Wilmington to Kentmere Station

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  • States: Delaware   
  • Railroads: RRR   

The Kentmere Branch

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The right-of-way near Rockford Park. Photo by Joe Sharretts, August 2006.

This abandoned railway line was built in the late 1800s to connect the Reading Railroad's mainline at Wilmington with various industries near Brandywine Creek. (A bridge on the route shows a date of 1883.) These industries included the "DuPont Experimental Station", a black powder plant at Hagley and some textile mills. The line also served various passenger stops along the way, with the last one on the line being Kentmere Station, east of Rockford Park.

The line was actually composed of two small spurs; one that went northeastwards to the textile mills and the experimental station, the other went east and southeast to Kentmere Station. The lines branched shortly after passing under DE Route 52. No physical evidence of the spur to the mills remains, and it is not marked on topographical maps.

The entire line (including both spurs) was abandoned in the 1950s. Evidence of the former line still exists: a tunnel on the route (Delaware's only railroad tunnel), a bridge over Rising Sun Lane, and tree-lined clearings are all that is left.

See also the Brandywine Industrial Track.

Thanks to Joe Sharretts for contributing information about this route.

>No physical evidence of the spur to the mills remains, and it is not marked on topographical maps.

This is incorrect. Near Brandywine Falls road, you can see the remnants of the bridge that went from the mill towards the Hagley Museum; the spur was likely located at the mill itself, where there are two separate tracks. As both were used by steam trains whose coal spray has prevented growth, the pathways are still remarkably intact, complete with railroad ties and the occasional stretch of steel rail. The rail was very well-built, as there is remarkably little washout. The State has even taken notice and left a gap in the railing at the intersection of Main street and New Bridge Rd., or slightly to the left of picture #4, along what I suppose is the lower of the two railways (I can only assume, though I have seen no rails or ties down there, that due to the perfectly flat geography and ample soot that it, too, was a railway line from Hagley to the the mill).

It also seems the higher railroad may likely have split, with one continuing towards the Hagley museum, crossing Brecks road, as I found some evidence of reinforcement for a spur heading in that direction, too far to match what the map here insinuates.

I will walk along the tracks near Barley Park later, to try and discern the exact point at which the split takes place. I thought the tracks passed through Kennett Pike near Brecks Rd., following the row of trees visible on satellite view, but apparently that is just creek. If it follows the path I think it does and looks intact, it will make an excellent conversion into a bike trail, allowing the preservation of the railroad bridge and tunnel.

Joel Schwaber
Arden, Delaware, DE
5/12/2012

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The Kentmere line, the branch that continues east and south along the Brandywine was active into the 1960s. It serviced the Joesph Bancroft mill, most of which is abandoned and stretches for a distance along the Brandywine. Some track is visible adjacent to what looks like the former boilerhouse where a paved hiking route starts/ends. You can find it by looking for the tall chimney. There was an active Reading agency at Newbridge, at the foot of Newbridge Rd. adjacent to where the tracks cross Newbridge. There were one or two teamtracks at the small "station." The area is pretty compact and , with overgrowth, it's hard to imagine that it actually existed. Northwest of Newbridge Rd. the line crossed an estate which built a terrace on top of the right-of-way - it's still in place and one end of it is visible from Newbridge Rd. The Bancroft facility was a huge cotton finishing mill with dying operations. Helpful historical markers and pictures are posted along the aforementioned hiking trail which crosses the Brandywine from about the boilerhouse and travels down the far embankment. The Bancroft line used pretty hefty rail so I imagine there was considerable traffic at one point. Just a guess but one commodity may have been coal for the boiler and perhaps (total guess) tank cars of dye chemicals.

Sandy Balick
Brooklyn, ny, NY
8/21/2013

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RDG Kentmere & Hagley Branch

https://www.facebook.com/gregory.pawelski.9/media_set?set=a.813123768807246.1073741915.100003288929249&type=3

Gregory D. Pawelski
Wernersville, PA
1/3/2016

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A minor correction, the Reading Mainline ran between Philadelphia and Pottsville, PA. The line the Kentmere Branch came off of was the Wilminton And Northern Branch of the Reading Company running between Birdsboro, PA and Wilmington, DE. The W&N is active between its junction with the ex-Pennsylvania Railroad Mainline now Amtrak's Keystone Corridor in Coatesville, PA, and Wilminton.

Jason M.
Boyertown, PA
1/3/2016

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I know this is a "self standing" tunnel, but wouldn't the underpass under 95 on the line in the newark heading towards bear be considered a tunnel also? It's not a bridge, it's more so a hollowed out tunnel.

Chris
Wilmington, DE
3/29/2016

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/c31
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