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Ron Degraw Transit Collection

1859-2005 Majority of material found within 1920-1990
 Collection
Accession: 2397

Abstract

The collection consists of official documents produced or used by Ronald DeGraw during his career as a public transit official and transit consultant, materials from pre-SEPTA operators of the Philadelphia transit system that he preserved from loss or destruction, research materials that he amassed for writing his published and projected books, and photographs and ephemera collected out of his interest in the history of transit systems, particularly electric traction lines or what came to be called light rail transit.

Dates

  • 1859-2005
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1990

Creator

Extent

28 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Ronald DeGraw was born on December 7, 1942. His father was a motorman for the Philadelphia & Western Railroad, an electric traction line running between Upper Darby and Norristown, Pa., that was later merged into the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (PSTC). The PSTC operated a network of trolleys and buses that fanned out through the western suburbs from the terminus of the Market Street Subway-Elevated Line at 69th Street in Upper Darby. Six other family members had worked for the P&W since 1909. Between 1965 and 1970, Degraw was a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, often covering the transit system at a time when it was moving from private to public ownership.

DeGraw was hired by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in 1970 as Director of Development of its Red Arrow Division, acquired that year by condemnation from the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company. He was promoted to Senior Project Engineer in 1976, when SEPTA took over the Schuylkill Valley Lines, Inc., operating buses in the farther suburbs along the Schuylkill River, as its Frontier Division. DeGraw was subsequently Manager of Route and Service Planning for the suburban transit lines (1980-1984), Chief Operations Planning Officer (1984-1987), Chief Operating Officer of the Suburban Transit Division (1987-?), and Chief of Long-Range Planning for SEPTA. DeGraw retired from SEPTA in 1996, and thereafter worked as an independent transportation consultant from his home in King of Prussia.

DeGraw maintained throughout his life a deep interest in the history of the company for which three generations of his family had worked and its place in the suburban communities where he lived. He was the author of three books. The first, Red Arrow, was published in 1972. He then worked on an updated and expanded version of the original work that was planned to encompass three volumes. The first, Red Arrow: The First Hundred Years, 1848-1948, was published in 1985. The second, Pig & Whistle: The Story of the Philadelphia & Western Railway, was published posthumously in 2007. DeGraw never finished the third volume that would have covered the lines' history after 1948, and he was collecting material for a fourth volume on the history of the Lehigh Valley Transit Company when he died on January 30, 2006.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of official documents produced or used by Ron DeGraw during his career as a public transit official and transit consultant, materials from pre-SEPTA operators of the Philadelphia transit system that he preserved from loss or destruction, research materials that he amassed for writing his published and projected books, and photographs and ephemera collected out of his interest in the history of transit systems, particularly electric traction lines or what came to be called light rail transit. Some of the files were acquired from earlier streetcar historians such as Howard P. Sell of Allentown and Howard L. Price.

The bulk of the collection naturally concerns the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company and Philadelphia & Western Railway, including their subsequent management as part of the SEPTA system and the PSTC's evolution into a Florida real estate concern called Bryn Mawr Corporation and ultimately the Dixon Ticonderoga Company. DeGraw also amassed a vertical file of articles, clippings, maps, publications and ephemera on historic trolley and interurban lines, mostly in Pennsylvania but including the transit systems of Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal and Toronto, and on modern light rail transit. There are some reports from DeGraw's work as a consultant, along with personal correspondence with other traction enthusiasts and news stories he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer early in his career.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Material

Harold E. Cox Transportation Collection (Collection 3158), Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Edward R. Stickel Collection (Accession 2056), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

John F. Tucker Transit Collection (Accession 2046), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Pennsylvania Railroad Company Records (Accession 1807/1810), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company Records (Accession 1370), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Reading Company Records (Accession 1520), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Records (Accession 2123), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Gift of Ronald DeGraw's executor

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Ron Degraw Transit Collection
Status:
Author:
Christopher T. Baer
Date:
2010
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400