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The West Chester Railroad 8/6/2018

by Chris Guenzler

After dropping Bob off at Strasburg, Robin, Elizabeth and I headed back to West Chester for our ride on the West Chester Railroad. We parked in the dirt parking lot and started to look around.

The West Chester Railroad

The West Chester Railroad is a privately owned and operated tourist railroad that runs between Market Street in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in Chester County, and the village of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, in Delaware County.

It operates on 7.7 miles of former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) track on the West Chester Branch between mile post 27.5 and 20.6. It is owned by the for-profit 4 States Railway Service, Inc. and operated by the West Chester Railroad Heritage Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the railroad. All employees of the railroad are volunteers.

West Chester Railroad History

The original West Chester Railroad Company was chartered in 1831 through an act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and the company built its rail line to Malvern (later moved to Frazer). A quarter century later, West Chester got its second railroad, the West Chester & Philadelphia Railroad, which opened on November 11, 1858 with a more direct connection to Philadelphia via Media, Pennsylvania. Both lines became part of the PRR system by 1881, when they were known as the "Frazer Branch" and "Media Branch," respectively.

The station at Market Street was the city's primary railroad facility. At its height, the PRR operated 24 daily passenger trains to West Chester, plus three scheduled freights and additional special trains as required. The line was electrified by the PRR in 1928. Although the Market Street Station was demolished in 1968, the Penn Central and SEPTA operated passenger trains until September 1986 when service was suspended due to low ridership and unsafe track conditions between Elwyn and Glen Mills Stations. For nearly a decade, the line remained derelict until a group of railroad enthusiasts approached the Borough of West Chester about restoring SEPTA train service.Equipment roster

In service

4230 is an ALCO C424. It was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1965. It was acquired by WCRR in 2005. It was repainted into a PRR paint scheme of Brunswick green and yellow lettering in late 2007 but has been recently repainted into a unique new paint scheme.

1803 is an ALCO RS-18. It was built for the CP by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1960 and retired in 1998. It was bought in 1998 and was repainted into a Brunswick green with a yellow frame stripe: it has since been repainted into a new paint scheme unique to the railroad.

4213 is an ALCO C424. It was built for CP by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1965. It was acquired by WCRR in 2010. It was repainted into a unique new paint scheme.

6499 is an EMD GP9. It was built in 1957 for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) as number 6499. It was owned by the Ohio Central Railroad when it was bought for WCRR in 1997. It was repainted into a PRR scheme in 1998 with help from the PRR Technical and Historical Society Philadelphia Chapter and numbered 99. It has since been repainted into a unique WCRR paint scheme and renumbered back to its original number.

7706 is an EMD GP38. It was built in 1969 for the Penn Central Railroad as 7706. Following the railroad's bankruptcy, it was absorbed into Conrail in 1976. In the mid 1990s it was purchased by PECO Energy and later transferred to the Exelon Corporation to work in the Cromby Generating Station in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. In 2012 the unit was donated to WCRR; Restoration is currently underway.

Ex-Reading Company (RDG) MUs 9107, 9109, 9114, 9117 and 9124 were built between 1931 and 1932 by Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington, Delaware. They were self-propelled commuter cars used by RDG, then rebuilt and known as "Blueliners", and were used by SEPTA until 1990. All cars have had their traction motors and pantographs removed. 9107 has been made into a dining car and is painted a vintage RDG Green. The others are painted Tuscan red and are used for coaches. 9109 was recently restored back to its original Blueliner scheme and put into service on WCRR trains.

Ex-PRR B60b "express messenger" Baggage car 9275 was built in the 1920s. It is used as a snack and crew quarters car.

Out of Service

Ex-B&O 3 is an ALCO S-2. It was built in 1949 as 9115. It was then owned by Rohm & Haas and numbered 3. It was damaged by freezing and was bought by the Wilmington & Western Railroad where it was rebuilt. It was then swapped for an SW600 by its present owner at WCRR.

1 is a 20-ton Plymouth Locomotive Works switcher that was donated to the Heritage Association by the Glen Mills quarry where it worked. It was built in the 1940s and was gasoline powered but has been re-motored with a diesel. It has been repainted in a yellow paint scheme with WCRR markings and has been put on display at the railroad's Market Street station in West Chester.

Ex-New York Central Railroad 642 is a bay window N-7 type built in 1941. Its number was 20331 and renumbered to 21642 by Conrail. It has been restored with new flooring and windows, and has been repainted a maroon color with yellow lettering. In September 2008 it was repainted bright red and re-lettered.

Ex-Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad boxcar, built in 1964. It is used for storage in the Adams Street yard.

Our Visit

West Chester Market Street station.

This Glen Mills 20-ton switcher No. 1 is on display at the station.

Station sign on Market Street.

The old SEPTA station platform for West Chester that was used until 1986 when they halted service to the town and backed it up to Media.

Whistle post and the post that crosses Barnard Street.

The train pulled in to the station with West Chester GP38 7706 on the point.

Pennsylvania Railroad Baggage Car 9275 built in the 1920s.

West Chester coach 9109 was built in 1931 as Reading 876 by Harlan & Hollingsworth.

West Chester coach 9117 was built in 1931 as Reading 840 by Harlan & Hollingsworth.

A rear view of our train at West Chester. We picked up our complimentary tickets for the three of us and then boarded the train.

The interior of our two coaches on the train.

Pictures that adorn the inside of the coaches. I then went to the baggage car which is also the snack car and bought a hot dog and a Ginger Ale to enjoy. The train left on time at noon and it was announced that this was a picnic special train so our trip would be longer than we thought, but that was just fine with us because we were finally riding this railroad. We would be backing all the way to Glen Mills station on this trip. The train crossed Union Street and then came to the storage yard of equipment.

West Chester Railroad coach 9107 was built in 1931 as Reading 874 by Harlan & Hollingsworth.

West Chester C-424 4230 built in 1965 by Montreal Locomotive Works for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

West Chester RS-18 1803 built in 1957 by Montreal Locomotive Works as Canadian Pacific Railway 8762.

West Chester GP9 6499 built in 1956 by EMD as Baltimore and Ohio 6499.

West Chester C424 4213 built in 1965 by Montreal Locomotive Works for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The Tee It Up Golf Center.

The miniature golf area at Tee It Up Golf Center.

We crossed Goose Creek.

The train crossed Oakbourne Road.

Passing through the rock cut.

Our second time crossing Goose Creek.

Railroad ties left along the right-of-way.

Some of the beautiful green Pennsylvania countryside.

Pennsylvania Railroad Westtown station built in 1881.

The Christmas Tree farm.

The view ahead of the train.

Tree cutters who had bottled water delivered to them by the train's conductor as we passed.

A watery bog.

The summer home of Charles DeSilver, a well-known Philadelphia bookseller and mapmaker.

The Pennsylvania Raiload Cheyney station built in 1909 now used as a post office.

The whistle marker for Station Road.

The train made a slight curve along our route.

The whistle post for Locksley Road.

The old Pennsylvania Railroad catenary poles still stand along most of the line.

The kudzu plants have invaded Pennsylvania making this tree resemble Godzilla.

We arrived into Glen Mills station and were told we would be here for thirty minutes and people who wanted to have a picnic would walk east to the picnic area or you could walk to the west and tour the station building, which we would do after pictures.

Our train at Glen Mills station, built in 1880 by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. This railroad operated from 1836 to 1881. Formed as a result of the merger of four small lines dating from the earliest days of American railroading in the late 1820s and early 1830s, it was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1881, becoming part of their main line in 1902.

The train waiting for the return trip on the platform.

Another view of Glen Mills station. Here I met several younger NRHS members who were making their way to Cumberland, railfanning along their route.

The former general store which is now a private residence. This building was constructed in 1882.

Station view. We reboarded the train and at 1:30 PM, started back to West Chester at a higher rate of speed than we did going out.

The engine is now leading the train back to West Chester.

The stone ruins of the 1892 Dyer Quarry Company's stone crusher.

The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Locksley station/shelter.

Back in West Chester and a yard view as we pass through.

West Chester caboose 20331 built in 1952 by St. Louis Car Company as New York Central 642. We returned to West Chester and were first off the train. The three of us thanked the conductor for an excellent trip. I would like to thank the West Chester Railroad for having us today, the ticket agent, the entire train crew and staff for the excellent job they did on this trip. From here we returned to Strasburg to our next destinations.