A westbound Paoli/Thorndale Line train departing from the Bryn Mawr, PA, Station.
|Type||Commuter rail line|
|Operator(s)||SEPTA Regional Rail|
|Rolling stock||Electric Multiple Units|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
This branch uses 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 November 10, 1996 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 used 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, which are 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 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.
On July 25, 2010, SEPTA renamed the service from the R5 Paoli/Thorndale to simply the Paoli/Thorndale Line as part of system-wide service change that drops the R-number naming and makes the Center City stations the terminus for all lines.
All stations have low level platforms unless otherwise noted. Boldface indicates a major station.
|1||4.0||52nd Street||0||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||station closed 1980|
|3||10.1||Bryn Mawr||831||mini-high-level platform on westbound side only; terminus for a number of weekday trains|
|17.5||Berwyn||261||mini-high level platforms|
|4||19.9||Paoli||1240||Amtrak stop; a few Paoli/Thorndale trains terminate here|
|21.8||Malvern||537||Malvern||Approximately half of Paoli/Thorndale trains terminate here|
|27.7||Exton||586||West Whiteland||mini-high level platforms; Amtrak stop|
|35.2||Thorndale||473||Caln||high-level platform (inbound side only)|
|Fiscal year||Average weekday||Annual passengers|
|Note: n/a = not available|
Thorndale to Lancaster extension
A recent proposal to extend the Paoli/Thorndale Line 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. Proponents of the Paoli/Thorndale Line 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. The entire main line between Thorndale, Lancaster and Harrisburg is currently electrified.
- "SEPTA Board Cuts Service; But Opposition is Spirited". The Philadelphia Daily News. October 25, 1996. p. 12. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
- SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line Schedule
- Capital Red Rose Corridor map with SEPTA extension Modern Transit Partnership, accessed February 5, 2010.
- Letter supporting the Capital Red Rose Corridor South Central Assembly, accessed February 5, 2010.