Trolley time on the SEPTA Lines

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Apr 5, 2011
Baltimore. MD
Finally got out to ride what's left of the Red Arrow Lines. Once, in days of old, there were four suburban trolley routes radiating from the 69th Street Terminal on the west side of Philadelphia. One went to West Chester (abandoned in 1954 and replaced with a bus), and one went to Ardmore (abandoned in 1966 and replaced with a bus). The other two lines, to Media and Sharon Hill, are still operating. When I was in 7th grade (1965-66 school year), I rode the Ardmore trolley three days a week to get from school to Hebrew School. I enjoyed riding it and was disappointed when the abandoned the route the next year. I always wanted to ride at least one of the other two lines, and this week, I finally got out of bed and rode up to Philly to do so.

Here's a link to some photos of the old equipment, most of which lasted until 1981, when the current Kawasaki cars were delivered.

I was up at 6 to get ready for my ride up to Philly on Northeast Regional 172, which leaves Baltimore at 7:79 AM. I had a nice drive down to the station, the traffic on the expressway was slowed only by some sun glare as we approached downtown. The parking lot at Penn Station had more cars than I remembered from my last trip last month, but I still found a spot on the first level. Then, up into the station and waited for my train.

When they announced 172, I went down to the platform and moved to the north (actually east) end to get a seat in the front of the train. The trains are loaded from the back in Washington, so there are more empty seats up front. Usually. When the train came in, the first car of the consist was closed off. The first car of the consist was also closed off on my return train home that evening. Not sure what they're doing, but there were plenty of seats, and I had a seat pair to myself for the 1:15 ride up to Philly. I went to the cafe car and got a cup of coffee. Aside from my finally noticing that coffee was $3.00 (I've been taking business class too much), I also saw that the fresh fruit salad was back on the menu, as well as two types of breakfast sandwiches (one with sausage, and one without and with egg whites), and they had a cold sandwich and a salad. The ride seemed to be slower than usual; it seemed we were passing a lot of work parties along the line. The train arrived into 30th St. about 7 minutes late. I went up to the Metropolitan Lounge to use the restroom, and then I was on my way to ride SEPTA.

They've really cut back the service frequencies of the SEPTA suburban service. I hope this was merely pandemic induced, and that service will increase once ridership does. It's sort of a pain to have to consult schedules in order to plan a little suburban joyride, but that's what I had to do. I had planned to ride to Media, the county seat of Delaware County, one way on the SEPTA Regional Rail (former PRR) and theother way on the Route 101 trolley (former Red Arrow Lines) and the Market-Frankford Line (aka the "Frankford El"). It turns out that the regional rail runs outside the rush hours on a frequency of once every 2 hours (ouch!) and the Media Trolley runs every 30 minutes. In order to maximize connections, and allow me to have lunch in Media, I decided to ride the Frankford El/trolley outbound, and the regional rail back into the city. Fortunately, SEPTA, unlike Amtrak, still issues timetables (both paper and PDF online), so I had an idea of when the trains left.

There's no direct connection between the 30th St. Amtrak station and the 30th St. subway station. There used to be, it was a dank scary corridor, closed off in the late 1970s, I think. The entrance closest to the train station is now closed off, as it's being rebuilt, and so I had to cross Market Street to the stairs going down, where I found most of the mezzanine was an active construction site. No problem, the turnstiles are still there, and I made good use of my senior SEPTA Key Card. A whole day of riding SEPTA for free!


"The Frankford El goes straight to he..." :) a little rhyme from my youth. This one is going straight to 69th St. A little past the 40th St. station, the line pops out of the tunnel and runs as an elevated, giving one a "scenic" view of West Philadelphia, which appears to be partly the same crumbling decaying neighborhood I used to ride through in the 1960s and partly an area under revitalization and reconstruction. They did rebuild all of the stations, with modern structures and concrete platforms. I arrived at the 69th St. Terminal at about 9:55, and my schedule said the next Media trolley was going to leave at 10. Thus, i quick walk, huffing and puffing (having to wear a mask didn't help) through the old terminal, built in 1907, to the trolley platforms.

The trolley was waiting, and I boarded and scanned my Key Card. After sitting a few minutes, the driver boarded, the bells clanged, and off we went.

An interior view of the seating arrnagements.

A bunch of the Kawasaki Series 100 LRV cars used on the service. They are similar to the trolleys used in the city on the Subway-Surface lines, except that they're double ended and have a pantograph. The city cars are single ended and use a trolley pole. The overhead wire is old-fashioned trolley wire, not catenary.
Some more background about the line: SEPTA Routes 101 and 102 - Wikipedia
It went into service in 1906. The track is Pennsylvania Trolley Gauge (5 ft. 2 1/4 in or 1581 mm). The distance of the route is 8.6 miles. Most of it is on dedicated right of way, but there's single track street running in downtown Media. There's also a short stretch of single track (although it seems there's right of way for double track) between Woodland Avenue and Pine Ridge. Most of the stations have nice substantial stone waiting-room shelters. There are lots of grade crossings, mostly ungated. The trolley speed seems to max out at about 45 mph, but the stations are so frequent, it usually doesn't go that fast.

Soon we ended up in Media, where the tracks abruptly end.



I had about an hour and a half to kill before the Regional Rail back into the city, so I walked the very nice main street (State Street), caught a glimpse of the county courthouse, and found a pizza/sub joint where I got an authentic Philadelphia style hoagie for a carry-out lunch. Then I went over to a nearby Wawa and got a drink and a Tastykake to complete my Philly Phine Dining. :)

Next, off to the train station and my ride back into the city. - to be continued.
Apr 5, 2011
Baltimore. MD
In Media. Here's the Delaware County courthouse'


Notice the Hanukkah menorah on the left side of the entrance. When I was a kid living in Delaware County, I don't think they would have had a menorah on display. Things sure have changed out here.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commemorating an act of left-wing lawbreaking? The recently deceased sociologist James Loewen, who wrote a book about the problems with state historical monuments would be amazed that a state would commemorate such a thing. Things sure have changed since the 1960s.


The trolley is on the move back to 69th St. Terminal. I, however walked the other way, over to the Regional Rail Station.

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The Media train station. The line used to continue from here out to West Chester. Now it just extends one more stop to Elwyn.


There's no faregates, but you have to scan your Key card here. On the train, the conductor scans it again. I think there was a TVM at the other end of the platform for people who don't have a card. Then, at the downtown stations, you have to use your card to get through the faregates.

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Here's my ride back to the city. Unlike the regional rail lines serving Paoli, Trenton, and Wilmington, this one is only double track, and I don't think there's any other rail traffic besides the SEPTA service. Lots a grade crossings, too, and, unlike the trolley line, they have gates. Delaware County is somewhat more densely developed than some of the other Philadelphia suburbs, and while it has some nice areas, it's a little more downscale than, say, Montgomery County next door, The ride back took about 45 minutes, and I took out my hoagie to have lunch. I didn't get a picture because I has having my hands full keeping it on my lap on the bouncing train, but holy, cow, it was big. But it was a real Philly hoagie, with the kind of good Italian bread you can't get in other cities. I got off at Subirban Station, and walked around Center City for the rest of the afternoon.

-- To be continued.
Apr 5, 2011
Baltimore. MD
Back in the city, it's always fun walking around in the old stomping grounds of my youth, seeing what's changed and what hasn't.

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Here's City Hall. Back when I lived here, the statue of William Penn at the top of the tower was the tallest building in the city. Now it's overshadowed by numerous other skyscrapers. Back in the mid-20th century when the architectural style of the building was out of fashion, they discussed tearing it down. However, they found that the thing was built so solidly that tearing it down would cost so much money, it wouldn't be worth it. I suppose it also didn't help that there are two subway tunnels running under the building. Well, three, if you count the underground trolley loop.

Here's the famous bronze eagle in the main court of the former John Wannamaker (now Macy's) department store. Since I lived in Center City, this was kind of like one of the anchor stores in the local shopping mall for me. However, I usually patronized the stores at 8th and Market, as they were a bit less pricey than Wannamaker's.


Here's the main court decked out for Christmas. I'm glad to see Macy's is still keeping the place in some semblance of its original grandeur. In fact, I think the place is more impressive than Macy's main store in New York.

I dropped by Reading Terminal Market, and did a quick run through the place. However, nothing tickled my fancy, and I was hankering for some Chinese, as the area is right near Philadelphia's Chinatown. I started to walk in that direction, but was getting tired, and a bit cold out, but I saw this place on 11th St. under and overpass, and it looked good>

Tom's Dim Sum (

They feature soup dumplings! That was something I missed out on my Beijing trip in 2017. One of our colleagues came over the day before us, and she went and had some for dinner and was raving about them to us for the rest of the trip. Well, now I can get my chance.


Soup dumplings aren't like matzoh balls in chicken soup. The soup is inside the dumpling. I also got a cucumber salad and 3 "sesame balls" which were balls of glutinous rice with a bean paste center perfectly fried. The whole thing cost me about $20, but it could have fed 2 people. I think I over-ordered, but they had a policy of $10 minimum for sitting inside and a $15 minimum for a credit card purchase.


A nice yummy dinner, and I don't think there's anywhere in Baltimore that serves this kind of Chinese food.

It was getting dark, and time to start back to 30th St. Station for my 5:55 Northeast Regional (129) back to Baltimore.

Being that this was Chinatown, naturally, there was a Chinatown bus station. This one was right around the corner from the Greyhound/Peter Pan bus station and even had a small indoor waiting area.


ow here's a railfanning trip. This nice big plate glass window on 11th St. just south of Filbert gives you a very nice view of the train action (if there is any) at Jefferson Station, the replacement for the old Reading Terminal. Not all the doors to Jefferson Station are open, but there are signs on the closed doors directing you to the open entrances. I found one at 12th and Filbert, went downstairs, used my Key Card on the faregates, and was soon on the platform.

At 5 PM, I didn't have to wait long for a train heading for 30th St. (and they all went to 30th St.), and I was on my way....

To be concluded
Apr 5, 2011
Baltimore. MD
Here's the interior of the SEPTA Silverliner taking me to 30th St.

It was a fast ride, and I was soon in the main concourse.


I did a turn through the food court to see whether anything had reopened. It looks like the Au Bon Pain and Pret are back in business, plus a couple of snack stands, but a lot of the stalls are still closed. In addition, Wendy's and Jersey Mike's Subs are also open. If one has time, a side trip to Reading Terminal Market is always a good idea.

Here's the war memorial to the PRR employees who gave their lives for their country in World War 2. My sister says that when she was a kid and we waited at the station, the statue freaked her out a bit, because it seemed like some sort of religious monument, seemingly out of place in a train station.


Looks like 129 to Washington is on time.

Up to the Metropolitain Lounge, where I waited for my train.

Up in the Metropolitain Lounge there's a photo of the original ticket counter at 30th St. I remember buying tickets there. I wish they would restore it, even though nowadays, of course, most people buy their tickets online or at a TVM.

As the train approached, the lounge attendant got us into the elevator that took us directly down to the platform, which is one of the nice perks of the lounge in Philly. The train came in on time, and I headed for the front, again finding that the first car in the consist was closed off. A bunch of people got off, and I found an empty seat pair, not that I needed a window seat from my ride home in the dark. The ride seemed a bit faster, but there was a little slowdown while we were passing through Newark, DE, and the train stopped at Aberdeen. We got to Baltimore on time, and as it was a bit after 7 PM, there was no traffic for my ride home.


Looks like everything's running on time.

Here's the Christmas tree at Baltimore Penn, plus the Hanukkah menorah, even though Hanukkah ended the day before the trip. I don't remember there being a Hanukkah menorah during the years when I commuted through here. Anyway, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the holiday. Now, where should my next rail trip take me?


Feb 23, 2014
Ithaca, NY
Here's City Hall. Back when I lived here, the statue of William Penn at the top of the tower was the tallest building in the city. Now it's overshadowed by numerous other skyscrapers. Back in the mid-20th century when the architectural style of the building was out of fashion, they discussed tearing it down. However, they found that the thing was built so solidly that tearing it down would cost so much money, it wouldn't be worth it. I suppose it also didn't help that there are two subway tunnels running under the building. Well, three, if you count the underground trolley loop.
I've been following the expensive and slow project to make the City Hall station complex (located under the building) wheelchair-accessible. It costs a bit over $150 million, which is about 20 times what it costs to make a normal or typical SEPTA subway station accessible. Most of the difficulty is due to City Hall sitting on top of the station complex.