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rspenmoll

Historic lack of New York-Chicago day trains

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Listening to the classic Steve Goodman/Arlo Guthrie song "City of New Orleans" got me thinking. As I'm sure you know, when it was inaugurated in 1947, the song's namesake, despite its run of more than 900 miles, operated on a daytime schedule, departing at 8 AM and arriving just before midnight, a run of about 16 hours. I can assume the train appealed to budget travelers. Taking the City meant avoiding the dilemma of either splurging on a sleeper and having less money to spend at one's destination or spending an uncomfortable night in coach getting little sleep. My question then, and I realize this calls for speculation, is, why was a similar service never offered on the New York-Chicago route? At one point, both the Broadway and 20th Century were running on a 16 hour schedule. The Pennsy and New York Central both could have offered a train that left New York at 8 AM for a Chicago arrival of 11 PM, and a 7 AM Chicago departure that arrived in New York at midnight. Were there other factors at play, in terms of customer base, for example, that made such an operation unviable?

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That's a very good question....I've long wondered about the very same thing. I dug out some old NYC and PRR timetables from 1964 and 1953 and there simply wasn't any train or even connection that could accomplish that mission....the morning trains out of New York could at best get you to Detroit in a day, and that was it...you then would have to wait hours to get a local the rest of the way to Chicago for a 'wee' hours arrival.

You could take an afternoon express out of New York, and just about catch those trains in Chicago.

 

I guess you're right....most people in those days wanted an overnight train, even if in coach over that distance...there was an abundance of those to choose from on a bunch of different railroads....

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While the two top trains on the NYC and PRR made the trip in 16 hours, other trains took longer, particularly if they handled a lot of mail and express (the real money makers for the passenger side of railroading).

The IC's hot schedule for the CONO involved a lot of 100 mph running through the flat Illinois prairies, which could not be duplicated by the NYC or PRR.

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While the two top trains on the NYC and PRR made the trip in 16 hours, other trains took longer, particularly if they handled a lot of mail and express (the real money makers for the passenger side of railroading).

The IC's hot schedule for the CONO involved a lot of 100 mph running through the flat Illinois prairies, which could not be duplicated by the NYC or PRR.

Come to think of it, the City was carrying 25 sacks of mail the day Steve Goodman rode it, but it was on a slower schedule by then. Did it handle mail and express when it first began operations in 1947? If so, that makes its schedule almost unbelievably impressive.

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While the two top trains on the NYC and PRR made the trip in 16 hours, other trains took longer, particularly if they handled a lot of mail and express (the real money makers for the passenger side of railroading).

The IC's hot schedule for the CONO involved a lot of 100 mph running through the flat Illinois prairies, which could not be duplicated by the NYC or PRR.

I think the NYC and the PRR could (and did) run that fast across Ohio and Indiana at times.....in fact, the US rail speed record set by the NYC M-497 in Ohio and Indiana stood until 1974...

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While the two top trains on the NYC and PRR made the trip in 16 hours, other trains took longer, particularly if they handled a lot of mail and express (the real money makers for the passenger side of railroading).

The IC's hot schedule for the CONO involved a lot of 100 mph running through the flat Illinois prairies, which could not be duplicated by the NYC or PRR.

Come to think of it, the City was carrying 25 sacks of mail the day Steve Goodman rode it, but it was on a slower schedule by then. Did it handle mail and express when it first began operations in 1947? If so, that makes its schedule almost unbelievably impressive.

 

I don't think the CONO handled mail and express....there were other trains on the 'Main Line of Mid America' that served that purpose, notably the Creole, the Southern Express, and also the Louisiane....

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The Century and the Broadway were both supported, after a fashion, by the fact that the endpoint market was big and that there was a business market which could use them to not lose a day due to travel. A daytime train, necessarily lacking that market, would have needed more intermediate traffic (and thus intermediate stops) to work. Now, it does seem possible that a limited-stop schedule of NYG-ALB-BUF-CLE-TOL-CHI or NYP-PHN-HAR-PGH-(one or two stops)-CHI might have "cut it", and I'm kind-of surprised that was never tried at least on the Pennsy (which got the Broadway's schedule down to 15:30 at one point IIRC). However...one thing to consider is how disruptive a super-fast high-priority train could be to operations. Doing that a few times in the same direction within a few hours each way is one thing...I think you can argue that, for example, the NYC "fleeted" a batch of higher-priority LD trains between about 3:30 PM and 6:30 PM. This was certainly the case on the Pennsy...I found the Pennsy's timetable before I got to the NYC's, and this is very clearly the case (you have two clear batches of 3-4 trains running WB within about a 40-60 minute timeframe (one batch departing NYP in late afternoon/early evening and the other later at night); it's pretty clear that these trains collectively shut down one of the tracks on the line for a period).

Edit: Looking over the NYC's timetable (I found it), there's also a rather large slug of trains approaching Chicago all at once. In general, though, it seems that the run was just a bit too long for anything but a hotshot express to make on a daylight timing (the times at one end or both would have been awful...there's a strong tendency I can find to avoid having trains depart too early from an endpoint so as not to lose folks who would've taken a local train into town; for example, I can only find three WB trains on the NYC leaving before 0900, and two of those are closely-timed middle-of-the-night trains (one is obviously a mail train...it takes about 2:30 longer than the other one...but I think they were both probably set to fill a couple of oddball markets for mail, express, and "after the bars close" passengers...one takes 6:00 NYG-ALB while the other takes over 7:00 NYG-ALB) going to Syracuse. The other is the DeWitt Clinton, which from the looks of the timetable feels like the previous-generation version of the Empire State Express (it's slower and has more stops), with the latter train arriving into Buffalo not far behind it even though it leaves NYG 1:20 later.

With that all being said, what I'm seeing is that you really didn't have many long-haul trains leaving before sometime in the 8:00-9:00 AM range. Something like the Palmetto we have today would arguably have been anathema to this.

Edited by Anderson

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Come to think of it, the City was carrying 25 sacks of mail the day Steve Goodman rode it...

I think he took a lot of poetic license in writing the song, so that it's impossible to say how much was really being carried at the time he rode.

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While the two top trains on the NYC and PRR made the trip in 16 hours, other trains took longer, particularly if they handled a lot of mail and express (the real money makers for the passenger side of railroading).

The IC's hot schedule for the CONO involved a lot of 100 mph running through the flat Illinois prairies, which could not be duplicated by the NYC or PRR.

I think the NYC and the PRR could (and did) run that fast across Ohio and Indiana at times.....in fact, the US rail speed record set by the NYC M-497 in Ohio and Indiana stood until 1974...

 

The M-497 record run was a special test that involved shutting down the railroad to all other traffic and blocking all grade crossings. It was never repeated and certainly never in regular service.

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While the two top trains on the NYC and PRR made the trip in 16 hours, other trains took longer, particularly if they handled a lot of mail and express (the real money makers for the passenger side of railroading).

The IC's hot schedule for the CONO involved a lot of 100 mph running through the flat Illinois prairies, which could not be duplicated by the NYC or PRR.

I think the NYC and the PRR could (and did) run that fast across Ohio and Indiana at times.....in fact, the US rail speed record set by the NYC M-497 in Ohio and Indiana stood until 1974...

 

The M-497 record run was a special test that involved shutting down the railroad to all other traffic and blocking all grade crossings. It was never repeated and certainly never in regular service.

 

I cited that extreme example to counter your statement that 100 mph running could not be done in NYC or PRR territory....in actual service, I believe both of those roads had regular 100 mph operation's in different area's, as did several other roads in that era...

Edited by railiner

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There were a lot of places where 100 MPH running could be done until the 79 MPH limit was imposed...and plenty of places where it was done, 79 MPH limit or not.

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There were a lot of places where 100 MPH running could be done until the 79 MPH limit was imposed...and plenty of places where it was done, 79 MPH limit or not.

I can attest to that! In the late 70's, early 80's, I rode the SFZ several times across Wyoming on the UP's cab-signaled 90 mph territory. They received No. 6 one day about an hour and three quarter's late at Ogden from the SP. Between Green River and Laramie, the milepost's were flying by every 36 seconds. That train made it into Denver almost on time! (there was also a lot of padding in the schedule)..

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Well the Pennsylvanian once ran PHL-CHI as a "day train" between the cities around 2000 (http://timetables.org/full.php?group=20000521n&item=0030). I assume they didn't run to NYP because it was too late/early to make it there practically.

 

IMO any day train that long is for the intermediate traffic as if you're going to spend 15 hours on the train why spend it 7am-10pm when you can spend it 7pm-10am and sleep off a good portion of it?

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Great find! Did that "Skyline Connection" ever run? The TT says "service to commence on a date to be announced"....I don't recall it.....

Edited by railiner

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No

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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Yeah...I didn't think so...imagine if it had....there would have been an amazing four daily trains between Pittsburgh and Chicago, if you added the Capitol to those depicted in that timetable.... :)

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In any case it was essentially supposed to be a few Coaches and a Cafe with what amounted to a freight train attached. One of Warrington's brilliant schemes.

Edited by jis

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The TT says it was supposed to have "First Class Viewliner Service", as well as a lounge and checked baggage service....it's amenities were 'better' than the Three River's....oh well...moot point, anyway.

You gotta give Warrington credit for at least trying to increase service.....(or not :P )..........

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That example makes me wonder....were there any other similar "stillborn" trains that were proposed, but never ran in that era? And that at least made it into the timetable?

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That example makes me wonder....were there any other similar "stillborn" trains that were proposed, but never ran in that era? And that at least made it into the timetable?

 

Same timetable, Florida-Boston through service was proposed but never implemented, might argue #2 beyond Broadway on list of get rid of forced connections (Toledo for Michigan passengers and Longview for CHI-Houston would also be up there).

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Not sure, but I believe that in Amtrak's first decade, at some time they did have a thru sleeper between Boston and Florida....and I'm pretty sure that also had a thru Montreal to Florida sleeper....

You know they had New York to Los Angeles sleeper's on both the National/Southwest and the Crescent/Sunset routes, via Kansas City or New Orleans....and for a while I believe there was a Kansas City to New Orleans sleeper via Carbondale....

And one more...there was a thru San Diego to Seattle (but not Vancouver, BC) sleeper....

Edited by railiner

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That example makes me wonder....were there any other similar "stillborn" trains that were proposed, but never ran in that era? And that at least made it into the timetable?

 

Hiawatha extension to Fond du Lac, WI, I believe was in the same timetable.

 

I'm also told that splitting the LSL into separate NYP and BOS trains (all the way from Chicago) made it as far as being in Arrow with passengers ticketed before being pulled (don't know what year that was, though).

 

I want to say there was at least one more, but there were also a few very-short-lived trains in that period that I could just be confusing it with one of them.

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There was Warrington's Warbird ;) to Janesville for a little while too during the conversion attempts to freight railroad. ^_^

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There was Warrington's Warbird ;) to Janesville for a little while too during the conversion attempts to freight railroad. ^_^

The Lake Country Limited actually did run for a little while, as you said, so it was not exactly "stillborn"....

And I still kick myself for missing that one....it is the only Amtrak route thru history, that I never rode.... :(

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