READING, Pa. (AP) – In the late 1950s, years after being largely replaced by diesel engines, steam locomotives made a brief comeback on the Reading Railroad. Hissing and bellowing smoke, vintage engines that had once pulled coal cars hauled passengers on excursions into coal country, the Lehigh Valley and even Gettysburg. Iron Horse Rambles, as they were known, were wildly popular between 1959 and 1964.
“They made Life magazine and the movies,” said Dale W. Woodland, a Reading Railroad historian. “People came from all over, including foreign countries, to ride the Reading.”
The last hurrah of the Reading steam engines is revisited in a new exhibit that opened recently at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Hamburg.
“Members Treasures,” which features Reading Railroad artifacts from several Berks County collections, runs through Nov. 17. Woodland, exhibit curator, tapped the collections of members of the Reading Co. Technical & Historical Society, several of whom worked for the Reading.
From an original diamond-shaped “Reading Lines” logo that adorned the front of the streamlined Crusader locomotive to conductors’ pocket watches, the exhibit recalls an era when passengers could board in Reading for destinations like Philadelphia, Jersey City and Williamsport.
“The Reading was like the spokes of a wagon wheel,” said Woodland, who has written four books about the railroad. “Reading was the center, with lines going outward.”
Entering the exhibit gallery, visitors are treated to an Iron Horse Ramble display from the collection of Steve Gilbert of Robesonia. One of the trains, No. 2124, it notes, appeared in the Hollywood version of John O’Hara’s “From the Terrace,” starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
The Reading Railroad Heritage Museum is located at 500 S. Third Street, Hamburg, Pa. Hours are Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays noon-4 p.m.
Admission prices are: Adults $5; seniors (65 +) $4; ages 5-12 $3; children under 5 and active military, free. Learn more at www.readingrailroad.org or by contacting 215-723-5848 or firstname.lastname@example.org.