RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.

 

Todd's Railfan Guide to
SEPTA's
Trackless Trolley Lines

Philadelphia PA

Route's 29 and 79
Route 59
Route 66
Route 75

SEPTA HOMEPAGE
RAILFAN GUIDES HOME
RAILROAD SIGNALS HOME


 
The above map in PDF format is here

Map of past and present Trackless Trolley Routes in Philadelphia
Only the NE routes are currently in operation
The blue and orange lines are subway lines



History

Trackless Trolleys (aka, trolleybus, trolley bus, trolleycoach, trolley coach, electric bus, or electric trolley bus), were the transit companies fix to a problem that plagued streetcars, mainly, the ability to "go around" objects that were blocking the tracks, whether intentionally or not.  Anything blocking a track would bring streetcar service to a halt.  This came with a small penalty though, in that the T-T's needed two trolley wires instead of one.... small price to pay for not having to tear up a street, lay track, and not having derailments.  Philadelphia is one of 9 North American cities that come the 21st century, are still operating Trackless Trolleys.

Philadelphia's first Trackless Trolley route was Route 80--Oregon, which started service in 1923.  For pictures of the T-T's that ran on this route, check out: http://www.phillytrolley.org/tracklessindex1.html Route 80 ran along Oregon Avenue in south Philly.  The end came in 1960 when sewer work was needed, and PTC said the cut in service was temporary, but they took the wire down and never put it back up.

The second route to open was Route 61--Ridge Avenue in 1940/1, and went from Center City to Manayunk, about 8 miles.  March 12, 2011 was the 50th anniversary of the ending of service on that line, having ended in 1961.  T-T's for this line used the Ridge Depot.  You can find some pictures are at: http://www.phillytrolley.org/tracklessindex2.html.  Some say that it was the sale of the Ridge Depot to the Board of Education that led to the conversion from Trolleybus operation to busses.  At any rate, PTC did not waste any time, as the depot was cleared out in a weeks time, and a storage track that had been last used in '57-58 was removed.  The busses operating the #61 line were then run out of the Allegheny Depot.  The current #61 bus route goes a little further out than the Trackless Trolley route did.

Ten years earlier, they also sold the Belmont car barn near 48th and Parkside to the Board of Education.  PTC had closed it in 1932 and had been using it for parts storage.

PTC was able to eventually win approval from the Public Utility Commission to formally abandon the 61 and 80 routes.

The other Trackless Trolley routes of Philadelphia are/were:

Route 29--Tasker-Morris ran from 1947 until 2003.  The Southern Depot serviced this line.

Route 59--Castor saw Trackless Trolleys taking over from the busses in 1950.  Service ended in 2003 until the arrival of the new T-T's in 2008.  The line currently goes from Arrott Terminal to Bells Corner via Castor Avenue.  This line uses the Frankford Depot.

Route 66--Frankford ran T-T's from 1955 through 2003, and then again starting in 2008.  This line used the Frankford Depot.

Route 75--Wyoming saw Trackless Trolleys replace busses in 1948.  The route runs from Arrott Terminal to the Wayne Junction rail station, mainly along Wyoming.  Busses once again took over the operation in 2003, but T-T service was restored in 2008.  This line uses the Frankford Depot.

Route 79--Snyder goes from Point Breeze to Pennsport, and runs mainly along Snyder Avenue.  It had been taken out of service in October of 1956, was put back into service in June of 1961 under pressure from the city and one of its design engineers.   Service started three months after the end of service on the 61 line.  Busses once again took over the operation in 2003, and hasn't seen T-T's since.  T-T's for this route worked out of the Southern Depot.

Most of the above information was gathered from the Philly Traction group on Yahoo, Elliot F, Jon Bell's page, and some from http://www.phillytrolley.org/.

I don't have any books on the subject, and info on the internet is hap-hazard... if anyone wishes to contribute and share their wealth of knowledge, contact info is at the bottom of the page.

For more good reading, try these out:
    http://web.presby.edu/~jtbell/transit/Philadelphia/TT/  Good page by John Bell.
    http://www.trolleybuses.net/phl/phl.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolleybus
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEPTA_City_Transit_Division_surface_routes
    http://www.phillytrolley.org/trackles.html

Some good links from JVE John:
    http://www.trolleybuses.net/phl/\
    htm/usa_h_phl_brill_73_delawareriverloop_1935_ss.htm
    http://www.trolleybuses.net/phl/phl.htm



Currently, SEPTA has three trackless trolley lines operating: 59, 66, and 75.  The three lines use 38 brand-spanking new T-T's received on June 1st, 2008.  The T-T's were built by New Flyer Industries.

Two other lines, 29 and 79, are not currently in service because SEPTA has been reluctant to order additional busses to support these lines.  It also looks like most of the wires are down.



ex Routes 29 and 79


The current map for bus route 29, South Philadelphia Crosstown..... slightly different than the trackless trolley routing.


The current Route 79 map, also called the South Philadelphia Crosstown.... The routing is the same as the trackless trolley route.


The Southern Division's Depot, looks like the wires are all down from up here.


Fortunately, Bing still has the old road layout in their system, showing you how the roads used to be at the west end of Route 29.


Route 59

The 59 route has a mid-route loop, or turnaround called the Alma Loop at Bleigh Ave.  There also used to be an emergency turnaround at Hellerman St, but was eliminated due to the fact that the new TT's can operate off wire if necessary.   Up until the 90's, several runs a day would terminate at the Alma Loop and head back to Arrot.  From Elliot F also comes that in the 50's, 60's ,and early 70's, the 59 route also operated skip-stop service, which would speed up service by skipping every other stop.

  The Bells Corner loop at the end of the line.


Route 66

The 66 line runs in northeast Philadelphia, and connects to the Market-Frankford subway line at the Frankford Transportation Center.  Originally, the line was put into service in 1955 with trackless trolleys replacing busses.  Service was discontinued in 2003 with busses doing the duty until 2008.  This route is unique in the United States, in that along Frankford Avenue, there are two sets of wires so that SEPTA can use the "inner" set for express busses during rush hour, shown by the gray line in the map below.  Route 66 has three loops in service, City Line loop at the end of the line, the Gregg St loop, just south of Linden Ave, and the loop at Cottman and Ryan Avenues.  This route also had an emergency turnaround at Welsh Rd, but was removed for the same reason as the loop on the 59 route was removed.  The loops are shown below.


Photo of #817 by Davidt8 (from Google) from January 2010, in the 7300 block of Frankford Ave.  It's a far cry from the T-T's of days gone by.


A double line of Trackless Trolleys sits at the Frankford Depot on a snowy day in 1996.
Photos courtesy Dr. Jon Bell, Presbyterian College, Clinton SC, Thanks Jon!


A Route 66 T-T passes the entrance to the Cedar Hill cemetery just before returning to the Frankford Terminal - at the left is the end of the Frankford elevated structure.


For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEPTA_Route_66

  The loop at Cottman and Ryan Avenues.

   The Gregg St loop.

   The City Line loop.


Route 75

  Route 75 loop at Wayne Junction.... Nice commuter rail stop here.

  The "loop" at Arrott Terminal, the eastern end of Route 75.

 


Disclaimers:

I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, myindexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


RAILFAN GUIDES HOME
RAILROAD SIGNALS HOME

NEW  02/28/2011
Last Updated: 11-Feb-2016