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Monday, July 21, 2003

03-07-21 CLASSIC PHOTOS: MFL Bridge St Last Day

Back in 2003, SEPTA was in the process of replacing the last piece of its un-rebuilt elevated structure on the Frankford section of the Market-Frankford Line that dated from 1918. While a harbinger of the total replacement of the Market St elevated just a few years later, at the time the replacement of the old "Bridge-Pratt Station" with the new "Frankford Transportation Center" represented the replacement of a station with charm and character with a bland piece of purely functional transit engineering. As is now common, the work would involve a shutdown period in which the old station approach would be removed and new beams installed to connect the new station. The good news was that because I was off school for the summer, I had the opportunity to take part in the closing festivities, scheduled for a Friday evening after the bulk of commuters had returned home.

Much like the last ride of the Silverliner II's and III's nearly a decade later, the last day at Bridge Street, July 25th, 2003, had a strange pseudo-fan trip quality about it. The station was fully in service, but was crawling with both railfans, history buffs and anyone else even remotely tapped into the nostalgic aspects of the situation. SEPTA employees were more the accommodating, a welcome change in the anti-photographer period that followed 9/11.

You can find the photos from the last day here. Some additional photos taken a few days before can also be found here.

Of course some things do manage to stay the same. Here we see the 1896 vintage SHORE interlocking tower s seen from the MFL line.

Here we see M-IV car #1126 on the 1980's rebuilt portion of the Frankford El. Unlike the later Market St reconstruction, the Frankford Portion had a new desk placed on the 1918 steel supports. The track utilizes direct-fixation techniques.

Here we see M-IV #1095 departing the terminal interlocking. The Bridge-Pratt station, built on Bridge St, just where it curved off Frankford Ave, was left in its 1918 state during the 1980's reconstruction and you can see the ballasted roadbed and other classic features, including a bizarre switch-diamond mashup one would never get away with today.

On track 1 we can can see this direct comparison between the old and the new on the final day of service. The two stations were built so close that they are literally touching. The Bridge St station was built on the street due to a bus/trolley facility that is now occupied by the new Frankford Transportation Center. Note that items on the old island platform are already starting to be removed.

View along the track 2 gauntlet a few days earlier. MFL trains would discharge onto the side-wall platform, then board from the center platform. Despite this, there was no forced exit from fare control as there is at 69th St.

The anticipated replacement had led to deferred maintenance as evidenced by the thriving green ecosystem. Four days later, any salvageable hardware would be marked with green paint.

Bridge-St's claim to fame was that this token booth briefly appeared in the 1980's Eddie Murphy film "Trading Places".

Empty side platform with train.

The island platform could support 8 cars, but was cut two carlengths back with a dispatch booth/crew hangout. 

Egg salad anyone? Due to the change in location, the east headhouse was not used for the new Transportation Center and was ultimately razed. The lot remains vacant to this day. The west headhouse would be incorporated into the new FTC.

1918 vintage engineering. Note the arched concrete trackbed supports and the economic use of, then expensive, structure steel. 

Main fare control in the west headhouse. A token clerk was nice enough to let me leave fare control for photos without having to pay another fare to re-enter.

At one point I was invited out into the normally employee only section of the island platform for a few photos of the end including the 26R and 20L signals.

After a certain point, a crowd began to develop on the platform, counting down the trains and waiting for the last departure to be announced.

The mid-summer twilight caught the mood particularly well.

When the time came there were basically three options available. The most popular was to ride the last car to be the last person to depart the station. The one I chose was to ride the first car with a railfan view and less competition for it. Also, because there would be one last employees-only train, trying to be the last person out of Bridge St was kind of moot. To this end, one could stay on the platform and take photos/video of both departing trains, but that would leave the issue of how to get back to Center City. Here we see the SEPTA GM coordinating the whole mess, flanked by railfans. Note the shoulder carry VHS camera and pointless arrow Amtrak shirt.

Off we go in car #1134 while workers stand by to cut the rails at the end of the interlocking.

So my one big regret was that this didn't happen in the Youtube era so that there might have been a greater amount of video footage captured of the old station and its operations. There is a woefully small amount of classic (even 2003 classic) MFL videos online and I doubt VHS camera guy ever bothered to transfer what he shot that day. Interestingly enough I was interviewed by KWY News Radio 1060 and my sound byte made it to air later that night. Another piece of the day languishing in an archive somewhere.

Well, at least my photos will languish no longer.

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