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Reading Viaduct and City Branch Tunnel

Built and owned by the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, the Reading Viaduct and City Branch Tunnel were constructed in order to remove street level crossings. [1] Both rails carried trains into the centre of the city. The viaduct carried passenger trains while the tunnel carried freight. Together, the 3.5 mile-long rails traverse 55 city blocks.[2] It has been proposed that the now abandoned right-of-ways be turned into green spaces: the viaduct into an elevated park and the tunnel into an underground park. The first phase of construction has been set for 2016.[3]

The Reading Viaduct is an elevated right-of-way with four sets of tracks that run 10 blocks through the city. At one mile long, it has 4.7 acres of land and is made up of a combination of embankment sections bridged by steel structures and arched masonry bridges.[4] The viaduct was built in 1893 as an approach to the new Reading Terminal[5] but service stopped in 1984 when the Centre City Commuter Connection Tunnel was opened.[6]

The City Branch Tunnel was completed in 1900.[7] At 52 feet in width, it accommodated four tracks for the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. The tracks were broken into two pairs: one for the main line and one for storage.[8] Normally rail companies decided to elevate tracks because it was easier but by submerging the tracks, there was no disruption to the space for buildings and roadways at ground level. Building the tunnel was an enormous and complicated project. Rail service had to be able to continue during construction so temporary track had to be laid, there was an immense amount of earth to excavate, the sewers had to be rerouted, bridges had to be built and the railroad even had to demolish its own service facilities to make room.[9] Despite the huge amount of work, the project was finished within three years. Trains carried freight to many companies including the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The last train went through the tunnel in 1992.[10]

 

 

 

[1] “Reading Viaduct,” Wikipedia, July 25, 2015, August 5, 2015, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Viaduct.

[2] Snejana Farberov, “Inside the 19th Century Abandoned Railroad tunnel that could become Philadelphia’s High Line Park,” Mail Online, May 29, 2014, August 5, 2015, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2643030/Inside-19th-century-abandoned-railroad-tunnel-Philadelphias-High-Line-park.html.

[3] “About: Status of the Project,” Friends of the Rail Park, August 5, 2015, www.therailpark.org/about/.

[4] “What is the Reading Viaduct,” Reading Viaduct Project, August 5, 2015, readingviaduct.org/.

[5] “Reading Viaduct,” Wikipedia, July 25, 2015, August 5, 2015, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Viaduct.

[6] “What is the Reading Viaduct,” Reading Viaduct Project, August 5, 2015, readingviaduct.org/

[7] “Reading Viaduct,” Wikipedia, July 25, 2015, August 5, 2015, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Viaduct.

[8] Ron Hoess, “The Reading Railroad’s Turn of the Century Big Dig Part 1,” Philly History, May 7, 2009, August 5, 2015, www.phillyhistory.org/blog/index.php/2009/05/the-reading-railroads-turn-of-the-century-big-dig-part-i/.

[9] Ron Hoess, “The Reading Railroad’s Turn of the Century Big Dig Part 1,” Philly History, May 7, 2009, August 5, 2015, www.phillyhistory.org/blog/index.php/2009/05/the-reading-railroads-turn-of-the-century-big-dig-part-i/.

[10] Ryan Briggs, “Hopes Rise Once Again for Abandoned Philadelphia Rail Line,” Next City, October 13, 2014, August 5, 2015, https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/philly-train-tunnel-abandoned-rail-line-use-park-brt.

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