Frank A. Weer collection of Reading Railroad photographs1885 circa 1900s-1985
Frank A. Weer (1932-2019) was an employee of the Reading Company and an enthusiastic photographer of all things related to railroads, specifically in Pennsylvania. Fascinated by trains from a young age, Weer spent time taking photographs of the passing rolling stock. He developed his own photographs, and over time, he established a vast collection of photographic prints of steam locomotives and other rolling stock, as well as the railroad tracks and structures with which the railroad was affiliated. The Reading Company, where Weer worked for thirteen years, was an influential railroad company that served the economic development of the Greater Philadelphia area for over 100 years. Before it became a booming passenger railroad, the Reading Company began transporting anthracite coal. The passenger "ridership" of the Reading Company reached its peak in the 1950s. The company went bankrupt in 1971, and the passenger services were taken over by the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority by 1974. This collection documents the construction and expansion of the Reading Railroad and the company's tangible property and human resources throughout the twentieth century. The collection consists of negatives (glass plate and film), photographic prints, and color slide transparencies. The creator established a chronological order, which has been maintained. The collection is arranged into five series: Structures and objects, Passenger stations, Rolling stock, People, and Frank A. Weer's personal slides.
- circa 1900s-1985
23.5 Linear Feet
approximately 2,000 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 or smaller. approximately 1,000 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. approximately 550 slides : color ; 120s. approximately 40 photographic prints : b&w ; 11 x 14 in. 5 photographic prints : b&w ; 30 x 40 in. Rolled.
Frank A. Weer (1932-2019) was an employee of the Reading Company and an enthusiastic photographer of all things related to railroads, specifically in Pennsylvania. He was born to William F. Weer (1896-circa 1970s) and Mary H. Shearer (1898-date unknown). Frank Weer grew up in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, at the Philadelphia Country Club, where his father worked as a janitor. Weer graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1952. He attended the Technical Division of the high school, where he studied in the drafting department, learning about architecture and engineering. After graduating, he got a job at the Pennsylvania Department of Highways, where he worked creating drafts for a year until he went to serve in the Korean War. During the years of the Korean War, Weer worked creating more draft designs and drawing maps. He was stationed to work at the Engineering Topographic Mapping Company in Austria. After the war, he went to Temple University, where he received an associate’s degree in mechanical design. He began working as a draftsman for the Pennsylvania Railroad soon after.
Fascinated by trains from a young age, Weer spent time taking photographs of the passing rolling stock. He developed his own photographs, and over time, he established a vast collection of photographic prints of steam locomotives and other rolling stock, as well as the railroad tracks and structures with which the railroad was affiliated. Weer continued his career in the railroad industry as he worked various positions within the Reading Company over the course of thirteen years. He worked in the real estate department, evaluating leases for the Reading Terminal Market, and later as a Safety Investigator, where he investigated accidents that happened along the railroad.
The Reading Company was an influential railroad company that served the economic development of the Greater Philadelphia area for over 100 years. The Reading Company was not the original railroad chartered but rather the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was first chartered in 1833 by an Act of the Pennsylvania Legislature, which was approved by Governor George Wolf (1777-1840). Before it became a booming passenger railroad, the Reading Company began transporting anthracite coal. It connected the coal regions from Philadelphia and Schuylkill County. The emergence of the Philadelphia and Coal Iron Company allowed the company to operate both the coal mines and railroads.
The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad absorbed several other railroads starting in 1858 with the Lebanon Valley Railroad. In 1870, it leased the East Pennsylvania Railroad, the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railroad, and the Colebrookdale Railroad. In 1872, the North Penn Railroad was built through Lansdale and terminated at 9th and Green Streets in Philadelphia, within the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad charter. In 1893, the North Penn Railroad was also absorbed.
The people of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad elected Joseph Smtih Harris (1836-1910) to be president of the company in 1893. Harris led the company's reorganization under the Reading Company in 1896. The railroad had been providing passenger services since the 1850s, and by the 1890s, it had become a valuable asset to the population of the Greater Philadelphia area. Having spent decades as a steam train railroad, the Reading Company electrified its passenger lines after World War I as a way to stay up to date with other railroad competitors.
By the 1950s, the Reading Company passenger "ridership" reached an all-time high. However, this trend did not continue as people sought out new modes of transportation, such as automobiles and airplanes. The company was unable to set competitive shipping rates due to federal regulations. The Reading Company declined in prominence throughout the 1960s and by 1971 had declared bankruptcy. The South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority had taken over the Reading Company passenger services by 1974.
The Reading Company had a profound impact on the development of the Philadelphia area and Reading, Pennsylvania itself. Specifically for the city of Reading, the population had increased significantly from the 1880s to the 1900s. The Reading Company also employed thousands of people with jobs on the railroad, and commuters were provided with myriad passenger services daily. The Reading Company, though out of operation, maintains its legacy as a lucrative business of the twentieth century.
Scope and Contents
This collection documents the construction and expansion of the Reading Railroad and the company's tangible property and human resources throughout the twentieth century. The collection consists of negatives (glass plate and film), photographic prints, and color slide transparencies. The creator established a chronological order, which has been maintained. The collection is arranged into five series: Structures and objects, Passenger stations, Rolling stock, People, and Frank A. Weer's personal slides.
The structures and objects series is the largest series in this collection. It includes images of the buildings affiliated with railroads, excluding passenger stations from 1904 through the 1970s. Several different railyard locations throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware make up the bulk of this series, with the specific names of houses and sheds described. These railyard houses include freight houses, engine houses, oil houses, tool houses, storehouses, bank houses, rest houses, etc. This series also contains Railyard shops, including carpenter, blacksmith, paint, and locomotive shops. Images that Weer did not describe and could not be identified have been grouped together based on architectural similarities. The various bridges that served the Reading Railroad and other neighboring railroads are found in this series. Some bridges are identified by an explicit name, while others are identified by location or number. Aerial views of cities, railroad lines, and railyards are organized within the structures and objects series. There are images of objects that may have had a direct connection to the Reading Company structures. Some of these objects are pieces within a specific house or shop. Others are machinery, and still, others are logos or decor for the Reading Company.
The passenger stations series consists of the station buildings and platforms along the Reading Railroad and other neighboring railways in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. Several images were taken of stations along the Wilmington and Northern railroad branch by Charles A. Elston (dates unknown), a photographer from Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Photographs of most of the stations included in this series are of both the exterior structures and the interior waiting rooms.
The rolling stock series consists of images of steam, oil-electric, and diesel locomotives, as well as passenger cars, freight cars, boxcars, cabooses, and other forms of rolling stock from the Reading Company. Rolling stock are identified based on the car numbers and railroad company with which they are affiliated. Some images show parked rolling stock, while others show trains in motion along railways.
The people series includes snapshots and portraits of both Reading Company employees and executives, and Frank Weer's family mementos, from the 1910s to the 1970s. The images show Reading Company employees working in rail yards, passenger stations, and offices and attending company events. The events occur in the various Young Men's Christian Association buildings, churches, and hotels in the Greater Philadelphia area. Portraits of former Reading Company presidents are included in this series.
The Frank A. Weer's personal slides is the smallest series and consist of images from Weer's various travel excursions throughout North America and Europe from 1971 to 1985. Images include views of New York and Pennsylvania landmarks, United States West Coast mountains and beaches, towns, and cities in England, and general "train tourism." Weer's slides also consist of images of rolling stock, with an emphasis on Conrail rolling stock.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Negatives (Boxes 1-30) are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at firstname.lastname@example.org
Language of Materials
Frank A. Weer collection (selected items) (Accession 2688), Manuscript and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Frank A. Weer collection of Reading Railroad photographs
- Jamie Bressmer
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: