Some 50 Years Later

As much as I like passenger trains, I’ve never been into studying and memorizing the history of individual cars.

I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of Dennis Tharp, for example, who has stored in his head a treasure trove of facts about rail passenger cars from the streamliner era.

Yet I was intrigued when Paul Woodring dug up some information about a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger car that showed up in a photograph made by Robert Farkas of the Fort Pitt in Canton in the late 1960s.

By the time Bob caught up with Train No. 53 it had shrunk to one coach and a handful of head-end cars trundling daily from Pittsburgh to Chicago.

Paul obtained the roster number of that lone passenger car in Bob’s photo, which turned out to be No. 1537, a converted PRR 21-roomette car known as Franklin Inn.

It had been built by Budd in 1949 for the Pennsy, which converted it to a coach in 1963 to serve in the Northeast Corridor.

At the time the PRR wanted more modern equipment to serve passengers traveling to the 1964 New York World’s Fair so it converted 50 Inn series cars into coach lounges.

The PRR became part of Penn Central in 1968 and after the formation of Amtrak the former Franklin Inn, now Penn Central 1537 was acquired by Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority in 1976 for use on its commuter trains on the Grand Trunk Western in Detroit.

SEMTA renamed the car Pleasant Ridge. Sometime after SEMTA rail commuter service ended in October 1983, the car was leased to Metro North.

Along the way ownership of the car and the lease to Metro North was transferred to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

After Metro North no longer needed the car, it wound up in the heritage fleet of Maryland Area Regional Commuter, which restored the Franklin Inn name and gave it roster number 142.

DCNRHS acquired Franklin Inn in November 2008. It had been retired from revenue service by MARC in 2001 when newer equipment arrived.

Although originally painted Tuscan red, the car now features the livery used by the PRR during the middle 1960s.

The website of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners shows that Franklin Inn now carries roster number 800957 and reporting mark NRHX142. It is described as a high-capacity coach.

Paul’s interest in Franklin Inn stems from research he did on the consist of the 1968 Robert F. Kennedy funeral train that operated from New York to Washington on PC rails.

He was curious if any of the former MARC cars that were of PRR heritage that Akron Metro acquired and later conveyed to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad were in the RFK funeral train consist.

None of them were. For that matter the former Franklin Inn was not in the RFK funeral train, either, although 14 cars from former Inn series that had been converted to coaches for Congressional Service assignments.

The Congressional Service cars were normally idle on weekends.

The Franklin Inn has operated through Northeast Ohio on excursions pulled by Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

Paul reported that it also operated behind Norfolk & Western 611 during some of its excursions in the East and South.

That sent me digging into my archive to see if I had a photograph of the Franklin Inn behind the Berkshire-type steam locomotive.

I found it in the consist of a July 2015 excursion from Ashtabula to Youngstown.

It is shown in the bottom image above on Carson Hill just outside Ashtabula. Interestingly both images show the car from the same end.

I’m not sure if Franklin Inn ever ran on the CVSR, but a sister car, Collinsville Inn has operated there along with ex-PRR car Paul Revere.

It seems odd that a car whose normal assignment was between Washington and New York would find its way to the Fort Pitt.

I wondered if the assignment of Franklin Inn to the Fort Pitt was so that the lounge section could be used in snack-bar coach service.

But a check of my collection of copies of The Official Guide of the Railways published in the late 1960s found that from at least 1965 onward the Fort Pitt was shown as being a coach-only train with no food service.

I also found that the Fort Pitt name was removed early in the Penn Central era.

So perhaps it was assigned to PRR Lines West service for another reason.

On the day that Bob photographed No. 53, he probably viewed this coach as just another passenger car.

There was reason to believe that its future with the Pennsylvania and/or Penn Central was likely to be short given how railroads were lopping off passenger trains as quickly as regulatory officials would allow.

A lot of rail passenger cars would become surplus and many would be scrapped.

But who could have known 50 years ago in Canton what the future held for the Franklin Inn and that it would still be carrying passengers five decades later.

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One Response to “Some 50 Years Later”

  1. DOVER HARBOR (DCNRHS) Says:

    We are the owners of Franklin Inn, and have very few pictures of the car in service. Was wondering if we could get a higher resolution of your first photo and permission to use it. If so, please contact us a http://www.dcnrhs.org .

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