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PRR Washington Avenue Branch - Research

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  • Member since
    July 2012
  • From: Philadelphia, PA
  • 10 posts
PRR Washington Avenue Branch - Research
Posted by RedImperator on Monday, February 3, 2020 3:06 PM

Hi everyone,

I'm in the track planning stages of a model railroad based on the PRR's Washington Avenue branch, in Philadelphia, sometime between 1920 and WWII. The branch connected the PRR's Gray's Ferry yard to the Delaware River, mostly via street running along Washington Avenue, in South Philadelphia. The tracks are long gone, but the whole area was heavily documented by city photographers, fire maps, aerial photographs, PTC route maps, and the like, and many of the structures built in the early 20th century still exist along Washington Avenue, including the PRR's freight house at Broad and Carpenter (it's a supermarket now). So I'm spoiled for prototype information about the setting. What I need is information on the railroad itself; what equipment did they use, how was it operated? Where does one begin to look for information about a particular branch line? I know there are historical societies and reference works, but I'm not sure where to begin.

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves.

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  • From: Omaha, NE
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Posted by dehusman on Monday, February 3, 2020 3:52 PM

You can't go wrong with Baldwin deisel switch engines, and B class 0-6-0's, the PRR had hundreds of them and they were all over Philadelphia.  The PRR also had some 44 tonners but I think they worked along Delaware Ave or American St.

There are Facebook pages on Philadelphia and railroads, plus the PRRT&HS "Keystone Modeler" might have had an article on the Philadelphia area.  Might want to check their archives.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by Eric White on Monday, February 3, 2020 4:06 PM

I'm working on a similar layout - mine will just be an 8-foot section.

Somewhere I read the motive power was A class 0-4-0s, which were replaced with 44-tonners. It operated into Conrail, and I think I saw a photo of an MP15 running there in the '80s. I think it stopped running about 1984.

There's an interesting blog I saved when I first started reading about this area:

https://www.phillyhistory.org/blog/index.php/2009/12/washington-avenue-a-representative-example-of-philadelphias-industrial-past-background-history/

 

Eric

  • Member since
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  • From: Philadelphia, PA
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Posted by RedImperator on Monday, February 3, 2020 5:19 PM

I was thinking they might run 0-4-0s; the curves getting into some of those sidings look incredibly tight. I'm planning on 18" minimums so I could get an 0-6-0 through too (may have to prune some of the yard tracks; even with curved turnouts I cannot figure out how to match a track plan to what I'm seeing on the fire maps). I guess they would have sent a switcher from Gray's Ferry to work the area? There's a roundhouse and turntable at 16th and Washington in the 1895 Bromley atlas, but it's gone by 1910.

I like old, small diesels and setting in the late 30s/early 40s would let me run PCC cars on the trolley routes, but really leaning steam right now. 

At any rate, I'll check out the Keystone Modeler index and see what I can scare up on Facebook. Thanks for the pointers!

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves.

  • Member since
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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, February 3, 2020 7:15 PM

There's this:

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kheelcenter/albums/72157663707114067/page1

 You might be able to unearth some info in the PRR collection at the Hagley Museum:

https://digital.hagley.org/islandora/object/islandora:2339204

 

I have a whole shelf of PRR T&HS Keystones but the index is practically nonexistant. When I get time I'll browse through and see if anything shakes out.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by NVSRR on Monday, February 3, 2020 10:51 PM

Is this the line that ran partly through Canal st?   Right there by the 100yo cold storage warehouse that has the huge flag on the side?   Or the branch that passed the old coal fire mini power plant that can be seen from 95 and vine st?  Philly had so many branches, it is hard to keep track which is which

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

  • Member since
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  • From: Philadelphia, PA
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Posted by RedImperator on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 8:52 AM

This one was in South Philly. It's actually the original northern terminus of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore RR before it was absorbed into the PRR (the passenger depot was located at Broad and Washington). The branch originated at the Gray's Ferry yard at around 49th and Paschal, then crossed the river, ran along the south side of Gray's Ferry Avenue, interchanged with the 25th Street Viaduct at 25th and Washington, then ran right down the middle of the street all the way to the Delaware (where I assume it interchanged with the Delaware Avenue branch).

I love railroads, industrial history, and Philadelphia, so this is all extremly in my wheelhouse. I actually discovered the line while I was looking at old fire insurance maps, trying to tease out the history of my own house (built 1905) and who owned the land before it was subdivided. I started following the Media Elwyn line and found the yard, the branch, and all the industries it served in 1910.

NVSRR

Is this the line that ran partly through Canal st?   Right there by the 100yo cold storage warehouse that has the huge flag on the side?   Or the branch that passed the old coal fire mini power plant that can be seen from 95 and vine st?  Philly had so many branches, it is hard to keep track which is which

 

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves.

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Posted by Eric White on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 11:02 AM

Have you checked out the photos on PhillyHistory.org yet?

That's where I got much of my photographic information.

You can ask for higher resolution images if you find something you like. They were flexible on price when I did an article on the Broad Street freight house in the September 2015 MR.

Eric

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  • From: Reading, PA
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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 11:13 AM

 That is an internet rabbit hole I did not need when I am supposed to be working. Big Smile

 All sorts of great stuff there.

                                    --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
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  • From: Philadelphia, PA
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Posted by RedImperator on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 1:36 PM

Yeah, there's a lot of great stuff there. I have a better sense of how the freight house worked already (I'll have to check out your article when I get the chance), and now I clearly see what the flour warehouse looked like. The only issue is one confusing picture that showed an elevated line over Washington; turns out, that was doctored to illustrate a proposed Washington Avenue elevated line that never happened!

Eric White

Have you checked out the photos on PhillyHistory.org yet?

That's where I got much of my photographic information.

You can ask for higher resolution images if you find something you like. They were flexible on price when I did an article on the Broad Street freight house in the September 2015 MR.

Eric

 

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves.

  • Member since
    August 2014
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Posted by Eric White on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 2:20 PM

Until the 1920s, the El ran down Delaware Ave. to the ferries, which were a little south of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Old Images of Philadelphia on Facebook is full of, well, old images of Philadelphia. Obviously, my favorites involve rail facilities of various kinds.

Eric

  • Member since
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  • From: Philadelphia, PA
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Posted by RedImperator on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 3:26 PM

Wish the El on Delaware Ave was still there; in my fantasy transit maps it gets rebuilt and extended all the way to Pier 70

I found one reference in Google books to a planned Washington Avenue elevated freight line, analogous to the 25th Street viaduct, to get the freight trains off the street; I think that's what the picture I found of a viaduct at Broad and Washington was supposed to illustrate. I guess most of their customers could have taken rail deliveries on an upper floor, like the New York high line, but that would have been an expensive project even in the 1920s, which is probably why it never happened

Eric White

Until the 1920s, the El ran down Delaware Ave. to the ferries, which were a little south of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Old Images of Philadelphia on Facebook is full of, well, old images of Philadelphia. Obviously, my favorites involve rail facilities of various kinds.

Eric

 

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves.

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Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 8:27 AM

The PRR pro group on io.groups has people who know more about obscure PRR information all in one location. You might want to join and ask your questions there

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