Railroading in Delaware
Wilmington and Western Railroad
Hurricane Floyd hit the W&W hard but they bounced back. Click here to read about and see pictures of the destruction and rebuilding.
The Wilmington and Western Railroad was completed on October 19, 1872. It was absorbed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1886 and operated as the Landenberg Branch of the B&O for 110 years until the line was purchased by the present day Wilmington and Western Railroad in August of 1982. The ride is very scenic following the Red Clay Creek crossing from side to side on wooden trestles. You will ride through rock cuts, past covered bridges, and be treated to many great views. The line snakes it's way for 10 miles crossing 20 bridges along the way. One of the oldest steam tourist railroads in the nation the present day Wilmington and Western has a history that dates back to 1959 when locomotive #92, a 2-6-0 former CN & GTW built in 1910, was purchased. Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc. was incorporated in 1960 as a non-profit organization. The operation of the Wilmington and Western Railroad started in 1966 and is H.R.C.V.'s largest project. It is also the perfect platform to connect the Red Clay Valley's historic sites.
Below is Wilmington and
Western's former Atlanta, Birmingham, and Atlantic Railroad
locomotive #58. She is an 0-6-0 type from Baldwin’s Class of
Trains leave from Greenbank Station which is located on Route 41 just north of Route 2. Also at Greenbank you can visit the Greenbank Mill and the Red Clay Valley Visitors Center in the former Yorklyn Station. The visitors center houses exhibits from the Wilmington and Western RR, Greenbank Mill, and Friends of Brandywine Springs.
Wilmington Station Area
Located downtown on Martin Luther King Blvd. and Market St. the station is one of the nicest on the Amtrak system. About 80 Amtrak and Septa trains a day call on Wilmington. The station is located on the Christiana River, which was one of the nations largest ship and rail car building areas. Many of the old brick buildings in the area were dedicated to ship and rail car building.
Located right next to the Amtrak station is the old B&O station last used as the B&O freight house. The station is still standing but in poor condition. There is a group actively trying to save the structure. Click here for a picture.
The Harlan and Hollingsworth Company was one of the largest ship and rail car building companies in the east. Their headquarters are still standing and have been restored. Many of their other buildings still stand as well. The headquarters building stands about 4 blocks east of the Amtrak station on the south side of the tracks. About a block south of the headquarters on Roundhouse Lane is the site of the roundhouse that was used in the car building business. The building was demolished in the last few months. The building and track pattern can still be seen in the pavement. The last fleet of Harlan and Hollingsworth cars used in active service were the old Reading Blueliner Cars which were last used by Septa.
West 7th Street still
holds a few buildings from the Jackson and Sharp Company. Jackson
and Sharp built railcars for many years including many narrow
gauge cars still in use on tourist lines. Head east under the
railroad bridge past Fort Christiana and the Jackson and Sharp
Buildings are on your left. The main building is about six tracks
wide, very long, and has a rounded roof.
The Wilmington Shops were most famous as the home base for the PRR's fleet of 139 GG-1 locomotives. The Pennsy had many other electric locomotives over the years but none were as well known as the GG-1. They all spent time here and all ended up in dead lines here before going to scrap. The shops still are home base for Amtrak's fleet of electric locomotives and also service diesel locomotives and perform contract services to other railroads as well. Don't go in there! Amtrak will fine you! Buy a ticket on the Septa R2 and ride between Claymont and Wilmington. The fare is $1 or so each way and well worth it.
Newark has a great train station that still plays host SEPTA and two Amtrak trains per day. Built for the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad it has survived to serve six more railroads: Philadelphia, Baltimore, & Washington; Pennsylvania; Penn Central; Amtrak; Conrail; and SEPTA. The station is located under the South College Ave overpass and is owned by the Newark Historical Society. This is a great place to watch some of the fastest running in the United States. Be prepared to be blown away as trains speed by at over 120 miles per hour. Click here to see the beautiful Newark Station.
About 1 mile east is where Chapel Street once crossed the tracks. This has been by passed by the newer route 72 overpass. The old grade crossing is a good alternate spot to watch the high speed trains on Amtrak. This is also the location where the Norfolk Southern's Delamarva Secondary breaks off Amtrak's NEC. Don't look for a lot of Norfolk Southern movements as most are at night. This is the site where the former Pomeroy Branch went north to Pomeroy, PA to meet up with the PRR main line.
The former B&O station in Newark still stands only a few miles away. The B&O station is located at the West end of Main Street at Elkton Road. CSX operates the line today and the line is fairly active. The nearby Deer Park tavern is the old railroad hotel and now a popular place to have a cold one and listen to live music. This is real popular with college students as Newark is home to U of D. Click here to see the old B&O station.
Reading Carfloat Dock
The Reading used to have a carfloat from Wilmington, DE to Pennsvile, NJ to deliver cars to the large Dupont Complex located on the banks of the Delaware River. The dock on the Delaware side is still intact but long unused. It is only visible up close by boat but can be seen from the Delaware Memorial Bridge very well when traveling Eastbound into Delaware. Get in the right hand lane and look over to the right as you descend the bridge. Click here is see it up close and personal.
Mitchells is located on Route 202 north of Wilmington in the Fairfax Shopping Center. They have the best selection of model trains in the area. They also have a great selection of railroad books and publications.
This is a former B&O yard located in Elsmere just west of Wilmington. There is a wye and interchange track with the Brandywine Valley Railroad under the Route 2 over-pass. The wye also is start of the Market Street Branch where the CSX delivers cars for interchange with Norfolk Southern at West Yard.
The west end of Wilsmere Yard is home to the large GM plant, an auto rack loading facility, a B.I.D.S. terminal, and the interchange with the Wilmington and Western Railroad. This is called Landenberg Junction after the one time end of track of the W&W RR. The tracks to Landenberg were cut back to Hockessin in 1944 but they still call it Landenberg Junction.
Brandywine Valley Railroad
The Brandywine Valley Railroad is owned by Bethlehem Steel and has headquarters in Coatsville, PA. They service the Lukens Plate steel mill in Coatsville and operate over the former Reading Company Wilmington and Northern branch from Coatsville, PA down to Wilsmere Yard outside of Wilmington. There is also an interchange with the former PRR Octoraro Branch (also operated by the BV) at Chadds Ford, PA. Route 100 follows the tracks north from the interchange all the way into Pennsylvania. There are old stations at Winterthur, Montchanin, Cossart, Pocopson, and Northbrook. There is a double horseshoe curve at the state line, follow route 100 north to Smith Bridge Road.
Norfolk Southern's C&D Canal Bridge
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was opened in 1829, cuts Delaware in two. There are four road crossing over the canal and one railroad crossing. The large lift bridge, one of the largest around, carries Norfolk Southern’s Delamarva Secondary. The present railroad bridge was built in 1966. The best way to view the bridge is from the dirt road that runs along the banks of the canal. To get on the road take US Route 13 to St. Georges and follow the side roads till you are under the St. Georges US Route 13 bridge. You will find the dirt road which you need to follow to the bank of the canal and then head west till you see the rail bridge. There is not a lot of traffic over the bridge in the day light but if you get there after sunrise and wait around there is usually a train or two between sunrise and 8:00 am or so. If you are on the dirt road east of the bridge the morning sun will be behind you and on the bridge.
Harrington was named for Samuel M.
Harrington, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad. There is a
small Norfolk Southern yard there, the old station is still used
by Norfolk Southern as well. Harrington is the junction point
where Norfolk Southern's Indian River Secondary Track breaks off
from the Delmarva Secodary track. There is a restored PRR caboose
and switch tower in Harrington.
Some Delaware Railroading Facts
The first railroad in Delaware was the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad which was the rail link in a water-rail-water route from Philadelphia to Baltimore. The railroad used granite sleeper blocks with wooden rails covered with iron straps. Many of the old sleeper blocks can be found along the edge of the Delaware River on New Castle's waterfront. A section of strap rail and a ticket office can be found in Old New Castle at the foot of Dleaware Street.
The first railroad merger in the U.S. was between the Wilmington and Sesquehanna Railroad and the Delaware and Maryland Railroad in 1836.
The Lobdell Car Whell Foundry on the south side of the Christiana River was one of the largest wheel companies in the country in the late nineteenth century. Many of the very old railroad cars found in museums have Lobdell wheels. To find them you must get down on your knees and look for the name cast into the back of the wheels. There are many Lobdell wheels at the B&O Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
Wilmington had three major railroad car builders. Pusey & Jones, Harlan and Hollingsworth, and Jackson and Sharp. Railroad cars built in Wilmington can be found in museums and tourist railroads all over the country. A few notable ones are: "Paradise" a former Reading RR business car now at the Strasburg RR. The entire Fleet of Reading RR "Blueliner MU Cars. The world's only 2 foot guage Parlor Car, "Rangley", from the famous Sandy River and Rangley Lakes Railroad now at the Maine Narrow Guage RR. Several of the cars used on the Durango and Silverton Railroad in Colorado. Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic car #213 at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, WI. Several of the cars used on the world famous Orient Express.
is an article that I wrote for The Lantern, Wilmington & Western's Newsletter about events in the year of 1872.
Visit my new Wilson Line in Wilmington, Delaware Site!
Copyright © 2001 Tom Gears
Date of last revision: February 27, 2006