Endpoints: Chicago-New York
Numbers: 46 and 47 (Sept. 10, 1995 to Nov. 9, 1996); 40 and 41 (Nov. 10, 1996 to March 7, 2005)
Host Railroads: CSX, Conrail/Norfolk Southern
Amtrak Operated: September 10, 1995 to March 7, 2005
Named for: The three rivers of Pittsburgh: the Ohio, the Allegheny and the Monongahela
Pre-Amtrak History: None
Amtrak History: The Three Rivers was launched between New York and Pittsburgh as a replacement train for the discontinued Broadway Limited. Amtrak extended Keystone Service Nos. 144 and 145 between New York and of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, west to Pittsburgh.
The Three Rivers was scheduled to connect in Pittsburgh with the Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited. Mail cars were added to the Three Rivers in Philadelphia and interchanged to the Capitol Limited in Pittsburgh for forwarding to Chicago.
Passenger train advocates asked why passenger cars couldn’t be interchanged in Pittsburgh, too, if mail cars were.
Amtrak responded that to accommodate Superliner coaches the electric power would have to be turned off on one track in Philadelphia, which would hinder operating flexibility.
That response didn’t appease connecting passengers upset about the middle-of-the night-shuffle in Pittsburgh between the Three Rivers and the Capitol Limited.
Eventually, Amtrak elected to assign two Amfleet coaches to operate between New York and Chicago that were interchanged in Pittsburgh between the Three Rivers and Capitol Limited.
It meant assigning a transition car to the Capitol so passengers in the Amfleet cars could access the dining and lounge cars of Nos. 29 and 30 west of Pittsburgh.
Growing mail and express service in the late 1990s swelled the number of head-end cars on the Capitol Limited to 11 per trip west of Pittsburgh.
The switching costs of interchanging head-end and passengers cars in Pittsburgh were negating the saving from having discontinued the Broadway Limited.
The interchange also at times hindered the on-time performance of the Three Rivers and the Capitol Limited.
Amtrak extended the Three Rivers to Chicago on Nov. 10, 1996, using the same route the Broadway Limited had used via Akron, Ohio.
Amtrak considered reinstating the Broadway Limited name but the service quality of the Three Rivers was below that of the Broadway.
The Viewliner sleepers earmarked for the revival of the Broadway Limited were instead assigned to the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited. There were no heritage diners and sleepers available so the Three Rivers had to make do with Amfleet coaches and a café car.
The Three Rivers ran nearly non-stop between Chicago and Pittsburgh because most of the stations once used by the Broadway Limited had been closed.
Initially, the Three Rivers stopped only at Hammond-Whiting and Nappanee in Indiana.
Amtrak wasn’t interested in reinstating service at Garrett, Indiana, which had been served by the Broadway Limited.
It told Ohio officials that it would only serve Youngstown, Akron and Fostoria if state and local governments funded station improvements.
It took a while before the funding arrangements and improvements were made. Service began at Youngstown on May 16, 1997, at Fostoria on Dec. 15, 1997, and at Akron on Aug. 10, 1998.
On many days, the Three Rivers operated with four to six passengers cars and upwards of 25 head-end cars, making it resemble a mixed train.
Amtrak never assigned a full-service dining car to the Three Rivers because much of its journey west of Pittsburgh occurred outside of normal dining hours.
Sleepers were briefly assigned to Nos. 40 and 41 starting on Dec. 21, 1996 to handle first class passengers who had missed connections from western trains to the Cardinal, Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited in Chicago.
When surveys found a market for sleeping car business, Amtrak rehabilitated four stored Heritage sleepers and assigned them to the Three Rivers.
They entered service on April 1, 1999, and featured fares that were 30 percent lower than on other eastern long-distance trains because unlike those trains sleeping class passengers on the Three Rivers did not receive on-board meals, only complimentary beverages.
Later Amtrak began giving sleeping car passengers boxed meals prepared by a catering company.
After receiving complaints about the quality of those meals, Amtrak switched in spring 2003 to freshly- prepared lunch and dinner entrees from the same vendor who supplied first-class meals for Acela Express trains in the Northeast Corridor.
The meals were available for sale to coach passengers and some semblance of a dining operation was offered with disposable plates and linen tablecloths. The meals, dinner westbound and lunch eastbound, were heated in a convection oven.
The sleepers on the Three Rivers were the last in the Amtrak fleet to have direct-dump toilets and the last Heritage sleepers on any Amtrak train.
They operated under a waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration that expired on Oct. 15, 2001.
The last of these sleepers left New York on Oct. 1 and Chicago the next day. The Three Rivers then received Viewliner sleepers.
A typical Three Rivers consist in the early 2000s was three Amfleet coaches, an Amfleet or Horizon dinette, and a sleeper.
Amtrak President David Gunn began phasing out the express business in 2003 and the number of head-end car being carried on the Three Rivers fell. The Three Rivers was one of three Amtrak trains still carrying mail.
Amtrak announced in September 2004 that it would cease carrying mail and that the Three Rivers would be discontinued.
The sleepers were removed on Nov. 1, 2004, and the Three Rivers was discontinued on March 7, 2005.