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Backtracking through history

Northeast Philadelphia History Network heard from Ed Duffy, author of Philadelphia: A Railroad History which examines the development of the railroad industry in Philadelphia.


Attendees packed into Pennepack Baptist Church for Northeast Philadelphia History Network’s April meeting to hear from author Ed Duffy, who published Philadelphia: A Railroad History in 2013.

Duffy presented about the development of the railroad industry in Philadelphia, with a specific focus on Northeast Philadelphia.

The history of railroads in the city begins around 1830 or 1831, Duffy said, with one of the first railroads coming down from Trenton, New Jersey with the goal of reaching Center City Philadelphia, which was called the Philadelphia-Trenton line.

While the line was being made it encountered a lot of opposition from neighbors, who would come out at night and take out the rails the crew had laid out that day and throw them down the road. The construction ended up being terminated and didn’t reach south of Kensington.

“In the early days of building railroads with railroads springing up in the Northeast [and other locations throughout the city], it was essentially so many spokes without a hub,” Duffy said. John Edgar Thomson, who served as president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1852 until his death in 1874, came up with the idea of making a connecting railroad to connect those spokes.

Years after the connected railroad was created in 1867, Pennsylvania Railroad acquired the Philadelphia-Trenton railroad, creating a route that went from 30th Street Station to the Frankford Junction station to New York Harbor.

“That was a real big improvement,” Duffy said.

Duffy recounted this story and many more that are included in his book at the presentation. The book is available here and on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

NEPHN meets the first Wednesday of every month, usually at Pennepack Baptist Church at 8732 Krewstown Road. The next meeting will be held May 1.

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