Bethlehem Union Station

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Bethlehem Union Station is a former train station located in the South Side neighborhood of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1924 by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the Reading Company, replacing an earlier station built in 1867. Passenger service to Philadelphia on the SEPTA Regional Rail Bethlehem Line lasted until 1981. The station was renovated in 2002 and used for medical clinics beginning in 2003. It is owned by St. Luke's Hospital.

Bethlehem Union Station, 1979.tif
Bethlehem Union Station in 1979
General information
Location240 Union Station Plaza
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°36′49.67″N 75°22′59.28″W / 40.6137972°N 75.3831333°W / 40.6137972; -75.3831333
Owned bySt. Luke's Hospital
Openedc. 1851
ClosedJune 30, 1981[1]
RebuiltNovember 18, 1867
Former lines & services
Preceding station SEPTA.svg SEPTA Following station
Closed 1979
Bethlehem Line Hellertown
Preceding station Reading Railroad Following station
Terminus Bethlehem Branch Hellertown
toward Fern Rock
Preceding station Lehigh Valley Railroad Following station
toward Buffalo
Main Line Easton


Postcard of Bethlehem Union Depot in 1909

In 1745, the Crown Inn was established as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's first public house to serve stagecoach travelers. It soon became an important meeting point in the city, even after the nearby ferry was replaced with a bridge in 1794. The Lehigh Valley Railroad and North Pennsylvania Railroad both reached Bethlehem by 1855; in 1857, the Crown Inn was demolished to allow a new junction between the two railroads at the Lehigh Valley Railroad's South Bethlehem station.[2]

The two railroads built Bethlehem Union Depot, which opened on November 18, 1867. A two-story building with a pointed tower, it was not well liked. In 1924, it was replaced by Bethlehem Union Station, a larger modern brick building.[2]

Lehigh Valley passenger service ended on February 4, 1961, the last trains being the Maple Leaf and John Wilkes.[3][4] The Lackawanna and Reading railroads' Interstate Express and the Reading's Scranton Flyer made stops at the station up to 1957 and 1949 respectively.[5]

In 1962, the two railroads attempted to auction off the station building.[6] However, it was not sold, and the property passed to Conrail when the Reading folded in 1976. Conrail continued to provide commuter service to Allentown under contract to SEPTA, which had been subsidizing service since 1966. As SEPTA discontinued its diesel service in favor of shorter electric lines, the line was cut back to Bethlehem in 1979. In April 1981, SEPTA announced its intentions to discontinue service on the line on July 1. PennDOT attempted to operate service but a last-minute deal with the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority to operate the trains fell through during contract negotiations.[7] Service was cut back to Quakertown on July 1, then to Lansdale in August.[8]

Some restoration work was performed on the derelict station in the 1980s, but it was unused until Ashley Development Corporation refurbished it in 2002.[2][9] St. Luke's Hospital moved clinics into Union Station in 2003, and bought the building outright in 2008. However, St. Luke's moved most of its services to a nearby building in 2011 and 2013.[9][10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Moylan, Tom (June 30, 1981). "Rail Service Ends Today for Bethlehem; SEPTA Retains Quakertown Run". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. p. 16. Retrieved September 1, 2020 – via  
  2. ^ a b c Hubbard, Bill (March 20, 1999). "Historic Site, Fine Old Rail Station Are Overlooked". The Morning Call. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  3. ^ 'Direct Link To N.Y. CN Link To Be Cut,' 'St. Catherines Standard,' February 2, 1961
  4. ^ 'Last of the Railroad - Era Passes Tonight as Lehigh Ends Service,' 'Geneva Times,' February 3, 1961
  5. ^ "Reading Railway System, Condensed Time-Table". Official Guide of the Railways. National Railway Publication Company. 82 (8). January 1950.
  6. ^ "AUCTION By Order of The Reading Company and Lehigh Valley Railroad Company". Reading Eagle. November 7, 1962 – via Google News.
  7. ^ Hilferty, John (June 25, 1981). "PennDOT to Halt Commuter Trains on Pottsville and Bethlehem Lines". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. B03.
  8. ^ Gannett Fleming Inc. (January 2006). "Quakertown-Stony Creek Creek Passenger Rail Restoration Business Plan" (PDF). Bucks County Transportation Management Association. p. 2.
  9. ^ a b Darragh, Tim (March 25, 2011). "St. Luke's clinics pulling out of Bethlehem's Union Station". The Morning Call. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  10. ^ St. Luke's Hospital (July 10, 2013). "St. Luke's Physical Therapy Relocates Balance & Headache Center" (Press release). PRWeb.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Union Station (Bethlehem) at Wikimedia Commons