Radio Freqs


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In General

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 Philadelphia too.

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.

SEPTA is one of the more diverse transit systems in the United States, their index page is here.
PATCO, although primarily a New Jersey transit system, has it's start in Philadelphia.  It's homepage is here.

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.

So, 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 otherwise gone.

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 lines.

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 necessary.

Maps - Don't leave home without them either.....

-- 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 instances.

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 SEPTA 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

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


NEW NOV01/2009, AUG18/2016
Last Modified 06-Oct-2019