R5 (SEPTA): Wikis


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R5 train entering Paoli station
Type Commuter rail line
System SEPTA Regional Rail
Status Operating
Termini Thorndale
Stations 49
Services      R5 (Paoli-Thorndale)     R5 (Lansdale-Doylestown)
Operator(s) SEPTA
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) Standard gauge
Electrification Catenary

The SEPTA R5 is a route of the SEPTA Regional Rail (commuter rail) system. One end of the route serves the western suburbs of Philadelphia, USA, and the other the northern suburbs. The route extends from Thorndale, Pennsylvania in Chester County to Doylestown, Pennsylvania in Bucks County. The line utilizes both former Penn Central trackage, which is now owned by Amtrak, and former Reading Railroad trackage, now owned by SEPTA.

Most R5 trains continue through the Center City tunnel between the Paoli/Thorndale and Lansdale/Doylestown ends of the system, although some originate/terminate at downtown stations.


R5 Paoli-Thorndale

R5 Paoli.gif
R5 Thorndale.gif

This branch utilizes one of the oldest sections of what is now Amtrak's Keystone Corridor, an electrified 104-mile two to four-track high-speed route between Harrisburg Transportation Center in Harrisburg and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. The line was originally part of Pennsylvania's "Main Line of Public Works", a series of canals and railroads to connect Philadelphia with Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and points west. The tracks subsequently became part of the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad before eventually becoming Amtrak's Keystone Corridor. The "Main Line" also refers to the affluent Philadelphia suburbs along the line of the same name.

Prior to the late-1980s, all commuter rail operations went from Suburban Station to Paoli, the westernmost census designated place along the Main Line. Because of this earlier operation, local residents called the R5 the "Paoli Local". Currently, all Paoli turn-around trains, which operate alternately on Saturdays and exclusively on Sundays, now use the nearby Malvern train station as its last stop (the Paoli train yard was closed down in the mid-1990s and is in the process of being converted into extra parking, and eventually, a new Paoli train station), and uses the Frazer train yard as a turn-around location. Prior to 1992, the service went as far west as Parkesburg, but service was truncated to Downingtown because Amtrak lacked facilities to turn SEPTA trains around, and trains were forced to deadhead out to Lancaster.

Electrified service between Philadelphia and Paoli was opened on September 11, 1915. As the first of the local commuter and long-distance line to be electrified, the line was used as an "experiment" for powering trains using AC overhead catenary wires. The previous commuter line to be electrified was the Long Island Rail Road in New York City, but this line utilized the DC third rail similar in nature to the New York subway system and most other heavy-rail interurbans. Between 1915 and the 1960s, the former Pennsylvania Railroad used the MP-54 electric multiple-unit (EMU) railcars, which were brick red ("Tuscan Red") in color (green in the Penn Central era) and had characteristic "owl eye" round windows at car ends.

The MP-54s were replaced in the 1960s and 1970s with the Silverliner EMU cars, which are still in use today. More recently, SEPTA acquired push-pull coaches from the Bombardier corporation, and is hauled by AEM-7 electric locomotives similar to those used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

As a part of the Keystone Corridor upgrade projects conducted by Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the R5 line was upgraded in 2007 with new concrete ties, continuous welded rails, and overhead lines and substations. This upgrade allows SEPTA and Amtrak to operate multiple trains at the same time in the same manner as that found on the Northeast Corridor.


Station list

All stations have low level platforms unless otherwise noted. Boldface indicates a major station.

Zone Milepost Station Boardings City/Township County Notes
1 4.0 52nd Street 0 Philadelphia Philadelphia station closed 1980
2 5.4 Overbrook 777
6.0 Merion 261 Lower Merion Montgomery
6.8 Narberth 617 Narberth
7.4 Wynnewood 659 Lower Merion
8.5 Ardmore 822 Amtrak stop
9.1 Haverford 352
3 10.1 Bryn Mawr 822 mini-high-level platform on westbound side only
10.9 Rosemont 304
12.0 Villanova 586 Radnor Delaware
13.0 Radnor 451
13.7 St Davids 224
14.5 Wayne 650 high-level platforms
15.4 Strafford 898 Tredyffrin Chester
4 16.4 Devon 458 Easttown
17.5 Berwyn 248 mini-high level platforms
18.6 Daylesford 213 Tredyffrin
19.9 Paoli 1462 Amtrak stop
5 21.8 Malvern 514 Malvern terminus for R5 Paoli/Malvern trains; approximately half of the scheduled R5 trains terminate here
27.7 Exton 539 West Whiteland Amtrak stop
28.7 Whitford 230
32.8 Downingtown 299 Downingtown Amtrak stop
35.2 Thorndale 293 Caln high-level platform (inbound side only)

The R5 Paoli/Thorndale line is, by far, SEPTA's most patronized regional rail line. Ridership on the Paoli/Thorndale line has been steady from 1995 to 2005. From SEPTA Annual Service Plans:

Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2008 21,000[1] n/a
FY 2007 n/a n/a
FY 2006 n/a n/a
FY 2005 19,972 5,538,762
FY 2004 18,636 5,231,209
FY 2003 19,745 5,415,100
FY 2001 n/a 5,596,000
FY 2000 n/a 6,073,000
FY 1999 n/a 5,092,000
FY 1997 n/a 5,564,997
FY 1996 n/a 5,590,531
FY 1995 19,541 5,589,094
FY 1994 20,322 5,428,658
FY 1993 20,426 5,500,377
Note: n/a = not available

See also

Thorndale to Lancaster extension

A recent proposal to extend the R5 further west from its terminus at Thorndale to Lancaster has been discussed by regional planning organizations, government officials, and members supporting the Capital Red Rose Corridor, which will provide commuter rail along the Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line between Lancaster and Harrisburg beginning in 2010.[2][3] Proponents of the R5 extension to Lancaster, support that by allowing SEPTA and Capital Area Transit to operate commuter rail serving smaller stations along the Keystone Corridor, it will allow for fewer stops and increased speeds for Amtrak's Keystone and Pennsylvanian trains between Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and the Harrisburg Transportation Center in downtown Harrisburg. It is also suggested by community leaders and transportation officials that the addition of commuter rail serving portions of Lancaster and Dauphin counties will help to alleviate future traffic congestion stemming from increased development along the same corridor.[3] The entire main line between Thorndale, Lancaster and Harrisburg is currently electrified.

R5 Lansdale-Doylestown

R5 Lansdale.gif
R5 Doylestown.gif

The Lansdale-Doylestown segment of the R5 line utilizes what is known as the "SEPTA Main Line", a four-track line that has been owned by SEPTA since 1983 (prior to that, by Conrail between 1976 and 1983 and by the Reading Railroad before 1976). Originally arriving and departing at the former Reading Terminal, now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the line has, since 1985, been directly attached to the ex-Penn Central side by the Center City Commuter Rail Tunnel. Unlike the ex-PRR/Penn Central side of the R5, the ex-Reading line was not as heavily built, as the Reading segregated its thru-freight and passenger movements. While the four-track section between the tunnel and Wayne Junction and the two-track section from Wayne Junction to Jenkintown are entirely grade-separated, the two-track section from Jenkintown to Lansdale and the single track from Lansdale to Doylestown has both at-grade and over- and underpasses.

Electrified service between Philadelphia, Hatboro, Lansdale, Doylestown and West Trenton was opened on July 26, 1931. The Reading planned to electrify tracks between West Trenton and Jersey City for long-distance service, but had to drop plans for electrification outside of the commuter service area due to economic setbacks as a result of the Great Depression.

R5 train at North Wales

As a result, the Reading (along with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), which operated its Blue Ribbon Washington-New York service on its tracks) could not compete with the PRR with Philadelphia-New York service, as Reading (and B&O) rail service terminated at Jersey City, New Jersey (although ferry service to New York's Financial District was available); later to be cut back to Newark Penn Station due to the Aldene Plan. Service to Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley languished due to the post-World War II surge of the automobile; and the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension in 1957. Service north of Lansdale in the non-electrified territory was terminated by SEPTA on July 29, 1981.

Although the Reading and the PRR electric overhead catenary wires are similar, the big difference is that the PRR electrical lines are self-contained. They are generated at the Safe Harbor Dam near York, Pennsylvania, which not only powers the Keystone Corridor (between Harrisburg and Paoli), but also the Northeast Corridor between Wilmington, Delaware and Washington, D.C., Zoo Interlocking in Philadelphia and New York City, and all thru-freight lines electrified (since removed by Conrail) after 1925 (the Paoli-Phialdelphia segment of the Keystone Corridor, and the Philadelphia-Wilmington segment of the Northeast Corridor, as well as SEPTA's R3-Media/Elwyn/West Chester line, are powered through transformers built and operated by PECO). The Reading's electrification system, however, relies on a transformer at Wayne Junction, and separate high-voltage pylons for longer-distance trains, similar to those found on European high-speed rail systems and on the Northeast Corridor between New Haven, Connecticut and Boston.

Reading cars used for suburban service were similar to the PRR MP-54 cars, although slightly more modern. They were distinguished by square windows at cab ends and a dark grey-green livery. Some cars were rebuilt during the 1970s and received a new blue paint scheme; these were called "Blue Fleet" cars or "Blueliners". Today, the line uses the same Silverliner EMU (electric multiple-unit) cars as like that of the rest of the system.

Station list

All stations have low level platforms unless otherwise noted

Zone Milepost Station Boardings City/Township County Notes
C 2.1 Temple University 1988 Philadelphia Philadelphia boardings include all lines; high level platforms
2.9 North Broad 236 boardings include R2, R5 and R6; low level platforms with mini-high-level platforms
1 5.1 Wayne Junction 749 boardings include R1, R2, R3, R5, R7 and R8; high-level platforms on outbound main line
7.3 Fern Rock Transportation Center 761 boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; high-level platforms
2 8.4 Melrose Park 322 Cheltenham Montgomery boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; high-level platforms
9.2 Elkins Park 393 boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; upgrade to high-level platforms planned
3 10.8 Jenkintown-Wyncote 1519 Jenkintown boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; upgrade to high-level platforms planned   Aerial photo
11.9 Glenside 897 Cheltenham boardings include R1, R2, and R5;
13.0 North Hills 142 Abington
13.9 Oreland 195 Springfield
15.9 Fort Washington 640 Whitemarsh high-level platforms
17.3 Ambler 784 Ambler
4 18.8 Penllyn 128 Lower Gwynedd
20.0 Gwynedd Valley 256 low-level platforms
22.4 North Wales 733 North Wales high-level platforms
5 23.5 Pennbrook 379 Lansdale
24.4 Lansdale 918 terminus of R5 Lansdale trains; approximately half of the scheduled R5 weekday trains terminate here
25.9 Fortuna 86 Hatfield upgrade to a high-level platform planned
26.8 Colmar 238 high-level platform
27.5 Link Belt 38 high-level platform
29.7 Chalfont 100 Chalfont Bucks high-level platform
31.5 New Britain 51 New Britain high-level platform
32.8 Delaware Valley College 36 Doylestown Township high-level platform
34.4 Doylestown 333 Doylestown

Ridership on the Lansdale/Doylestown line has increased 28% from 1995 to 2005. From SEPTA Annual Service Plans:

Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2005 13,490 3,808,662
FY 2004 13,361 3,750,404
FY 2003 14,130 3,563,400
FY 2001 n/a 3,492,000
FY 2000 n/a 3,830,000
FY 1999 n/a 3,162,000
FY 1997 n/a 3,150,497
FY 1996 n/a 3,105,782
FY 1995 10,762 2,982,735
FY 1994 9,821 2,485,290
FY 1993 9,177 2,211,611
Note: n/a = not available

External links


  1. ^ SEPTA busting at the seams Philadelphia Business Journal, January 8, 2008. accessed February 5, 2010.
  2. ^ Capital Red Rose Corridor map with SEPTA extension Modern Transit Partnership, accessed February 5, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Letter supporting the Capital Red Rose Corridor South Central Assembly, accessed February 5, 2010.


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