Fox Chase Line

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For the former 1981–1983 SEPTA transit operation between Fox Chase and Newtown, see Fox Chase Rapid Transit Line.
     Fox Chase Line
Fox Chase station April 2010.jpg
Fox Chase Station, April 2010
Type Commuter rail line
System SEPTA Regional Rail
Status Operating
Termini Fox Chase
30th Street Station
Daily ridership 5,299
Operator(s) SEPTA
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification Catenary
Route map
30th Street StationAmtrak New Jersey Transit
Suburban Station
Jefferson Station
Temple University
Manayunk/Norristown Line
Wayne Junction
Warminster, West Trenton, Lansdale/Doylestown Lines
electric service
Fox Chase
diesel service
Walnut Hill closed 1983
West Trenton Line
Huntingdon Valley closed 1983
Bryn Athyn closed 1983
Woodmont closed late 1960s
County Line closed 1983
Southampton closed 1983
Churchville closed 1983
Holland closed 1983
Village Shires construction begun 1981
George School closed 1983
Newtown closed 1983

The Fox Chase Line (formerly called R8 Fox Chase) is a route of the SEPTA Regional Rail (commuter rail) system.

Originally known as the Fox Chase/Newtown Branch, service was truncated in January 1983 from Newtown to its current terminus in Philadelphia at Fox Chase due to failing diesel train equipment and low ridership. Service restoration north of Fox Chase to Newtown has been discussed by rail proponents (most notably, the Pennsylvania Transit Expansion Coalition).[1] Plans to restore service beyond Fox Chase remained on SEPTA's Capital Program until 2009; there are currently no plans to reinstate service to Newtown.[2][3] Track within Montgomery County was dismantled in 2008 and 2014, respectively, for conversion as an interim rail trail, preventing service restoration for the foreseeable future.[4]

The Fox Chase Line branches from the SEPTA Main Line at Newtown Junction, north of the Wayne Junction station. It runs entirely within the city of Philadelphia except for a section between Olney and Cheltenham, Pennsylvania which runs along the city border.[5]

The former R8 number was applied after the original plan was cancelled due to problems including the Swampoodle Connection never being built. The Fox Chase/Newtown Line was originally intended to be the R4, which would have continued as the Bryn Mawr local, while the R5 would have run express to Bryn Mawr and local to points west.[5]


The transfer between Conrail electric trains (left) and SEPTA diesels (right) at Fox Chase Station, November 24, 1981.
Southampton fire, January 2, 1982
Fox Chase-bound SEPTA RDCs waiting to cross Conrail-operated West Trenton Line, May 1982. Disgruntled Conrail dispatchers regularly gave their commuter trains preference, delaying RDCs and resulting in missed connections at Fox Chase

The railroad line to Newtown was originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). The line, opened on February 2, 1878, as the Philadelphia, Newtown and New York Railroad, was built to block the construction of the parallel National Railway, later home to the Reading Railroad's (RDG) Newark, New Jersey service. After that failed, the line was operated by the North Pennsylvania Railroad starting on November 22, 1879. The RDG began leasing the line, and eventually purchased it on December 31, 1923.[6]

The Newtown Branch was historically the weakest of all the RDG's suburban routes. As such, it was bypassed entirely when the company electrified their five other suburban lines in the 1930s (Lansdale/Doylestown, Hatboro/Warminster, Manayunk/Norristown, Chestnut Hill East, West Trenton). Service deteriorated through the 1950s and 1960s, when RDG proposed abandonment. However, a housing boom hit the Fox Chase region and ridership skyrocketed. RDG then expanded service and, via the Philadelphia subsidy program, electrified the line to Fox Chase (the Philadelphia city line) on September 25, 1966. Fox Chase became the line's main terminal, with over half of the route's ridership originating there.[7]

The line narrowly escaped abandonment several times in the 1970s, only to be rescued by political forces or changes in nearby population. In an effort to stem losses while in bankruptcy reorganization, RDG threatened to end diesel service north of Fox Chase in 1974. The shutdown was opposed by Bucks County Commissioner Joseph Tracey. SEPTA then intervened to keep Fox Chase-Newtown diesel service operating on a skeletal schedule.[6][7] Service was again threatened in 1976 when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recommended exclusion of the entire branch from Conrail because of its weak status (this was never the case for the double-track lines which hosted SEPTA's intercity diesel service). To avert this, SEPTA and several private companies (such as Frost-Watson) committed to continued use of the line. The Newtown branch was purchased by SEPTA; freight service was contracted to Conrail using federal subsidies provided through the Local Rail Service Assistance Program.[6]

Electrification plans in order to fully integrate the Newtown line with SEPTA's electrified commuter network floated around throughout the 1970s. Funds were to be supplied by both Montgomery and Bucks Counties. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also allocated $2.2 million ($7,148,739 today) to electrify the line in 1979, but these funds were ultimately diverted to other projects in the region.[7]

The route north of Fox Chase became a hotbed for political upheaval when public subsidies came into play in the 1970s. Population near the line throughout Montgomery County is sparse, with few stations to serve passengers. Despite small originating ridership, the county was assessed much of the route's cost. Opposition within official county circles to continued service began to circulate. Proposals were floated around at that time to install a track connection where the line crosses the West Trenton route near Bethayres, and to abandon the stretch of track between Bethayres and Fox Chase (this was essentially carried out in 2009 and 2014 when the tracks were removed for the Pennypack Trail in order to put all restoration rumors to rest). However, the lightly-used line served an important purpose; it was the shorter route to the West Trenton Line crossing as rush hour traffic through the Jenkintown/Wyncote bottleneck was heavy and presently remains so.[7]

Whereas the line was isolated in Montgomery County, it was near the center of activity in towns throughout Bucks County. Southampton, Churchville, Holland, George School and Newtown all had station stops centrally located and convenient to riders.[7]

Montgomery County also had less to lose if service ended. The eastern portion of the county had such dense passenger train coverage during the era of Newtown service that no point was more than two miles from a station. Conversely, Bucks County had minimal passenger trains; losing the Newtown route ultimately limited rider mobility.[7] The end result placed the two counties in opposition of one another: Bucks County regularly supported service, while Montgomery County was against it.[7]

Diesel service north of Fox Chase went on hiatus starting July 1, 1981. Around that time, Conrail made it clear they wanted to be relieved of its money-losing commuter rail operations in order to survive financially. The Reagan Administration agreed with Conrail, and granted the operator permission to exit the commuter business by January 1, 1983. While SEPTA had already relieved Conrail of their other diesel services, they were soon going to be responsible for all electrified services. Rather than terminate the Fox Chase-Newtown diesel service along with their intercity services to Pottsville, Bethlehem and New Jersey, SEPTA decided to use the line to experiment operating railroad lines using City Transit Division operators instead of traditional railroad workers as a cost-saving measure.[5] With the three intercity diesel services having ended, this freed up operable diesel trainsets (known as Budd Rail Diesel Cars [RDCs]) for operations to Newtown, where they would ultimately be stored.[6]

Dubbed the Fox Chase Rapid Transit Line, SEPTA initiated operation of the diesel service on Monday, October 5, 1981. The service was unique in several ways:

  • it was the only diesel service left operating in the SEPTA system; all other diesel services had been eliminated by August 1981
  • it was the only commuter line operated by SEPTA at the time; all other commuter services (all which were electrified) were still operated by Conrail

During RDG and Conrail eras, service consisted of five Philadelphia-Newtown round trips utilizing 1-2 RDCs. One additional run was an RDC shuttle that connected with electric service at Fox Chase.[7] During the SEPTA transit experiment, service increased to eight Fox Chase-Newtown round trips (the highest frequency the line would ever see).[8] Because SEPTA operated the service as a transit operation, diesel trains could not travel directly into Reading Terminal. Nearby electrified Hatboro/Warminster and West Trenton lines offering one-seat rides into Philadelphia were more attractive to commuters.[6] Throughout its history, Fox Chase-Newtown service never reached the hourly frequency of nearby electrified services, which regularly hurt ridership.[7]

During the SEPTA transit era, several additional operational issues saddled the route. The 17 RDCs had worked tirelessly on former intercity services and were in deplorable condition with inoperable air conditioning, a victim of deferred maintenance. SEPTA's inexperience with railroad operations and the RDC unit lead to them being reactive to performance problems. As RDCs failed, motormen were instructed to feed the units excessive amounts of oil, resulting in the destruction of head gaskets on the engines.[6] SEPTA was also left without a proper facility to service the ailing RDCs. Originally, trains were serviced at the RDG shops at their Reading, Pennsylvania base. With Conrail closing the shops in July 1981 after the intercity diesel services terminated, SEPTA was left without a maintenance location, resulting in makeshift oil changes being performed at Newtown Station with passengers present.[9]

Several railroad crossings along the line remained unprotected, one of the few SEPTA lines that had this problem. Inadequate or nonexistent warning signs were the causes of several accidents, one that resulted in the fiery death of a SEPTA motorman on January 2, 1982. The financial and, in some cases, legal burdens placed on SEPTA after these accidents contributed to the decline of the branch.[10]

Changing trains at Fox Chase also caused problems. Conrail motormen were still chafing at SEPTA's choice to operate the Fox Chase-Newtown segment with transit workers. Missed connections at Fox Chase were frequent, as Conrail motormen intentionally departed early when they spotted the RDCs from Newtown approach the station. RDCs were also held at the West Trenton Line crossing at Bethayres, with Conrail dispatchers giving their trains preference. The delayed RDC would then arrive at Fox Chase. having missed the connection to the city. SEPTA only allowed for a four-minute window for the transfer at Fox Chase, and frustrated riders fled the ailing line.[6]

Service to Newtown ultimately ended on January 14, 1983, when the last remaining operable RDC unit failed to operate properly.[6]

Further information: SEPTA diesel service

Post-1983 service[edit]

"SEPTA has several techniques for sandbagging unwanted projects — raise concerns over safety, estimate costs unrealistically high, or push for rail trail conversions to stave off repeated calls for service restoration."

- Gerry Williams, Railpace Newsmagazine columnist[11]


SEPTA spent a significant amount of federal money in 1984 to upgrade several street crossings with new welded rail (note "1984" date stamp on track). Aside from a test run in September 1985 using experimental British BRE-Leyland Diesel railbusses, no train would ever utilize the new trackage, raising questions about SEPTA's misuse of federal funds.
Cover of the unpopular Newtown-Fox Chase "bustitution" timetable; poor ridership helped reinforce SEPTA's contention that transit service of any sort along the corridor was not needed. The traveling public never saw a bus service as a suitable replacement for a train service that operated more efficiently and quickly.[12]
Despite twice turning down funds for electrification and selling all RDC units within months of cancelling train service, SEPTA continued to use the excuse that service ended "due to the lack of diesel rail equipment" as late as 1998 as seen printed here a 1998 Newtown-Fox Chase "bustitution" timetable.

SEPTA had repaired several RDC trains by March 1983. However, SEPTA Surface Transportation General Manager Robert Rhoades (whose staff was operating the temporary bus service while the RDCs were inoperable) lobbied hard to keep the work for city transit bus drivers.[13] Tariff No. 167 was proposed on April 14, 1983, by SEPTA's Chief Operations Officer to officially establish a Fox Chase-Newtown Shuttle Bus (known as "bustitution") in place of train service until electrification was completed. Public hearings were held in July 1983; almost all public testimony was opposed to the substitute bus service and strongly in favor of eventual electrification. Bucks County Commissioners unanimously opposed the bus and demanded that train service resume. A representative of the Pennypack Watershed Association, however, opposed electrification on environmental grounds and suggested instead a hiking trail/bikeway along the line (this eventually came to fruition with little community input in 2008 and 2014, respectively).[14][4]

SEPTA estimated a deficit for fiscal 1984 of $2.8 million (assuming a resumption of service by October 1, 1983), and a deficit of $1.3 million for fiscal 1985; the higher 1984 figure included costs of rehabilitation work necessary to get the RDC fleet running. In effect, SEPTA told Bucks County that if the county provided funds to cover the projected deficits (Montgomery County withdrew all financial support), SEPTA would be willing to resume passenger service.[15]

A Philadelphia Inquirer reporter visited the Newtown station facility on July 11, 1983 and spoke at length with a SEPTA supervisor present at the site. The supervisor, who was repairing several RDCs, stated that there were two cars ready to operate, with two more that could be made serviceable within several days. Several recently overhauled engines were also on hand in Newtown yard. The supervisor added that if he had four RDCs to run and two spares to work on, SEPTA could easily have kept Fox Chase-Newtown diesel service operating indefinitely. He also went on record stating that of the ten RDC trains on the Newtown line, all but three (which were cannibalized for parts) could be restored with minimal effort on SEPTA's part.[15]

Bucks County officials and displaced riders both took issue with SEPTA, feeling that the transit organization was not being straightforward about its plans for Newtown service. By 1983, as SEPTA's only non-electrified operation, the line was an orphan; rather than be up front with the problems the Newtown service entailed, SEPTA resorted to terminating service outright.[15] The Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers (DVARP) later accused SEPTA of purposely ending service and that while other commuter railroad counterparts "in North America expand their rail services, SEPTA is the only one continuing to cut and cut and cut. The only difference between SEPTA and its railroad and transit predecessors is that SEPTA eliminates services to avoid rebuilding assets, while its predecessors kept service running while deferring maintenance."[16]

By July 27, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a legal notice advertising "surplus rail diesel cars" for sale by SEPTA.[15] SEPTA had sold several RDC units to Boston's MBTA, the Alaska Railroad and Via Rail Canada by the end of the year, many which are still in use as of 2010.[17]

The Fox Chase-Newtown "temporary" replacement bus service was included in a list of bus routes SEPTA proposed to abolish by 1985. It was feared by Bucks County and commuters that elimination of bus service along with the route would make restoration of train service that much more unlikely. Patronage remaining light, though not without reason. The replacement service was slower and less convenient than the train service it replaced, resulting in low ridership.[18] The bus did not directly connect with train service at Fox Chase, but instead terminated at a SEPTA transit loop one block away, a fact not explained in the Fox Chase train schedule which showed the bus service as a convenient connection; it was only hinted at in the bus service schedule. Bus drivers laying over at the loop were out of sight of Fox Chase Station and shuttle buses were not held if the connecting train was late. Commuters and general observers noted that SEPTA showed little interest in electrifying the line to Newtown and restoring train service; the poor bus ridership eventually helped reinforce SEPTA's contention that transit service of any sort along the corridor was not needed.[12] Like British rail passengers victim of the 1960s-era Beeching cuts in the UK, the traveling public never saw a bus service as a suitable replacement for a train service that operated more efficiently and quickly.[18] Fox Chase-Newtown "temporary" replacement bus service was cancelled in 1999.

SEPTA forgoes approved funding for electrification[edit]

Since bustitution took effect in 1983, there has been continued interest in reviving passenger service through to Newtown.

In July 1983, PennDOT again allocated $2.2 million to complete electrification to Newtown by 1984. SEPTA elected not to utilize the funds for the project, per PennDOT: "Senate Bill 666 and the corresponding Capital Budget ACT 38 of 83 were enacted, and they included a line item of $2,400,000 ($5,682,860 today) for the Newtown rail line. After the capital budget authorized funds, SEPTA as the grant recipient, was then responsible to make an application for a grant to utilize the funds. In this case, no application was made by SEPTA for the line item regarding a Newtown rail line."[19] In other words, SEPTA purposely turned down available funds slated for Newtown restoration. By October 1984, PennDOT halted all preliminary engineering work on electrification efforts; further work was suspended pending a feasibility study.[12]

SEPTA management was criticized for the termination of service beyond Fox Chase. Noted international transit expert and University of Pennsylvania professor Vukan Vuchic (who also designed the former R-numbering system for SEPTA) commented that he had never seen a transit agency the size of SEPTA "cut transit services quite as drastically as SEPTA. For a system that is already obsolete, any more cutbacks would be disastrous—and likely spell doom for transit in the Philadelphia region."[20]

Though service was suspended indefinitely, SEPTA spent a significant amount of money throughout the 1980s (in order to comply with a federal grant) to perform extensive track upgrades.[18]

Sturdy Pandrol clips similar to the type shown (but utilizing wood crossties) were used when track upgrades were made in 1984. No regularly scheduled train would ever take advantage of the upgrade

All railroad crossings received new welded rail, which were secured using sturdy Pandrol clips vs. traditional rail spikes.[18] SEPTA also installed new SEPTA-friendly station signs and "lollipop" street signs at all regional rail stops, including those along the Fox Chase-Newtown line. The "lollipop" signs have since been removed but some of the other signage remains at Newtown, Churchville and Bryn Athyn. In addition, SEPTA maps printed in 1984 and 1989 retained the Fox Chase-Newtown segment, with a caveat stating "Temporary Bus Shuttle between Fox Chase and Newtown" (as of 2009, several of these outdated maps can still be found throughout the SEPTA system).

Village Shires Station construction[edit]

A residential development called Village Shires was built in the Holland section of Northampton Township in close proximity to the Fox Chase-Newtown line in 1981.[21] As part of a private developer/Northampton Township/SEPTA agreement, ground was broken for the construction of a new station, complete with 82 new parking spaces and high platforms. Concrete supports were actually installed by the private developer between Buck and Stonyford Roads in anticipation of the station construction.[22] However, with the cessation of train service in January 1983, no further work was performed at the station site, though Village Shires Station (sometimes labeled Village Shires/Buck Road) appeared on publicly posted SEPTA maps in throughout the 1980s and 1990s.[17]

Attempts at restoration[edit]

1985: BRE-Leyland diesel railbuses[edit]

A British BRE-Leyland Diesel Railbus being tested at Huntingdon Valley Station on September 10, 1985. Note brand new SEPTA "lollipop" station sign at right and "Station for Lease" sign on the now-demolished station shelter

In March 1985, a $10 million plan to restore service to Newtown and Pottstown using British BRE-Leyland Diesel railbuses was considered, with a test run reaching Newtown on September 3. Though the trial runs were relatively successful, ride quality was lackluster. Burdened with ongoing budgetary problems, SEPTA decided against the purchase of the railbuses.[23] September 1985 would be the last time a SEPTA train traversed the Fox Chase-Newtown line.[17]

1987: First privatization ideas[edit]

In March 1987, SEPTA received several bids from private operators interested in running diesel-hauled trains to Newtown (as well as between Norristown-Pottstown. The operators suggested using untrained workers, which SEPTA was against. In addition, funding for these operations was allegedly questionable, and the SEPTA board rejected all offers.[24]

1988: Conrail movement[edit]

The final train of any sort to transverse the line was in January 1988 when a Conrail switcher removed any remaining rolling stock. An FRA accident report (dated January 11, 1988) stated that the train—traveling at just two miles per hour—was hit by a speeding motorist at the State Street crossing in Newtown. By this time, the line was reported as out of service; all crossings were flagged by a Conrail crew member, who was nearly hurt by the approaching automobile.[10]

SEPTA 1991 study[edit]

In 1991, SEPTA issued a detailed, proactive study outlining a realistic operating plan. The study, entitled A New Look at Restoration of Rail Service to Newtown, took into consideration all aspects of the line, including station parking, current track infrastructure (which had begun to deteriorate), electrification, and the possibility that Montgomery County would not be interested. The latter scenario included two options:

The study was well received by Bucks County Commissioners and local townships along the line. However, nothing further came of it and line remained dormant.[22]

1991–1992: Privatization[edit]

Rail Management Service, Inc. (RMS), a private railway operator, expressed interest in operating diesel trains over the line in late 1991. SEPTA required RMS to upgrade and maintain all railway infrastructure with the intent to operate train service to compete with SEPTA's Warminster and West Trenton, but without receiving any government subsidies. DVARP researched a possible new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding formula, but previous FTA formulas increased a region's funding as rail route mileage increased. Continuation of this policy would mean that the Newtown service would have generated increased federal subsidy, but SEPTA would keep that subsidy for itself.[25]

SEPTA's request for proposal (RFP) stated that their objective in leasing the Fox Chase-Newtown line was to facilitate connecting service with its regional rail operation. However, when asked what recourse will RMS be offered if SEPTA does not maintain good on-time performance on the West Trenton or Warminster lines, impacting RMS's ridership, SEPTA responded, "This arrangement will be included in the lease negotiation process." DVARP commented that RMS on what is "ostensibly a shuttle service between Newtown and Fox Chase would not know the rules of the Fox Chase transfer game until after they are chosen."[25]

An attachment to the minutes of the pre-proposal meeting included several of the original deeds of the Reading Company Trustee transferring the property to Conrail in the late 1970s. It was later revealed that that Reading Company Trustee deeds for the Newtown Line property in Bucks County were missing. SEPTA holds the Newtown line property from Conrail on a quitclaim deed — a legal instrument used to release one person's right, title or interest to another without providing a guarantee or warranty of title. SEPTA later informed RMS that it will not indemnify the contractor in the event of a challenge to the Conrail/SEPTA quitclaim deed.[25]

Rail advocates hoped that the Fox Chase-Newtown privatization would bring much needed competition to SEPTA. RMS was being asked to compete with subsidized Warminster and West Trenton line services for the commuter market while possibly generating additional FTA dollars for SEPTA. DVARP later commented that, "the deal SEPTA is offering private contractors to operate the Newtown Line is similar to that of the garbage man who was hired on an all-you-can-eat basis. Imagine investing half a million in a new Bethayres diamond crossing; assorted hundreds of thousands in grade crossings, signaling, track, ties (all of which becomes the property of your landlord); as well as the costs of acquiring and maintaining equipment, without the right to enjoy the same government subsidies as your chief competitor next door (who, incidentally, is your landlord)."[25]

In December 1992, SEPTA held a pre-bid conference for parties interested in operating a Fox Chase-Newtown shuttle service. The selected operator was to receive a stipend from SEPTA annually equivalent to the losses that SEPTA incurred operated the poor performing Fox Chase-Newtown shuttle bus. SEPTA also agreed to pass through the FTA "fixed guideway" formula subsidies which begin approximately two years after a rail or trackless trolley line starts operations. The expected annual amount was slated at $800,000. As an added bonus, the selected operator had the potential to be awarded a matchable $1.2 million grant Bucks County had designated for the railroad's capital needs.[26]

2006 Bus Rapid Transit study[edit]

In 2006, the Bucks and Montgomery County planning commissions studied the option of converting the Newtown line into a bus rapid transit line between Newtown and Byberry Road. This plan would have required considerable investment to convert the dilapidated railbed and bridges from rail use to bus use. Public input on this plan was unfavorable, as was the 85-minute commute to Center City vs. running under one hour on the nearby Warminster and West Trenton lines. The concept was rated "unfeasible" for those reasons. The study did determine, however, even with the long trip time compared to neighboring rail lines, that this operation would have generated 2,100 new transit riders.[27]

Pennypack Trail[edit]

On March 28, 2008, Montgomery County agreed to lease the section of track transversing Abington Township's Ward 2 section through the wooded Pennypack Creek valley for use as an interim extension of the existing Pennypack Trail. SEPTA received $1 for the lease, railbanking the line for future mass transit related uses. SEPTA has the right to revert the line back to transit use with one year's notice to the county.[17] The trail is not officially a rail trail associated with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C..[14][28][29] Montgomery County announced in March 2014 that the Pennypack Trail will be extended to Byberry Road by the fall.[4]

2009: PA-TEC[edit]

In September 2009, the Pennsylvania Transit Expansion Coalition (PA-TEC) began discussions with township officials along the railway, as well as SEPTA officials, about the realistic possibility of resuming even minimal passenger service to relieve traffic congestion in the region. Plans call for completing the electrification to Newtown, as originally planned in the late 1970s.

PA-TEC's efforts have received support by both Bucks and Montgomery County officials, as well as at the state level, despite SEPTA's overall reservations. SEPTA has also confirmed that they are indeed open to revisiting the line if there is strong political support in both counties.[30]

Pennypack Trail Signage request[edit]

Installation of signage indicating railway corridor ownership by SEPTA (like this seen in Chisago County, Minnesota) was rejected by the transit agency, citing "not cost effective"

In March 2011, PA-TEC requested that SEPTA consider demarking the rail corridor currently occupied by the interim Pennypack Trail with signage. PA-TEC asked to work with the transit agency on this project, in hopes of keeping the dormant rail line in the public eye.[31] Their request was based on a federal study completed by the National Transportation Research Board in 2007, which stated that such signage gives "notice to adjacent landowners and the public generally that an interim period of low-impact or recreational use does not proscribe future development of active passenger or freight rail activity. Provisions may include large, conspicuous signage along the trail alignments and/or disclosure requirements for adjoining property sale transactions that make clear the potential future use of the [rail] corridors in question."[32]

SEPTA rejected PA-TEC's request, believing the benefits of such "signage was deemed non-existent, since SEPTA's rights to the out-of-service rights-of-way (ROW) are clearly protected as matters of real estate/railroad law, as well as the individual lease with the County. The same would apply to any other recreational trails presently being used by municipalities over SEPTA out-of-service railroad ROW's." SEPTA concluded that the expense of installing signs, "no matter how small, for the sole purpose of demarcating SEPTA's otherwise well established legal ownership rights in the ROW, cannot be financially justified."[33] This position was echoed by Rina Cutler, Philadelphia Deputy Mayor of Transportation.[31]

PA-TEC responded in the press by calling SEPTA's response "an act resembling Pontius Pilate", stating that SEPTA was "going against their enabling legislation per Pennsylvania State Law."[34] PA-TEC added that SEPTA "has washed their hands of the Fox Chase/Newtown line by refusing to associate their name with it in public.[33] Without any analysis, SEPTA has rejected a taxpayer funded federal study that provides specific recommendations that best preserve dormant railways."[31][33] PA-TEC added that they were "concerned that SEPTA is creating an additional constituency resistant to putting rails on a (SEPTA) owned ROW, in this case the trail users," concluding that "the trail use will create an additional avenue of resistance even for those who would never be trail users. NIMBYs... will be avid trail users, not for the sake of the trail, but to prevent rail use."[31]

Name change[edit]

R8 Fox Chase.gif

On July 25, 2010, SEPTA renamed the service the Fox Chase Line as part of system-wide elimination of the R-number naming system in effect since 1984.[35]


Fox Chase trains make the following station stops after leaving Jefferson Station:

Zone Milepost Station Boardings[36] City/Township County Notes
C 2.1 Temple University 3,028 Philadelphia all lines
1 5.1 Wayne Junction 527 junction Warminster Line, West Trenton Line, Lansdale/Doylestown Line, Chestnut Hill East Line, original station built 1881, demolished and rebuilt 1900, in daily use
7.3 Olney 158 original station built 1906, closed 1983 (platform still being used) and demolished 2008, new station built by SEPTA 2008, in daily use
8.3 Crescentville 0 station closed 1983
2 9.0 Lawndale 213 in daily use
9.7 Cheltenham 267 Cheltenham Montgomery original station built 1893, demolished and rebuilt twice 1993 and 2007, in daily use
10.1 Ryers 402 Philadelphia in daily use
11.1 Fox Chase 1,378 terminus since 1983; end of electrified service; portion north to Newtown labeled out of service in 1988.
3 12.8 Walnut Hill 1 Abington Montgomery shelter closed 1983, later demolished, trackage removed 2008, site of Pennypack Trail
14.4 Huntingdon Valley 2 Lower Moreland original shelter build and closure unknown, new shelter built by RDG 1950s, closed 1983; demolished late 1980s; trackage to be removed 2014, future site of Pennypack Trail Extension[4]
15.1 Bryn Athyn 7 Bryn Athyn station built 1902, closed 1983, still exists (now U.S. post office); trackage to be removed 2014, future site of Pennypack Trail Extension[4]
17.2 Woodmont 0 Lower Moreland closed 1965, demolished 1966
4 18.0 County Line 2 Upper Southampton Bucks shelter closed 1983; demolished in 1990s
18.9 Southampton 21 built 1892, closed 1983; still exists in derelict condition
20.8 Churchville 8 Northampton original station built 1878, rebuilt 1892, closed 1983, still exists (owned by private business)
22.4 Holland 11 metal shelter built 1981 by SEPTA for Fox Chase Rapid Transit Line, closed 1983; demolished 2000
5 25.0 George School 2 Middletown shelter built 1905, closed 1983, later demolished
26.3 Newtown 43 Newtown original station built 1873, closed and demolished 1960, new shelter built 1976, closed 1983, demolished 2004

Boardings are for fiscal year 2010. Data for Temple University and Wayne Junction includes all lines serving those stations
† Boardings between Walnut Hill—Newtown from Spring 1982[37]

Former Bryn Athyn station
Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2010 5,299 1,422,864[38]
FY 2009 5,040 1,353,827[39]
FY 2008 5,435 1,459,300[40]
FY 2005 4,646 1,245,763
FY 2004 4,130 1,159,397
FY 2003 4,621 1,150,400
FY 2001 n/a 1,221,000
FY 2000 n/a 1,273,000
FY 1999 n/a 1,186,000
FY 1997 n/a 1,218,268
FY 1996 n/a 1,184,561
FY 1995 3,922 1,099,953
FY 1994 3,574 732,733
FY 1993 2,813 442,155
Note: n/a = not available


  1. ^ Newtown Restoration Proposal
  3. ^ Nussbaum, Paul (October 9, 2009). "A Bucks-Montco debate Newtown Station: Reopen it or not?". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Nussbaum, Paul (March 23, 2014). "Montco plans to convert more of rail line for recreation". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Williams, Gerry (1999). Trains, Trolleys & Transit: A Guide to Philadelphia Area Rail Transit. Railpace Newsmagazine. pp. 5, 46–53, 97–98. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Newtown Branch history
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pawson, John R. (1979). Delaware Valley Rails: The Railroads and Rail Transit Lines of the Philadelphia Area. Willow Grove, Pennsylvania: John R. Pawson. pp. 54, 59. ISBN 0-9602080-0-3. 
  8. ^ HS-1 Fox Chase Rapid Transit Line timetable
  9. ^ Bode, Charles H. (December 2, 2009). "Can the Internet bring back the dead R8 Fox Chase-Newtown line?". Bucks Local News (Upper Southampton, Pennsylvania: 21st Century Media Property, Digital First Media, PA). Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  10. ^ a b Branch
  11. ^ Williams, Gerry (August 2008). "SEPTA Scene". Railpace Newsmagazine (Picataway, New Jersey: Railpace Company, Inc.) 7 (8): 49. 
  12. ^ a b c Williams, Gerry (November 1984), "SEPTA Scene", Railpace Newsmagazine, 3, Number 11: 12 
  13. ^ SEPTA Transportation Department: Surface Transportation Division; Divisional Order # 83-54, June 2, 1983
  14. ^ a b "Minutes of the Board of Commissioners County of Montgomery, Pennsylvania". 2008-03-06. 
  15. ^ a b c d Williams, Gerry (August 31, 1983), "SEPTA Scene; "SEPTA Insincere about Newtown line woes"", Railpace Newsmagazine, 2, Number 9: 17 
  16. ^ Mitchell, Matthew (April 1992). "SEPTA Budget for Fiscal 1993: Continued Rail Retrenchment". The Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers. 
  17. ^ a b c d Brief history of the Newtown Branch
  18. ^ a b c d Schwieterman, Joseph P. (2001). When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Eastern United States. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press. p. 266. ISBN 0943549973. OCLC 702179808. 
  19. ^; Newtown Line, p. 7
  20. ^ Hyland, Tim (2004-12-09). "SEPTA in need of new ideas, more funding". Penn Current. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  21. ^ Village Shires
  22. ^ a b 1991 SEPTA Newtown Study
  23. ^ Woodland, Dale W. (December 2003). "SEPTA's Diesels". Railpace Newsmagazine. 
  24. ^ Woodland, Dale W. (2001). Reading in the Conrail Era, Book Two. Silver Brook Junction. ISBN 0-9640425-9-2. 
  25. ^ a b c d Pawson, John R. (March 9, 1992). "Newtown: Open Bidding, a Shut Case". The Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers. 
  26. ^ Bode, Chuck (January 1993). "SEPTA Seeks Newtown Bids". The Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers. 
  27. ^ Michael Baker Corporation (June 12, 2006). "Newtown Bus Rapid Transit And Pedestrian Trail Concept Study". Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Michael Baker Corporation. Retrieved June 15, 2013. 
  28. ^ Newtown Branch to Become part of Pennypack Trail
  29. ^
  30. ^ Woodland, Dale W. (July 2010). "Allegheny Observer". Railpace Newsmagazine. 
  31. ^ a b c d PA-TEC discussion SEPTA's rail trails
  32. ^ Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service, p.4-5
  33. ^ a b c SEPTA Trail Signage letter
  34. ^ SEPTA Legislation
  35. ^ Lustig, David (November 2010). "SEPTA makeover". Trains Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing): 26. 
  36. ^ "Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Service Plan". SEPTA. May 2014. 
  37. ^ SEPTA Regional Rail Line - Historical Comparison. Average Weekday Inbound Boardings (1978-2009)
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^

External links[edit]