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The R3 is a route of the SEPTA Regional Rail commuter rail system. The former Pennsylvania Railroad end of the route serves the western suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker with service to Mediamarker, terminating in Elwyn in Middletown Townshipmarker, and the former Reading Company end serves the northern suburbs with service via Jenkintown, Pennsylvaniamarker, terminating at West Trentonmarker in Ewing, New Jerseymarker. Service once extended further on both ends - west beyond Elwyn to West Chestermarker and northeast beyond West Trenton to Jersey City, New Jerseymarker.

R3 Media/Elwyn

Media/Elwyn Line connects Center Citymarker Philadelphiamarker with Elwyn, branching from the Northeast Corridor at Arsenal Interlocking, just south of 30th Street Stationmarker. The line, known officially as the "SEPTA West Chester Line," is a two-track line and was electrified in the 1920s, at the same time the present day Northeast Corridor was electrified between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delawaremarker. Electrified service to Media and West Chester was opened on December 2, 1928.

Elwyn Station
most of the former Pennsylvania Railroad lines, which are entirely grade separated with very few grade crossings, the Media/Elwyn Line has numerous grade crossings, as are more commonly found on the ex-Reading side of the SEPTA system. Characteristic of the line is the three high trestle crossings, the longest being that over Ridley Creek between Media and Elwyn. The present crossings were built by the PRR in the early 1920s during the electrification project.

The line was originally built by the West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad. The first section opened November 15, 1853, from Philadelphia to Burmont. On October 19, 1854 an extension to Mediamarker opened, and further extensions were built, culminating with the completion to West Chestermarker on November 11, 1858. In the early 1880s the Pennsylvania Railroad gained control. It later became part of the Penn Central in 1968 and Conrail in 1976. SEPTA took over operations in 1983.

, most R3 weekday Media/Elwyn trains continue through downtown as R3 West Trenton trains. As of late 2008, most weekend Elwyn trains continue through downtown as R7 Chestnut Hill East trains (they formerly turned downtown at Market East).

The R3 Elwyn makes the following station stops, proceeding west from 30th Street Station:
Zone Milepost Station Boardings City/Township County Notes
C 0.9 30th Street Stationmarker 8558 Philadelphiamarker All Amtrak service, all SEPTA Regional Rail lines, SEPTA Market-Frankford Line, New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line
1.8 University Citymarker 1454 R1 line to the Philadelphia International Airportmarker, R2 line to Marcus Hook, Pennsylvaniamarker, Wilmington, Delawaremarker, and Newark, Delawaremarker via the Northeast Corridor
1 3.3 49th Streetmarker 42 Subway-Surface Trolley Route #13
4.5 Angoramarker 25 Subway-Surface Trolley Route #34
2 5.5 Fernwood-Yeadonmarker 97 Yeadonmarker Delawaremarker Connection with Bus Route #108
6.3 Lansdownemarker 362 Lansdownemarker
7.0 Gladstonemarker 198
7.6 Clifton-Aldanmarker 274 Clifton Heightsmarker Route #102 Sharon Hill Trolley
8.2 Primosmarker 357 Aldanmarker
8.9 Secanemarker 409 Upper Darby Townshipmarker
10.0 Mortonmarker 552 Mortonmarker
3 11.4 Swarthmoremarker 729 Swarthmoremarker Connection with Bus Route #109 (24-hour route)
12.4 Wallingfordmarker 265 Nether Providence Townshipmarker
13.3 Moylan-Rose Valleymarker 250
14.0 Mediamarker 464 Upper Providence Townshipmarker Route #101 Media Trolley (on State Rd.), Bus Routes #110 and #111 (on Baltimore Ave.)
15.1 Elwynmarker 370 Middletown Townshipmarker Connection to Bus Route #117
18.1 Wawamarker - Chester Heightsmarker Proposed new station with connection with SEPTA Bus Route #111

West Chester

Until September 19, 1986, commuter service on the line continued past Elwyn to West Chestermarker, the end of the line (current SEPTA documentation still refers to the railway as the West Chester Line). Major rehabilitation was needed on the line due to deteriorating track conditions, resulting in "bustitution" between Elwyn and West Chester, further eroding ridership. In addition, Chester County was more interested in expanding the Exton Stationmarker on SEPTA's R5 Paoli/Downingtown line. SEPTA only had funds for one of the two projects, so R3 service to West Chester was terminated in favor of expanded R5 service.

Unlike the line between Arsenal Interlocking and Elwyn, the line past Elwyn is single track, although prior to the SEPTA takeover in 1983, there were passing sidings at or near most of the stations. These passing sidings, located near Glen Riddle, Lenni (where the abandoned PRR Chester Creek and Wawa branches merged with the line), Glen Mills, Cheyney, Westtown, and West Chester, are easily marked with the PRR's trademark "bowtie" catenary poles—single track areas used single-pole catenary supports. The sidings allowed multiple commuter trains to operate on the single-track section. Currently, the single track section of the R3 near Lenni is used by the SEPTA Regional Rail division to train new operators, and the section from West Chester to Glen Millsmarker is used by the West Chester Railroad, which operates scenic excursion trips on weekends. Amtrak maintenance trains use the line to access a quarry located near the Glen Mills station.

Since the demise of regular service, vandals gradually stole copper catenary wire from the line, prompting SEPTA to remove the remainder of it in the summer of 2005. This portion of the catenary (westward of Lenni) dates to 1928; it would have to be replaced in any event for service to resume.

Stations served by SEPTA and its predecessors prior to 1987 include the following:

Zone Milepost Station City/Township County Notes
15.9 Williamson Schoolmarker Middletown Townshipmarker Delawaremarker Abandoned, but still standing.
16.7 Glen Riddlemarker Demolished.
17.4 Lennimarker Currently used as a SEPTA training base; has a passing siding. Station demolished.
18.1 Wawamarker Chester Heightsmarker Demolished.
18.7 Darlingtonmarker Middletown Townshipmarker Demolished.
20.3 Glen Millsmarker Thornbury Townshipmarker Restored 1990's; home to Thornbury Historical Society.
21.6 Locksleymarker A small passenger shelter. Has a PRR-vintage position-light signal.
22.2 Cheyneymarker Near Cheyney University of Pennsylvaniamarker. Restored. Presently serving as the Cheyney Post Office, 19319.
23.9 Westtownmarker Thornbury Townshipmarker Chestermarker Restored and is home to an art gallery.
25.5 Oakbournemarker Westtown Townshipmarker Service discontinued 1961; demolished. Had a small freight yard.
27.1 West Chester Universitymarker West Chestermarker Also known as Nields Street Station
27.5 West Chestermarker Main part of Market Street Station demolished 1968. Remainder demolished late 1980's.

Omitted is Pennellton Station, which comprised a passing siding between the stations of Darlington and Wawa. A newspaper article from 1911 indicates that by that time service had already been discontinued to the station.

Elwyn to Wawa Rail Service Restoration

In June 2005, SEPTA gave the Notice to Proceed to URS Corporation for the engineering and design of the restoration of rail service between Elwyn and Wawa stations. This follows a feasibility study and other earlier studies as early as the 1990s. SEPTA initially estimated that the cost for the 3-mile extension of service would be $51,327,000; the estimate cited in SEPTA's 2009 Capital Budget is $80 million. The construction project will include new track, catenary, signals, communications, and structures; and a new station at Wawa with a large park-and-ride facility. The parking structure replaced earlier plans for a parking lot because of the threat of flooding from Chester Creek. The location of the new Wawa station next to US Route 1 allows for excellent highway access. It also will serve the nearby corporate headquarters of Wawa Food Markets as well. The extension is expected to reduce traffic congestion through Middletown Township and offer employees headed for work at Painters Crossing and Concordville, Pennsylvaniamarker a bus connection to the train.

The new ADA-compliant Wawa Station will have high platforms, a sales office, ticket vending machines and passenger waiting room. SEPTA will also construct a new railcar storage facility at the Lenni Facility in Delaware County.

According to a Delaware County Times article of October 18, 2004 ("R3 rail line extension on track"), the new Wawa station is estimated to have 500 commuters on a typical weekday. The engineering phase was begun in July of 2005; this included preliminary engineering, environmental impact analysis, and final engineering. Shortfalls in funding have delayed completion of this phase to 2010. Construction will follow and take 24 to 36 months to complete.

Rails to Trails

The Delaware County Planning Department is cooperating with SEPTA and Friends of the Chester Creek Branch to include a hiking trail within SEPTA's right-of-way from the new Wawa station to Lenni Road. This will be the northern end of the Chester Creek Trail.

Push for West Chester Rail Service Restoration

Despite the planned restoration of service to Wawa, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has been pushing SEPTA since 1986 to restore full service to West Chester, citing an increase of the local population between Wawa and West Chester and would allow commuters in that area an alternative to driving either to the R5 stations in Exton or Paoli, and allow a reduction in congestion on U.S. Route 202 between U.S. Route 1 and West Chester. Chester County officials, who originally allowed SEPTA to end service at Elwyn in 1986, have since changed their tune, and have urged the DVRPC to work with SEPTA in reinstating service.

Outgoing West Chester Universitymarker President Madeleine Wing Adler wrote a letter in support of an extension to West Chester. She cited a need for reliable and fast transportation for students to Media and Philadelphia.


Ridership data (from SEPTA Annual Service Plans) shows that the number of passengers per year has been slowly increasing each year, with a 9% increase between 1995 and 2005:
Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2005 8,722 2,372,816
FY 2004 8,265 2,320,004
FY 2003 8,973 2,244,700
FY 2001 n/a 2,336,000
FY 2000 n/a 2,379,000
FY 1999 n/a 2,119,000
FY 1997 n/a 2,188,265
FY 1996 n/a 2,194,600
FY 1995 7,713 2,177,643
FY 1994 8,214 2,087,692
FY 1993 7,558 2,110,827
Note: n/a = not available

R3 West Trenton

The West Trenton Line connects Center Citymarker Philadelphiamarker with the West Trenton section of Ewing, New Jerseymarker, where a branch formerly ran to downtown Trentonmarker. Like all of the Reading Company's commuter lines, the West Trenton Line was electrified in the early 1930s and has a mix of at-grade and grade separated crossings. Electrified service to West Trenton (and to Hatboro, Lansdale and Doylestown) was opened on July 26, 1931. The line splits from the SEPTA Main Line at Jenkintownmarker, running northeast. At Bethayresmarker, it crosses over the remnants of the former Philadelphia, Newtown and New York Railroad, which once connected with the R8 Fox Chase line. At Oakfordmarker, the former New York Short Line Railroad, once part of the Reading's main line to West Trenton and Jersey City, merges. The West Trenton Railroad Bridgemarker, a concrete arch bridge, crosses the Delaware River to the final stop at West Trenton.
West Trenton station.

Prior to 1983, the line continued north to Newarkmarker (Jersey Citymarker prior to the Aldene Planmarker of the 1960's), using Budd Company-built diesel-powered multiple-unit cars, but was dropped when SEPTA eliminated funding for Conrail operations north of the electrified lines. Currently, New Jersey Transit is looking at starting a commuter service between West Trenton and Newarkmarker, allowing an alternative to the SEPTA/NJ Transit service on the nearby Northeast Corridor line, as well as expanding rail service to currently unserved areas of Central New Jersey.

The line north of the split at Jenkintown was originally built as the National Railway project, opened on May 1, 1876, to provide an alternate to the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Companies' monopoly over Philadelphia-New York Citymarker travel. From Jenkintown to the Delaware River it was built by the North Pennsylvania Railroad as a branch, while the New Jerseymarker section was built by the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad, merging with the Central Railroad of New Jersey at Bound Brookmarker. In addition to the Philadelphia and Reading Railway (later the Reading Company), which leased the North Pennsylvania Railroad on May 14, 1879, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad also used the line for passenger and freight service to New York City, including its famed Royal Blue Line service. In the mid-1900s, the New York Short Line Railroad opened, providing a cutoff from the Philadelphia, Newtown and New York Railroad (now the R8 Fox Chase line) to the main New York line at Oakfordmarker. That cutoff is no longer used, and the R3 West Trenton uses the original route via Jenkintown. In 1976 the Reading merged into Conrail, and in 1983 SEPTA took over operations.

North of Neshaminy, track operations are controlled using CSX radio frequencies.

Currently, most weekday R3 trains continue through downtown to Media/Elwyn, while almost all weekend trains are paired with R1 Airport service.

The R3 West Trenton makes the following station stops, proceeding east from Market East Stationmarker:

List of stations:
Zone Milepost Station Boardings City/Township County Notes
C 2.1 Temple Universitymarker 1988 Philadelphiamarker boardings include all lines
2.9 North Broadmarker 236 boardings include R5 and R6
1 5.1 Wayne Junctionmarker 749 boardings include R1, R2, R3, R5, R7 and R8
7.3 Fern Rock TCmarker 761 boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5
2 8.4 Melrose Parkmarker 322 Cheltenham Townshipmarker Montgomerymarker boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5
9.2 Elkins Parkmarker 393 boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5
3 10.8 Jenkintownmarker 1519 Jenkintownmarker boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; Aerial photo
12.0 Noblemarker 159 Abington Townshipmarker
12.8 Rydalmarker 26
13.8 Meadowbrookmarker 78
15.1 Bethayresmarker 507 Lower Moreland Townshipmarker
16.4 Philmontmarker 515
17.7 Forest Hillsmarker 326 Philadelphiamarker
18.2 Somertonmarker 733
4 19.9 Trevosemarker 227 Bensalem Townshipmarker Bucksmarker
21.1 Neshaminy Fallsmarker 279
23.9 Langhornemarker 498 Penndelmarker
5 26.4 Woodbournemarker 314 Middletown Townshipmarker
30.8 Yardleymarker 349 Yardleymarker
6 32.5 West Trentonmarker 221 Ewingmarker Mercermarker New Jerseymarker

Ridership on the West Trenton line has grown 30% between 1995 and 2005. Data from SEPTA Annual Service Plans:
Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2005 9,488 2,372,816
FY 2004 9,958 2,795,338
FY 2003 10,604 2,637,500
FY 2001 n/a 2,684,000
FY 2000 n/a 2,706,000
FY 1999 n/a 2,205,000
FY 1997 n/a 2,268,269
FY 1996 n/a 2,215,097
FY 1995 7,498 2,027,012
FY 1994 7,106 1,601,685
FY 1993 6,093 1,350,442
Note: n/a = not available

  1. Planning Matters, Newsletter of the Delaware County Planning Department, Winter 2009, p.2
  2. R3 extension expected to ease Elwyn parking, Delco Times, April 6, 2006
  3. SEPTA Fiscal Year 2009 Capital Budget and Fiscal Years 2009-2020 Capital Program, p. 45
  4. SEPTA proposed Capital Budget 2010

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