Location / Name:
Upper Darby PA to Norristown PA, 13.4 miles
SEPTA's Norristown High Speed Line, formerly known as RT 100
Access by train/transit:
The Market-Frankford subway line at the 69th Transportation Center
The 101/Media and 102/Sharon Hill Trolley Lines at the 69th Transportation Center
Numerous Bus Lines at the 69th Transportation Center, enroute at many of the stations, and at the Norristown station
The Norristown Commuter rail line in Norristown
The Norristown High Speed Line began in 1907 as the Philadelphia & Western RR. More history below. Today, the Norristown Line forms part of
SEPTA's extensive and varied rail and bus network. A few pictures of the various cars that the line has seen appear at the bottom of the page.
The system is a double track line except for the bridge that crosses the Schuylkill River. In a few places it is three tracks.
The shops, referred to as the 72nd St shops, are located adjacent to the 69th Street Transportation Center, on the left side of the tracks as you head towards Norristown.
The single unit ABB N-5 cars were originally considered a light rail vehicle, but because of its separated right-of-way, high platforms, and 3rd rail supply, it is
now considered a "heavy rail interurban line" and SEPTA renamed it the Norristown High Speed Line in September of 2009. Prior to that, it
was known as Route 100, and many still refer to it as the "old P&W".
Besides the system being unique in many ways, the cars are unique in their own right, as they are only the second set of cars made by ABB in the United States, sharing the
same technology as the Baltimore LRV's - not just similar, but the exact same, with things like the propulsion modules, auxiliary modules, etc, being interchangeable with
the ones on the Baltimore cars. ABB Traction (now Bombardier) delivered N-5 No. 451 in 1991. The production fleet arrived in 1993. No. 451 was
then renumbered 130. (TNX to Ed Havens) Additionally, six cars more than required for 69th St. to Norristown service were purchased to provide
expansion capacity for the KoP extension. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the N5s will not see KoP, but their replacements might.
One of the Norristown Line projects that has been discussed for decades, is an extension to King of Prussia. SEPTA is still interested in the extension, and a
study continues. More information on the study can be found here: http://www.kingofprussiarail.com/
From Wikipedia: The fare for a single ride as of July 2013 is $2.75 cash on board, or one token plus $0.50. TransPass users must pay an additional $0.50,
while TrailPass users pay no additional charge. Until September 1, 2014, the line used a "pay-as-you-exit" fare collection system on trains towards 69th
Street Transportation Center. As part of a general change on several routes approaching 69th Street, passengers now pay upon entering the train. The service runs
seven days a week, from about 5:00 am to 1:00 am.
Local trains from 69th Street to Norristown stop at all 22 stations, and the trip lasts approximately 32 minutes. Occasionally, local trains may run only
between 69th Street and Bryn Mawr, stopping at ten stations. During weekday peak periods (6:00–9:00 AM, 2:15–6:45 PM), the Norristown High Speed Line features
express and limited services, which stop only at select stations, therefore decreasing travel time between 69th Street and Norristown. Norristown Express
service, which is noted by red destination signs, travels between 69th Street and Norristown in approximately 26 minutes, and stops at 17 stations.
Hughes Park Express service, which is noted by green destination signs, travels between 69th Street and Hughes Park in approximately 22 minutes, stopping
at 16 stations. Norristown Limited service, which is noted by blue destination signs, travels between 69th Street and Norristown in approximately 22
minutes, stopping at only eight stations. All trains share the same two tracks, so a limited leaving Norristown, for example, will be immediately
followed by a local, which stops at more stations, and therefore is spaced farther from the previous train. The next limited will catch up with it.
Similarly, a local may leave Bryn Mawr right after an express stops there, and gets to 69th St. just before the next express or limited catches up with
Fare update 3/1/2018 by Jeff K: Fares have been adjusted to reflect adoption of the new Key automated payment system. Cash (the most expensive alternative) is
now $2.50. Multi-ride Key cards are the preferred payment method; a card costs $10 and is good for 5 rides without transfers, although SEPTA may lower its price
points in the near future. Until tokens are phased out, any that are still available can be used for the same $2/ride cost as the Key. Tokens and Key cards can be
used on any vehicle across SEPTA's transit division (subway, elevated, bus, trolley, and light rail). All fares continue to be PAYE:
Pay As You Enter.
Riders paying with a Key card, tokens, or cash can also buy a $1 transfer good for any connecting transit line. If using tokens or cash, the $1 fee must be paid
when boarding the first vehicle in your trip; the operator or cashier will provide a paper receipt which must be given to the operator / cashier of the connecting
line. If using a Key card, the $1 fee is automatically deducted so no extra cash or receipt is needed.
Single-ride "Quick Trip" tickets are also available but these have a number of disadvantages
including a higher price, time limits, and no option to buy a transfer.
Precious little can be found on the internet about the Norristown's Line signals. What is presented here is by observation and courtesy Mathew Mummert. The high speed line uses color light
signals. Although the Norristown line uses all four common colors (R/L/Y/G), you will normally only see red and lunar deployed - the colors used by many heavy rail systems.
Red occupies the bottom position, and lunar the next, and so on.
Current indications are:
Proceed Cab = solid lunar
Proceed Cab Divert = flashing lunar
Stop = solid red
Clear Block = solid green
Clear Block Divert = flashing green
Restricting = yellow
Restricting Divert = flashing yellow
Trains without functioning cab signals may ONLY accept Clear Block signals. Clear Block isn't used in normal operation otherwise. (TNX to
All of the signals on the line are now using LED's.
Unlike standard railroad practice, the signals are not numbered by the milepost.
Does SEPTA's Rt 100 Norristown High Speed Line (Phila & Western) still use electric flagstop signals at its stations? That is, at certain stations, do passengers still pull a cord to turn
on a signal so the train knows to stop there? (The signal is reset when the train passes by).
1) Actually, it's a push button, but except for the Villanova, Bryn Mawr, and terminal stops, passengers
that want to board the next scheduled Rt 100 at an intermediate stop have to push the button to signal to the driver operator that a stop is required.
2) As Jefferson said, they're pushbuttons now (replaced the cords c. 1980). For those who are interested, the way that the signals drop when a train stops at the station, but don't drop when an express comes through is as follows:
There is a fourth rail at the flag stop stations, under the platform where the third rail shoe would contact it (the short piece of 4th rail can be seen in the picture below for the station call light - Todd). That's connected to a time-delay relay, or
something like that. When a train is at the station, current flows from the third rail to the shoes on that side to the shoes on the opposite side to the fourth rail. If the current stays on long enough (as in a train stopping, or
proceeding through slowly, which is what operators did when the signal was set and no passengers were visible), the signal goes off. If an express comes through, it doesn't shunt the fourth rail long enough to drop the relay, so it
Three aspect signals at the 69th Transportation Center
A pair of NB signals on the south side of the Schuylkill River, where the tracks narrow down to one.
Another pair of NB signals enroute.
Station call light, when it is on, there is someone waiting at the station (it's on a rider activated switch), otherwise, the train will (usually) pass the station without stopping.
NB signal for the crossover south of Wynnewood Rd.
The following bit of history comes from Wikipedia:
The Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) is a 13.4 miles (21.6 km) interurban line, operated by SEPTA, running between Upper Darby and Norristown PA. The rail line runs entirely on its own right-of-way,
inherited from the original Philadelphia and Western Railroad
line (still referred to by locals as the "old P&W" or as Route 100). In
Fiscal Year 2013, the Norristown High Speed Line carried 2,419,500 passengers;
this was down from the 2,764,000 passengers carried in Fiscal Year 2012, partly
due to a two-day service suspension due to Hurricane Sandy.
The Norristown High Speed Line is unique in its combination of transportation technologies. Originally chartered as a Class I (steam) railroad, the line is fully grade separated, collects power from
a third rail, and has high-level platforms common to rapid transit systems or commuter rail systems such as the Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North Railroad, but has onboard fare collection, mostly single-car operation, and frequent stops
more common to light rail systems. Previously, the Norristown High Speed Line was considered to be a light rail line, according to a 2008 SEPTA budget report; however, the line is currently considered a heavy rail interurban line,
according to a 2009 SEPTA business plan, and has more recently been categorized by the American Public Transportation Association as "light rapid rail transit".
The purple color-coded line was formerly known simply as Route 100, but was officially changed to its current name in September 2009 as part of a customer service initiative by SEPTA.
The Norristown High Speed Line began service in 1907 as the Philadelphia and Western Railroad (P&W), which ran from the present 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby PA to a converted farmhouse
station in Strafford PA. In 1911, the line was extended 0.47 miles (0.76 km) west to a new Strafford P&W station adjacent to the Pennsylvania Railroad's Strafford station, allowing
easy interchange between the two lines. In 1912, a 6.2-mile (10 km) branch was constructed from Villanova Junction, 0.33 miles (0.53 km) west of the existing Villanova station, to
Norristown. When the newly built branch quickly attracted more ridership than the Strafford main line, the Norristown section then became the main line and the Strafford stretch was demoted
to branch status; in the mid-1930s, the Strafford spur was narrowed to a single track for its last 1.74 miles (2.8 km) between the Wayne-St. Davids and Strafford stations, while the Norristown
line received a sleek new art deco terminus at Main and Swede Streets.
Lehigh Valley connection: From Norristown, the P&W RR connected its tracks with the Lehigh Valley Transit Liberty Bell Route to provide
direct electric train service from 69th St. Terminal to Allentown PA. However, in 1951, the Lehigh Valley Transit Company
ended its service on the Liberty Bell Route, and in 1953 the company ended all its remaining rail service. Two years later, the P&W RR was taken over by
the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (PSTC), which was more popularly known as the Red Arrow Lines. In 1956, the PSTC abandoned the original branch between Villanova and Strafford,
leaving only electric MU train service between 69th Street and Norristown, as it is today. The PSTC was absorbed into SEPTA in either 1969 or 1970, eliminating the original railroad charter and
immediately becoming the "Norristown High-Speed Line Trolley", officially known as Route 100.
Station names: Effective June 14, 2010, SEPTA changed the names of four stations to reflect the streets on which they were located:
-- Township Line Road, formerly West Overbrook Station,
-- Roberts Road, formerly Rosemont Station,
-- Stadium – Ithan Avenue, formerly Stadium Station,
-- DeKalb Street, formerly King Manor Station.
SEPTA's Rt 100 Norristown High Speed Line (a.k.a. the P&W) is one of two remaining interurban lines in the country. Also, it is a very unique line, in the fact that it combines aspects of
Light Rail and Heavy Rail. It runs in 1 and 2 car configurations with onboard fare collection like a light rail line, yet has high platforms and 3rd rail like a heavy rail line.
The Rt 100 started out as the Philadelphia and Western Railway (P&W), starting service at 6 AM on May 22nd, 1907, between 69th Street Terminal and Strafford. In 1912, the branch to Norristown started
service. While the Norristown branch still remains active today, the Strafford branch (which eventually connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Strafford) was abandoned in 1956. The Right
of Way for the Strafford Line is now used as a bike path.
With the branch to Norristown, another service started using the P&W for access to Philadelphia. The Lehigh Valley Transit Company ran its Liberty Bell High Speed Trolley service over the line, running
from Allentown to 69th Street Terminal for access to the Market Frankford El. This service started in 1912, and ended in September of 1951.
Over the years, the line became faster and became more famous. In 1931, Brill Bullet cars were purchased, which increased the travel speed of the line immensely.
The Brill Bullets were famous, as they were the first railcars designed in a wind tunnel. These cars, along with the Strafford cars that also ran along the line, served the P&W,
which became a part of the Red Arrow Lines and finally the SEPTA rt 100 line, for almost 60 years.
When the Bullets and Strafford Cars were literally unable to continue to run along the line, former CTA 6000 series cars were brought in from Chicago to keep the line going until the N5s arrived.
One train set, made up of 482 and 483, currently sits in the Victory Avenue Yard. Also, five Market Frankford Line M3s were assigned to the P&W (with a 6th one for spare parts)
to keep local service going as well.
Finally, the N5s came, with 451 (now known as 130) first coming in 1991, and rest of the production models were delivered in 1993. Today, the line runs frequent service between 69th Street and
Norristown Transportation Center, which was built in 1989. It has 3 types of skip-stop service (Norristown Express, Hughes Park Express, and Norristown Limited). The line isn't as
fast as it used to be, but it still retains a lot of the charm it has had for so many years.
As of the lines' 100th year anniversary in 2007, there are several plans for the line. A new parking garage/intercity bus terminal was built at Norristown Transportation Center,
and Gulph Mills Station became a wheelchair accessible. There are plans to extend the route 100 to Valley Forge and King of Prussia, but this project is stagnant right now.
Regardless, the route 100 remains a link to the interurban era of the past. From:
http://www.philadelphiatransitvehicles.info/interurban.php and written by TRANSIT_FREAK4994.
A little background by Jeff K: These cars are called Strafford Cars in reference to their service on the long-gone branch serving the town of Strafford
PA. The P&W's builders intended the line to be a long-distance interurban competitor to the PRR but when money ran out (as often happened with overambitious
plans at the time) construction was halted in Strafford with a station built cheek-by-jowl to the PRR's:
http://radnorhistory.org/archive/photos/?p=1962. In 1912 the P&W built a spur to the Montgomery County seat in Norristown, where it connected to
Lehigh Valley Transit's Liberty Bell line. Ridership on the Norristown spur quickly exceeded that on the original main line; the Strafford branch was
eventually cut back to a single track and was finally abandoned in 1956. During the fall and winter when foliage is sparse it's still possible to see a small
amount of the Strafford branch's ROW just northbound from Villanova. Most of the remaining ROW was converted to a walking trail around 2002.
The following pictures are courtesy Tim Vermande
The Brill Bullet Cars
The one on the right is at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill/Orbisonia PA.
courtesy Tim Vermande
Ex CNS&M Electroliners, AKA/renamed LibertyLiners
When things got desperate before the ABB N5 cars arrived, SEPTA bought a few old Chicago EL cars, for something like $500 apiece.
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