30th Street Station – Amtrak’s Stunning Station - and SEPTA Also Runs There

2008 06 29 - 236 - Philadelphia - 30th Street Station

Panoramic view of SEPTA / Amtrak 30th Street Station at night, 30th and Market Streets

View 30th Street Station - Amtrak in a larger map

It is Amtrak’s station in Philadelphia, which is what “30th Street” is primarily known for. But the vast majority of SEPTA Regional Rail trains also stop there, and you can change from SEPTA to Amtrak (and vice versa) without even going outside the station complex.

Getting to Philadelphia Attractions Once You've Disembarked at 30th Street Station

Given that 30th Street Station is Amtrak's major station in the Philadelphia region, it would be logical to assume that if you have taken Amtrak to Philadelphia, that it's the best place to begin exploring the many attractions of the city and region. However, this is not the case.

Particularly if you are from out of town, you should take SEPTA Regional Rail to either Suburban Station - located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard - or Market East Station - located at 11th and Market Streets. For the vast majority of Philadelphia attractions, either or both of these stations, would be a better place for you to start your explorations.

Fortunately, reaching them is easy, especially if you have an Amtrak ticket. Your Amtrak ticket is valid for you to travel to Suburban Station or Market East, for free. All you need to do is wind up on an eastbound SEPTA Regional Rail train. Suburban Station is the next stop from 30th Street; Market East, the second stop. The journey from 30th Street to Suburban is about five minutes; to Market East, about ten minutes. Since most SEPTA trains will hit all three of them, you won't have to wait long, even at off-peak hours.

Another advantage of using your Amtrak ticket, is that you don't have to wait in line at the SEPTA ticket windows, for your short journey to either station.

If you've never done it before, simply follow the signs that say "SEPTA Regional Rail". Ask one of the SEPTA employees to direct you to a train platform that will have trains traveling toward Suburban Station and Market East. You'll have to go up on an open-air platform, but you don't have to leave the station itself.

Important note: Make sure that you ask the SEPTA conductor, of the train you board:

"Is this train headed to Suburban Station and/or Market East Station?"

It is vital that you end up on an eastbound train. If you end up on a westbound train, by accident, you're looking at an extremely long and confusing detour, to get yourself back to Center City. It's easier to ask, before you get on.

Once you're on the SEPTA train, don't bother to sit down, as you'll be disembarking very quickly, at either of the other two stations.

Walking from 30th Street Station to Philadelphia Attractions - "I Really Like Walking..."

If you have the time and energy, and the weather isn't too hot or cold, you can, of course, walk from 30th Street Station, to the many Philadelphia attractions, across the Schuylkill River.

Here are the distances:

To the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the home of the Rocky steps and statue) - located at 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway - 3.0 miles.

To the Franklin Institute - located at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway - 0.8 miles. Cross the Schuylkill River, and continue on JFK Boulevard, until you reach 20th Street. Turn left, heading north on 20th. You do the same to visit Logan Circle - sometimes known as Logan Square - and its Swann Memorial Fountain .

For the Academy of Natural Sciences - located at 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway - 0.8 miles. Just continue on JFK Boulevard to 19th Street, and turn left, heading north on 19th, until you arrive.

For Philadelphia City Hall and the William Penn Statue - located at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets - is slightly further. Broad is the equivalent of "14th Street", as the street grid goes, "15th, Broad, 13th."

Take John F. Kennedy Boulevard all the way to 15th Street, and you'll be able to see the gigantic building across the street - it's about 1.2 miles.

If You're Really Up For A Long Walk - Reaching Old City and Historic Philadelphia On Foot

If you're really up for a long walk-

To reach Independence Visitor Center - located at 6th and Market Streets - just stay on JFK Boulevard until you reach City Hall, where it merges with Market Street. Continue eastbound on Market, until you reach 6th Street, and it is on the northeast corner. The walk is about 1.9 miles.

The Liberty Bell is located across the street, on the south side of Market Street. Independence Hall is located on Chestnut Street, right behind the Liberty Bell, between 5th and 6th. However, you must stop at Independence Visitor Center to obtain a free, timed ticket to visit it. (No tickets are required for the Liberty Bell, however.)

One reason we wouldn't recommend walking all the way from 30th Street down here, is the fact that if you're pressed for time, you are going to need to allow time to get your ticket, and if you're coming on a weekend and/or during peak visitor season, there's a very good chance that you won't be able to get a ticket for Independence Hall for that day, and it would be a shame for you to miss it.

"So Why Is 30th Street Station Located All the Way on the Other Side of the Schuylkill River?": 30th Street Station History - A Timeline

Here are some key dates:

1881 - The Pennsylvania Railroad opens its new Broad Street Station, as its main passenger terminal in Philadelphia. (This station no longer exists, so don't confuse it with the current SEPTA Orange Line subway route.)

1892-1893 - Just over a decade after its opening, the Pennsylvania Railroad opts to substantially expand Broad Street Station, with the noted architect Frank Furness. As a result, it is the largest passenger railroad terminal in the world, covering 16 tracks!

Despite its size, there are two major problems with Broad Street Station. The Pennsylvania Railroad offered inter-city service, but the station couldn't permit them to leave without "back-up moves", which were inefficient. The other was the commuter service, which eventually became the majority of the traffic - but it was also difficult to turn the commuter trains around. The Pennsylvania Railroad's need to solve these logistical problems, eventually gave rise to both Suburban Station and 30th Street Station.

1910 - The City of Philadelphia's planned diagonal boulevard, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, from City Hall to Fairmount Park, means that there will be a big problem with any subsequent attempt to expand Broad Street Station, in order to fix the turn-around problem.

1920 - Broad Street Station hosts the heaviest passenger traffic of any station, on the entire Pennsylvania Railroad, at its peak of popularity.

June 11, 1923 - Broad Street Station's shed is destroyed by fire.

June, 1925 - The Pennsylvania Railroad and the City of Philadelphia reach an agreement, as to the future of Broad Street Station. The Railroad agrees to yield property near City Hall, for the proposed Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and also to build a new "Suburban Station" to eventually replace the nearby Broad Street Station. It also agrees to build a brand-new station west of the Schuylkill River, in order to solve the turn-around problem.

In exchange for these concessions, the City gives the Railroad the tunnel rights under 15th Street, for its new station.

1925-1929 - Various and sundry architectural designs are proposed for the new train station. The Chicago architectural firm of Graham Anderson Probst and White, is awarded the design by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

1930 - Suburban Station opens at 16th Street.

1934 - "Pennsylvania Station - 30th Street" - so named because of its corporate owner, just like the other Penn Stations throughout America - opened for passenger traffic.

Among other things, the brand-new, state-of-the-art railroad terminal had a mortuary (now a conference room), a chapel (now office space), and no less than 3,300 square feet for a hospital (now a Conrail infirmary).

In order to accommodate the cutting-edge science of aviation, it had a concrete concourse roof that was designed to permit a small aircraft to land at 30th Street Station. This feature is no longer used.

1952 - The old Broad Street Station closes permanently to passenger traffic.

1953 - Broad Street Station is demolished. The only traces of it today are the Penn Center office buildings, which sit on its site, and a blue and gold Pennsylvania historic marker on 15th Street.

June 7, 1978 - 30th Street Station is officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2005 - A proposal is made to rename the station after Benjamin Franklin, whose 300th birthday celebrations would take place in 2006, but the idea is abandoned.

If you would like to return to the SEPTA Regional Rail Guide, please click here.

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