Steam to visit SEPTA in May

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NORTH WALES, Pa. — For the first time in nearly three decades, steam will traverse SEPTA’s Lansdale-to-Doylestown main line.

In recognition of the 150th birthday of the borough of North Wales, Pa., the New Hope Railroad is hosting a series of four excursions on May 18. The excursions will be pulled by Baldwin-built 1925 2-8-0 Consolidation steam locomotive No. 40.

According to the railroad, No. 40 has not left its Bucks County location since the summer of 1985. The No. 40 was built for South Carolina’s Lancaster & Chester Railroad and later North Carolina’s Cliffside Railroad. It has been owned by New Hope or its predecessors since 1962. The four excursions scheduled for May 18th will feature the No. 40 and passenger cars that are original to the route over which they will travel, the railroad says.

The passenger railroad's general manager says SEPTA is able to host the steam locomotive because a freight railroad that connects with the passenger carrier has yet to fully comply with positive train control rules, setting back the final date SEPTA must comply with all PTC rules and standards.

But, out of an abundance of caution, SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel says that SEPTA will take a track out of service for steam use only and cap the excursion train's top speed to about 10 mph.

"To me, it's just great advertising for everyone," Knueppel tells Trains. "It introduces people to trains who might not think about it."

He says there are always risks with allowing a steam locomotive on the property, but that the upside of having the community celebrate with the train "is worth it."

The 40-minute excursions will traverse the Bethlehem Branch main line operated by the SEPTA Regional Rail commuter system. The former Reading Railroad line was operated by Conrail until 1983 and was an important link between the city of Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley. Departure times for the excursions will be 10:30 a.m. and 12, 1:30 and 3 p.m. from the SEPTA North Wales station. For information and tickets, visit

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