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Riding Reading Railroad Steam
By Jack M. Turner

    The first week of October 2022 found my wife and I heading north on Amtrak train # 52, the AutoTrain, from Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA (see earlier TrainWeb report at  We then spent several nights at the beautiful Amish View Inn in Bird-in-Hand, PA and during this time rode the nearby Strasburg Railroad and toured the Amish countryside via a minibus tour offered by The Amish Village, a nicely recreated group of Amish houses and buildings typically found in an Amish community.  After that we set our eyes on a longer steam trip over the Reading & Blue Mountain Railroad from North Reading to Jim Thorpe, PA and return.
   Reading 4-8-4 T-1 Northern locomotive 2102 backed down to its 17 car consist at the Reading Outer Station on the north side of Reading, PA and soon a trainload of passengers were on the way northward at 9:00am.  Christine and I were seated in car number 6, former Santa Fe full dome # 511 now painted in the Illinois Central chocolate and orange livery favored by its prior owner Iowa Pacific.  The dome car was well worth the extra fare as it provided a great view of beautiful scenery during the 3 hour northbound trip and 2 1/2 hour return.  After its Santa Fe years this dome car was sold to the Auto-Train Corporation and later operated for Holland America-Westours in Alaska and later on the Rio Grande Scenic in Colorado.

Reading 2102 prepares to lead the excursion train out of North Reading

Reading & Northern full dome "Scenic View" wears Illinois Central colors but originally served Santa Fe

    The scenery featured woods, farms, and small communities with a couple of mountains appearing as we neared Port Clinton.  The beautiful vistas hid the mechanical woes that were plaguing the 2102 and shortly after departing Port Clinton the train backed up and cut off the ailing steam engine.  A pair of diesels were on standby and soon coupled up to our train to continue the excursion.  The autumn leaves, rolling terrain, and flowing rivers made for a pleasant ride and by 12:07pm we reached Jim Thorpe, a charming little town whose streets were filled with tourists attending a street festival.  There were ample food booths as well as arts and crafts to explore in the neat little downtown area.  The brick railway station, now a visitor center, was attractive and contained numerous displays worth browsing.

Crossing the Schuylkill River

Inside full dome "Scenic View"

One of the scenic highlights of the trip is this lake south of Jim Thorpe

    Part of our layover was filled with a ride on the hourly Valley Train which ran about 7 miles north from Jim Thorpe into the Lehigh Gorge State Park.  SD40-2 # 3059 led the 11car train which had a caboose and a GP40 engine on the rear.  Upon departing from Jim Thorpe the train turned northward at 1:08 at the junction where two legs of a large wye crossed the Lehigh River.  The train followed the river and soon numerous whitewater rafters could be seen floating down the sparkling river.  Mountains framed the beautiful scene and passengers were glued to the windows taking in the sights.

    All too soon we reached the end of the short journey at 1:21pm and 2 minutes later we reversed directions with the GP 40 leading.  Seventeen minutes later we traversed the northern leg of the wye and rejoined the line from North Reading one minute later.  Soon we passed parked rail diesel cars 9168 and 9160 which occasionally handle RBM&N excursions.  At 1:40 the Valley Train pulled into Jim Thorpe and prepared for its next trip.

The classic depot at Jim Thorpe, PA offers a great place to wait before the return trip

The return trip to North Reading prepares for boarding at Jim Thorpe

    The return trip to Reading Outer Station departed at 3:41pm and we met an incoming Valley Train two minutes later.  At 3:49 we passed Jim Thorpe Jct where Valley Trains bear off to the north.  Nice views of mountains, lakes, and the river followed and we crossed Hometown High Bridge at 4:19.  The 981 foot long bridge, built in 1931, is 161 feet tall and offers a great view of the nearby mountains and the valley below.  The autumn leaves covering the mountains added to the splendor of the crossing followed by passage through Tamaqua Tunnel.
    A huge S-curve and passage by a Christmas tree farm bracketed the community of New Ringgold.  At 5:30pm our diesel-led train stopped briefly at Port Clinton to discharge a few passengers.  After rolling through West Hamburg and West Leesport the excursion reached the end of its run back at the Reading Outer Station at 6:08pm.  This was a very enjoyable excursion with beautiful views of the mountains, lakes, and colorful autumn leaves.  The RBM&N (also referred to as Reading & Northern) also offers trips between Pittston (near Wilkes-Barre) to Jim Thorpe on select dates.  Visit for information about these excursions or call the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern passenger department at (610)562-2102.