Reading Company

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Reading Company


Reading Company (RDG)

The Reading Company, usually called the Reading Railroad, officially the Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway until 1924, operated in southeast Pennsylvania, New Jersey and northern Delaware. Reduced coal traffic coupled with highway competition and short hauls forced it into bankruptcy in the 1970s. The railroad was merged into Conrail in 1976, but the corporation lasted into 2000, disposing of real estate holdings.

The Reading Company served Southern New Jersey via subsidiary The Atlantic City Railroad


Established as The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad in 1833, founded to transport anthracite coal mined in Pennsylvania to destinations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. At the time, coal was a major source of energy in the United States, making The Philadelphia & Reading one of the most important and wealthy companies in the country. The railroad poured its profits into other businesses, delving into coal mining, iron making, shipbuilding, and a host of other businesses. By the 1870s, The Philadelphia & Reading, which owned the P & R Coal and Iron Company, ranked as the largest corporation in the world.

By the end of the 19th century, The Philadelphia & Reading's greatest threat was from the federal government. Antitrust legislation aimed at breaking up monopolies prompted the railroad's owners to create a holding company, a company named Reading Company, which, on paper, owned The Philadelphia & Reading and P & R Coal and Iron Company. The tactic worked for a while, but eventually the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the company to separate itself into distinct entities. The breakup of the company in 1924 created the new version of Reading Company, a company solely devoted to operating the railroad.

Reading Company, like a handful of other railroad companies, began a gradual downward spiral after World War II. Coal's value as an energy source waned, replaced by oil, and competition in the freight-hauling business intensified, as railroads, particularly those operating in the eastern United States, lost substantial ground to the trucking industry. Between 1967 and 1972, six major northeastern railroads declared bankruptcy, and Reading Company was one of the moribund pack, filing for Chapter 11 in 1971. The operation of the rail lines controlled by Reading and those of its fallen brethren were consolidated by a federal government agency and given to the Consolidated Rail Corporation, or Conrail, a government-sponsored company that began operating in 1976. Reading, meanwhile, was reduced to making its living primarily by developing some of its historic railroad properties, which consisted, in large part, of real estate holdings. It would be nearly 20 years before Reading Company sold its last railroad real estate asset, the Reading Terminal Headhouse in downtown Philadelphia, which was sold in 1993.

Operations in Southern New Jersey

Car Float Operations

Linden Street Freight Station

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