Photo above: A caboose at the Reading Railroad Museum.
Spotlight on Lesser Known History
Reading Railroad Museum
Reading Fightin Phils,
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Reading Railroad Museum and the Reading Phils
We're going to give you two, yes two, sites that tell the story of one city, and make a great day to visit history, in its railroad form, and baseball, in a current form with a rich history all its own in minor league baseball. So pack up a cooler or just a carload of adults and kids to travel along Route 61 in east/central Pennsylvania and visit the Reading Railroad and the Reading Phils. Make a day of it, learn something that tells the story of coal and transportation, then say, play ball. Photo above: Banners of the railroad inside the museum.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Reading Railroad Museum and Reading Fightin Phils
Just north of Reading, only 14 miles and 20 minutes from the baseball park and city of its namesake railway sits a five year old museum that's a labor of history and lore for the men and women who run it. Yes, the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum is now in Hamburg, Pennsylvania just off Route 61 and not far from Cabela's, plus right next to a new trailhead for the Schuylkill River Heritage Trail. And its location, if not its name, has as much to do with the cities north of Reading through the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania, as it does to the namesake city, as the line was founded back in 1833 to take anthracite coal from the mines to market. And eventually lead to its place amongst the most important reasons for the success of the industrial revolution, plus a location on that monopoly board.
But don't expect this museum, sitting on 7.5 acres of land, to be a dull place of still photos. Expect a railyard of steel behemoths in transition from rust to reign as they transform a patch of industrial ground into an attraction that tells the story of the Reading.
You'll begin with a 15 minute film, well done by any measure, in an air-conditioned theatre for 60 (so you can bring a group from school or otherwise) followed by exhibits and the yard tour. It's a growing site with lots of plans and goals to accomplish. Get on the ground floor, or perhaps a bit on the second step, and visit the Reading Railroad and its history.
As of right now, the museum and yard tour are available solely on weekends. It can be opened on other days for school groups, etc., so give them a call. Expect to spend about an hour and a half at the museum, maybe a little more, depending on your love of railroad history.
Whether you are a train buff, a monopoly player, or just someone who loves to find gems of historic attractions to visit, go to this growing museum on the history of the Reading and take their yard tour. The Reading Railroad Heritage Museum is a great example of how enthusiatic historians can make something special happen one track at a time.
Photo above: First Energy Stadium, home of the Reading Fightin Phils. Photo below: Exterior exhibit at the Reading Railroad Museum.
Where Is It
Reading Railroad Museum. Not hard at all. If you're coming from I-78, take Route 61 south a couple miles. If you go north, you go to Cabela's. The museum is located at 500 S. 3rd Street, Hamburg, Pa. 19526, which is a left hand turn off Route 61 at the first traffic light. There's not a lot of signs to the site as of yet, but you can get easy directions on mapquest.com or other tour direction sites.
What is There Now
Reading Railroad Museum
7.5. acres of railyard.
A 15 minute film on the history of the railroad.
Exhibits and a museum store.
Parking along the street as well as in the Schuylkill River Heritage Trail trailhead right next door.
When Did It Open
The Reading Railroad Heritage Museum opened in 2008. Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays.
How Much to Visit
$7 - Adults
$6 - Senior
$3 - Children 5-12
Free - Under 5
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Reading Railroad Heritage Museum
Schuylkill River Heritage Trail and River, part of the National Park Service Schuylkill River Valley National Heritage Area, which meets up with the Appalachian Trail. Cabela's (Yes, a store, but with an acquarium, plus domestic and exotic animal exhibits). Hawk Mountain. Lancaster and its Amish culture, including the Landis Valley Museum and other attractions.
Photo above: Appalachian Trail near Hawk Mountain.
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
Reading Fightin Phils
After you visit the museum, head down Route 61 for twenty minutes and take in a ballgame. Reading's known as Baseballtown and for years has been recognized as having the most quintessential minor league baseball experience in the country. The park is right on Route 61, so it's hard to miss when traveling south from the museum.
Minor league baseball has been around since 1883 when the Northwestern League was formed, although some think of minor league ball as having an 1877 start with some independent associations in New England. This was after the first Major League began in 1871 (The National Association) and the National League, which began in 1876.
The Reading Fightin Phils belong to the Eastern League, which started out in 1923 known as the New York-Pennsylvania League. It got its current name in 1938 when teams in other states made the original name incomplete. The Reading club is currently, along with the Lakeland Flying Tigers of the Detroit Tigers farm system, the longest running affiliate with a major league club, both beginning in 1967.
What's There Now
A classic minor league baseball park, built in 1951, with a great view of the Appalachian Mountains in the distance.
When Did it Open
Team, 1967. Park, as noted above, 1951.
How Much to Take in a Game
Box Seats - $11.00-$16.00
General Admission - $9.00
You can even add food to a seat for an additional price, if you like.
How to Get There
It's 14 miles from the Reading Railroad Museum south down Route 61. For those not coming from the Museum, the physical address of First Energy Stadium is 1900 Centre Avenue/RT 61, South Reading, PA 19605.
How Many People Visit
426,623 people in 2012.
Website: Reading Fightin Phils
More Reading Baseball History
Although the current team has its genesis in the 1967 season and has always been affiliated, and now owned, by the parent Philadelphia Philles, there was minor league baseball in Reading before then. The Reading Athletic Club began playing baseball in 1858 and joined their first true Minor League, the Interstate League as the Reading Actives for the 1883 season, but the league folded after just one year. In 1897, the Reading Coal Heavers (referring to those heaving coal into Reading Railroad cars), played for four years in the Atlantic League.
The Reading Pretzels formed in 1907 and played on one of two leagues till 1917 (missing the 1915 season). The Reading Coal Barons (back to the railroad again) played in AAA ball from 1919 to 1930. Finally, the Eastern League came to Reading in 1933, lasting two years, as the Boston Red Sox placed their minor league affiliate there. Other teams for Reading included the Reading Chicks 1939-1941, the Reading Indians 1952-1961, and for three years from 1963-5 as a Red Sox or Indians affiliate.
Today, it's history is tied to a whole lot of fun, and the railroad ties a bit more extended as their mascot became an ostrich (what!) and not the railroad this season, but in most people's minds, there's still an attachment between both those things. So spend a day on the Reading, at first a railroad history tour, and then a night at the park. And you can throw in Cabela's in the morning in you'd like, too.
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.