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Friday, August 14, 2015

15-08-14 GUEST PHOTOS: West Chester Branch

Electrified by the PRR in 1930, the West Chester Branch was a part of the Philadelphia Commuter Rail network up until the 1980's when service past Elwyn was "temporarily" suspended by SEPTA due to low ridership and budget cuts. This fiction was made a little less fictional about a decade later when SEPTA pulled the wire down to prevent theft (and also to claim the scrap value for itself). While there is some truth in the fact that the line was in driving distance to better served R5 stations, it is hard to fathom a transit agency shuttering a good portion of an electrified rail line just because.

Today the outer portion of the WCB is operated by the West Chester Railroad tourist operation, and while there continue to be rumors of service being restored, the decade plus wait for a new station at Wawa indicates that full restoration might easily exceed our lifetimes.

Last August a friend of mine took a little trip along the WCB, documenting the disused stations and the general character of the route. I have since processed the photos and made them available on my web hosting for you all to enjoy.

We begin at Media with the SEPTA Silverliner V action as #722 pulls into the inbound platform.

This is followed by an outbound train of SL-IV's, #360 in the lead.

The same trainset returning to Center City as it crosses the Ridley Creek viaduct west of Media. This is the third vintage PRR viaduct on the branch.

The Elwyn station was chosen as the "temporary" terminal as it marks the end of double track operation. 

Previously featuring a spring switch, ELYWN interlocking has recently been upgraded. 

One might expect the old Williamson Station to factor into the Wawa expansion plans, but probably not.

The branch is still wired and signaled out past CP-SOUTH ELYWN. Equipment is stored in the Media yard and makes the short deadhead trip to Elwyn.

The Glen Riddle station as seen from above.

The Leni Substation supplies 12kv power to the outer end of the line and marks the end of both the overhead catenary and two 138kv transmission circuits. One travels the length of the WCB from Arsenal substation while the other heads cross country roughly parallel to the old PRR Chester Valley Branch to the Lamokin rotary converter plant on the NEC. With the Morton substation under renovation, the Leni substation is probably the last on the PRR network to retain all of its original equipment. 

The signs are still up for the Leni station.

SEPTA's Leni training facility was built at the former junction of the PRR's Chester Creek and Octoraro Branches with the West Chester Branch. Not sure if it is still used or exactly what sort of training went on inside.

The aforementioned junction was controlled by WAWA tower, which used to sit at this location. The extra wide catenary supports and some rusty Octoraro Branch rails heading off into the woods are the only indication it ever existed.

The old Wawa station sat the point of the junction with its platform serving both West Chester and Octoraro trains.

 The old Wawa station sat the point of the junction with its platform serving both West Chester and Octoraro trains.

The presence of a \ on the upper head is a pretty good indication of Manual Block territory. Here two deactivated distant signals sit opposed to each other, a hint to the line previously being equipped with single track ABS.

The Glen Mills quarry is the source of most ballast stone both on SEPTA and the NEC. This is the source of all non-tourist traffic past Elwyn.

The Glen Mills station was designed by famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness and marks the east end of West Chester Railroad operations. The WCRR used to operate some excursion trains onto SEPTA, but SEPTA reduced maintenance below the level sufficient for passenger operations on the short section of the line past Elywn to prevent any additional excursions.

The 1890's vintage passenger shelter at Locksley is still holding on under the care of the WCRR.

Like several of the WCB stations, Cheyney was the site of a short passing siding until that was later removed at some point after electrification.

Given the state of the Westtown station, I wouldn't bet on service being restored. Even without service the WCB is still a window into the interurban style operations in days of old.

The West Chester University station at Nields St.

West Chester Railroad Alco S-2 #3 stored in its Adam's Street yard.

The WCRR fleet as seen from Union St. The WCRR operates a couple of larger Alcos along with some vintage EMD Geeps and a number of former Reading MU coaches.

End of the line at Market Street in West Chester. Although a large and important town, the proximity of the Exton park and ride station on the former PRR Main Line always served to dempen potential ridership, especially after regular SEPTA R5 service was extended to Thorndale/Downingtown. 

WCRR Plymouth critter at Market St.

Well that's the end of the set and the last of my guest photo posts from 2015. Next time we will continue on into the new year.

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