Reading Viaduct

September 24th, 2012 by


Chartered in 1833, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was constructed to provide service between the two namesake cities following roughly parallel to the Schuylkill River.   Full service to Philadelphia began in 1839 operating out of a depot near Broad and Cherry Streets.  This was replaced in 1859 with a new terminal at Broad and Callowhill.  As the railroad grew in the late 1880's, expanding to Harrisburg and leasing lines that allowed connections to New York City, the P&R was in need of yet another new terminal.

In the meantime the Reading's arch-rival, the Pennsylvania RR, constructed their palatial new Broad Street Station in 1881, with plans in place to more that double it's size.  Finally in 1893, the Reading passenger terminal was completed at 12th and Market streets serving commuters and long distance travelers with a farmers market on the ground floor (a condition of sale as the site was previously a market for decades) and a train shed that was-for a brief time-the largest in the world.

Long distance passenger rail declined after WWII in the wake of improved road and air travel and pretty soon all that was left at 12th and Market were commuter trains serving Philadelphia's suburbs.  By 1984, the commuter services of both the Reading and the PRR were being operated by SEPTA's Regional Rail division.  In November of that year, a major milestone was reached when, after decades of planning and construction, ex Reading trains were diverted into the new Center City Commuter tunnel that joins in with the former PRR's Suburban station (itself built to replace broad Street Station).  Now instead of two terminals, trains can now run through from the ex-PRR side to the ex-reading side and vice versa seamlessly.

The historic terminal was eventually remodeled into part of Pennsylvania Convention Center, with the train shed housing meeting rooms and the "head house" (former P&R headquarters) converted into hotel rooms.

That leaves the section of former track stretching south from Fairmount Ave where the line shifts over to the new tunnel approach, to Vine street....

These were taken in January 2012.  The tracks have since been ripped up for scrapping.  Recent proposals have called for turning this stretch into an elevated park similar to the High Line in NYC.  Whether this will become a reality only time can tell....

2 responses to “Reading Viaduct”

  1. Digital Bath Salts says:

    1990 / 91-ish… I think I saw this place via Amtrak… Sane Smith Espo had it nailed then …

  2. bigtakeover says:

    you guys missed the other side of it. theres a section from the art museum all the way to broad st. lemme get on the forum if you want more info

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