Philadelphia is served by two major transit companies:
-- SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
-- PATCO, the Port Authority Transit Corporation
SEPTA, which covers Philadelphia PA and the surrounding suburbs, has one of the
most diverse transit systems around, one of two actually, the other being
Boston. This includes Light Rail, Heavy Rail, Trolleybuses, Busses,
and several different styles of Streetcars.
SEPTA still has a few Trackless Trolley/Trolleybus lines running up at the
north end of the Market-Frankford EL. We lost a few of them maybe 10 years
ago further south of there :-(.
Streetcars come in three varieties, updated PCC cars that run on the #15
Girard Ave line, and Kawasaki's that use
both poles (on the Surface Subway routes) and pantograph's (on routes 101 and 102).
Their one light rail line, the Norristown High Speed Line,
is fairly unique in the sense that it uses third rail for power, which is usually reserved for heavy rail systems.
PATCO services New Jersey from Camden down to Lindenwold, but includes four stops in Philadelphia in order
to provide their riders with access to Philadelphia. It is a Heavy Rail
line, and runs over the outside of the Ben Franklin bridge to hop over the
Here is my page for them.
SEPTA has two large transit centers: 30th Street
which handles mainly Commuter Trains and the Market St Subway Line (and of
course, Amtrak), and the 69th Street
Terminal, which handles light rail, heavy rail, the route 101 and 102
Kawasaki Streetcars, and of course, busses - in three different staging
areas. In addition, there are the Norristown (R6 Commuter, Light
Rail, and busses) and Frankford Transportation (just busses) Centers.
If you are a senior, SEPTA now issues a Senior Fare card, which is good on ALL
lines, including regional commuter trains originating in Pennsylvania. You
can pick these up at the SEPTA Headquarters at 1234 Market Street, or the
Suburban Station. Personally, I would go to the Suburban Station, service
is quicker, I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. Finding the location
at Suburban Station will be tricky, so ask a SEPTA employee where it is!
The passes are good for two years.
There are two reasons to go to their headquarters at 1234 Market Street.
One is because the company store is located there, and it is offers an extensive
array of trinkets you can buy! Secondly, they have a PCC car on display in
the "basement" floor. The 13th Street station for the MF EL
and the Surface Subway lines gets you here.
Although SEPTA has a fairly liberal photo policy, the SEPTA police will stop you and take your name and address info down if they even see you running around with a camera on their property - it
happened to me in the 69th Street terminal after photographing the Kawasaki's out on the street. At least they don't detain you for hours on end like METRA does!
As always, if you have something to contribute, please check my contact page.
If you have a particular question about transit or railfanning in the Philly area, there
were several Yahoo groups for that purpose, but since Yahoo decided to give up
the groups thing, most people have migrated over to GROUPS IO. Consider
joining the group(s) below, because there are many area experts on those groups (and I'm not one of them :-).
Here are some of them that may be of interest: https://groups.io/g/PhillyTraction/ http://www.ridepatco.org/
For your convenience, I have
the important parts of the page in the two snapshots below. In addition, I
called the SEPTA police non-emergency number, and asked about the photo policy.
The fellow at the other end of the phone wasn't well versed in in, but did say
that you can be stopped. I was stopped at the 69th Street Terminal once
after shooting some pictures of the Norristown Light Rail cars, but all they
wanted to do was take down my name, address, yadda, yadda, yadda. The cops were
professional and not arrogant as some can get. (they actually kinda found it
humorous that someone would take a day off from work to waste their time taking
pictures of stuff they see everyday :-), so taking photos on SEPTA
property shouldn't be a problem unless you're trying to do something outside the
The officer that answered the phone
did say that it was probably a good idea to call the last phone number listed
(215-580-7842), just to stay ahead of the game, and then you can show any
officer that you have already been in touch with them on taking pictures.
This was also confirmed by a call to
the 580-7842 number on the last day of FEB2011, and the woman I spoke with said
even if you are taking pictures for yourself, it's a good idea to call them at
this number and let them know where you will be on their property, and on what
date(s). This way, they can send over an email to the police guys, and
when the local cops grab you for taking pictures, they will call into HQ, and
you will already be on record as to who you are and what your intentions are.
It may seem like a lot of trouble, but it could also keep you OUT of trouble!
If you plan on taking pictures at the 30th Street station, even on the SEPTA
platforms, it is AMTRAK property, so you should let them know you are there and
what you are doing - When I was there, 2015, there wasn't any problem,
in fact, one of the Amtrak police dudes (with a machine gun no less), showed us
where other interesting and historical things were in the station. But
then, in 2016 when SEPTA was running MARC, Amtrak, and NJT equipment, a SEPTA
management fellow came and told us to leave because someone above him was worried about the calls
he was getting from people worried about us taking pictures...
I have updated this page today, because it would appear that SEPTA's police, and other security forces/people utilized by SEPTA are still clueless, for on April
16th, 2018, this story was told on one of the railfan blogs:
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert.
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.
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.
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! BE NICE!!! Contact info
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.