Posts Tagged ‘Reading Blue Mountain & Northern’

R&N Freight Volume Up 15.4% in 2022

January 11, 2023

Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern, also known as Reading & Northern, said this week that it gained additional freight traffic in 2022.

The Northeast Pennsylvania-based regional railroad said its revenue freight traffic increased by more than 4,000 carloads, or 15.4 percent, compared with 2021 traffic.

On the passenger side, ridership of R&N’s excursion trains increased by 10 percent to more than 250,000 passengers.

In a news release, R&N officials attributed the increase in freight traffic to increased shipping of anthracite coal and the opening of its Tunkhannock frac sand terminal.

The war in Ukraine helped boost coal traffic as buyers affected by an embargo on Russian goods and raw materials turned to other markets. R&N officials said eastern Ukraine is a major international source of anthracite that has been disrupted by the war.

Coal traffic at R&N rose by 2,624 carloads, almost 40 percent, with much of this additional traffic going to international markets.

R&N said it has begun moving some coal via manifest freights instead of traditional unit trains. That has ended the need for Norfolk Southern to provide motive power for unit trains bound to and from export terminals.

To help make coal shipping more efficient, R&N has acquired more than 550 rapid discharge cars for the export market.

Also driving R&N’s coal business has been an increase in domestic coal shipments as more electric arc furnace facilities expanded and/or began operations. That included plants in Texas and Ontario,

The war in Ukraine also has stimulated demand for Marcellus Shale gas, which the Tunkhannock Marcellus Shale terminal has been able to meet. That facility opened in 2021.

Other commodities that R&N moves include forest products, plastics, food products, metals and chemicals.

On the passenger said, R&N said it will expand its excursion train operations this year.

There will be more trains operating out of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and that operation has become year around. Excursions from the Wilkes Barre/Scranton area will launch from a station in Pittston.

In 2022, R&N acquired three additional additional rail diesel cars and one passenger coach.

R&N Offering New Class of Service

August 12, 2022

The interior of the new Crown Class coach on the Reading & Norther. (R&N photo)

Pennsylvania regional railroad Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern has added a new class of seating for its tourist train operations.

It has converted a former Illinois Central Railroad heavyweight passenger car into “Crown Class” service for its Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway excursions.

Car No. 450 has been named the Pagoda after the seven-story Reading Pagoda near Reading, Pennsylvania, that was built in the early 20th century.

In a news release, R&N said it acquired the car at an auction of the assets of the bankrupt Iowa Pacific and its shop workers have given it a thorough cleaning and installed new seat upholstering.

Most R&N passenger cars feature open air seating, but the Pagoda has air conditioning, added this year by railroad contractors and employees.

R&N Hit Freight, Passenger Records in 2021

January 11, 2022

Pennsylvania regional railroad Reading & Northern said this week that it set records in 2021 for freight revenue, freight traffic and excursion passenger ridership.

The railroad said freight revenue was up 10 percent compared with 2020 with forest products rising by 1,000 carloads to almost 11,500 carloads last year.

R&N officials attributed the growth in forest products to increased demand for corrugated packaging stemming from increases of e-commerce activity.

Also posting gains were ancillary revenues related to warehouse and trans-loading operations.

The R&N said its movement of Pennsylvania-mined anthracite coal remains strong with much of it being moved to electric arc furnace steel making plants.

The railroad serves four existing steel mills with six new mill set to come online. In some instances the coal is transloaded to trucks to be taken to the mills.

The growth of steel mill coal has offset a significant loss of export coal business, R&N officials said.

Other commodities that R&N said have bolsters it traffic base include shipments of food products, plastics metals, chemicals and minerals.

The railroad said those commodities total nearly 10,000 carloads a year.

Excursion train ridership in 2021 was 225,175, a gain of 75,0000. R&N plans to begin excursion service this year from the Wilkes Barre/Scranton area out of Pittston.

Steam locomotive 2102 is expected to begin revenue service this year. The railroad has purchased 13 additional passenger cars to use in excursion service.

Reminiscent of the Illinois Central

September 27, 2021

Norfolk Southern manifest freight 14N had something quite out of the ordinary in its consist when it left Elkhart, Indiana, on Sunday afternoon en route to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh.

Tacked on the rear were two former Iowa Pacific passenger cars reportedly en route to the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern, a Pennsylvania regional railroad.

The cars are painted in a livery inspired by the orange and chocolate brown of Illinois Central passenger trains, which reflected the interests of former IP CEO Ed Ellis.

The observation-type car is named Lookout Mountain and lettered “Rio Grande Scenic,” one of a number of passengers operations once operated by IP.

The cars were sold in the wake of financial difficulties that led to IP filing for bankruptcy protection in March 2021. As part of that proceeding, the trustees of IP began selling the company’s fleet of passenger equipment.

The train is shown at the west end of the CP 367 interlocking in Waterloo, Indiana.

RBM&N Sets Fall Foliage Excursions

September 30, 2020

Reading Blue Mountain & Northern will run fall foliage excursions on weekends starting Oct. 3.

The trains will operate with rail diesel car equipment on weekends to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, from Reading Outer Station, Port Clinton, and Tamaqua.

Tickets are $39 per person if boarding at Reading Outer Station and Port Clinton, and $24 per person from Tamaqua.

There will be a four-hour layover in Jim Thorpe where the railroad said passengers can explore the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

Tickets information is available by calling 610-562-2102 or going to the tourist railroad’s website at

In an unrelated development, the RBM&N’s parent company Reading & Northern Railroad has hired Eric Peters as vice president of transportation and safety.

He will succeed the retiring Thomas Cook. Peters currently works at Norfolk Southern, which he joined 14 years ago as a management trainee.

Peters is now the NS superintendent of the Harrisburg Division.

In a news release, R&N said it interchanges with NS’s Harrisburg Division and Peters therefore has a good perspective of the regional railroad’s operations.

R&N is based in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania, and serves 70 customers in nine eastern Pennsylvania counties.

RBN&N To Appeal Court Loss

July 11, 2020

A Pennsylvania short line railroad has vowed to appeal a court decision throwing out its lawsuit against the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority.

The Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern sued the authority over its handling of proposals from would-be operators for five rail lines that the authority owns in central Pennsylvania.

RBM&N submitted a proposal but was ranked last by the authority among the bidders.

The railroad then filed suit, contending that the evaluation process was designed to eliminate it from consideration.

Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor rejected the RBM&N’s argument in 2018 and a three-judge Commonwealth Court upheld that decision earlier this week.

In his suit, RBM&N challenged the rail authority’s structure, organization and expansions.

“Reading and Northern continues to believe that it is improper and illegal for government-owned rail authorities to compete against privately-owned companies in handling rail freight business,” said RBM&N owner Andy Muller Jr., in a statement.

An attorney for the railroad said issues it want to bring up on appeal include the refusal of the trial court to allow the presentation of certain evidence that RBM&N said would favor it.

The attorney said the appeals court failed to address that issue in its ruling.

RBM&N will seek a review by the full Commonwealth Court bench of of the three-judge panel’s ruling.

3 Short Lines Lauded for Business Development

July 10, 2020

The efforts of three Midwest short line railroads to grow new business have been honored by a trade organization representing the short line industry.

The three, which were recognized for their efforts to develop new business, are the Ann Arbor Railroad, the Indiana Rail Road and the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern.

They along with a Delaware-based carrier were winners of the 2020 Business Development Awards from the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

The Ann Arbor Railroad’s efforts to create an auto distribution center grew out of an analysis of auto sales and production trends in Toledo.

That review found a need for additional capacity in the finished vehicle distribution network, particularly for sport utility vehicles and trucks.

The Ann Arbor created a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to build a distribution center in Toledo that opened in time for the July 2019 launch of the Jeep Gladiator model.

The Silver Creek distribution facility was the Ann Arbor’s fifth vehicle distribution center in Toledo.

Located on 20 acres, the facility has a 12-car rail spot and can accommodate a 90-car autorack train in support of FCA’s Toledo and Detroit assembly production with a daily 1,800-car throughput capacity.

In 2018, the Ann Arbor began using its Temperance yard in Toledo as a dedicated finished vehicle distribution center.

The yard had been used for transloading and mechanical projects but lacked significant volume.

Ann Arbor owner Watco said the distribution center played a key role in reducing FCA’s costs and maintaining its vehicles in Toledo.

That enabled work to remain in Toledo that FCA might have moved elsewhere.

The Indiana Rail Road was recognized for its work with an Indianapolis-based trucking company, Venture Logistics, to build a 406,000 square-foot distribution center in Indianapolis.

Opened in 2016, the facility with its 58 truck docks and 15 indoor rail car spots, has doubled its volume since 2017 to 2,600 carloads.

INRD CEO Pete Mills said the warehouse is a valuable asset in an era in which Class 1 railroads are practicing precision scheduled railroading and seeking to turn freight cars quickly to avoid demurrage payments.

“We can provide service six days a week and turn equipment fast with no demurrage bills,” Mills said.

The dry warehouse initially handled mostly rolled or cut stock paper, but has since expanded into food and building products, and engines and metals.

Venture provided $20 million to build the warehouse while INRD spent less than $1 million for track infrastructure.

The warehouse business has enabled INRD to broaden its traffic base beyond coal, which for many years was the short line’s primary traffic.

“We love coal, but that business is in jeopardy,” Mills said.

In Pennsylvania, the RBN&N undertook a project of providing more transloading services as a way to better serve existing shippers and attract new ones.

The railroad created new transloading facilities in West Hazleton and Ransom, and launched a trucking company that serves all four of its transload facilities.

These facilities enabled RBM&N to pick up 900 new carloads last year, which helped the short line handle a record 34,000-plus carloads for a year-over-year traffic growth of 6 percent.

RBMN purchased a former Proctor and Gamble warehouse in Ransom in October 2018. At 80,000 square feet, it’s three times larger than the railroad’s previous transload facility in the area.

CEO Any Muller said his company prefers not to lease facilities because “a lease is just throwing dollars out the window.”

He said the RBM&N has been transloading for 30 years “and it can be a big part of business, but it’s hard to accomplish. There is lots of competition.”

The Ransom facility serves five customers, handling bales of wood pulp.

The West Hazleton facility , which opened in November 2019, handles steel coils for one customer but could generate 440 carloads per year.

The short line created its own trucking company to serve its transload facilities, which enables it to provide customers with timelier and more seamless services.

RBM&N Helps with Reading 2100 Restoration

July 5, 2020

The Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad has donated a new fire door casting to the group restoring Reading 4-8-4 No. 2100.

Members of the American Steam Railroad, which is restoring the T-1 at a former Baltimore & Ohio roundhouse in Cleveland, journeyed recently to Port Clinton, Pennsylvania, to accept the donation.

The RBM&N is itself restoring another former Reading T-1, No. 2102.

Reading & Northern, which owns the RBM&N, had the new fire door cast by a foundry located near Port Clinton.

“The Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern believes in supporting groups like these, to continue to educate the public about railroads,” Mike Fisher, general manager for RBM&N passenger operations, said in a statement.

The statement noted that RBM&N has provided assistance to other groups including the owners of Central of New Jersey 0-6-0 No. 113, the Colebrookdale Railroad in Boyerstown, Pennsylvania; the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, which owns Nickel Plate Road No. 765 in 2015; and National Railway Historical Society chapters in eastern Pennsylvania.

Amtraking East in Search of a Reading T-1

June 30, 2020

The excursion train crosses the Reading’s concrete viaduct across the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, on May 21, 1988.

My spring vacation in 1988 began with a drive to Canton in the wee hours of the morning to catch Amtrak’s eastbound Broadway Limited to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

My sister and brother in law were living in Gettysburg and they picked me up in early afternoon.

My focus was an excursion trip sponsored by the Blue Mountain & Reading from Temple to Gettysburg with Reading 4-8-4 No. 2102 running all the way on ex-Reading rails, recreating one of the early 1960s Reading Rambles.

At Belt Line Junction, No. 2102 took the Conrail mainline to Harrisburg then to Mt Holly Springs, where it switched to the Gettysburg Railroad, which was the ex-Reading branch, the rest of the trip to Gettysburg.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

At Belt Line Junction in Reading.

A wider angle view of the Reading T-1 crossing the river in downtown Harrisburg.

Now on the Gettysburg Railroad at Hunters Run.

No. 2102 stalled shortly after I made this shot at Goodyear. Gettysburg motive power had to be brought down to assist the 2102 and train to Gettysburg.

Since I was on a “T-1 high ,” I drove to Baltimore the next day to the B&O Museum. Reading 2101 is shown as it appeared when it was the power in the East of the American Freedom Train.

3 Short Lines Win Business Development Awards

May 5, 2020

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association said that short line railroads based in Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania have won an annual Business Development Award.

The trade group said that to win the award a railroad must demonstrate one or more of the following: Utilization of the railroad’s unique operating characteristics to deliver value; partnership with other development authorities, Class I’s or companies; delivering economic success to both the railroad and the community it serves.

Honored were the Ann Arbor Railroad, the Indiana Rail Road and the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad.

The Ann Arbor was selected for its analysis of the auto industry’s sales and production trends, coupled with the identification of an under-utilized facility in Toledo which led to a partnership opportunity with Fiat Chrysler to create a new distribution center for finished automobiles—the Silver Creek Vehicle Distribution and Homologation Center.

Construction of the facility began in 2018, in time for the Jeep Gladiator launch in July 2019.

The facility supports Fiat Chrysler’s Toledo and Detroit assembly production with an 1,800-car through-put capacity per day, has created 102 new jobs and has helped stabilize the local economy.

The INRD forged a partnership with Indianapolis-based trucking company Venture Logistics to build a 406,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, rail-served distribution center in Indianapolis.

The warehouse has 58 truck docks and 15 indoor rail car spots, and is the most modern rail-served facility in central Indiana.

In its first full year of operation in 2017, INRD moved more than 1,200 carloads into the warehouse and volume more than doubled to 2,600 carloads in 2019.

RBM&N opened two new transload facilities in 2019, in West Hazelton and Ransom, Pennsylvania.

That same year it brought the trucking piece of transloading in-house at all four of its transload locations.

The addition of truck-loading services provides a competitive advantage over other operators. Thetransloading efforts have resulted in nearly 900 carloads in 2019, contributing to the company’s overall carload traffic growth of 6 percent.

RBM&N handled a record-breaking 34,000-plus carloads in 2019.