READING & NORTHERN RAILROAD HISTORY
The Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad, with corporate headquarters in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania, is a privately held railroad company serving eight counties in Eastern Pennsylvania.
The Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad began serving customers in 1983 as the Blue Mountain & Reading Railroad on the company's original thirteen-
In 1990, opportunity knocked and the railroad purchased one hundred thirty miles of railroad from Conrail, known as the "Reading Cluster." The trackage was comprised of former Reading Company track extending along the Schuylkill River Valley from Reading to the heart of the anthracite coalfields in Schuylkill County. Unprecedented growth ensued with increased traffic, track improvements, and a turn around in the anthracite coal industry -
As Conrail continued their program of spinning off rail lines that did not fit into its core network, the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern expanded again. In August of 1996, RBMN acquired a portion of Conrail’s Lehigh Division. Comprised of over one hundred miles of former Lehigh Valley Railroad trackage, the rail line stretches from the southern foot of the Pocono Mountains at Lehighton through Wilkes-
As RBMN was absorbing its new Lehigh Division, Conrail was making big news of its own. In the fall of 1996 Conrail announced an intention to merge with CSX. After a fierce fight over the future of Conrail, CSX ultimately agreed to split Conrail with its main rival, Norfolk Southern Railway. On June 1, 1999, NS took over all of the portions of Conrail that connected with RBMN.
The shift from Conrail to NS brought challenges and opportunities. To take advantage of the opportunities, and to help deal with the challenges, Andy Muller asked Wayne Michel to join the company. Since Wayne had handled line sales and shortline relations for Conrail, Andy decided he was the person to begin the process of developing the RBMN-
By the turn of the century, the Company had been in the railroad business seventeen years. From its humble beginnings as an operator on a thirteen-
In August of 2001, we completed negotiations with NS and Procter & Gamble that resulted in our taking over exclusive service to P&G’s largest manufacturing facility at Mehoopany, PA. Working with NS we were able to provide P&G with an excellent service and rate package that ensured the inbound raw material continued to move by rail. As a result, RBMN has enjoyed over four thousand carloads of P&G business each year since signing the agreements.
Further south along the Lehigh Division, we signed another agreement to ensure long-
Having worked to ensure a steady stream of customer business along our Lehigh Division, we turned our attention to reaching agreements for the use of the line as a key transportation corridor. Both NS and Canadian Pacific were interested in using the Lehigh Line as a north-
In the summer of 2002, we also took a critical step in enabling the direct physical connection of the two Divisions without the need to run over any foreign track. In July, we entered into a long-
The two Divisions were now connected and the Lehigh Line had a solid business base from both on-
By the time RBMN celebrated its twentieth anniversary in the fall of 2003, it was a very successful shortline. We had taken our Lehigh Division and connected it with the Reading Division, we had built solid traffic bases on both sides of our system, and we had put in place an excellent operation with upgraded locomotives and freight cars. We were gaining a reputation for customer service and attention to detail.
Evidence of our customer focus became clear to all when, in 2002, rail industry publication Railway Age chose the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad as Regional Railroad of the Year. We won the award by creating an innovative sand/stone backhaul move that involved three railroads. With Norfolk Southern in the middle we worked with another shortline, the Winchester & Western, to put together a truck competitive move that took thousands of trucks off the highway. We followed that up in 2004 when we were awarded an NS Marketing Award from the NS Agriculture Products Group for our outstanding business development.
With a strong foundation in place, RBMN proceeded to focus on continuous improvement. In December of 2004, we purchased a ballast regulator in order to assist our maintenance of way gang. Earlier that year, we had purchased a welded rail train for installation along the Lehigh Line portion used by our trackage rights partners. And, in January of 2005, Andy Muller named Wayne Michel President of the railroad with responsibility for day-
Also in 2005, RBMN took a big step forward to expand its passenger excursion business. RBMN had always had a passenger program. But with the acquisition of the Lehigh Line and the new connections between Jim Thorpe and the Lehigh River gorge, RBMN was now positioned to offer the region a quality tourist attraction. In May of 2005, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway was born. Every weekend and holiday from May to Christmas, hundreds of visitors to Jim Thorpe board our passenger coaches for a ride into the Gorge.
As our operation and business expanded, the need to upgrade facilities grew as well. In the spring of 2006, we proudly opened our brand new Penobscot Yard office building. What a beautiful addition to the railroad!
Shortly thereafter, Mother Nature brought the region and us a treat…massive rainstorms and flooding. The Flood of June 2006 will long be remembered. The flooding shut down the entire regional rail network for days. But RBMN was up and running faster than anyone else due to the amazing work of our maintenance of way team.
As RBMN grew, so did its commitment to its employees. Along with regular pay increases and profit sharing checks, the Company decided to offer the best health plan in the region to its employees. And it did so with no deductibles! RBMN also decided to go smoke-
With a solid freight business in hand and a growing passenger operation underway, Andy Muller decided to begin the renovation of his steam engine, No. 425. At the end of 2007, No. 425 was back in service. In 2008, No. 425 will take thousands of guests on steam excursion trips throughout our operating territory.
Later this year, we will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the railroad. It has been a wonderful ride. You can keep abreast of RBMN developments by coming to this website and reading our quarterly newsletter.
Thanks for your interest and your support.