Posts Tagged ‘PRR passenger trains’

The Way It Was in the Late 1960s

February 8, 2020

By the late 1960s the intercity passenger trains that were still left were not much.

Many trains had shrunk to two or even one passenger car with a head end car or two.

Such was the case with the westbound Fort Pitt, a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train operating through Canton to Chicago.

It was the late PRR or early Penn Central era at Alliance when the Fort Pitt was captured while waiting in the station on a cloudy afternoon.

There probably were not many passengers on board on this day and the railroad no longer cared what image a worn Keystone made.

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

Now Boarding, The Akronite for New York

December 2, 2015

Akronite sign

In its day, The Akronite was the premier passenger train in Akron of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

One of 28 Blue Ribbon fleet trains, The Akronite had sleepers, coaches and a diner-lounge that operated between Akron and New York.

It also was one of the shortest-lived members of the Blue Ribbon fleet. On April 26, 1953, it was downgraded to an Akron-Hudson connecting train,  albeit with an Akron-New York through sleeper conveyed east of Hudson by the Clevelander.

The Akronite was the last PRR passenger train in Akron. It ended on April 26, 1958, leaving the Baltimore & Ohio as the last user of Akron Union Depot.

Akron Railroad Club member Tom Goughnour knew a guy who worked for Penn Central and was able to acquire this sign for the Akronite that used to hang in the station before boarding.

A station worker would pull the sign out of small closet next to the door leading from the concourse to the platform and hang it on a piece of metal rod mounted perpendicular to the door.

Countless pairs of eyes looked for the sign to determine where to board their train as they set out on a trip out east. Tom recently brought the sign to an ARRC meeting where I photographed it.

The Fort Pitt Still Looked Good late in the PRR Era

March 4, 2015


It is most likely an afternoon in late 1967 and Pennsylvania Railroad Nos. 4293 and 4255 head a westbound Fort Pitt through Canton west of WANDLE Tower.

There are four baggage cars and four passenger cars in the train. Even at this late time in PRR’s passenger service, this train looked good.

Very likely it was nearing Thanksgiving or Christmas because it was not unusual to find one baggage car and two passenger cars making up the consist.

On the right side of the image there is a railroad pole line of telegraph wires. Yes, the wires cast shadows, but that was part of railroading’s history at the time.

Thankfully, the major shadow on the building wasn’t on the locomotives.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

It’s Not a Perfect Image, But it’s History

February 25, 2015


Here is another “it doesn’t have to be perfect image.” Pennsylvania Railroad No. 4309 heads the afternoon westbound Fort Pitt through Massillon, Ohio, in what looks like late 1967 or early 1968.

The original negative was very underexposed, making it nearly transparent and hard to get detail and decent contrast. By using Adobe Lightroom 5 and Adobe Photoshop Elements, it was savable.

As for the composition of the image, I took it a fraction of a second early and put the pole through the last car.

I could either pitch the image or realize that not every image that I took was perfect. Instead, I chose to look at it in a new way.

First, it captures a part of passenger train history.

Second, it shows the railroad bridge in the background and the Massillon of back then. Instead of cropping more tightly, I included the Massillon road bridge and part of Massillon that has changed since then. I especially like the big CHEVY sign.

Third, for a cold and grubby winter day, this isn’t bad at all.

As for the pole, that was my fault. The whole image is far more important than something I can’t go back and change.

With those thoughts in mind, now I can be thankful I have this instead of unhappy because of its flaws.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas