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Chestnut Hill East Line

The Chestnut Hill East Line is a route of the SEPTA Regional Rail (commuter rail) system. The route serves the northwestern section of Philadelphia with service to Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill. It is one of two lines that serve Chestnut Hill, the other one being the Chestnut Hill West Line. The line is fully grade-separated.

Chestnut Hill East Line
Chestnut Hill East Station.jpg
The Chestnut Hill East station as seen in October 2012. The station depot, constructed by the Reading Company, is visible on the left.
TypeCommuter rail line
SystemSEPTA Regional Rail
TerminiChestnut Hill
30th Street Station
Daily ridership5,768[1]:94
Rolling stockElectric Multiple Units
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map

10.8 mi
17.4 km
Chestnut Hill East
10.3 mi
16.6 km
10.0 mi
16.1 km
9.3 mi
15 km
Mount Airy
8.9 mi
14.3 km
8.6 mi
13.8 km
7.8 mi
12.6 km
Washington Lane
Walnut Lane
6.8 mi
10.9 km
6.1 mi
9.8 km
5.1 mi
8.2 km
Wayne Junction
2.1 mi
3.4 km
Temple University
0.5 mi
0.8 km
0 mi
0 km
0.9 mi
1.4 km
30th Street
SEPTA_subway–surface_trolley_lines MFL Atlantic City Line Amtrak


The Chestnut Hill East Line uses the Reading Company right-of-way, which was originally constructed by the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown (PG&N) railroad before the American Civil War. The PG&N intended to build a railroad from Philadelphia to Norristown but stopped when construction reached Germantown due to the hilly nature of the terrain west of Germantown and along the Wissahickon Creek, which they would have had to cross to reach Norristown. The PG&N decided to change course and build another railroad line close to the Schuylkill River. This line would become SEPTA's Manayunk/Norristown Line. The original railroad line that ended in Germantown was then extended north with a sharp right hand turn and then northwest to its present terminus in Chestnut Hill (where the Chestnut Hill West Line also has a terminus only a few hundred yards away).

The Chestnut Hill Railroad Company was incorporated in Pennsylvania on July 11, 1851 to own the railroad planned for Chestnut Hill. An eastern and western route were surveyed to Chestnut Hill in 1848 by William E. Morris, and the eastern route was chosen for the line. The railroad was opened to traffic on December 1, 1854. It was operated by the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad Company (PG&N) from December 1, 1854 until November 30, 1870, under a lease dated March 17, 1852. By agreement dated November 10, 1870, the lease was assigned by the PG&N to The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company. By indenture dated November 30, 1870, a new lease was made by the Chestnut Hill Railroad Company to The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company for 999 years from December 1, 1870. The obligation of The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company was assumed by the Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company on December 1, 1896, and the lease was amended in certain respects by Agreement dated January 27, 1897.

The Reading RR station building from the late 1800s, of stone construction, was located on the east side of the Bethlehem Pike, slightly north of its intersection with East Chestnut Hill Avenue. The station had two platforms serving three short tracks, long enough for three passenger coaches. Adjacent to the station on its north side was a small, five-stall roundhouse with its back wall facing the Bethlehem Pike. There was also a short turntable and water tank to service the small steam locomotives used in that era. The double-track line from downtown Philadelphia approached the Chestnut Hill Terminal through a cut, passing under East Summit Avenue then turning left into the terminal. Six photographs of the old buildings and a track plan were published in the book MODEL TAILROADS by Edwin P. Alexander, originally published in 1940 by W. W. Norton & Company of New York. All the buildings were demolished circa 1932 prior to the electrification of the Chestnut Hill Branch Line.

The line was elevated in 1930. Electrified service to Chestnut Hill (and to Norristown) was opened on February 5, 1933. By order dated March 23, 1940, in Finance Docket No. 12749, the Interstate Commerce Commission authorized Reading Company to acquire control of the Chestnut Hill Railroad Company by purchase of additional shares of capital stock. On December 31, 1948, the Chestnut Hill Railroad Company was merged into Reading Company. The line continued to be operated as part of the Reading Company's passenger lines up until April 1, 1976, when the Reading's passenger lines were conveyed to SEPTA as part of the company's bankruptcy reorganization.[2]

Until 1984 Chestnut Hill East trains used the Reading Viaduct to reach Spring Garden Street and the Reading Terminal; this ended with the opening of the Center City Commuter Connection which routed the trains through the city center and on the ex-Pennsylvania Railroad part of the system.[3] From this point the route was designated R7 Chestnut Hill East as part of SEPTA's diametrical reorganization of its lines; trains continued on to the Trenton Line.[4] The R-number naming system was dropped on July 25, 2010.[5] As of 2018, most Chestnut Hill East Line trains continue through Center City to the Trenton Line.[6]

SEPTA activated positive train control on the Chestnut Hill East Line on July 25, 2016.[7]


The Reading Company opened Gravers in 1879
Mount Airy, like Gravers, was designed by Frank Furness

The Chestnut Hill East line makes the following station stops after leaving the Center City Commuter Connection; stations indicated with a gray background are closed. All stations are located within Philadelphia.

Station Miles (km)
from Center City
Connections / notes[8]
C Temple University   2.1 miles (3.4 km)   SEPTA Regional Rail: all lines
Tioga closed 1989
Nicetown Closed November 14, 1988 after a fire damaged the station. At the time of closure, the station had one average daily boarding.[9]
1 Wayne Junction   5.1 miles (8.2 km)   SEPTA Regional Rail:      Fox Chase Line,      Lansdale/​Doylestown Line,      Warminster Line,      West Trenton Line
  SEPTA City Bus:   2, 23, 53
  SEPTA Trackless Trolley:   75
Fishers 5.7 miles (9.2 km) closed October 4, 1992[10]
Wister 6.1 miles (9.8 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   J
Wingohocking 6.5 miles (10.5 km)
Germantown 6.8 miles (10.9 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   26, J, K
2 Walnut Lane 7.7 miles (12.4 km)
Washington Lane 7.8 miles (12.6 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   XH
Stenton 8.6 miles (13.8 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   18
Gorgas 8.7 miles (14.0 km)
Sedgwick 8.9 miles (14.3 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   H
Mount Airy 9.3 miles (15.0 km)
Mermaid 9.8 miles (15.8 km)
Wyndmoor 10.0 miles (16.1 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   77
Gravers 10.3 miles (16.6 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   L
Chestnut Hill East 10.8 miles (17.4 km)   SEPTA City Bus:   L
  SEPTA Suburban Bus:   94
Chestnut Hill West station is two blocks west.


Yearly ridership on the Chestnut Hill East Line between FY 2008–FY 2014 has remained steady around 1.5–1.6 million, save for a dip in FY 2011:[1]:94[11][12][13][14][15][16]

FY 2008
FY 2009
FY 2010
FY 2011
FY 2012
FY 2013
FY 2014



  1. ^ a b "Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. June 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  2. ^ Historical data compiled from record papers of Reading Company preserved at Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.
  3. ^ Williams, Gerry (1998). Trains, Trolleys & Transit: A Guide to Philadelphia Area Rail Transit. Piscataway, NJ: Railpace Company. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-9621541-7-1. OCLC 43543368.
  4. ^ Vuchic, Vukan; Kikuchi, Shinya (1984). General Operations Plan for the SEPTA Regional High Speed System. Philadelphia: SEPTA. pp. 2–8.
  5. ^ Lustig, David (November 2010). "SEPTA makeover". Trains Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing: 26.
  6. ^ "Chestnut Hill East Line schedule" (PDF). SEPTA. December 16, 2018. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  7. ^ "Positive Train Control Update". SEPTA. May 1, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Chestnut Hill East Line Timetable" (PDF). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. September 10, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  9. ^ Bowden, Mark (December 23, 1988). "A SEPTA Ride to a Sealed Station". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 15. Retrieved October 19, 2017 – via  
  10. ^ Dougherty, Frank (October 25, 1996). "Septa Board Cuts Service But Opposition Is Spirited". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2014. p. 60. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  12. ^ "Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2013. p. 44. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  13. ^ "Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. May 2012. p. 55. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  14. ^ "Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. July 2011. p. 94. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  15. ^ "Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. June 2010. p. 70. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  16. ^ "FY 2010 Annual Service Plan" (PDF). SEPTA. June 2009. p. 63. Retrieved August 13, 2016.

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