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moderated Southern Passenger Trains on the NE Corridor in 1968

George Eichelberger
 

The attached memo is from a period when the Southern was attempting to cut off passenger trains and altering remaining schedules to adjust arrival and departure and connecting train times. The Penn Central speed restrictions on conventional passenger trains were supposedly not due to poor track conditions (on PC in 1968?) but due to equipment failures with conventional power and passenger equipment. As the Southern trains on the NEC were combined with PC schedules north of Washington, and virtually everything was pulled by aging GG-1s, there likely were equipment reliability issues.

....but having "conventional" trains approaching Metroliner schedules would not have been something PC would have wanted.

Ike

Gary Bechdol
 

Of course, policy and practice often varied greatly.

I started with Penn Central in July, 1970, fresh out of Georgia Tech.  That Fall, I decided to travel back to Atlanta for the Thanksgiving holiday and watch the Tech-Georgia game with friends. At that time,Southern was offering half rate tickets to holders of foreign railroad passes, so I planned to ride the Crescent from Washington to Atlanta and return.  I could catch the Crescent in Philadelphia, but I might not have enough time in Washington to run to the ticket counter and purchase a half fare ticket before the Crescent departed, so I decided to take the train leaving Philadelphia ahead of the Crescent. which happened to be the Silver Meteor.  The kicker was that the Silver Meteor was the only train on the Northeast Corridor besides the Metroliners on which my pass was not accepted.  But I went down to the platform anyway, and explained my situation to the motorman on the GG1 on the head of the Meteor.  He was agreeable, but I would have to stand in the narrow access passage behind him for the entire trip.  I wedged myself in and we were off.  The weather was wet and gloomy, so photos were pretty much out of the question.  Plus, the sand pipes were clogged.  The wheel slip lights stayed on almost continuously until the stop in Baltimore, at which point the fireman got down and banged on the sand pipes to open them up.  Apparently, it worked.  We left Baltimore 8 minutes late, and had a 35 mph speed restriction through the B&P tunnel south of the station.  Once clear of the tunnel, the motorman started notching back on the controller.  I watched the needle on the speedometer climb past the authorized maximum speed of 80 mph, then hit 100 mph and keep on going.  The speedometer on a G only goes up to 100, and we were well past that.  I best guess is that we were maintaining a speed of 110 mph, bases on the divisions on the speedometer.  The motorman apologized a couple of times for slowing to 90 mph through some interlockings.  It is 40.5 miles by timetable from Baltimore to Washington Union Station.  We did it in 32 minutes start to stop.

As an aside, I regularly rode the Bucks County Express (First stop, Cornwells Heights) out of Suburban Station while I was with PC.  The St.Louis-built Silverliners had speedometers.  On many a trip home we would run at 90 mph once we cleared the reverse curves at Frankford Junction.

Gary Bechdol

On Sat, Feb 1, 2020 at 3:02 PM George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:
The attached memo is from a period when the Southern was attempting to cut off passenger trains and altering remaining schedules to adjust arrival and departure and connecting train times. The Penn Central speed restrictions on conventional passenger trains were supposedly not due to poor track conditions (on PC in 1968?) but due to equipment failures with conventional power and passenger equipment. As the Southern trains on the NEC were combined with PC schedules north of Washington, and virtually everything was pulled by aging GG-1s, there likely were equipment reliability issues.

....but having "conventional" trains approaching Metroliner schedules would not have been something PC would have wanted.

Ike

Michael Young
 

Your pass not being accepted on the Silver Meteor might have been due to the fact that all "premier" long-distance trains were not permitted to handle local travel within the NEC.  IIRC, this included the Crescent and Southerner, as well as all the Florida trains.  And Amtrak continues the practice, at least up to my retirement in 1996.  If you check the timetables, you will find a reference mark designating NEC stations (New York-Washington) as "Receive Only" on southbound trips, and "Discharge Only" on the northbounds.  This obviously was done to prevent short haul traffic within the NEC from tying up long haul space.  There were a few exceptions, some "lesser" trains (such as the Palmetto in the Amtrak era) were allowed to handle local traffic.  You could get around the rule southbound by buying a ticket to Alexandria, or, in the case of a pass rider, you might convince a conductor to let you ride without a ticket, but ticket agents could not reserve space or issue tickets via the restricted trains for travel within the Corridor.

Michael Young

M


-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Bechdol <garyeb1947@...>
To: main <main@southernrailway.groups.io>
Sent: Mon, Feb 3, 2020 8:16 am
Subject: Re: [SouthernRailway] Southern Passenger Trains on the NE Corridor in 1968

Of course, policy and practice often varied greatly.

I started with Penn Central in July, 1970, fresh out of Georgia Tech.  That Fall, I decided to travel back to Atlanta for the Thanksgiving holiday and watch the Tech-Georgia game with friends. At that time,Southern was offering half rate tickets to holders of foreign railroad passes, so I planned to ride the Crescent from Washington to Atlanta and return.  I could catch the Crescent in Philadelphia, but I might not have enough time in Washington to run to the ticket counter and purchase a half fare ticket before the Crescent departed, so I decided to take the train leaving Philadelphia ahead of the Crescent. which happened to be the Silver Meteor.  The kicker was that the Silver Meteor was the only train on the Northeast Corridor besides the Metroliners on which my pass was not accepted.  But I went down to the platform anyway, and explained my situation to the motorman on the GG1 on the head of the Meteor.  He was agreeable, but I would have to stand in the narrow access passage behind him for the entire trip.  I wedged myself in and we were off.  The weather was wet and gloomy, so photos were pretty much out of the question.  Plus, the sand pipes were clogged.  The wheel slip lights stayed on almost continuously until the stop in Baltimore, at which point the fireman got down and banged on the sand pipes to open them up.  Apparently, it worked.  We left Baltimore 8 minutes late, and had a 35 mph speed restriction through the B&P tunnel south of the station.  Once clear of the tunnel, the motorman started notching back on the controller.  I watched the needle on the speedometer climb past the authorized maximum speed of 80 mph, then hit 100 mph and keep on going.  The speedometer on a G only goes up to 100, and we were well past that.  I best guess is that we were maintaining a speed of 110 mph, bases on the divisions on the speedometer.  The motorman apologized a couple of times for slowing to 90 mph through some interlockings.  It is 40.5 miles by timetable from Baltimore to Washington Union Station.  We did it in 32 minutes start to stop.

As an aside, I regularly rode the Bucks County Express (First stop, Cornwells Heights) out of Suburban Station while I was with PC.  The St.Louis-built Silverliners had speedometers.  On many a trip home we would run at 90 mph once we cleared the reverse curves at Frankford Junction.

Gary Bechdol

On Sat, Feb 1, 2020 at 3:02 PM George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:
The attached memo is from a period when the Southern was attempting to cut off passenger trains and altering remaining schedules to adjust arrival and departure and connecting train times. The Penn Central speed restrictions on conventional passenger trains were supposedly not due to poor track conditions (on PC in 1968?) but due to equipment failures with conventional power and passenger equipment. As the Southern trains on the NEC were combined with PC schedules north of Washington, and virtually everything was pulled by aging GG-1s, there likely were equipment reliability issues.

....but having "conventional" trains approaching Metroliner schedules would not have been something PC would have wanted.

Ike

Tim
 

My recent experience on the Palmetto and the Carolinian on the NE corridor was that there were several cars on the head end on the southbound trains for local traffic, with through passenger being seated behind these cars. The "short" cars were pulled off with the engine in Washington.

Tim Rumph
Lancaster, SC

Bill Schafer
 

That’s generally what happened - adding/subtracting cars for locals to use on the NEC between Washington and New York - to the secondary trains from the south, mentioned by Michael Young. You experienced, Tim, a longtime practice from the dark ages. In fact, except for the Florida streamliners and the Southerner and Crescent, most trains carrying through cars from the south were usually combined with regularly scheduled PRR trains anyway so that if a northbound train was late, the connection could leave on time, serving the local market, while the cars from the south could be added to the next train. Southern’s practice was to favor the Pullman passengers with through cars, while coach passengers (except those in reserved seats on the Southerner) were obliged to get off in Washington and reboard a PRR coach for the remainder of the trip to NYC.

—Bill

On Feb 3, 2020, at 10:40 AM, Tim <tarumph@...> wrote:

My recent experience on the Palmetto and the Carolinian on the NE corridor was that there were several cars on the head end on the southbound trains for local traffic, with through passenger being seated behind these cars. The "short" cars were pulled off with the engine in Washington.

Tim Rumph
Lancaster, SC

George Eichelberger
 

As the “Southerner” began service, the Southern asked the PRR to run it as a separate train from DC to NYC. The PRR responded with (to paraphrase) “are you nuts? It’s 1941with a war in Europe, we cannot tie up the PRR main line and a GG-1 for a SEVEN car train!”

After several “testy” letters back and forth the PRR offered to run a Southerner-only train for one week for publicity photos. There is evidence the Southerner ran north of DC as a seven car train only once.

Ike


On Feb 3, 2020, at 12:12 PM, Bill Schafer <bill4501@...> wrote:

That’s generally what happened - adding/subtracting cars for locals to use on the NEC between Washington and New York - to the secondary trains from the south, mentioned by Michael Young. You experienced, Tim, a longtime practice from the dark ages. In fact, except for the Florida streamliners and the Southerner and Crescent, most trains carrying through cars from the south were usually combined with regularly scheduled PRR trains anyway so that if a northbound train was late, the connection could leave on time, serving the local market, while the cars from the south could be added to the next train. Southern’s practice was to favor the Pullman passengers with through cars, while coach passengers (except those in reserved seats on the Southerner) were obliged to get off in Washington and reboard a PRR coach for the remainder of the trip to NYC.

—Bill

On Feb 3, 2020, at 10:40 AM, Tim <tarumph@...> wrote:

My recent experience on the Palmetto and the Carolinian on the NE corridor was that there were several cars on the head end on the southbound trains for local traffic, with through passenger being seated behind these cars. The "short" cars were pulled off with the engine in Washington.

Tim Rumph
Lancaster, SC