SEPTA celebrated the opening of its new Wawa Station in Middletown Township, Pa., in grand style during August. (See Railpace Newsmagazine September 2020, October 2021, and January 2022 for our earlier coverage.) Located along the important U.S. Route 1 corridor in western Delaware County (Delco), the station opening capped a four-year project to extend regional rail service 3.5 miles from Elwyn to Middletown Township and adjoining Chester Heights borough. This extension of rail service (SEPTA’s first since the 1985 opening of the Philadelphia Airport Line) involved rehabilitating numerous culverts, building new rail bridges over Lungren Road, U.S. Route 1, and Chester Creek; installing new crossties and continuous welded rail, replacing the grade crossing at Lenni Road, construction of a crew base building and five-track stub yard at Lenni; installing double-track with crossovers from the yard into the two-track Wawa Station; new catenary and signal systems, Positive Train Control, and constructing the ADA-compliant station itself, with passenger waiting room, restroom facilities and parking deck for 600 automobiles. Electric vehicle charging stations are available within the parking structure. The high-level station, uniquely con-structed over Chester Creek, has platforms featuring LED displays with train information and the familiar SEPTA Key fare kiosks. Direct connections in the station to SEPTA bus route 111 (to/from Chadds Ford, Penn State’s Brandywine campus, and the 69th Street Transportation Center), and bus route 114 (to/from Darby Transportation Center) are available.
Rail service to Wawa began in 1856, when the West Chester & Philadelphia Railroad arrived, building from Philadelphia to West Chester, Pa. Shortly thereafter, the Philadelphia & Baltimore Central Railroad started construction of its line to Chadds Ford (1855-1859) and onward to the Susquehanna River near Port Deposit, Md. Both companies were in turn purchased by the Philadelphia, Baltimore, & Washington Railroad, and came under control of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This convergence of rail lines at Wawa provided an important conduit for agricultural and passenger traffic to Philadelphia and points south and west.
ABOVE: SEPTA ACS-64 911 with Train 9349 is approaching the former Williamson School station, built in 1909. The structure is located on the new Elwyn to Wawa extension, shown August 26, 2022. —Bill Monaghan
Through the years, trackage passed to the Penn Central, Conrail, and ultimately SEPTA, which began its own rail operations on January 1, 1983. Due to decades of deferred maintenance and funding deficits, SEPTA passenger service on the West Chester line was cut back to Elwyn in September 1986. Amtrak stone trains to the Glen Mills quarry continued, and there were occasional equipment moves to/from the West Chester Railroad, which began tourist operations on 7.7 miles of leased SEPTA trackage between Glen Mills and West Chester in 1997.
During the construction of the new station, discussions were taking place over the naming of the new facility. This culminated in the July 27, 2022, joint announcement by SEPTA and the Wawa Company of a naming rights agreement, which also featured rebranding the Media Elwyn Line as the Media Wawa Line, recognizing the new terminus. Wawa is a privately held company with historic roots in the local area. In 1900, George Wood, then owner of Wawa Dairy Farms, bought three parcels of land in the vicinity of the new station and in 1902 opened a milk processing plant in Wawa, which today processes over 40 million gallons per year. Milk from the dairy was shipped into Philadelphia for distribution using the very rail line now occupied by the SEPTA Wawa station.
ABOVE: FIRST TRAIN FROM WAWA! SEPTA Silverliner-V 863 prepares to lead train 3858, the first revenue Philadelphia-bound train, on Opening Day for Wawa Station, Sunday, August 21, 2022. On this day, SEPTA restored service on 3.5 miles of track which last carried SEPTA passengers in 1986. SEPTA and convenience store chain Wawa signed a $5.4 million, 10-year deal for naming rights to the station. —Andrew Grahl
Today, more than 960 iconic Wawa stores offer dairy products, freshly prepared foods, beverages, coffee, and fuel services in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C. As a result of the naming rights agreement, the station is decorated with current and historic Wawa Company insignias, including the evolution of its corporate logo over the years, and a map of Delaware County highlighting the SEPTA regional rail line and the location of the first Wawa convenience store in Folsom, Pennsylvania. Graphics on the corridor walls offer stylized trains with Wawa food products riding on flat cars coupled to SEPTA passenger cars…