Columbia to Reading

The Reading and Columbia Railroad

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Map submitted by Andrew Lueders.

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The passenger station at Lititz (Spring Park) still stands. Photo by Andrew Carbine, November 2013.

The Reading & Columbia Railroad was built to connect the City of Reading to the Chesapeake Bay Region via the Susquehanna Tide Water Canal, and ran its first train along newly-laid rails in 1863. It transported mainly coal, iron ore, and general merchandise. During its heydey, the railroad expanded into Marietta and Lancaster, and carried as many as ten passenger trains a day.

Through the years, the railroad declined in use, until it was abandoned in 1985.

Today, because of efforts of many dedicated citizens, the right-of-way was bought by the County of Lancaster and made into a rail-trail. It was officially dedicated on October 14, 1987, and is managed by the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Thanks to Andrew Lueders for contributing information about this route.

Much of this line is still in use today by Norfolk Southern, East Penn, and other short lines.

mike
frackville, PA
11/12/2011

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Where is the passenger station in Columbia for the Reading Railroad.

Dave C
Lititz, PA
1/16/2012

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I remember the Reading R.R. running thru Ephrata using steam up until about 1955 when Diesel took over....old R7s did most of the work.

Dennis
Tampa, FL
5/12/2012

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The County of Lancaster only owns the 2.5 mile section north of PA283 called the Lancaster Junction Trail.

the text below the map makes it seem like the County owns all of the line.

Lauri
Lancaster, PA
9/13/2012

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The title above the map and the URL should be Reading & Columbia RR.

The Columbia & Reading is a modern day shortline that operates on just a few miles of the former Reading & Columbia RR in the Columbia area.

The Reading & Columbia is the old RR. The Columbia & Reading is the current RR.

John
Maytown, PA
9/29/2012

[Thanks John, I've corrected the page.  —Greg Harrison]

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Mike from Frackville - I do not know what line you're talking about, but none of the trackage I know of is used by anyone. Where the line crosses over the mountain outside Columbia is where the last of the unremoved trackage runs - it ends just before Prospect road. All the trackage past that point is either fragmented or removed.

Dave C. - The last Station for this railroad left standing is in Columbia, off River road and Main street.

The original line, running from that station, through Columbia, and up to the Malleable plant, is intact and has recently come back into use for a local junkyard. Past the plant, the tracks become abandoned. I have walked or driven past most of where the line ran. There are still bits and pieces here and there, but most of it is gone.

Stephen H
york, PA
10/1/2012

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i live in reading and am wondering what is abandoned and what is active on this line and if anything will be done to the so called abandoned part.any information on current conditions with the rail would be greatly appreciated.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/4/2012

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The line is currently in regular use from Sinking Spring to just north of Ephrata. I am currently unaware of the exact end point.

charles sweigart
reinholds, PA
12/16/2012

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The line is currently in regular use from Sinking Spring to just north of Ephrata. I am currently unaware of the exact end point.

charles sweigart
reinholds, PA
12/16/2012

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There are four sections of the old Reading and Columbia RR still in use. As noted by another contributor the line from Sinking Spring to a point north of Ephrata is still active and operated by East Penn. Also as noted above approx. two miles in Columbia from a NS junction to a scrap yard near the old Malleable plant is in operation. This short section in Columbia is now known as the Columbia & Reading RR. A third section is operated by NS and extends from Dillerville Yard in Lancaster to East Petersburg, Manheim and Lititz. The fourth section is in the Landisville area and comes off the AMTRAK main line and extends about two mile to the west. I believe this is still operated by the Landisville RR.

John
Maytown, PA
12/16/2012

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thanks for the info.i thought the whole line was abandoned.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/16/2012

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Gentlemen,

Thank you for the corrections. I drive in the area a lot. I have followed the line, literally, from where it used to run under Route 30 outside of Columbia (tracks become fragmented after the Malleable plant), on the road under where it went around the hill on it's upgrade to cross the mountain. I spoke with a gentleman a few years ago whose grandmother told him about them filling in the cut where the tracks used to run west of Prospect road. The culvert was filled in for about 200 yards. The tracks came off the mountain and went thru Silver Spring off Marietta pike, and drove generally North. The tracks from Prospect Road, all the way thru Silver Spring and on, across the Amtrak lines beside 283 and across 283, are gone.

Stephen H
York,, PA
12/26/2012

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EXTRA NOTE - I also verified that a spur line (a chunk of the original trackage) coming off of the Amtrak line in Salunga, and going South, is now in use. It terminates now at Nolt Road. No trackage either North or South of this spur exists, until Columbia on the South or North of East Petersburg. The tracks from the Dillerville Yard out to East Pete are also still in existence and in use on rare occasion. I don't know much about the trackage North of Route 283.

Stephen H
York,, PA
12/26/2012

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thank you for e-mailing me back.it looks like most of the line is being used.let me know if you hear any news of abandonments down the road.thanks.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/27/2012

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To those interested,

The former R&C runs from the Reading main line to a dead end just north of Ephrata. More specifically, just before the state police barracks. On the other side, west, north west, it runs from lititz to Harrisburg. The connecting part is called the ROY BRANCH which connects to the Port Road Branch.

So most of it, with the exception of a few miles, is still in operation either by my employer, norfolk southern or the East Penn.

Jay
Ephrata, PA
8/4/2013

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nice to hear from someone who is an employee of n/s.i am familiar with east penn.i did not know they operated on that rail line.so it seems most of the line is still in operation.if you hear of any abandonments or whatever please let me know.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
8/5/2013

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does anyone know a contact for the reinholds station?

jessica
reinholds, PA
8/13/2013

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sorry,i do not.

george oakley
reading, PA
8/14/2013

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Sadly the old freight depot in Lititz was just demolished... Another piece of history lost...

Ed Martel
Lititz, Pa
9/24/2013

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sorry to hear that.it is a shame that they do that to rail stations.why did they do it.was it structurally unsafe?that is the only reason i would know of.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
9/25/2013

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What was the stretch of track used for that ran north out of Manheim to what looks like nowhere? I am just curious because I live near there

Brandon
manheim, PA
10/29/2013

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That line connected with the Cornwall RR in Cornwall- prominent on that line was a favorite picnic area of Penryn Park

Ed
Lititz, PA
10/29/2013

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thanks for that information.all information is useful.let me know of any developments on that line in the future.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
10/30/2013

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I noticed in the past week the section of the old R & C from the route 30 overpass down to Maliable road (behind Anvil) is being used as car storage. Looked funny as I passed by on 30 to see cars in the middle of a cornfield, the 1st time I've seen anything on that section in the 20 years that I have been driving by on 30.

Sven
Pennsylvania
11/2/2013

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The view from Route 30 to the south, you can see where the tracks ran in a corner going towards the Malleable plant, where they used to split off into 3 or 4 runs of different levels going into the plant. I believe the original tracks may still be there, because on the North side of 30 you can still see what's left of the roadbed on it's way up around the mountain. They run under the Highway, then go for about a half mile before they end just before a driveway. The cut of the roadbed continues all the way around and up to where the cut got filled in at the top, then after Prospect Road at the top the cut and roadbed continue down the other side, but no track is there any more that I have or can seen.

Stephen H
York, PA
11/2/2013

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One thing some may find interesting - On the north side of Chickie's Hill, North of Columbia, there is a parking area that serves a park area overlooking the Susquehanna river. At that parking area they have an OLD map that shows rail lines, if I remember correctly, before the turn of the century. It shows a rather large system of rail lines in the local vicinity that connected to the R&C lines around Columbia. Those lines ran into Marietta and nearby towns. I have pictures of the rail lines in Columbia I will eventually post here, but I will also have to get one of that map.

Stephen H
York, PA
11/2/2013

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thanks for the information.as for the rail cars i have seen storage of cars on rail lines in other areas.you can blame the overabundance of rail cars on the downturn of the economy.basically it is bad all over.i do like checking out these old rail lines.keep in touch and thanks again for the information.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/4/2013

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Reading & Columbia Branch

https://www.facebook.com/gregory.pawelski.9/media_set?set=a.548324568620502.1073741873.100003288929249&type=3

Gregory D. Pawelski
Wernersville, PA
5/10/2014

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FIRST, I want to thank everyone who has added info to this post [and corrected some of my mistakes!!]. I find 'this stuff' FASCINATING.

Second, I have sent some pics to the person who runs this page. Maybe some of you will recognize some of the areas pictured. I am going to get more pics further up the tracks soon and will send them as well.

Stephen H
York, PA
5/13/2014

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Gregory D. Pawelski - your link does not work, by the way.

Steve H
York, PA
5/13/2014

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thanks steve and get those pictures on the site.would like very much to see them.keep in touch.

george oakkley
reading, PA
5/16/2014

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The 8 box cars that where along route 30 have now been moved the connection used to get to the scrap yard in columbia the line is being used for service at the scrap yard and storage north of the scrap yard off of the with a connection in columbia to the ns port road branchthen off the amtrack keystone part of the old road is operated by the landisville RR and serves 2 or 3 industry's I'm not sure what if anyone knows. then from the Dillerville yard connection to the amtrack keystone line runs from there to east pete serving alco to manhime serving farell gas and to lititz serving 2 small industry's I'm not sure what at lime rock and Johnson and Johnson, cargil/Wilbur, then at the end of the line from time to time there is a siding off the east end run around behide the old depo where covered hoppers are droped for a local feed mill. then from north of ephrata to sinking spring operated by north penn starting in ephrata serving lesser lumber then at Stevens denver cold storage at denver a feed mill and at sinking spring another feed mill with a connection to the ns Harrisburg line. So yes this line is still very alive in sections conrail in the 70's and 80's I belive ripped this line to pieces only leaving track needed to get to industry's making it into two small section lancaster to lititz and ephrata to sinking spring cutting at line between ephrata and lititz now a rail trail and cutting out the lancaster junction which has now in two small parts been revived at landisville and a small section in columbia as for the Cornwall branch connection between manhime and Cornwall about a half mile is still used by east penn and joint with norfolk southern to serve Farrell gas. So really this line is not abandoned its just cut up into pieces because conrail was greedy and wanted the money for the scraped sections

Jordan
Lititz
5/27/2014

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thanks Jordan for the information concering this supposedly abandoned rail line.i do understand most sections are still being used.are there any sections truly abandoned?let me know if you can find out anything Jordan.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/29/2014

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George,

As I said in an earlier post, the line itself in Columbia is completely abandoned from North of Route 30, up around and over the mountain to Silver Spring [small town, NOT Sinking Spring]. About a mile past Silver Spring at Nolt Road the original tracks pick up again and run out to and join the Amtrak line beside 283. They USED to actually cross rout 283 and go north, but I believe that is where the 'Rail Trail' actually starts.

The pics were sent, when the Gentleman has time I imagine he'll get one or 2 of them added.

Steve H.
York, PA
6/9/2014

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thanks steve for the information.i am familiar with the columbia area from fishing and camping out there many years ago.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
6/12/2014

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Reading & Columbia Branch

https://www.facebook.com/gregory.pawelski.9/media_set?set=a.548324568620502.1073741873.100003288929249&type=3

Gregory D. Pawelski
Wernersville, PA
8/5/2014

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as of an article printed in the reading eagle 5-3-15 residents are frustrated over cutting trees and evcavating on their properties concerning a planned railtrail on the reading and Columbia railbed.these residents live in akron and the railtrail will connect to Ephrata.i thought that most of this rail line was still in use.since I am not from the area I would not know where this planned railtrail will be.if anybody does here anything else concerning this any news would be greatly appreciated.

george oakley
reaading, PA
5/4/2015

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Much of the former R & C branch is still active railroad. However, the section between Ephrata and Lititz (which includes Akron) has been out of service for many years. The planned rail trail is between Ephrata and Lititz. Sections of this trail are finished and open to the public while the rest are in the planning or construction stages.

John
Maytown, PA
5/4/2015

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thanks john for the information.greatly appreciated.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/4/2015

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in a stamp collection i bought is a reading and columbia rail road share certificate dated 1863 its 5 x 50 dollar shares its 5 shares of capital stock it has a 25c inter revenue stamp in pale brown, on the back in headed know all men by these present that-----20more lines of handwritten text stating the legal stuff it has an embossed seal the share is undamaged is it of value i can scan if you wish to yourn e mail my e mail is keith.harbour@yahoo.com thanks

keith
ireland
10/28/2015

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Keith,you say you have in your possession a share from the reading and columbia railroad?I come from a railroad family and as far as I know that could be veery valuable.Research that share and let me know what you find out.

george oakley
reading, PA
10/29/2015

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Steve,i tried before to enter the information on the computer about where to go to see the pictures and it wouldn't register.Is there a shorter version of this entry i can use to see the pictures?

george oakley
reading, OR
11/14/2015

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Steve,actually it's pa.,not oregon.My fault.Couldn't correct it on time.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/14/2015

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George, sorry about that. Apparently, unless you're a 'friend' on the list it won't let you in. I actually don't do much with Facebook, anyway. I'll see what I can figure out so anyone can see the pics.

G, I apologize if you don't want links posted. I shall be happy to refrain from doing so if you wish.

STH

Steve H
York, PA
11/16/2015

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Steve,i don't have a problem with anybody posting links for any sites on this one or any others.I just wish they wouldn't be so long.That's a lot of typing.See what you can do about the pictures because I would love to see them.As for facebook I don't ever go there because it is so lame.A nyway,i got my hands on some information which might amaze people.As per an article printed in the reading eagle on 11-10-15 Canadian Pacific Ltd. is exploring a takeover of Norfolk Southern Corp. to consolidate the north American rail industry and to build a transcontinental carrier.Canadian Pacific is raising financing for the merger with the value estimated at $24 billion.This is being discussed after talks with CSX fell through.What do you think about that?

george oakley
reading, PA
11/17/2015

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George, try this:

http://tiny.cc/ih3b6x This is the pics for the Reading and Columbia.

http://tiny.cc/9l3b6x This is the map at the parking lot on Chickie's Hill.

Steve H
York, PA
11/17/2015

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Thanks steve for the new links.I will let you know how I make out when I enter them in this weekend.As for any information I get on the possible Canadian Pacific Ltd. and Norfolk Southern merger in the future I will post it here.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/18/2015

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The CP-NS merger has been a hot topic on Railway Preservation News, an excellent internet forum I'm a member of. I've gat a link to the thread here: http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=38745&start=15

Jason M.
Boyertown, PA
11/18/2015

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Why has this forum become a discussion of the CP acquisition of NS? What is the relevance to the R&C Railroad? There are plenty of other forums to discuss CP - NS. Can we stay focused on the R&C please? Thank you.

John
Maytown, PA
11/18/2015

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Sorry for derailing this thread, when I submitted my coment my computer wasn't responding and entered it in about 4 times. Back on the topic of the R&C, I would suggest visiting Reading Company Technical and Historical Society's museum and archives. Their magazine also occaisionally features historic photos of structures and trains, along with documentation of derailments. Fittingly, the ex-CNJ caboose was one of the Northeastern cabooses built for CNJ by the Reading, similar to the Reading's NMj class.

Jason M.
Boyertown, PA
11/18/2015

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Thanks Jason for the link.I will check it out and post any information on that site if possible about the possible CP Rail and Norfolk Southern merger which is still in discussion between those 2 rail companies.John,i only printed about the possible merger because of Norfolk Southerns ownership of this rail line.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/19/2015

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Jason,i can't find that link you posted.Please get in touch with me at this site.

george oaakley
reading, PA
11/21/2015

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Steve,as with jason i am having problems getting to the site you posted.Any help would be greatly appreciated along with jason if he could help.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/21/2015

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I have a question.Where this rail line ended in Columbia is an electrified rail line.At least it was when i was there many years ago.Does anybody know if Amtrak is still using it?I do know they run freight on the rail line because i used to camp and go cave exploring in Pequea.My companion asked me this question which i didn't know the answer to.Any answers would be greatly appreciated.Thanks.

george oakley
reading, PA
1/28/2016

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The line ends in Columbia, PA, going into the Norfolk Southern [I think it's that one] lines running North/South along the Susquehanna river.

The line was de-electrified a while ago, I would say 10 years, maybe? They just recently removed a lot of the H poles and changed over to a traffic-light signaling system.

I grew up in the area and had the privilege of seeing GG1 engines running up and down the line pulling freight. There has not been Passenger runs on those lines in a long time, pre-my days (1970).

Steve H
York, PA
1/29/2016

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Thanks steve for letting me know that.I always wondered if amtrak or some other electrified rail service ran on that line.

george oakley
reading, PA
1/30/2016

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Correct. Not to be confused with Amtrak's still electrified Keystone Corridor the parrallels it a couple hundred feet to the West.

Jason M.
Boyertown, PA
1/30/2016

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An interesting point about the 'Keystone Corridor' - That line runs from Harrisburg, south through Elizabethtown, more or less paralleling Route 283. JUST past Salunga, traveling towards Lancaster, there is a place where the R&C crossed the Corridor [and 283] many years ago. The tracks [rails] across a major highway [283] were there, I believe, until the 80's. I still remember the crossing lights on 283 being there in the 70's.

Steve H
York, PA
1/30/2016

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Jason,i saw on the map where you were talking about the electrified amtrak line coming into columbia.I didn't see that at first.I was talking about below safe harbor and if the line was still electrified being that i was in pequea and saw the poles and wire.

georgee oakley
reading, PA
1/31/2016

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Interestingly enough, the terminus of the line in Ephrata was added to recently in 2015. The line was extended by about 200 feet to allow more lumber cars into the expanded A.B. Martin Supply property. There are often 3 center beams in their spur, and even an occasional coil car, I guess for rolled metal for roofing. The line officially ends at upturned rails just short of Springhouse Road where the PSP Troop J used to be.

Dave R
Lititz, DE
3/23/2016

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Thanks Dave for the information.Always good to know when things like this happen.

george oakley
reading, PA
3/24/2016

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As per an article printed in the Reading Eagle on 5-17-16 East Penn Railroad LLC will receive $570,000 to rehabilitate the Lancaster Northern line including tie replacement and resurfacing.If i'm not mistaken from the description in the paper it's the same rail line i'm talking about.I didn't know it was named what i printed.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/17/2016

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I grew up in Columbia and was a fan of the railroads as was my father. The Reading Passenger Station sat on the corner of Locust St. and Bank Alley. It is gone now, tore down in the 60's and there is a parking lot in its place. There is a freight station that is restored down the alley further and houses a antique store in it. The Columbia and Reading was not electrified, It did however parallel for a short distance in Columbia the PRR Columbia to Lancaster branch that was electrified. The line in Columbia still exists to serve a salvage center and there is a new business that recently started fixing rail cars. You can easily spot the line on google maps going NW through town towards Anvil International and the tracks stop at route 30. They store tank cars on these tracks now. The line went under route 30 and out through Ironville, paralleling the Ironville pike. Then it crossed over route 23 in Silver Spring. The tracks in silver spring were recently tore up when QVC expanded there distribution center. From there you join up with currently used tracks owned by the Landisville Railroad that serves 2 lumberyards, one by its headquarters and one down in Landisville beside the Amtrak Mainline. They also use some of the right-a-way for storage of cars. At the lumber yard in Landisville is a rectangle shaped white building that was the freight station for Lancaster Junction that is still there today in bad shape, this is also the point were the tracks crossed the PRR's mainline. On the other side of 283 the tracks are gone and a rail trail was developed in there place for 2.25 miles, the apply named Lancaster Junction trail. At the end of the trail the railroad is still in use by NS for local businesses in Manheim and Lititz. The line went from Lititz to Eprata, but the tracks are out until you reach the East Penn RR north of Ephrata. The East Penn uses the original right-a-way for local businesses all the way up to where the line joined the Reading RR's mainline in Sinking Spring PA, now owned by NS

tom King
Columbia, PA
6/23/2016

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Oops, I screwed up! You can easily spot the line on google maps going NE to E through town towards Anvil International not NW.

tom King
Columbia, PA
6/23/2016

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Thanks for the information Tom.Noticed you list Columbia as where you live.I've passed through there many years ago when i used to go cave exploring around Pequea.That's why i asked about the rail line running along the Susquehanna River below Columbia.

george oakley
reading, PA
6/24/2016

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Tom,i do remember going through Lancaster when i went to Pequea back in my teenage days and adult days.It's possible i have gone through Columbia in those days.I'm not 100% sure.Anyway,that's why i asked if the rail line below Columbia running along the Susquehanna was electrified from remembering seeing the wires for electric trains hanging over the railroad tracks.

george oakley
reading, PA
6/28/2016

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The railroad that follows the Susquehanna south out of Columbia was electricfied. That was the PRR Atglen & Susq Low grade line and the Port road. Below Washington Boro PA at Port Interlocking the Port Road branched off the Low Grade. The Low Grade was abandoned in 1989 and all the tracks east of Port int. were tore up a year later. The catenary that held the wires is still there through Columbia, the abandoned section of the Low Grade and north up through the Royalton branch. Its still there because it Carries the Amtrak's Electrification from generation at Safe Harbor Dam in PA north to the Amtrak mainline in Middletown PA and east to the Mainline at Parksburg PA.

Tom King
Columbia, PA
6/30/2016

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Makes sense.Thanks Tom.

george oakley
reading, PA
7/1/2016

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The depot at Lititz is a replica, built in 1999 by the city, of the original 1884 design by architect Frank Furness, demolished in 1957.

The depot in Ephrata still stands along the rail trail at East Main Street, owned by the city.

Tom Dorman
Laurel, MD
9/4/2016

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Thanks Tom.Hopefully people know this is a replica train station and not the original which you said was demolished.

george oakley
reading, PA
9/5/2016

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