GG1's on the West Chester Branch?

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GG1's on the West Chester Branch?

Postby amtrakhogger » Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:31 am

Does anybody know if the PRR or PC ran GG1's or any other electric
loco down the West Chester Branch?
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Postby walt » Mon Nov 13, 2006 8:11 pm

I wouldn't think so, at least not on any kind of regular basis. Even though they were double ended, you would still have had to have some way to turn a GG1 headed train either at Media or West Chester to reverse directions, and there simply was not enough room ( or the right track configuration) at either location. The mainstays of that line during PRR days were the MP 54 MU cars, which were double ended and required no turning at Media OR West Chester.
Additionally, the stations on that line were ( and on the surviving Phila- Elwyn portion are) very close together ( in some cases less than a mile apart) which would make operation of a GG1 hauled train extremely inefficient since it would be constantly accelerating and decelerating with very little "open running", which is where the GG1 really showed its "stuff".
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Postby pennsy » Tue Nov 14, 2006 1:03 am

Interesting points, Walt.

However, all you needed at the end of line for a GG-1 to reverse itself was a run around track for the engine to escape from one end of the train, run around the train, and then couple up to the opposite end.

With respect to the GG-1's ability to handle commuter trains as a subway, with many stations and the need for rapid acceleration to speed and then rapid deceleration so as not to over run the station. Remember the GG-1 had 100 % short term overload capability for rapid acceleration, and effectively dynamic brakes for rapid deceleration, dumping the generated power back into the catenary. So, effectively, the GG-1 could put up to 10,000 hp on the rails to rapidly get the train up to speed, in a very short period of time. Therefore, theoretically at least, the GG-1 could have handled that service.
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Postby walt » Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:43 pm

pennsy wrote:Interesting points, Walt.

However, all you needed at the end of line for a GG-1 to reverse itself was a run around track for the engine to escape from one end of the train, run around the train, and then couple up to the opposite end.

With respect to the GG-1's ability to handle commuter trains as a subway, with many stations and the need for rapid acceleration to speed and then rapid deceleration so as not to over run the station. Remember the GG-1 had 100 % short term overload capability for rapid acceleration, and effectively dynamic brakes for rapid deceleration, dumping the generated power back into the catenary. So, effectively, the GG-1 could put up to 10,000 hp on the rails to rapidly get the train up to speed, in a very short period of time. Therefore, theoretically at least, the GG-1 could have handled that service.


Alan---IIRC, there wasn't even enough track room at Media or West Chester for even the run by that you mention. In the last days of service to West Chester, there was only a single track at the terminal ( in fact the entire line was single track west of Media). And I agree- it would have been theoretically possible for a GG1 headed train to handle the constant acceleration & deceleration which characterised operation on that line, it would not have been the most efficient use of that locomotive. The MP-54's, with their top speed of only 50 MPH, were perfectly adequate, though in later years not the most well received units, for that line. I don't know what the top speed of the present Silverliner equipment is, but I doubt that they're running at more than 60 MPH over most of what is left of that line.
Finally, in PRR days, with the exception of the long rush hour trains, the average length of trains- Philly - Media was four cars, and the length was two- cars west of Media--- and that was true only because the PRR didn't operate MP 54's as single unit trains because of weak brake capacity. Not nearly enough train to support using a GG1 as motive power.
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Postby the sarge » Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:43 am

Yes GG-1’s did run to West Chester. I need to do some digging in the basement, but I have a picture of a GG-1 sitting at the West Chester station. Now here is when my mind gets fuzzy. I do not remember if the there was a separate union for the crews operating MP-54’s in commuter service, but someone crucial to the commuter operations, either the operating crews or the maintenance shop workers went on strike sometime in the 1950’s. During this strike, the PRR operated partial commuter service substituting the MP-54’s with engine/coach consists. Many of theses trains were GG-1/coach with some being diesel/coach consists It was during this time that a GG-1 made the trip to West Chester.

At that time, West Chester had significant rail operations. The line still continued, although not electrified, to Glen Loch, and the borough had many local switching moves- many coal hoppers for the electric plant, National Foam, and many other industries. At one time, West Chester had a roundhouse. At the terminus of the electrified territory, I think there were two tracks out of the five that were electrified. East of the town, was another minor yard. I know one of the turnarounds was assisted by a switcher that took the cars, switched them to another siding(s), and then reattached back to the GG-1. Very inefficient for commuter operations; decent in a pinch, convincing proof that the MP-54’s were the optimum equipment for stub-end operations.
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Postby JimBoylan » Wed Nov 15, 2006 3:58 pm

The situation on the West Chester branch, like most lines, varied with the years. One of the recent color photo books shows all 4 electrified platform tracks at West Chester holding MP-54s for overnight storage. When I rode about 1968, my 2 car late evening rush hour train to West Chester coupled up to the 2 MP-54s laid up at the terminal from an earlier train and returned to Media as a 4 car train. The conductor used gloves to hook up the jumper cables, there was no car department employee there. Apparently at that time, it might not have been desirable to store cars at West Chester for more than a short time.

During the early 1940s, some MP-54s got roller bearings so they could run as Clockers or New York locals at 80 m.p.h.

There were a very few single car MP-54 trains. Usually the car had an extra redundant emergency brake system. The Ft. Washington branch shuttle and the North end of the Camden & Ambouy R.R. were some places to find them, and also GG-1s on detour trains. Were the mid-day Media-West Chester shuttles another?
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Postby walt » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:35 pm

I spent some time riding to West Chester ( from Lansdowne) in 1967 and all of the Media-West Chester trains I rode were two car trains. I also lived on Franklin Street in WC during my freshman year at the then West Chester State College. Franklin Street is directly adjacent to the railroad, so I saw many of the few trains running to West Chester during that time ( 1962-63) I don't recall ever seeing a one car train--- the trains I saw were mostly two cars.

In the early 1950's, before the West Chester station at Market Street was torn down, there was relatively significant car storage at that location during the daytime. I suspect that ended when the station was demolished.
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Postby motor » Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:42 pm

I walked by what's left of the West Chester station on a summer afternoon in 2003. Looks very forlorn. I remember seeing a few markings for the WCRR but not any equipment.

It looks like they built the US 202 expressway along some of the ROW between the NE side of West Chester and Glen Loch. If you drive north on US 202 from Paoli Pike and, south of there, PA 3, and take the US 322 flyunder for Downingtown, you pass under US 202, which you just exited, and right afterwards, what looks like the old PRR bridge over which trains to Glen Loch passed. Other than that, there's a short trench showing up on the satellite pic on maps.google.com just to the west of Immaculata College (after snaking between subdivisions and behind ballfields) that curves right into the R5 at the east end of Frazer yard.

Where was the roundhouse?

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Postby walt » Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:59 pm

IIRC, even in the 1950's there wasn't any passenger rail service north of Market Street ( the end of the electrified trackage). I remember the building of what was called the West Chester By-Pass ( Route 202) in the '50's. Until 1954, my uncle lived in a second floor apartment right next to the West Chester train station. At that time there was still siginificant activity at the station and long lines of MP-54's were stored there. By the middle 1960's, when I was a student at "the College" all of that had disappeared, and that section of town had begun to deteriorate.
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Postby pennsy » Fri Nov 17, 2006 8:37 pm

Hi Walt,

Probably the most ridiculous thing I ever saw was a large Diesel engine hauling ONE passenger car. This was in Attleboro, MA. The station was elevated and I used to climb the stairs to the station and watch the trains come by. Then this train came by and only the passengers were happy. Lots of seats available, and the engine got the train up to speed quickly. Both the engineman and the conductor knew quite well that they were on a milk run. They were coming from Boston, heading towards Conn. A single RDC would have worked fine.
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Postby the sarge » Fri Nov 17, 2006 10:51 pm

There is a some speculation about the roundhouse in West Chester. There was a three stall building near Lacey Street by the yard and near the freight house. I’ve heard this building referred to as just a three stall engine house or roundhouse. I assumed it was a roundhouse because there was a turntable at this site. The question I need to confirm is: Was this a turntable apart from the engine house used for engine turnarounds, or was it a typical turntables used for roundhouses. I think at one point, the maximum number of steam locomotives assigned to this facility were eight. No maintenance work aside from typical daily duties were performed at the site; it was mainly a place to store the locos and keep them fired when idle.

Passenger operations past the Market street station to Frazer ceased in the 1930’s. Trains running on this line usually continued up the line to Devault and Phoenixville. Passenger service north to Frazer got sparse once the bus lines started up, and the PRR did not see electrifying the this part of the line as feasible. It was proposed that electrifying could establish the line as a detour route between Frazer and Philadelphia – but the PRR declined as they claimed to have four lines already for this purpose.

Wasn’t it in 1957 when the PRR made the West Chester – Media segment only a shuttle? Then soon after, canceled Sunday service? Also, for years, the PRR petitioned to close the Market street station and move the terminus up to Nields street.
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Postby walt » Sat Nov 18, 2006 7:59 pm

the sarge wrote:

Wasn’t it in 1957 when the PRR made the West Chester – Media segment only a shuttle? Then soon after, canceled Sunday service? Also, for years, the PRR petitioned to close the Market street station and move the terminus up to Nields street.


That fits my recollection. I remember when my parents told me that from now on we would have to change trains at Media whenever we went to West Chester-- prior to that it was a one seat ride.

Even in the 1950's, that line suffered from the trolley--- then bus--- competition from the Red Arrow Lines service from 69th Street out West Chester Pike, even though for Philadelphia passengers, using the Red Arrow service required a slow ride on the 'El and a change from the 'El to the bus ( after 1954) at 69th Street. The Red Arrow service became more and more heavily used, while at the same time, ridership to West Chester on tne train diminished.
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Postby Flababo » Sat Aug 04, 2007 8:52 pm

the sarge wrote:There is a some speculation about the roundhouse in West Chester. There was a three stall building near Lacey Street by the yard and near the freight house. I’ve heard this building referred to as just a three stall engine house or roundhouse. I assumed it was a roundhouse because there was a turntable at this site. The question I need to confirm is: Was this a turntable apart from the engine house used for engine turnarounds, or was it a typical turntables used for roundhouses. I think at one point, the maximum number of steam locomotives assigned to this facility were eight. No maintenance work aside from typical daily duties were performed at the site; it was mainly a place to store the locos and keep them fired when idle.


I have worked on updating the transportation articles at the Chester County Historical Society. There was a three-stall engine house there until it burned in 1911 with the loss of one engine. I cannot confirm what its exact configuration was, but a 1912 map shows a turntable there with multiple tracks that I guess were used for storage of the freight engines and those used on the Frazer branch. After electrification, the turntable was abolished and replaced with a wye where the Wyeth plant was. You may want to check both the PRR file and the West Chester transportation newspaper clippings files at CCHS if you want to know more.

And to answer the original question, I came across a few articles in the Historical Society archives that note a few GG-1-led trains to Media during equipment shortages.

Now, I have another question to add to the mix, as this seems to be the right thread to ask. Does anybody have any pictures of or at least remember Oakbourne station, between Westtown and West Chester? All I can find are two pictures at the CCHS, but no one knows of any more (or when it was torn down). Does anybody know anything about it?
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Postby pennsy » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:06 am

Hi Walt,

Checked a Mark I videotape I have of the PRR and GG-1's, and yes there is a shot of a black GG-1, probably Penn Central, hauling a SINGLE heavyweight car. That has to be an interesting ride, especially if some speed is attained. However, you will have to admit, what a waste of horsepower.
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Postby timz » Sun Aug 12, 2007 5:32 pm

JimBoylan wrote:During the early 1940s, some MP-54s got roller bearings so they could run as Clockers or New York locals at 80 m.p.h.


No idea if they ran at 80, but timetable limit wasn't that high.
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