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Red Arrow Lines photographs

Creation: 1899-1970
Accession: 1972-438
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.


Red Arrow Lines, Inc. was a suburban transit company. This collection contains photographs of Red Arrow Lines transit vehicles and stations that were used in book R. DeGraw, Red Arrow Lines.


  • Creation: 1899-1970



3.5 Linear Feet

General Physical Description

20 photographic prints : b&w ; 16 x 20 inch or smaller. 86 photographic prints : b&w ; 11 x 14 inch or smaller. 1413 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 inch or smaller. 217 photographic prints : b&w ; 4 x 5 inch or smaller. 1 photographic print : b&w ; 25 x 30 cm. 2 photographic prints : cyanotypes ; 11 x 19.5 cm. 44 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 10 inch or smaller. 2 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 11.5 cm. 3 photographic prints : color ; 5 x7 inch. 8 photographic prints : color ; 4 x 5 inch. 904 negatives : b&w ; 4 x 5 inch or smaller. 1 negative : b&w ; 5 x 7 inch. 8 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 inch. 3 negatives : b&w ; 35 mm. 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 inch. 30 negatives : color ; 4 x 5 inch or smaller. 10 transparencies : color 1.5 x 2 inch. 3 items : blueprints ; 73 x 143 cm. or smaller. 3 items : maps ; 92 x 578 cm. or smaller. 10 items : drawings ; 35 x 61 cm.

Historical Note

The Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company was incorporated in 1936 by the merger of the Philadelphia & West Chester Traction Company and the Philadelphia & Garrettford Street Railway Company.

The oldest element in the company's transportation system was the Philadelphia & West Chester Turnpike Road Company, which built a plank road from 42nd Street, Philadelphia, to Newtown Square in 1850-1851. It was converted into a macadam turnpike in 1856-1867 and was finally condemned by the state highway department in 1918. The Delaware County Passenger Rail Road Company built a horse car line along the turnpike as far as Upper Darby in 1859 but discontinued service in 1865, after which it was purchased by the turnpike company and torn up.

The Philadelphia, Castle Rock & West Chester Railway Company restored the line in 1895 using steam dummies, and the Philadelphia & West Chester Traction Company was organized on April 24, 1895, for the purpose of electrifying and operating the line. It also acquired the turnpike company. Electric trolley wire was installed in 1896, and the line was extended to West Chester in 1898. In 1899 the company passed into the hands of A. Merritt Taylor, who greatly expanded the system and used it to foster real estate development in the western suburbs.

Hoping to extend the line from West Chester to Coatesville, Taylor purchased the remnant of the old Philadelphia & Lancaster Turnpike in 1899. The extension was blocked by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the turnpike was condemned by the state in 1901. In 1902 the Ardmore & Llanerch Street Railway Company completed a branch to Ardmore. Taylor formed the Eureka Light, Heat & Power Company in 1901 to sell surplus electricity to homeowners.

In 1903 work began on the Market Street elevated which greatly improved the travel time from center city to the western city line. Taylor was quick to exploit the possibilities this offered to real estate developers in the western suburbs. He organized the Philadelphia & Garrettford Street Railway Company in 1904 and constructed a high-speed trolley line on a private right of way from Upper Darby to Collingdale in 1906-1907. A branch was opened from Drexel Hill Jct. to Media in 1913, and the original line was extended to Sharon Hill in 1917. Taylor arranged for all his lines to meet the Market Street el. at a large terminal at 69th Street in Upper Darby in 1907, but opposition of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company prevented him from running his cars directly to center city over the el. as planned.

Small bus operators began to compete with Taylor's rail system in 1918. In 1923 he established the Aronimink Transportation Company as his own bus line, and it soon became the dominant bus company in the western suburbs. In 1940 the revenues from the bus lines surpassed those from the trolleys. A. Merritt Taylor retired in 1932 and was succeeded by his son Merritt H. Taylor.

The Philadelphia & Western Railroad Company was incorporated on May 21, 1902. It was sold at foreclosure in 1907 and reorganized as the Philadelphia & Western Railway Company. In the same year it opened a short suburban line from 69th Street to Strafford. The company was purchased by a group of Philadelphia bankers in 1910 for the purpose of securing a Philadelphia entry for their Lehigh Valley Transit Company, and a new line was opened from Villanova Jct. to Norristown in 1912.

Ridership on the P&W collapsed in the Depression, and the company engaged Dr. Thomas Conway, who had rehabilitated several interurban lines in the Midwest. He upgraded the property, shortened running times, and cut costs, and equipped the Norristown line with the Brill Bullets, lightweight aluminum streamlined cars that were the first of their type in the U.S. The company, however, remained in bankruptcy during the Depression.

Between 1943 and 1946, Merritt H. Taylor acquired control of the P&W, and the line was reorganized as the Philadelphia & Western Railroad Company. It was merged into the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company in 1953. Buses replaced trolley lines after World War II: the West Chester line was discontinued in 1954, the Strafford line in 1956, and the Ardmore line in 1966. In 1963 Merritt H. Taylor, Jr., bought the articulated, streamlined Electroliners from the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee for use on the Norristown line. The company maintained high levels of service until its properties were purchased by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority on January 29, 1970. The company was then renamed the Bryn Mawr Group, Inc., and became a Florida real estate company.

Scope and Content

There are identified and dated photographs of trolley cars (some which were produced by J.G. Brill Company of Philadelphia) and also interurban railroads from around the country, including the Los Angeles Mutual Transit Authority.

Of particular note is an album from 1899 to 1901 of good quality photographs which were taken along the length of the trolley route (from 63rd and Market Streets in Philadelphia, the sight of Millbourne Mills, along West Chester Pike to West Goshen Township, Pa.). Included are views of the coal trestle from which the powerhouse was supplied.

A second album from the Union Switch and Signal Company shows an electro-pneumatic interlocking machine used at the 69th Street Terminal. Images include views of screw releases, emergency releases, and track diagram.

A third album includes rolling stock from: Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company; Philadelphia & Western Railroad; Lehigh Valley Transit Company; Philadelphia Transportation Company; Fairmont Park Transportation Company; Branford Electric Railway; and assorted electric and steam railways. Each photograph is identified and many are dated. There are some views of the Beechwood Park Station that do not appear elsewhere.

In addition, there is a large collection of negatives (dates 1907-1969) from the Philadelphia and Western Railroad Company, the Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Company, Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company which show stations (including 69th Street), cars, track, bridges, car barns, etc. Some of these negatives were printed and appear in the third album described above, but there are a great many that have not been printed.

There is oversize material consisting of maps, blueprints, drawings of trolley cars, architectural elevations, and 11 x 14 inch photographs. Some of these were used in DeGraw's first book. These photographs include aerial views taken for A. Merritt Taylor and show his real estate developments in Brookline, Llanerch, and Millbourne, Pa. (1926-1937). Maps are as follows: map of Phila. & Western Railway right-of-way on Johnston property, Radnor Township (1905); map showing real estate tract development near 69th St. Terminal (1919); map showing location of trolley lines and poles on Phila. and West Chester Rd., Edgemont Township, Delaware County (1926-1928); route map of trolley lines, Phila. Suburb. Trans. Co./Red Arrow Lines (undated, possibly 1952?); route map of the Red Arrow Lines bus routes, Phila. Suburb. Trans. Co. bus and rail lines, the Phila. Trans. Co. bus and rail lines (1963); map of Phila. & Western Railway right-of-way on Stroud property, Tredyffrin and Radnor Townships, Chester and Delaware Counties, Pa. (n.d.); plans showing the properties and right of way of Phila. & Garrettford St. Rwy. from Garrettford to Aldan, Pa., and Aldan to Collingsdale, Pa. (n.d.); detail of map of Phila. Rapid Transit Co. bus lines and trolley platforms (69th St. Terminal?) (n.d.). Architectural plans are as follows: proposed layout for Strafford, Pa., station and platform (1911); plans and elevations for 69th St. Terminal by Jack Swerman, A.I.A. (1958); plans and elevations of North Station, Conshohocken Rd. (n.d.). Trolley drawings are as follows. From the Phila. Suburban Trans. Co.: car 12 built by St. Louis (1949); cars 26 (1942) and car 84 (1932) built by Brill; from Phila. and Garrettford St. Rwy.: car 40 built by Jewett (1914); from Phila. & Western Rwy. cars 60 (1924) and 160 (1929, converted 1935) built by Brill; from Phila. & West Chester Traction Co. cars 5 (1896), 30 (1907), 52 (1919), 106 (1900); Red Arrow freight car 7 (1911), car 2, a small rotary snow plow (1899), and a double truck sweeper (1922).

Existence and Location of Copies

View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Related Material

Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company records (Accession 1370), Manuscripts and Archives Dept., Hagley Museum and Library

Related materials also located at Haverford Township (Pa.) Historical Society.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


  • The Red Arrow: A history of One of the Most Successful Suburban Transit Companies in the World by Ronald DeGraw Haverford, Pa., Haverford Press, 1972.

Conservation note

72.438.71 DeGraw Page 102-03 conserved june 2003 suface cleaned; tape removed; paper mended hinz

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Red Arrow Lines photographs
Laurie Rizzo
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA