Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Archives Center Home  |  Collections Index

 

PHILADELPHIA & READING RAILROAD COMPANY RECORDS, ca. 1860 - 1936
#208

(18 cubic feet: 53 DB, 2 F/O)

by: Cheryl Megerdigian, August 1989

History

The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad was charted in 1833 for the purpose of providing low cost transportation from the Schuylkill and Mahanoy anthracite coal fields in eastern Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. Its main line, from Philadelphia to Pottsville, was opened in 1842. Thereafter, the Reading expanded through the acquisition of other railroad companies, the first coming in 1857, when it acquired the Lebanon Valley Railroad. This opened a second major line for the company, from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. By 1869, the Reading had acquired both the Reading & Columbia and the East Pennsylvania Railroad, and had secured a monopoly of coal traffic from the Schuylkill anthracite region.

Expansion accelerated when Franklin B. Gowen became president of the Reading in 1869. Under his leadership, the Reading attempted to dominate the entire anthracite trade. The first step was to purchase the Schuylkill Canal in 1870, to eliminate its competition for the coal trade. The next step was the organization of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company, which was set up in 1871 to purchase and operate coal mines. The company secured over 40 percent of the country's anthracite reserves, but the enormous debt incurred in the process led the railroad to bankruptcy and receivership in 1880. Expansion prior to bankruptcy had focused on securing the railroad lines between Philadelphia and New York.

Gowen's reckless style drove the Reading into a second receivership in 1886, and he was forced to resign. His successor, Archibald A. McLeod, was equally ambitious. The Philadelphia, Harrisburg & Pittsburgh Railroad was acquired in 1890, and the Port Reading Railroad, which gave the Reading a direct coal route to New York Harbor, was acquired in 1892. McLeod tried to increase the company's control over the anthracite trade by leasing the Central Railroad of New Jersey in 1892 and the Lehigh Valley in 1892-1893. He then attempted to gain control of several New England railroads, but the strong opposition of bankers and politicians prevented him from carrying out his plan. The Reading withdrew from New England, went bankrupt yet again, and McLeod was ousted.

In the reorganization that followed in 1896, both the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad and the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company became properties of the Reading Company, a holding company. Later additions to the Reading system were infrequent and largely confined to short branches and improvements in alignment. As a result of anti-trust proceedings, the Reading Company divested itself of its mining subsidiary in 1923 and merged its wholly owned railroad companies into an operating company. In 1963 it acquired the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad. The Reading went bankrupt again in the early 1970s. Portions of its railroad lines were conveyed to Conrail in 1976. The reorganized Reading Company retains real estate and other non-rail holdings.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists primarily of outgoing correspondence from the Engineering Department of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company. The remainder of the collection consists of engineering reports and other miscellaneous papers. The collection is arranged into two series.

Series 1: consists of 219 letterpress copybook volumes from various engineers; each has its own index. They date from 1866-1899 and are arranged alphabetically by the author's name. They were generated by the Chief Engineer; the Assistant Chief Engineer; various resident engineers; other, lower-level engineers; and the Chief Road-Master. The bulk of these copybooks were created by William H. Bines and Henry K. Nichols during their long careers with the Philadelphia & Reading. Other volumes contain letters and reports sent by Charles W. Buckholz, Charles E. Byers, and William Lorenz, among others. The correspondence in these volumes covers all aspects of the engineering operations of the railroad; much of it is at the highest levels, being addressed to the Presidents of the Reading. Of additional interest is a single letter book from John E. Wooten, dating from 1865, during his tenure as Superintendent of the company.

Series 2: consists of reports of the Chief Engineers, ca. 1860-1936; reports of the Chief Engineer to the Auditor, 1908-1910; structural design calculation notebooks, 1901-1936; right of way deeds, 1903; and tracings of assorted machined parts.

Provenance

Gift of the Reading Company to the National Museum of American History in the 1960s. The tracings were transferred from the Division of Transportation to the Archives Center in June 1986. The remainder of the collection was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Engineering and Industry in August 1986.

Related Collections

Within the National Museum of American History, the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources has a collection of photographs from the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company, 1866-1927. The bulk of the surviving records of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad are located in the Archives and Manuscripts Department of the Hagley Museum & Library in Wilmington, Delaware.

Container List

Series 1: LETTERPRESS COPYBOOKS, 1866-1899
Box Folder
1 1 William H. Bines Resident Engineer 2/ 7/1866 - 7/ 2/1866
2 Superintendent 7/ 2/1866 - 5/14/1867
3 3/16/1867 - 9/ 7/1867
4 Engineer and Supt. 4/ 8/1868 - 10/24/1868
2 1 10/24/1868 - 7/20/1869
2 7/21/1869 - 3/ 5/1870
3 3/ 5/1870 - 4/13/1870
4 (Reports, Statements,
Bills, etc.)
4/ 5/1869 - 9/12/1870
3 1 Engineer and Supt. 11/20/1869 - 3/ 1/1871
2 3/01/1871 - 12/15/1871
3 4/12/1871 - 2/20/1871
4 (Bills of Material for Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven RR) 12/12/1870 - 4/20/1871
4 1 Principal Assistant

Engineer

2/22/1873 - 11/21/1874
2 11/23/1874 - 1/22/1877
3 (Letters to Chief Eng., William Lorenz) 12/23/1872 - 12/27/1874
4 Principal Assistant Engineer 3/11/1874 - 1/25/1875
5 8/14/1876 - 3/22/1877
5 1 12/20/1871 - 4/19/1872
2 7/27/1872 - 10/16/1872
3 10/18/1872 - 12/25/1872
6 1 12/25/1872 - 3/21/1873
2 2/21/1873 - 
5/ 5/1873
3 6/17/1873 - 
8/ 9/1873
7 1 8/ 9/1873 - 10/ 1/1873
2 8/ 1/1873 - 11/25/1873
3 11/24/1873 - 8/ 8/1874
4 1/10/1874 - 2/26/1874
8 1 2/26/1874 - 
4/ 6/1874
2 4/ 6/1874 - 5/13/1874
3 5/13/1874 - 6/22/1874
4 6/22/1874 - 8/10/1874
9 1 8/10/1874 - 9/21/1874
2 9/21/1874 - 10/31/1874
3 11/ 2/1874 - 12/16/1874
4 8/ 8/1874 - 10/ 4/1874
5 1/ 6/1875 - 7/14/1876
10 1 8/ 4/1875 - 9/18/1875
2 9/18/1875 - 10/23/1875
3 2/14/1876 - 4/10/1876
4 4/10/1876 - 5/26/1876
5 5/26/1876 - 7/20/1876
11 1 7/20/1876 - 9/14/1876
2 9/14/1876 - 11/ 3/1876
3 11/ 4/1876 - 1/ 5/1877
4 1/ 6/1877 - 3/20/1877
5 2/20/1883 - 3/10/1884
12 1 Resident Engineer 2/27/1865 - 12/28/1871
2 8/ 3/1867 - 11/ 6/1882
3 Resident Engineer (Circular Letters) 12/15/1873 - 2/28/1883
4 Resident Engineer 3/20/1877 - 6/13/1877
5 6/14/1877 - 9/26/1877
6 9/26/1877 - 12/15/1877
13 1 3/28/1878 - 6/27/1878
2 6/27/1878 - 10/ 4/1878
3 10/ 4/1878 - 12/26/1878
4 6/ 4/1879 - 8/14/1879
14 1 3/ 4/1880 - 4/28/1880
2 4/28/1880 - 6/26/1880
3 6/26/1880 - 
9/ 8/1880
4 9/ 8/1880 - 11/11/1880
5 11/11/1880 - 1/13/1881
15 1 1/14/1881 - 4/15/1881
2 4/15/1881 - 6/27/1881
3 6/28/1881 - 
9/ 1/1881
4 9/ 2/1881 - 10/24/1881
5 10/22/1881 - 12/ 9/1881
16 1 12/ 9/1881 - 1/18/1882
2 1/18/1882 - 2/28/1882
3 3/ 1/1882 - 4/ 8/1882
4 4/ 8/1881 - 5/15/1882
5 5/15/1882 - 6/23/1882
17 1 6/23/1882 - 7/25/1882
2 7/25/1882 - 9/ 9/1882
3 9/ 9/1882 - 10/20/1882
4 10/20/1882 - 11/30/1882
5 11/29/1882 - 1/15/1883
18 1 1/15/1883 -  3/ 3/1883
2 3/ 3/1883 - 4/16/1883
3 Assistant Chief
Engineer
3/ 6/1883 - 7/ 2/1883
4 4/ 9/1883 - 2/17/1885
5 9/ 8/1884 - 1/29/1885
19 1 6/30/1883 - 10/22/1883
2 10/23/1883 - 12/17/1883
3 12/17/1883 - 2/ 2/1884
4 2/ 4/1884 - 3/17/1884
5 3/17/1884 - 4/21/1884
20 1 4/21/1884 - 5/27/1884
2 5/27/1884 - 6/ 1/1884
3 7/ 1/1884 - 8/12/1884
4 8/13/1884 - 9/20/1884
5 9/20/1884 - 10/24/1884
21 1 10/24/1884 - 11/29/1884
2 11/29/1884 - 1/ 5/1885
3 1/ 5/1885 - 2/18/1885
4 Chief Engineer 2/ 1/1886 - 12/13/1886
5 George B. Boggs Supt. and Engineer
(Bills and Accounts,
Trenton Branch)
12/ 1/1876 - 6/ 1/1879
6 Charles W. Buckholz, Division Engineer and Resident Engineer 1/12/1871 - 12/19/1871
22 1 Resident Engineer 12/19/1871 - 8/29/1872
2 Assistant Engineer
and Principal Asst.
Engineer [Sunbury, Pa.]
5/25/1882 - 7/13/1883
3 Principal Assistant Engineer 7/26/1883 - 10/21/1890
4 George Rice,

Charles E.Byers

Engineer in Charge, Chief Engineer 7/20/1866 - 8/18/1868
23 1 Charles E.Byers Chief Engineer 8/19/1868 - 11/20/1869
2 12/ 1/1869 - 8/27/1870
3 12/ 4/1868 - 3/31/1870
4 1/ 1/1870 - 5/ 8/1871
5 5/ 9/1871 - 6/12/1871
24 1 12/17/1869 - 12/ 5/1870
2 12/ 5/1870 - 8/ 2/1875
3 C.E. Byers (Includes W. H.Bines, Principal Assistant Engineer & William Lorenz, Engineer in Charge - Miscellaneous letters.) Principal Assistant Engineer 6/29/1871 - 8/ 5/1873
4 E.C. Chamberlain Assistant Engineer [Reading, Pa.] 11/11/1891 - 9/16/1893
25 1 (Reading Belt RR. -
Right of Way)
4/23/1900 - 9/12/1900
2 Assistant Engineer [Reading, Pa.] 9/13/1900 - 2/19/1901
3 2/19/1901 - 7/ 2/1901
4 7/ 3/1901 - 3/25/1902
26 1 4/12/1902 - 10/ 3/1905
2 H.C. Zacharias
E.C.Chamberlain
Assistant Engineers [Somerton, Pa.;
Cheltenham, Pa.]
6/28/1904 - 5/ 1/1906
3 N.M. Davis Engineer in Charge [Harrisburg] 2/20/1891 - 6/ 9/1891
4 Robert Jamison Assistant Engineer 7/18/1877 - 11/22/1880
5 (Reports of Accidents) 7/17/1877 - 5/21/1881
27 1 William Lorenz Chief Engineer 5/14/1872 - 12/10/1872
2 12/12/1872 - 11/29/1873
3 12/ 1/1873 - 9/29/1874
28 1 10/ 1/1874 - 8/13/1875
2 9/26/1876 - 6/25/1877
3 6/26/1877 - 3/16/1878
29 1 3/16/1878 - 2/28/1879
2 1/12/1880 - 11/ 1/1880
3 11/ 1/1880 - 8/27/1881
4 8/27/1881 - 7/12/1882
30 1 7/12/1882 - 4/25/1883
2 4/23/1883 - 6/11/1883
3 12/30/1883 - 9/ 6/1884
4 Charles P. Manning Resident Engineer 4/11/1863 - 9/27/1866
31 1 Henry K. Nichols Resident Engineer 2/ 2/1870 - 12/ 6/1870
2 12/ 6/1870 - 9/26/1872
3 (Miscellaneous Letters) 10/19/1870 - 5/ 8/1872
4 Resident Engineer 10/18/1872 - 7/22/1873
32 1 7/11/1873 - 3/14/1874
2 8/ 8/1873 - 4/20/1874
3 (Miscellaneous Letters) 4/20/1874 - 2/26/1875
33 1 Resident Engineer 5/16/1874 - 12/14/1874
2 12/15/1874 - 9/11/1875
3 9/11/1875 - 2/23/1876
4 2/23/1876 - 10/ 3/1876
5 10/ 4/1876 - 9/18/1877
34 1 9/18/1877 - 4/10/1879
2 8/27/1875 - 3/14/1876
3 3/14/1876 - 9/ 6/1876
4 9/ 6/1876 - 3/10/1877
5 (Miscellaneous Letters) 3/13/1877 - 12/29/1877
35 1 Resident Engineer
(Miscellaneous Letters)
12/29/1877 - 9/20/1878
2 (Miscellaneous letters) 9/24/1878 - 5/ 8/1879
3 Resident Engineer 4/ 5/1880 - 2/14/1881
4 2/14/1881 - 12/ 2/1881
5 12/ 5/1881 - 9/11/1882
36 1 2/ 6/1880 - 8/17/1880
2 8/17/1880 - 1/17/1881
3 (Miscellaneous Letters) 1/17/1881 - 6/27/1881
4 Resident Engineer 6/24/1881 - 11/25/1881
5 (Miscellaneous letters) 11/25/1881 - 4/12/1882
37 1 Resident Engineer
(Miscellaneous letters)
4/12/1882 - 8/31/1882
2 Resident Engineer 8/31/1882 - 1/20/1883
3 2/ 2/1883 - 11/10/1883
4 9/11/1882 - 9/10/1883
5 Chief Road-Master 4/ 2/1883 - 8/20/1883
38 1 8/20/1883 - 1/18/1884
2 (Miscellaneous Letters) 11/10/1883 - 5/ 7/1884
3 Chief Road-Master 1/15/1884 - 10/14/1884
39 1 7/ 2/1883 - 1/18/1884
2 1/18/1884 - 4/21/1884
3 5/ 7/1884 - 10/29/1884
4 10/29/1884 - 11/29/1884
40 1 4/21/1884 - 7/12/1884
2 7/12/1884 - 10/ 9/1884
3 10/ 9/1884 - 11/29/1884
4 12/ 1/1884 - 1/29/1885
41 1 Chief Engineer 1/30/1885 - 3/16/1885
2 3/16/1885 - 4/27/1885
3 4/27/1885 - 6/ 8/1885
4 6/ 6/1885 - 7/17/1885
42 1 7/17/1885 - 8/28/1885
2 8/27/1885 - 10/ 7/1885
3 10/ 7/1885 - 11/11/1885
4 11/11/1885 - 11/30/1885
5 12/ 1/1885 - 1/ 8/1886
43 1 1/ 7/1886 - 2/19/1886
2 2/19/1886 - 3/30/1886
3 3/30/1886 - 5/10/1886
4 5/ 9/1886 - 6/11/1886
5 6/11/1886 - 7/16/1887
44 1 7/16/1886 - 8/18/1886
2 8/18/1886 - 8/20/1886
3 8/20/1886 - 9/24/1886
4 9/24/1886 - 10/27/1886
5 10/26/1886 - 11/30/1886
45 1 12/ 1/1886 - 5/23/1887
2 5/23/1887 - 11/30/1888
3 12/ 3/1888 - 5/18/1889
4 5/20/1889 - 8/27/1889
46 1 12/ 1/1887 - 11/10/1888
2 8/27/1889 - 11/20/1889
3 12/ 1/1890 - 5/12/1891
4 3/18/1891 - 6/18/1891
47 1 6/18/1891 - 9/ 4/1891
2 9/ 4/1891 - 11/17/1891
3 2/16/1892 - 5/12/1892
48 1 11/16/1892 - 1/31/1893
2 (Reading Terminal) 10/30/1893 - 3/24/1894
3 Chief Engineer
(Atlantic City RR.)
6/ 7/1899 - 8/ 7/1899
49 1 John H. Royers Superintendent 2/20/1865 - 5/28/1868
2 Engineer and Supt. 6/ 3/1868 - 2/18/1871
3 J. Dutton Steele Chief Engineer 5/25/1864 - 5/19/1865
4 J.W. Thompson Assistant Engineer 1/ 4/1872 - 5/ 6/1873
5 10/13/1882 - 12/ 3/1884
50 1 E.S. Whitney,

F.E. Richardson,

J.W. Thompson

Assistant Engineers

(Estimates)

11/26/1884 - 2/ 2/1885
2 H.T. Wilson Signal Engineer 9/20/1886 - 11/23/1886
3 John E. Wootten,

W.H. Bines

Superintendent

Resident Engineer

9/ 9/1865 - 2/10/1866
4 T.O. Yarington Assistant Engineer [?] 10/ 1/1866 - 6/27/1868
5 Assistant Engineer 6/27/1868 - 1/31/1870

Series 2: REPORTS AND MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS, ca. 1860-1936
51 1 Miscellaneous Papers (Circulars, Reports,and Statements[7 items] ca. 1875
2 Property Description (Stations, Shelters, Office Buildings, and other Structures) ca. 1860-1870
3 Reports from Chief Engineer to Auditor 2/10/1908-10/29/1910
4 Right of Way Deeds 1903
52 1 Structural Design Calculations 1901-1936
53 1 Copybook Covers
54 Machined Parts Tracing Books 1898
55 Machined Parts Tracing Books 1898

TOP

E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised: April 22, 2002