I enjoyed “Where the Tracks Lie” [January 2008]. And since Jim Waltzer cited me as a source, I would like to offer some additional information.
While SEPTA maintains that it cannot design a bi-level (double-deck) commuter car because of restricted clearances in the Center City rail tunnel, New Jersey Transit now operates bi-level cars measuring 14 feet 6 inches above the rail, which is within the maximum 4-foot-8-inch clearance in the Amtrak tunnels to Penn Station in New York City. SEPTA’s overhead clearance leading to the Philadelphia commuter rail tunnel is 14 feet 9 inches, and clearance in the tunnel itself is 15 feet—both of which are more generous than in the New York tunnels.
Bi-level cars, therefore, are feasible here, but SEPTA instead signed up for 120 new Silverliner V single-level cars. SEPTA currently operates seven train sets with electric locomotives and unpowered coaches, which could be converted to bi-level equipment if necessary.
One minor correction to the article: The original Main Line of Public Works, opened in 1834, extended from Philadelphia to Columbia, not Harrisburg. Passen- gers and freight were handled in canal boats from Columbia to Hollidaysburg en route to Pittsburgh.
Frank G. Tatnall
Herb Engelsberg took the photos in April’s “Earth Friendly” Habitat feature.
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