Transportation in the Valley

I have always had a fascination with the history of transportation. The Schuylkill River provides plenty of that for me.All along the section of the valley I plan to photograph is the remains of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. The Schuylkill Navigation Company used a series of dams to create navigable portions of river and canals that they called reaches. The Oaks reach is mostly still in tact with Lock 60 still able to function (after the Schuylkill Canal Association restored it to original condition). Several dams have been destroyed, while others like Norristown and Black Rock still exist. I know of one lock that sits abandoned near Valley Forge that was once the locks for Catfish Dam, now long gone. If it isn’t too difficult of a hike to get to it, I may take some pictures for this project. I have also discovered the remains of some old canal aqueducts in the Birdsboro area. Aqueducts on canals where used to carry the canal and towpath across other bodies of water. They pretty much are bridges for the canal. While photographing this project I plan to seek out as many canal ruins as I can.

Another major form of transportation in the valley, even today, is the railroad.

Both the Reading and Pennsylvania railroads built lines in the Schuylkill valley. The Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill Valley Branch is pretty much long gone these days, preserved for the most part as the Schuylkill River Trail. But the trail doesn’t follow the line 100 percent. In some parts it is still active branch lines for modern day Norfolk Southern. Others it sits unused with trees and weeds growing between its rails. In one instance the right of way is now the home of US422.

The Pennsylvania line was abandoned mainly for redundancy. In the late seventies, railroads where not doing well and both the Reading (whose mainline was on the opposite side of the Schuylkill from the Pennsylvania line) and the Pennsy (a nickname for the Pennsylvania Railroad) were merged into one company. Since the Reading had a mainline in the valley, the Pennsy (since it went to the same place) was abandoned.

The Reading line today is controlled by Norfolk Southern as their Harrisburg Line. The route through the portion of the valley I plan to cover in this book features the oldest still in operation railway tunnel in the US, Black Rock Tunnel. I have hiked out to this tunnel several times and you can bet some pictures of it will make it into my book. I will also attempt to get permission from NS to photograph the yards in King of Prussia and Pottstown. Also along the Reading line are multiple train stations. Some of them are now private business which would require my permission to photograph, but within the boundaries of Valley Forge are two stations that have a good chance of being in the book. You can see one of the stations in the video above.

As always I want to thank all of you who have made a pledge so far. I am getting nervous now considering I am down to the last three days and have only raised 5% of my goal. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, help spread the word to anyone who might be interested in this book. Send them to It is a direct link to the projects homepage.

And if you haven’t made a contribution yet, what are you waiting for? Well? There is only three days left, now is the time to contribute. Thank you!

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