This guide, as all of mine are, is map oriented. Maps give you an idea where things are in relationship to each other.
They also allow you to plan where you want to go to in order maximize your time in case your time is limited. My maps are highlighted with almost everything known to be of interest to the railfan,
the transit fan, and signal fans, and then some.... making note of other things of interest, maybe not to everyone, but anyways.... You'll find other links in the link section. If you
prefer text versions of guides, they exist too, but they aren't much help if you get lost.
This set of Railfan Guides covers the Philadelphia PA area. The information covered in these guides includes stuff for Amtrak,
CSX, Norfolk Southern, and NJT.
SEPTA and PATCO are
covered with their own pages, SEPTA rather extensively.
Philadelphia is such an interesting and diverse town. Philadelphia is rich in history during the years of forging our great nation. You will find plenty to do if you get tired of
chasing trains, plus, food around here is great! (try a REAL Philly Cheesesteak while here!)
Freight action around town is now a combination of CSX and Norfolk Southern, which as you may or may not know, used to be The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading, then Penn Central and the Reading (1968),
then Conrail (1976), and finally with the breakup of Conrail in 1999, CSX and NS.
Conrail since the breakup in 1999, still has a presence in Philadlephia, and
their headquarters for the Conrail Shared Assets is actually still in
CSX, which took over the B&O, used to end here in town. Since the breakup of Conrail, their empire stretches way north, well into New England. Current action is
fairly well divided between CSX and Norfolk Southern, with CSX undoubtedly having the coolest shots available with the high line coming through town on an elevated structure, past the 30th Street Station!
If you're into transit and passenger stuff, Philadelphia is in a class shared by only Boston and San Francisco (and maybe Chicago) for variety and quantity. You have:
SEPTA commuter trains
New Jersey Transit commuter trains
PATCO (a "subway" line that heads SE into New Jersey
SEPTA streetcars, subways, trolley buses, and of course, regular busses.
one of the more diverse transit systems in the United States, their index page is
PATCO, although primarily a New Jersey transit system, has it's start in
Philadelphia. It's homepage is
Also, because of it's location on the Schuylkill River, Philadelphia offers the railfan numerous bridge locations.
If you are into yards or historic depots, Philadelphia can accommodate you there too.
In addition to all of the railfanning Philadelphia offers, Philadelphia is also home
to much of our nations history surrounding the founding of our country, more on the info page.
I can't figure it out, a few years ago, I asked the guys on one of the
Philly railfanning groups for help, and no-one spoke up. So for now, I guess
I'll have to go it alone, and if there are mistakes, hopefully, someone out
there will email me and let me know.
Even today, as we get ready to enter our 20th year of the new millenium, there is definite
lack of good railfan info for the Philadelphia area.
To further complicate railfanning in
Philadelphia, many places are referred to by their "CP" names, and without a
real good map that concentrates on the tracks of Philly, it's very hard to
decipher where these places are. Even with the few railfan websites I have
found for Philly, their descriptions are sometimes confusing, especially if
you're trying to figure things out around ZOO! So, what to do?
The Conrail map of the Philadelphia area (below) is a good start, but the information should be overlaid
on a decent road map so you know where things are.
As always, if anyone has pictures, guide info, or their favorite railfan spot they want to
contribute, my contact is is here
Radio Freqs For Philadelphia
AAR 08 - 160.230 - Road (Philadelphia Subdivision)
AAR 20 - 160.410 - Eastside engine house
AAR 28 - 160.530 - Yard (Eastside and South Philadelphia)
AAR 42 - 160.740 - NI Dispatcher Selkirk (Trenton Subdivision)
AAR 58 - 160.980 - Road (Trenton Subdivision)
AAR 66 - 161.100 - BE Dispatcher Baltimore (Philadelphia Subdivision)
AAR 46 - 160.800 - Mainline Dispatcher (Harrisburg Line)(This is an old PRR main line channel)
AAR 72 - 161.190 - NS (ex N&W) Channel 1 - Road
AAR 50 - 160.860 - Pavonia Yard (Camden)
AAR 62 - 161.040 - Paulsboro Yard
AAR 64 - 161.070 - South Jersey Dispatcher
Freqs courtesy Nick Anshant
Radio Freqs For Outside The Philadelphia Area
161.475 - CP/D&H Road
160.425 - CP/D&H Dispatcher
160.530 - CP/ Conklin yard
161.460 - DL /Steamtown Road
160.425 - DL/ Office & ch. 2
160.320 - DL/Repeater
161.295 - NYS&W/road 1
160.620 - NYS&W/ ch 2 & repeater
160.800 - R&N/Lehigh Division
160.310 - R&N/ Pittston yard, Carbon & Schuylkill
160.770 - R&N/ Port Clinton dispatcher and ex RDG. & LV. coal branches
161.070 - Luzerne Susquehanna
164.175 - Steamtown Museum
160.800 - NS/ road Reading, Harrisburg
161.070 - NS/road Allentown, Jim Thorpe
160.860 - NS/road Buffalo line
160.980 - NS/road Harrisburg, Reading
160.445 - North Shore ch1
160.725 - North Shore Ch2
160.635 - Amtrak, Philadelphia, Harrisburg
160.235 - Strasburg RR.
161.115 - NS EOT's
475.9375 - CSX EOT's
These frequencies were submitted by Ed Kaspriske to one
list I happened to come across.
As far as signals go, you have a wide selection of Pennsy position light (PL's)
signals; B&O color position light (CPL's) signals; Amtrak's modified version
of position light signals, the PCL (position color
light) signals; and color light signals.
As of 2019, the great majority, if not all of the B&O CPL's are now long
gone in most places. Maybe a dwarf or two might still exist somewhere, but I'm
sure most of them were taken out for someone's personal collection! :-)
The Pennsy all yellow PL's are still around on former PRR SEPTA lines, but are
The former Reading lines still use the "tri-light" style
colorlight signals. There are numerous places where you
can get colorlight and "tri-light" signals in your shots. Signal purists
like to call them colorlight signals. "Tri-light" signals are where the
lenses are arranged in a triangular fashion.... good spots for them is on the Norristown SEPTA
line, and generally most of the northern routes that used to be Reading lines.
Amtrak uses modified signals of the
Pennsy's PL (position light) signals, commonly referred to by signal fans as PCL's
(position color light) on the North East Corridor,
which is shared by SEPTA on the south side of Philly, and NJT on the north side.
In the terminal area's like 30th Street station, you can still find dwarf PL's
and Pedestals (double dwarf PL's). I guess the real winners around Philadelphia
are the Position Light signals, because this is where it all started for
them. ZOO still has quite a few of them, and they can be still found on a
lot of the SEPTA lines coming in and out of 30th Street Station on former PRR
CPL signals used to proliferate on CSX's lines that once belonged to the
B&O, up to the CP Gray area, but most have been replaced. One
place that is easy to see this is along I95 coming up from
Wilmington where the tracks parallel the highway for a bit. Also of note,
is a set of pedestrian crossing gates using semaphore motors on the B&O in
Darby, where a set of streetcar tracks also cross.... fun place for photos!
I know the Reading (and Lehigh Valley) used
searchlight signals, and there are supposed be some on the ex RDG tracks between
Philadelphia-Reading and Philadelphia-Allentown, but I'm not sure if there are
any in the immediate area. There may also be some where Penn Central
re-signaled, for that's what they used in new projects.
Anyone want to help out here?
Railpace Magazine Articles That Feature The Philadelphia Area
Oct 1983 -- The Philly Connection
Jul 1986 -- B&O's Philadelphia Subdivision part 1
Aug 1986 -- B&O's Philadelphia Subdivision part 2
Sep 1988 -- B&O's Philadelphia Subdivision update
Dec 1993 -- SEPTA's Trolleyfest
May 1994 -- Railfans Guide to Philadelphia
Nov 1998 -- Wilmington Amtrak shops
Dec 2002 -- Amtrak north Philly variety
Sep 2005 -- the High Line
Articles covering "stuff" in nearby towns.......
Mar 2001 -- Yorkrail roster
Oct 2004 -- Northern Central history unearthed
Resources - Don't leave home without them!.....
Here's a few things I recommend you take along and don't generally leave home without.....
-- Maps..... See the next section.
-- An Amtrak timetable, unless you're railfanning
a line not serviced by them (I still bring em along anyway).
-- The American Shortline Railway Guide by Edward A. Lewis (Kalmbach).
-- If you carry along a scanner, try to find out
the local railroad freqs ahead of time unless you have a scanner that scans
really, really fast so you don't miss a call. In these post 9/11 days, there
is much pro and con discussion concerning the relative merits of being perceived
as a terrorist threat if you have a scanner. Add to that, that some states
have laws preventing you from having portable scanners, such as Michigan and New
Jersey. If you are a ham, one option available to you is to buy a
two-meter HT that also covers the Hi-VHF band. I was lucky with two cops
at the Plymouth Diamond in suburban Detroit.... they just threw my scanner into
the trunk and let me off with a warning.
-- If you belong to AAA, they have pretty good
guide books available with hotel info and other sights, altho the hotel
information is limited to the ones they consider halfway worthwhile - rare is a
listing for Motel 6.
-- Check Chamber of Commerce websites for hotel and motel info.
-- If you are going to be in Commuter Railroad or
transit company territory, be sure to check their websites for information,
photo policies, maps, and schedules.
-- Steam Productions has a series of regional map
books.... While they are good railroad map books, as they contain a lot of
railroad route and yard info, they don't have any road or highway info on the
maps. This makes them very difficult, if not impossible, to get around
with them alone. Careful coordination with a regular map is
Maps - Don't leave home without
-- If you do a lot of traveling, I definitely
recommend joining the AAA. They are an excellent source of "free" maps
once you join (10 maps and you got your money back). Almost every map I've
obtained from them (so far) has had the railroads on ‘em, and some of them even
have yard names (Portland OR and Indianapolis IN for instance). With all
the traveling I do, I find the $35 a year well worth the investment, if for
nothing more than their maps. A large number of the local offices usually
have the more obscure local maps available at no cost -- some are AAA maps, some
are locally printed maps..... Even with the AAA, you still have to be
careful, because they do distribute a few bummers as maps for the metro Boston,
New York City and Philadelphia areas - they don't contain enough detail and they
don't have any railroads on them.
-- For the Philadelphia area, I recommend the series
of county map books put out by ADC (Alexandria Drafting Co).
They can be found everywhere: 7-11s, Giant food stores, drug stores, etc. While I DO endorse their series of county map books, I DO NOT endorse their series of state map books - they
lack railroad info.
-- Franklin puts
out an excellent Metro Philadelphia street map book.... They're about
$10-15 at most bookstores and some gas station/convenience stores in the area.
-- APB (Alfred B Patten) puts out a decent series
of maps for the eastern PA area.
-- Geographica does the same for NJ and lower NY.
-- I haven't been too impressed with the maps
from DeLorme, so far.
-- IF you make it to a SEPTA store, they offer two maps. One is a city
map, the other map covers their suburban routes. Other places also carry
these maps. THEY ARE an invaluable aide if railfanning in Philadelphia.
They do not however, have the railroads on them if they don't carry commuter
trains, darn it.
-- Be careful with other maps.
One I purchased recently for a city in Iowa, had the
Wabash and all of the other 60's era railroad names on it. While this is
nice for historical purposes, the other data on the map may not be current,
either. Some maps don't have railroads on them at all, so check em
out before you buy em.
A word of
caution in this post 9/11 era.......
Most railroads, because of the
Homeland Security crap and the FBI, are weary of anyone that asks questions
about their operations or trains locations. Unless you know someone that
works for a particular railroad, do not expect much cooperation in most
As for railroads around
Philadelphia, the NS cops are probably the worst (although I have noticed a
recent trend towards them being friendlier). In places like Baltimore
and Allentown, they have been known to ticket railfans for stepping on the
property at a grade crossing! (CP Rail's cops are pretty nasty too).
I have only had one experience with the SEPTA
cops for taking pictures - at 69th Street, but they just shot the breeze and
took down my name and stuff -- it was a good encounter. The SEPTA
photo policy is on the
homepage, but it is fairly liberal.
So just be careful, and use common sense. Make a best effort by staying on public property. At least ask someone in an official capacity before deciding to go on railroad property. We want
everyone to have a good time, cause I'm not available to get you out of jail!
In Defense Of Myself.....
It's my website, it's that simple,
so I won't bore you with the details, I'm sure ya'll have a hankerin for what I'm going to say.
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.
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 :-)
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.
Aerial shots were taken from either Google or Bing Maps as noted. Screen captures are made
with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!
By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous
and/or other stuff.
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! Please be NICE!!! Contact info is here