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The Telford Swap

Both interchange partners are seen in this aerial photo on November 4, 2021. PN SD40-2W locomotives 5315 and 5342 are seen along with ESPN 4621 and 37 as they work the hand-off at Meetinghouse Road in Telford, Pa. Both railroads’ locomotives often are at the interchange at the same time, but not always.

The Telford Swap

February 2022By Dale W. Woodland

When the Reading Railroad became part of Conrail in 1976, Conrail began to downgrade the Bethlehem Branch, preferring to operate traffic from Philadelphia to Allentown and Bethlehem via Reading, Pa. Two factors influenced this decision; avoiding commuter train traffic in the Philadelphia area and the many grades on the Bethlehem Branch. While the distance was twice as far via Reading, fewer locomotives were necessary for the branch’s roller-coaster profile. Through freight trains on the Bethlehem Branch ceased in 1981. Local freight service declined at the same time, prompting Conrail to eventually seek a short line operator for traffic north of Telford, MP 31, to Quakertown, MP 41.

East Penn Railways (ESPN) took over operation of the segment from Telford north to Quakertown in September 1997. With the breakup of Conrail in 1999, CSX was given operating rights, but the closure of Bethlehem Steel in 1995 rendered any CSX service plan for the line moot, and CSX was left with what became known as the Lansdale Cluster. Interchange between CSX and ESPN for Quakertown traffic was established at Telford. There weren’t any customers along the ten-mile stretch between Telford and Quakertown, so the former Reading Railroad Middle Track siding at Telford enabled a convenient interchange point.

In August 2011, Pennsylvania Northeastern replaced CSX to operate the Lansdale cluster, thus creating a short line-to-short line interchange at Telford. CSX still delivers cars to PN at Lansdale via the Stony Creek Branch.

February 2022This article appeared in the February 2022 issue of Railpace Newsmagazine. Subscribe Today!

This article was posted on: February 4, 2022