Paoli/Thorndale Line

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Paoli/Thorndale Line
Paoli Thorndale.PA SEPTA Line.jpg
A westbound Paoli/Thorndale Line train departing from the Bryn Mawr, PA, Station.
Type Commuter rail line
System SEPTA
Status Operating
Termini Temple University
Stations 26
Daily ridership 20,805
Operator(s) SEPTA Regional Rail
Rolling stock Electric Multiple Units
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification Catenary
Route map

The Paoli/Thorndale Line, formerly known as the R5, is a SEPTA Regional Rail line running from Center City Philadelphia to Thorndale in Chester County.


This branch makes local stops between Thorndale and Center City, Philadelphia along 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 built between 1826 and 1834 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 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,[1] but service was truncated to Downingtown because Amtrak lacked facilities to turn SEPTA trains around, and trains were forced to deadhead out to Lancaster.

SEPTA and Amtrak share the four track "Main Line" grade of the "Keystone Corridor" between Philadelphia and Thorndale

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 City 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.

Name change[edit]

R5 Paoli.gif
R5 Thorndale.gif

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. Service by the same vehicles between the former R5 branches via the Center City Tunnel continues today.

Station list[edit]

All stations have low level platforms unless otherwise noted. Boldface indicates a major station.

Zone Milepost Station Boardings[2] City/Township County Notes
1 4.0 52nd Street 0 Philadelphia Philadelphia station closed 1980
2 5.4 Overbrook 816
6.0 Merion 336 Lower Merion Montgomery
6.8 Narberth 740 Narberth
7.4 Wynnewood 889 Lower Merion
8.5 Ardmore 948 Amtrak stop
9.1 Haverford 476
3 10.1 Bryn Mawr 1,067 mini-high-level platform on westbound side only; terminus for a number of weekday trains
10.9 Rosemont 368
12.0 Villanova 636 Radnor Delaware
13.0 Radnor 615
13.7 St Davids 270
14.5 Wayne 567 high-level platforms
15.4 Strafford 843 Tredyffrin Chester
16.4 Devon 400 Easttown
17.5 Berwyn 286 mini-high level platforms
18.6 Daylesford 205 Tredyffrin
4 19.9 Paoli 1,307 Amtrak stop; a few Paoli/Thorndale trains terminate here[3]
21.8 Malvern 748 Malvern Approximately half of Paoli/Thorndale trains terminate here
27.7 Exton 752 West Whiteland mini-high level platforms; Amtrak stop
28.7 Whitford 369
32.8 Downingtown 392 Downingtown Amtrak stop
35.2 Thorndale 506 Caln high-level platform (inbound side only)


Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2013 21,618 6,156,844[4]
FY 2012 21,096 6,008,243[5]
FY 2011 22,852 6,508,320[6]
FY 2010 20,805 5,956,574[7]
FY 2009 21,890 6,266,048[8]
FY 2008 22,270 6,375,900[9]
FY 2005 19,972 5,538,762
FY 2004 18,636 5,231,209
FY 2003 19,745 5,415,100
FY 2001 n/a 5,596,000
FY 2000 n/a 6,073,000
FY 1999 n/a 5,092,000
FY 1997 n/a 5,564,997
FY 1996 n/a 5,590,531
FY 1995 19,541 5,589,094
FY 1994 20,322 5,428,658
FY 1993 20,426 5,500,377
Note: n/a = not available

Thorndale to Lancaster extension[edit]

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.[10][11] 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.[11] The entire main line between Thorndale, Lancaster and Harrisburg is currently electrified.

SEPTA has also considered restoring service to Coatesville.[12]


External links[edit]