Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in 1970s’

Something to Promote at the Time

January 18, 2020

Amtrak was particularly keen to promote its new equipment in the 1970s as it continued to emphasize the slogan “we’re making the trains worth traveling again.”

That included the use of new SDP40F locomotives that began arriving in 1973 and continued to be delivered through 1974.

An example of that was the cover of the regional timetables that Amtrak issued in the middle 1970s that depicted one of the new locomotives along with a relic of the streamliner era, a dome-lounge-observation car.

Also note that the timetable cover shows a drawing of the new Amtrak station in Jacksonville, Florida.

It may look dated today and remind some of steps that Amtrak took that didn’t quite work out as planned — the use of SDP40F locomotives – or which have not quite stood the test of time — the modular stations designed in the 1970s.

But it was what Amtrak had to promote at the time it did so with pride.

Keep That Guy’s Herald Off of Our Railroad

November 2, 2019

In June 1972 Amtrak operated a second daily train between Chicago and Los Angeles that was known as the Chief.

The motive power for the Chief was Santa Fe F series passenger diesels that had been assigned to the Chicago-Houston Texas Chief.

Nos. 15 and 16 were assigned former Union Pacific E units.

When they could, Santa Fe maintenance forces would obliterate the name and herald of their western rival.

Their handiwork can be seen on Amtrak 1427 and 1371 pulling the eastbound Texas Chief into Joliet, Illinois, on Aug. 6, 1972.

The Chicago-Los Angeles Chief lasted just one summer and Santa Fe F units returned to the Texas Chief in September.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

That 70s Look in an Amtrak Dining Car

October 30, 2019

It is breakfast time aboard Amtrak’s westbound National Limited in April 1977.

The passenger carrier has been around now for almost six years and still sports the blue and red colors that dominated its interior look in its early years.

Note the water pitchers are a bright red. Then again, when was the last time that Amtrak put water pitchers on the table in the dining car?

My how things have changed over the years.

I didn’t record where the train was when I made this image, but I had boarded in Dayton, Ohio, so Train No. 31 was probably in western Ohio or far eastern Indiana.

The National Limited and the tracks Nos. 30 and 31 used between Dayton and Indianapolis are mostly gone now.

From the Vestibule Aboard the National Limited

May 31, 2017

In the early days of Amtrak, crew members often said little to nothing if you made photographs from the windows of the vestibule doors.

I’m sure there were crew members who would chase you out of the vestibule if they saw you standing there, but I had some good luck in being able to make images while the crew either looked the other way or gave their tacit approval.

The conductor of Amtrak’s westbound National Limited fell into the latter category along with the rear brakeman. In fact the brakeman talked to myself and another passenger at length and even led us to the vestibule window at the rear of the train.

In the photograph above, No. 31 is arriving at Indianapolis Union Station on a Saturday morning in April 1977. Those Amtrak passenger cars on the other tracks might be waiting to go to the Beech Grove shops. At the time Nos. 30 and 31 were the only Amtrak trains serving Indianapolis.

The bottom photograph was made as No. 31 was going around a curve in East St. Louis, Illinois, to cross the Mississippi River over MacArthur Bridge and enter St. Louis.

On the point of No. 31 are a pair of freight diesels, Penn Central SD35 No. 6029 and Conrail SD40 No. 6319, both former Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives. That seemed appropriate given that much of the route of the National Limited across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois was former PRR trackage. The exception was the track between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana, which was former New York Central.

I do not know where these freight units were put on. They were on  the train when it rolled in Dayton, Ohio, where I boarded. I can only guess that Amtrak E8A No. 477 had mechanical problems en route. By coincidence, No. 477 was also a former PRR diesel, No. 5790.

There were limits to the crew’s tolerance. After we crossed the Mississippi, the conductor came back and shooed us into the coach. I remember him saying, “I let  you ride [in the vestibule] across the river.”

Indeed he had and I was grateful for that. I returned to my seat where I remained for the rest of the journey to Kirkwood, Missouri.

That Seventies Look

March 13, 2017

If you rode Amtrak in its early years this is what you would have seen. The interiors of its passenger cars received blue carpet that extended up the sides to window level.

The seats were blue with head rest covers in paisley print. From an appearance standpoint, it was a scheme of cool colors and I don’t mean cool as in hip or popular.

By the late 1970s Amtrak had switched to an earth colors look emphasizing browns rather than blues.

The early Amtrak appearance continues to live at railroad museums and on tourist trains that use former Amtrak passenger cars.

Such is the case with this coach, which at the time this image was made on Oct. 16, 2005, was owned by the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and used on its excursions.

This high-capacity coach was built in 1947 by the Budd Company for the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac where it had roster number 856. It became Amtrak No. 5220 and later No. 6031 before being retired by Amtrak in October 1981.

The National Limited Takes a Detour

December 19, 2016
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The westbound National Limited arrives in the station at Mattoon, Ilinois, in May 1977 on a detour move. The train is using the former New York Central route to St. Louis due to track work on its regular route over the former Pennsylvania Railroad route via Effingham, Illinois.

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The National Limited handled mail from New York to Los Angeles that was interchanged to the Southwest Limited in Kansas City. Note that the former NYC passenger platform is still in place at right nine years after the last NYC passenger train here was discontinued.

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The Amtrak conductor and two other crew members wait in the vestibule of a coach as the eastbound National Limited arrives in Mattoon, Illinois, in May 1977 on a detour move.

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The eastbound National Limited departs from Mattoon, Illinois, on former New York Central rails. It will regain its regular route in Terre Haute, Indiana. A portion of the former NYC passenger station is visible at right.

It was not unusual for Amtrak’s National Limited to detour between Terre Haute, Indiana, and St. Louis.

The scheduled route was via the former Pennsylvania Railroad via Effingham, Illlinois, but the Penn Central dispatcher had the option of running the train over the ex-New York Central route through Mattoon, Illinois.

After Conrail took over Penn Central in 1976, it began rebuilding the ex-Pennsy route used by Amtrak Nos. 30 and 31.

In late April 1977, the National Limited was rescheduled to operate during the afternoon hours between St. Louis and Effingham. That also coincided with the track gang hours.

So, for a good part of May 1977, Nos. 30 and 31 detoured via the ex-NYC route, making the Effingham stop at the former NYC passenger platform in Mattoon

The last NYC passenger train through Mattoon had been discontinued in March 1968, but the platform was still in place on the south side of the tracks.

I was a young reporter for the Mattoon Journal Gazette and I gave myself an assignment one afternoon to cover the detour of the National Limited.

I went down to the tracks, interviewed waiting passengers, and made photographs of both trains using Kodak Tri-X film.

Much has changed since that May 1977 day. The National Limited was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979, and in March 1982, Conrail abandoned the former NYC tracks through Mattoon. The rails were picked up a year later.

The former NYC station has since been razed. The platforms remained in place for several years after the tracks were pulled up, but were eventually taken out in the early 2000s to make way for a parking lot for the YMCA.

One Day at High Noon in Springfield, Illinois

December 15, 2016
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The technical quality of this image isn’t great but it is one of the few photographs that I have of an SDP40F taken trackside leading a train.

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Looking south from the fireman’s side of Amtrak SPD40F No. 613 in Springfield, Illinois.

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The control stand of an Amtrak SDP40F.

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Engineer Dean Elliot awaits a highball to depart Springfield, Illinois, with Amtrak train No. 21 in June 1977.

It is almost high noon in June 1977 in Springfield, Illinois. I’m standing near the Illinois Central Gulf tracks (former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) tracks awaiting the arrival of Amtrak’s westbound Inter-American from Chicago to Laredo, Texas.

I don’t recall if No. 21 was late or on time, but even if the former, it was not excessively tardy.

Leading No. 21 was SDP40F No. 613. I made a single photograph of it sitting in the station with its train.

The image isn’t that good, a product of harsh light, improper exposure and the fact that I scanned it from a color negative that is almost 40 years old.

I wanted to photograph the Inter-American because it still ran with SDP40F locomotives and those have always been a favorite of mine.

The engineer of the train spotted me and waved. On impulse I asked him if I could come up into the cab.

He said “yes” and up I went and got the other three images  you see with this post.

I would later learn that the engineer was Dean Elliot and that he is now deceased. He was a railroader’s railroader and I can only imagine the stories he would have had to tell about life on the road.

But there was no time for that. I only had enough time to grab a few shots before the conductor gave No. 21 a highball to leave Springfield. I thanked the crew and climbed down.

And off they went to St. Louis where a Missouri Pacific crew would take over to pilot the Inter-American on its continuing journey to Laredo.

Today, Nos. 21 and 22 are named the Texas Eagle and operate between Chicago and San Antonio.