The Chester Creek Branch, originally of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was constructed shortly after the Civil War and parallels the scenic Chester Creek. The railroad served the interests of local businesses and created opportunities for new ventures as it traversed the gently rolling hills and mature wooded areas of the Chester Creek Valley. During the Industrial Revolution, mills, factories, and warehouses located adjacent to the rail while new communities sprouted near rail depots. The Chester Creek Branch was a vital link in the economic development of Southern Delaware County.
As modes of transportation diversified patterns of development changed. With the advancement of the automobile and the interstate highway system, rail service fell out of demand, and many Chester Creek businesses relocated. After the Chester Creek Branch sustained severe flood damage in the early 1970’s, the line was taken out of service and finally deeded to SEPTA.
Since service was discontinued, much of the rail corridor has become overgrown. Many of the bridges, however, remain intact, and the tracks and the ties were never removed. Meanwhile, many former industrial-use buildings along the corridor have been adapted to residences and businesses, or have been preserved as historical sites and recreational areas.
In 1994, several citizen groups in Delaware County organized The Friends of the Chester Creek Branch and laid the groundwork to convert the rail line to a multi-use trail. The Friends of the Chester Creek Branch was originally incorporated as part of the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association,
a non-profit organization, and then incorporated separately in the summer of 1997 as an organization dedicated to the completion of the rail-trail project.
The Phase 1 Feasibility Study was completed in 2002, the Friends secured the rights to the rail line in 2005, and the engineering study began in 2009. Final project approvals for Phase I were completed in November 2014. Construction began in mid-2015 and Phase I was completed in December 2016.
Engineering work on Phase II (Aston) is beginning, with planning efforts continuing on other sections.