Railroad Pivotal in Selecting Campus Location

When the George School Committee begins to search for potential sites for the school’s campus in the early 1890s, convenience to a railroad line is a major consideration. Incentives offered by railroad lines are also taken into account—commuter rail lines out of Philadelphia compete vigorously to stimulate economic development in their service areas. The Philadelphia-Newtown line is probably especially hungry for business since Sharon Park, its original generator of traffic, had gone bankrupt only a few years earlier.

The railroad line impresses the George School Committee with the convenience of the site by running a special train from Philadelphia to Newtown in thirty-three minutes (although the normal schedule took almost twice as long). It also promises to build and staff a station on the campus, as well as provide free haulage of building materials for Main Building. The railroad line’s incentives paid off quickly: when George School celebrates its grand opening with a basket picnic in August of 1893, six or seven hundred guests come on a special train, and regular trains bring equal numbers. At its height, the campus railroad station includes a passenger station with waiting room, agent’s office, and outhouse, a freight house and platform, and a siding onto which cars—mostly coal cars, but sometimes others—could be shunted for unloading.

The railroad plays an essential role in George School campus life. Coal for the school’s boilers are the largest item of freight—the railroad line brings about forty cartloads of anthracite a year. Foodstuffs also come by rail—nonperishable food once a week, and a daily market car with fresh meat and produce. The market car travels into Philadelphia early each morning with milk from Bucks County farms, and returns in the afternoon with perishables. The railroad also plays a key role at the beginning and end of terms, when students’ mass arrivals and departures call for special arrangements with both the Reading and Pennsylvania Railroads.

By the 1930s, the role of the railroad becomes less important. Business sees a decline as cars and trucks become more and more common, and the station is even closed for a year in the early thirties as a Depression cost-cutting measure. However, there was a substantial revival of rail travel during the war years when gasoline rationing keep cars grounded.

The Reading Railroad ceases staffing the station in 1951, but the site is used as an official train stop until SEPTA abandons service to the rail line in 1983.