Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Discussion relating to the Penn Central, up until its 1976 inclusion in Conrail. Visit the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: JJMDiMunno

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Mitch » Sun Sep 07, 2008 11:51 am

One great memory of mine on The Penn Central was when my brother and I took an evening train from GCT to Poughkeepsie.

At the time, the summer of 1975, I was a conductor on The MIlwaukee Road. My brother was attending The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) not to be confused with The Food and Beverage Institue (FBI.) The CIA was located in Poughkeepsie and I was staying with him up there. We had finished up the day in Manhattan by visiting Grand Uniform Company in GCT where I had my usual fitting of my newest uniform. At this time I was serving as the Chicago rep of Grand Uniform and I had become a friend of the company's owner who knew absolutely everybody in train service on the East Coast. The owner escorted my brother and I down to the track where the next Poughkeepsie train was departing and introduced us to the crew where upon my Milwaukee pass was politley honored, and we swapped funny railroad stories for a moment. We were seated in the rear car, an old NYC stainless through coach of Pullman extraction.

Somewhere around Ossining the coach caught fire. Smoke came billowing up from the floor followed by flames. We swung into action. My brother helped move the passengers, who seemed to take this in stride, up to the next coach. I went to the vestibule and did the only thing I could. I gave 2 on the signal, and then pulled the air. The locomotive fireman came back with an extinguisher. We threw sand and dirt on the offending flames. I was scared silly of the third rail. I figured I'd get sent back to flag. We all help each other ya know.

The fire was struck out 40 minutes later. We crawled to Harmon and cut the coach off. everything went back to normal.

As for crotchety old trainmen on the Penn Central. That was prevelant on a lot of railroads at the time. If some of today's flight attendants wore blue serge uniforms and a square cap and carried a punch and a lantern, you'd have a trainman of the old days. Passengers can play havoc on one's emotions.

The attitude came from many things. One of them was years and years of working as long as 16 hours, 7 days a week. After the time it took to hold a regular passenger run this took its toll. In a lot of cases just when a guy with 38 years rights could hold a regular passenger run, it would be discontinued and back to the box cars he went. This was frustrating. Next in line was the dispair of working trains that one knew the company hated to operate. Everything was broken, and the company was broke. Remember these guys hired out in the late '30s and early '40s when bad behavior on a passenger train was a fireing offense. They didn't start out by being mean. Working for a railroad is tough to begin with and one learns bad behavior from some of the older heads as they abused the new hires.

So when they hired out good passenger trains were newly streamined, clean, and respected by the public. Your job on a railroad was one of honor. As time went on everything slowly went to hell. Combine this with a total lack of sleep and you have the recipe for some really crappy remarks made to passengers.

One of my fellow brakeman/conductors on The MIlwaukee had an uncle that was a PC conductor on the Michigan Central division. The uncle worked Chicago-Detroit passenger jobs and my co-worker went with him one day and helped him collect tickets. A passenger stopped the guy's uncle and complained,"Uh sir? This car is too hot." The uncle turned to my friend and whispered, "Hot? I'll show her hot," and proceeded to the electrical locker and shut the air conditioning off. About 15 minutes later the conductor turned the air back on and approached the passenger, who was feeling cool air come from the vents. She replied, "Oh, that's much better."

In defense of Lines West PC trainmen I have to say I knew a number of them as we shared accomodations with them at Chicago Union Station. I don't think there was a mean one in the bunch. I rode Amtrak 40 and 41 with a number of them on my trips east. One in particular, and the only one I'll name was Harold Parr out of Fort Wayne. He was a perfect gentleman in manner and dress, and conducted himself as if the train was his personal property, and the passengers were his guests. He gave me wise counsel when I needed to be re-directed as a young passenger man. I learned a lot from him and he was a roll model for many of us.
Mitch
User avatar
Mitch
 
Posts: 141
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2008 9:27 am
Location: The cornyards of No.Cent. Indiana

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Sisko24 » Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:53 pm

My few times on Penn Central were so awful that I was worshipful that Amtrak came along. I had my first taste of long-distance intercity passenger trains on the New York Central's Ohio State Limited when I was seven. By the time Penn Central came along, I was convinced passenger rail service could never be bad. As I was still in grade school, I still had alot to learn. Firstly, the Penn Central route was along the Pennsy's mainline, not the Central's more scenic route. That wouldn't have mattered much but, as the PC cars had no air conditioning, no air circulation unless someone opened the front and rear doors AND that we traveled through New Jersey's industrial chemical/farmland waste corridor, we were nearly asphyxiated by the fumes/scents that wafted like something banned by the Geneva Convention from the passing countryside...well you get the picture. Their cars had dirty floors, dirty seats and dirty windows. I don't remember anything about the toilets except that I was afraid to go near them. I did try once, but the fear of being sloshed by whatever was spawning in the bowl was too great for me to use the facility.

I never did ride Penn Central's Empire Service which is just as well. The Ohio State Lilmited was a great train and I have many fond memories of her: my first omelette and therefore my first dining car meal, my first view of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, my first view of the Great Lakes (Ontario and Erie) and being addressed as "sir" (and me not being in trouble when I was so addressed) as well as the first view of my eventual college town (Syracuse). :-) I'm glad my memories of that route don't include Penn Central's incompetent and hostile service.

Penn Central's intercity passenger service, like their New York City area commuter service, will be to my memory as Freddy was to Elm Street. :(
Sisko24
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:34 pm
Location: Westchester County, New York

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby LI Loco » Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:25 pm

the first view of my eventual college town (Syracuse). :-)


Let's go Orange! :-D

I was at the 'Cuse 71-75 and have lots of memories of riding (and photographing) Empire Service trains during that era. I even rode the original Amtrak Lake Shore Limited five days before it was annulled in January 1972.
Last edited by LI Loco on Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
LI Loco
 
Posts: 1075
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 12:41 pm

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Sisko24 » Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:18 am

LI Loco wrote:
the first view of my eventual college town (Syracuse). :-)


Let's go Orange! :-D

I was at the 'Cuse 71-75 and have lots of memories of riding (and photographing) Empire Service trains during that era. I even ride the original Amtrak Lake Shore Limited five days before it was annulled in January 1972.


I was on "The Hill" from 73-77. Did we ever meet? :wink: I didn't do much photographing back then and now I wish I had photos of the E-L crossing the Onondaga Valley on the trestle which was viewable from Brockway. Still, I did get to ride Amtrak to and from SU. So there's that.

Yes, let's go Orange!
Sisko24
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:34 pm
Location: Westchester County, New York

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby LI Loco » Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:57 am

Sisko24 wrote:
LI Loco wrote:
the first view of my eventual college town (Syracuse). :-)


Let's go Orange! :-D

I was at the 'Cuse 71-75 and have lots of memories of riding (and photographing) Empire Service trains during that era. I even ride the original Amtrak Lake Shore Limited five days before it was annulled in January 1972.


I was on "The Hill" from 73-77. Did we ever meet? :wink: I didn't do much photographing back then and now I wish I had photos of the E-L crossing the Onondaga Valley on the trestle which was viewable from Brockway. Still, I did get to ride Amtrak to and from SU. So there's that.

Yes, let's go Orange!


Send me you name by private message, Sisko.
LI Loco
 
Posts: 1075
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 12:41 pm

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Dieter » Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:33 pm

How many of you recall the peeling and decaying floor tile, wondering if a hole would appear or one might fall through the flooring?

I remember being in an old New Haven coach and I started getting wet on my leg during a stormy day. Instinctively, I looked to the ceiling to see if water was running out of the vent, or if it was just condensation dripping down, since the air and dehumidification systems hadn't worked in years.

Looking next to the side, there was a rusty hole, if I angled myself just so, daylight was visible through the hole, I was getting slowly soaked by wind-whipped rain.

Just another ride on the Penn Central......

D/
Video
If the problem is Digital,
The Solution is ANALOG!!
User avatar
Dieter
 
Posts: 2085
Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2004 11:32 am
Location: Sobeys

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Sisko24 » Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:28 pm

Dieter wrote:How many of you recall the peeling and decaying floor tile, wondering if a hole would appear or one might fall through the flooring?

I remember being in an old New Haven coach and I started getting wet on my leg during a stormy day. Instinctively, I looked to the ceiling to see if water was running out of the vent, or if it was just condensation dripping down, since the air and dehumidification systems hadn't worked in years.

Looking next to the side, there was a rusty hole, if I angled myself just so, daylight was visible through the hole, I was getting slowly soaked by wind-whipped rain.

Just another ride on the Penn Central......

D/


Yuck! What fond memories of the "copulating worms" we have! :wink:
Sisko24
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:34 pm
Location: Westchester County, New York

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:25 pm

I did a lot of riding on Penn Central from 1969 to the start of Amtrak and it was a "mixed bag". Some trips were great, on
time and comfortable all the way and some trips were terrible. The best trains with the exception of the new "Metroliners"
were probably the Empire Service trains between New York and Buffalo. Perlman with the New York Central wanted most of
the long haul trains off, they were losing their shirts on these trains and he made a promise to New York State that he would
operate a corridor type service between New York, Albany and west to Buffalo. The New York Central overhauled a fleet of
coaches with new interiors and seating, good AC and lighting and above all, everything clean and well maintained. This
standard continued into the Penn Central era with these trains many notches above just about everything else.
There were lots of places where passengers trains ran up till day one of Amtrak where they simply do not today.
On the former PRR side especially off the NEC the trains generally were not as good, not as clean nor as well maintained, AC
was a hit or miss affair and the trips generally were not as pleasant.
Penn Central had a lot of problems over their few years, many caused by poor management but others caused by the lack of
support for both through and suburban/commuter passenger trains. When the authorities finally woke up and decided to
help out, the services were improved.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9334
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby walt » Sun Apr 26, 2009 10:08 am

I suspect that, from the hind sight of more than 40 years, given the extremely bad hand the PC was dealt from the beginning, including the problems that each of its component railroads came into the merger with, coupled with the fast deteriorating state of intercity passenger rail service in the US, among many factors, the PC probably did as well as it could under the circumstances----- which isn't saying very much. Which is simply to say that the PC was doomed before it was born.
Please Move to the Rear and Speed Your Ride
( Philadelphia Transportation Company)
walt
 
Posts: 1090
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2004 4:51 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby delvyrails » Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:41 pm

Perlman's promises for Empire Corridor Service--hourly service all day in both directions as far as Albany and every two hours likewise to Buffalo--did not exactly succeed. It has gradually evolved into an extended New York City commuter service. As originally run, same-day returns with west-end destinations are no longer possible.
John Pawson
delvyrails
 
Posts: 564
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:47 pm

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby wdburt1 » Thu May 07, 2009 6:28 pm

Noel, I respect your experience and your comments, but they are not backed up by many of the comments on this forum. My own lousy experiences between Buffalo and GCT, detailed on Page 1 of the thread, were on an Empire Service train (hostile trainmen, too hot or too cold, holes in the coach floor emanating steam, flooded bathrooms, etc.) in 1971. I have to say that Perlman's commitment to quality service on this route, which I would like to believe was made in good faith, was undercut by bankruptcy and all that followed.

WDB
wdburt1
 
Posts: 79
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 9:06 pm

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Noel Weaver » Thu May 07, 2009 7:28 pm

wdburt1 wrote:Noel, I respect your experience and your comments, but they are not backed up by many of the comments on this forum. My own lousy experiences between Buffalo and GCT, detailed on Page 1 of the thread, were on an Empire Service train (hostile trainmen, too hot or too cold, holes in the coach floor emanating steam, flooded bathrooms, etc.) in 1971. I have to say that Perlman's commitment to quality service on this route, which I would like to believe was made in good faith, was undercut by bankruptcy and all that followed.

WDB


Whatever, BUT I rode these trains quite often during the period between 1969 and Amtrak day in 1971 and a lot after that
too and I never encountered the stuff you mention here.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9334
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby Nacho66 » Fri May 08, 2009 1:21 am

Just wanted to say, "Thanks" to all who have posted here.
I had no idea this thread would last 5 years when I started it.
You all have given me a teriffic and anecdotal description of Pre-Amtrak train service.
I STILL want to know what service was like in a drawing-room compartment on the Broadway Limited in say, 1970 though...
Nacho66
 
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2004 1:10 pm

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby John Laubenheimer » Fri May 08, 2009 8:02 pm

I STILL want to know what service was like in a drawing-room compartment on the Broadway Limited in say, 1970 though...


Been there ... By this time, the IMPERIAL series 4-4-2 sleepers were showing their age. Air conditioning was a "sometimes" thing in the summer months.

I rode westbound in August 1968 & 1969; eastbound in September 1968, 1969 & 1970. As my memory serves .....

In 1968, I was in a roomette in a riveted ACF RAPIDS-series 10-6 (both ways) originally built for through service to Texas. These cars should have been retired years earlier. Dining car service was good; food mediocre at best. Both ways, the train was about 45-50 minutes late. The train still carried a minimum of 6 sleepers; my westbound had 12, due to the presence of a few tour groups. (Made for a long wait for the diner.)

In 1969 westbound, I was in a bedroom suite in the PS HARBOR-series 5 bedroom-buffet lounge car. A nice car attendant, who would stop by the room with the hors d'oeuvres offered to the passengers in the lounge. Train was 2:45 late. Eastbound was in a drawing room on an ACF IMPERIAL-series 4-4-2. I don't remember much about this trip; although the train was about an hour late. 5 sleepers each way. (Connected to the CZ; from the CITY of LA/SF.)

In 1970, westbound was in a sleepercoach on the ghost of the old CENTURY. I don't recall much. The train was 20 minutes late. Eastbound on the BROADWAY was in a drawing room on another ACF IMPERIAL-series 4-4-2. A/C only when in motion. Service still OK, but deteriorating; food disappointing. (Connected to/from SUPER CHIEF on this trip, which probably explains the disappointments with PC.) BROADWAY about 55 minutes late. Operating crews were grumpy.

After the summer of 1970, the BROADWAY's sleeper complement was reduced to a 6 DBR lounge (usually a FALL-series car, sometimes a STREAM-series car), and a couple of 10-6s (whatever could roll, but usually stainless steel). The twin diners were replaced by ex-NYC cars. By the time I rode again, AMTRAK had taken over.
John Laubenheimer
 
Posts: 96
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 5:10 pm
Location: Brooklyn, New York USA

Re: Penn Central Intercity Passenger Service

Postby walt » Fri May 08, 2009 8:30 pm

Penn Central's quality of service ( or lack thereof) was essentially whatever level existed on the PRR, the NYC or the NH at the time of the merger. If the service on a particular train, or in a particular area was acceptable, it probably stayed that way through the PC's short existence. If it had deteriorated by the end of the PRR - NYC- NH days, it certainly didn't improve any during the life of the PC.
Please Move to the Rear and Speed Your Ride
( Philadelphia Transportation Company)
walt
 
Posts: 1090
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2004 4:51 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

PreviousNext

Return to Penn Central

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest