Max Champlin ’25 Explores Haverford’s Rails and Roads

On view in Lutnick Library through the end of the semester, an exhibit curated by Champlin explores Haverford’s transportation history, from the Pennsylvania Railroad to the Blue Bus.

Every day, hundreds of Haverford and Bryn Mawr students travel between both campuses using a transportation service that is both free and a vital part of Bi-Co culture: the Blue Bus. It makes more than 15 trips between the two schools each day and has become an essential resource for many, but getting around as a student wasn’t always so convenient.

Max Champlin ’25’s exhibit, From Rails to Roads: Transportation at Haverford College, on view until the end of the semester in the Magill wing of Lutnick Library, tells the history of transportation at Haverford. Through photographs, newspaper clippings, and correspondence across three display cases, the exhibit reconstructs the development of transportation at Haverford from the heyday of railroads to the rise of personal vehicles.

“The Blue Bus started as a little 12-person van, and it was driven by students. It was daytime only, I think, and there were only four trips a day: two in the morning, one around the afternoon, when classes get out, and one in the evening,” Champlin, a linguistics major, says.

The exhibit spans 1866 to 1977. It begins with railroads at Haverford in the mid-to late-19th century, highlights the popularity of bikes in the early 20th century, and ends with the emergence of the Blue Bus and parking on campus in the 1970s.

Getting around on the Blue Bus is a central part of Bi-Co culture, but it wasn’t always so convenient. Photo by Holden Blanco ’17.

Haverford’s centrally located campus, which allows it to stay closely connected with surrounding communities, is just a half-hour train ride from Philadelphia and a 10-minute drive from Bryn Mawr’s campus. Today, SEPTA’s Norristown High Speed Line Haverford stop, sits at the intersection of College Ave. and Haverford Road, offers regular service to Philadelphia, but the original Pennsylvania Railroad station was on the north side of campus, Champlin says. 

 “The bridge that goes over to Yarnall house — where Nerd House is and where the Haverford Friends Meeting is — goes over Railroad Avenue, which used to be the railroad,” he explains. “From what I can tell, the set of stairs that heads down off the nature trail down the side of Railroad Avenue leads down to the location of the old platform.”

The exhibit grew from Champlin’s deep interest in trains and serves as a way for him to localize that interest while at the College. “It’s been a hobby of mine to look at trains,” he says. “I have about 20 different tap cards for various metro systems around the world, and l collect every unique train ticket.”

His penchant for collection served him well this summer as he worked in Haverford’s libraries as an intern tasked with documenting student life. While retrieving and returning materials kept in the Quaker and Special Collections, he started thinking about how he could share his passion for trains with the wider Haverford community. The resulting exhibit, which he considers a passion project, is his attempt to offer the Haverford community a moment to consider the College’s transportation history.

“I really hope people look at the exhibit and think about not just the railroads, which are my personal favorite, but also the college shuttle busses to Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore,” he says, “l hope that people think about the history there and the people that make it happen.”