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A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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   A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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   Author  Topic: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel  (Read 498 times)
Charlie_O
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A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« on: May 14th, 2003, 6:43pm »
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I really couldn't call this a Reading Railroad board without a visit to Flat Rock Tunnel.  
 
First, a little background:
Flat Rock Tunnel was built in 1839-40 by the Philadelphia & Reading RR.  Engineered by Moncure and Wirt Robinson, the tunnel was, at the time, only the ninth RR tunnel in the U.S.  Boring through gneiss at about 95 feet below the surface of the hill, the tunnel stretches for 937 feet.  Since its construction, it has been modified and enlarged several times: in 1858-9, in 1888-9, in 1936 (the year the present concrete portals were poured), and in 1994 to raise the roof clearance to accommodate double-stacks.  Once double-tracked, the tunnel now carries a single set of rails.  Flat Rock Tunnel continues to serve, carrying several NS freights daily.
 
So, I decided to take the morning off and have a look at the old girl.  A township park provides a walkway that parallels the ROW, which is well marked with "no trespassing" signs.  The tunnel approach itself is guarded by a second, much newer tunnel, that carries the Schuylkill Expressway a few yards above.  For obvious safety reasons, I used a zoom lens to get my first pic...  
 


http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/Reading/FlatRock_Tunnel.jpg
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« Last Edit: May 18th, 2003, 7:13pm by Charlie_O » Logged

Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
Charlie_O
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Posts: 5797
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #1 on: May 14th, 2003, 6:45pm »
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My safety concerns soon proved well-founded, evidenced by this 3-eyed dragon, an NS widecab leading a mixed freight NW through the tunnel...

http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/Reading/3_i_dragon.jpg
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« Last Edit: May 18th, 2003, 7:15pm by Charlie_O » Logged

Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
Charlie_O
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Posts: 5797
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #2 on: May 14th, 2003, 6:47pm »
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When the NS train emerged, I was able to get a nice view--up close and personal...

http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/Reading/NS_9719.jpg
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Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
trainwatcher1100

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Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #3 on: May 14th, 2003, 7:01pm »
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Terrific series, Charlie!  I had no idea it was possible to get so close, legally!   -Bob

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Alco83

Posts: 3828
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #4 on: May 14th, 2003, 7:29pm »
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Definitely must agree with, Bob.  Some very nice photos there, Charlie, especially that second one.

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Charlie_O
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Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #5 on: May 14th, 2003, 8:04pm »
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Thanks for the good words, fellas.  Luck and the camera did the hard parts.
 
But as it turns out, the good fortune wasn't done.  As I walked back to my car, camera tucked away in its bag, I was surprised by NS 2107, running light and following the freight northwest.  
 
After exchanging waves with the engineer, I did manage to get this "going away" pic of RDG power still at work on RDG rails.


http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/Reading/NS_2107.jpg
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Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
Alco83

Posts: 3828
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #6 on: May 14th, 2003, 9:11pm »
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Very nice, Charlie.  Now, howabout taking that Photoshop program of yours and editing in RDG green and yellow for Conrail blue on that switcher.

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Charlie_O
Historian
Posts: 5797
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #7 on: May 15th, 2003, 7:30pm »
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on May 14th, 2003, 7:01pm, trainwatcher1100 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
I had no idea it was possible to get so close, legally!

 
There's a park path with township signs (no pets, no littering, and such) right beside the ROW for quite a stretch.  And every post along the ROW has a "No Trespassing" sign.  So I figured, "OK, stay on the path and don't walk on the ROW...sounds reasonable."  So the run-by was easy.
 
Getting a clear pic of the old tunnel portal is tougher, as you can see by my blurry attempt.  It can't be accessed directly from the path because of the Schuylkill overpass and an adjacent rock wall.  The other way would be to walk through the concrete overpass, but you don't wanna get caught between the train and the wall...even if there is clearance.  I opted for the 80mm lens instead (really shoulda had a 200mm).
 
A side note...there is a maintenance road on the southeast end of the Flat Rock tunnel (it's visible from the Expway), but I don't know whether that's accessible.    
 
-Charlie


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Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
Charlie_O
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Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #8 on: May 18th, 2003, 7:32pm »
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Here's one pic from the series I probably should have included earlier...

http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/Reading/FlatRock_uh_oh.jpg
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Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
hal
TRAINing
Posts: 21
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #9 on: May 19th, 2003, 11:33pm »
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Interesting about the Flatrock Tunnel, would you know about how that freight line that runs through Flatrock Tunnel interlocks with the parallel siding that splits off and crosses the river to run along Manayunk Canal?  
 
The freight line crosses the Schuylkill River at the best railfanning site imaginable, back patio of the Manayunk Brewery looking over the Schuylkill River.  The bridge it crosses was origionally built for mule drawn canal barges, then the bridge was rebuilt to carry trains, and mules walked across on a cantilevered platform.  Now it's just the occasional freight line past the old Connelly Paper to the Smurfitt Paper.
 
Here's the engine and two tankers, stopped beside the defunct Connelly Mill at Cotton Street, while the engineer grabs lunch.  The Pennsy Viaduct and catenary is visible in the background.  


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hal
TRAINing
Posts: 21
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #10 on: May 19th, 2003, 11:54pm »
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And here's the freight moving with 5 tankers, pictured in front of the Jefferson Smurfitt Paper Mills.  The freight came in with 2 tankers, left with 3.
 
The freight line runs directly beside the Manayunk Canal, and actually below the waterlevel of the canal in a few places where the siding snakes under the Green Lane and Fountain Street bridges, it may be the only area where you can look out the window of a engine and be at eye level with the water.   This wierd layout is necessary because the rail line follows the route of the former towpath, and engines are quite a bit taller than mules.  Since you can't raise the bridge, they had to depress the rails.  
 
The factory in the background is Jefferson Smurfitt's boxboard recycling center- largest industry left in Philadelphia.  The location is Flatrock Road, Philadelphia, which used to connect to Flatrock Road Lower Merion, by a massive covered bridge that crossed the Schuylkill at a prominent ridge.  In the background left is a high tension tower on that ridge, that's roughly where one abutment of the Flatrock Bridge used to be.  The Philadelphia & Reading couldn't go around that ridge, so directly below that tower is the Flatrock Tunnel.
 
Hal
 
Hal


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hal
TRAINing
Posts: 21
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
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« Reply #11 on: May 20th, 2003, 12:27am »
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Here's another shot of incoming freight parked beside the Manayunk Canal at the new Cotton Street bridge.  
The site is beside the Connellly Container building that is visible from the Schuylkill Expressway.  This just north of the interlock for the now unused siding to Connelly.
 
You can really see how close line is to the Manayunk Canal.  The engine is running exactly where the mule teams pulled the canal boats along.  Somewhere along the Delaware Canal, they experimented with pulling canal boats, by engines along the trolley line, but it didn't work.
 
The Manayunk Canal bulkhead is being refurbished, all along the rail line- It's still under construction up north by Jefferson Smurfitt plant, but here you can see the finished bulkhead with new steel I-beams and wood retaining walls.  In the background on the right side in the treeline, you can see catenary poles for the Pennsy/R6 Cynwyd, this is just below the bridge where the Pennsy runs along the river before heading for the Cynwyd station.
 
Hal


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nsgoaway
TRAINing
Posts: 4
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #12 on: May 24th, 2003, 1:58am »
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PRR-2107 is a sw-1001-works the h25 a five say a week job out of abrams to serve the venice branch-from pencoyd to smurf-you missed the mule bridge shot,accessable from under the bridge.or off the  farmer's market balcony. contact me off-line @raven76@penswoods.net,& i'll give you all the details. used toi live on main st@ lock,interesting area. anyway-got to get my rest.

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Conrail6370
Former Member
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #13 on: May 25th, 2003, 12:08am »
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Hey guy ,
    The funny thing  is that  # 2107 is an ex RDG SW1500.
 So its on it home rails.
 Len.


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Charlie_O
Historian
Posts: 5797
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
  NS_2110_Manayunk.jpg - 64886 Bytes
« Reply #14 on: May 26th, 2003, 7:50pm »
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hal -
Fine pix--especially that second one!  Good to see rail power in context.
 
Took a drive over to Smurfit-Stone recently and found NS #2110 (another ex-RDG switcher) at work there.  Unfortunately the only photo I could get was a bit obscured, and so not even much of a roster shot.   See for yourself...
 
-Charlie


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« Last Edit: May 26th, 2003, 7:52pm by Charlie_O » Logged

Some days, the most interesting person you meet is a river with a train running beside it.
geoffphillyphan
TRAINing
Posts: 1
Re: A visit to Flat Rock Tunnel
 
« Reply #15 on: Dec 30th, 2016, 8:49am »
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What is the name of the township park?
 
on May 14th, 2003, 6:43pm, Charlie_O wrote:       (Click here for original message)
I really couldn't call this a Reading Railroad board without a visit to Flat Rock Tunnel.  
 
First, a little background:
Flat Rock Tunnel was built in 1839-40 by the Philadelphia & Reading RR.  Engineered by Moncure and Wirt Robinson, the tunnel was, at the time, only the ninth RR tunnel in the U.S.  Boring through gneiss at about 95 feet below the surface of the hill, the tunnel stretches for 937 feet.  Since its construction, it has been modified and enlarged several times: in 1858-9, in 1888-9, in 1936 (the year the present concrete portals were poured), and in 1994 to raise the roof clearance to accommodate double-stacks.  Once double-tracked, the tunnel now carries a single set of rails.  Flat Rock Tunnel continues to serve, carrying several NS freights daily.
 
So, I decided to take the morning off and have a look at the old girl.  A township park provides a walkway that parallels the ROW, which is well marked with "no trespassing" signs.  The tunnel approach itself is guarded by a second, much newer tunnel, that carries the Schuylkill Expressway a few yards above.  For obvious safety reasons, I used a zoom lens to get my first pic...  
 



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