Posts Tagged ‘Penn Central’

Slower Than We’d Like

November 23, 2019

Shown is a schedule for Amtrak’s Broadway Limited from the mid 1970s. Penn Central was still the host railroad and its tracks west of Pittsburgh were not in great condition.

Therefore Amtrak placed a notice that the schedules were slower than PC was required to provide but faster scheduled were not possible at this this time.

Left unsaid was that PC was in bankruptcy proceedings and couldn’t afford to fix its tracks.

But even with these schedules Nos. 40 and 41 were still subject to delays, some of them major.

The symbol next to times at Canton and Crestline, Ohio, denoted that tickets could only be purchased for some or all trains at this station.

They were to be purchased either from the conductor or a travel agent. There was no cash penalty for buying your ticket aboard the train if no agent was on duty at train time.

The letter “e” for Canton and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, indicated that the train stopped on signal to pickup or drop off passengers.

The train would stop eastbound at Gary only to receive passengers and westbound to discharge them.

Metroliner Debuted 50 Years Ago

January 17, 2019

A former Metroliner turned cab car is ready to lead the Twilight Limited out of Pontiac, Michigan, on March 23, 1996.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Metroliner between New York and Washington, which has been described as the first high-speed rail service in the United States.

The equipment, which was built by the Budd Company, made a publicity run on Jan. 15, 1969, and started scheduled service the next day.

Operated by Penn Central, the Metroliner was in part the U.S. answer to Japan’s Shinkansen trains that had been introduced in 1964.

During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, Congress in September 1965 adopted the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965.

The Metroliner was an outgrowth of that law, which set an ambitious goal of achieving 110 mph service by October 1967.

Eventually, the Metroliner was supposed to operate at a top speed of 150 mph.

The first of the 50 electric multiple unit cars were delivered by Budd until September 1967 but mechanical problems discovered during testing delayed the inauguration of service until early 1969.

Originally designed for the Pennsylvania Railroad, by the time the Metroliner debuted the PRR had merged with arch-rival New York Central to become Penn Central.

The initial schedule had just one roundtrip a day between New York and Washington.

The top speed of 120 mph was cut to 110 due to the condition of the track and overhead catenary.

Another roundtrip was added in February and as the Metroliner gained popularity. By October, there were six round trips per day.

On the day that Metroliner service began, a first class seat cost $19.90. The inaugural run arrived in Washington seven minutes late.

A New York Times account of that first trip reported that passengers enjoyed the fast running and the novelty of the train.

However, one passenger quoted by the Times said, “You still know you’re on a train,” in reference to “abrupt swaying motions.”

Another passenger interviewed by the reporter said, “The luxury is terrific. There’s no worry about stacking up on the airlines. The phones are terrific. I called my wife and made two business calls for appointments. I couldn’t believe it when they announced 110 mph. It didn’t feel like it.”

In theory, the Metroliner was a two-year demonstration project.

The Metroliner train sets cost $21.5 million. Penn Central spent $35 million to upgrade its Northeast Corridor for 110 mph operation and the federal government contributed $11.3 million toward the demonstration project’s cost.

The PRR and later PC may have thought that cooperating with this project would pay off in winning governmental approval to discontinue passenger trains elsewhere.

The Metroliner was not without its problems. On any given day a third of the fleet was often out of service.

The top speed had to be lowered to 100 mph due to deteriorating infrastructure.

Despite those things, the demonstration project never really ended. Amtrak continued to use the Metroliner equipment and brand name for several years after its 1971 startup.

Today the high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor have been branded Acela Express, but even the rank and file NEC trains hit more than 100 miles per hour during their journey.

The Metroliner cars were the model for Amtrak’s Amfleet equipment, which was also built by Budd.

Amfleet had its roots in a 1973 order for 57 non-powered Metroliner coaches. Those eventually morphed into the Amfleet I fleet.

Most of the original Metroliner cars were retired and scrapped, but more than 25 were transformed into cab cars used on corridors outside the Northeast Corridor, including between Chicago and Detroit, Milwaukee and Springfield, Illinois.

On occasion the former Metroliner cab cars were used a standard coaches in the consist of Amfleet-equipped trains.

Although the Metroliner cab cars no longer operate in the Midwest, a few still see service in the Keystone Corridor and on trains going to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Legacy of the Broadway Limited

May 22, 2018

All of America’s premier passenger trains had dining cars, but only the most elite trains had twin-unit diners in which one of the cars contained the kitchen and the other a dining room.

Twin-unit diners operated on the New York Central’s Twentieth Century Limited and the Pennsylvania’s Broadway Limited for many years.

Amtrak had four sets of twin-unit diners, all of them built in 1949 by Budd for the Pennsy.

These cars were assigned to the Broadway Limited in the early to mid 1970s.

One set of those diners now resides at the Midwest Railway Preservation Society in Cleveland.

It is former PRR 4610-4611, which carried Amtrak roster numbers 8800-8801.

The cars still wear Amtrak’s Phase I livery but the effects of wear and tear from sitting in the elements over the years has taken a toll.

A PC herald is bleeding through the Amtrak red, white and blue paint on one end of the cars.

This twin-unit diner set was retired by Amtrak in October 1983. Presumably it was stored for several years before that.

Like so many pieces of equipment sitting outside the MRPS roundhouse the fate of these twin-unit diners is uncertain.

Presumably they will be at least cosmetically restored some day when money for that becomes available.

That day may be a long time in coming, but in the meantime they serve as reminders of what once was in another time and era that increasingly seems like a lifetime ago.

The Challenge of Penn Central

November 3, 2017

Amtrak faced many challenges in its early years, one of which was operating over track owned by Penn Central.

Years of deferred maintenance by PC predecessors New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad took a toll in slow orders, derailments and greatly delayed trains.

With Penn Central in bankruptcy proceedings, the prospect of things improving were not that great.

What Amtrak could do was to warn passengers of what they were getting into.

Shown above is a schedule for the Chicago-New York/Washington Broadway Limited that was published in 1975. Notice the note about how these schedules are slower than Penn Central is supposed to provide.

A similar notice appears with schedules of the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

Earlier versions of this notice warned that Nos. 40/41 and Nos. 30/31 were subject to delay west of Pittsburgh. With those delays unlikely to go away due to poor track conditions, Amtrak simply adjusted its schedules to make them slower.