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Noontime Traffic Jam on the Schuylkill Expressway

The Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) was constructed between 1949 to ’59 and pre-dated the Interstate Highway System, it follows the Schuylkill river for most of its run. It begins at the King of Prussia exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike located northwest of Philadelphia and continues on to the south side of the City and crosses over the Delaware River to Camden, New Jersey.

Designed before the Interstate Highway standards were established, it has been a dangerous and congested roadway plagued by traffic jams since the day it opened; locally it is referred to as the “Surekill Expressway.”

Today’s feature image by photographer Jack Tinney titled “Traffic Jam” was taken at noontime on August 11, 1961, south of the borough of Conshohocken a suburb of Philadelphia. Waiting in-line in the picture are a number of late-1950s to early-60s cars and trucks.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the Temple University photo archives.




40 responses to “Noontime Traffic Jam on the Schuylkill Expressway

    • Behind the ’60 FORD Falcon Tudor Sedan is a four-door 1960 DODGE Dart Seneca Sedan. There’s another ’60 DODGE Dart, two cars behind the “GUERIN” truck.

  1. Only the model years change on the Surekill Distressway. I drive in that area on occasion to visit family, and I try my best to avoid that road, especially around the Conshy Curve.

    The trailer on that first truck must be heavy – 12 tires for what looks to be at most a normal length trailer?

    • That B series Mack seems to have a gas engine–no stack and no soot on the trailer. With that refer, it may be hauling hanging beef which is heavy.

    • Hi Steve, I don’t see 12 wheels on the trailer, 8 was the usual setup for the reefers, probably 28 footers. ( the little wheels are for the landing gear) The Mack is probably a B61, and being a gas job, probably had the 540ci, 185 hp. (the 707ci gas motor was for the B71 series)
      Since I’m at it, the cabover farther back looks like a KW, but could be a Freightliner, and next to it, a GMC.

  2. Looking at the Falcons right next to the Dodge of the same year, I’m impressed with how quickly Detroit abandoned the Buck Rogers school of auto design. I know it lingered on in the larger cars, Chrysler products, in particular. But the Falcon was the simplified sign of things to come.

  3. The rider sitting on the right side rail of the Ford pickup (upper left behind the Guerin semi) appears to be looking to add a body to the Surekill Expressway.

  4. I recall driving on this road in 1961-66; because it was built so early, interstate highway standards were not yet well developed; notice almost zero space on either side of the center guard rail. . Fifth car back on the left looks like an early Saab.

    • As a mindless highway commuter for many years; I always envied the very few drivers on the other side of the road that weren’t stuck in gridlock. When you’re stuck in traffic like that, you have plenty of time to question your career choice.

      • And the driver of the 61 Pontiac behind the SAAB is enjoying breathing the fumes from his two-stroke engine … unless the SAAB driver splurged for the V-4 model!

        • SAABs had the two stroke engine until well into the 1960’s – I owned both a 1960 93B with that engine and a 1969 96 with the Taunus V-4 sourced from Ford of Germany. Both were great little cars.

  5. Looks like a Willy wagon or pickup next to the DIVCO. The car behind the Rambler wagon looks almost like a SAAB, but this seems way too early for that body style.

    • SAABs always looked very similar. That body style went from first production in 1950 right up to late 70s with many detail changes – windows, bumpers, grilles, lights, etc. Switched from suicide doors to normal doors in about 1960. It is hard to tell from the photo but I would guess that one is pretty new when the picture was taken .

    • The Willys is a wagon. You can see the divider for the tail gate rear window. The one-piece windshield in front makes it a 1960 or newer.
      Love the DIVCO. It looks smaller than I’m used to seeing.

  6. Parked alongside, a 1961 Dodge, I think the newest car in this pic. Maybe Police Control? They used Dodge Polaras with special equipment.

  7. The Saab 92 debuted that body in 1949 and was updated to a Model 93 in 1956, the same year the first car was officially imported into the USA. This appears to have a split windshield, which makes it one of the first in the country. They went to a one piece windshield in 1957.

  8. Back in the 80s I was with a group driving on the Schuylkill on our way to a ball game. We started a contest to see who could spot the largest auto part along the side of the road. The winner saw a transmission.

  9. I agree with all said above. These things I found also. I had fun with the width of this road as a tow truck driver.

    One feature that I’ll always remember is, upon opening, the speed limit was faster than any around. At the time PA state limit was 50mph (true). The expressway was posted at 60mph, wow. After we got away from the national speed of 55mph, ( which began in the ’70s ) the Schuylkill stayed at 55mph. However, on a good busy day, just moving more than 30mph is a plus.

    • I’m also amazed at how the road surface is still pristine, being so new in that photo. Born and raised in the Phila. area, I’ve driven that road many many times. It’s an absolute nightmare.

    • I had an uncle who lived in Philly his entire life, and he always called it the “Sure-to-kill-ya Distressway.”

  10. On the other side of the road, there is a mid-50’s (GM?) pickup truck driving away with its tailgate down and…. is there someone in the right hand corner of the trucks bed, near the cab…?

    Anyone else see that?

  11. Nobody admitted to the: F.O. R. D. ” Found On (the) Road , Dead” on the R.H.S. of the Expressway! Or was it a: Shove-(to) roll – let??? Oh, well, at least it wasn’t stuck in traffic! The first U.S. “fast roads” tried to “imitate” the Autobahns in Germany! They were usually: “experiments only” with big lessons to learn!!! : Example: the Arroyo Seco Parkway (re-named: the Pasasdena Freeway, years later. On – ramps and Off ramps — ALL had stop signs !!! This resulted in (on- going !!!) spectacular collisions! original speed limit was 45 MPH. Upped to 55 MPH(!!!) when it “became a Freeway! This only resulted in a better chance of mayhem!!! (same ramp problems!!!) Edwin W.

  12. It’s funny the traffic jams remain the same. Only the cars have been change to protect the innocent. A little dragnet throwback.

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