ⓘ West Chester Branch
The West Chester Branch was a local passenger and freight railroad line owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and later Penn Central. The line connected with the Philadelphia-Washington Main Line at Arsenal Junction near the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia-Chicago Main Line near Frazer, Pennsylvania. A portion of this line is now called the Media/Elwyn Line and is owned by SEPTA.
The branch was composed of rail lines built by two companies in the 19th century.
One portion, a 9-mile 14 km line from West Chester to Malvern, was built after 1831 by the West Chester Railroad. The PRR leased the line in 1859, and moved the Malvern end to a junction at Frazer in 1880. The PRR acquired the West Chester Railroad in 1903.
The other portion, a 26-mile 42 km line from Philadelphia to West Chester, was built by the West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad WC&P between 1852 and 1858. In 1880, the WC&P was purchased by the PRR-controlled Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad PWB, which merged it the following year into the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad.
As the PRRs West Chester Branch, the line offered commuter rail service between Philadelphia, Media, and West Chester, the county seat of Chester County. In the 1920s, the PRR electrified the Paoli and Chestnut Hill lines, then its Philadelphia-Washington Main Line to Wilmington and the West Chester Branch out to West Chester.
The PRR ended passenger service from West Chester to Frazer in 1932 and removed those tracks in the early 1960s. In 1971 and 1972, there were washouts on the nearby Chester Creek Branch and Octoraro Branch, due to heavy storms and Hurricane Agnes. Subsequently, the Penn Central PC ended service north of West Chester and parts of the nearby branches and removed some of the tracks.
Today, the right-of-way can still be seen in places.
2. Later years
After the PC bankruptcy and the formation of Conrail in 1976, operations and ownership of the West Chester Branch was ceded to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority SEPTA in 1983. SEPTA operated the line as its R3-Media/West Chester service until 1986, when service was truncated to Elwyn.
As of early 2014, SEPTA operates commuter rail operations on the line between Philadelphia and Elwyn, while the West Chester Railroad operates a scenic excursion train on weekends between West Chester and Glen Mills. Occasional nocturnal freight service occurs via Amtrak to obtain track ballast from a quarry in Glen Mills.
3. Restoration of service
SEPTA plans to restore rail service west of Elwyn to a new Park and Ride station in Wawa in 2020.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to study how much it would cost to restore SEPTA regional rail service to West Chester.
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