Watercolor… departing the Reading Terminal Train Shed in Philadelphia… destination Jersey City (New York City), the Reading Railroad (RDG) “Crusader” was the road’s foremost express passenger service… inaugurated at the end of 1937 and running into the early 1950’s. The Reading’s two stainless steel, Crusader steam locomotives, #117 & #118… began life as a 4-6-2 Pacific Class steam engine, which then received their new streamline cladding at Reading’s shops in Reading, Pennsylvania… designed by the already world famous architect and Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Paul Philippe Cret. The Crusader’s five car consist of custom, stainless steel coaches was built by the Budd Company in Philadelphia. The trainset was ordered as observation, coach, tavern-dining car, coach and another observation car. The locomotive tender was designed with a concave tail, shaped to receive and enclose the rounded end of either observation car. The trainset did not have to be turned at a terminal and only the locomotive and tender would be turned. In 1964, both complete trainsets were sold to the Canadian National (CN) Railroad. They have not survived, though two of the four original stainless steel, Budd observation cars still exist. One is on display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pennsylvania and the second is part of the passenger fleet of Iowa Pacific Holdings. The Reading & then SEPTA (with CONRAIL) did continue a “Crusader” branded route until 1981… but by then, the luxurious passenger coaches, accommodations and special services were just a memory.
I commuted through the Reading Terminal on Budd RDCs five days a week, beginning in February of 1976 until passenger rail service, on the Bethlehem Branch above Lansdale, was terminated in July of 1981. The last passenger train to leave the station on November 6, 1984 was a special MU “Blueliner” consist and today no trains pull in or out of the Reading Terminal. The 1893 terminal headhouse (Francis H. Kimball, architect) and attached train shed (Wilson Brothers & Company) were structurally sound, though the shed carried close to 90 years of accumulated grime. The massive headhouse and shed have been repurposed as the Philadelphia Convention Center. The SEPTA (former PTC) subway platform located beneath the terminal at 8th & Market was expanded in 1984 to accommodate SEPTA’s regional commuter trains on their way to and from Philadelphia’s 30th Street (former Pennsylvania Railroad) AMTRAK Station and is now called Jefferson Station. Discussions are underway to convert the derelict, elevated former Reading Viaduct system, which carried the many passenger trains over congested city streets… into a public rail trail park.