When National City Lines Came to Town
  Page 4

Survivor. Four subway-surface lines used this new portal to reach the extended trolley subway udner Market Street. This entrance has since been upgraded (at City expense) to a transit loop. Paul Matus photo

Route 6—The Fight to Preserve a Suburban Service
The most bitter fight between the PTC and the public over a trolley to bus conversion was Route 6. Originally scheduled to be converted from end to end on October 28, 1956, the intra-Philadelphia end remained a rain line for decades longer. The line had extensive sections of private right-of-way north of the city limits separated by only about 3 miles of street running from the Olney Station of the Broad Street Subway. The only on-line substation was located at about the mid point, a mile outside the city.
     Route 6 in the mid 50s was the heaviest of the pure rapid transit feeder routes and as owner and lessor of the Broad Street Subway the City of Philadelphia protested the conversion. In an attempt to avoid interference with the City, PTC hastily changed plans and decided to retain trolley service on the city end but to substitute buses on the suburban end. The City remained as a protestant.
     Despite this and the protests of numerous civic groups the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission eventually granted permission to convert the outer end as of October, 1957. The City continued to fight, pointing out that a long section of Edge Hill Road (more than 4 miles beyond the city limits) was only 16 feet wide and unsafe for two 8 foot wide buses to pass. Since the PUC had ruled, the appeal was directed to the courts and a super  [unclear]  was granted. The PUC order could not be acted upon (i.e. the line could not be converted) until the narrow section of Edge Hill Road was widened to 20 feet. Over the winter of 1957-58 Pennsylvania Department of Highways constructed new strips along the road to add the necessary width. By spring the City and other opponents had exhausted all legal means of further delaying the PUC order and on June 8, 1958, the axe fell. By nightfall the Willow Grove terminal had no wire and was inoperable. All day express bus service (including Saturdays) was operated in an effort to maintain passenger traffic but patronage plummeted. For years the trolley offered a base day service of approximately 15 minutes (PTC never tried too hard to operate symmetrical schedules) but a few years after conversion he buses paralleling the old trolley line were put on a 40 minute headway.
     Eventually the mid day and Saturday express service could no longer be justified and off-peak passengers were forced to change vehicles at the city limits.

The Broad Street Subway, owned by the City of Philadelphia, gathered substantial business from the Route 6 line when it ran as a trolley service all the way to Willow Grove. Here a freshly painted Broad Street car, bearing the City's seal, operates into Fern Rock yard, just north of the junction with Route 6. Irvin Matus photo






Line by Line: A chart illustrating the fate of each Philadelphia trolley line.

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Last updated June 16, 2000