Reading Company

Reading Company

Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Reading Company
logo_filename=Reading Herald.png logo_size=150
locale=Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
start_year=1838| end_year=1976
hq_city=Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Reading Company reporting mark|RDG, usually called the Reading Railroad (IPA-en|ˈɹɛdɪŋ), and officially known as the Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway until 1924, operated in southeast Pennsylvania and neighboring states. Contrary to its spelling, it is actually pronounced 'redding'. Until the decline in anthracite loadings in the Coal Region after World War II, it was one of the most prosperous corporations in the United States. However, the reduced coal traffic, coupled with highway competition and short hauls, forced it into bankruptcy in the 1970s. The Reading Company's railroad was merged into Conrail in 1976, but the corporation lasted into 2000 disposing of real estate holdings.

Since the railroad served Atlantic City, New Jersey, "Reading Railroad" is also a property in the popular board game Monopoly.


Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road: 1833–1896

The Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road was chartered April 4, 1833 to build a line between its namesake cities, Philadelphia and Reading, alongside the Schuylkill River. The part from Reading to Norristown opened July 16, 1838, and the full line opened December 9, 1839. Its Philadelphia terminus was at the state-owned Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad on the west side of the Schuylkill River, from which it ran east on the P&C over the Columbia Bridge and onto the city-owned City Railroad to a depot at the southeast corner of Broad and Cherry Streets.

An extension northwest from Reading to Mount Carbon, also on the Schuylkill River, opened on January 13, 1842, allowing the railroad to compete with the Schuylkill Canal. At Mount Carbon it connected with the earlier Mount Carbon Railroad, continuing through Pottsville to several mines, and would be extended to Williamsport. On May 17 of that year, a freight branch from West Falls to Port Richmond on the Delaware River north of downtown Philadelphia opened. Port Richmond later became a very large coal terminal.

On January 1, 1851 the Belmont Plane on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, just west of the Reading's connection, was abandoned in favor of a new bypass, and the portion of the line east of it was sold to the Reading, the only company that would continue using the old route.

The Lebanon Valley Railroad was chartered in 1836 to build from Reading west to Harrisburg. The Reading took it over and began construction in 1854, opening the line in 1856. This gave the Reading a route from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, for the first time competing directly with the Pennsylvania Railroad, which would turn out to be its major rival.

In 1859 the Reading leased the Chester Valley Railroad, providing a branch from Bridgeport west to Downingtown. It had formerly been operated by the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad.

A new Philadelphia terminal opened on December 24, 1859 at Broad and Callowhill Streets, north of the old one at Cherry Street.

The Reading and Columbia Railroad was chartered in 1857 to build from Reading southwest to Columbia on the Susquehanna River. It opened in 1864, using the Lebanon Valley Railroad from Sinking Spring east to Reading. The Reading leased it in 1870.

The Port Kennedy Railroad, a short branch to quarries at Port Kennedy, was leased in 1870. Also that year, the Reading leased the Pickering Valley Railroad, a branch running west from Phoenixville to Byers, which opened in 1871.

The Reading leased the North Pennsylvania Railroad on May 14, 1879. This gave it not only a line from Philadelphia north to Bethlehem but the valuable Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad, the descendant of the National Railway project, giving it a route to New York City in direct competition with the Pennsylvania Railroad's United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company. On the New York end it used the Central Railroad of New Jersey's Jersey City terminal.

On May 29, 1883 the Reading leased the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The Reading eventually bought up a majority of the CNJ's stock as well.

The Port Reading Railroad was chartered in 1890 and opened in 1892, running east off a junction from the New York mainline near Bound Brook to a new port - Port Reading - on the Arthur Kill near Perth Amboy.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad was leased on December 1, 1891 under the presidency of Archibald A. McLeod, but that lease was cancelled on August 8, 1893 when the Reading went into receivership. The Reading also relinquished control of the Central New England Railroad and the Boston and Maine Railroad. Amid the turmoil of the Panic of 1893, Joseph Smith Harris was elected president. Under his leadership, the Reading Company was formed and the P&R was absorbed into it on November 30. [James L. Holton, "The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire". Garrigues House, Publishers, Laury's Station, Pennsylvania. 1989. p. 339.]

Philadelphia and Reading Railway: 1896–1923

Reading Company: 1924–1976

The Reading Company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in 1971. The bankruptcy was a result of dwindling coal shipping revenues and strict government regulations that denied railroads the ability to set competitive prices, required high taxes, and forced the railroads to continue to operate money-losing lines. To further complicate matters, the Reading was forced to continue paying its debts to the Penn Central Railroad, however, Penn Central (also in bankruptcy at the time) was not required to pay its debts to the Reading Company.


On April 1, 1976, the Reading Company sold its current railroad interests to the newly formed Consolidated Railroad Corporation (Conrail), leaving it with 650 real estate assets, some coal properties, and 52 abandoned rights-of-way. It had sold 350 of the real estate tracts by the time it left bankruptcy in 1980. In the early 1980s a Los Angeles lawyer named James Cotter gained control of the corporation through his holding company, the Craig Corporation, and liquidated the rest of its assets to finance his cinema chains in Australia and New Zealand. The company sold its last railroad-related asset, the Reading Terminal Headhouse, in 1993. In 1996 Cotter reorganized the company as Reading Entertainment. The Craig Corporation merged in 2001 with Citadel Holding Corporation, another Cotter company, and became Reading International, Inc.

Company officers

The presidents of the Reading were as follows:

* Elihu Chauncey, 1834–1842
* William F. Emlen, 1842–1843
* John Cryder, 1843–1844
* John Tucker, 1844–1856
* Robert D. Cullen, 1856–1860
* Asa Whitney, 1860–1861
* Charles E. Smith, 1861–1869
* Franklin B. Gowen, 1869–1884
* Frank S. Bond, 1881–1882 (Elected president when Gowen's leadership was contested)
* George DeBenneville Keim, 1884–1887
* Austin Corbin, 1887–1890
* Archibald A. McLeod, 1890–1893
* Joseph Smith Harris, 1893–1901
* George Frederick Baer, 1901–1914
* Theodore Voorhees, 1914–1916
* Agnew Dice, 1916–1932
* Charles H. Ewing, 1932–1935
* Edward W. Scheer, 1935–1944
* Revelle W. Brown, 1944–1952
* Joseph A. Fisher, 1952–1960
* E. Paul Gangewere, 1960–1964
* Charles E. Bertrand, 1964–1976

Popular Culture

Although the Reading was habitually overshadowed by its larger, longer, and more powerful neighbor the Pennsylvania Railroad, it still managed to make a mark on the public consciousness when railroads dominated the national economy and many imaginations. The railroad was a frequent target for the Molly Maguires, and that conflict is reflected in a number of musical and print works.

Perhaps the greatest impact of the Reading on contemporary American imaginations arose from its being included on the Monopoly game board, just five spaces after "Go".

Although many who only knew the Reading through print media (such as the Monopoly board) pronounced its name "REED-ing", it was actually pronounced "REDD-ing".

ee also

*Schuylkill Canal

External links

* [ Reading Company Technical and Historical Society]
* [ North East Rails] (Reading to Pottsville, Pennsylvania and the Anthracite Coal Region of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania)


* [ Railroad History Database]
* [ PRR Chronology]
* [ SEC filings of Reading Entertainment Inc.]
* [ SEC filings of Reading International Inc.]
* [ Reading Railroad, link to L&NE, goes aglimmer any day now] (Pottsville Republican & Herald)
*Coates, Wes (1990). "Electric Trains to Reading Terminal." Flanders (NJ), US: Railroad Avenue Enterprises, Inc.
*Holton, James L. (1989). "The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire". Vol. I: The Nineteenth Century. Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House, Publishers. ISBN 0-9620844-1-7
*Holton, James L. (1992). "The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire" Vol. II: The Twentieth Century. Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House, Publishers. ISBN 0-9620844-3-3
*Reading Company (1958). "Building a Modern Railroad".

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