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History of the West Chester Railroad 1946-Present

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This file contains assorted facts from Chester County history collected by students in the HIS480 "Computer methods of historical research" class at West Chester University. Each fact consists of specific information, a reference note to its source, and a date. The "facts" are organized in chronological order.

This file has not been completely proofread, nor have the sources been verified, so use this material with caution.

Collected by Jim Jones, David Flogaus, Kelly Kulp-Bosler, Mike Wolford and Bob Gialanella (Spring 1995). Additional information collected by Daniel Cleary, John Morrison, Scott Harre, and Robert Troutman (Spring 1996); and by Nicole Bowman, Karin Flippin, Mary Kurtak, Kelly McVeigh, Wendy Smoker, and Brian Toombes (Spring 1997). Last edited by Jim Jones (August 9, 1997).

Special thanks to Don Callander of the West Chester Railroad Company for providing notes, photocopies and other materials.


1946/05/24     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (May 24, 1946), from the CCHS
               clipping file "WC Transportation, PA.RR 1940-1954"

     A railroad strike on the PRR did not prevent the company
     from operating three trains from WC to Philadelphia, but it
     was not certain that they could return.  Many commuters took
     cars or the trolley instead.

------------------------
1948/12/06     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (December 6, 1948), from the CCHS
               clippings file: "Transportation, Pennsylvania
               Railroad"

     Nine freight cars derailed and a coal car overturned
     completely on the PRR-Frazer near Green Hill.  They were
     part of a 22-car freight that was being pushed from Frazer
     to West Chester when the lead coal car overturned, pulling
     the others off the track.  There was only minor damage and
     rail traffic was not delayed, since the line was little-
     used.

------------------------
1949/05/02     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (May 2, 1949), in the CCS
               clippings file, "Transportation, Pennsylvania
               Railroad"

     Last Saturday night, a train derailed near Aldham on the
     PRR-Frazer, near a quarry in the vicinity of the William J.
     Willauer property on State Road.  The engineer was Floyd
     Sancell of Norristown and the conductor was Albert Byerly of
     345 Grover Street.

------------------------
1951/01/31     "Some Trainmen Fail To Report" in DAILY LOCAL NEWS
               (January 31, 1951), in CCHS clipping file:
               "Transportation, PA. RR. 1951."

     Fifty workers on the Maryland Division of the PRR called in
     "sick" this morning, affecting service on the West Chester
     to Philadelphia line, and between Chester and Wilmington.

------------------------
1952/07/11     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (July 11, 1952)

     The first diesel locomotive reached West Chester on July 11,
     1952.

------------------------
1952/07/11     DAILY LOCAL NEWS, in CCHS clippings file, "West
               Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1940-1954."

     Engineer A. B. McCroskey of Malvern brought the first diesel
     locomotive into West Chester at 10:15am.  E. E. Hoopes of
     Parkesburg was also on board.  The engine was on a run from
     Thorndale to West Chester and return.  Station agent Harry
     Yohn predicted that diesels, because of their cheaper
     operation and efficiency, would "eventually be exclusively
     used for loading and shifting freight cars."

------------------------
1953/05/09     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (June 6, 1953), in CCHS clippings
               file, "West Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1940-
               1954."

     A coroner's jury found motorman Garland B. Kincheloe guilty
     in the death of motorists at the Nields Street crossing on
     Saturday, May 9, 1953.  The PRR was also found negligent for
     not providing protection devices at the crossing.

     The victims of the "worst railroad accident in the borough's
     history" were Joseph A. Petrushunas (34), his wife Maria
     Josephine (27), their daughter Marie (aged 4), all of Paoli
     Pike, Woodcrest, and Mrs. Janet Sherman (19) of 1437 Breeze
     Point Avenue, Philadelphia, a Petrushunas family house
     guest.

     Testimony came from police officers John Temple and Charles
     Hill, who were first to reach the scene, and PRR train
     conductor Louis Carberry (37) of Morton and trainman Robert
     W. Cheeseman of Philadelphia.

     Kincheloe was found to have been traveling too fast (35-
     40mph) as he approached the unprotected crossing.

------------------------
1953/06/11     DAILY LOCAL NEWS, in CCHS clippings file, "West
               Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1940-1954."

     The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission recommended
     that the PRR install protection at the Nields Street
     crossing.  This was more necessary than ever since the
     opening of the Wyeth Inc. Laboratories $5 million facility
     on East Nields Street.  Records showed that there had been
     four accidents at the crossing in the past ten years.  On
     May 9, three members of the Joseph Petrunshunas family, and
     a houseguest, were killed at the crossing.  Petrushunas was
     an employee at Wyeth, but was not working on the day of the
     accident.

------------------------
1953/06/27     Tom Rettew, writing in the DAILY LOCAL NEWS (June
               27, 1953), in CCHS clipping file: "Transportation,
               PA. RR. 1953."

     The railway post office service ended in West Chester this
     morning when train no. 716 made its last run.  Mail would
     henceforth arrive by truck, although the Red Arrow trolley
     would continue to carry some of it, according to postmaster
     Joseph F. Sullivan.  

     Inside the train, two long-term (22 years) employees sorted
     the last mail: Howard Elzey of Upper Darby and Laurence
     Steckel of Upper Darby.

------------------------
1953/07/17     Tom Rettew, "Survey of Change Not Yet Finished" in
               DAILY LOCAL NEWS (July 17, 1953), in CCHS clipping
               file: "Transportation, PA. RR. 1953."

     Photo caption: Robert M. Trimble of 14 Stanton Avenue, "The
     Orchards" (West Chester) was a passenger conductor on PRR-
     Media line.

     The PRR replaced regular train service from West Chester and
     Philadelphia with a "shuttle" service of 1-3 cars from West
     Chester to Media.  The PRR also ended railway post office
     service.

     During peak periods, the shuttle consisted of three cars. 
     At other times, only one was necessary.

------------------------
1954/01/11     DAILY LOCAL NEWS, in CCHS clippings file, "West
               Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1940-1954."

     The PRR announced that it intended to begin ticketing and
     towing cars parked illegally at the freight yard at Matlack
     and Chestnut streets.  Cars regularly interfered with the
     movement of freight at the yard.

------------------------
1954/12/16     "PRR Authorized To Use Crewmen To Guard Union
               Street Crossing" in DAILY LOCAL NEWS, in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1940-1954."

     The Public Utilities Commission authorized the PRR to use
     train crewmen to guard the Union Street crossing instead of
     part-time railroad watchmen.  They will carry a flag or
     lantern, and walk across the crossing for all freight and
     passenger trains.  This will cause about a one-minute delay
     for each train.

------------------------
1955/03/10     "Piggyback Freight" in DAILY LOCAL NEWS (March 11,
               1955), in CCHS clippings file, "West Chester
               Transportation; PA. RR 1955-1959."

     The PRR started piggyback freight service to West Chester
     with a truck loaded with 30,000 pounds of canned mushrooms
     from the Brandywine Mushroom company on S. Matlack Street. 
     It was driven to Kensington and loaded onto a flat car by
     driver Charles Ritchie of Philadelphia.

------------------------
1955/05/19     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (May 20, 1955), in CCHS clippings
               file, "West Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1955-
               1959."

     At a meeting between borough and PRR officials, it was
     agreed to repaint the Market Street station, add parking
     spaces, improve parking lot security and take steps to
     eliminate loitering at the station, all in an effort to
     improve ridership in West Chester.

------------------------
1955/11/08     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (November 8, 1955), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1960-1965."

     A car driven eastbound by Eugene Brown of 625 E. Miner
     Street was struck by a train at the Union Street crossing. 
     Brown (age 64) was uninjured, but his passenger, Anna Steele
     (age 1&) of 317 E. Miner Street, was treated for abrasions
     of the scalp.  Doris Adell (aged 14) of the same address was
     also in the car, but not injured.  The train engineer, C. B.
     Kelly, said that the train was traveling roughly 10 miles an
     hour at the time of the accident.

------------------------
1956/05/01     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (May 2, 1956), in CCHS clippings
               file, "West Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1955-
               1959."

     When a commuter train was immobilized for three hours near
     the Media Station, buses of the Short Line Bus Company
     carried 107 passengers to West Chester.  These passengers
     would have normally arrived on four trains leaving Media at
     5:29, 6:06, 6:50 and 8:31pm.  [JJ: This shows that West
     Chester ridership was low.]

------------------------
1958/01/18     "Last Toot for Sunday Trains" in DAILY LOCAL NEWS
               (January 18, 1958), in CCHS clippings file, "West
               Chester Transportation; PA. RR 1955-1959."

     The last Sunday trains to West Chester ran on January 19,
     1958.  This was part of a long process of declining train
     service to West Chester that began in early summer 1953 with
     the schedule change that required West Chester passengers to
     change trains at Media in order to reach Philadelphia. 
     Since then, the number of trains declined while the price of
     fares increased.  On June 30, 1957, three round-trip trains
     a day were cut.

------------------------
1958/01/19     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (West Chester, January 18, 1958)
               from the CCHS clippings file "West Chester
               Transportation, PRR"

     Sunday train service to West Chester ended on January 19,
     1958.

------------------------
1958/01/26     "Sunday Railroad Service to End Here on January
               26" in DAILY LOCAL NEWS (January 4, 1958), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1955-1959."

     Sunday rail service from Media to West Chester was scheduled
     to end by Sunday January 26, 1958 [JJ: last Sunday service
     was on January 19].  The PRR management cited declining
     ridership as the reason.

------------------------
1959/09/24     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (September 24, 1959), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1955-1959."

     The Public Utilities Commission authorized the
     reconstruction of the Gay Street bridge over the PRR, and
     the widening of the grade crossing over Market Street.  the
     existing Gay Street bridge had a wooden deck, 32 feet wide,
     with two 14 foot sidewalks.  It was to be replaced with a
     concrete bridge, 41 feet wide, with two 9 foot sidewalks
     [JJ: total is 59 feet, instead of 60 feet].  The work should
     be completed by September 1, 1961.

------------------------
1959/09/24     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (West Chester, September 4, 1959)
               from the CCHS clippings file "West Chester
               Transportation, PRR"

     The Pennsylvania Railroad received permission to replace the
     wooden bridge on Gay Street over the Pennsylvania Railroad
     railroad tracks with a wider, concrete structure.  The work
     was to be completed by September 1, 1961.

------------------------
1960/12/05     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (December 5, 1960), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1960-1965."

     One track still remained across Chestnut Street in West
     Chester, although two others had been removed and paved
     over.  It ran east of Matlack Street and was used for
     shipments to the Farm Bureau store and warehouse.

------------------------
1961/12/04     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (December 4, 1961), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1960-1965."

     An editorial announced the arrival of a new manager for the
     PRR Eastern Division, Howard C. Kohout, who replaced George
     C. Vaughan.  It referred to the Market Street station as an
     "eyesore" and "the present old ramshackle building about
     which residents have been complaining for years."

------------------------
1962/08/03     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (August 3, 1962), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1960-1965."

     The Market Street railroad station was vacant except for a
     ticket office.  The borough wanted the PRR to tear it down
     and erect a smaller station, either at Nields Street or
     Union Street.

------------------------
1964/10/06     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (October 7, 1964), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1960-1965."

     Conductor Edward Menig discovered evidence of a small fire
     in the old train station that appeared to be an act of
     vandalism.  The building has been vandalized a great deal
     recently.  The PRR was responsible for maintaining the
     premises, but was unable to keep up with the vandals, even
     with help from borough police.

     Menig tried to clean up a bit each day because one of his
     favorite passengers was a blind woman with a seeing eye dog,
     and Menig did not want the dog to cut his feet on the broken
     glass.

------------------------
1965/06/13     Charles A. Garrett, untitled article" in
               PHILADELPHIA BULLETIN (June 13, 1965), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1960-1965."

     Plans were progressing for the demolition of the PRR station
     at Market Street in West Chester.  PRR spokesman Harold
     Wiand said that the building handled about 6000 passengers a
     day between Philadelphia and West Chester in the 1920s, but
     by 1965, only 320 people rode the 18 daily trains from
     Monday to Friday.  There were no longer any through trains--
     passengers had to change at Media.

     Only one small room at the rear of the station was in use--
     as a ticket office and waiting room.

     Wiand thought that a smaller station at Nields Street would
     serve the town's needs.  It had enough parking and was
     located nearer to the State Teachers College.  He projected
     the construction of a 12x28 foot one-storey metal building
     to house a ticket office and restrooms.

     Borough leaders, including councilman Robert Spaziano,
     opposed the railroad's plan because they hoped to create a
     downtown transportation center at the site of the old
     railroad station.

------------------------
1965/06/13     Charles A. Garrett, writing in the SUNDAY
               PHILADELPHIA BULLETIN (Philadelphia, June 13,
               1965) from the CCHS clippings file "West Chester
               Transportation, PRR".

     There were plans to demolish the old West Chester railroad
     station on Market Street and replace it with a smaller
     station at Nields Street.  In the 1920s, nearly 6000
     passengers took the train each day to Philadelphia, but by
     1965, there were only 320 passengers each day, and only 18
     trains a day, down from 40 per day in the 1920s.  Borough
     officials hoped to convince the railroad to keep the station
     at Market Street as part of a plan to construct a rail-bus
     center.

------------------------
1965/09/13     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (September 13, 1965), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1965."

     Hearings were held to consider the PRR's plan to shift its
     West Chester railroad station from Market Street to Nields
     Street.  The borough and the county both opposed moving the
     station to a new location.

------------------------
1965/09/15     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (September 16, 1965), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1965."

     At a PUC hearing, PRR spokesman Charles T. Call described
     the reasons for moving the station from Market to Nields
     Street.  the PRR wanted to "get out of the real estate
     business" and eliminate the $2500 needed to maintain the old
     station [JJ: over what period? month? year?].  It could also
     eliminate one stop in West Chester and 0.7 miles of travel
     between the two stations.

     The PRR proposed to construct a pre-fab metal station at
     Nields Street with a heated waiting room, ticket office,
     restrooms and drinking fountain.  It offered parking for 40
     cars and would be staffed eight hours/day by a station
     agent.  The new station would cost about $20,000 to build,
     while it would cost $23-24,000 to renovate the old station.

     Call promised no cutback in service--seven trains in and
     night out each weekday.

     The borough objected to the PRR plan because it hoped to
     establish a downtown transportation center near the old
     station.  Russell Jones, speaking on behalf of Chester
     County, opposed the plan because it went against long-range
     plans to improve county mass transit.

------------------------
1966/01/25     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (January 25, 1966), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1966-1968."

     The PUC denied the PRR proposal to close its Market Street
     station in West Chester and move it to Nields Street.

     A PRR employee is on duty for 1.5 hours each morning at the
     Market Street station, and works the rest of the day at the
     freight station near Nields Street.

------------------------
1966/01/25     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (West Chester, January 25, 1966)
               from the CCHS clippings file "West Chester
               Transportation, PA. RR 1966-1968."

     The state Public Utilities Commission denied the
     Pennsylvania Railroad the right to move its station to
     Nields Street in West Chester.

------------------------
1967/05/02     "Silverliner Arrives in West Chester" in DAILY
               LOCAL NEWS (May 2, 1967), in CCHS clipping file:
               "Transportation, PA. RR. 1967-1970."

     Silverliner passenger cars were used for the first time on
     the Media-West Chester service.  Each held 125 people in
     air-conditioned comfort, and was capable of 86mph, although
     it would be held to 50mph on the run to West Chester.

------------------------
1967/09/15     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (West Chester, September 16,
               1967) from the CCHS clippings file "West Chester
               Transportation, PA. RR 1966-1968."

     Fire destroyed the Pennsylvania Railroad freight station on
     Union Street on September 15, 1967.  The article includes
     details on the fire, and also describes what kind of
     business went on at the station.` The station was no longer
     fully utilized, so the Lasko Products Co. used much of the
     building to store paint.  The cost of damage to the building
     was only about $4000, but three boxcars at the station were
     damaged, resulting in losses of about $10,000.  Two boxcars
     contained rolls of paper for the Denney-Reyburn company,
     another had cereal and gravy products from the Grocery Store
     Products company.

------------------------
1967/10/06     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (October 6, 1967), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1966-1968."

     The PRR shifted its operations to the old Railway Express
     building after a fire destroyed the freight station on East
     Union Street.  Station agent Joseph W. Clarke says that he
     handled 100 freight cars a month worth $50-100,000, mostly
     for local light industry, but also incoming to area
     supermarkets.  There are also about 100 passengers a day.

------------------------
1968/06/15     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (June 15, 1968), in CCHS
               clippings file, "West Chester Transportation; PA.
               RR 1966-1968."

     Next Monday, demolition of the old PRR station at Market
     Street will begin.  A Wayne contractor, Donato J. Devitis
     Company, got the contract for the demolition.

------------------------
1968/06/17     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (West Chester, June 17, 1968)
               from the CCHS clippings file "West Chester
               Transportation, PA. RR 1966-1968."

     The Pennsylvania Railroad station in West Chester was
     demolished starting today.  According to a photo published
     on 1968/06/22, the work lasted more than a week.

------------------------
1968/12/24     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (December 24, 1968), from the
               CCHS clippings file: "Transportation, Pennsylvania
               Railroad, Frazer Branch" 

     An ore train partially derailed near Frazier, just downhill
     from Immaculata College, on a side track that connected the
     Main Line to the Trenton Cut-off.  Traffic on the PRR-Main
     Line was not interrupted, but the derailed cars sideswipped
     another freight train, causing some of its cars to derail.

------------------------
1970/02/03     DAILY LOCAL NEWS (February 3, 1970), in DAILY
               LOCAL NEWS (May 2, 1967), in CCHS clipping file:
               "Transportation, PA. RR. 1967-1970."

     The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission agreed to look
     into the Union Street crossing in West Chester following the
     collision between a car and a single railcar.  The crossing
     is protected only by fixed signs, although railroad workers
     guard switching operations near the crossing.

------------------------
1970/04   DAILY LOCAL NEWS (no date) in CCHS clippings file
          "Transportation, Pennsylvania Railroad, Frazer Branch" 

     A $250,000 project was underway on the Penn Central tracks
     near Devault (on the former Phoenixville & West Chester
     Railroad line, north of Frazer).  It was intended to improve
     access to an industrial park in Devault.

------------------------
1986/04   Frank Tatnall, personal communication (Glen Mills
station, August 5, 1997).

     A former Conrail employee current SEPTA employee named Megan
     confirmed that the PRR-Media line ceased operations in April
     1986.  

------------------------
1997/04/27     Jim Jones, personal observation (Sunday, April 27,
               1997).

     The first train reached West Chester since SEPTA cut off
     rail service in 1985.  It was operated by a private firm,
     Four States Railway Service, Inc., as the West Chester
     Railroad Company.  After rebuilding parts of the line from
     West Chester to Glen Mills this spring, they brought a
     single 65-ton diesel switcher and a single railcar to West
     Chester to test their repairs. The enginner was Skip Small
     and the fireman was Joe Giacchino.

------------------------
1997/06/05     Patrick Walters, "Tourist Railroad Movin Ahead" in
               DAILY LOCAL NEWS (June 6, 1997), B1.

     The president of the operating company, Four States Railway
     Service, is Joseph Giacchino.  The company leased a portion
     of the SEPTA R3 line from Glen Mills to West Chester, and
     plan to offer scenic excursion trips beginning in the fall. 
     The general manager is Don Calender (sic).  JJ: His name is
     spelled Callander on his business card.

------------------------
1997/06/05     Anthony Beckman, "Happy Rails in West Chester" in
               PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (June 6, 1977), B1.

     Joe Giaccino was the engineer on a train carrying "the
     borough's influential business owners and government
     officials" from West Chester to Glen Mills, a distance of
     7.5 miles.  Don Callender (sic) served as conductor.

     The company leased the railroad from the Borough of West
     Chester for $1 after the borough leased the line from SPTA
     for $1.  The negotiations began in 1992.

     The partners invested about $300,000 so far, including
     $27,000 to replace a 150-foot section of track that had ben
     completely torn out.

     When excursion runs begin in the fall, they expect to charge
     $8 for adults and $4 for children.

     Company telephone number: 610-430-2233.

------------------------
1997/06/14     Jim Jones, personal observation (Saturday, June
               14, 1997).

     After working for two hours with the track crew of the
     reborn WCRR, I concluded that even unskilled workers must
     have learned some concepts of physics--center of gravity,
     coefficient of friction, use of levers--in order to remove
     and place railroad ties with as little effort as possible.
------------------------

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