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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, but not the train service itself, the West Chester Branch.
In summer 2020, service is to expand westward to a new station in Wawa. Planning officials, rail proponents and SEPTA have also discussed a resumption to the original terminus in West Chester without success.
Since 1997, the heritage railway West Chester Railroad has operated on the tracks between Glen Mills and West Chester, where SEPTA no longer runs trains; this is the only such operation on a SEPTA-owned line. Amtrak maintenance trains also collect track ballast from a quarry near Glen Mills station.
Media/Elwyn Line trains use the Pennsylvania Railroad's former West Chester Branch, which diverges from the SEPTA Main Line at 30th Street Station. At Arsenal Interlocking, just south of University City, there is a junction with Amtrak's Northeast Corridor where Airport and Wilmington/Newark trains diverge. The West Chester branch turns west, curves around the Woodlands Cemetery, and heads west towards Elwyn. From University City to Fernwood–Yeadon, the line is grade-separated; immediately west of Fernwood/Yeadon station, the abandoned Newtown Square Branch diverges north.
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, and measured 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 Crum Creek Viaduct, which required extensive rebuilding and complete repainting (with a lengthy shutdown of service beyond Swarthmore) by SEPTA in 1983 after decades of deferred maintenance, will be completely replaced by September 2016. The other three trestles, which received attention similar to Crum Creek in the 1980s, are undergoing a comprehensive structural and substructural renewal scheduled for completion in summer 2016.
The line is double-tracked from Arsenal Interlocking to Elwyn and single-tracked beyond, with passing sidings at or near Glen Riddle, Lenni, Glen Mills, Cheyney, Westtown and West Chester. As of November 2016[update], all SEPTA trains currently terminate at Elwyn, although the single-track section near Lenni (where the derelict PRR Chester Creek and Octoraro branches merged) is used by SEPTA division to train new regional rail operators. The sidings once allowed multiple commuter trains to operate on the single-track section. Passing sidings were marked by the PRR's trademark bowtie catenary poles,[clarification needed] while single-track areas used single-pole catenary supports. After regular service ended beyond Elwyn in 1986, 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 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. Electrified service began December 2, 1928.
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. SEPTA subsequently resignaled the line 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. Beginning in 1984 the route was designated R3 West Chester and R3 Elwyn as part of SEPTA's diametrical reorganization of its lines. Shuttles operated between West Chester and Elwyn; Elwyn trains operated through the city center to North Broad station but did not continue on to the ex-Reading side of the system. Plans had called for the line to be paired with the Chestnut Hill West Line but this depended on a never-built connection from the Chestnut Hill West Line to the ex-Reading near Wayne Junction. In later years the line was paired with the West Trenton Line. The R-number naming system was dropped on July 25, 2010. As of June 2016[update], roughly half of weekday Media/Elwyn trains continue to West Trenton and the rest to various other destinations, while weekend trains continue to Doylestown on the Lansdale/Doylestown Line.
On September 19, 1986, SEPTA ended service west of Elwyn. Ridership on that segment had dwindled, a process accelerated by bustitution used while the 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."  Nonetheless, SEPTA studied the possibility of restoring service on the 3 miles from Elwyn to Wawa later in the decade.
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, and includes preliminary engineering, environmental impact analysis, and final engineering. Shortfalls in funding delayed completion of the phase to 2010, and construction was expected to take 24 to 36 months to complete. As of November 2016[update], the project's completion date has slipped to the Summer of 2020.
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. SEPTA initially estimated that the cost would be $51,327,000, but in SEPTA's 2014 Capital Budget, the estimate had risen to $91,387,000. The extension is expected to reduce traffic congestion through Middletown Township. A new train storage facility at Lenni will also be constructed.
The Wawa Station will be ADA-compliant with high platforms, a sales office, ticket vending machines, and a waiting room. Plans for a parking lot at Wawa were abandoned to avoid flooding from Chester Creek. Nonetheless, the station is expected to see 500 commuters on a typical weekday, as it will sit next to US Route 1 and serve the nearby corporate headquarters of Wawa Food Markets. Bus service will connect the station to Painters Crossing and Concordville, Pennsylvania.
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
SEPTA has also been urged to restore service to West Chester by Chester County officials, who originally allowed SEPTA to end service at Elwyn in 1986. The request would give commuters an alternative to driving to the R5 stations in Exton or Paoli, and reduce congestion on U.S. Route 202 between Route 1 and West Chester. 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, whereas the Paoli line offers a 45-minute trip from the Exton station.
Unused or destroyed stations are in gray. Ridership numbers for 30th Street and University City include other lines also serving those stations.
|Zone||Milepost||Station||Boardings in 2015||City/Township||County||Notes|
|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||Connections with bus routes 68 & 108|
|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|
|15.9||Williamson School||-||Abandoned, but still standing.|
|17.4||Lenni||-||Currently used as a SEPTA training base; has a passing siding. Station demolished.|
|18.1||Wawa||–||Chester Heights||Planned station - Opening Summer 2020. Original PRR station demolished.|
|20.3||Glen Mills||-||Thornbury Township||Restored 1990s|
|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.|
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- "RATES, RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE PROVISION OF PARKING FACILITIES," SEPTA, 2007
- "Media/Elwyn Line Timetable (effective October 2, 2016)" (PDF). SEPTA. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
- "Elwyn to Wawa". septa.org. SEPTA. February 2016.
- West Chester Railroad website
- "Railroad Division: Timetable #1" (PDF). SEPTA. January 17, 2000. pp. 99–102.
- "Pennsylvania Railroad Company's Lines (East of Pittsburgh and Erie)" (JPEG). Rutgers Mapmakers. 1 July 1899. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
- 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.
- SEPTA. "Rebuilding for the Future: Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line Crum Creek Viaduct (M.P 11.87)". Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
- SEPTA. "Rebuilding for the Future: Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line Bridge Repairs". Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
- SEPTA. "Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Budget Proposal: Fiscal Years 2014 - 2025 Capital Program Including Unfunded Capital Needs" (PDF). Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- 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.
- Vuchic, Vukan; Kikuchi, Shinya (1984). General Operations Plan for the SEPTA Regional High Speed System. Philadelphia: SEPTA. pp. 2–8.
- DeGraw, Ronald (1994). "Regional Rail: The Philadelphia Story" (PDF). Transportation Research Record (1433): 108.
- Lustig, David (November 2010). "SEPTA makeover". Trains Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing: 26.
- "West Trenton Line" (PDF). SEPTA. April 10, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 7, 2016.
- Pawson, John (January 6, 1992). "Cheyney-West Chester: Out of Service". Delaware Valley Rail Passenger. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012.
- "Positive Train Control Update". SEPTA. May 1, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
- 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.
- "Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2014. p. 60. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- "Elwyn to Wawa". septa.org. SEPTA. February 2016.
- "Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2013. p. 44. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- "Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2012. p. 55. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- "Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. July 2011. p. 94. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- "Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. June 2010. p. 70. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- "FY 2010 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. June 2009. p. 63. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- SEPTA – Media/Elwyn line schedule (PDF)
- 170 Years In The Making: Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor In West Philly: animated explainer map by Hidden City Philadelphia (September 8, 2015) explains history of Media/Elwyn Line in West Philly