Posts Tagged ‘Penn Central passenger trains’

Literally a Grab Shot

August 29, 2021

Sometimes you don’t have time to get into position to create a photograph. The photographer reports that he probably had just changed film while inside his 1967 Volkswagon when a passenger train began leaving Toledo Central Union Terminal on Nov. 29, 1968. It’s a Penn Central train but led by former New York Central E8A No. 4062.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Penn Central’s Fort Pitt in Canton

January 24, 2021

It may be a Penn Central passenger train but the westbound Fort Pitt had a pair of Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives pulling it as it arrives in the station in Canton on May 30, 1968.

Nos. 4309 and 4304, a pair of E8A locomotives, are on the point today.

No. 4309 had been built for the Pennsy in January 1951 as No. 5809. It would later become an Amtrak unit, work for Conrail and end up becoming Juniata Terminal 5809 wearing a PRR livery.

The Fort Pitt, however, would not have the same history. The Pittsburgh to Chicago train survived until the coming of Amtrak when it was discontinued.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

The Fort Pitt in Canton

January 9, 2021

Penn Central E8A No. 4309 is heading the westbound Fort Pitt through Canton on May 30, 1968. You’ve already noticed that it still wears its Pennsylvania Railroad markings.

Indeed, it was built by EMD for the Pennsy in January 1951 as No. 5809. This unit would later join the Amtrak motive power roster where it held roster numbers 315 and 498.

It then became Conrail 4020 and helped to pull that railroad’s executive trains. It then became Juniata Terminal No. 5809 where it was repainted back into PRR colors and markings.

In the image above you can also see Wandle interlocking in the background where the Norfolk & Western (former Wheeling & Lake Erie/Nickel Plate Road) crossed the Fort Wayne Line of the Pennsy.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

The Fort Pitt in Canton

November 4, 2020

The Fort Pitt was one of the most photographed Pennsylvania Railroad passenger trains in Northeast Ohio because of its schedule.

Most of the Pennsy’s passenger trains came through Canton and Massillon in the dark but the Fort Pitt was a daylight train from Pittsburgh to Chicago.

It is 1969 and the Fort Pitt is now a Penn Central train even though it still appears to be a PRR one.

On the point is E8A No. 4252. Built by EMD for the Pennsy in May 1952 as No. 5792, it would eventually receive a Penn Central livery as well as new number.

Amtrak would acquire the unit and renumber is 278. It would serve the nation’s intercity passenger carrier until being retired in May 1976.

In the photograph above, the photograph was standing on the eastbound passenger platform in Canton.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

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

Some 50 Years Later

July 10, 2019

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.

The Lowly Fort Pitt in the late 1960s

July 6, 2019

By the late 1960s, passenger service on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline between Chicago and Pittsburgh was still relatively plentiful in frequency, but the makeup of most trains had shrunk to minimal consists.

Shown is the westbound Fort Pitt, a daylight train that departed Pittsburgh at 11:45 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive into Chicago Union Station at 8:20 p.m.

As can be seen above, by the late 1960s it had just one coach and several head-end cars.

Penn Central sought to discontinue the Fort Pitt on April 22, 1968, along with the eastbound Admiral. But the Interstate Commerce Commission stayed the discontinuances.

In the subsequent ICC hearings, PC said that both trains had been mail and express workhorses but most of the mail had been diverted to mail and express trains.

In 1967, mail accounted for 70 percent of the Fort Pitt’s revenue, making it a profitable operation. But once that traffic was lost, the train became unprofitable.

The ICC would order the Fort Pitt to continue operating, but PC sought to end the train in 1969, this time with the ICC agreeing to allow it.

That decision was stayed by a federal court in Pittsburgh. Shortly thereafter the creation of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation froze the nation’s passenger train network into place until May 1, 1971.

By then the Fort Pitt had lost its name and operated merely as No. 53.

The last published schedule for No. 53 in the Official Guide of the Railways showed the train schedule to stop in Canton at 2:06 p.m.

It also made scheduled stops at Salem, Alliance, Massillon, Orrville, Wooster, Mansfield and Crestline.

In the image above, the train has just departed the Canton station and in front of the locomotive is McKinley Tower, which guarded the crossing between the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Fort Wayne Line and the Baltimore & Ohio line between Cleveland and Mineral City via Akron.

There once had been an eastbound Fort Pitt but it had been discontinued in July 1960.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

50 Years Ago Today: The RFK Funeral Train

June 8, 2018

It was 50 years ago today that a special Penn Central passenger train carried the body of Robert F. Kennedy from New York to Washington on the day of his funeral.

Kennedy, who was shot in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just after midnight on June 5 and died about 26 hours later, had just won the California primary in his quest for the Democratic nomination for president in 1968.

The funeral mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and his body was taken to Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington for burial.

Akron Railroad Club member Paul Woodring has been conducting research on the consist of the funeral train on a hunch that a car now used on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad might have run on the train. That turned out not to be the case.

He sent along a copy of an internal Penn Central memorandum that was posted recently at Railway Preservation, commenting, “This looks like the real thing for the time period, right down to the typos.”

Paul writes that the baggage car designated in this memo, 7534, was not the baggage car actually used, which was 7607. It is not clear why there was a substation in cars.

The memo’s use of the term “Congo” (Congressional Service) coach may have been a misleading since Paul said it was his understanding that the Congressional coaches were fluted sided and 12 of the cars used were the converted slab-side former Budd-built roomette cars such as the ones the CVSR has.

A large number of PC employees apparently were assigned to work on this special move, with perhaps between 85 and 100 employees directly assigned to this train for that day.

That does not include yard crews, station personnel, operators and supervisors who had to deal with it as part of their regular shifts.

Apparently someone in the mechanical department didn’t get the memo, because station mechanical personnel were not prepared to remove a window from the lounge of Business car No. 120 to pass the casket through.

That resulted in a two-hour delay after the funeral party had arrived at the station as PC workers sought to remove the window.

Although PC management ordered opposing freight trains held until after the special passed, opposing passenger trains were permitted to pass until an incident in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where an eastbound passenger train from Chicago, The Admiral, struck and killed two and injured several onlookers who surged off the platform onto the tracks as the funeral train passed.

The funeral train was carded to take just under four hours, but actually took nearly eight hours to reach Washington, arriving near dusk.

The major television network televised the train’s progress live.

The funeral train is the subject of a photograph exhibit that opened in March and runs through June 10 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that is titled: “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey”

The exhibit was reviewed in an article published on the website of the New Yorker that can be found at

A focus of the exhibit is 21 images made by Look magazine staff photographer Paul Fusco, who was aboard the train.

Fusco said later that he expected to primarily focus on making images at the burial ceremonies but after the train emerged from the tunnels beneath the Hudson River he noticed that hundreds of people were lining the tracks.

He went to an open vestibule window and began photographing the crowds along the way.

Fusco had three cameras and exposed about a thousand frames of Kodachrome slide film.

Most of those who lined the tracks were working class individuals of all ages and races. Some estimate that the number who turned out to watch the funeral train passed was 2 million. Some stood for hours under a hot sun to see the train.

Look only published two of Fusco’s images and both were printed in black and white.

Other images began seeing publication starting in 1998 on the 30th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Many of those who stood next to the tracks were also holding cameras and Dutch filmmaker Rein Jelle Terpstra spent four years tracking down as many of those amateur photographers as he could to obtain their movies slides and prints.

Some of those images are included in the San Francisco exhibit.

“The images are technically completely different from Fusco’s prints. The colors in the snapshots are faded, and the images on the slides are tiny. The work is almost conceptual: it’s the adventure of recovering the pictures, not the pictures themselves, that make the art experience,” wrote New Yorker staff writer Louis Menand.

Several people who experienced riding the train or viewing it have been quoted in recent news stories about that day.

“I was struck by the size of the crowds,” said RFK campaign aide John Anderson in an interview with CBS news. “Every now and then there would be one or two people standing with a flag or sign, it was very emotional, still is.”

John Malone was 20 at the time and stood next to the tracks in Elizabeth, New Jersey, watching the funeral train go by just before two people were struck by The Admiral.

“The sense was that you were at a wake,” the retired judge told CBS news. “You were paying your respects, and just here to do that and stay quietly waiting for the train to come by.

“In one of the houses here I could hear a woman crying, and as the train came by she just called out, ‘Oh Bobby, oh Bobby.’ ”

Bennett Levin was 28 when he watched the train pass in Philadelphia. Now the owner of Pennsylvania Railroad business car 120, which carried RFK’s casket, he told CBS news that people lined up three deep on bridges over the tracks,  most of them working class people.

“And the crowd even though the train was hours late stood there reverently waiting for the train. And, you know, that in itself said an awful lot for the esteem that the people held Robert Kennedy in,” Levin said.

The International Center of Photography has an exhibit through Sept. 2 in New York that is titled “RFK Funeral Train: The People’s View”

That exhibit highlights the images collected by filmmaker Terpstra.

Ashtabula Depot Demolished

June 4, 2018

The former New York Central passenger station in Ashtabula was demolished late last week by CSX.

The demolition occurred despite some efforts to save it, including an idea to transform it into an Amtrak station.

That idea was put forth by the 21st Century Ashtabula Depot Rail Experience, a non-profit group created three years ago. It received backing from the city, but never got any further.

Ashtabula County historian and author Carl Feather told the Star Beacon that the lesson of the loss of the station is that people shouldn’t think in terms of museums only when attempting to save historic structures.

He cited the example of the Hotel Ashtabula, which was saved by linking its preservation to the county’s mental health needs.

“Historic preservation is shifting toward finding new uses for these old buildings,” Feather said. “Unfortunately, the depot was located in an area that is not conducive to re-use. If it was located in a different area, it might have been an excellent site for a restaurant and party center.”

Feather said Ashtabula is a small town and lacks the income level needed to support a higher-end venture.

“The county cannot support the museums we already have, and they are begging for volunteers and funds to keep the doors open. Most are open only a couple days a week and three months out of the year,” he said.

CSX said it demolished the 117-year structure, one of the oldest in Ashtabula, because of safety concerns.

However, the railroad said it has contacted local officials about salvaging materials from the depot.

Although Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited has passed by the station since it was inaugurated in late October 1975, it has never had a scheduled stop in Ashtabula.

The last passenger trains scheduled to stop in Ashtabula were four Penn Central trains that operated between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, and were discontinued with the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

The station was a stop for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign train and sat within 1,000 feet of the deadliest train bridge collapse in U.S. history, which killed 83 people in 1876.

One Day in 1968 at Painesville

March 19, 2018

It is the first month of Penn Central, but it looks like a New York Central world as westbound NYC 4032 passes through Painesville, Ohio, on the weekend of Feb. 24-25, 1968. Both views are from the same negative.

The photographs were made with a Mamiya C3 twin lens reflex camera that took a 2 and 1/4 inch square negative that made cropping like this easier. The camera was owned by his father.

Although Bob didn’t record the train number, it is probably No. 63, which was the only daylight westbound passenger train on the ex-NYC through Painesville and Cleveland.

It was scheduled into Painesville at 10:55 a.m. and Cleveland at 11:59 a.m.

No. 63 originated in New York, leaving Grand Central Terminal at 10:30 p.m. It carried a sleeper and slumbercoach between New York and Cleveland and added a diner-lounge at Buffalo, New York, that ran to Chicago. Of course No. 63 also had coaches.

After leaving New York, No. 63 split into two sections at Albany, with one section conveying cars to Montreal via the Delaware & Hudson where it operated as No. 9.

No. 63 would last until the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Photographs by Robert Farkas