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Three Rivers Appreciation Thread


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#1 DowneasterPassenger

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 11:33 AM

Who here remembers the Three Rivers fondly?

We know it's low on the list of "bring back" trains (Sunset Limited, Desert Wind, daily Cardinal service etc. all seem ahead of Three Rivers).

What I liked was the late afternoon departure from Philadelphia for the one-seat ride to Chicago.

I'm sure some folks in Ohio miss this train too.

#2 Pastor Dave

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 11:49 AM

I travelled the Three Rivers quite a few times - including one memorable December when we had a blizzard where at each stop the snow came blowing in through the vestibule. It was a great Philadelphia - Chicago run and so much less of a hassle than going to Washington, New York or waiting 4 hours in Pittsburgh for the Capitol Limited.
Routes I've traveled. Lake Shore Limited (aced NY section); Capitol Limited (aced); Silver Star; Silver Meteor; Crescent; Carolinian; AutoTrain (aced - but that's not hard to do); NEC; Cardinal; Adirondack; Empire Service; Three Rivers; Pennsylvanian; Sunset Limited (ORL - NOL).

#3 DowneasterPassenger

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 11:57 AM

I travelled the Three Rivers quite a few times - including one memorable December when we had a blizzard where at each stop the snow came blowing in through the vestibule. It was a great Philadelphia - Chicago run and so much less of a hassle than going to Washington, New York or waiting 4 hours in Pittsburgh for the Capitol Limited.


Three Rivers was my first snow-on-the-train experience too. Since then I've also experienced snowy vestibules on the LSL too.

#4 the_traveler

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 11:57 AM

I remember the Three Rivers, but never rode on that named train. I did ride on the (Amtrak) Broadway Limited! I do agree that I like the earlier arrival and later departure.
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

The view is much better at 3 feet than it is at 30,000 feet!

#5 DowneasterPassenger

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 12:01 PM

It was a great Philadelphia - Chicago run and so much less of a hassle than going to Washington, New York or waiting 4 hours in Pittsburgh for the Capitol Limited.


I remember one trip departing Bethlehem, PA at 10am by bus, and then actually waiting around 30th St. Sta. with several hours to kill, before I boarded the TR for a trip to California.

#6 DowneasterPassenger

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 12:02 PM

I remember the Three Rivers, but never rode on that named train. I did ride on the (Amtrak) Broadway Limited! I do agree that I like the earlier arrival and later departure.


What's the difference between the BR and TL? Same exact route and timetable, or different?

#7 wayman

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 12:05 PM

I liked it, and I miss it ... but my nostalgia is for a train from Philadelphia to Chicago which serves communities at reasonable times, and for a time only eight or so years ago when there were 4.5 East-Chicago trains per day instead of 2.5 today. I don't miss the Three Rivers in particular; I miss frequency and options.

I'd put a daily Cardinal ahead of a new train on my wish list, simply because it seems like with some ingenuity it could be achieved now (see my suggestion on the Cardinal thread). But a new Broadway Limited -- with a diner and a sleeper -- is on my "when the Viewliners arrive" wish list. If we're going to add a long-distance train, let's do it right this time -- not a mail train that also carries some coaches and a cafe car.
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#8 delvyrails

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 12:08 PM

Who here remembers the Three Rivers fondly?

We know it's low on the list of "bring back" trains (Sunset Limited, Desert Wind, daily Cardinal service etc. all seem ahead of Three Rivers).

What I liked was the late afternoon departure from Philadelphia for the one-seat ride to Chicago.

I'm sure some folks in Ohio miss this train too.


We can soon "celebrate" :angry: the anniversary of its demise five years ago. The last run was March 7, 2005.

#9 Guest_MikefromCrete_*

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 12:16 PM

I remember the Three Rivers, but never rode on that named train. I did ride on the (Amtrak) Broadway Limited! I do agree that I like the earlier arrival and later departure.


What's the difference between the BR and TL? Same exact route and timetable, or different?

The original Amtrak Broadway operated on the old Pennsylvania Railroad through Lima, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Ind. It was the original NYC-CHI train operated by Amtrak. The Lake Shore Limited didn't even exist on May 1,1971. It was brought back as a state-sponsored run, then became part of the national system. Conrail basically demoted the old PRR route west of central Ohio, focusing on the old NYC Water Level Route. Today, the old PRR, at last in Indiana, is a short line.

The Three Rivers was basically a freight/express operation with a couple of passenger cars thrown into the mix. I believe it only ran CHI-PHIL, and gave some much needed daytime service to Cleveland and the rest of Ohio.
When the freight/express faded away after Gunn found out the Warrington-originated scheme didn't make any money, the Three Rivers went away with it, along with the Lake Country Limited and the Kentucky Cardinal. along with those Warrington/freight trains that never such as the NYC-CHI Skyline, the extension of the Crescent to Dallas via Meridian, MIss., and a cross-country luxury run.
Bringing back a Broadway/Three Rivers run from CHI to NYC via PITT and PHIL is not a bad idea. GML seems convinced that it will return with the order for new single level cars. I'm not so sure.

#10 battalion51

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 12:53 PM

I know most people hated the Mail and Express business, mostly because it generally created inconvenient times for many of the trains, and wasn't practical for running many of the services. But I tell you what, in some places it seemed to make sense. When you could put RoadRailers on the Palmetto bug and Silver Star at JAX for the run from JAX to Philly, you didn't have inconvenient times, and you had extra revenue coming on those trains. And don't forget that even the Pride and Joy (Auto Train) carried RoadRailers during crush times for mail around the holidays. Trains have, until very recently, always carried mail. And to me it's a shame that those days are gone. Am I suggesting that Amtrak should have delayed trains and put in extra hours to a schedule for mail handling, no. But if you could do it with just a couple of extra minutes on the schedule like they did on Silver Service, then why not?

By the way, I still would've loved to see the Star or Palmetto bug flying down the NEC with the diesels humming at 90 MPH with RoadRailers in tow.

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#11 AlanB

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 01:20 PM

The Three Rivers was basically a freight/express operation with a couple of passenger cars thrown into the mix. I believe it only ran CHI-PHIL, and gave some much needed daytime service to Cleveland and the rest of Ohio.
When the freight/express faded away after Gunn found out the Warrington-originated scheme didn't make any money, the Three Rivers went away with it, along with the Lake Country Limited and the Kentucky Cardinal. along with those Warrington/freight trains that never such as the NYC-CHI Skyline, the extension of the Crescent to Dallas via Meridian, MIss., and a cross-country luxury run.
Bringing back a Broadway/Three Rivers run from CHI to NYC via PITT and PHIL is not a bad idea. GML seems convinced that it will return with the order for new single level cars. I'm not so sure.


You're confusing the Three Rivers with the Pennsylvanian. The Pennsy was a daylight trian across Ohio, serving Cleveland in daylight at all times. It ran with no sleepers and only coaches and a cafe car. And IIRC, at varrying times it terminated in NY and Philly. It arrived into Chicago around midnight and left at like 6:00 AM.

The Three Rivers ran further south in Ohio and overnight through Ohio, like the LSL & Capitol. It carried sleepers, but no diner only a cafe car.
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#12 AlanB

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 01:23 PM

I'm not sure that I'd say I remember it fondly, but then I only rode it once. It was however the one and only time I ever slept in a Heritage sleeper which I'm glad I got the chance to do, before they were retired.

But it did give one yet another alternative to go between Chicago and NY by train, and it did serve many cities that needed trains. It gave Pittsburgh a second sleeper train, it gave Harrisburg a sleeper train, and it served cities in Ohio that are now totally without rail service, and created a route through central Ohio, where no passenger trains run today.
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#13 Guest_MikefromCrete_*

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 04:13 PM

The Three Rivers was basically a freight/express operation with a couple of passenger cars thrown into the mix. I believe it only ran CHI-PHIL, and gave some much needed daytime service to Cleveland and the rest of Ohio.
When the freight/express faded away after Gunn found out the Warrington-originated scheme didn't make any money, the Three Rivers went away with it, along with the Lake Country Limited and the Kentucky Cardinal. along with those Warrington/freight trains that never such as the NYC-CHI Skyline, the extension of the Crescent to Dallas via Meridian, MIss., and a cross-country luxury run.
Bringing back a Broadway/Three Rivers run from CHI to NYC via PITT and PHIL is not a bad idea. GML seems convinced that it will return with the order for new single level cars. I'm not so sure.


You're confusing the Three Rivers with the Pennsylvanian. The Pennsy was a daylight trian across Ohio, serving Cleveland in daylight at all times. It ran with no sleepers and only coaches and a cafe car. And IIRC, at varrying times it terminated in NY and Philly. It arrived into Chicago around midnight and left at like 6:00 AM.

The Three Rivers ran further south in Ohio and overnight through Ohio, like the LSL & Capitol. It carried sleepers, but no diner only a cafe car.

You're right, Alan, I forgot about the Pennsylvanian's extension to Chicago. I believe it followed the Capital route through Cleveland, with the Three Rivers following the old PRR routing. Nothing like ranting and raving without the facts. Sorry about that.
Both trains, however, were part of the Warrington freight/express program and were operated as an accommodation to that program.

#14 Guest_MikefromCrete_*

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 04:21 PM

I know most people hated the Mail and Express business, mostly because it generally created inconvenient times for many of the trains, and wasn't practical for running many of the services. But I tell you what, in some places it seemed to make sense. When you could put RoadRailers on the Palmetto bug and Silver Star at JAX for the run from JAX to Philly, you didn't have inconvenient times, and you had extra revenue coming on those trains. And don't forget that even the Pride and Joy (Auto Train) carried RoadRailers during crush times for mail around the holidays. Trains have, until very recently, always carried mail. And to me it's a shame that those days are gone. Am I suggesting that Amtrak should have delayed trains and put in extra hours to a schedule for mail handling, no. But if you could do it with just a couple of extra minutes on the schedule like they did on Silver Service, then why not?

By the way, I still would've loved to see the Star or Palmetto bug flying down the NEC with the diesels humming at 90 MPH with RoadRailers in tow.

It seemed a good idea at the time, but it served to delay trains, it created a wedge between Amtrak and the freight railroads (especially UP) and apparently it didn't make any money! A great deal of the traffic could be defined as freight, not mail and express (the traditional cargo carried on passenger trains) which upset the freight railroads and probably lead to a lot of the delays to passenger trains by freight rail dispatchers, treating Amtrak trains like the freight trains of other railroads (i.e. the competition).
This is also the first time I've heard that the auto train carried roadrailers.

#15 MikefromCrete

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 08:55 PM

The Three Rivers was basically a freight/express operation with a couple of passenger cars thrown into the mix. I believe it only ran CHI-PHIL, and gave some much needed daytime service to Cleveland and the rest of Ohio.
When the freight/express faded away after Gunn found out the Warrington-originated scheme didn't make any money, the Three Rivers went away with it, along with the Lake Country Limited and the Kentucky Cardinal. along with those Warrington/freight trains that never such as the NYC-CHI Skyline, the extension of the Crescent to Dallas via Meridian, MIss., and a cross-country luxury run.
Bringing back a Broadway/Three Rivers run from CHI to NYC via PITT and PHIL is not a bad idea. GML seems convinced that it will return with the order for new single level cars. I'm not so sure.


You're confusing the Three Rivers with the Pennsylvanian. The Pennsy was a daylight trian across Ohio, serving Cleveland in daylight at all times. It ran with no sleepers and only coaches and a cafe car. And IIRC, at varrying times it terminated in NY and Philly. It arrived into Chicago around midnight and left at like 6:00 AM.

The Three Rivers ran further south in Ohio and overnight through Ohio, like the LSL & Capitol. It carried sleepers, but no diner only a cafe car.

You're right, Alan, I forgot about the Pennsylvanian's extension to Chicago. I believe it followed the Capital route through Cleveland, with the Three Rivers following the old PRR routing. Nothing like ranting and raving without the facts. Sorry about that.
Both trains, however, were part of the Warrington freight/express program and were operated as an accommodation to that program.

Let me correct myself. The Three Rivers used the CSX (former B&0) route, not the PRR. I probably should have not commented on this subject at all.

#16 Steve4031

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:03 PM

The Broadway Limited was one of my favorite trains. It provided three first in my railfan career.

The second time I rode it, we detoured on the NYC line and then to Alliance because of a freight derailment. It was my first detour. We were 6 hours late. On the return It was my first solo overnight trip back in 70's when I was 10 years old. I made another solo trip overnight on this train in a slumbercoach a few years later.

IMHO opionion, the trains heydey was when it was a complete heritage fleet consist in the early 80's

#17 jis

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:20 PM


You're right, Alan, I forgot about the Pennsylvanian's extension to Chicago. I believe it followed the Capital route through Cleveland, with the Three Rivers following the old PRR routing. Nothing like ranting and raving without the facts. Sorry about that.
Both trains, however, were part of the Warrington freight/express program and were operated as an accommodation to that program.

Let me correct myself. The Three Rivers used the CSX (former B&0) route, not the PRR. I probably should have not commented on this subject at all.

Actually the sequence of events was as follows:

1. There was Amtrak Broadway Limited which ran on the Conrail ex-PRR Fort Wayne line the original Broadway Limited route. I traveled on this train. There was also National Limited which followed the same route as Broadway Ltd upto Pittsburgh and headed off to St Louis. Broadway carried a Washington Section which was split/joined variously at Philly or Harrisburg depending on which year one is talking about.

2. Conrail downgraded the Fort Wayne line leading to the Broadway Limited being routed over CSX west of Newcastle PA, through Youngstown, Akron, Garrett and Nappanee. I traveled on this train. At this time Capitol Ltd. operated on CSX from DC to Pittsburgh and then on Conrail through Alliance to Cleveland and then along the ex-NYC water level route.

3. Broadway Limited was discontinued. Much hue and cry ensued

4. Broadway Limited via CSX west of Pittsburgh was re-incarnated as Three Rivers since initially the re-incarnated train did not have any sleepers. Usual excuse, we don't have enough working Sleepers. Much hue and cry ensued.

5. Three Rivers got a Heritage sleeper taken out of mothballs and patched up for the service.

..... The rest y'all already know.

I never had a chance to travel by the Three Rivers. But when the Broadway existed it was one of my favorite trains. There was nothing as enchanting as having breakfast in the Diner while it descended down Juniata Valley to a frozen Susquehanna River deep in the winter. I still have pictures that bring back those fond memories. And.... Most importantly.... it had a Slumbercoach!!!

All this from somewhat fuzzy memory hence no specific dates. I am sure experts will find some errors in detail but I think the basic shape of things were as stated above.

Edited by jis, 25 January 2010 - 10:22 PM.


#18 railiner

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:54 PM

I know most people hated the Mail and Express business, mostly because it generally created inconvenient times for many of the trains, and wasn't practical for running many of the services. But I tell you what, in some places it seemed to make sense. When you could put RoadRailers on the Palmetto bug and Silver Star at JAX for the run from JAX to Philly, you didn't have inconvenient times, and you had extra revenue coming on those trains. And don't forget that even the Pride and Joy (Auto Train) carried RoadRailers during crush times for mail around the holidays. Trains have, until very recently, always carried mail. And to me it's a shame that those days are gone. Am I suggesting that Amtrak should have delayed trains and put in extra hours to a schedule for mail handling, no. But if you could do it with just a couple of extra minutes on the schedule like they did on Silver Service, then why not?

By the way, I still would've loved to see the Star or Palmetto bug flying down the NEC with the diesels humming at 90 MPH with RoadRailers in tow.

It seemed a good idea at the time, but it served to delay trains, it created a wedge between Amtrak and the freight railroads (especially UP) and apparently it didn't make any money! A great deal of the traffic could be defined as freight, not mail and express (the traditional cargo carried on passenger trains) which upset the freight railroads and probably lead to a lot of the delays to passenger trains by freight rail dispatchers, treating Amtrak trains like the freight trains of other railroads (i.e. the competition).
This is also the first time I've heard that the auto train carried roadrailers.

I agree with this poster. Some of you may recall when Amtrak ran an all mail train from Boston to New York via Springfield on an overnight schedule. It only carried baggage cars with mail containers.
Well Conrail put the kabosh to that. They insisted that the train have at least one coach on their portion from Boston to Springfield, as they viewed it as a competing freight train which Amtrak had no business running. Amtrak was forced to go along or else they would have to run it on their own NEC route.

I fondly recall the original PRR Broadway Limited, one of my favorites. Even the Penn Central took better care of it then the rest of their trains.
When Amtrak started, they quickly assembled some of their best inherited equipment, and refurbished them for The Broadway. It's first schedule on Amtrak was a still respectable 17 hours, departing NYP 4:55 PM and arriving CHI at 9:00 AM. It ran from New York via the "New York and Pittsburgh Subway" by Zoo Tower, and stopped at PHN to serve Philadelphia. It ran with its splendid GG1's from New York all the way to Harrisburg, changing there to E8's or E9's, and also picked up cars coming up from WAS.

I would love to see Amtrak bring back the Broadway, running NYP-PGH-CLE-CHI, with limited intermediate stops to expedite the schedule.
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#19 battalion51

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 02:29 AM

It's a little hard to tell from this angle, but this picture is from 2002 of a cut of RoadRailers coupled up to the 556 in the yard at Sanford before they started to double out for the afternoon.
Posted Image
Like I said before, there were definite downfalls to the mail and express business. But if Amtrak could've continued to do it right as it had been done for many years then they should've been able to see at least a little bit of a profit. Like many things in the Warrington era, Amtrak bit off more than it could chew.

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#20 sueb

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 10:34 AM

I fondly recall the original PRR Broadway Limited, one of my favorites. Even the Penn Central took better care of it then the rest of their trains.
When Amtrak started, they quickly assembled some of their best inherited equipment, and refurbished them for The Broadway. It's first schedule on Amtrak was a still respectable 17 hours, departing NYP 4:55 PM and arriving CHI at 9:00 AM. It ran from New York via the "New York and Pittsburgh Subway" by Zoo Tower, and stopped at PHN to serve Philadelphia. It ran with its splendid GG1's from New York all the way to Harrisburg, changing there to E8's or E9's, and also picked up cars coming up from WAS.

I would love to see Amtrak bring back the Broadway, running NYP-PGH-CLE-CHI, with limited intermediate stops to expedite the schedule.


NO WAY can a train serve Phila using PHN (aka North Philadelphia Station). It is in a horrible neighborhood and you feel like you are in an "after the bomb" movie standing on the platform watching the commuter trains wiz by (most don't stop at PHN). I've been there within the last year and I know whereof I speak. That's what happens if you sleep past 30th St on the Keystone in the morning.

Edited by GG-1, 26 January 2010 - 11:10 AM.
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