Decades ago, Reading was a mighty manufacturing town where the Reading Railroad — once the world’s largest company, now a spot on the Monopoly board — built a 19th-century transportation empire, and factories produced everything from hats to hardware. At one time, the city boasted so many manufacturing jobs that you could quit one, cross the street and easily land another.
The old Philadelphia & Reading Railroad from which the Reading Railroad was born was instrumental in the early development of the Industiral Revolution through its dominance of the anthracite trade. That was the mineral fuel that gradually replaced waterpower and charcoal in the developing industrial processes, and – most significantly – opened the way for the production of cheap iron machinery. And that in turn enabled the country’s new factories and mills to produce the goods that started the United States on the road to economic leadership of the world.
From the Monopoly Game to International Cinemas. Between 1967 and 1972, six major northeastern railroads declared bankruptcy, and Reading was one of the moribund pack, filing for Chapter 11 in 1971. The operation of the rail lines controlled by Reading and those of its fallen brethren were consolidated by a federal government agency and given to the Consolidated Rail Corporation, or Conrail, a government-sponsored company that began operating in 1976. The Reading Co. gradually untangled itself from more than a century of being in the railroad business and shifted its business direction by developing and operating multiplex cinemas around the world, including the Angelika Cinema in New York.