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Earle Baldwin

SEPTA Brill Bullet

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[float=right]bulcov.jpg[/float]In 1907, the Philadelphia and Western Railroad inaugurated passenger service between 69th Street in Philadelphia and Strafford, PA. Complete with its high level platform stations, this third rail electric route was developed to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad by virtue of lower fares, more frequent service and shorter travel times.

 

In response to the desire of Lehigh Valley Transit for a high speed route into Philadelphia, P&W initiated service from Villanova to Norristown in 1912. P&W and LVT shared the new trackage until the latter ceased run through operations following World War II. P&W later abandoned the Strafford Line due to low patronage, leaving Norristown as the extreme outlying point of its reconfigured system.

 

In an effort to counter mounting competition for commuter traffic from PRR and Reading, during the early 30's, Philadelphia & Western modernized its physical plant. The plan included rebuilding of trackage to high speed standards. In addition, ten new light weight cars were ordered from J.G. Brill. Designed using very advanced methods for the era, the new equipment was a radical departure from standard electric railway practice. Wth its tapered ends and streamlined appearance, the new car received the nickname "Bullet." Placed into service in 1931, the Bullets promptly reduced running time between 69th Street and Norristown by approximately thirty percent. They did so by covering the entire line, including stops, at an average speed in excess of fifty miles per hour! Providing stellar service during the ensuing decades, several members of the class remained active until retired by SEPTA in 1990. Several cars have been preserved.

 

Our video titled "Bullet" was taped by Transit Gloria Mundi as the careers of the remaining Bullets were winding down although they were still performing as impressively as the day they were built. The program begins at SEPTA's 69th Street Terminal where we observe a wide variety of traction equipment arriving and departing. Equipment of all rail lines including the Norristown, Media, Sharon Hill and Market-Frankford Subway-Elevated can be spotted. Following several views of Bullets around the terminal, we board one for the exciting trip to Norristown. Our on board experience is enhanced by the inclusion of views from different perspectives including the Operator's compartment, the coach area and a very unique view from the car's head end at track level. Trackside scenes at various locations are skillfully interspersed as we work our way toward Norristown. As the Bullet approaches the end of the line, we are treated to the ride up the viaduct to the elevated terminal. It's quite a thrill.

 

The program is nineteen minutes in duration, providing the viewer with a satisfactory taste of the Bullet experience. There is no narration and we are allowed to enjoy the growl of the traction motors as the car increases to track speed and the thumping of the compressors while it discharges and board passengers. The video features dramatic music during its opening and closing scenes, very befitting the Bullet and its legacy. Priced at $24.95, this program is a worthy tribute to an electric railway legend making it a highly recommended addition to the collection of any enthusiast.

 

The Transit Gloria Mundi website is http://www.transitgloriamundi.com.

 

Enjoy,

 

Earle

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