Spring Street Subway

In 1909, the city leaders celebrated with much fanfare the opening of the Spring Street Subway, a rail bridge that eliminated a dangerous Reading Railroad crossing – first for pedestrians and later for cars.

The Reading Railroad was well established in the area before city engineers considered building the subway.

So to construct it, crews had to dig under the railroad tracks and install steel and concrete to support the tracks and not disrupt the dozens of trains that moved through Reading daily.

At the turn of the 20th century, city leaders found it wise to spend $135,000 to build the overpass instead of having people risk injury hopping over and around trains at the rail yard. Back in the early 1900s, more than 1,200 people worked at the Reading yards and nearby shops, and Spring Street, a connector to the eastern and western ends of the city, was a place to cross the tracks.

As the railroad company grew, the number of people walking at the Spring Street crossing increased. “It is used more and more every day,” the yard watchman told a Reading Eagle reporter in 1904. “I have been fortunate in preventing accidents, but I want to tell you that there have been some narrow escapes.” For a time, Reading scoffed at spending money for a rail bridge. But caving to public pressure, the city moved ahead in 1907 to start construction.

Fast-forward a century.

The lines of the old Reading Railroad over Spring Street are much quieter, but cars can safely pass beneath rails, thanks to the subway. New lights have helped improve visibility in the long tunnel, but it’s a dark walk even during the day. And it would take millions of dollars to fix the flooding problems that plague the area, Jones said. Considering the dip in train traffic, the subway could eventually be replaced with a much smaller bridge, he said.

But regardless of its future, in the mind of Mayor Tom McMahon, the subway has reached iconic status.

“It’s become part of the local lore,” he said. “We have a lot of these unique places in Reading. You discover them one at a time.”

Spring Street Subway
Being Constructed in 1909
Spring Street Subway
Being Constructed in 1909
Spring Street Subway
Being Constructed in 1909

 

Spring Street Subway
Today

The bridge has been in the news fairly recently for incidents including a truck getting stuck underneath it, and also major flooding issues when we get a good rain.

The structure is located on Spring street, between N 6th and Nicolis Street, just down from the old abandoned Reading Station Outlets.

Swinging Bridge to Reading’s Outer Station

The Swinging Bridge - Reading Outer Station

Built in 1874 by the same firm that designed the Brooklyn Bridge, Reading’s rail bridge was heavily used by pedestrians to get over the train yard to Reading’s Outer Station. According to this Reading Eagle article,

The Outer Station, which stood off North Sixth Street, handled passenger and freight service on Reading Company lines.

and yes, the bridge did swing…

“You and your friends could actually make it swing if you had the right rhythm,” he explained. “It would swing enough to make mom nervous.”

The Outer Station closed in 1969 and fell victim to arson nearly 10 years later. Still, the swinging bridge survived until 1983 when Conrail, the successor to the Reading Company, tore it down.

It turns out that when word got around that Conrail was going to tear down the bridge, a group of local engineers approached the company about taking the span, said Joel Caves, an engineer with Spotts, Stevens & McCoy in Wyomissing.

Not all of the bridge could be salvaged, but the group moved both towers to the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township.

The metal stood there until the early 1990s, when members of the United Labor Council were looking for a project to honor union workers, Caves said.

The Worker’s Memorial was completed in 1991, and the one tower has stood at Heritage Park ever since.

The Swinging Bridge - Reading Outer Station

The Orange Car – Produce Stand

The Orange Car was a fresh fruit and produce business along the waterfront. It was located at 30 N Front Street, at the intersection of Front and Washington. It was right down from Stichter Hardware and Schindlebeck’s Coal Yard. All kinds of fresh fruit and produce were brought here from Florida by rail. As you can see the tracks went right past the Orange Car, and goods were unloaded right from the freight car. Did you ever grab some fresh produce from the Orange Car?

The tracks in the foreground are the Reading’s Schuylkill and Lehigh Branch, and the Pennsy’s Schuylkill Division, both continuing northbound along the river to pass by the Dana Parish Auto Frame Plant.

The Orange Car - Reading PA

 

The Orange Car was closed sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, when RACC expanded and tore it down to build a parking lot next to the then new Yocum Library.
Images from Readingmodeler.com

 

The Orange Car - Reading PA

Reading Railroad – Sinking Spring – 1972

Below are a few pictures of the main Reading Railroad line tracks that follow 422 out West, in Sinking Spring. These images were taken at the Woodrow Avenue crossing. Notice the old Sinking Spring school building in the background. Also the old station building before it’s restoration in the last image. FM Brown’s Sons (image 1) has been located in that building next to the tracks since the 1960s. If you want to enjoy this scenery today, head over the the Railroad House restaurant and enjoy a beer and the passing trains. Not much has changed in this immediate area since these images were taken.
Image source

Reading Railroad - Sinking Spring - 1972 Reading Railroad - Sinking Spring - 1972 Reading Railroad - Sinking Spring - 1972 Reading Railroad - Sinking Spring - 1972

Flashback Friday: Linette Candies

Linette Candies is a local chocolate candy company especially known for their “Betcha Life” candy bars. They used to be located at the building shown below at 105 Washington Street in Reading. At some point they moved to a larger location in Womelsdorf. According to yellowpages.com;

Linette Quality Chocolates was founded in 1927 as a family-owned seasonal chocolate novelties producer. It is one of the leading manufactures of pure chocolate confections in the United States. The company produces a range of industrial confectionery ingredients that are used as inclusions in various bakery and ice cream products. It packages its products in a variety of innovative styles and pouch bags, foil wrapping, tubs, display shippers and pallet merchandisers. Linette Quality Chocolates packing and manufacturing facilities are spread over a total area of more than 125,000 square feet. Some of its product specialties include seasonal chocolates, chocolate-covered raisins, and dark chocolate mint and peanut butter cups. The company is a part of Ralcorp Holdings since 2000.

 

Linette Candies
in the 1970s – notice the train tracks used to run up Washington Street

Linette Candies

Betcha Life Bar