The line, originally known as the Media/West Chester Branch, offered service to West Chester. On September 19, 1986, service was truncated to the current terminus at Elwyn. SEPTA still calls the infrastructure along the line, as distinct from the train service itself, the West Chester Branch.
As of 2005[update], most weekday Media/Elwyn trains continue through downtown as West Trenton trains. As of late 2008, most weekend Elwyn trains continue through downtown as Chestnut Hill East trains (they formerly turned downtown at Jefferson).
Service is slated to expand to a new facility at Wawa, currently under construction. A resumption to the original terminus in West Chester has also been discussed by planning officials, rail proponents and SEPTA.
The Media/Elwyn Line leaves Center City Philadelphia and briefly south travels over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor main line. At Arsenal Interlocking south of University City, it branches off, then curves around the Woodlands Cemetery, and heads west to Elwyn.
The line has four high steel trestle river valley crossings, built between 1891 and 1896 to replace earlier structures. From west to east, the first of these is over Ridley Creek between Elwyn and Media, and is 641 feet long and 103 feet high. The second, over Crum Creek between Wallingford and Swarthmore, is the longest of the four, at 915 feet long and 97 feet tall. The third, 274 feet long, crosses Darby Creek immediately west of Gladstone. The last, 377 feet long, crosses Cobbs Creek between Fernwood-Yeadon and Angora at a height of 56 feet.
The line was originally built by the West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad, which opened the Philadelphia-to-Burmont section on November 15, 1853. The WC&P extended service to Media on October 19, 1854, and to West Chester on November 11, 1858.:513 
In the early 1880s, the Pennsylvania Railroad gained control of the line, which it renamed its West Chester Branch. One early station, Pennellton, located along a passing siding between the stations of Darlington and Wawa, was removed from service by 1911.
The line is double-tracked from Arsenal Interlocking to Elwyn, and single-tracked beyond, although passing sidings at or near most of the stations allowed multiple commuter trains to operate on the single-track section. The sidings were near Glen Riddle, Lenni (where the derelict PRR Chester Creek and Octoraro branches merged), Glen Mills, Cheyney, Westtown and West Chester. Electrified service began on December 2, 1928. Passing sidings were marked by the PRR's trademark bowtie catenary poles, while single-track areas used single-pole catenary supports.
On October 16, 1979, at 8:19 a.m., an inbound train collided with two others plus cars from a fourth train between Angora and 49th Street stations. The accident killed one person and injured 525 others.
Earlier, Train #712, a nine-car train of former PRR MP54E6 cars, had left behind the rear two cars (a coupler between the seventh and eighth car had broken), then continued on to Suburban Station. Train #716, consisting of nine ex-Reading "Blueliner" heavyweight cars, was detailed to push the empty defective cars out of the way, and slowed to a stop in order to couple with them. Train #0714, two Silverliner IVs, then stopped short of #716, in accordance with signal rules.
The next train, #1718, a four-car consist of three Silverliner IIs and one Silverliner III, neither stopped at the nearest signal nor slowed adequately at the previous signal, nor did the engineer apply the air brake correctly once the rear of #0714 was seen around a curve. Traveling at an estimated 28 mph, #1718 rear-ended #0714, shoving it forward to collide in succession with all the other stopped equipment. Both cars of #0714 derailed, as did some of the other cars.
A total of 525 passengers were injured, including a conductor who died a few days later from his injuries. Many cars were damaged, including the lead car of #1718 (Silverliner II #265) which was later written off and scrapped.
In addition to speed and signal rules violations, other causative factors in the accident cited by the National Transportation Safety Board included: inoperative onboard radios in the Silverliners, and no radios at all in the heavyweight MUs; an inoperative speedometer on Train 1718; improper operation of the air brake (a full-service brake application rather than an emergency "dumping the air" application) by #1718's engineer once he realized a collision was imminent; and the possible distraction caused by the presence of three other employees in #1718's operating cab. Also, the branch's 50-year-old automatic block signal system was criticized as being inadequate in such a situation; although it worked correctly, the system was not equipped to display cab signal indications or stop the train in event of a speed violation, nor could it allow trains to operate against the current of traffic on either track. The line was later resignaled by SEPTA to all of these standards (using color light wayside signals), first between Arsenal and Secane interlockings in the late 1980s, and then from Secane to Elwyn in the mid-1990s during restoration of double track between Media and Elwyn.
SEPTA took over operations in 1983, running commuter service on the line to West Chester.
On September 19, 1986, SEPTA ended service west of Elwyn. Ridership on that segment had dwindled, a process accelerated by the bustitution used when deteriorating tracks were closed for repair. In addition, Chester County officials preferred to expand Exton Station on SEPTA's Paoli/Thorndale Line. SEPTA only had funds for one of the two projects, so service to West Chester was terminated.
SEPTA did not officially place the line out of service until late 1991. At the time, Delaware County officials were pushing to restore service at least as far as Wawa, but Chester County officials were unenthusiastic and SEPTA General Manager Louis Gambaccini said service restoration between Wawa and West Chester was "not cost-effective." In the segment from Cheyney Station (the last station in Delaware County) to West Chester Station, SEPTA gradually paved over all crossings, although signs, flashing warning lights and gates remained in place.
After regular service ended beyond Elwyn, vandals gradually stole the copper catenary wire, prompting SEPTA to remove the rest in summer 2005. SEPTA has been aggressively replacing its legacy catenary systemwide; it plans to replace the remaining 1928 catenary from University City to Lenni between 2014 and 2017.
The single-track section near Lenni is used by the SEPTA Regional Rail division to train new operators. The Glen Mills-West Chester segment is operated by heritage railway West Chester Railroad, the only SEPTA-owned line to allow such operations. Amtrak maintenance trains use the line to carry track ballast from a quarry in Glen Mills.
Beginning in the 1990s, SEPTA studied the possibility of restoring service on the 3-mile section from Elwyn to Wawa.
In June 2005, SEPTA hired URS Corporation for design and engineering services for a project to restore rail service between Elwyn and Wawa stations. The engineering design phase, began the following month. It includes 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.
The project will lay new track, install new catenary, signals, and communications equipment; and build new structures, including a new station at Wawa with a large park-and-ride facility. (Plans for a parking lot were abandoned to avoid flooding from Chester Creek.)
SEPTA initially estimated that the cost would be $51,327,000. In SEPTA's 2014 Capital Budget, the estimate had risen to $91,387,000.
The ADA-compliant Wawa Station will have high platforms, a sales office, ticket vending machines, and a waiting room. The station will sit next to US Route 1 and serve the nearby corporate headquarters of Wawa Food Markets. The station is expected to see 500 commuters on a typical weekday. Bus service will connect the station to Painters Crossing and Concordville, Pennsylvania. The extension is expected to reduce traffic congestion through Middletown Township. A new train storage facility at Lenni will also be constructed.
The Delaware County Planning Department is working with SEPTA and Friends of the Chester Creek Branch to build 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.
Proposed restoration of service to West Chester
Chester County officials, who originally allowed SEPTA to end service at Elwyn in 1986, have since urged SEPTA to restore service to West Chester, saying this would serve the growing population between Wawa and West Chester, would give commuters an alternative to driving to the R5 stations in Exton or Paoli, and reduce congestion on U.S. Route 202 between U.S. Route 1 and West Chester. As well, West Chester University President Madeleine Wing Adler wrote a letter in support of an extension to West Chester, saying students needed reliable and fast transportation to Media and Philadelphia. In 2014, the city council of West Chester voted to establish a Committee to Reestablish Rail Service to West Chester. However, in 2014, SEPTA official Byron Comati argued that West Chester lacks ridership demand needed to support expansion of the Media/Elwyn Line, in part due to competition from the Paoli/Thorndale Line. Additionally, according to Comati, the "circuitous alignment" of the Media/Elwyn Line would mean that a trip from West Chester into Philadelphia would take two hours, as opposed to 45 minutes from the Exton station.
On July 25, 2010, SEPTA renamed the service from R3 Media/Elwyn to Media/Elwyn Line as part of a systemwide nomenclature change that dropped the R-number naming and made the Center City stations the timetable terminus for all lines.
The Media/Elwyn Line makes the following station stops, proceeding west from Suburban Station:
|C||0.9||30th Street Station||12,316||Philadelphia||All Amtrak service, all SEPTA Regional Rail lines, SEPTA Market-Frankford Line, New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line|
|1.8||University City||3,091||Airport Line line to the Philadelphia International Airport, Wilmington/Newark Line line to Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, Wilmington, Delaware, and Newark, Delaware via the Northeast Corridor|
|1||3.3||49th Street||62||Subway-Surface Trolley Route #13|
|4.5||Angora||36||Subway-Surface Trolley Route #34, bus routes #46 and G|
|2||5.5||Fernwood-Yeadon||113||Yeadon||Delaware||Connection with Bus Routes #108 and #116|
|6.3||Lansdowne||313||Lansdowne||Connections with Bus Routes #109 (on Baltimore Ave.), #113, and #115|
|7.0||Gladstone||208||Connections with Bus Route #109 (on Baltimore Ave.)|
|7.6||Clifton-Aldan||351||Clifton Heights||Route #102 Sharon Hill Trolley|
|8.2||Primos||322||Aldan||Connection with Bus Route #107 and #109 (on Baltimore Pike)|
|8.9||Secane||483||Upper Darby Township|
|10.0||Morton||720||Morton||Connection with Bus Route #107|
|3||11.4||Swarthmore||765||Swarthmore||Connection with Bus Route #109 (24-hour route)|
|12.4||Wallingford||285||Nether Providence Township||Connection with Bus Route #118|
|14.0||Media||692||Upper Providence Township||Route #101 Media Trolley (on State Rd.), Bus Routes #110 (on Baltimore Ave.)|
|15.1||Elwyn||510||Middletown Township||Connection to Bus Route #117|
|18.1||Wawa||–||Chester Heights||Proposed new station with connection with SEPTA Bus Route #111|
Stations west of Elwyn
|15.9||Williamson School||Middletown Township||Delaware||Abandoned, but still standing.|
|17.4||Lenni||Currently used as a SEPTA training base; has a passing siding. Station demolished.|
|20.3||Glen Mills||Thornbury Township||Restored 1990s; home to Thornbury Historical Society.|
|21.6||Locksley||A small passenger shelter. Has a PRR-vintage position-light signal.|
|22.2||Cheyney||Near Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Restored. Presently serving as the Cheyney Post Office, 19319.|
|23.9||Westtown||Thornbury Township||Chester||Restored and is home to an art gallery.|
|25.5||Oakbourne||Westtown Township||Service discontinued 1961; demolished. Had a small freight yard.|
|27.1||West Chester University||West Chester||Also known as Nields Street Station.|
|27.5||West Chester||Main part of Market Street Station demolished 1968. Remainder demolished late 1980s.|
Boarding data as of FY2010, data for 30th Street and University City include other lines serving those stations.
|Fiscal year||Average weekday||Annual passengers|
|Note: n/a = not available|
- "RATES, RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE PROVISION OF PARKING FACILITIES," SEPTA, 2007
- Lynch, James J. D. Jr. (1988). "The West Chester Branch". The High Line (Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society) 8 (2-3): 29, 31–32.
- Poor, Henry V. (1860). History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America 1. New York: John H. Schultz & Co.
- Ashmead, Henry G. (1884). "XX. Traveling and Transportation". History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts. p. 199.
- Railroad Accident Report: Collision of Conrail Commuter Trains, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 16, 1979 (Report). Washington, D.C.: National Transportation Safety Board. May 12, 1980. NTSB-RAR-80-5.
- Williams, Gerry (August 2008). "SEPTA Scene". Railpace Newsmagazine (Picataway, New Jersey: Railpace Company, Inc.) 7 (8): 49.
- SEPTA documentation still calls the railway the West Chester Line
- Pawson, John (January 6, 1992 ). "Cheyney-West Chester: Out of Service". Delaware Valley Rail Passenger. Check date values in:
- SEPTA. Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Budget Proposal: Fiscal Years 2014 - 2025 Capital Program Including Unfunded Capital Needs. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority http://www.septa.org/reports/pdf/capbudget14.pdf
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- West Chester Railroad website
- R3 extension expected to ease Elwyn parking, Delco Times, April 6, 2006
- SEPTA Fiscal Year 2009 Capital Budget and Fiscal Years 2009–2020 Capital Program, p. 45
- SEPTA proposed Capital Budget 2010
- Planning Matters, Newsletter of the Delaware County Planning Department, Winter 2009, p.2
- "R3 rail line extension on track." Delaware County Times. 2004-10-18.
- Gerrard, Jeremy (27 February 2014). "Bring back trains, some in West Chester urge". Daily Local News. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- "List of new SEPTA schedules".
- "Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Service Plan". SEPTA. May 2014.
- PDF (539 KiB)
- PDF (539 KiB)
- SEPTA – Media/Elwyn line schedule (PDF)
- Railroad History Database
- PRR Chronology (Christopher T. Baer)