The Harrisburg Line
Wyomissing to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
If you were to draw a map of the railroads of North America, and then altered the lines to display relative volume of trains and tonnage, a few segments of very heavily traveled track would immediately stand out: North Platte to Gibbon, Chicago to Aurora, Willard to Fostoria, and others. One which would certainly stand out is Norfolk Southern's Harrisburg Line between Reading and Harrisburg, which sees up to 50 trains per day. The author of this excellent tour, John Schodowski, has given us a self-guiding railfan tour of this strategic section of railroad.
If this is your first Frograil railfan tour, be sure and go here for some very helpful information.
Contents And Navigation:
John Schodowski. The author of the tour. Unless otherwise noted, all data in this tour is from John. Any mistakes are probably from your Webmaster.
Tony Hill. Webmaster -- the guy who makes Frograil go. Any first person pronouns encountered in this tour are opinions or information from Tony, not John, unless otherwise noted.
Train Gifs. I use train gifs whenever I get the urge, and they are from several artists. Hit the Train Gifs navigation button at the top of any Frograil page to visit the gif pages.
If you'd like to contribute to this or any other Frograil tour, simply e-mail me here , and let me know what you're interested in. We'll work together -- you supply the data, and I'll take care of the HTML stuff. Frograil can only be as good as its contributions, so keep 'em coming. Dozens of folks a day visit Frograil, so your material will not just be moldering away -- it will be used by railfans.
Obviously, this tour provides many opportunities for hours of enjoyable railfanning. However, if you rush from Wyomissing to Harrisburg in one fast day, you are going to miss an awful lot of trains, and the tour will be more work than enjoyment. Because of the proximity with the Reading factory outlet malls, the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Hershey's chocolate factory visitor's center and amusement park, and greater Harrisburg's attractions, it would be a shame not to slow down and enjoy a real vacation in the area.
You might consider staying in Lebanon, which, with 23,000 souls, has plenty of restaurants and lodging. The first day, you could drive east to Reading, do some outlet shopping, and then follow the tour back from Wyomissing to Lebanon. The second day you could spend in Pennsylvania Dutch country near Lancaster, enjoying the countryside and the likes of Bird in Hand, Paradise, the Strasburg Railroad, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The next day, you could finish the tour from Lebanon to CP Harris, and spend the rest of the day at Hershey, touring the visitor center, and having a blast at the amusement park. Finally, drive back into Harrisburg and spend as much time as possible at CP Harris and CP Capitol.
Take out a loan so you can afford to get all of your film developed.
Security Issues. There are 2 important issues with regard to security: Your personal security and the security of the railroad corporation. As regards the former, whether in urban or rural areas, we strongly recommend you fan with at least one male companion. You may be safe from a mugging in the country, but if you're in a fairly remote area and break an ankle, you could die out there. Carrying a wireless phone is an excellent idea.
The railroad approaches security from a different point of view. In today's America, if some idiot railfan trespasses and climbs up a locomotive's stairs and falls of and breaks his arm, he will probably sue the railroad. Even more bizarre, he could even win his case. All corporations are concerned about corporate liability, and railroads are inherently dangerous operations. After the events of 9-11-01, railroads are even more security conscious. Be smart; be safe; be off railroad property unless you have specific permission to be there.Although it may be old fashioned, I also recommend you look decent. People who look like bums often are treated as such.
The Railroad -- Background. The Lebanon Valley Railroad built the line that we'll be following on this tour. On March 20, 1858, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company ("the Reading") acquired the line from the Lebanon Valley Railroad, and called it the Lebanon Valley Branch. During the years of the line's ownership under the Reading, freights traveled it, but not nearly as many as on the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line to the south. Eventually, hard times befell the eastern railroads, and the PRR became part of Penn Central.
On April 1, 1976, Conrail was created, and took over the operations of both railroads. Not needing 2 parallel lines, Conrail sold the former PRR line to Amtrak, and its freight traffic moved to the former Reading. The former Reading then became known as the Harrisburg Line in Conrail parlance. (Actually, the Harrisburg Line starts in Philadelphia, heads northwest to Reading, and then goes west to Harrisburg.) On June 1, 1999, Conrail was divided up between CSX and Norfolk Southern. The Harrisburg Line became part of Norfolk Southern, and during the ugly traffic miasma of 1999-2000, a lot of work was done on this, the main NS freight route between the northeast megalopolis and the west. Three major projects were undertaken.
First, NS envisioned a lot of northeast - Atlanta traffic, and the interlocking at CP Capitol in the center of the Harrisburg terminal was a major traffic jam much of the time. NS added a second track thru the interlocking, which sounds simple, but the plant is complex, and millions of dollars were spent. If you've dispatched trains thru here via Train Dispatcher 2 and now Train Dispatcher 3, you understand what a difference that second track has made. (Train Dispatcher is discussed below.) Second, the Harrisburg Conrail yard was stuffed before NS took over, and the constant increase in intermodal traffic was pushing the yard beyond its limits. The old yard at Rutherford, a Reading facility used for little more than storage, had been partially converted into a Triple Crown RoadRailer yard by Conrail, but it was subsequently transformed into a key, comprehensive intermodal and Triple Crown RoadRailer facility by NS. This has not only sped the intermodal trains thru the Harrisburg terminal, it has allowed the Harrisburg Yard to greatly increase its efficiency and effectiveness.
Finally, in a project still ongoing in December of 2001, NS is installing new bi-directional signaling on the entire line. This project was about 80% complete as of late 2001, and all signals referenced in this tour are the new ones.
The Harrisburg East dispatcher handles traffic between CP Tara east, and the Harrisburg Terminal dispatcher handles everything west of Tara. It is the territory handled by the Harrisburg Terminal dispatcher that is the track plan for the Train Dispatcher 3 simulation of the terminal. Harrisburg East uses 160.860; Harrisburg Terminal uses 160.980.
The Railroad -- Geography.
The Railroad --Traffic.
The Railroad -- Simulation. The area of this tour between just east of CP Tara (approximately MP 97.1) and CP Harris (105.1) is available as part of a much larger track territory for the Train Dispatcher 3 computer simulation software program. The territory includes all of the Harrisburg Dispatcher's territory, and has been recently upgraded to include the new track installation at CP Capitol. TD3 is available from Signal Communications Consultants, and their web site is here. I strongly recommend this software, especially if you are familiar with the area and have an interest in how a dispatcher gets all those trains thru Harrisburg. Dan Rapak, a Trains Magazine contributor is the creator of the territory.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing and exposing yourself to danger. You will have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
Wyomissing. This small community just west of Reading functions somewhat like a funnel, with the stem being the Harrisburg line westbound, and the wide end catching all the traffic from the northeast and southeast. This is where the Harrisburg Line running thru the city of Reading joins the portion of the Harrisburg Line that bypasses the city, and traffic from the New York area (via Allentown) joins in. To start the tour, take US-422 to the State Hill Road exit. At the bottom of the ramp, follow the signs to West Reading. After passing under the railroad, you will go up a small hill. At the traffic light at the top to the hill turn right on US-422Business (this is Penn Avenue). CP Wyomissing, the actual junction, is directly behind the Wyomissing Family Restaurant that you'll pass on your right.
Rather than fan behind the restaurant, however, follow Penn Avenue about 2/10 of a mile to an area where several small businesses are located (Philadelphia Heroes, American Dental Services, and Berks Hand Therapy). There is on-street parking, or you might be able to use some of the parking lots on the weekends without trouble since the dental and hand businesses are closed Saturday and Sunday. In either case, photos can be had from the parking lots without entering railroad property. The eastbound signals can easily be seen from this location as well.
West Lawn. Continue from CP Wyomissing west via US-422Business (Penn Avenue). You will shortly cross over the railroad, and directly under the overpass is the switch for Lawn siding. NS frequently stores empty open hopper and coal porter cars at this location. The cars are coming from the Titus power plant in Reading, and are awaiting pick up to head west. Unfortunately there is no public access to this location. So continue west for about 2 miles from Wyomissing, and you'll see a Friendly's Restaurant on your left. Directly behind Friendly's are signals at MP 63.5.
Sinking Spring. This is, in John's opinion, a somewhat more photogenic location than the signal location just described. If you continue west on US-422 about 9/10 of a mile (stay in the right lane when the road goes to 4 lanes for a short distance), you'll see the Sinking Spring post office. Take a left there onto Woodrow Avenue, and follow it back to the tracks. There is a small dirt parking area just before you cross the tracks. This parking area is the site of the former Reading station. There is a hotbox detector here [MP 64.6].
In Sinking Spring there is an active, old feed mill which NS services, and it can be worked into your photos. If you continue straight down the dirt/stone road thru the small scrap dealer you will see some old Conrail equipment, including a wooden plow(!), that the scrap dealer purchased years ago and has done nothing to. Continue down the dirt road a little further, and you'll come to where the Sinking Spring station was moved -- it has been restored.
Now, back at the dirt parking area next to the tracks. There are three tracks: 2 are mains and the third is that of a short line railroad, the Lancaster and Northern. The L&N runs about 2 to 3 times a week, using trackage rights over NS to get to the Reading yard. NS refers to the train as "PRL". The L&N's line goes southwest for about 12 miles, and it can be followed for several of those miles. To follow it, continue on Woodrow Avenue across the tracks and make a right, at the stop sign, onto Columbus Avenue, which will later become Old Fritztown Road. The railroad runs to Stevens, but it's locomotive is usually stored in Denver.
Sinking Spring -- Krick Lane. Continue west on US-422 for about 1.4 miles to Krick Lane (there is fast food and fuel here). Take a left onto Krick and follow it to the tracks. At the crossing, there are signals over the tracks and farm fields that you can work into your photos. Parking is tight, as the road has no shoulder. There is a lot of traffic, so be careful.
Wernersville. From back on US-422, travel west about 1.7 miles to Werner Street, and turn left. This is the location of a dilapidated stone passenger station. An historical group recently purchased the station, and plans to restore it. The former freight house is now a pizza shop.
South Mountain. From Wernersville, continue west on US-422 (which is still called Penn Avenue) for approximately 1.1 miles to Grand Boulevard and turn left. There is a "No Outlet" sign for the road. Follow it to the tracks. The property across the tracks belongs to the Wernersville State Hospital, and it is patrolled. There are signals above the tracks here, and light is best in the morning for eastbounds. In the afternoon, photos are possible from the bridge near this location -- go back to US-422 and go west for only about 0.2 miles to Sportsmans Road and turn left.
Robesonia. Travel west on US-422 for 2 miles beyond Grand Boulevard, and you'll arrive at a place which used to be important, but you have to be an industrial archeologist to appreciate that fact today. Turn left on South Freeman Street, and park in the area of the Robesonia swimming pool -- that may be difficult during hot summer days!
Signals at MP 71.0 are visible to the west. There is also an old barn that you might want to work into some of your shots. Between the crossing and the signals, you might spot a siding on the south side of the tracks. This is all that remains from what had been a very busy railroad location around the turn of the 20th Century. The Robesonia Furnace was located to the south and was a decent size operation. They even had their own locomotives and shops. Bethlehem Steel bought them out many years ago and closed the place. Until several years ago there were several companies that used this one remaining spur but have since stopped shipping by rail or have closed. A lot happens in well over 100 years.
Womelsdorf. The next stop on our tour is the town of Womelsdorf or, as NS calls it, DORF. Get back on US-422 and drive west for 2 miles to Hill Road (there is a BEST gas station at this location). Turn left onto Hill Road and take it over the tracks. Turn right at the T onto Ryeland Road. Follow Ryeland about 0.6 miles to an opening on your right (directly across from the entrance to Bethany Children's Home). This opening is the site where the Womelsdorf Reading station once stood. The signals for CP Dorf are just a few hundred feet to the west, and are visible from the station site. There are 3 tracks at Dorf. The far 2 are the main line tracks, and the one closest to you is a siding often used to store loaded coal cars waiting to be called to the Titus power plant in Reading.
At this point we can take a small, optional (and probably necessary by this time) side trip to McDonalds. Continue on Ryeland Road to the T and turn right onto South Water Street. You will pass under the railroad here. Take S. Water to the stop sign and turn left onto High Street. High Street joins PA-419. Follow PA-419 north until you come to the back/side entrance to McDonalds just before the traffic light for US-422. At the restaurant is a former CR/NH caboose painted for the Reading. Inside the restaurant are railroad memorabilia and pictures. Occasionally the caboose is open, and you can have your meal at one of the table in it. There are also more things to see inside the caboose. Note: For those with TADD (Train Attention Deficit Disability -- a common ailment among wives and children), there is a playland at the restaurant.
If you don't want to hit the McDonalds, follow the above directions from the station site to PA-419, but head south, not north. For those of you up at the restaurant, head back towards the station, but stay on PA-419. Where PA-419 goes over the tracks is a neat place to watch and photograph trains. The location of the bridge itself is in the edge of Newmanstown.
Sheridan. Continue south on US-419 to the first traffic light, and turn right onto North Sheridan Road. Follow Sheridan for about 0.7 miles. Just before the road dips down, you'll see an old 3 story building on your right , and a short road that dead ends at the tracks. This is the location of Sheridan. You'll see some sort of old foundry with several sidings on the other side of the tracks. While it has not been used for decades, it is an interesting place to see. Again, for you industrial archeologists and historians, this should be a very interesting place, even without the trains.
Richland. The next location is the town of Richland. From Sheridan, continue on North Sheridan Road for about 1.3 miles to Main Street. Take a right and follow Main to the railroad. The railroad crosses 2 streets in one big crossing. Be alert here, as there is a lot happening in a constricted area.
Myerstown -- Elk Plant. As you continue on Main Street in Richland, it will become Chestnut Street at the bend in the road. Take the first left after the bend onto Elm Street. Follow Elm about 1.1 miles to the stop sign at the cemetery. Turn right onto Royers Road. At the stop sign, turn right onto Weavertown Road, which crosses over the railroad on a bridge. Parking is tight, but great shots can be had from the bridge, and if you are lucky enough to catch the local shifting at the Elk Plant, it could make for more good pix.
Myerstown -- Downtown. We'll next take a look at railfanning in downtown Myerstown. Continue on Weavertown Road and make a left at the stop sign onto Richland Avenue. Take Richland to the first stop sign and make a left onto Railroad Avenue and follow it to the railroad. The hotbox detector at MP 80.0 is at this location.
Myerstown -- Ramona Street. There is a set of signals worth a visit, and to get there, head back down Railroad Avenue the way you came, and make a left onto Stoever Avenue. At the stop sign, turn left onto College Avenue. After passing under the railroad, make a right onto King Street. Follow King to Ramona Street and make a right. Follow Ramona Street to the tracks. The signals are at MP 81.49.
Prescott. Head back to King Street and continue west for about 2.2 miles, and turn right onto East Street. Follow East Street to the tracks; CP Prescott is on the west side of the crossing. The Controlled Point (an electronic tower, actually) is at MP 83.9, and is about the halfway point of our Wyomissing - Harrisburg tour. In John's opinion, the second half of the line is more interesting to railfan than the first half. We shall see.
Our next 2 railfan locations are in the small city of Lebanon. The city used to thrive on the existence of the Bethlehem Steel plants, but with their demise the city has struggled somewhat.
Lebanon -- Reading Station. Go back to King Street and head west for about 1 mile. At the stop sign, make a left onto East Cumberland Street. At the traffic light, make a left onto US-422. Follow US-422 west for 1.5 miles to 8th Street. Take a right onto 8th Street, and follow it to the railroad. The old Reading Company station is on your right, just before the tracks; it is now a bank (note the semaphore signals in the drive through). The old crossing guard tower is still standing as well. About 1/2 block before you get to the station, on the left, is a large red brick building. This was the station for the long-gone Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad. Look for the "C&L" on the building.
Lebanon -- Yard. Go back to US-422, and continue west. Go to 16th Street and turn right. Just before you get to 16th, you'll cross over an abandoned right-of-way which was probably the Cornwall Railroad. If you look down the roadbed to the south, you'll see the former station. This is a subject for the railroad historians among us. Take 16th Street to the NS tracks. The yard office is on your right and the main body of the yard is on your left. This is also the location of CP Wall. There is a good chance that NS will do away with CP Wall due to the close proximity to CP Prescott, which is a comparatively new interlocking.
Cleona. Once again, continue west on US-422 (are you seeing a pattern here?) and travel about 2.5 miles; you'll come to a small shopping center on your right. Make a right onto Hoffer Road and follow it back to the tracks. There are 2 sidings here, one on each side of the tracks, and a hand-thrown crossover, as well as a sign designating the location as Cleona. The railroad is on a long straightaway, so looking to the west the signals at MP 90 can easily be seen.
Annville. Further west on US-422, only about 0.9 mile west of Cleona is Moyer Street, and you want to be careful, because it's easy to miss. Take a right on Moyer Street and drive back to the railroad. The town of Annville recently moved the original station, built in 1895 at North Railroad Street, to this location. It was brought back to Annville in 1998 and set at its present site. It is owned by the Friends of Old Annville, the local historical group. [Frograil extends thanks to Linnea Miller of Annville for this clarification of the status of the station.]
You might be able to work the station into some of your shots. Looking to the east, the block signals at MP 90 can be seen, and if you have binoculars (and are tall enough) the signals at CP Millards to the west are visible. Note: On occasion, you may see a headlight moving around to the west that never seems to get closer. This is from the engines drilling cars at the quarry in our next location.
Millards. Continuing west on US-422 for 2.1 miles will get you to Clear Spring Road. Take a right and go over the railroad via the overpass. Excellent shots can be had from the bridge. The west side of the bridge is wide, allowing you to be fairly safe, so this is primarily a morning location. Parking in the area is tight, so you should be resigned to hoofing back to the bridge. The bridge itself is directly over CP Millards. West of the bridge is Pennsylvania Lime's quarry operations. This is a division of Carmeuse, and there are 3 engines on the property. NS runs several trains in and out of the quarry each week. These "stone trains" are a nice plus for the line, since most NS lines don't have such critters. The hoppers and operational characteristics of such trains are different from those, say, of coal trains.
Webmaster's Note: Be aware that Clear Spring Road is busy, and the adjacent quarry operations add many, many trucks to the traffic mix. These truckers are paid by the mile, and they're in a hurry, so be very careful. The east side of the bridge is not recommended as a railfan location. Be wise; be alert; be safe. There is also a lot of dust kicked up, so you might want to protect your eyes.
Palmyra. Onward, ever onward, westbound on US-422 for another 2.6 miles to North Forge Road and make a right. Head back to the tracks. Here there are an impressive four tracks passing under a signal bridge. It may not be "The Standard Railway of the World", but it still looks great in pictures. The main line tracks are in the center with a siding on either side.
Palmyra -- Station. The Reading station in town still stands, although it is difficult to photograph because of a fence and junk around it. For those who are station freaks (like me), John provides these directions: Go back to US-422 and head west to Railroad Street and take a right. Follow Railroad Street to the tracks.
Hershey -- East. Continuing west on US-422, travel about 1 mile and then take a right onto Derry Road. There is an M&T Bank on the corner. You'll follow Derry about 1.2 miles and come to a Y -- be sure to bear to the left to continue following Derry Road, which will take you to the railroad. There is a signal bridge over the tracks. The public crossing allows you to watch the engine(s) assigned to the factory ferry cars of cocoa, sugar, corn syrup and other ingredients, back and forth, often having to cross both main line tracks. When the Ringling Brothers B&B Circus comes to town, usually in May, this is the location that is used to unload the equipment.
This facility is the largest chocolate factory in the world. Many years ago, tours were conducted thru the plant, but there were so many tourists that it was difficult to work around them, and liability concerns were becoming an issue. Hershey's neatly solved the problem by constructing a visitor center away from the plant itself. A thorough discussion of Hershey's Chocolate, the amusement park, the hospital, etc., are way beyond the scope of this tour, but some time spent researching the area via the Internet would be time well spent before you come to visit.
Hershey -- West. The west side of the plant doesn't have the switching activity as does the east side, but it's very photogenic. Continue on Derry Road to the T, and take a left onto Park Avenue. Hershey Park is directly in front of you. As you wind your way up Park Avenue, you'll see ZooAmerica on your left. There is an entrance to a small parking lot that's free, but keep in mind that the lot is provided for ZooAmerica's patrons. During tourist season and on weekends, do not park here. Rather, continue on Park Avenue to the top of the hill. At the intersection, bear to the right and immediately find a place to park. Walk over to the bridge that crosses the railroad, and you can get some great shots of westbounds in the afternoon passing the chocolate plant.
This is the spot that Ringling Brothers B&B Circus uses to unload and load the circus animals. There are 3 tracks, with the 2 main line tracks on the north side. The third track is called "number four storage", and it continues west about a half mile to a Hershey warehouse to which the cocoa bean shells are shipped, put in bags, and sold as mulch (a pretty clever way to get rid of waste and make a profit at the same time). The bridge is a fine railfan location because it has a walkway on both sides, but be careful crossing the road, since the traffic is almost non-stop. Also, tourists are notoriously inattentive drivers, so maybe you should be more careful than usual. By the way, while on the bridge, look up at the street lights. They are unique.
Swatara. Cross the bridge you were just on (Park Avenue) and go one block to the traffic light. Take a right onto Chocolate Avenue, which is (no prizes for the correct answer here, folks) US-422. Follow US-422 west about 0.8 miles to a traffic light, and make a right onto Hockerville road; there is a CVS Pharmacy on the corner. Follow Hockersville to the tracks. This is the location of the former Brownstone station. Across the tracks is an old feed and coal building that can be worked into photos. A little to the west of here is Hershey's Reese's plant. The Hershey shifter will occasionally come up number two track to drill the plant.
Matthew Loser provided some clarification for this location.
Brownstone. This is a pretty obscure location, but Matthew Loser has provided some interesting details for us. The actual Brownstone station was located off-US422, behind the Holiday Inn Express and Taco Bell. This is west of Hershey and east of Hummelstown. There appears to be a block of stone from the old station's foundation. The Brownstone and Hummelstown Railroad served quarries just south of town, along Bullfrog Valley Road. Most of the stone went to New York City to build the famous brownstone row houses there. A "Brownstone" railroad point is shown in the Steam Powered Video's atlas.
Hummelstown. Traveling further west on US-422, it will end and you'll join US-322 to continue west. You will have traveled about 2 miles when you come to the Hummelstown/Middletown exit. Take this exit, and at the top of the ramp, make a right onto Quarry Road. Follow Quarry to the end, and make a left onto Main Street. Travel along Main about 0.7 miles. As you cross the tracks, make a right onto Duke Street, and follow it to the Norfolk Southern's tracks.
The set of tracks you crossed were those of the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad. The M&H connects with Amtrak in Middletown and Norfolk Southern in Hummelstown. M&H operates excursion trains out of Middletown and uses the interchange there with Amtrak for freight. The tracks north of US-322 are not used, including the connection with NS, because the tracks cross busy US-322 at grade, and there are no customers on the north side of US-322. NS has left the interchange switch in place for using it to store MoW equipment on it from time to time. To the west of the NS crossing with Duke Street are CP Tara and the defect detector at MP 103.3.
Rutherford -- Grayson Road. Our next location is really a very large area, and is the site of extensive railroad security, but we're going to give you one safe, good railfan location. The town of Rutherford was the site of the Reading's Harrisburg area yard. It was a very large, modern yard, with extensive locomotive and car shops, and it had two separate bowls, each with its own hump. The two main tracks split coming into the yard area, with the yard in the middle. The westbound bowl was north of the eastbound bowl. In 1976, when Conrail took over operations of the Reading and Penn Central, it used the yard for a few years and then closed it in favor of the former Pennsylvania Railroad's yards in Harrisburg and Enola. For years following its closure, Rutherford yard was merely a place to store old cars and locos. In June of 1984, your Webmaster shot several pix of SD45's, SDP45's, and other models. If you've ever been to Olewein, Iowa, or the Rutherford of the 1980's, you know how eerie such a place is.
For a brief discussion of how a major intermodal terminal and Triple Crown facility came to be located here, read the background above. As part of the NS intermodal terminal construction, both main line tracks were relocated to the north side of the area, and the former eastbound main track became the lead track to the Triple Crown activity. The intermodal terminal is on the west side of the complex.
From Hummelstown, travel back down Duke Street and make a right onto West Second Street, and then a left onto North Walnut. Then, take a right onto West Main Street, and follow it approximately 0.8 miles to US-322. Take US-322 west to the first traffic light and bear to the right. At the stop sign, stay straight on Witmer Drive (if you follow the road to your right, you'll go under the railroad at CP Beaver, but there is no public access to Beaver). At the next intersection you will bear to the right onto Grayson Road. Grayson will go past the Triple Crown terminal and then parallel the Triple Crown lead track. Stay on Grayson Road past the 2 traffic lights; you will eventually come to an area where there is a small gravel area directly in front of you. Grayson makes a sharp turn to the left, but you want to park in the gravel area.
You'll see the intermodal trains and RoadRailers going to and from their respective terminals, as well as other trains bypassing the terminals. This location is a excellent place to watch the action, although it is not the best spot for photography.
Oakleigh -- 40th Street. Go back up Grayson Road to the first traffic light and take a left and cross the bridge over the railroad. At the traffic light on the other side of the bridge take a left onto Derry Street. Derry parallels the railroad for about a mile to the east, and of course, you're free to check it out, but for our tour, we'll continue west. Go west on Derry about 2.2 miles, and you'll see a cemetery on your left. Just after the cemetery is 40th Street on your left, which goes up a hill and crosses the railroad via an overpass.
Parking is difficult if not impossible along 40th Street, so rather than turn onto 40th, continue on Derry to the Payless Shoe Store parking lot on your left, and walk back to 40th Street and the overpass. From the overpass you can view CP Ruth, where the tracks leading into the western edge of the Rutherford complex enter the main line. However, Derry is a very busy road, and the bridge doesn't have sidewalks. While you can get good photos here, it is not really recommended as a railfan location.
Harrisburg -- 19th Street. Get back on Derry Street and head further west. After traveling about 1.7 miles you will bear left onto Greenwood. Take Greenwood to where it comes to a T and park. Parking is usually available along Greenwood. The other street at the T is 19th Street. Head to the left on 19th and walk the half block to the bridge over Norfolk Southern. Just to the east is the switch for the Hill Industrial Track that also passes under the bridge. To the west is CP Capitol. If you look at the correct angle, you might be able to see the signals on the east side of the interlocking.
Harrisburg -- CP Capitol. Let's get to CP Capitol. Take 19th Street south across the railroad about 0.2 miles and take a right onto PA-441. Follow it to the west for about 1 mile, where it will curve to the right and become northerly as 2nd Street. Stay on 2nd about 1/4 mile, and take a right onto Chestnut Street. The Amtrak station is about 2 blocks in front of you. That's the good news. The bad news is that you're downtown in a fair sized city, and parking is at a premium. You can park in front of the station and constantly feed the meter, or you can park in the Chestnut Street Parking Garage. We do not know if the parking garage charges for weekend parking. My suggestion is to park elsewhere, and the hoof it or take a city bus back to the area.
The station itself is a fine looking, original Pennsylvania Railroad, red brick structure. This is the end of Amtrak's electrified Keystone Corridor, which runs from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, although most trains today are diesel powered. Under the station's train shed are a restored GG1 and a caboose. Don't attempt to go down to the platforms unless you have a ticket and will be boarding the next train.
Walk up and across the Mulberry Street bridge going over both the Amtrak and Norfolk Southern tracks. After walking past the metal walls above the Amtrak lines, you'll be able to look down the tracks at CP Capitol. The old Reading control tower still stands and can be photographed using a zoom lens. Looking the other way, you will see the US Postal Service facility -- this was the site of the Reading Railroad's Harrisburg station.
It was here that the addition of a second main track thru Capitol eliminated most of the bottleneck which plagued this location for years. CP Capitol is where NS's Lurgan Branch (the route to Hagerstown, MD), Paxton Street Industrial tracks, and NS's Royalton Branch (to Port Deposit, MD) join the Harrisburg Line. It, even with a second track, can still be a very busy location, and the Harrisburg Terminal dispatcher has to hustle to move things smoothly thru the interlockings. Trains on the Royalton Branch usually run at night, because they leave or join the Northeast Corridor at Port Deposit, and are scheduled so as to not interfere with Amtrak and Maryland Area Rail Commuter passenger trains on the NEC.
Harrisburg -- CP Harris. To get to CP Harris from the Amtrak station, the simplest way is to pass in front of the station across the little bit of cobblestone at the drop off area, and go down the hill to the stop sign. Take a right onto Market Street. You will, almost immediately, at the traffic light, make a left onto 5th Street. Do not pass under the railroad. Take 5th Street 2 blocks to Walnut Street and take a right. Walnut will turn to the left; however, you should go straight. You will see the former Harris tower directly in front of you. There is a defect detector in the area at MP 105.1.
Again, this is in a downtown area, and parking is a bit of a problem. Parking spaces in the area are reserved for state employees. If you're visiting on a weekday, you may have to hoof it from the Chestnut Street garage or some other location. On weekends and holidays, parking will be no problem, obviously. Technically, Harris is the end of the Harrisburg Line, but the actual start of the Pittsburgh Line is not here; it's just a tad south at the Amtrak station. The Harrisburg Chapter, National Railroad Historic Society, owns Harris tower, as well as the caboose back at the station. The GG1 is owned by the State Historical and Museum Commission, and the Harrisburg Chapter NRHS is the caretaker for the engine.
I think we owe John Schodowski a great round of applause for this outstanding rail tour.