cities of Philadelphia, Reading and beyond. The Reading Railroad was one of the most important railroads in the country for transporting coal, and it was instrumental in the development of the region's economy.

Before the rail line, the transportation of coal and other goods was done primarily by horse-drawn wagons and canal boats. The construction of the rail line greatly improved the efficiency of coal transportation, as it allowed for large quantities of coal to be transported quickly and at a lower cost. This led to an increase in demand for coal and the expansion of the region's coal mining industry.

Passenger service on the route was also important for the communities it served, as it provided an important transportation link for people traveling between Reading and Philadelphia. It also played a key role in the development of the region's industrial economy and had been a major player in the transportation of goods and people for over a century.

During the 20th century, passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia became increasingly popular as a means of transportation for both commuters and travelers. The Reading Railroad's passenger line made stops at various notable stations along the way, including the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, a bustling transportation hub and market located in the heart of the city.

The terminal was a major destination for travelers and commuters, and was served by several railroads in addition to the Reading. It was also a popular spot for tourists, who came to shop at the market and explore the city. Another notable stop on the Reading Railroad's passenger line was the Chestnut Hill station in Philadelphia. The station was known for its ornate architecture and grand entrance and was a popular spot for photographers and sightseers.

The Reading Railroad's passenger line also made stops at various smaller towns and villages along the way. These stops provided transportation for local residents and connected them to the larger cities of Reading and Philadelphia.

Some famous passengers who traveled on the Reading Railroad's passenger line included 11 U.S. presidents and other notable figures. Presidents Chester Arthur and Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, are known to have traveled on the line during their visits to the region. Other famous passengers included actor W.C. Fields and baseball player Babe Ruth, who were both known to have traveled on the Reading Railroad for business and leisure.

In the 1960s and 1970s, passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia began to decline as more and more people began to use cars for travel. The bankruptcy of the Penn Central in 1970 created problems that precipitated the failure of several other railroads in the northeast United States including the Reading Railroad, which was absorbed into the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) in 1976. Shortly thereafter, Reading Railroad passenger rail service became the responsibility of SEPTA, which operated trains between Philadelphia and Reading until 1981.