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'World's Toughest Fixes' Films SEPTA Behind The Scenes

A year ago February, a call comes out of the blue from a producer at National Geographic Channel expressing an interest in filming an hour-long TV show about the goings-on in SEPTA maintenance shops, subway tunnels and other behind the scene areas the public never sees. Turns out, National Geographic had asked a couple of other large transit agencies and had been turned down flat; potential legal problems, liability problems, labor problems - too much of a hassle. But we thought about it.

And, you know, we're proud of the people who work in our garages, depots, subways and rail yards. In fact, we've often asked the media to do stories about the talented mechanics, engineers, electricians and others who make the wheels of SEPTA turn each day. Working with National Geographic Channel was a marriage made in heaven, or actually, a subway tunnel.

In May 2009, Sean Riley, dare-devil host of the program "World's Toughest Fixes" showed up with a HD TV crew and they dive into the back shops of SEPTA like kids in a candy store.

Riley - as he prefers to be called - is a hands-on guy. If there's a piece of steel subway rail that needs to be cut, he's the man. (He cut it a bit too long, much to the amusement of the SEPTA pros.) Riley loved the Vacuum Train - a monster diesel-engine powered vacuum cleaner with a hose the size of an elephant trunk that sucks gunk from the floor of the subway tunnels. The dirtier and louder - the better for Riley.

Over the course of several weeks, Riley and his crew worked around the clock sticking their cameras into every nook and cranny of SEPTA's vast infrastructure. For the dozens of SEPTA employees, who showed Riley the ropes of their jobs, it was a rare chance for them to display the skills and pride they devote to their professions.

The result is a special television program providing a surprisingly intimate and unique look at the work of hundreds of SEPTA people that is always appreciated but rarely seen.

The episode, titled "Philly Mega Transit," airs Thursday, June 10 at 9:00 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.


Sean Riley, host of World's Toughest Fixes outside the at 69th Street shop.



Riley interviews revenue manager Ed Landherr before going out on the money train.



Riley takes a turn cutting rail during night work on the Market-Frankford Line tracks.