Transit Trip - Philadelphia PA
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014



Be Forewarned..... This is another page for hardcore transit fans.  If you do not like commuter rail, light rail, and subway systems, and the signals of, you may not want to spend your time here! :-)  It is a huge page too, we covered a lot, and I took way more pictures than presented here.

My best friend from high school, and fellow railhead John went on yet another trip north to Philadelphia PA.  Philadelphia has probably one of the most diverse transit systems in the United States including light rail (the only one I believe using third rail), streetcars with trolley poles, streetcars with pantographs, PCC cars, regional/commuter rail, trolley busses (trackless trolleys), and busses.  In addition, you also have Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains stopping at the 30th Street Station.

Part of the reason for the trip (besides riding trains and streetcars (and yes, busses too :-)) was to get pictures for the various parts of my two websites: signals and the railfan guides, and the Philly Railfan Guide.

General notes:

For you older riders out there, out of all of the systems we rode today: SEPTA, PATH, NJT, PATH, the NYC Subway, and Amtrak, only one of them offers a senior fare at 62: New Jersey Transit.  All of the other systems make you wait till you are 65 :-(  With that said, one of the best deals in travelling anywhere in the United States has to be the trip from Camden NJ to Trenton NJ via the River Line light rail... the senior fare is only 70 cents!  Where else can you take a 30+ mile ride for that kind of change?

Subway and EL cars are also known as heavy rail cars, in contrast to light rail type transportation.  This has nothing to do with the weight of the cars, as (for instance), the Baltimore light rail cars weigh 54 tons empty, maybe more than many subway or heavy rail cars.  The two terms usually define the utilization of the cars in terms of carrying passengers.  In many of the larger subway systems, the cars run more often, and carry way more people than a typical light rail line.  Light rail systems have between one and three cars, where subway systems can have as many as 10 or 11 cars, and very often run at much shorter headways.  Anyone who has been on the New York Subway System during rush hour knows that you can often see the rear end of the train in front of you if you happen to be in the lead car watching out the front window.  Many light rail systems are lucky to run on 15 minute headways, regardless of the time of day!

This page is picture intensive, even though it uses thumbnails, so it may take a while to download.....

Here's a map of where we went that day..... base map from Google Maps.


In Media

Before heading to the Media commuter station, we decided to stop in "downtown" Media to see if there was anything around to take pictures of, especially since we were only a couple of blocks away.  Luckily, streetcar #111 was there waiting for the return trip to the 69th St Transportation Center.  I highly doubt any transit company could get away building something like this anymore, everyone's too worried about safety.


  The simple trolley wire support for the end of the line


Regional Train #3224, Media/Elwyn Line, car #157
Lv Media 07:29 / Ar 30th Street Station 07:50

We opted to start in Media because it was closer to home (Baltimore) so at the end of the day, we didn't have to go driving all over the place, plus, it's fairly easy to "get out of".  We also didn't want to deal with too much of the rush hour traffic going to a station on the north of west side of Philadelphia.

Signals here are a form of color light signals nick-named "trilights", for the triangular cluster of the three lenses.  Purists do not like this term.  The signal and blue reflector below is mounted on what is called a bracket post.  Railroads used a bracket post to mount 2 or 3 signals on one mast.  The blue reflector is a "doll post" to indicate to the engineer that the signal is not for the right track, in other words, an unsignaled track is to the right of the one governed by the signal.



    Standard regional rail one way ticket

  Very nicely done day pass

Below is a map of Media from 1894.  The railroad R-O-W was originally the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington.


Enroute - Media to 30th St

Not too long into the ride to 30th Street, the motorman decided he didn't want me at the window, saying it was a safety hazard in case he needed to get out of the cab quickly in the event of an emergency, so I backed up a few feet, to give the door plenty of room to open, and he still came out and gave me a bunch of crap, citing the same stupid reason.... I guess he figures I was too dumb to move out of the way if he wanted  to come out :-)  Dunno why he just didn't say he didn't want his picture taken.....  So I wasn't able to snap off many shots on the inbound trip :-(.  The signals prior to the Crum Creek bridge are typical intermediate signals.



Pix at 30th Street Station

If you're like us, you can't leave the station without taking at least a few pictures, especially at rush hour.....


The board pictured above is used for letting the Engineer know if there are any "Form D's" on the line they are operating on.  Form D's are special operating orders issued by the Dispatcher.  Examples being: reduced speed for track work, equipment problems, signal problems, poor track conditions (such as in snow, ice, slippery rail), and others.  Thanks  to M. McGuire and J. Engleman for letting me know what these signs are for!

Looking East



Looking West



Looking North



Pix from the 30th Street Station Parking Garage

The parking garage offers the railfan a really convenient vantage point from which to take pictures.  IMO, the best places are shown by the colored dots in the aerial view below, but you may find other spots equally as appealing.  From here, you can catch pictures of Amtrak and High Line CSX freight rambling through.  With a good lens, you can also catch "stuff" over in the SEPTA yard.  We were at the parking garage for about an hour and a half and no-one ever came out to bother us.  On the second level, there is an outside walkway running along the eastern side of the garage facing the exit/entrance to the covered portion of the Amtrak station, which provides a nice spot for taking pictures of NB trains coming "out".  The very top level has very few cars parked on it, so you have your pick of where you want to lean over the railing.  While many might complain about the wires getting in the way of pictures, look at it this way: where else in the U.S. can you get pictures of trains with wires in it?  The first row of pictures is taken from the 2nd level walkway.

              From the top level of the garage

       From the 2nd level of the garage closest to the engine facility

      From street level at the red dot

            A NB freight on CSX's High Line, from the top level of the garage

In the birds eye view below, you can see where the major places are to the north of 30th St station.  The red dot is a street level spot looking down the side of the high rise building, if there is something in the yard on this side, this is probably the best spot to be.  In the parking garage itself, the green dot probably gives you the best overall view, but you can't get NB Amtrak trains coming out from "underground".  The white dot is the stairwell, and although the glass isn't perfect to shoot thru, the stairwell can be your friend in the middle of winter and it's too cold outside to stay there for long.  The orange dot is the 2nd floor walkway, giving you a good vantage point for the NB Amtrak trains.  The two ways to get into the parking garage by foot are the two colored lines.  The blue line is a direct bee line from the 30th St station complex, and the yellow line is the main vehicular entrance, convenient to use if your at the red dot location.....


Market-Frankford Subway, car #1173
Lv 30th St 10:36 / Ar 15th St/City Hall 10:39

After taking pictures at 30th Street, we hopped on a Market-Frankford subway and took it over to 15th Street, which is the City Hall station on the Broad Street line.  I know, we could have walked it, but what would be the fun in that? :-)  "Down here" the subway occupies the two inner tracks with a center platform, and the streetcars are on the "outside".  We caught a SEPTA crew working on the streetcar side, as the streetcar line was out-of-service in the tunnel for a comprehensive repair effort.

         at 30th Street

      at 30th Street

At the 15th St / City Hall station complex


On the way over

The walk from the 15th Street station is a short one.  Many interesting things can be seen on the way over.  You pass by an entrance and exit for the Broad Street subway line, one of the well done info signs Philadelphia provides, and several newstands.  As a kid growing up in NYC, there was always some sort of allure to the newstands, where you could buy almost anything you needed :-)



at the SEPTA Store

In the lobby of SEPTA's office building, there is a series of nicely done displays showing the history of transportation in Philadelphia - it will take a while to get thru all of them.  When you first come in off the street, there is a PCC car sitting down in the basement in an atrium like setting.  They fixed up a faux streetcar front as their sales office for tickets and passes... pretty cool!  In the store you can find almost anything SEPTA related you could ever want, and more.  They even have some of the old route signs for sale (only bought one since they didn't have enough to make a whole set).  There is enough cool stuff here for the transit fan to make it a stopover in its own right!



'Tween the store and the subway

There are things all over the place to take pictures of..... and we are glad the ex Philadelphia & Reading RR Terminal withstood the renewal projects!




Market-Frankford Subway, car #1002
Lv 15th St/City Hall 11:25 / Ar Frankford Transportation Center 11:45

As a kid I grew up in New York City over the summers visiting the grandparents, and my favorite thing was to go riding on the subways all day for 15 cents.  After 50 years, it is still fun to stand at the front window and relive the past :-)






At the Frankford Transportation Center

SEPTA's Transportation Centers offer the transit fan oodles of picture opportunities.  Here at Frankford, you have the northern terminus of the Market-Frankford subway line, busses, and trackless trolleys, or electric busses if you prefer.  Come prepared to spend some time here.  Altho we didn't go over to the parking garage, :-( it looks like it proves some excellent vantage points for shoots of both the busses and (especially) the heavy rail cars while in the yard, something you don't see very often because most yards are fenced in and/or otherwise out of sight.

The bus maintenance facility and the subway/EL station.  

The subway yard and parking garage across the street from the bus facility and station.





#3 Bus #8335
Lv Frankford Transportation Center 12:50 / Ar Arrott Transportation Center/Arrott & Frankford 12:52

A short 6 block ride from the Frankford TC to the Arrott TC via bus.



#75 Trackless-Trolley #806
Lv Arrott St & Frankford Ave 13:02 / Ar Broad Street at Wyoming 13:26

When the busses leave Arrott, they are under diesel power, once a block or two away, the diesel is shut down, and the bus can then "hammer down" with acceleration not possible using the diesel as a power source!  It's a fun ride.



Broad St Subway, car #695
Lv Broad St 13:33 / Ar Fern Rock Transportation Center 13:40




At the Fern Rock Transportation Center

I'm sure if we had had the time, we could have gotten a lot more pictures from various vantage points from around the complex, but alas, we still had a bunch of things we NEEDED to get done today.....  All of these pictures were taken from where we got off the subway, and the upper level platform between the regional rail station and the subway platforms.






Regional Train #838, Chestnut Hill East Line (ex Reading), car #292
Lv Fern Rock 13:55 / Ar North Broad St 14:04

We took the first train to come along after we finished taking pictures of the subway stuff.  First we took pictures of the train coming into the station, and then had to run down two flights of stairs so we wouldn't miss it.  Gotta love those daily passes!







'Tween the Trains

We took a short walk up Broad Street from the Broad Street Regional Rail station, to the North Philadelphia Regional Rail station.  It is a walk of  three or four long blocks, depending on how you count them.  We never felt unsafe, but then, there were two of us....  Not knowing Philadelphia and where a lot of the railroad "things" are, I was glad John made the decision to get off the regional rail line here at North Broad street, as it made possible getting pictures of the ex Reading station here.





At the North Philadelphia Regional Rail Station

Interesting spot for pictures.  You can't be everywhere at once, and there is a lot going on since it is on the Corridor, so I would go with at least one other train buddy and take pictures from several locations and swap pictures :-)









Regional Train #838, Chestnut Hill West Line (ex Pennsy), car #292
Lv North Philadelphia 15:10 / Ar Center City 15:28

At North Philadelphia


Enroute from North Philadelphia to 30th Street Station


                                   < Leaving the NEC


        < ZOO Tower         

Coming into 30th Street Station


At 30th Street Station


At Market Street/Jefferson Station



Market-Frankford Subway, car #1174
Lv (Market East) Jefferson Station 15:52 / Ar 40th St 15:58

Only time for a few pictures here :-(


Subway Surface Streetcar Lines - at 40th and Filbert

While work progresses on the underground portions of the subway surfaces lines, this corner serves as a temporary "end of the line" for routes 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36.


#36 Subway Surface Streetcar Line, car #9067
Lv 40th St 16:20 / Ar  Baltimore & 42nd St 16:34


At Baltimore Ave and 42nd Street

Nice spot for pictures, and very active during the trackwork taking place in the tunnels.  They also had a crew working on putting a temporary fix on a cracked rail, which probably failed under the stress of the larger volume of traffic.




#36 Subway Surface Streetcar Line, car #9042
Lv Baltimore & 42nd St 16:59 / Ar 40th St & Filbert 17:12


Market-Frankford Subway, car #1174
Lv 40th St 17:20 / Ar 69th St Transportation Center 17:27


  At the 69th St Transportation Center

Route 100 Norristown High Speed Line (“Light Rail”), car #140 (express service)
Lv 69th St Transportation Center 17:35 / Ar Norristown 18:19



Route 100 Norristown High Speed Line (“Light Rail”), car #147 (limited service)
Lv Norristown 18:20 / Ar  18:45

The outbound train was running just ever so slightly late, so if we wanted to get back to 69th Street in a timely manner, we had to hop right onto the inbound train.  As soon as we did, the doors shut, and we were off, this time on a limited train.



At the
69th St Transportation Center

Before heading out on the Media Streetcar, we took pictures around the 69th St Transportation Center.  Since the ACLU and other people have given transit companies much grief about hassling riders who take pictures (railfans), they have been much better with "us".  We didn't have anyone bother us here as in the past.

                 interior shots

      Light Rail


        the Market-Frankford Line subway

                Line 101/102 Trolleys

              Signals for the 101/102 Line Trolleys

Route 101 Streetcar Line, car #120
Lv 69th St Transportation Center 19:12 / Ar Media 19:45

Because of the "Wednesday night dinner in the streets" thing Media has during the summer, the streetcars stop adjacent to the Media Movie Theater.  The aerial shots below are at the double to single track squeeze at the Woodland Station.  There is another under the I-476 overpass, and another one just before coming into Media - the line between these two points is double-tracked.







I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


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