Posts Tagged ‘Robert Farkas photography’

Amtrak Anniversary Saturday: The Greatest Travel Advance Since the 747

April 30, 2021

Over the course of five decades, Amtrak has written a lot of chapters in its history, some of which largely have been forgotten or were never widely known.

One of those is illustrated in the photograph above made in Joliet, Illinois, in 1974 by Robert Farkas.

In Amtrak’s early years it was limited as to what it could do to improve intercity rail passenger service.

It could tinker with schedules somewhat, but much of its fate was in the hands of its contract railroads, which employed the operating and onboard personnel associated with the trains. In essence the freight railroads ran the trains and sent Amtrak the bill.

One opportunity to show that Amtrak was doing something to “make the trains worth traveling again” as the marketing slogan went, came in late 1972.

The French company ANF-Frangeco was building 16 sets of turbine-powered trains for the French National Railways.

The latter agreed to lease to Amtrak sets 9 and 10 with an option to buy.

The first Turboliner arrived in Chicago on Aug. 11, 1973. The red, white and blue train was billed by Amtrak in more than a bit of hyperbole as being perhaps the greatest advance in travel since the 747.

An Amtrak advertisement described the Turboliner as “the jet train that glides down the track . . . so smoothly you can hardly feel the rails.”

The Turboliner made a publicity run between Chicago and Bloomington, Illinois, on a rainy Sept. 28, 1973, piloted by Wilton V. Hall, whose father had been the engineer of the first diesel-powered train from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois, on the Alton Route in the 1930s.

Revenue service for Amtrak’s Turboliners between Chicago and St. Louis began on Oct. 1.

That month the Chicago Tribune sent three reporters on a “race” from Tribune Tower to the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

One reporter flew out of Midway Airport and went the distance in three hours, 15 minutes. A second reporter rented a car and drove to St. Louis, arriving at the hotel in five hours, 20 minutes.

The third reporter took Amtrak. He was delayed leaving Union Station by eight minutes and his train stopped in a siding three times. He arrived at the hotel in six hours, 14 minutes.

The Turboliners received a lot of attention, but also displeased many because of their narrow seats that reclined very little, narrow aisles, and doors that could be difficult to open.

With a fixed consist, some passengers had to stand on days when more people boarded than there were seats and some passengers were turned away.

Capable traveling 125 miles per hour, the top speed on the now Illinois Central Gulf route was 79 p.m., although the Turboliner running time was a half-hour faster than convention equipment on the Chicago-St. Louis route.

The Federal Railroad Administration rejected Amtrak’s bid to operate the Turboliners at 90 mph because of their superior braking ability.

In its decision the FRA said the route lacked an automatic train stop or cab signal system. At the time the FRA made its ruling, a series of grade crossing collisions involving Turboliners had received widespread news media attention even though no one had been killed or seriously hurt in any of those incidents.

Amtrak ordered additional Turboliners and placed them in service in the Chicago-Detroit corridor in April 1975. Unlike the Turboliners used on the St. Louis run, the Michigan Turboliners had drop down tables and more luxurious reclining seats.

The Turboliners were credited with driving an immediate sharp increase in ridership on the Detroit route.

Amtrak President Paul Reistrup would testify at a congressional hearing that Amtrak was fortunate to be able to buy something off the shelf that was flashy, had large windows, and looked like it was going a million miles an hour when in reality it was actually doing 60 on well-worn Penn Central rails.

As occurred on the St. Louis route, the fixed capacity of the Turboliners of slightly less than 300 led to standees on busy travel days.

On the St. Louis route, the Turboliners were replaced for a time with conventional equipment and then Amfleet cars when those became available in late 1975. A similar process played out on the Detroit line although Turboliners continued on some Michigan trains into the early 1980s.

The Chicago-Toledo Lake Cities, which operated via Detroit, had Turboliner equipment in its early days, making it the only Amtrak train in Ohio to ever be turbine powered.

Turboliners also lasted in the Midwest on the Chicago-Milwaukee route into the 1980s. Another generation of turbine trains, built in California under license saw service on the Empire Corridor for several years and would be Amtrak’s last turbine powered trains.

While living in Springfield, Illinois, in the middle 1970s, I often saw and a few times rode the Turboliners. They were nice, but I preferred Amfleet coaches after they came along.

I even rode the Lake Cities when it still had Turboliners and rode on the Milwaukee line once in a Turboliner in 1980, my last time aboard one.

They rode fine, but I could always feel the rails. Nor did they glide down the track as the advertisement claimed. As for the interiors, I liked those large windows. The cafe section, though, was way too small.

I still remember radio jingles for the Turboliner when they went into service with a chorus singing the line, “hitch a ride on the future (pause) with Amtrak.”

The Turboliner may not have lived up to its billing as a high-speed conveyance but it did for a time enable Amtrak to achieve the objective of offering something new that promoted the appearance of the passenger carrier doing something to improve intercity rail travel after years of neglect, benign or intentional.

Turboliners were not Amtrak’s future but a transition step toward the Amfleet era, which is still very much with us today more than 45 years after it began.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Robert Farkas

Cruising in Back in Time in Washington State

February 23, 2021

The Amtrak wayback machine has landed us in Steilacoom, Washington, on Aug. 12, 1974. We’re just in time to see E8A No. 346 leading a corridor train between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The photographer didn’t say which train it was but it appears to be either the Mount Rainier or the Puget Sound. Both of those trains in 1974 operated with dome coaches and offered snack and beverage service.

No. 346 was built for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy in September 1950. Amtrak would retire the unit a year later.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Warbonnets in Joliet

January 30, 2021

In the early years of Amtrak trains hosted by the Santa Fe ran, for the most part, with locomotives and passengers cars of Santa Fe heritage.

The Santa Fe has maintained its passenger fleet well and there was little need to mix in cars that Amtrak acquired from other railroads.

Shown is Santa Fe F7A No. 303 leading a train into Joliet on April 14, 1973.

Although the photographer did not indicate which train this was, we’ll take a look at a consist from December 1972 for Amtrak’s westbound Super Chief/El Capitan.

The train was assigned six Santa Fe F units and had a steam car.

All of the passenger equipment had been built for the Santa Fe. The El Capitan section had a baggage car, baggage-dormitory transition car, five Hi-Level coaches, a Hi-Level lounge car and a Hi-Level dining car.

The Super Chief section featured all single-level equipment that included two 11-bedroom sleepers, one 10-6 sleeper, a 4-4-2 sleeper, a pleasure dome lounge car, and a dining car.

The 11-bedroom sleepers were the Indian Squaw and Indian Maid. The four compartments, four bedrooms and two drawing room sleeper was Regal Vale, and the 10 roomettes and six bedrooms sleeper was Pine Lodge.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

State of the Amtrak Motive Power Art 1972

January 28, 2021

For a short period of time in the early 1970s Amtrak operated the Abraham Lincoln and Prairie State between St. Louis and Milwaukee, running through Chicago Union Station.

The trains were pulled by locomotives of The Milwaukee Road and the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, as can be seen in this image made in Joliet, Illinois, on Oct. 13, 1972.

On the point is Milwaukee Road E9A No. 35C. A GM&O unit trails. The photographer believes this train might have been the Abraham Lincoln.

In this era the Milwaukee-St. Louis trains were shown in timetables with multiple numbers, so the northbound Abraham Lincoln would have been Nos. 326-303.

An equipment listing for that train recorded on Dec. 28, 1972, shows it to have had five cars, including coaches of Northern Pacific and Seaboard Coast Line heritage, a former Great Northern dome coach, a Union Pacific dining car and parlor-observation car Port of Seattle. The latter had been built for the Great Northern.

On that day the train had locomotives of GM&O vintage and Union Pacific heritage plus a UP B unit.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Maple Leaf Leaving Toronto in 1984

November 10, 2020

Amtrak’s Maple Leaf is leaving Toronto Union Station on March 28, 1984, bound for New York City. On the point is F40PH No. 352. As it picks its way through the terminal complex, it passes a VIA Rail Canada train that is backing up. The photographer thought it might have been headed for the wash rack.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

What Was in a Name?

October 22, 2020

Many Amtrak trains have names with roots that extend to the days when freight railroads operated passenger trains.

In several instances these names had been around for several decades by the time Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971.

Amtrak’s initial timetable merely used verbatim whatever train names were still in use at the time those trains were conveyed to it.

Thus the Chicago-Los Angeles train continued to be named the Super Chief/El Capitan as it had been under the operation of the Santa Fe Railway.

That name was a combination of two separate names for two separate trains, the all-Pullman and extra fare Super Chief and the all-coach El Capitan.

Santa Fe consolidated the two trains, hence the combo name, in January 1958 although it continued to advertise them as though they were separate trains.

The combined Super Chief/El Capitan also maintained separate dining and lounge cars with passengers not allowed to use them interchangeably.

During the summer and holiday periods the Super Chief and El Capitan operated as independent trains, a practice that continued through 1969.

Amtrak kept the combo name until April 29, 1973 when Nos. 3 and 4 became merely the Super Chief.

Santa Fe President John S. Reed became disenchanted with how Amtrak treated what has been his railroad’s premier passenger train, particularly the removal of certain Santa Fe practices and services.

In March 1974 he informed Amtrak via letter that he was revoking permission for the passenger carrier to use the “Chief” names. Amtrak also operated the former Santa Fe Texas Chief between Chicago and Houston.

So on May 19, 1974, Nos. 3 and 4 became the Southwest Limited and the Houston train became the Lone Star.

The Lone Star was discontinued in early October 1979 but the ancestor of the Super Chief continued to operate.

By 1984 the name riff between Amtrak and Santa Fe had healed sufficiently that the Chief name could return.

But Nos. 3 and 4 would not be the Super Chief but rather the Southwest Chief.

In the photo above, No. 3 is in Joliet, Illinois, on Aug. 6, 1972, and still looks much like a Santa Fe passenger train, including former AT&SF locomotives 314C, 312B, 302, 320A, 314A and 315A.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Early Generation Pennsylvanian

July 24, 2020

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian has had a long and colorful history. It began on April 27, 1980, as a Pittsburgh-Philadelphia train funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

It was intended to replace, in part, the National Limited, which had been discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979, a move that ended intercity rail passenger service to Columbus and Dayton.

Extended to New York in October 1983, Nos. 46 and 47 got off to a slow start from a ridership perspective. But patronage soon took off and by 1994 the Pennsylvanian had become part of Amtrak’s basic network.

That would later change and for a time in the late 1990s the Pennsylvanian operated west of Pittsburgh via Cleveland.

But all of that was down the road when this image was made near Lewistown, Pennsylvania, on June 27, 1988.

The Pennsylvanian looked then like any other eastern corridor service train pulled by an F40PH with a string of Amfleet coaches and a cafe car trailing.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Santa Fe Story in Joliet in the Early Amtrak Years

June 19, 2020

It is Oct. 13, 1971, and Amtrak’s Texas Chief is departing Joliet, Illinois, which was the first stop on its trek from Chicago to Houston.

Notes taken by the photographer show that the all Santa Fe motive power consist on this day included ATSF 314, 316B, 314A, 316A, and 309.

The Texas Chief, like its counterpart that used these says rails, the Super Chief to Los Angeles, had a mostly all Santa Fe equipment.

They also still had Santa Fe operating and service employees.

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

When Warbonnets Still Led Amtrak

June 8, 2020

Santa Fe warbonnets are among the most iconic locomotives that people associate with the streamliner era in America.

In the early Amtrak years warbonnets pulled Amtrak’s Super Chief and Texas Chief, both of which were hosted by the Santa Fe.

In the image above, an Amtrak train is at Joliet, Illinois, on April 2, 1972. This photograph is a scan from an Agfachrome slide.

Photograph by Robert Farkas