For those of you who don't remember the trip was to consist of The first Reading Car #9001 and the last Pennsylvania car #269 that, as you all know, is still emblazoned with "Pennsylvania" on its letterboards. The trip departed 30th St Station and headed west along the West Chester Branch with a photo stop at Gladstone, then Media, before turning at Elywn and having another photo stop at lcifton-Aldan. Then it was back through the Center City Tunnel and then all the way to West Trenton before turning again to head back to Wayne Junction where another reverse move was made up the CHE before finally returning to 30th St. This Part 1 will cover everything up to West Trenton.
Unfortunately the trip it not go exactly to plan because #9001 had been in pieces at either Overbrook or Wayne up until a few days prior to the excursion. It was only the efforts of dedicated SEPTA employees intent on getting that unit out for the excursion that resulted in #9001 getting put back together. Unfortunately there wasn't much time for testing and an electrical fault caused the train to need to be stopped a reset every time it got above 40mph (or 50mph with 269 leading). This not only resulted in delays in travel, but a request for a new pair of Silverliners for us to swap over to at Wayne Junction. After only a modest delay the yard crews found another PRR/Reading pair and presented our charter with #9009 and 252 which gave flawless service for the rest of the day.
You can see the entire batch of excellent photos, which also contain line surveys of the West Chester Branch, SEPTA Reading Main Line and former Conrail Trenton Line to West Trenton, right here.
Anyway I know that you should be all excited about these photos so on with the show. We begin at 30th St station with the Maryland Division platform packed full of railfans waiting for the Charter to roll in. Unfortunately we have to wait for a few bog standard S-IVs to pass through like #279 here.
Finally #9001 appears with everyone's favourite SEPTA engineer, Vince, at the controls.
The train quickly fills up with more than a few familiar faces on board.
Departing a few minutes late insult is added to injury when we get stopped at ARSENAL in order for a Silverliner V test train to clear up so we can wrong rail down the West Chester.
Our first stop was Glafstone where we would get out for a photo opportunity with the train on the Darby Creek trestle.
This gave me a chance to photograph the most distinguishing feature on a Reading SL-II, the mini-cow catchers in front of the trucks. Brilliant!!
It made for a great photo, but there is something to be said about pictures that aren't the same as everyone elses.
Now do to our initial delay, the SL-V test train, out limited top speed and a couple stops to reset the electrics we did not make our slot and ended up having to wait at CANE interlocking for the R3 local with SL-V #159 to pass us. As we took the restricting signal to drop in behind the outbound local we also passed an inbound local that we had delayed. Oops :-(
Unfortunately this stuck us on Approach all the way to Media where some of the railfans got off in order to photograph the train returning from Elwyn.
In the Media Yard that day were SL-IV's #410, 282 and 278, which were soon joined by #159 again returning from Elwyn on its inbound journey.
Our charter wasn't far behind with #269 in the lead for the return trip back to Philly.
After loading back up it was off to Clifton-Aldan where another staged shot with Rt 102 trolley #124 was provided.
#269 then pulled back into the station to collect the railfans and the departed, leaving some free riding train chasers behind.
At this point I realized that while there was a crowd at the front of the train there was virtually nobody hanging out in the rear vestibule cab so I proceeded to head back and camp there for the remainder of the trip. We got stopped again at Center City waiting for the R3 local ahead of us to clear the inbound platform, which also gave me a chance to take some pictures of signals in what used to be BROAD interlocking.
Continuing on through the Center City tunnel I grabbed this rear facing video through the entire thing between ARSENAL and the tunnel portal, with a little edit to eliminate the wait at 30th St. Remember as you watch our train head out of the tunnel and climb the steep grade up to the old Reading viaduct that 9001 is having some serious electrical problems and we all have our fingers crossed about even making it to Wayne.
Photos out the rear of #9001 on the Reading Viaduct were terribly backlit, but I did get some usable video of us transiting through the 16th St Junction.
And us getting an Approach Medium indication at HUNT interlocking using the oh so fun side window method.
Oh #9001, the cause of so much trouble. Good news was that she was repaired and back in service just a few days later.
Subchatters Chuchubob and "Transit" Chuck G as the food items are offloaded from 269.
A train full of
Departing Wayne Jct now on PRR #252 we pass an inbound train with SL-IV #286 on the rear.
GE elevator controllers are so much neater than those jesk jockey joysticks now seen on MU stock.
The West Trenton line sees some of the highest speed track on the SEPTA system and with a non-stop express our two old girls could really stretch their legs. Here we are cruising at 70mph through Bethayres. You can see the point where the Newtown Branch used to cross the West Trenton at about 00:37. A New York area railfan had taken it upon himself to count down the time until we passed an inbound R3 local unaware I was shooting video.
Formerly united as a single 4-track main under the Reading, today between NESH and WOOD the route is two lines in one, with the two track SEPTA Neshaminy Line running side by side with the single track Trenton Line. The freight tracks curve off at NESH to form the New York Short Line which runs direct to NEWTOWN JCT bypassing the longer route through Jenkintown. This line used to have a shared track arrangement with Conrail and CSX between Newtown Jct and Cheltenham Jct, but in 2005 SEPTA separated their track from the freight line to eliminate the white period in the morning and evening peaks and creating a similar side-by-side layout, only this time involving two single track lines.
Here we see the Langhorne station showing the Rule 261 block signals on the single track Trenton Line. Signaling on the SEPTA line has been Rule 562 (CSS w/o wayside signals) for nearly a decade now and was the pilot for their ever creeping 562 project on the Reading side. Langhorne is one of two "holdout" stations on the West Trenton route caused by a necessity to have passengers not cross across active freight tracks which may have trains parked on them at any time.
Here is a video of our train taking the Limited Clear signal and crossing over to #1 track due to the crossing work ahead. The track to the right is the former Conrail Trenton Line that shares the track with SEPTA between here and CP-TRENT. This stretch of line is controlled by SEPTA dispatchers and formerly WIND tower at Wayne Jct. This was a perfect day for the trip as the fall colors were just hitting their peak.
Arriving at West Trenton there was a platoon of railfans already waiting for us and our train had a Slow Approach on the dwarf signal for a crossover move to track 2. Waiting in the yard this Sunday were a number of SL-IVs and one Push-Pull set waiting the call to service the next morning.
SEPTA #252 discharging at Trenton.
And finally taking the switch and pulling onto Track #2 to relay with AEM-7 #2302 looking on from the storage yard. There was a good bit of time built into the West Trenton stop to allow charter participants to use the single stall backroom in TRENT tower as SL-IIs do not have bathrooms, so our train would hang out on Track 2 to allow the next R3 local to relay on track #1. At this point the charter would take a few interesting turns as we attempted to get back to Center City, however that is a story for another day. Stay turned for Part II next week.
Remember, more photos can be found at: