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Pennsylvania borough calls for use of Pop Up Metro to connect to SEPTA system

By | December 6, 2022

West Chester says RDC’s package could provide service for $16 million, instead of $380 million or more for conventional rail transit

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Orange railcar approaches switch on rail line surrounded by trees
Orange railcar approaches switch on rail line surrounded by trees
The Pop Up Metro train makes a demonstration run on the Rockhill Trolley Museum line in Pennsylvania in 2021.  The borough of West Chester, Pa., is endorsing use of the Pop Up Metro system to connect the borough to the SEPTA commuter rail network. Dan Zukowski

WEST CHESTER, Pa. — The West Chester Borough Council is calling for use of the Pop Up Metro concept, instead of conventional rail service, to connect the borough to downtown Philadelphia.

The Daily Local News reports that the borough council has passed a resolution supporting a study by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and Chester County to study the Pop Up concept being marketed by Rail Development Corp. It says the system using battery powered cars operating on existing tracks could provide service between West Chester and Wawa — where SEPTA already offers commuter rail service —for $16 million, while conventional rail service could cost at least $380 million.

The borough’s rail committee says the trains would make the approximately 8.5-mile, five-station run to Wawa in 12 minutes, and that the entire rail trip to downtown Philadelphia would take 64 minutes, compared to the current 95-minute trip by bus. The estimated start-up costs include $7.6 million for trackwork and $5 million for a two-year lease on the elements of the Pop Up Metro system.

RDC has been demonstrating the Pop Up Metro concept — which not only includes the battery-powered, remanufactured London subway cars, but power systems, platforms and other elements needed to launch a rail service — at the Rockill Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania since 2021 [see “Pop Up Metro aims to provide …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 1, 2021]. RDC Chairman Henry Posner said last week that discussions with several states were continuing about Pop Up Metro, with California and Pennsylvania as possible first locations [see “British passenger equipment company files …,” News Wire, Nov. 30, 2022].

8 thoughts on “Pennsylvania borough calls for use of Pop Up Metro to connect to SEPTA system

  1. Took a look at the whole route. The minium costs to implement and run this service would be much better.
    1. Start with tracks. WC RR track appears fairly decent but may need some work ? Probably will need a track and tie gang replacing whatever ties and rail needed for maybe 40 MPH trains ?. Also some crossing upgrades? Hopefully not too much rail unless some used welded rail can be found from say SEPTA or Amtrak. Ballast located a near mid point of line? Convienet !
    Some additional track appears to be needed at WC to accommodate units and West Chester RR equipment ? WCRR has a lot of equipment Needs battery charging station. Track at WAWA may need some way for cross platform connections. Also a way to isolate temporary track from SEPTA. Will need a battery charging facility.
    WCRR stations appears somewhat useable however the RR states Glen Mills station problems. Quarry tracks might need some expanding, Will any dead CAT structure cause problems?

    Appears that SEPTA needs 5 train sets to originate weekday morning service at WAWA. 5 train sets to dead head EMUs 8.5 miles to West Chester is costly. A single opeerator on a single Pop Up car would at most require 3 – 4 trained operators to meet all SEPTA trains. How many spare cars? 2 maybe?

  2. JAMES SHIGLEY: “It’s a shame that SEPTA and its predecessor (Pennsylvania Railroad) downgraded the line, then forced a transfer at Media, and finally quit running any trains on it.”

    JOHN LASZEK: Didn’t SEPTA run at least some one seat rides to West Chester in the last few years before cutting it back to Elwyn?

    P.S. (slightly OT): Retired Railfan Horn Guy (assuming you’re a subscriber), thanks to you and your YT channel for taking us on a ride out to the new Wawa station, plus the other SEPTA rail routes.

  3. SEPTA cut the service from West Chester back ito Elwyn in 1986 when $$$ and riders were hard to find. Service was extended to Wawa earlier this year.

    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.

    Since these services use full-sized railroad equipment, do the cars meet US construction standards? Will they need ACSES or other PTC?

    The bus service to West Chester is SEPTA Route 104. https://www5.septa.org/wp-content/uploads/route/maps/104.pdf

    1. Highly improbable that these vehicles meet 49CFR238 tier 1 crash standards. As this would be commingled with the West Chester Railroad’s traffic some sort of timed traffic separation, a la NJT River Line, could be implemented. Grade crossing protection will have to be mitigated.

    2. “The bus service to West Chester is SEPTA Route 104. https://www5.septa.org/wp-content/uploads/route/maps/104.pdf

      The 104 is great if you have time on your hands and want nostalgia re the West Chester trolley line that ran until the early ’50s (and, east of US 1, the Ardmore trolley that came down Darby Road and West Chester Pike [PA 3] before its discontinuation at the end of 1966). And look at the 69th St. transit hub – 18 rubber tired (if I’m counting right) and four steel-wheeled routes (101 [Media trolley], 102 [Sharon Hill trolley], MFL, and NHSL) harmonically converge there. But, no, the 104 is no substitute for the return of steel wheeled transit to West Chester.

  4. For a moment I thought this was the Newtown non-electric RDG line coming back to life! Never got that one thus I still NEED it! I DID ride to West Chester on a fan trip at the 1973 ERA Convention which then got the Manayunk Branch so I got that too. Mileage-collecting gloat mostly because of all the stuff I missed over the years! So what killed the line to West Chester? Low traffic volume or operational reasons? I recall the outer end was very rural including running close to a large pile of manure–hold one’s breath!

  5. This is not a good idea…it’s a GREAT idea. Nevertheless, I shudder to think of the stack of waivers needed to make this happen.

  6. It’s a shame that SEPTA and its predecessor (Pennsylvania Railroad) downgraded the line, then forced a transfer at Media, and finally quit running any trains on it.

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