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The Wilson Line

Wilson Line at Market Street Wharf and Recreation Pier, Chester, PA

"The Wilson Line" at the Market Street Pier, Chester, PA

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The Wilson Line "City of Washington"
Photo courtesy of Janet Moulder, jmoulder@aol.com

The Wilson Line "State of Pennsylvania"; Photo courtesy of Chas Browne, Broome County (NY) Historical Society

The Wilson Line "State of Pennsylvania"
Photo courtesy of Chas Browne, Broome County (NY) Historical Society

Click here to visit a Wilson Line website.

Former Officers: Officers in 1934 were:

George B. Junkin, President
Edward H. Reuss, Vice President
L. C. Campbell, Vice President & General Manager
Walter L. Morgan, Secretary & Treasurer

From the Chester Times Year Book 1949:

Officials are: George B. Junkin, president;
L. C. Campbell, Vice-president and general manager
Walter L. Morgan, secretary
Joseph E. Walters, treasurer

History: The following historical notes were taken from a May 30, 1934 Chester Times article:

The Wilson Line began in 1882 as the Wilmington Steamboat Company under the direction of Captain Horace Wilson.

By 1888 there were 3 ships: the "Wilmington", the "Brandywine" and the "City of Chester".

In 1910 "City of Wilmington" and "City of Philadelphia" were purchased.

In 1923 the "State of Delaware" and "State of Pennsylvania" were added.

In 1929 the Wilmington Steamboat Company was purchased by a syndicate of Wilmington & Philadelphia interests headed by George B. Junkin and was renamed the "Wilson Line, Inc."

From the Chester Times Year book 1949:

The Wilson Line, Inc, with its main office at Wilmington, Del, had its start in April 1881. it operates boats between Philadelphia, Chester, Pennsgrove, Wilmington and Riverview Beach, from May 15 to September 15, carrying passengers only.

The Wilson Line was very popular for excursion trips to Philadelphia and to Wilmington.  Until 1961, The Wilson Line also made daily trips in the summer to Riverview Beach Park in New Jersey, a very large and popular place.

Recollections: 5/29/2006:

"I am 65 and remember when i was young boy living on the banks of the lower Delaware river and at night seeing the wilson line go past with all its lights on what a sight that was. Later I moved to Upper Darby, Pa and had our 1959 senior prom on the wilson line cruse."

Thanks to
George Dorman


"I'm almost 59 now, but I remember going to Riverview Park via the Wilson Line which left Philly at the old ferry terminal below the Ben Franklin Bridge.

I remember being on the way back to Philly during a storm. water was pouring in the windows, but we arrived back fine.

Just a memory now."

Thanks to
Richard J. Luce, Jr.
Warminster, PA


"Thanks for the web site on the Wilson Line. I am 65 years old now, but still remember when my Mom would take me on the bus from Camden to Philadelphia to get on the Wilson Line. As someone on your site noted, they were very clean and the crew were always friendly. And yes, half the fun of a day trip to Riverview Beach Park was the ride on the Wilson "liner", as we called it.

To those who might visit the site that never had the opportunity to ride the line, in those days (the late '40's and early '50's) the only bridges across the Delaware River from Philadelphia south, as I recall, were the Ben Franklin, and the "new" Delaware Memorial bridge (only a single span back then). There were still ferries crossing from Kaighn Avenue, Camden to Market street in Philadelphia. Also the Chester- Bridgeport ferry, (where the Commodore Barry Bridge is now) and the New Castle ferry were still in operation. 

It was an adventure every trip we took and also a learning experience that prepared me for subsequent trips as a young Marine on board Navy ships. It also led to a lifelong fondness for the Delaware River and it's history."

Thanks to
Harry McCurdy
Delran, NJ


"My mother and father (both deceased) met and later married on the Vessel going from Philly to Riverview. My grandmother worked on board and my father was a deckhand around 1959."

Thanks to
Bruce Shannon


"Found your website while searching for info. about the Wilson Line. I am interested in any information available. During the summer of 1951 and 1052 I was employed as a deckhand aboard the M.V. Delaware Belle. She ran trips out of Philadelphia to Riverview Beach Park and then into the Delaware Bay. In the evening she operated a Moon Light Cruise with live music and dancing. She docked at the foot of Chestnut St. Day cruises loaded there and proceeded to Allegheny Ave. and picked up passengers before traveling downriver and picking up passengers at the Chester pier. The evening cruise only loaded at Chestnut St. pier. The officers during the '51 season were, Capt. Edwin Savin, Capt Jack Emery, First Mate Sam Crouch and Second Mate Mr. Church. My memory is faded as to the officers aboard during the "52 season. It was a very rewarding experience for a young man of seventeen. I would interested and grateful for any further info that is available."

EveretteEcs AT aol DOT com


"I was born and raised in Wilmington and every year the Nuns would take the Parochial school children and their parents to Riverview Beach Park in Pennsville on the Wilson Line. It left from the bottom of Fourth Street. I was always amazed at how the Captain was able to turn that big ship around in the tiny Christina River. I remember several ships being there at one time. They'd load one and then it would leave then another would pull up and load and it would depart. Oh the excitement. Half the fun of the day was riding the Wilson Line. They were clean vessels and the crews were always nice to us. The Sisters enjoyed the ride also

I am soon to be 61 years old and the best, the very best days of my life and memories are the Wilson Line and Riverview (and frankly the Nuns too). We got a big kick out of the Sisters getting on the rides with us and laughing and having a great time along with us kids. When the ships quit running and the park was closed, it was awful. It was like loosing a dear friend. To this day, I go over to the park once in a while and I can almost hear the laughter, the sound of that beautiful carousel and the smell of the french fries. I can picture where everything was back then and once in a while, hear the incoming Wilson Line's whistle too in my thoughts.

Closing the park and stopping the Wilson Line were two bad things in my opinion. There are memories there, on those very grounds, that generations have of a time when people were normal and got along. When fun didn't mean drugs, sex, and alcohol. When a good time could be had by riding in one of those bucking mules - oh I loved the mules. The Bubble Bounce, the Whip, and Old Mill. Mom and I always got in the pavilion next to the Whip - always. Mom knew a lot of the Sisters and some of them had taught her even. They had a grand time.

Thanks for the site on line. I'm also glad someone bought the old train. It was a landmark and I rode it many times. It's nice to know that someone like you all cares about a real legend that kids today will never know - the simple pleasure of good, clean fun as a family."

Bishop Larry Miller, FDM
Bear, Delaware

6/14/2003: This recollection from Jean C.:

"Hello, I am 82 years, and remember trips on the Wilson Line to RiverView Beach when I was a child of 5. We used to call it Soupy Island, because we always had soup and bread when we got there. I was pleased to see the website, and glad I could share these memories with other who have an interest."

Paul Crowther adds, "I took the trip many times".


"City of Chester" steamer was new in 1927

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the Wilson Line, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 05/30/06