Wilmington to New Castle

The New Castle Industrial Cutoff

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The New Castle Heritage Trail runs atop the former railroad grade through New Castle, DE. Photo by Joe Sharretts.

This 6-mile long branch went between the Wilmington waterfront and New Castle, DE. It was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in order to provide local service to customer along the route, and to provide a cutoff around the south side of Wilmington.

The Cutoff included a small branch line that accessed New Castle Airport, called the New Castle County Airport Line. It originally started out as its own line, owned by the Reading Railroad, and served as a trolley and frieght line that helped build northwest New Castle and the airport back in the early 1900s. It was an independent company having rights to operate on the Cutoff proper. Operations along this branch ceased in 1975.

Otherwise, the line was abandoned in two sections. The northern section was abandoned first in 1972. The southern part was abandoned in 1984; the tracks were removed in the mid-90s. The right-of-way is still noticeable and track actually lies under expanding neighborhoods.

A very small portion of the southern end of the line is utilized as the New Castle Heritage Trail.

Thanks to Joe Sharretts and Christian B. for contributing information about this route.

2 memories from the 1965-1969 era

1) 1965 - the line to the airport crossed Rt 141 - the approx location can be determined from the satellite photo. I remember how rough the crossing was, especially trying to eat an ice cream that we bought at the Tastee Freeze further up Rt 141, toward Rt 13

2) 1968-1969 - I remember seeing a long line of stored REA express cars on the line that ran along the Petrillo Bros. concrete property/quarry between I-295 and I-495 (not built back then). The cars had been sitting there some time, judging from the wheel rust. Also picked up 2 dozen green glass insulators from the fallen pole line. One was marked "PRR" on the top

Fran Giacoma
Lewes, DE
3/21/2013

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Is this the line that had the strange swing bridge just near the Northeast Corridor and it passed under I-95? It had a tall wooden support and the bridge would twist one way or the other - I think.

I remember seeing the bridge while driving to Archmere in Claymont from Elkton ('73-75);or when I took the train from Newark to Claymont.

I also remember seeing it in the mid-seventies featured in Model Railroader Magazine.

John Manley
High Springs, FL
6/30/2015

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I believe this line was also the main passenger line to south Delaware and the Delmarva peninsula. In the early 1950's I remember taking the train from the Wilmington PRR station through New Castle to Rehoboth Beach. On the 1940's vintage topo maps the still active freight line from the part of Wilmington south and east of the Christina River to New Castle called the "New Castle Cutoff" and the main freight line through Wilmington that leaves the actual main near Edgemoor Road and rejoins it south of Wilmington referred to as the "Shellpot Cutoff". The line described herein "New Castle Industrial Cutoff" was in passenger days probably considered the main line to the peninsula and was once double tracked to and beyond New Castle.

Toby Dills
Fairhaven, MA
6/23/2018

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