The SEPTA R5 is a route of the SEPTA Regional Rail (commuter rail) system. One end of the route serves the western suburbs of Philadelphia, USA, and the other the northern suburbs. The route extends from Thorndale, Pennsylvania in Chester County to Doylestown, Pennsylvania in Bucks County. The line utilizes both former Penn Central trackage, which is now owned by PennDOT and operated by Amtrak under contract, and former Reading Railroad trackage, now owned by SEPTA. It is also the longest by distance of the current seven routes of the Regional Rail network.

As of 2005, most trains continue through Center City, although some from either end terminated at Suburban Station.

R5 Paoli-Thorndale

This branch utilizes one of the oldest sections of what is now Amtrak's Keystone Corridor, an electrified 104-mile two to four-track high-speed route between Harrisburg Transportation Center in Harrisburg and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. The line was originally part of Pennsylvania's "Main Line of Public Works", a series of canals and railroads to connect Philadelphia with Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and points west. The tracks subsequently became part of the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad before eventually becoming Amtrak's Keystone Corridor. The "Main Line" also refers to the affluent Philadelphia suburbs along the line of the same name.

Prior to the late-1980s, all commuter rail operations went from 30th Street Station to Paoli, the westernmost census designated place along the Main Line. Because of this earlier operation, local residents called the R5 the "Paoli Local". Currently, all Paoli turn-around trains, which operate alternately on Saturdays and exclusively on Sundays, now use the nearby Malvern train station as its last stop (the Paoli train yard was closed down in the mid-1990s and is in the process of being converted into extra parking, and eventually, a new Paoli train station), and uses the Frazer train yard as a turn-around location. Prior to 1992, the service went as far west as Parkesburg, but service was truncated to Downingtown because Amtrak lacked facilities to turn SEPTA trains around, and trains were forced to "deadhead" (travel without passengers) all the way out to Lancaster.

Electrified service between Philadelphia and Paoli was opened on September 11 1915. As the first of the local commuter and long-distance line to be electrified, the line was used as an "experiment" for powering trains using AC overhead catenary wires. The previous commuter line to be electrified was the Long Island Rail Road in New York City, but this line utilized the DC third rail similar in nature to the New York subway system and most other heavy-rail interurbans. Between 1915 and the 1960s, the former Pennsylvania Railroad used the MP-54 electric multiple-unit (EMU) railcars, which were brick red ("Tuscan Red") in color (green in the Penn Central era) and had characteristic "owl eye" round windows at car ends.

The MP-54s were replaced in the 1960s and 1970s with the Silverliner EMU cars, which are still in use today. More recently, SEPTA acquired push-pull coaches from the Bombardier corporation, and is hauled by AEM-7 electric locomotives similar to those used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. As a part of the Keystone Corridor upgrade projects conducted by Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the entire segment of the R5 line between Philadelphia and Paoli will have new concrete ties, continuous welded rails, and overhead lines and substations, allowing SEPTA and Amtrak to run multiple trains at the same time in the same manner as that found on the Northeast Corridor.

List of stations:

Zone Milepost Station Boardings City/Township County Notes
1 4.0 52nd Street 0 Philadelphia Philadelphia station closed
2 5.4 Overbrook 777
6.0 Merion 261 Lower Merion Montgomery
6.8 Narberth 617 Narberth
7.4 Wynnewood 659 Lower Merion
8.5 Ardmore 822 Shared with Amtrak
9.1 Haverford 352
3 10.1 Bryn Mawr 822 mini-high-level platform on westbound side only
10.9 Rosemont 304
12.0 Villanova 586 Radnor Delaware
13.0 Radnor 451
13.7 St Davids 224
14.5 Wayne 650
15.4 Strafford 898 Tredyffrin Chester
4 16.4 Devon 458 Easttown
17.5 Berwyn 248 mini-high level platforms
18.6 Daylesford 213 Tredyffrin
19.9 Paoli 1462 Shared with Amtrak
5 21.8 Malvern 514 Malvern terminus for R5 Paoli/Malvern trains; approximately half of the scheduled R5 trains terminate here
27.7 Exton 539 West Whiteland Shared with Amtrak
28.7 Whitford 230
32.8 Downingtown 299 Downingtown Shared with Amtrak
35.2 Thorndale 293 Caln terminus for R5 Thorndale trains

The R5 Paoli/Thorndale line is, by far, SEPTA's most patronized regional rail line. Ridership on the Paoli/Thorndale line has been steady from 1995 to 2005. From SEPTA Annual Service Plans:

Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2005 19,972 5,538,762
FY 2004 18,636 5,231,209
FY 2003 19,745 5,415,100
FY 2001 n/a 5,596,000
FY 2000 n/a 6,073,000
FY 1999 n/a 5,092,000
FY 1997 n/a 5,564,997
FY 1996 n/a 5,590,531
FY 1995 19,541 5,589,094
FY 1994 20,322 5,428,658
FY 1993 20,426 5,500,377
Note: n/a = not available

R5 Lansdale-Doylestown

The Lansdale-Doylestown segment of the R5 line utilizes what is known as the "SEPTA Main Line", a four-track line that has been owned by SEPTA since 1983, and by Conrail (1976-1983) and the Reading Railroad (before 1976). Originally arriving and departing at the former Reading Terminal, now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the line has, since 1985, been directly attached to the ex-Penn Central side by the Center City Commuter Rail Tunnel. Unlike the Keystone Corridor side of the R5, the ex-Reading line was not as heavily built, as the Reading segregated freight and passenger movements (the PRR built its line for heavy through-freight and passenger service). While the four-track section between the tunnel and Wayne Junction and the two-track section from Wayne Junction to Jenkintown are entirely grade-separated, the two-track section from Jenkintown to Lansdale and the single track from Lansdale to Doylestown has both at-grade and over- and underpasses.

Electrified service between Philadelphia, Hatboro, Lansdale, Doylestown and West Trenton was opened on July 26, 1931. The Reading planned to electrify tracks between West Trenton and Jersey City for long-distance service, but had to drop plans for electrification outside of the commuter service area due to economic setbacks as a result of the Great Depression.

As a result, the Reading could not compete with the PRR with Philadelphia-New York service, as Reading service terminated at Jersey City (although a ferry allowed direct access to New York's financial district), along with the growth of the automobile--the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension in 1957 allowed direct access to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Although the Reading and the PRR electric overhead catenary wires are similar, the big difference is that the PRR electrical lines are self-contained, with power generated by the Safe Harbor Dam near York, Pennsylvania, along a central transformer in Philadelphia, powering the New York-Washington segment of the Northeast Corridor, and the Harrisburg-Philadelphia Keystone Corridor line. The Reading's electrification system, however, relies on a transformer at Wayne Junction, and separate high-voltage pylons for longer-distance trains.

Reading cars used for suburban service were similar to the PRR MP-54 cars, although slightly more modern. They were distinguished by square windows at cab ends and a dark grey-green livery. Some cars were rebuilt during the 1970s and received a new blue paint scheme; these were called "Blue Fleet" cars or "Blueliners". Today, the line uses the same Silverliner EMU (electric multiple-unit) cars as like that of the rest of the system.

List of stations:

Zone Milepost Station Boardings City/Township County Notes
C 2.1 Temple University 1988 Philadelphia Philadelphia boardings include all lines; high level platforms
2.9 North Broad 236 boardings include R2, R5 and R6; low level platforms with mini-high-level platforms
1 5.1 Wayne Junction 749 boardings include R1, R2, R3, R5, R7 and R8; high-level platforms on outbound main line
7.3 Fern Rock TC 761 boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; high-level platforms
2 8.4 Melrose Park 322 Cheltenham Montgomery boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; high-level platforms
9.2 Elkins Park 393 boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; upgrade to high-level platforms planned
3 10.8 Jenkintown 1519 Jenkintown boardings include R1, R2, R3, and R5; upgrade to high-level platforms planned   Aerial photo
11.9 Glenside 897 Cheltenham boardings include R1, R2, and R5; low-level platforms
13.0 North Hills 142 Abington low-level platforms
13.9 Oreland 195 Springfield low-level platforms
15.9 Fort Washington 640 Whitemarsh high-level platforms
17.3 Ambler 784 Ambler low-level platforms
4 18.8 Penllyn 128 Lower Gwynedd low-level platforms
20.0 Gwynedd Valley 256 low-level platforms
22.4 North Wales 733 North Wales low-level platforms; upgrade to high-level platforms currently in progress
5 23.5 Pennbrook 379 Lansdale
24.4 Lansdale 918 terminus of R5 Lansdale trains; approximately half of the scheduled R5 weekday trains terminate here
25.9 Fortuna 86 Hatfield upgrade to a high-level platform planned
26.8 Colmar 238 high-level platform
27.5 Link Belt 38 high-level platform
29.7 Chalfont 100 Chalfont Bucks high-level platform
31.5 New Britain 51 New Britain high-level platform
32.8 Delaware Valley College 36 Doylestown Township high-level platform
34.4 Doylestown 333 Doylestown

Ridership on the Lansdale/Doylestown line has increased 28% from 1995 to 2005. From SEPTA Annual Service Plans:

Fiscal year Average weekday Annual passengers
FY 2005 13,490 3,808,662
FY 2004 13,361 3,750,404
FY 2003 14,130 3,563,400
FY 2001 n/a 3,492,000
FY 2000 n/a 3,830,000
FY 1999 n/a 3,162,000
FY 1997 n/a 3,150,497
FY 1996 n/a 3,105,782
FY 1995 10,762 2,982,735
FY 1994 9,821 2,485,290
FY 1993 9,177 2,211,611
Note: n/a = not available

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