Reading and Northern summary
The Reading & Northern (RBMN) is a regional railroad that operates in eastern Pennsylvania. Officially titled as the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad, it’s owned by Andrew M. Muller Jr., who also serves as railroad CEO. The Reading & Northern operates 400 miles of standard-gauge track from Reading to Mehoopany out of the Port Clinton corporate headquarters. While freight service makes up the bulk of the business, passenger excursions are also offered.
Muller’s success as a dealer in precious metal provided him with resources to enter the railroad business in September 1983 as the designated operator of a state-owned, 13-mile former Pennsylvania Railroad branch line between Hamburg and Temple. Three more state-owned branches later began service under the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad. In two major transaction deals with Conrail, the RBMN purchased 120 miles of ex-Reading tracks in 1990, and 98 miles of the ex-Lehigh Valley lines in 1996. Additional trackage acquisitions over the years permitted a direct connection between the railroad’s Reading Division and Lehigh Division. Growth, rehabilitation and expansion transformed the short line into the regional railroad many see it today.
The Reading & Northern typically runs 18 trains each day. With a promised delivery or pickup within 2 hours for its customers, the mainline freight trains operate within a tightly scheduled time window. The railroad has departments responsible for coal, forest products, and transload and warehouse services. The export in anthracite coal in the state is still common with the RBMN claiming the title as “The Road of Anthracite.” The lower-sulfur hard rock is found along the line and hauled out as a clean-burning fuel for secondary heating in homes, usage in the processing of beet sugar, and growth in the steel industry. While coal traffic is important to the railroad, some of the bigger customers are at outer ends of the lines.
Since its inception, passenger excursions serve the dual purpose of goodwill towards the community and promoting freight on the RBMN. Steam and diesel locomotives crisscross the system carrying thousands of people throughout the year. The most popular being the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, established in 2005 out of Jim Thorpe that travels into the Lehigh Gorge State Park.
While the Reading and Northern’s fleet of locomotives varies, it’s the more conventional units which make up the roster. Most notably the EMD’s SD40-2 and SD50 diesel locomotives. The railroad is no stranger to historic equipment for both private and public excursions, including an EMD F9A and F7B, three Budd rail diesel cars, and steam locomotives 4-6-2 No. 425 and 4-8-4 No. 2102.
Norfolk Southern is Reading & Northern’s primary interchange partner, making connections at Reading, Taylor, Penobscot, Lehighton, and Temple. NS also operates one through train in each direction on trackage rights over the Lehigh Division. Canadian Pacific Railway’s interchange is at Taylor Yard near Scranton.
Read more about the Reading and Northern in Trains’ April 2019 issue.