Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Railroad’

Look What We Found on the Pennsylvanian

August 19, 2020

Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian passes Hunt Tower in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

On the rear of the Pennsylvania was a passenger car once used on the PRR’s Broadway Limited.

On returning from the East Broad Top’s 60th Anniversary we stopped at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, to catch the Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian.

To my surprise former Pennsylvania Railroad sleeper lounge Catalpa Falls, which ran on the Broadway Limited in 1949 trailed the consist.

It was a nice way to finish the day.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Westbound Broadway Limited in 1978

December 14, 2019

Although Amtrak’s Broadway Limited was assigned new SDP40F locomotives in the mid 1970s, that assignment proved to be relatively short lived.

The units became embroiled in a controversy over whether they were derailment prone after being implicated in several derailments.

Some railroads banned at least for a while the SDP40F from their tracks while others imposed speed restrictions on them on certain types of curves.

By the late 1970s Amtrak had replaced most of the SDP40Fs on its long-distance eastern trains with E units.

Later these trains began receiving F40PH locomotives although for a time there were still locomotives with steam generators in the motive power consist to provide steam for heating and cooling.

Starting in late 1979 equipment with head-end power capability came onboard, starting with the Lake Shore Limited, was permanently assigned to eastern long-distance trains and the last of the E units in revenue service with steam generators was retired from long-distance service.

But all of that was a few years down the road on June 3, 1978, when Bob Farkas caught a tardy westbound Broadway Limited in Wooster, Ohio, at Prairie Lane.

His notes from that date indicate that the third unit might have been the first unit painted for Amtrak.

Lead E8A No. 447 should feel right at home on these rails. It was built in May 1952 as Pennsylvania Railroad No. 5790A.

During the Penn Central era it carried roster number 4250 and was initially assigned Amtrak roster number 277.

It renumbered to 447 in November 1975 after being rebuilt in March 1974, which was just before the second order of SDP40Fs began rolling out of the EMD shops in LaGrange, Illinois.

Amtrak retired No. 447 in July 1981 along with several other rebuilt E units as they by then had become surplus as F40s and Heritage Fleet equipment had become the norm on eastern long-distance trains such as the Broadway Limited.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Private Car Trip to Operate Philly to Pittsburgh

September 7, 2019

A fall foliage special featuring former Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman car Catalpa Falls will operate from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and return on Oct. 18-20.

Tickets are $1,100 per person and includes round-trip private rail transportation, four meals, and all beverages aboard the train.

It does not include lodging in Pittsburgh.  The trip is limited to 20 passengers.

The trip is being sponsored by Executive Rail. For inquiries or additional information send an email to or call Carolyn Hoffman at 862-763-0508.

During the journey on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, passengers will cross the Rockville Bridge and traverse Horseshoe Curve.

There will be four meals served – two in each direction – that have been selected from menus of the Broadway Limited.

All meals will be prepared on-board by the Catalpa Falls’ executive chef using the original Pennsylvania Railroad recipes.

That will include the Pennsy’s famous pennepicure pie.

Executive Rail has arranged for a rate of $155 per night (plus fees and taxes) at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Rooms at this rate must be booked with the hotel directly by Sept. 16. Passengers should mention the Catalpa Falls to get the special rate.

However, passengers can also make their lodging arrangements at another hotel in Pittsburgh if desired.

No Longer Standing in Summerhill

July 30, 2019

Earlier this summer workers removed the venerable Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals at Summerhill, Pennsylvania, on the Pittsburgh Line of Norfolk Southern.

But in October 2017, the signals were still alive and well although their future even then was in doubt.

The eastbound Pennsylvanian rushes through Summerhill en route to its next station stop in Altoona and its way to New York City.

Ex-PRR Cars to Celebrate Memory of Broadway Limited

July 3, 2019

To help celebrate the memory of the former Broadway Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad, three former PRR passenger cars will travel from New York to Pittsburgh and return on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian.

The cars will operate westbound on July 12 and return on July 14.

The cars are Catalpa Falls, a six double bedroom-buffet lounge; Colonial Crafts, a one drawing room/three double bedroom-buffet lounge; and Frank Thomson, a bedroom-observation-lounge.

The Pennsylvanian plies the original route of the Broadway Limited which in its day was one of the two premier passenger trains between Chicago and New York.

The Broadway Limited was an all-Pullman train until 1967. It operated under Amtrak through September 1995 when it was discontinued west of Pittsburgh and replaced by the now defunct New York-Pittsburgh Three Rivers.

The Pennsy launched the Broadway Limited in 1912.

The private car trip this month will feature 1949 cuisine prepared using original Pennsylvania Railroad recipes.

Some passengers will have the opportunity to sleep aboard the three PRR cars during the Pittsburgh layover while the other passengers will spend two nights at the Hotel William Penn.

For more information, visit

PRR Signals Falling Fast on NS Pittsburgh Line

May 1, 2019

If you are hoping to get one last photograph of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian splitting a pair of former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signals you better act fast.

The iconic Pennsy signals are falling quickly with Norfolk Southern having removed last weekend the last of those signals on a 131 mile-stretch between Harrisburg and Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Some position light signals remain in place between Altoona and Pittsburgh, but the railroad plans to remove them this summer.

The signals are being removed as NS continues to install positive train control. Many of the signals being removed are intermediate signals.

Wayside signals will remain at interlocking points, but they will be Safetran four-color hooded signals.

In the meantime, NS and Amtrak trains continue to use cab signals between interlockings to show signal indications.

Some of the PRR position light signals had been removed in past years by Penn Central, Conrail and NS, but most of the wayside signals on the 248-mile Pittsburgh Line had been position lights.

Much of the signal work is being conducted on Sundays to minimize its effect on traffic.

The Pittsburgh Line sees between 50 to 60 freight trains a day plus the Pennsylvanian.

Philly 30th Street Interior Added to Historic Register

April 23, 2019

The Philadelphia Historical Commission has placed the interior of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station to its local historic register.

The station is just the fourth interior space to be named to the register in the city and the designation will protect it from modification.

The nomination of the station was recommended by a consultant to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in consultation with Amtrak.

The nomination cited the interior’s historical and architectural significance, and its status as one of Philadelphia’s “most iconic and trafficked public spaces.”

The station was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad between 1929 and 1933.

It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Amtrak is planning to update the station as well as develop the area around it.

Historic GG-1 Related at Harrisburg Station

March 28, 2019

A former Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 locomotive has been placed back on static display under cover at the Amtrak station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

No. 4859 along with an ex-PRR N6b cabin car were placed on track 8 at the station, which is being rehabilitated by Amtrak.

Both pieces of vintage equipment, which are owned by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society had been displaced during the rehabilitation project.

Chapter officials say the new viewing location is not ideal and they continue to seek a more suitable display location.

The GG-1 was the first to pull a train to Harrisburg following electrification of the line between there and Philadelphia in the late 1930s.

Amtrak is in the process of installing high-level platforms and new elevators at the station and recently finished that work for Tracks 6 and 7.

Work is expected to begin soon on Tracks 4 and 5 in the expectation that Amtrak will add additional Keystone Service to Harrisburg.

Private Car Trip Set on the Pennsylvanian

March 14, 2019

A private car journey will be offered between New York and Pittsburgh to mark the 70th anniversary of the introduction of streamlined equipment to the fabled Broadway Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The trip will use three cars that went into service on the Broadway Limited in 1949 and will be carried on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian on July 12-15.

The cost of the trip will be $1,300 for a lounge seat, $2,800 for a bedroom (based on double occupancy) and $4,200 for a drawing room (based on triple occupancy).

The ticket prices include five on-board meals and overnight accommodations in Pittsburgh.

Rail cars being assigned to the trip include sleeper-buffet Catalpa Falls, sleeper-buffet-lounge Colonial Crafts and sleeper-observation Frank Thomson.

All three cars still wear their PRR liveries and are now privately owned.

In Pittsburgh passengers holding sleeping room accommodations will stay aboard the train in their rooms. Lounge car passengers will be booked into a hotel.

Meals during the journey will be prepared to Pennsylvania Railroad dining car recipes.

Additional information is available at

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.