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 Hillclosed 1983
West Trenton Line
Huntingdon Valleyclosed 1983
Bryn Athynclosed 1983
Woodmontclosed late 1960s
County Lineclosed 1983
Southamptonclosed 1983
Churchvilleclosed 1983
Hollandclosed 1983
Village Shires
begun 1981
George Schoolclosed 1983
Newtownclosed 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]


Fox Chase station

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.

The line beyond Newtown Junction was originally opened February 2, 1878 to Newtown as the Philadelphia, Newtown and New York Railroad. The line was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad to block the building of the parallel National Railway (later the Reading Company's main line to New York City). After that failed, it was taken over by the North Pennsylvania Railroad (which had built the National Railway) on November 22, 1879. By then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway, later the Reading Company, had leased the North Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1976 the Reading was merged into Conrail, and in 1983 SEPTA took over commuter rail operations.

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.

Extended electrification[edit]

Electrified service between Newtown Junction and Fox Chase was opened on September 25, 1966. In the 1970s, there were plans to extend electrification to the line's actual terminus in Newtown, using funds supplied by both Montgomery and Bucks Counties. Had the electrification plans come to fruition, the Walnut Hill Station would have been closed, and trains would have operated non-stop from Fox Chase to Huntingdon Valley. A lack of funding put the electrification project on hold indefinitely.

Beyond Fox Chase[edit]

Fox Chase trains continued to Newtown, Pennsylvania along non-electrified track, crossing the R3 West Trenton near Bethayres. Service was suspended on January 14, 1983 due to failing diesel train equipment resulting in low ridership.[6]

In addition, a labor dispute began within the SEPTA organization when the transit operator inherited 1,700 displaced employees from Conrail. SEPTA insisted on utilizing transit operators from the Broad Street Subway to operate Fox Chase-Newtown diesel trains, while Conrail requested that railroad motormen run the service.

Passengers changing over to Newtown-bound diesel RDC trains at Fox Chase, November 24, 1981.

When a federal court ruled that SEPTA had to use Conrail employees in order to offer job assurance, SEPTA cancelled Fox Chase-Newtown trains.[7] Service in the diesel-only territory north of Fox Chase was temporarily suspended at that time, and all stations north of Fox Chase continue to appear in SEPTA's publicly posted tariffs.[8]

Although rail service was initially replaced with a Fox Chase-Newtown shuttle bus, patronage remained light. The replacement bus service was far slower and less convenient than the train service it replaced, resulting in the shuttle bus being very unpopular. The travelling public never saw a bus service as a suitable replacement for a rail service.

Post-Newtown years: 1983-present[edit]

Since 1983, there has been heavy interest in resuming the long-dormant passenger service through to Newtown. From the day the train stopped running (January 14, 1983), Bucks County passengers demanded train service be restored as quickly as possible. In anticipation of this, SEPTA spent a significant amount of money in 1984 to perform extensive track upgrades. Street crossings in Newtown and Southampton received brand new welded rail, which were secured using sturdy Pandrol clips vs. traditional rail spikes. Though not promoted, this work was done in order to comply with a federal grant.[9]

SEPTA signs arrive[edit]

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 doing this, SEPTA treated the line itself as a still-active railway that was simply lacking working equipment; hence the track upgrades and signage installed post-1983. To fully prove this point, 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.[10] As part of a private developer/Northampton Township/SEPTA agreement, ground was broken for the construction of an 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.[11] However, with the cessation of train service in January 1983, no further work was performed at the station site, though Village Shires Station appeared on publicly posted SEPTA maps in 1984 and 1989.

Attempts at restoration[edit]

1985: British BRE-Leyland Diesel railbusses[edit]
SEPTA performing a test run of the British BRE-Leyland Diesel railbusses at Huntingdon Valley Station, September 1985. Note brand new SEPTA "lollipop" station sign at right and "Station for Lease" sign on the now-demolished station shelter.

By March 1985, SEPTA gave into political pressure and made a concerted effort to integrate the non-electrified Fox Chase-Newtown line into the rest of its all-electrified commuter system. A $10 million plan to restore service to Newtown and Pottstown using British BRE-Leyland Diesel railbusses 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 railbusses.[12] September 1985 would be the last time a train transversed the Fox Chase-Newtown line.[13]

1987: Privatization, Round #1[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 non-union workers, which SEPTA was against. In addition, funding for these operations was allegedly questionable, and the SEPTA board rejected all offers.[14]

SEPTA 1991 study[edit]

In 1991, SEPTA issued a detailed, proactive study detailing 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.[11]

1994/1995: Another study + Privatization, Round #2[edit]

to be added

2006 BRT study[edit]

to be added

2008 interim trail lease[edit]

On March 6, 2008, Montgomery County agreed to lease the section of track transversing Abington Township's Ward 2 section for use as an interim extension of the existing Pennypack Trail. SEPTA has the right to revert the line back to transit use with one year's notice to the county should the need arise. Oddly, the trail is not officially a rail trail nor is it associated with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C., raising some questions at to the legality of the trail's existence.[15][16]

2009: the Pennsylvania Transit Expansion Coalition[edit]

In September 2009, the Southampton-based 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.[17]

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.[18]


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

Zone Milepost Station Boardings[19] 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[20]

Former Bryn Athyn station
Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2010 5,299 1,422,864[21]
FY 2009 5,040 1,353,827[22]
FY 2008 5,435 1,459,300[23]
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 Nussbaum, Paul (March 23, 2014). "Montco plans to convert more of rail line for recreation". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Williams, Gerry (1999). Trains, Trolleys & Transit: A Guide to Philadelphia Area Rail Transit. Railpace Newsmagazine. pp. 5, 46–53, 97–98. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Conrail Staff Must Run Trains: court ruling bars SEPTA takeover"; January 29, 1982; Fredric N. Tulsky, The Philadelphia Inquirer.SEPTA must use Conrail workers rather than its own personnel to run trains over the region's 13 commuter lines, a special federal court has ruled in a decision that offers some job assurance for 1,700 Conrail employees next year. The special court, in an opinion issued Wednesday, ruled that SEPTA had acted legally in October when it replaced Conrail workers with its former subway operators on the line.
  8. ^ SEPTA Tariff No. 154; effective July 1, 2009
  9. ^ Schwieterman, Joseph P. (2001). When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Vol. 1 Eastern United States. Truman State University Press. p. 266. ISBN 0943549981. 
  10. ^ Village Shires
  11. ^ a b Newtown Study
  12. ^ Woodland, Dale W. (December 2003). "SEPTA's Diesels". Railpace Newsmagazine. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Woodland, Dale W. (2001). Reading in the Conrail Era, Book Two. Silver Brook Junction. ISBN 0964042592. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Minutes of the Board of Commissioners County of Montgomery, Pennsylvania" (PDF). 2008-03-06. 
  17. ^ Woodland, Dale W. (July 2010). "Allegheny Observer". Railpace Newsmagazine. 
  18. ^ Lustig, David (November 2010). "SEPTA makeover". Trains Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing): 26. 
  19. ^ "Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2014. 
  20. ^ SEPTA Regional Rail Line - Historical Comparison. Average Weekday Inbound Boardings (1978-2009)
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links[edit]