The Phoenixville Branch
Note: Part of this line is not officially abandoned, but out of service.
Built in 1883, this connecting line branched from the Pennsylvania Railroad mainline at Frazer and meandered 6.2 miles northeast to Phoenixville, where it connected with another PRR mainline. Within Phoenixville, the line actually crosses over the PRR mainline before connecting to it south of town.
The line was abandoned in various segments at different times: The southern portion in Frazer in 1941; the middle segment of the route was abandoned in 1950; the segment that branched from Frazer was abandoned in 1975; the remainder of the line was abandoned in 2004. Of these, only the tracks from the final abandoned segment still remain.
Both former PRR mainlines at Frazer and Phoenixville are still in use today by Norfolk Southern.
Thanks to Joe Sharretts for contributing information.
|Docket: 13507||12/23/1941||Section: 1|
|App. for permission to abandon a portion of Phoenixville Branch from Devault Station to Swedsford Road Station, all in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a distance of 3 miles.|
|Length: 3.000 miles||Citation: 249 ICC 567|
We are putting together a history of Charlestown. My assignment is the ice dam on Route 29. When was it built by the American Ice Company? Are they still in business? I looked up a dozen of Am. Ice but none seem to be the one that owned the dam. I'm looking for history of dam, the conveyor that carried the ice over Route 29 onto the train that then took the ice to Philadelphia. I'd like as much info as you can tell me about the dam. i know it blew out in 1942 and was owned by Frank Foster at that time, it is now owned by Charlestown Township, we have a nature tail there next to Pickering Creek. Please help and you'll go down in hostory. Thanks,
Actually, the remaining 10-mile segment between Phoenixville and Devault is officially "out of service." Thankfully, NS has no plans to abandon the line outright, as it is being considered for new Greenline passenger service between Oaks and Paoli. (http://www.citizensforthetrain.com/)
The portion of the line north out of Frazer was abandoned well before 1975. As a child in the mid '60s I used to visit a friend of mine along PA 401 (they lived adjacent to where the line had a grade crossing) and the tracks were long gone at that point.
The map above is highlighting the Reading Company connecting track betweem the PRR's Devault line and the Reading's Chester Valley line. The line in question was not a branch, but rather a connecting loop between the Schuylkill Valley line and the Main Line. The 1941 abandonment severed the line between Sedley Road/Devault Station and Swedesford Road Station in Frazer, PA. Hope this helps.
The tracks at the grade crossing at PA Route 29 and Charlestown Road were removed in late 2010 or early 2011.
This line from Phoenixville to Paoli is not in use right now but still belong to NSRR I have walked a small portion of it. Today it is vert overgrown and impassable.
This line was a big part of my life as a kid growing up around Pville. From the trestle bridge over 29 to the steel mill my brother and friends used to hop the train at Bader's market crossing at Charlestown Road and Pothouse Road, riding past the Little League Fields down to DeSanno Field. One side note, the bridge that used to cross 202 near the terminus at Cedar Hollow (Unisys/Vanguard) was recently removed during the widening of 202.
i am writing this post to find out what is being done with this line.is it going to be a rail to trail project or is it going to be an eyesore for years to come?does anyone know for sure?please let me know because i think norfolk/southern must believe in pipe dreams.this line will never be resurrected and should either be taken out permanently or flipped to a rail to trail project.anyone with any information about this rail line please let me know.thank you.
ANY IDEA WHERE THE FRAZER TRAIN STATION USED TO BE?
both railroad stations were removed many years ago.let me know if any rail or equipment is still in place and where.thanks
We are talking two different branches from two different railroads from what I can gather from talking to retired railroad guys from the area, this line is actually the PRR's Phoenixville Branch and also the Reading's Cedar Hollow Branch off the Chester Valley. The Phoenixville Branch came off the P&T just west of Dale Interlocking where the Trenton Cutoff begins. I found it named as such on a Penn Central interlocking diagram for Dale and Glen from 1971. The Phoenixville Branch bridge across Rt. 202 was removed for the Route 30 Exton Bypass construction.
The line going from the quarry near Devault over to the connection with the RDG's Chester Valley Branch at Cedar Hollow was actually a Reading RR Branch from what these rail guys told me -- known to some as the Cedar Hollow Branch or the Cedar Hollow Industrial Track. Thus, the PRR fed this quarry from the Devault side by way of their Phoenixville Branch while the RDG fed it from the other side with the Cedar Hollow spur off the Chester Valley. There was some connection between the two lines in the quarry complex but it was not a through-line at least towards the end, it could very well have been in earlier times to form an interchange loop.
The Cedar Hollow Branch bridge over Route 202 in the Route 29/401 area is to be refitted as part of the widening for a recreational trail -- they are replacing a few of the missing Chester Valley Branch bridges in the Chesterbrook area for a trail as well. The Cedar Hollow Branch went out in the mid-1980's.
I was in Kimberton recently and saw the sad-looking bridge over Route 23 on the edge of Phoenixville - track intact but the trees and grass are taking the line over rather quickly and I'd say that it's impassible at this point.
thanks for the information.if you can find out,wherew and when are they possibly putting a trail in because i heard they are thinking of reopening up passenger service on part of the line.which leads me to believe the cedar hollow line should be separate.please let me know if you hear anything down the line thank you.
While walking down the abondoned Chester Valley Rail line, now rails to trails. I found the remains of what appears to be a bridge, this lies a short distance from where Bacton Hill road crosses the trail. Is this where the Frazer branch crossed?
i think i saw the same bridge you mentioned on the map.if it is abandoned it should be removed.do you not agree?keep in touch and let me know if you hear anything concerning the rail line.
Fairview Tunnel photo caption and pin location on map are incorrect. Black Rock Tunnel is a different tunnel nearby and is still active.
i totally agree with you about where the tunnel is because i do alot of fishing down there and i do know which line is active and which is inactive.as for reactivation,montgomery county must be smoking crack because the rail line has been inactive so long it is basically impossible for rail to be feasable in that area.no customer base to speak of that i know.if anybody hears anything about reactivation of this rail line from oaks up to phoenixville please let me know.keep in touch.
as far as i know, the rail line crosses the schuykill in oaks then runs up to phoenixville crossing the schuykill again into phoenixville.as for the comment i do apologize for the comment about doing drugs.the idea i did hear about restoring service is basically beyond anybody's comprehension because it sounds to me like a huge undertaking.as for the line below phoenixville it should be turned into a trail for everybodys benefit recreational and otherwise.if anyone has input please let me know.keep in touch because at one time this was a major rail line and should be preserved.we will see what happens.
Here are some corrections.
The mainline it crosses over near the Schuylkill River is actually a Reading mainline not the PRR Mainline, and at this point it is actually the Schuylkill Branch coming from Mont Clare and Oaks which was PRR Mainline to Reading Pa. The Frasier Branch actually connected to the Schuylkill Branch near Phoenix Iron Works.
The Fairview and Blackrock Tunnels are two completely separate tunnels. The Blackrock Tunnel is still used to this day and was a Reading Mainline tunnel. The Fairview Tunnel is also known as The Phoenixville Tunnel and is a few miles away and very overgrown. It was part of the Schuylkill Branch
The tunnel's actual location is: 40.142156,-75.52754 ( Coordinates are centered over the tunnel where it runs under Filmore st. ) [if you put these coordinates into google maps it should pull it right up.]
Also here is a map from 1893 shows a good amount of these Eastern Pa rail lines on this site and where they ran.
Phoenixville Tunnel (Fairview Tunnel) pictures
Wikipedia article about Phoenixville
The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Schuylkill Branch also served Phoenixville. The line enters town crossing the Schuylkill River from neighboring Mont Clare on a high bridge, north of French Creek. The line passes along the north side of the former Phoenix Iron Works site. The station on Vanderslice Street, west of Gay Street, no longer exists. Past the Works, the line splits. The main fork passed through the now abandoned Phoenixville Tunnel, which partially collapsed in the 1990s, and continued toward Reading. The other fork continued along the Pickering Creek Valley and used to connect with the Main Line at Paoli. A section of the line remains in place, and is currently known as the Phoenixville Industrial track (also owned by NS). Passenger service ended in 1928 and regular freight service on the line ceased in 2004. During the 2008 replacement of the Gay Street Bridge, the line was severed at its crossing of Main Street and that rail bridge raised a few feet to allow emergency vehicles to reach the north side of town.
I hope this helps. clear up some issues
thank you for the information.it is of course veryu useful.i never knew there was another tunnel until i looked at the site and saw the picture.it does not look like it is accessable to anyone so i would not even bother trying to gain access.would not hurt to look,though.as for the rail line itself,according to the map there is still alot of rail,equipment and of course abandoned bridges remaining from phoenixville down towards frazer.what will become of all this is anyone's guess.i did hear a while back there was rumors of reactivating the rail line from oaks up to phoenixville.of course like i said alot of work would have to be done before it becomes reality.we will see.keep in touch.
I have read that some people are hoping to open the rails along the Frazer branch all the way to oaks as something called the Greenline to provide access from the main line/paoli thorndale to connect with the Perkiomen Branch tracks at Oaks via the Phoenixville Industrial Track (Frazer and Schuylkill Branches). this would provide a direct station to the Convention Center in Oaks.
living where i do i do not hear about nothing in montgomery or chester county unless it is major.i did hear about the septa rumor and decided it will take care of itself.as for putting a trail from oaks to phoenixville would be a great idea i think don't you.keep in touch and let me know if and what you hear.
Based on your comments, I've made corrections to this page to more accurately reflect the extents of this particular branch line, and I've moved the former Reading Railroad branch line to another page (see http://a-r.us/Cedar_Hollow_Branch).
Thanks for all of your input!
Not to be a pest Greg but in the caption for the tunnel you still have it referred to as the "The Black Rock Tunnel". It is actually the Phoenixville Tunnel. On the old maps that I have looked at this branch is called the Frazer branch as well as the Phoenixville Branch.
Where this line comes into Phoenixville after crossing the Schuylkill River is actually the Schuylkill Branch which turns up towards the fairview tunnel/Phoenixville Tunnel. The main line it crosses right over the river is Reading RR main line not PRR mainlines. It says its PRR mainlines on the caption.
thanks for the information guys.as of the current time,i still have not heard of any plans for the frazer to phoenixville line.whether it be turned into a trail or reactivated remains to be seen.if anybody hears anything concerning this rail line please let me know.keep in touch.
NS was in negotiations with Chester County to sell the line for use as the proposed Greenline light rail system between Oaks and Paoli. The project died in 2012 when grant money for a study was not obtained. NS has no plans to abandon or restore the line.
thanks paul for that info on the rail line.since the grant money ran out like you said makes you wonder what n/s will do with the rail line.like I said,thanks for the info and keep in touch.
I made a FB Album just for the PRR Phoenixville Branch.
I just moved to P-ville, and have traipsed around through the thickets that have grown on the abandoned lines. I am still trying to figure this one out! As Andrew noted on 11/17/13 the old maps hae this as both "Phoenixville Branch and Fraser Branch. The original line was the Phoenixville and West Chester RR 3rd link between Glen Loch (Fraser PRR main line) to Phoenixville. Somewhere to the southeast of P-ville this line connected with the old Pickering Valley RR. You can make ont the spot on google maps above PA 113. The Pickering Valley split off somewhere just before French Creek and stayed along the south side of P-ville, while the (shows up as both P ickering and P-ville branch crossed French Creek headed towards the east on the north side of Phoenix Steel. Somehow the p-ville Branch also headed north towards the Fairview tuinnel. Egads! Help!!
James. Besides clicking on my url address for my Phoenixville Branch FB page, click on this url address for my Picking Valley Branch FB page.
The Devault Line is currently being investigated by Charlestown Township and Chester County as a possible Rails to Trails project. The Feasibility study is ongoing, and the third public hearing on the matter will be held later this spring, most likely at the Great Valley Middle School. As mentioned, the line is not abandoned, but was registered as out of service by NS with the NTSB in 2007. Part of what is on this map is no longer present, as the existing rail ends close to the GV Corp. Center, east of the GV Middle/Highschool. Additionally, two existing trails projects are being worked on which could link this line to the Chester Valley trail by heading east around the flooded quarry - most importantly, the Patriot's Path. The old rail bridge over rt 202 was raised as a part of the 202 expansion project with this connector in mind. This is last year's feasibility study announcement, this spring's meeting is not yet scheduled: http://www.charlestown.pa.us/misc_docs/devault_trail_feasibility.pdf
Lastly, this project was called the Candy Line R2T project (http://thecandyline.blogspot.com/2014/03/winter-2014-update-with-grant-from.html) in the past, referencing American Sweeteners inc, an old client of the line. Due to a naming conflict with another R2T project, the Candi Line, this project is now being referred to simply as the Norfolk Southern Devault Line.
The other connector trail on the southern end of the Devault Line would be the Warner Spur. See http://connectthecircuit.org/ and find the vertical red line near Phoenixville to see how they would all connect.
Chris:Let me know what is going to be done with the possible trail.Very interesting.Never heard of this.
I have two questions that I suspect you guys would find interesting. Firstly, how high is the highest point on the trestle over 322 in Downingtown? Second, how high is the viaduct over the Schuylkill river in phoenixville that was part of the PRR Schuylkill Valley Branch? I made a bet with a friend that the trestle in Downingtown was almost twice as high as the viaduct in Phoenixville. Any answers?
Chris,i put a response on the Philadelphia and thorndale site for you.Check it out.
By the way,chris this rail line does not have either the branywine viaduct which is on the Philadelphia and thorndale line and the schuykill river viaduct being on the perkiomen line.Just figured I would let you know.
i believe it is actually on this branch, unless we are talking about a different viaduct structure. The current Phoenixville industrial line is a combination of the old Phoenixville and west chest branch (which ran from Phoenixville to frazer) and the schuylkill branch (which ran through oaks to Phoenixville and onward to reading). That being said, the viaduct that runs over the schuylkill river in Phoenixville near produce junction (which is the one I was referring to in my first post) was part of the prr schuylkill branch, now Phoenixville industrial line. The perkiomen branch is a different line altogether that started in oaks after crossing the schuylkill river from the rdg mainline. I rest my case.
Chris,actually we are talking about the same viaduct because it does hook up with the phoenixville branch in Phoenixville.It is listed though on the perkiomen branch which I didn't mention.i just wanted to know if you will measure these 2 structures because I am curious of the height.As I said on the Philadelphia and thorndale branch measure over water,not the roadway being that most roadways are raised anyway.Also be very careful,especially with the brandywine viaduct which I think you are talking about.Thanks again for responding.
I believe he is actually referring to the concrete bridge that heads into phoenixville (similar to the one now used as another entrance to the expo center from pawlings rd.) and not the old reading bridge in Oakes. PRR crossed the river and over top of the reading mainline closer to downtown phoenixville.
Andrew,that is the one I am talking about.The viaduct that crosses from Montgomery county over the schuykill river to Phoenixville.It also crosses over the canal on the Montgomery county side in a place called montclare.Like I said I have fished above and below the viaduct.The bridge you are talking about in oaks is nowhere near the height of the viaducts chris and me are talking about.I also lived on pawlings rd. and remember crossing that bridge when it still had rail on it in the 1970's.
George if that is the bridge you are talking about, then it is not part of the perkiomen branch. In Oakes the the PRR schuylkill branch crossed the Reading perkiomen branch near where the switch is installed now and headed up to Mount Claire where it crossed the river. That bridge is was never connected to the perk branch until conrail/NS took over it.
Andrew,you are right.The bridge I am talking about is not part of the perkiomen branch.I thought it was.This is the bridge I think chris was talking about.could you find out if this line had a name?As for oaks there is a bridge that crosses the schuykill river from the mainline and continues I guess north.As I said yesterday there was a freight line that ran from Norristown to oaks where it hooked up with the perkiomen line.I looked on the maps and seen all of the Norristown rail line was removed to make a trail to oaks.Now,there are 2 bridges left,one in Norristown which is part of the trail and one in oaks off of pawlings rd. that heads to the convention center.Thats the one I used to walk over when it had rail on it.Thanks again for correcting me and keep in touch.
George, Like both myself and Chris have said, this bridge was part of the PRR schuylkill branch. This is the same line that currently runs the bala cynwyd line. The big S bridge in Manayunk (Penncoyd Viaduct or Manayunk Bridge) is the also on this line. After the station in phoenixville there was a junction where the schuylkill branch turned up north towards the city of Reading and the phoenixville branch headed south towards Frazer. Pretty much all of the PRR schuylkill branch has been ripped up except for certain spots that are used as industrial spurs. If you trace it, you will find that many of the bridges are similar in design, Ex Oakes, Phoenixville, ………. The active mainline that runs along the river is the old Philadelphia and Reading. which has both the flat rock tunnel and Blackrock tunnel. it was from the philadelphia and reading that the perkiomen branch split off of and headed towards the allentown area.
Andrew,thanks for responding.I never knew the name of that abandoned rail line that ran from oaks to Phoenixville was the schuykill branch.Thanks for letting me know that.Is this bridge the one chris was talking about?You mentioned the penncoyd viaduct.Is that part of a trail yet because there was talk of turning that bridge into part of a trail?I know about the Philadelphia and reading line also because there is talk of resuming passenger service from Philadelphia to reading.I also know of both the flat rock and black rock tunnels from fishing on the river by these tunnels.Never been in them and don't intend to.I am familiar with both the Norristown and perkiomen branches by living in Montgomery county near both rail lines.Now as for the schuykill branch I am only familiar with up to Phoenixville from oaks.If you have any more information on any of these rail lines that I don't know of let me know.By the way,are those your pictures on the perkiomen site because if they are they are very revealing.Thanks again for responding.
An update on the progress of the Feasibility Study for the Devault Line: The final version was presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, and was endorsed by them. The next step is communicating with Phoenixville, Schuylkill and East Whiteland Townships once again to discuss the proposal. Previous discussions were positive, and if all four municipalities will agree to furthering the investigation into the possible project, then we could work with the county and state to put together a design, maintenance, and patrol plan. That step would include final numbers, such as construction and annual maintenance costs, as well as a structure for safety and water/bathroom access for any users. The real nitty-gritty of how such a trail would operate.
The Feasibility Study is available here: http://www.charlestown.pa.us/misc_docs/2015_devault_trail_study-2.pdf
Thanks chris for the information on this proposal.The only question I have is are residents okay with this?I am aware that residents have shot down these projects in the past.
The majority of the public feedback from within Charlestown township has been in favor. We've had 4 public meetings now, and in each meeting, all but the same 2 or 3 people were in support of the project. The concerns raised by those not in favor were similar to those raised during the construction of the Schuylkill River trail and the Malvern trail; mostly privacy and safety. Support for trails by police and EMTs usually alleviate the safety concern (per the feasibility study, construction would be designed to allow emergency vehicle access), and various design considerations can be used to handle the privacy issue. Fencing, gates, and in the case of the stone bridge over the driveway along Buckwalter road, various fence options to limit visibility of walkers/bikers have been discussed.
We definitely want to win over anyone who is hesitant about the idea, and most concerns have successfully been handled on other trail projects around the country. The Great Allegheny Passage, the Schuylkill River Trail, and the Horseshoe Trail are all great examples we'll be able to pull solutions from. In most cases after trails are put into place, they become positive focal points of the surrounding community; advertising for property near to the Schuylkill River trail usual usually highlight the trail as a perk, so I hope we can work with adjacent property owners so they all see the trail as a resource they value.
Connectors to the Schuylkill River Trail, downtown Phoenixville, the French Creek trail and the Phoenix Iron Canal trail to Blackrock Dam, the Pickering Trail, the Thompson Trail, Great Valley Nature Center, the Horseshoe trail, the new housing and retail developments in Devault, Great Valley Corporate Center and Atwater, Great Valley Middle and High Schools, as well as the Chester Valley trail in East Whiteland, could mean that neighbors of the trail would see less car traffic as the area continues to grow, once people can walk or bike to their destinations.
Thanks chris.I just wanted to know if the residents were for or against it.
Chris, any further updates on the trail?
We have been talking with Phoenixville Borough and Schuylkill Township directly about trail interconnection between municipalities in general, and the Devault line has been a large part of those discussions. We have also been helping coordinate between the William Penn Foundation's Connect the Circuit effort and the County through Charlestown Township, and all three have the Devault Line on their higher priority trail lists.
I have heard that the county is talking with Norfolk Southern but I don't have any specific details on that.
To Chris Lawrence, or anyone who knows, is the line in question being railbanked or permanently turned into a trail?
I have a question which somebody might be able to answer.I was on www.bridgehunter.com and a gentleman said that N/S doesn't want to do anything with the PRR abandoned rail line which runs from Phoenixville to Oaks Pa.If this is true then there will be no trail put in and I don't think the rail line will be reactivated because it would cost too much to overhaul the rail line.The question is does anyone know anything or have heard anything about this?