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October 19, 2011

One for the rail fans

by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

Rail fans Liam and Bill McCann get an up-close view of a Broad Street Line car.

Rail fans Liam and Bill McCann get an up-close view of a Broad Street Line car.

Almost every transit authority has them — the buffs who know every detail about every vehicle and piece of equipment ever used by an organization.  For the second consecutive year, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) paid tribute to the passion of its rail fans by inviting them to attend its recent annual Rail Rodeo competition.

Sixty rail fans — winners of a special ticket lottery — were treated to a behind the scenes look at SEPTA’s Fern Rock Maintenance Facility, a place few outside of the Authority are able to venture.  Based on the attendees’ reactions, it was an experience few will forget.

Previously only open to SEPTA employees and their families, the annual Rail Rodeo allows Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Line operators, Regional Rail engineers and conductors and yard motorpersons to participate in various tests of operational and mechanical skill on SEPTA’s trains. The rail fans in attendance were allowed to take part in the competition, riding on the Broad Street Line during the operations test.

A SEPTA employee explains the operation of the Authority's Broad Street Line subway to a young Rail Rodeo attendee.

A SEPTA employee explains the operation of the Authority's Broad Street Line subway to a young Rail Rodeo attendee.

Rodeo lottery winners were also given the opportunity to ride the newest  addition to SEPTA’s rail fleet — the Silverliner V, — “talk shop” with SEPTA maintenance staff, see demonstrations of the equipment that makes the trains run and get up close views of subway cars on lifts.

“Opening up the Rodeo to our rail fans has been a hit,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “I think our employees have enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk to people who share their enthusiasm for the rails and our lottery winners have appreciated the recognition SEPTA has given them by inviting them to an ‘Authority only’ event.  Attending the Rodeo gives them terrific bragging rights in the rail fan community.”

Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA


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  • George Gong[ October 19th, 2011 @ 9:48am ]

    Sadly I don't believe many in management who operate Public Transportation systems realize the great public relations that comes from allowing tours of their facilities when able to. The Roadeo is another event which bring the general public and the "fans" or "buffs" up close and personal. Makes one understand that operating a transit vehicle isn't like baking a cake! I think the more the general public gets to see "behind the scenes" and talk with staff, the more they too understand what's exactly behind the operations of what one can take for granted everyday on a utilitarian basis. I hope more agencies open their doors to the public. Even sell memorabilia with their company logo promoting public transit like t shirts, sweatshirts, caps, models, etc.

  • R Troy[ October 19th, 2011 @ 9:52am ]

    Well done SEPTA!

  • Ashok Joshi[ October 19th, 2011 @ 1:05pm ]

    Well done again. Here, here! As a local rider on Media Line I can see some station improvements in progress. I wanted to obtain some information about the types of changes being put in place - and SEPTA Management was very receptive to provide photos and information about funding for infrastructure improvement. Keeping the customer informed is one thing and extending a helpful hand is even more refreshing. Now how about a new challenge for SEPTA and other commuter Rail Authorities -- How are you going to control the use/abuse of i-Phone S ? Think about that. Thanks SEPTA Now let us move on to the next stage of renewal -- New Payments Technologies -- New AFC.

  • Richard`[ October 19th, 2011 @ 2:44pm ]

    At least one transit system, opened their doors to rail fans, instead of threatening to throw them in jail.

  • Carl Wallenmeyer[ October 20th, 2011 @ 4:06pm ]

    Too bad most railroads don't get the idea that railfans are not there worse enymies, but actually their best friends.

  • dmyers[ November 1st, 2011 @ 12:45pm ]

    There is no question that rodeos enhance rider appreciation and respect of transit operators. As a 30 year transit professional AND enthusiast, I am still excited to participate whenever I am able. It really is a shame that "downsizing" is the reason given when agencies withdraw from the event.

  • Carl C. Jackson[ November 2nd, 2011 @ 2:11pm ]

    Kudos to SEPTA. I was always enthused when my grandfather took me down to the where he worked - MTA's Coney Island Complex - as a kid. It fostered a life long love of trains.

  • Kayleigh[ November 8th, 2011 @ 4:13pm ]

    AFAIC that's the best ansewr so far!

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Author Bio

Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA


Marcia Ferranto

President/CEO, WTS International

Marcia Ferranto is President/CEO of WTS International.


Scott Belcher

President and CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)


Joe Zavisca

Joe Zavisca is an independent consultant specializing in paratransit service.


Paul Mackie

Communications Director, Mobility Lab

Paul Mackie is communications director at Mobility Lab, a leading U.S. voice of “transportation demand management.”


Rob Taylo

Founder/CEO SinglePoint Communications

Rob Taylo is founder/CEO of SinglePoint Communications, an exclusive U.S. distributor of WiFi in Motion.


Joel Volinski

Director, National Center for Transit Research at CUTR/USF


Brian Antolin

Consultant, Transportation and Travel Industry


Zack Shubkagel

Partner/Creative Director of Willoughby Design

Zack Shubkagel is partner and creative director for the San Francisco office of Willoughby Design, a strategic branding and design firm.


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