A Reading Company Survivor in...
This is the Exton Hotel, also known as the Exton House and Ship Station. Built in 1859, it is a three-story, five-bay, stuccoed-stone building with a full-width porch in the Italianate style. For several years, this structure housed a ticket office for the adjacent Chester Valley Railroad, one of the Reading Company's predecessor lines. This structure, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 can be seen here in a fascinating before and after shot featuring a Reading Company freight train crossing Business Route 30 by the traffic lights. Amtrak's Exton station is about a mile away, to the south, located on the former Pennsylvania Railroad's Philadelphia to Harrisburg mainline, better known as today's Keystone Route.
Wanna know more?
The Chester Valley Railroad has its beginnings in 1835. when the Pennsylvania Legislature granted a charter to the Norristown and Valley Railroad company to construct a railroad to run from east of the Brandywine Creek on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad which would connect with the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown RR somewhere near Norristown. While the effort failed, it was revived on April 22, 1850 under a new name, that being the Chester Valley Railroad. The Chester Valley Railroad was to be a short-haul railroad running through the Valley connecting with what eventually became the Pennsylvania Railroad on one end (at Downingtown) and the Reading Company (at Norristown) on the other end. A schedule from 1869 shows, along with various freight trains, three trains a day, each direction, between Philadelphia and Downingtown with 16 stops along the way.
The Reading acquired the CVRR through lease in 1858 (and full ownership in 1945). At the time, there was talk of a new railroad being built from Morrisville, PA (near Trenton, NJ) to Norristown, PA. Connecting the Reading with the Chester Valley RR would've provided a direct path for the Reading to New York. A bidding war broke out between Alexander Cassatt of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading, with speculation that Cassatt wanted the Chester Valley to shorten the freight run for the Pennsy from New York to the West. Cassatt lost the bid, but his motive proved correct with the eventual building of the PRR's Trenton Cut Off, which paralleled the Chester Valley some distance, bypassing the main through Philadelphia, after Cassatt lost the bid. The Reading thus gained an important feeder to their main trunk as well as a connection to the Pennsylvania Railroad. As late as the mid-1930's, there were two trains a day in each direction, but high-speed, more frequent service on the PRR out-classed any competition from the Chester Valley. Until about 1970, there were still short freight trains on the Chester Valley branch - as many as six a day. However, it was clear that trucks were stealing local traffic. In April of 1976, Conrail took over the Penn Central and the Reading, and freight on the Chester Valley branch all but died. Continual, if unscheduled freight service was provided by Conrail on the Chester Valley right-of-up into the early 1990s after which, parts of the line were leveled, covered up and removed, however, what remains is now part of the Chester Valley Trail.