Railroad History in Philadelphia

Philadelphia has been a historically major city for railroading. Big railroads have been headquartered here, and thousands of locomotives once wore builder’s plates that read “Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, PA.” Here, read some basic info about most of the big railroads that were in or currently are in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Railroad:

It was headquartered here until its merger with the New York Central in 1968. It was one of the largest railroads in the Northeast, and once stretched 10,512 miles. It once was the largest publicly traded corporation in the world, employed more people than the U.S. Government, paid dividends regularly for over 100 years, and still holds the record for consecutive dividend payments.


Penn Central:

The PRR was merged with the New Haven and the New York Central railroads to form the Penn Central railroad. Since these other railroads were bankrupt or losing money, they basically just became a larger bankrupt, money-losing railroad that suffered because of deferred maintenance. (The other railroads didn’t perform much maintenance because it was costly.) It was later merged into Conrail, and was the last railroad in Philadelphia to provide Philadelphia with freight & passenger service, as Septa and Amtrak do not carry freight.


Conrail was formed in the mid-70’s to fix the ailing Northeastern railroad network. It was partially funded by the government so that it could get the railroad business in the Northeast up and running again after the business losses and poor maintenance of the earlier decades. It was composed of the Lehigh Valley railroad, the Reading railroad, the Penn Central, the Lehigh & Hudson River railroad, the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the Erie-Lackawanna railroad. It was later split between CSX and Norfolk Southern, and it was the last big Northeast railroad headquartered in Philadelphia.


Septa & Amtrak

Amtrak was founded in 1971 to take the responsibility of passenger service off of railroads, which were losing money due to those trains. Amtrak was and still is operated by the government At first, Amtrak operated with a ragtag collection of passenger locomotives and cars that the other railroads used to own. Eventually, Amtrak was able to purchase new locomotives and cars. Amtrak’s stop in Philadelphia is in the famous 30th St. Station on the Northeast Corridor. Septa was founded in 1965, and was contracted out by Conrail, Reading, and Penn Central to operate commuter services. It later operated services own it’s own, starting January 1, 1983.



Reading Company

In 1924 the Reading Company was made from several other railroads, mostly the Philadelphia & Reading railroad.  It operated a branch to Reading Terminal, which is still in place but abandoned. It is slated to become a park much like the High Line in New York City.


Norfolk Southern

It was formed in 1982 by the merger of the Norfolk & Western Railroad and the Southern Railroad. It later inherited half of Conrail’s operations. It has “trackage rights” on the Northeast Corridor in addition to operating several lines and yards going to different places outside Philadelphia.


CSX Transportation

CSX was formed by the merger of the Family Lines (made of the Seaboard Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville railroads) and the Chessie System. The Chessie System was a holding company operating the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Western Maryland railroads. These railroads were never actually merged together in the Chessie system, however, they were mainly operated as one.



Conrail Shared Assets Operations

This railroad has no engines of its own, and uses CSX and NS power to operate. It came about as a way to fairly operated ex-CR lines in places where there would be too much competition. Other places of operation include South Jersey and Detroit.

(No logo)

East Penn Railway

This small line operates only a few miles in Philadelphia. It leases NS’s Venice Island Industrial Track, which is to serve the paper mill in Manayunk. This branch is notable for the steep grades it has. It connects to the NS Falls Yard which is near where the Twin Bridges cross the Schuylkill River.

(No logo, it only has the railroad name on its engines.)

Railroads helped build the nation and today they are a major method of transportation for larger industries. Philadelphia has a very interesting and diverse railroad scene, and I hope that I was able to give you some information on it.