Reading & Northern return historic steam locomotive to excursion service

A vintage steam locomotive with roots in the anthracite region will haul passenger excursions for the first time in more than 30 years starting this spring and summer after a restoration effort that cost more than $2 .4 million.

The Reading & Northern Railroad has announced that Class T-1 steam locomotive 2102 will run four “Iron Horse Rambles” from May.

The trips, which take their name from legendary excursions offered decades ago by the old Reading Company, will be offered on May 28, July 2, August 13 and September 3, with five seating classes on offer.

Day trips will travel from Reading to Jim Thorpe and back, with a 3.5 hour stopover in Jim Thorpe and a photo opportunity for rail fans on the return trip to Reading.

“It’s an opportunity for passengers to get off the train and take photos and video of the train passing a photo location,” Matt Fisher, Reading & Northern’s managing director of passenger services, explained in the press release.

“It’s very similar to the Reading Company’s famous Iron Horse rides of the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

Story

Built in 1945 by the Reading Company at its Reading workshops, 2102 is one of four surviving Class T-1 locomotives, company officials said. It hauled coal trains for the Reading until it was set aside for its Iron Horse Rambles program at the end of the steam era in the late 1950s.

Popularly nicknamed the Reading Railroad, the Reading Company connected Philadelphia and Reading to the Anthracite region and beyond, carrying coal, freight and passengers. Its assets were sold to Conrail in 1976 and the surviving lines were passed on to successors.

Reading & Northern, on the other hand, was founded in 1983 and has developed a significant freight and passenger excursion business through the acquisition of railway lines throughout the region, including some former tracks of the Reading Company.

Locomotive 2102 spent several years with Steam Tours in Ohio until Reading & Northern owner and CEO Andy Muller, Jr. purchased it in 1986 and operated the engine between Temple and South Hamburg in the Berks County.

Locomotive 2102 was put into storage in 1991. In 2016 work began to rebuild the locomotive and return it to service on the Reading & Northern.

Excursion tickets

Tickets are available for sale on the railroad’s website, www.rbmnrr-passenger.com, or by phone at 610-562-2102. Ticket prices will be per person, regardless of age:

• Standard coach seats – $99,

• Crown class seats — $110,

• Pullman Car Private Rooms — $299 per room for up to two people,

• First class dome car seats – $199,

• First Class Lounge Car Seats – $199, and

• First Class Lounge Observation Car Seats — $210.

A booming railway empire

Based in Port Clinton, Berks County, Reading & Northern (formerly known as Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern) is a privately-owned railroad serving more than 70 customers in nine eastern Pennsylvania counties: Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Alfalfa, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Wyoming. The company employs nearly 300 people.

As well as a thriving freight business, Reading & Northern operates steam and diesel-powered passenger excursion services, including routes between Reading and Jim Thorpe and its popular Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway routes. More than 225,000 people rode the railway’s excursion trains in 2021, breaking previous records.

Jose P. Rogers