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Can someone explain what the historical reason SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line terminates at 69th Street and not Downtown Philly?

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Can someone explain what the historical reason SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line terminates at 69th Street and not Downtown Philly?
Posted by anglecock on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 7:28 PM

I am planning a summer trip and have always found this to be a pain in the keister having to drag a fully loaded bike with gear from  the subway to the "high speed line" what is the historical reason behind this?

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, July 21, 2022 10:15 AM

It may be for reasons not unlike why South Shore didn't get past Kensington and North Shore didn't go south of Evanston until Insull purchased them.  Philadelphia & Western was a separate entity from Philadelphia Transportation Corp. and may not have been able to negotiate a trackage rights agreement.  Since this is Pennsylvania, there is also the possibiltiy of gauge differences.

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Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, July 21, 2022 11:31 AM

The P&W was built under a steam railroad charter (which is why it's standard gauge, rather than PTC's 5' 2 1/2") and had a physical connection with a PRR branch at 69th St used for occasional interchange.  Maybe the best way to look at it is that P&W became a suburban/interurban railroad almost as an afterthought, as it was part of a Gould transcontinental scheme that imploded by 1907.  There were several proposals to get to downtown Philadelphia over the years but none of them panned out.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, July 21, 2022 11:41 AM

It wold have been very expensive construction.  Note the Philadelphia-trolley-gauge Red  Arrow lines, Westchester and Ardmore bussed, Sharon Hill and Media remaining trolley, also did not go downtown.  In that case, they cold have done so, because there was a PTC streetcar line, under the Market Street Elevated, to 68th Street, and throgh running was possible, but never occured.  Transfer to the elevated gave a much faster rude.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, July 21, 2022 12:57 PM

I thought it was the same general operating-model idea as with the PW&B: hand off the passengers to 'transit' for all the expensive last-mile local-stop or express service.

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Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, July 21, 2022 2:33 PM

I'm not sure why the Goulds wanted it unless they were looking for Philadelphia port access.  They had pretty good port facilities in Baltimore on the Western Maryland.  The rest of the transcon scheme involved the WP, D&RGW, MoPac and Wabash.

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Posted by anglecock on Thursday, July 21, 2022 5:51 PM

From now what I saw on on the well worn histrical displays in the 69th station was that that the Norristown High Speed line was supposed to be just the begining of a transcon empire from Philly to the Missipie River. Somehow the Western Maryland and and shortlines like the MA and PA would be cobbled together to create this empire. There was about a dozen railroads that started that thought that Philly was a better option then the Port of NY/NJ and many of these railroads now form that backbone of the extensive commuter system that Philly enjoys today. The problem was getting over the hump from sea leval and over the ridges that encircle Philly in addition to fighting the mighty Pennsy. See-https://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/trr/1994/1433/1433-014. I assume that once reaching Philly city lines they either had to go Elevated to get to the Port as the B&O had to in South Philly or go Underground as in the Mount Royal Tunnels in Montreal and Baltimore.

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Posted by anglecock on Thursday, July 21, 2022 6:28 PM

BTW my bike trip later this Summer will be heading thru Norristown to Pennsburg to Quakertown to Allentown using the Perkiomen Trail which i belive was ex Reading Railroad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perkiomen_Trail

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, July 22, 2022 9:59 AM

anglecock
From now what I saw on on the well worn histrical displays in the 69th station was that that the Norristown High Speed line was supposed to be just the begining of a transcon empire from Philly to the Missipie River. Somehow the Western Maryland and and shortlines like the MA and PA would be cobbled together to create this empire. There was about a dozen railroads that started that thought that Philly was a better option then the Port of NY/NJ and many of these railroads now form that backbone of the extensive commuter system that Philly enjoys today. The problem was getting over the hump from sea leval and over the ridges that encircle Philly in addition to fighting the mighty Pennsy. See-https://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/trr/1994/1433/1433-014. I assume that once reaching Philly city lines they either had to go Elevated to get to the Port as the B&O had to in South Philly or go Underground as in the Mount Royal Tunnels in Montreal and Baltimore.

Don't know anything about the Norristown High Speed line.

The Western Maryland in the early 1900's came to be owned by Jay Gould fortune who was trying to make it and a number of other carriers he owned or had controlling interest in.  When WM completed its line from Cumberland to Connellsville it began, for a few years, a pasenger run to Chicago - WM Connellsville P&LE Youngstown Erie (I Think) to Chicago.  A financial panic burst the Gould bubble.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by anglecock on Sunday, July 24, 2022 4:34 PM

NOW I understand!!! The reason for the forced transfer is the freak PA trolley gauge which is wider then the 4foot 5 or so standerd railroad gauge. The PA trolley gauge was used from Philly to Pittsburgh and makes it hard for standard maintenance of way equipment to fix track in PGH and Philly . So Philly Subway El is PA standard gauge and the Norristown High Speed Line is US standard gauge like the rest of the Western Hemisphere except Brazil

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Posted by rcdrye on Monday, July 25, 2022 7:14 AM

Before either the El or the P&W were completed P&W proposed its own parallel El and subway to downtown, including a possible connection to Camden and east.  After some (or more likely a lot of) pushback by PRT and the PRR, PRT and P&W came to an agreement in 1906 (again before either opened) for the El to be built to standard gauge with P&W trains operating to a point near PRR's Broad Street Station.  The agreement fell through and the El was completed as broad gauge like the rest of PRT.  The only fruit of the agreement was moving the eventual location of the 69th Street terminal a few blocks west.  The move greatly cramped the P&W's facilities for its entire existence.  P&W referred to 69th St. as "Union Sataion" in its opening day timetable. 

As a side note PRT used, and SEPTA still uses, overrunning third rail like most U.S. rapid transit systems.  P&W used underrunning third rail (a la New York Central) until the Norristown line was opened in 1912, when the overrunning system was adopted.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, July 25, 2022 11:03 AM

The  original P&W line vwent to Strafford, which became a branch, when the line to Norristown was opened.  The Strafforrd Terminal was at the PRR station, with the P&W platform attached  to the eastbound PRR platform.

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Posted by rcdrye on Monday, July 25, 2022 12:06 PM

As originally planned the P&W was supposed to go as far west as Parkesburg PA, from which "only" 44 miles remained to connect with the Western Maryland at York. The route would have run south of PRR's Main Line via West Chester, in direct competition with the Philadelphia and West Chester interurban, later Philadelphia Suburban Transportation.  PST bought out P&W in 1954, and was in turn bought out by SEPTA in 1970.

The Strafford line was never very strong - it was planned as double track but remained largely single track until the end of operations.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 25, 2022 2:19 PM

BaltACD
When WM completed its line from Cumberland to Connellsville it began, for a few years, a pasenger run to Chicago - WM Connellsville P&LE Youngstown Erie (I Think) to Chicago.  A financial panic burst the Gould bubble.

The actual projected 'transcontinental' passenger service was shaping up to be quite a bit different.  Gould commissioned the Ramsey Survey (yes, the same 'Ramsey' as in northeast New Jersey) to build a super electrified high-speed main line from Pittsburgh through northern Pennsylvania to the New Jersey line, probably with an extension east at similar high speed to the New York terminal area.  This went nowhere near Philadelphia, or on a route with a logical 'branch' at high speed to link up with service to that area...

This didn't disappear with the Panic of 1907... in fact, it started to be revived in the late '20s (in part by Gould's widow IIRC) with foreign capital, and proceeded to the point of having specific route details in ICC correspondence.  The Depression, and afterward the drying-up of passenger railroading in general, killed it as a development project after then.

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Posted by anglecock on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 6:21 AM

I guess when I do go I will opt for the SEPTA train to Norristown instead

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