Posts Tagged ‘Alexandria Virginia’

Silver Star Meet in Alexandria

December 30, 2020

It is July 7, 1973, in Alexandria, Virginia. Amtrak’s southbound Silver Star is dead on the main due to locomotive trouble.

In the foreground is its northbound counterpart, No. 82. This is still the rainbow era so some of the motive power wears Amtrak markings and some still has the liveries of a former owner.

No. 82 has E8A 238 (former Seaboard Coast Line, ex-Atlantic Coast Line), E8B 373 (former Union Pacific) and E8A 247 (former SCL, ex-Seaboard Air Line).

On No. 81 is E8A 234 (former SCL, ex-ACL), SCL E7A 557, E8A 218 (former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac) and E9A 412 (former Union Pacific).

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Quite a Long History Behind This Short Train

June 12, 2020

Southern Railway received a lot of positive attention for its Southern Crescent passenger train in the 1970s.

It even boasted about the train’s service in advertisements placed in Trains magazine.

The quality of the service aboard the Southern Crescent stood in contrast with that offered by Amtrak at the time.

So when this top photograph above came in from Bob Farkas, I was intrigued by it. This southbound Southern train was recorded at Alexandria, Virginia, on July 7, 1973.

The consist of one Southern FP7 6145 and a lone passenger car was clearly not the Southern Crescent. So what was it?

The Southern also had a train named the Piedmont that operated between Washington and Atlanta, but this didn’t seem to be that train, either.

Bob said his former traveling partner Mike Ondecker recorded in his notes from that date that it was Train No. 7.

This was the remnant of the Birmingham Special, which once operated between New York and Birmingham, Alabama.

At the time that this image was made No. 7 and its northbound counterpart, No. 8, operated between Washington and Lynchburg, Virginia.

Although by the middle 1970s they were little more than accommodation trains, they had a proud and interesting history.

Launched on May 17, 1909, the Birmingham Special was a Pennsylvania Railroad train between New York and Washington and handled by the Southern via Atlanta to Birmingham.

The Birmingham Special moved to a different routing on May 15, 1932, operating on the Southern between Washington and Lynchburg, on the Norfolk & Western between Lynchburg and Bistol, Virginia, and then back on the Southern to Birmingham.

It stopped in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and some sources say that song writers Mack Gorden Harry Warren wrote Chattanooga Choo Choo while riding the Birmingham Special.

However, the song’s reference to boarding on Track 29 at Pennsylvania Station in New York is poetic license because there was no Track 29 there.

But the famed Twentieth Century Limited of the New York Central did depart from Track 29 at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

A recording of the song recorded by the Glenn Miller orchestra was featured in the 1941 film Sun Valley Serenade.

The Pennsy ended its segment of the Birmingham Special in the late 1950s and some of its services fell by the wayside in the 1960s.

The train named was dropped on Feb. 1, 1970, although the book Journey to Amtrak shows it still in use by N&W on the eve of Amtrak.

However, the last Official Guide of the Railways issued before Amtrak does not show the name in the N&W schedules for Nos. 17 and 18.

The former Birmingham Special ran for the last time south of Bristol on Aug. 11, 1970.

That night it was the last train to depart from Chattanooga Terminal Station, departing there for the last time in the rain at 11:35 p.m.

The N&W leg of the former Birmingham Special ended May 1, 1971, because the N&W did join Amtrak.

During the early Amtrak era, the Southern would combine No. 7 with an intermodal train just south of the Alexandria station.

The passenger portion would be separated a short distance from Lynchburg.

The procedure was reversed for Train No. 8.

Trains magazine reported in its March 1975 issue about the Southern having notified the Interstate Commerce Commission of its intent to discontinue passenger service on piggyback trains 7 and 8.

The magazine in its July 1975 issue reported that the ICC had cleared the way for the Southern to do that.

It is not clear when Nos. 7 and 8 ceased to carry passengers. At the same time that the Southern sought to end Nos. 7 and 8 it also wanted to change the operations of the Piedmont and Southern Crescent.

The ICC decision clearing the way for those changes was handed down on May 21, 1975, and the changes became effective June 1. Perhaps Nos. 7 and 8 ended at that time but they could have ended earlier.

Another Trains story noted that No. 7 and 8, which continued to operate through early 1975 with one locomotive and one coach, were the first trains to be ended under section 13a of Interstate Commerce Act after Amtrak began.

The photographer also caught up with the Southern Crescent on April 6, 1974.

As he tells the story, “It was my school’s Easter vacation (Yes, it was called that back then), and having a week off from teaching, my friend Mike Ondecker (who worked for the Erie Lackawanna) and I went on a trip to the South.”

They found Southern E8A No. 6910 in Birmingham as seen in the bottom image.

 Photographs by Robert Farkas