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Your Experiences on Pre-Amtrak Trains?


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#1 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 08:15 PM

I wasn't born yet on A-Day. I remember reading on this newsgroup some people discuss experiences on trains pre-Amtrak. Please feel free to share your experiences on this thread.

 

Warning: By posting here, you are revealing you're old enough to experience pre-Amtrak trains.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#2 railiner

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 11:02 AM

Growing up here, in New York, my first rail experience was my mother taking me on shopping trips from our home in Brooklyn, into Manhattan aboard the BMT subway, as far back as I can remember.   I quickly learned the pleasure of the "railfan's window", looking out the front of the train.  On weekends, when my father was off, we used the family car for all travel, so I never got exposure to 'real railroads'.   The only exception was us putting my grandfather on the train to Florida a couple of winters, and getting my first glimpse of the original Pennsylvania Station.   I recall the sights and sounds almost like it was yesterday....the stainless steel cars (must have been a SAL train?), the steam wafting up between the cars and the platform edge, the luxurious inside of his Pullman roomette,the sounds from the magnificent GG-1's blowers, and bell as it glided out....

That was in around 1955...

 

More subway riding thru the years, and occasional views of Long Island Rail Road trains passing when motoring on Long Island.

Then my first glimpse of Grand Central Terminal in the late '50's to meet my visiting cousin coming down from Worcester, Ma.  What a magnificent terminal that was,  When we saw him off, got a look inside his New Haven "American Flyer" coach, and was intrigued by it having a restroom and a water fountain ("bubbler", in New England parlance)... My cousin rode to Springfield, and connected with a NYC train to Worcester.   When it was my turn to visit him, my family decided to send me (I was a few years younger) on a no-change Trailways of New England bus, from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, (where I now work),to avoid the transfer enroute.   That was my first experience riding a long distance coach, and I became a bus fan...

 

Fast forward to 1966....I was going thru Tech School, at Chanute AFB, Rantoul, Il,..and my first weekend pass to Chicago was spent getting there on a Greyhound Scenicruiser, on a four and a half hour local schedule up US-45.   I enjoyed it very much.

The next pass I got, my buddy insisted we take the train...So we board the Illinois Central 'Louisiane'....

The first thing I noticed as the train approached was the beautiful sound of its chime air horn....then the figure '8' pattern cast by its Mars headlight...then when climbing aboard, the long ago fragrance of the steam heating, I recalled from seeing my grandfather off....

I was sitting at the window seat, but facing my buddy sitting next to me, engrossed in our conversation....after a while he casually asked me to look out the window...

I was stunned to see we were rolling along already.  Being used to riding subways, I never felt the throttle artist's imperceptible start of the train....

Soon we were rolling along parallel US-45 at 100 mph....the vehicles we were passing appeared to be going backwards.  We arrived Central Station in Chicago in less than half the time the bus took...

 

After coming home from the service, I reverted to being a bus fan, and for a while, I had a girlfriend living in Philadelphia, whom I visited every weekend by bus.

I also had a friend who was a bus, rail, and airliner fan, who introduced me to the fascinating aspects of those modes...

We took several fan trips together...

I still expressed my preference for bus, and he said, he would have to show me what I was missing...

So he took me on "The Convincer"....

We flew to Chicago on a Northwest Orient B707, stopping in Detroit.

We then went to Union Station and boarded the combined Burlington Vista-Dome Afternoon Twin Cities Zephyr/Northern Pacific Vista-Dome North Coast Limited/Great Northern Great-Dome Empire Builder stretching out the length of Track 28.   There must have been at least 7 domes on that fantastic consist.   

We rode it to Minneapolis.  Had dinner in the NP diner, and saw the various lounges and other cars on the train (the crew was kind to let a couple of fans view the Pullman areas as well).

We then rode a Jefferson bus down to Osceola, and caught the CZ back to Chicago, and flew home on a United Super DC-8-61....

 

Yes....I was convinced, and have been a railfan ever since...

 

When A-Day was approaching, I went on a marathon effort to ride some of the routes that would be losing service, some major, some obscure...

Like the Washington Buffalo Express via York, Williamsport

The Butte Special from Salt Lake City to Butte

The Wabash Cannonball from St. Louis to Detroit

The Lake Cities from Hoboken to Chicago

The CZ over the Western Pacific

 

I think I've rambled enough for now.....


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#3 Bob Dylan

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 12:48 PM

I've been riding Passenger trains in the US since 1944 when I was born in Alpine, Tx on the SP "Sunset Route."

Since I've been on so many long gone and sadly missed trains, Ill just mention a few that stand out in my memory! ( which is fading fast!😄)

Steam still ruled the rails during my early days, and with troop trains and many Mail and Milk trains running, the rails were busy 24/7.

We took several "day trips" on locals ( SP ran 8 Passenger trains a day during that time)to El Paso.

My first LD Train ride ( which I barely remdmber) was in Jan of 1945 with my mom to visit my dad who was stationed in McCook,Neb training on B-29s before heading to the Pacific.

We caught the Sunset Ltd.in Alpine (Coach)to El Paso, changed,to a Santa Fe unnamed local to Albuqurque, changed to another local to Denver, spent the night at the Brown Hotel and the next day rode in Day Coach to McCook arriving at 400am with the temperature being -20!!

Later on the "crack trains" I rode include the Super Chief,El Capitan,the Broadway Ltd., the Southern Crescent( mostly in Slumber Coaches),the Texas Eagle,the Texas Special,the Texas Chief and the City of San Francisco.

Edited by Bob Dylan, 11 March 2017 - 12:51 PM.

"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#4 Palmetto

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 04:23 PM

Only a few for me:  a short trip on the DLW "Lake Cities" [I think] from Tobyhanna, PA down the mountain to Scranton.  Then a Penn Central trip from South Bend to New York.  Multiple trips between Grand Central and Boston on the New Haven Railroad, usually in a parlor car.  I grew up in Boston and Maine territory, but never once had the chance to ride one of their longer distance trains.



#5 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 04:31 PM

When I was 11, in 1967, my family moved from GA to DE.  Mom, 2 sisters, 1 cat, 1 dog and I took the train from Augusta to Wilmington.  I only have vague memories, but they have stuck with me and when I was in my 30's or 40's I must have heard about the CZ because I remember suggesting to my husband we take the train out to visit a friend of his near SLC.  Unfortunately, we never had the time or money.  :(  (My first Amtrak LD trip, in 2011, included the CZ to Provo and I met up with this friend of my late husband while visiting my daughter).


2011: Jun: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER) // Nov: WIL=>WAS=>CHI=>PRO (NER=>CL=>CZ)
2012: Apr: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER) // May(NTD): WIL=>PHL=>WIL (NER) / PHL=>PAO=>PHL (Keystone) // Aug: WIL=>WAS (NER) / BWI=>WIL (NER) // Oct(Gathering): PHL=>WIL (NER) / PHL=>HAR=>PHL (Keystone) / SEPTA, NJT, PATCO, River Line, Princeton Dinky
2013: May(NTD): WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER)  // Oct (Gathering): WIL=>CHI (Card) / CHI=>MKE=>GLN=>CHI() / CHI=>JOL=>CHI () / CHI=>WIL(CL=>NER) / CTA, Metra. SEPTA (WIL=>NRK) // Nov:  PHL=>PHL (Autumn Express) 
2014: May(NTD):  WIL=>PHL=>WIL(NER) // May:  WIL=>BOS=>WIL(NER) day trip

2014: Oct(Gathering): WIL=>NYP=>TOL(pd-NER=>LSL) / TOL=>CHI=>LAX=>EMY(pts-LSL=>SWC=>CS) / EMY=>CHI=>TOL (pts-CZ-CL) / TOL=>WAS=>WIL(pd-CL=>NER)
2015: May: CHI=>CIN(pd-Card) / CIN=>WIL(pts Card)
2015;  Oct(Gathering):  WIL=>WAS(Acela) / ALX=>WAS(NER) / WAS=>BAL(Acela) / WAS=>WIL(NER)

2016: Mar: WIL=>WAS=>WIL (NER)  // Oct:  WIL=>NYP=>NYP=>WIL (Autumn Express) 


#6 jis

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 05:46 PM

My first ride in US trains was in the Sept 1965 first on NH Boston to NY Penn on the Senator and then on PRR from NY to Washington on the Congressional. The return to Boston was on a through run on the Senator.

Things were really broken on both trains with A/C barely working and the toilets were a mess. The recline did not work on some of the seats. We were dismayed and surprised that the A/C Express trains back in India, which were supposedly modeled after American trains worked so much better!

#7 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 06:19 PM



Only a few for me:  a short trip on the DLW "Lake Cities" [I think] from Tobyhanna, PA down the mountain to Scranton.  

 

https://en.wikipedia..._Cities_(train)

 

I grew up in Wilkes Barre, really close to Scranton. I didn't really get into Amtrak until I went to the University of Illinois because Wilkes Barre/Scranton had no Amtrak presence for me growing up.


Trains Traveled:
 
Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA) 
Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI)
Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS)
Lake Short Limited (NYP-CHI)
Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL)
Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX)
California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY)
City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL)

 

Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 

https://www.facebook...roadwayLimited/

 


#8 jphjaxfl

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 10:00 AM

I was 22 in 1971 when Amtrak started.  My Dad worked for the Peoria and Eastern division of the Big Four Railroad which was part of the New York Central System. We lived in Joliet and Peoria, Il until 1961 and traveled by train frequrently.  There was no question about the mode of travel - it was always by train.  The choice was which railroad and which train.  My first trip was on Rock Island's Rocky Mountain Rocket from Joliet to Council Bluffs, IA when I was less than a month old.  My maternal Grandmother lived in Council Bluffs so we were back and forth between Peoria and Council Bluffs quite often either on the Burlington through Galesburg or Rock Island through Bureau Jct.  In the 1960s in anticipation of train offs and start of Amtrak, I rode lots of trains.  After Amtrak started, I rode lots of trains.  Its really the best way to travel.



#9 jphjaxfl

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 10:10 AM

My first ride in US trains was in the Sept 1965 first on NH Boston to NY Penn on the Senator and then on PRR from NY to Washington on the Congressional. The return to Boston was on a through run on the Senator.

Things were really broken on both trains with A/C barely working and the toilets were a mess. The recline did not work on some of the seats. We were dismayed and surprised that the A/C Express trains back in India, which were supposedly modeled after American trains worked so much better!

The last 5 or 6 years of the Penn Central and pre Central passenger trains of the Pennsylvania, New York Central and New Haven were really bad.  I rode that Penn Texas west out of Pittsburgh one night in late March or early April.  The coach car was so cold that ice formed on the inside of the window and you could see you breath.  There was still a full Dining Car and that coffee in the morning sure tasted good.  They were definitely trying to chase off passengers.



#10 Bob Dylan

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 12:46 PM

As a follow up to jphjaxfl's post about running off passengers so they could axe passenger trains, I rode on many a Espee train through West Texas that had cars so old that Pancho Villa had used them during the Mexican Revolution ( just a slight exaggaration😄), bathrooms that were locked/"out of order",while others were so filthy you thought you were in a fourth world country!

Of course there was No heat when it cold and open windows were the AC and in addition the seat backs all seemed to be broken.

The final straw was what they did to the once proud Sunset Ltd.with the infamous Vending Machine Car and taking the Sleepers off till the Government forced them to return them.

As for Reservations, lots of trains that ran empty were marked "Sold Out" and agents actually told potential customers to try Greyhound or even to Fly!!!And the OTPs were atrocious with the Sunset often running up to 24 Hours late!😣

Unhappy days indeed on the Railroads, except for the few good ones that actually tried to run good passenger trains like Santa Fe and Southern! 😎

Edited by Bob Dylan, 13 March 2017 - 12:54 PM.

"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#11 zephyr17

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 01:44 PM

Slight correction about the return of the sleeping cars.  The ICC couldn't force them to return dining and sleeping car service to the Sunset, but SP wanted to reduce the train frequency to 3 days a week.  The ICC and SP cut a deal that the ICC allowed the frequency reduction in return for returning sleeping and dining cars to the train.  That was in 1970.


SP Coast Daylight, AT&SF San Diegan, AT&SF Super Chief, D&RGW Rio Grande Zephyr, Southwest Limited/Chief, San Diegan/Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, Cascades, California/San Francisco Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited (LA-Orlando), Desert Wind, Pioneer, City of New Orleans, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Hoosier State (Amtrak),  Hoosier State (Iowa Pacific), Ann Rutledge, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, NE Regional, Capitol Limited, Via Canadian (CP route), Via Super Continental, Via Atlantic Limited, Via Hudson Bay, Via Skeena, Via Canadian (CN route), Via "Corridor" (Toronto-Montreal), BC Rail Cariboo Dayliner, Eurostar, Thalys, DB, Netherlands Rail, Austrian Railways, BR, Korail (conventional), Korail KTX


#12 railiner

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 02:44 PM

Another one of those "quality of service" deals the ICC made, was with the Norfolk and Western....in exchange for permission to cut a lot of service, the Railway. seriously upgraded the remaining train on their Norfolk-Cincinnati mainline, the Pocahontas.  The ran a classy operation, with sleeper's, diner, lounge, and for the first time, a dome coach (acquired from their recently merged Wabash).   They presented each passenger with a very nice amenities kit, with Welcome letter, timetable, route guide, luggage tags, stationery, and other goodies...


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#13 VAtrainfan

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 04:17 PM

I wonder if this counts:

 

I was born about 14 months after A-day, but in the early 1980s a restored Pocahontas consist with a J locomotive made a promotional run and my 5th grade class went for a joy ride between Wakefield (boarded at the grade crossing at W. Main St. and Railroad Ave) and Petersburg (disembarked at the old Walnut Mall on S. Crater Rd, not the PTB station).



#14 jis

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 04:20 PM

 They presented each passenger with a very nice amenities kit, with Welcome letter, timetable, route guide, luggage tags, stationery, and other goodies...

Once upon a time Amtrak used to do that. I have one or two of those folders of yore sitting in my Amtrak memorabilia collection. Picked them up on Broadway Limited and Empire Builder.



#15 Palmetto

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 04:35 PM

My first ride in US trains was in the Sept 1965 first on NH Boston to NY Penn on the Senator and then on PRR from NY to Washington on the Congressional. The return to Boston was on a through run on the Senator.

Things were really broken on both trains with A/C barely working and the toilets were a mess. The recline did not work on some of the seats. We were dismayed and surprised that the A/C Express trains back in India, which were supposedly modeled after American trains worked so much better!

I rode mainly from 66-68.  The parlor cars were in pretty good shape, and I can't relate to your experience.  However, one Christmas eve, I took the Federal up to Boston in coach in a major snow storm.  They disconnected the GG1 at New Haven, the car got cold.  After about an hour and a half, they attached an FL-9, and we got the heat back.  Arrived Boston three hours late.



#16 railiner

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 11:40 PM

While the Penn Central was pretty much "guilty as charged", in generally poor service, and deteriorated equipment, poor track, etc....

There was a notable exception when it came to The Broadway Limited....that train still showed some semblance of proprietary pride, and received the best of what equipment was available, and good service from its crews.  The meals served in its twin-unit diner, were still excellent.  And it was "given the railroad" by the train dispatcher's....

 

A bit later, the Metroliner's became the prime focus of attention, until A-Day.


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#17 railiner

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 12:11 AM

Unhappy days indeed on the Railroads, except for the few good ones that actually tried to run good passenger trains like Santa Fe and Southern!

.

 

Another railroad that wrestled with keeping their own service, or throwing in the towel and joining Amtrak, was the Seaboard Coast Line....

Its "Silver" and "Champion" trains were very nice to the end, and especially its "Champaign Train", the seasonal Florida Special, with its fabulous Recreation Car, and dome sleeper (Richmond-Miami)..

 

And the Illinois Central. led by VP-Passenger Traffic, Paul Reistrup, (later Amtrak's second president), made a valiant effort to upgrade its remaining trains.

 

Honorable mention should also be extended to the UP, BN, D&RGW, MILW, KCS, .C&O/B&O, D&H, and GTW.......They all were pretty much "pro-passenger" until the end...


Edited by railiner, 14 March 2017 - 12:12 AM.

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#18 jis

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 07:30 AM

 

My first ride in US trains was in the Sept 1965 first on NH Boston to NY Penn on the Senator and then on PRR from NY to Washington on the Congressional. The return to Boston was on a through run on the Senator.

Things were really broken on both trains with A/C barely working and the toilets were a mess. The recline did not work on some of the seats. We were dismayed and surprised that the A/C Express trains back in India, which were supposedly modeled after American trains worked so much better!

I rode mainly from 66-68.  The parlor cars were in pretty good shape, and I can't relate to your experience.  However, one Christmas eve, I took the Federal up to Boston in coach in a major snow storm.  They disconnected the GG1 at New Haven, the car got cold.  After about an hour and a half, they attached an FL-9, and we got the heat back.  Arrived Boston three hours late.

 

I can't relate to any Parlor Car experience since we were at that time not in a financial position to travel by one. We were on a very tight budget trying to cover as much of the US northeast as we could in the limited time we had. For our trip to Niagara Falls from Boston rail came out to be too expensive and inconvenient, timetable-wise. So we took Greyhound instead. And the trip on the Super Scenicruisers was actually quite pleasant.



#19 railiner

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 09:50 AM

Loved those parlor cars back then...some operated by The Pullman Company, others by individual railroads.  The nice thing about them was the single seat on each side of the aisle, with a drop down, wall mounted table.  The seats themselves were usually Heywood-Wakefield "Sleepy Hollow", reclining, rotating seats that were supremely comfortable...some had adjustable wings on the headrest, as well.   

The service provided by the attendant was great....if you wanted a drink, or anything, all you had to do was push a little button ....


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#20 Palmetto

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 11:37 AM

And on the New Haven, your shoes were shined as you neared either end of the trip, if you wanted such.  My favorite was the Merchants Limited, and it carried 3 parlor cars and a dining car.  Day roomettes and drawing rooms [ good for 3] were also available.  Every seat was a surcharge of $2.67 over the coach fare.  The train left both Boston and Grand Central at 5:00 PM, and arrived at both at 9:15 PM.  Great service.






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