The most popular ride in the NHRR’s fleet, especially during the warmer months of the year, the Open Air Car is the perfect way to get an unobstructed view of the Bucks County countryside while traversing the rails.
No. 1525 was originally constructed as an enclosed coach in 1927 by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s Harlan & Hollingsworth Division of Wilmington, DE. Part of the Reading Company’s twenty five-member PBr class fleet, it was used for longer distance runs between Philadelphia and destinations beyond the regular commuter zone. Some of these places included Reading, Harrisburg, Pottsville, Shamokin, Bethlehem, Allentown, and Jersey City, NJ, right across the Hudson from New York City.
In 1937, the car received York-style air conditioning units for improved passenger comfort, with the windows sealed closed at that time.
Following World War II, more upgrades were added in an attempt to modernize the car, including the addition of steel skirting along with the frame that gave it a semi streamlined appearance. Following the improvements, it would see regular service on both the Schuylkill between Philadelphia and Pottsville and the King Coal between Philadelphia and Shamokin, until the cancelation of both names trains in the mid-1960s. After retirement and subsequent placement in a storage line at St. Clair, PA by the Reading in 1965, it was acquired by the founders of the NHRR and moved to New Hope in 1966 for the startup of operations.
As an enclosed coach, No. 1525 was only used briefly in excursion service due to the sealed windows and older air conditioning units, which by that point tended to break down most days. In the early 1970s, the problem was solved when the shop personnel converted the car into the railroad’s first and only “all-weather car”, consisting of the middle retaining its closed windows and seats, and both ends opened up with wooden benches installed. It operated this way until 1979, at which point it was taken out of service for needed mechanical repairs. Due to other projects and priorities at the time, the railroad placed the car in long-term storage with other unused equipment.
In the summer of 2010, following a few years of serious restoration work, No. 1525 emerged from the New Hope shop in its current form as the railroad’s only operating Open Air Car. The entirety of the interior was opened, removing the “all-weather” configuration of the 1970s, with new wooden benches, set up in a similar style to the cushioned versions in the coaches, replacing the older style. The restoration also included the addition of an observation deck at one end for added passenger enjoyment.
In the summer of 2019, the car journeyed out of Bucks County for the first time since 1966 to participate in the NHRR’s Lansdale Founder’s Day excursions through parts of Montgomery County.