Passing through the pastoral Lancaster County landscape the eastbound ascent of Mine Ridge takes the PRR mainline around a series of reverse curves that carry the railroad over the 560’ summit dividing the Pequea and Chester Valleys. Gap, a quaint community whose history dates back to when William Penn visited the area late in the 1600’s is located at the crossroads of the Philadelphia & Lancaster Turnpike and the Newport Turnpike. The small village of roughly 1900 residents is divided by the first pair of significant curves on the main line including the 4° Eby’s curve and the 4° Gap curve. To attain the summit the railroad climbs a .56% ruling grade and enters a cut on the Gap curve through Mine Ridge, limiting trains to a maximum of 50mph. Through William H. Brown's improvement years there were several attempts to reduce curvature of the route, but an ambitious project was proposed to eliminate the curves all together in the first quarter of the 20th century. With an estimated cost of $2.7 million, the realignment would require the removal of a large piece of Mine Ridge to eliminate a total of four curves with one large gentle arc, increasing speeds from 50 to 90 mph and reducing average travel time by 1.5 minutes. Alas the realignment was deemed too costly for the time and was never revisited, leaving the same basic arrangement that survives today now part of Amtrak's Keystone Line.
Photographs & History
Having both the PRR Mainline and the Philadelphia and Trenton Branch also known as the Trenton Cut-off approaching the junction of Thorndale, Downingtown had significance for the PRR. The Interlocking "Down" was the Eastern end of of three interlockings including the Junction with the New Holland Branch and Chester Valley Yard. Further West at "Thorn" block and interlocking station, the junction of the Mainline and P&T Branch and "Caln" the Western Limits of the small yard facility, a one time Coaling Station and Junction of the P&T. The Downingtown area provided many car loadings with textile mills, manufacturing as and quarry activity in the area. The train station located along West Lancaster Ave is now a simple affair, the original being destroyed by fire in 1992. With few signs of it's former owner, the Station area still presents some references to the past when one looks across the tracks at businesses and historic buildings on the North Side of Lancaster Ave, some dating back to the early 1900's.