Posts Tagged ‘New York Central passenger trains’

The Brake Shoes Are Smoking in Painesville

October 18, 2020

The wayback machine has landed us in Painesville sometime in 1968. A westbound Penn Central passenger train is coming led by E8A No. 4079, which still has a full New York Central livery

This unit was built for the Central in August 1953.

Look closely and you will see brake shoe smoke, which suggests the train is going to stop at the Painesville station located just behind the photographer.

This might be unnamed Train No. 63, an unnamed New York to Chicago train that until December 1967 was been No. 59, the Chicagoan.

It is scheduled to stop in Painesville on signal only to discharge passengers at 11 a.m.

As can be seen here, the consist is head end heavy. By now No. 63 as having coaches and a diner lounge car operating from Buffalo to Chicago. There were sleeping cars on 63, including a sleeper coach — the NYC’s name for a slumber coach — but those operated only as far west as Buffalo.

It wasn’t always that way. Shortly before the Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad in February 1968 to form Penn Central, the NYC has assigned to No. 63 a sleeper and sleeper coach that operated from New York to Cleveland.

But that was gone by the timetable change of July 15, 1968.

Train 63 would survive until the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, but be discontinued. Painesville has not had intercity rail passenger service since then although Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited charges past the former Painesville depot six days a week now.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Blank for 48 Years Now

October 18, 2019

This former train bulletin board that once hung on the wall of the passenger station in Union City, Indiana, is a relic frozen in time.

The station where it hung was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad to serve passenger trains on the Pan Handle line between Chicago and Columbus.

But trains of the New York Central also called at the depot. But note that the train bulletin refers to the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, .a.k.a. the Big Four and not the New York Central.

That might have seemed confusing to passengers expecting to see New York Central, particularly given that the Big Four became part of the NYC system in 1906.

But the Big Four operated autonomously into the 1930s and even then many along its routes continued to remember the Big Four name.

The PRR’s marquee trains between Chicago and Columbus were the daylight Fort Hayes and the overnight Ohioan.

The Fort Hayes ended on Oct. 28, 1956. The Ohioan name was dropped in April 1958. On the last day of 1958 the former Ohioan was discontinued, leaving the Pan Handle through Union City freight only.

The NYC continue to host a fleet of trains that ran between Cleveland and St. Louis.

Union City would become a footnote in the Central’s efforts to do away with passenger trains on its St. Louis line.

The Central ended the Knickerbocker (westbound) and Southwestern (eastbound) between Cleveland and Union City, Indiana, on Sept. 6, 1967.

It was able to do this without regulatory approval because the Public Service Commission of Ohio allowed railroads to discontinue passengers trains within the state provided they are not the last varnish on a route.

The Central’s action left now unnamed Nos. 312 and 341 as Union City-St. Louis trains of one passenger coach pulled by a lone E unit.

In practice, this train actually originated and terminated in Bellfontaine, Ohio, but did not carry passengers between Bellefontaine and Union City.

This state of affairs continued until Nos. 312 and 341 made their last trips on March 18, 1968.

That left unnamed Nos. 315 and 316 operating through Union City as they traversed their route between Cleveland and Indianapolis.

These trains had survived as long as they did because of their heavy mail business.

No. 315 departed Cleveland Union Terminal every night at 11:50 and was scheduled to arrive at Indianapolis Union Station the next morning at 6:05 a.m. This train was not scheduled to stop in Union City.

The equipment turned and departed Indy at 9:35 a.m. with a flag stop in Union City at 11:30 a.m. No. 316 was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 4:05 p.m.

The planners who created Amtrak probably gave little thought to saving trains 315 and 316 and they began their final trips on April 30, 1971.

And with that this train bulletin board was wiped clean for good.

If you look carefully you might see that at some point some wag wrote “Hogwarts Express” as an eastbound Big Four train bound for London.

It is noteworthy that the bulletin board has room for more Big Four trains than PRR trains.

Tthat probably reflects the reality that the NYC had more trains through Union City and then did the Pennsy.

Although some railfans refer to the Union City station as the former Pennsylvania Railroad station the town calls it the Union City Arts Depot.

That’s because it is an all-purpose community center that happens to have a railroad history.

I have to wonder how many people in Union City know much about that railroad history.

Just Like Sunday Mornings With Grandpa

August 18, 2019

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited is more than four hours late as it passes through Olmsted Falls, Ohio, on a Sunday morning in mid May.

It was a sunny and pleasant Sunday morning in Olmsted Falls as I stood next to the tracks of Norfolk Southern at the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern station that is now owned by a model railroad club, the Cuyahoga Valley & West Shore.

I was waiting for a tardy eastbound Lake Shore Limited that Amtrak predicted would arrive in Elyria at 9:12 a.m. and depart two minutes later.

If that held, that would put No. 48 through Olmsted Falls at about 9:25 a.m.

As I waited, my thoughts flashed back to Sunday mornings in the early 1960s when my grandparents on my mother’s side would come to my hometown in east central Illinois from St. Louis for a weekend visit.

On Sunday morning, grandpa would take my sister and I for a walk of about four blocks that we called “going to the trains.”

On the west side of Mattoon not far from our house was an open area that still had tracks leading to a an abandoned shop building once used by the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville, which was absorbed by the Illinois Central in the early 20th century.

The tracks leading into that long-closed shop were still in place, but rusty and covered in weeds. Cinders were plentiful in the ballast.

This area was located between the tracks of the IC – that former PD&E – and the St. Louis line of the New York Central.

We would walk across those tracks to stand near the Central tracks. Two NYC passenger trains were scheduled to pass through Mattoon during the mid to late morning hours.

The eastbound train was the Southwestern and the westbound train the Knickerbocker. They were all that was left of the Central’s service to St. Louis.

In the early 1960s, both of those trains were still quite grand with sleepers, dining cars and coaches, some of which operated through to New York and all of which operated to and from Cleveland.

Sometimes the motive power for the trains were E units still wearing NYC lightning stripes, but at others times the motive power was Geeps in the cigar band look.

I thought about those trains as I waited for Amtrak No. 48, which had lost time starting with a late departure from Chicago Union Station the night before.

But something happened between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, where the bulk of the lost time occurred.

Amtrak equipment, like much of that used by the Central, is silver-colored stainless steel. The Central had some two-tone gray smooth sided passenger cars that were assigned to the St. Louis trains.

There are some parallels to where the Central’s passenger service was in the early 1960s and where Amtrak is today.

NYC management under the leadership of Alfred Perlman was convinced that long-distance trains had no future and throughout the 1950s the Central had aggressively discontinued as many of those trains as regulators would allow.

There might not have been any NYC passenger trains for myself, my sister and my grandpa to watch during our walks “to the trains” had the Illinois Commerce Commission allowed the Central to discontinue all service to St. Louis as it wanted to do in the late 1950s.

Amtrak management under the leadership of Richard Anderson has been signaling that it wants to transform its network into a series of short-haul corridors between urban points.

That strategy would eviscerate Amtrak’s long-distance network and probably spell the end of the Lake Shore Limited, the only daily train between Chicago and New York.

Those walks “to the trains” did not last long. By the middle 1960s my grandparents were no longer traveling from St. Louis to Mattoon to visit us.

In the meantime, the Southwestern and Knickerbocker grew shorter, shrinking to one sleeper and a couple of coaches. The dining car no longer operated west of Indianapolis.

In late 1967 the Central posted notices of its intent to discontinue its last trains to St. Louis. By then the trains only operated between St. Louis and Union City, Indiana, the NYC having used the “Ohio strategy” to discontinue them between Union City and Cleveland.

The “Ohio strategy” was a rule of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that allowed a railroad to discontinue a passenger train within the state of Ohio without PUCO approval provided it was not the last passenger train on that route.

The NYC and other railroads used that rule to devastating effect in the 1960s.

The Interstate Commerce Commission stayed the discontinuance of the remnants of the Southwestern and Knickerbocker, but after conducting an investigation concluded they were not needed for the public necessity and convenience. They made their last trips in March 1968.

By then they had shrunk to one E unit and one coach.

My grandpa died in 1982, the same year that Conrail won regulatory approval to abandon the former NYC through Mattoon. The tracks were pulled up through town in May 1983.

In the meantime, the IC razed the former shops used by the PD&E. That area where we used to walk remains an open field passed by a handful of trains of Canadian National.

No. 48 was slowly gaining back some of its lost time a minute or two at a time as it made its was east from Toledo. It departed Elyria about when Amtrak predicted it would.

The Lake Shore Limited continues to be an impressive looking train with three sleepers, six coaches, a baggage car, café car, dining car and two locomotives. But the dining car no longer serves meals freshly prepared onboard.

Just like the Central did, Amtrak is slowing chipping away at onboard service in an effort to cut costs.

As the Lake Shore flashed past, I again felt myself going back to the early 1960s and watching the Southwestern rush past also en route to New York City.

I couldn’t think of too many better ways to spend part of a Sunday morning.

Passing the Olmsted Falls depot, now the home of a model railroad club.

All the meals being served in that dining car behind the Amfleet coach were prepared off the train. The chefs were laid off or reassigned to other runs.

Toledo CUT in Waning Days of Passenger Service

May 6, 2015

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Thanks for posting the shots of this year’s National Train Day in Toledo. Great shots.

Your image of Amtrak No. 406 inspired me to travel back to Toledo nearly 50 years ago.

Here are two shots from a trip Mike Ondecker, John Woodworth and I took to Toledo (and beyond) on Nov. 29, 1968.

The top image shows Chesapeake & Ohio 4021 and its train awaiting departure.

The bottom image has New York Central 4024 and its Penn Central train waiting next to Baltimore & Ohio 1438 with its C&O train.

While I can’t identify the trains, I do remember the feeling I had when I saw the property. At least one track had been removed and the few trains still using the station were a sad commentary on one of the last major passenger stations built.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

20th Century Ltd. Rolling Again on Broadway

March 24, 2015

The Twentieth Century Limited is again speeding from Chicago to New York, but on the stage and not the rails of the former New York Central.

It’s a musical production titled On The Twentieth Century and it opened on March 15 at the, ahem, American Airlines Theater in New York City. It was the speed of the airlines, after all, that helped to put the Century out of business in December 1967.

But from the time that it was launched in June 1902, the train, along with its chief competitor the Broadway Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad, defined fast luxury travel.

The musical is set in the 1930s.  Oscar Jaffee is a theater producer who has just seen his latest effort close in Chicago after its first act. It was his fourth consecutive flop.

He is desperately pursuing his former protégée and lover Lily Garland, who left him to become a movie goddess. Oscar hopes to get Lily to underwrite his next production as well as win back her heart.

Oscar and Lily have both boarded the Century in Chicago and he has 16 hours to get her to agree to sign a contract.

But he must overcome the antics of Andy Karl (Lily’s boy toy), a rival producer, and Letitia Peabody Primrose (a rich philanthropist).

All of this is portrayed on a set designed to resemble the interior of the train. Scenes are played out in sleeping car compartments, in the dining car and in the lounge car. The play opens on the platform of Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station.

The set includes a large art deco rendering of the streamlined locomotive that pulled the train.

The musical has been described as part operetta, part farce and part screwball comedy.

The latest production of On the Twentieth Century is a revival of a play that was first performed in February 1978.

That production, which won two Tony Awards, was inspired by the 1934 movie Twentieth Century, which itself was inspired by a 1932 play of the same name by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Hech and MacArthur were in turn inspired by an unpublished play written by Charles Bruce Millholand.

The latest Broadway production of On the Twentieth Century features Kristin Chenoweth as Lily and Peter Gallagher as Oscar.