SEPTA Wanderings in Early January 2013


Detail of SEPTA Silverliner IV.
Detail of SEPTA Silverliner IV. Lumix LX3.

South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority provides public transportation in the Philadelphia area and is one of the most eclectic and historically diverse transit systems in the USA. In addition to former Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Company suburban railway services, it also operates two street car/light rail systems, several third-rail rapid transit subway/elevated services, the former Philadelphia & Western interurban third rail electric line (100 route), and myriad bus and electric (trolley) bus routes. Despite the variety of former operators, today’s SEPTA is reasonably well integrated and offers a variety of interface points between different transport modes. From my experience the transit vehicles appear clean and well maintained and the stations, many of which retain a classic appearance are also generally well appointed. The trains typically operate a regular interval service, with most heavy rail routes offering at least an hourly frequency, with express or extra services at peak times.

Over the years, my brother Sean and I have explored SEPTA as part of a greater urban experience, and I’ve gradually accumulated a considerable body of work depicting the network. SEPTA’s mix of modern and historic equipment combined with Philadelphia’s patchwork urbanity offers seemingly endless opportunities for image making.

Collected here are a few of my most recent efforts that were exposed over the last few days since the New Year. Significantly, these were largely made while using SEPTA as transport, thus integrating my photography with my transportation—an age-old tradition in urban-rail image making. I’ve found that SEPTA’s $11 Independence Pass is great value for such exercises. When possible, Sean and I will ride at the front of a vehicle, which both provides picture possibilities and allows for a better understanding of operations.

A vision of modern transit: SEPTA’s new Silverliner V at Market East Station. Lumix LX3.


SEPTA's offices at Market Street, Philadelphia on January 2, 2013. Canon 7D w 28-135mm lens. SEPTA’s offices on Market Street, Philadelphia. Canon 7D w 28-135mm lens.
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Under and over at Norristown: on January 3, 2013 a Silverliner V running on the old Reading Company passes below the Route 100 terminus. Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens.




Norristown Viaduct.
Wier and Schuylkill River Bridge at Norristown with Route 100 car. Nothing lasts forever, and this bridge may be reaching the end of its life.
Schuylkill River Bridge at Norristown with Route 100 car. Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad tower at sunset; viewed from the front of an Elwyn bound train. This reminds me of Edward Hopper‘s 1929-oil painting “Railroad Sunset”, that also features a signal tower silhouette with rosy glow. Lumix LX3; set in ‘Vivid’ film mode.
Train arriving at Suburban Station. Lumix LX3.
Railway photography benefits from a bit of humor, don’t you think? Lumix LX3.
Detailed view of a vintage Silverliner IV multiple-unit at Suburban Station. Lumix LX3.
Meet on the Reading near North Philadelphia. Lumix LX3.
Our SEPTA Independence Passes, which by definition offer freedom and liberty of travel! Yea! Lumix LX3.
Back in the day many American towns hosted a single-track trolley line. Today, Media, Pennsylvania is one of the last such places in North America. On January 3, 2013 SEPTA’s 101 car crosses Olive Street. Lumix LX3.
View from the floor of an Market-Frankford Elevated train. That’s my soiled shoe at left, suffering from a slip in the mud along the Schuylkill earlier in the day. Poor form. Lumix LX3.
Market-Frankford El in the Subway at 16th and Market. Lumix LX3.
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One comment on “SEPTA Wanderings in Early January 2013

  1. Sean Solomon on said:

    It is really fun to have nothing better to do than to walk to the nearest Septa node, grab an 11 dollar pass and ride all day, going on all sorts of lines and finding ourselves in little towns and riding interesting equiptment. It reminds me of the Paris system, which also combines metro, RER, and light rail, ( as well as high speed intercity trains) often meeting at the same nodes and connecting in a bizarre but workable fashion. Riding Septa is always an adventure, and there are always surprising finds of ancient equipment tucked away all along the tracks, so ride up front and get the best view!

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