Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General
Getting Here


In General

Location / Name:
     Downtown Philadelphia PA

What's Here:
     Philadelphia's main train station, home to Amtrak, SEPTA, and NJT
     Very close to SEPTA's Market-Frankford subway line and the Subway-Surface lines


     GPS Coordinates: 39.956634, -75.181715

     ZIP 19104

Scanner Frequencies:


Access by train/transit:

     It's a train station, what do you think?


The Scoop:

30th Street Station is a great place for railfanning, whether you are into transit or railroading.  This is also a place you can spend a lot of time - just like 69th Street.

All of SEPTA's regional (commuter) rail lines originate, terminate, or go thru here.  Even though these lines are not parallel to Amtrak's lines, they soon join the NEC both south and north of the station and yard complex.  There's is always plenty of action down on the platforms.

Also adjacent to the station is a large yard complex, quite unusual nowadays that downtown real estate is prime land.

SEPTA's Market-Frankford Subway Line runs east-west just south of the station, while SEPTA's surface subway trolley lines rumble underneath the station.

CSX cruises over everything on the "high line", although patience is required to catch much.

Good pictures of the yard can be had from the north-west corner of the parking lot - the top level is very nice for getting pictures of the high line!

SEPTA has a fairly liberal photo policy, however, they can still ask you for ID.  However, they won't detain you like the METRA cops have in the past, at least not so far.  When my friend and I visited 30th St over the summer of 2014, the Amtrak police were very friendly and had no problem with us taking pictures in or around the station (in contrast to years ago) - one of them even pointed out several things to take pictures of inside the station!


Thanks to Denver Todd for his help with my railfan guides and suggesting welcome changes to help all ya'll.

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:


Getting Here

From the west, one choice is coming in via Market Street from, say, the 69th St Transportation Center.

From the north, or west, you can come in via the interstates, I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, and get off at the 30th Street station exit, exit 376 SB (southbound).

From the south, off I-95 (say, DC, Wilmington, Baltimore), get on I-76 to go into the center of Philly, and take exit 345 NB.  This will dump you off on Chesnut St, and put you on the front side of the station.

If you are driving, you can either look for a spot on the streets to park, or, in the rear of the station, they have a multi-level parking garage.


click here for the map in PDF version

the Station


Below are "info sheets" which come from their respective pages on 30th St Station, although I did edit them (with Snag-It) to get rid of the Facebook and Twitter crap.


Up at the SEPTA Platforms



the Northern NEC Approach


the High Line



at the Yard



30th St Station and the approach to is a collection of ex Pennsylvania RR signals.  You will find all yellow Pennsy PL signals still in use (on the SEPTA commuter lines), Amtrak PCL's (which used to be Pennsy PL signals and converted to color), dwarf PL's, and Pedestal signals (which are two dwarf PL's in one housing.

            These are dwarf PL (Position Light) signals.

         These are Pedestal signals.

    These sign boards are used for letting the Engineer know if there are any "Form D's" on the line they are operating on.  Form D's are special operating orders issued by the Dispatcher.  Examples being: reduced speed for track work, equipment problems, signal problems, poor track conditions (such as in snow, ice, slippery rail), and others. 

         Down on the North East Corridor, both dwarfs and Pedestals are used.

        All yellow PL signals on the SEPTA tracks once SEPTA leaves the NEC, these are at ZOO, and the right one is closer to 30th St.

Historical USGS Map

A section of the 1894 Philadelphia quadrangle, Courtesy of the University of Texas Library, click here for their index page.


I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


NEW 08/16/2007
Last Updated: 30-Mar-2015