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Take a Spin on SEPTA's Spiffy "Speakeasy Silverliner": It's the Bee's Knees

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

SEPTA takes customers from Point A to Point B, but never from decade to decade. Until now.

Through April 2013, Regional Rail riders can be transported to the "Jazz Age" on board the "Speakeasy Silverliner", a specially decorated Silverliner V car that celebrates the new National Constitution Center (NCC) exhibit, "American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition".

The train car's interior was covered in a wallpaper-like plastic wrap with graphics to look like a 1920s speakeasy named "Dewey's". But riders don't need to know a secret password or special knock to get inside - they just need their SEPTA pass or ticket.

This is the first time the interior of a Silverliner V car has been covered in a full wrap. The car's walls look as though they've been decorated with a deep red wallpaper, pictures and sconces; the ceiling with faux tin and crown molding. Some windows appear to be a wooden liquor cabinet, stocked with bottles. Other windows feature police officers, bathing beauties on the beach and bootleggers. An unsavory character stands at a door, knocking to get into the club while Al Capone, flappers, musicians and a bartender pouring martinis greet passengers entering the "joint". The wrap was designed by Philadelphia advertising agency Holton Sentivan + Gury and created by California-based IMAGIC.

The Silverliner car is a moving billboard for American Spirits, which opened on October 19. The exhibit explores the age of Prohibition, from the passage of the 18th Amendment in January 1920 to the repeal of Prohibition with the passage of the 21st Amendment in December 1933. From The Great Gatsby and flappers to suffragettes and gangsters, American Spirits examines the politics, culture and society of the era with artifacts, games, lectures and parties.

"The Speakeasy Silverliner not only allows our customers to step back in time to the Age of Prohibition, but it also serves as a reminder that SEPTA is the way to go when visiting our region's many cultural institutions," said Authority General Manager Joseph Casey. "I invite everyone to ride our system and then visit the National Constitution Center."

To "christen" the Speakeasy Silverliner and mark the opening of American Spirits, SEPTA and the NCC teamed up for a nifty celebration at Suburban Station on October 25, complete with a sparkling cider toast and Society Hill Dance Academy dancers kicking up their heels to the Charleston.

"We are 'jazzed'," said NCC Interim President and CEO Vince Stango. "We are thrilled to partner with SEPTA on the Speakeasy Silverliner, their first train car to be fully-designed, inside and out, for a media campaign. We can't imagine a more fun, fascinating time in American history than the Roaring '20s to inspire its first design."

The Speakeasy Silverliner car hit the rails on October 26. It will run on various SEPTA Regional Rail lines through April. SEPTA customers can enter to win tickets to American Spirits by taking their photo on board the car and posting it to Twitter using #NCCSpeakeasy or to Facebook and tagging National Constitution Center and SEPTA. For contest rules, click here.

In addition to the Speakeasy Silverliner's interior, an exterior wrap with revelers inviting passengers to join the party will appear on another Silverliner V car. This marks the third time advertising has appeared on the outside of SEPTA Regional Rail train cars since Pennsylvania House Bill 1173 was signed into law last year. Proposed by State Representative Thomas Killion, the legislation allows the Commonwealth's public transit agencies to sell advertising on railcars' exteriors. Previously, advertising was allowed on the outside of all mass transit vehicles except railcars.

"In a time when public transit funding continues to be cut, it is necessary for organizations to be resourceful to raise capital to support improvements projects," said Casey. "We thank Representative Killion for his insightfulness in introducing the legislation. Our customers can look forward to future creative advertising like that of the NCC on our Regional Rail cars."

American Spirits is at the NCC until April 28, 2013. It will begin a national tour next November. SEPTA pass holders receive $2 off their admission. For more information on the exhibit, click here.

Among the "characters" greeting Speakeasy Silverliner passengers are flappers ready to dance.

The bartender has "martinis" ready for passengers.

Al Capone is hiding from the "G-men".

Real flappers from the Society Hill Dance Academy got the launch party off to a swinging start.

NCC Interim President and CEO Vince Stango said the NCC is "jazzed" about the exhibit and the Speakeasy Silverliner.