Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.

Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby pennahistory » Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:45 am

Hello all,

A railroad enthusiast friend of mine suggested I try this forum. I am writing a novel set in 1964 New York, and have some railroad-related questions. If anyone can provide answers, or direct me to where I might be able to get them, I appreciate it very much. Please forgive the somewhat lengthy list; I strive for accuracy in my stories.

1) It is June 1964: where would someone get a train to go from NYC to Mystic, Connecticut: Penn Station, or would Grand Central be an option (my friend says yes but I have no way of confirming). Would he be able to leave at around 5 PM? (I can't seem to find historical timetables; I'm lucky I know what the name of the railroad is, quite candidly).
2) Would he be able to travel in a club, pullman, or other 'premiere' service train?
3) Would there be a dining car, or just something like today's Amtrak cafes?
4) Operational: would it likely be an older, pre-WWII train, or something more modern; would it be direct or would he have to change anywhere; would it be electric or diesel? Would it be a smooth ride, or would the track condition lead to an uncomfortable, jerky, rough trip?
5) Approximately how long would the ride be?

If anyone feels there are other details that would be helpful in establishing what it was like to ride a train out of NYC to Connecticut 50 years ago on a June day , please feel free to throw them in; actually, the more the better (you'll see why if/once published). I will give credit to this website in "sources."

Thank you very much in advance, I truly appreciate it.

David.
pennahistory
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:43 pm

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jun 27, 2014 11:33 am

Your best bet would be to try to locate a New Haven public timetable for 1964, the year in question. You should be able to find one at not too much cost. Roughly speaking in 1964 there was one train in each direction serving Mystic and that was a commuter local between New London and Providence which had Budd RDC Cars, probably two of them. The only other trains that stopped at Mystic were a couple of once a week affairs and I am not positive without checking whether they were still in the timetables in 1964 or not. If they were they featured through coaches, a parlor car and a dining or grill car. They made a good number of stops along the Connecticut Shore. I can't do it today but sometime down the road I will try to pull a timetable for the period in question and verify this information.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9377
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby pennahistory » Fri Jun 27, 2014 1:03 pm

Thank you Noel, this is very helpful. I will scour eBay for the appropriate timetable.

David
pennahistory
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:43 pm

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby ExCon90 » Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:21 pm

I have access to some old Official Guides which I will look through next week and see what's there close to 1964 (if Noel hasn't found the answer in the meantime). Meanwhile I'd just like to say that I (and I'm sure many others) greatly appreciate an author's taking time to get the facts straight. I personally find it intensely irritating to read a novel in which a character takes a train that never ran, over a route it wouldn't have taken, with unrealistic arrival and departure times. More power to you for delving into this to get it right, and good luck with the book.

As to incidental details, if there's a video available, the movie "The Out-of-Towners," with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Duncan (or else Sandy Dennis), there is a sequence in which the two of them are taking the train from Boston to New York; it was evidently shot on location at South Station (not relevant to a trip from New York to Mystic, but the coaches and diners were the same ones) and gives you a good idea of what the actual coaches were like. Part of the story is that the train is grossly overcrowded (the story line is that the airports are all bollixed up and they weren't planning to be going by train), but if you're thinking about a trip from New York to Mystic on a Friday afternoon in June there would be a certain amount of crowding anyway. Also, there are a few scenes in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" showing New Haven coaches of the period. The scenes I'm talking about come fairly early in the film; the interior shots aboard a train, showing a private drawing room and an observation lounge, would not be typical of a New Haven train being used by someone going to Mystic, which as far as I can recall was not nearly as much of a tourist magnet as it is today. As a matter of fact, train service between New York and Mystic is far better today than at any time in history.
ExCon90
 
Posts: 3491
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:22 pm

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby TomNelligan » Fri Jun 27, 2014 3:25 pm

In 1964 the 5 PM departure from New York (Grand Central Terminal) would have been the New Haven's premier train, the Merchants Limited to Boston, with the NH's best streamlined coaches, first-class parlor cars, and a diner that served full meals prepared on board. The closest stop it made to Mystic would have been New London, from which your character could have caught a taxi for the last ten miles. Regarding seasonal stops by through trains from New York, the only option in the summer of 1964 would have been the Murray Hill, the 8 AM departure from Grand Central, which called at Mystic on Saturday and Sunday mornings only, May through October. Otherwise, the only passenger service at Mystic was the New London-Providence local that ran east in the morning and west in the evening and thus wouldn't have suited your character's schedule. As Mr. ExCon notes, Amtrak's service to Mystic today is better than what the NH offered fifty years ago.

One feature of the coaches assigned to the Merchants and the NH's other quality trains that you don't find today was a smoking lounge at one end. The regular coach section of these cars, which were built in the late 1940s, had normal transverse seats like Amtrak's current cars, while the smoking lounge, separated by a glass wall that was only marginally effective at containing the smoke, had a line of individual transverse seats parallel to the wall, plus floor-mounted ashtrays. Definitely a bygone time. Parlor cars had individual soft rotating chairs and porter service and carried an extra charge. If you character had money, that's where he likely would have sat.

The Shore Line track was still in pretty good shape in the mid-1960s so the ride would have been smooth and likely on time. Running time for the Merchants from GCT to New London in 1964 was 2 hours 21 minutes. The locomotives would have been a pair of the New Haven's dual-power FL9s that operated as electrics off of Grand Central's third rail and then as diesels in the open air.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3186
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Jun 28, 2014 3:47 am

For questions regarding the New Haven Railroad I usually refer to my very extensive collection of employee timetables, I have almost all of them back to the early 20's. For a question about passenger trains and accommodations public timetables usually work better. I pulled the public timetable for April 26, 1964 and here is what stopped at Mystic that summer. Train 508, Monday through Saturday left New London at 7:22 AM, Mystic at 7:36 AM and arrived in Providence at 8:47 AM and Boston 9:50 AM. The return train 521 left Providence at 5:15 PM and arrived Mystic 6:19 PM Monday through Friday. On Saturday only train 525 left Providence at 2:00 PM and arrived Mystic at 3:02 PM. Both trains were locals enroute to New London and had connections at Providence from Boston. On Saturday only train 8 left New York (GCT) at 8:00 AM and stopped at Mystic to discharge passengers at 10:47 AM while on Sundays train 10 left New York (GCT) at 8:00 AM and stopped again at Mystic to discharge passengers at 10:45 AM. These stops were for the summer only and ended in early October. Westbound train 29 which left Boston at 4:00 PM stopped at Mystic at 5:48 PM only to take passengers and only on Saturday and Sunday again until early October. Train 8 had a cafe diner and train 10 had a parlor car while train 29 had a parlor car and except on Saturdays also a cafe diner. The year 1964 was a tough period for the New Haven Railroad and the trustees were trying to cut expenses everywhere they could so one way they did that was to eliminate the trains out of Providence that served Mystic on weekends.
Incidentally the station at Mystic was still open at this time for the sale of tickets but not for checking baggage. By 1964 the trains between New York and Boston had shrunk both in size and in numbers so they might have been able to cover all of them with the stainless steel clad PS coaches that came from Worcester in the late 1940's, I'll not swear to that though. The one way coach fare from New York to New London was $6.31 and the one way coach fare from New York to Westerly was $7.21, Mystic was half way between New London and Westerly so you could probably split the difference on the fare to Mystic.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9377
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby pennahistory » Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:51 am

Noel, ExCon90, Tom,

Thank you all for your input and detailed information. Based on what you have said here, it would be factually incorrect to depict someone getting on a train in NY on a late afternoon in June 50 years ago and taking it directly to Mystic. You have saved me from writing something that would have been completely impossible, and further, professional embarrassment. The narrative, therefore, will be altered to depict this information (the protagonist will likely alight in New London, although this has not yet been definitively set). Again, thank you all very much. If only all the historical research that goes into my novels was this easy!

Best,
David
pennahistory
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:43 pm

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Allen Hazen » Sun Jun 29, 2014 12:01 am

So, if the character really wanted to get from New York to Mystic, and didn't want to take a cab from New London… he'd have to leave New York (most likely GCT) at ??? around noon ??? to go to Providence to catch 521 back to Mystic?
Allen Hazen
 
Posts: 2340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:14 pm
Location: Edmonton, Canada (formerly Melbourne, Australia)

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby TomNelligan » Sun Jun 29, 2014 9:18 am

Well, you could also leave Penn Station at 3:15 AM on the PRR/NH Federal, the overnight train from Washington, get off at New London at 6:04, and catch the Providence local at 7:22. But New York-Mystic just wasn't a major market in 1964. As we have noted above, the current level of Amtrak service to Mystic with daily through trains to Boston and New York/Washington represents a significant improvement over what was available in late New Haven RR days... in fact the entire NEC has better/faster service than it did then.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3186
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:27 am

TomNelligan wrote:Well, you could also leave Penn Station at 3:15 AM on the PRR/NH Federal, the overnight train from Washington, get off at New London at 6:04, and catch the Providence local at 7:22. But New York-Mystic just wasn't a major market in 1964. As we have noted above, the current level of Amtrak service to Mystic with daily through trains to Boston and New York/Washington represents a significant improvement over what was available in late New Haven RR days... in fact the entire NEC has better/faster service than it did then.


This is very true as long as you do not count New Haven - Springfield which is much less both in quality and quantity from what the New Haven provided. Even in its last days the New Haven had 12 round trips compared with just 6 today and most of the trains ran through to New York as well. Boston - New York is far better today than in 1968, the last year of the New Haven Railroad.
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9377
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby NHRAND » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:28 am

My wife and I were married in July 1964. I worked and lived in Manhattan and my wife worked and lived in Providence so until we were married I was a regular weekend passenger on the New Haven Railroad. Although I did not get off at Mystic, I think your fictional passenger would have used the same train I used.
"The Murray Hill", Train Number 8, left Grand Central at 8:00 A.M. The New Haven system timetable effective with daylight saving time April 26, 1964 stated in footnote cc to table 6, "Stops only to leave pasengers on Saturdays only, May 2 thru October 10, 1964 at Mystic, Conn at 10:45 A.M. The train carried a diner and I always broke-up the trip by having breakfast between New Haven and New London. I needed to save money so I always had only an english muffin and coffee which was a polished silver service, with crisp white table cloths and waiters in white. (Keep in mind that a passenger had to write an order - waiters could not take an oral order in a 1964 dining car.) The train did not have a parlor car but the coaches were the relatively new stainless steel cars with wide windows, and well spaced comfortable seats. As has been mentioned, there was a smoking lounge at the end with arm chairs facing the aisle with floor mounted ash trays. I smoked a little at the time so used the lounge when I wasn't reading (a good place for a passenger to strike-up a conversation or stretch the legs if you didn't mind smoke).
The round trip fare to Providence was $9.94 if you used a 2-day round trip fare or $16.90 if you needed a ticket good for 30 days. I usually returned to New York on a late Sunday train but your fictional passenger would have only one choice on a Sunday, the 5:48 P.M. from Mystic. That train was "The Gilt Edge" which got to Grand Central at 8:40 P.M. It had a diner, parlor cars and coaches. As has been said, service to Mystic was limited and mainly geared to weekend travelers like myself, particularly beach goers.
I enjoyed my many Saturday morning trips to Providence but the return trips on Sunday mainly in the dark with a work week ahead were not as pleasant.
NHRAND
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:55 am

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby pennahistory » Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:06 am

Hello all, an update (just in case anyone was interested). The narrative has changed only slightly to adhere to historic accuracy as provided on this board. Merchants Limited to New London, 5PM departure.

Another detail: would there have been a PA announcement in the station for this train, along with all other trains, or just announcements regarding only certain departure?

Thanks again to all who generously answered my queries.

David.
pennahistory
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:43 pm

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Backshophoss » Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:33 pm

At Grand Central Terminal,yes it would be on the PA. Not sure of of the track number the
Merchants Ltd would leave from. Also many announcements for Commuter trains leaving and
Track numbers.
Backshophoss
 
Posts: 4629
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:58 pm

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Noel Weaver » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:21 pm

At least in 1964 PA announcements were not necessarily made for individual departures from Grand Central Terminal. Sometimes when a last minute track change occurs they will make an announcement but in other cases mostly not, the tracks were posted well in advance even if the gate wasn't open yet. As for station PA announcements enroute, 125th Street usually had PA announcements as did Stamford, South Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and New London enroute.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9377
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Need assistance with historical accuracy - 1964

Postby Ridgefielder » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:16 am

Noel Weaver wrote:At least in 1964 PA announcements were not necessarily made for individual departures from Grand Central Terminal. Sometimes when a last minute track change occurs they will make an announcement but in other cases mostly not, the tracks were posted well in advance even if the gate wasn't open yet. As for station PA announcements enroute, 125th Street usually had PA announcements as did Stamford, South Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and New London enroute.
Noel Weaver

Would the 1964 Merchants have had an observation car, or was the drumhead carried on the last coach?
Ridgefielder
 
Posts: 2329
Joined: Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:22 pm
Location: Harlem Division MP 15

Next

Return to New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad NYNH&HRR

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests