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.

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pdman
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Post by pdman » Fri Jun 16, 2006 10:12 am

I've enjoyed this whole thread -- a few times now. It is a sad one. But, most of the things I experienced.

It all reads like the last half of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged. Only in that book some trains just permanently stopped running in the middle of nowhere throughout the country.

And yet, I knew many young management survivors of PC who became positive business builders in Conrail. One or two are now working for either NS or CSX.

Noel Weaver
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Post by Noel Weaver » Fri Jun 16, 2006 10:20 am

pdman wrote:I've enjoyed this whole thread -- a few times now. It is a sad one. But, most of the things I experienced.

It all reads like the last half of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged. Only in that book some trains just permanently stopped running in the middle of nowhere throughout the country.

And yet, I knew many young management survivors of PC who became positive business builders in Conrail. One or two are now working for either NS or CSX.
A good share of middle level management on Penn Central was very good
but the top management was not supporting them and the railroad was
crumbling.
I don't recall of any passenger trains on the Penn Central being stopped
in the middle of their runs due to receiving the OK to take them off
although it may well have happened.
I do recall the Chatham train which on weekdays ran one round trip out of
Chatham in the morning and out of New York for Chatham in the late
afternoon. The train was running on a court order and the court order
got lifted in the middle of the day in Philadelphia and the railroad did not
run the train that afternoon back to Chatham but instead they terminated
the train at Dover Plains. They were reported to state to both the crew
and the passengers that we don't care how you get home. They received
terrible press from that one but by then, nobody really cared.
Noel Weaver

AgentSkelly
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Post by AgentSkelly » Sat Jun 24, 2006 9:23 pm

I decided to ask my grandfather about his travels on the PC. He comments they were mixed...some were perfectly fine, while some where as he called it "trips to hell". He said though it seemed like when they bad, it seemed like more that it was the crew's own plan to get fired than an attempt by PC management to savatoge the train so that pasenger service would die.

Dieter
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Post by Dieter » Mon Jun 26, 2006 1:48 pm

Ah, yes. The CROTCHETY Penn Central Conductor! Yes, THEY WERE LIVING PROOF that the NAZIs HAD CLONING TECHNOLOGY FIRST.

I wondered what happened to them when Amtrak took over. I saw some rekindled "Central Pride" in some of them, especially on the ROHR Turboliner in Empire Corridor Service.

You know, you have to ask yourself something about that; Was the PC Conductor Crotchety because;

1) He REALLY DID HATE All Of US for some warped reason?

2) He REALLY HATED Penn Central Management for what they had done to "HIS TRAIN" and "HIS RAILROAD", and we were the nearest thing he could take it out on?

3) If he could single-handedly drive passenger rail service into the ground, he would get a BIG BONUS from the Chumps in Suits in Philadelphia?

I remember seeing them be nasty to Senior Citizens, or bite their cheek until it bled to be civil to them under the most atrocious of circumstances. They would rudely BARK answers to students who were on the train for the first time (likely their last trip on rails, too!), and I even saw some of these Ba$tards INTENTIONALLY lock the toilets to make people suffer. Anybody remember that regular practice? A perfectly good toilet would be locked up.

Indeed, it was a sleazy game, and they played it well. I vaguely recall a story of two college guys smacking one of these pathetic Conductors around before they detrained somewhere, and according to the circumstances, the Conductor had provoked the confrontation.

Dieter/
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Noel Weaver
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Post by Noel Weaver » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:06 pm

Dieter wrote:Ah, yes. The CROTCHETY Penn Central Conductor! Yes, THEY WERE LIVING PROOF that the NAZIs HAD CLONING TECHNOLOGY FIRST.

I wondered what happened to them when Amtrak took over. I saw some rekindled "Central Pride" in some of them, especially on the ROHR Turboliner in Empire Corridor Service.

You know, you have to ask yourself something about that; Was the PC Conductor Crotchety because;

1) He REALLY DID HATE All Of US for some warped reason?

2) He REALLY HATED Penn Central Management for what they had done to "HIS TRAIN" and "HIS RAILROAD", and we were the nearest thing he could take it out on?

3) If he could single-handedly drive passenger rail service into the ground, he would get a BIG BONUS from the Chumps in Suits in Philadelphia?

I remember seeing them be nasty to Senior Citizens, or bite their cheek until it bled to be civil to them under the most atrocious of circumstances. They would rudely BARK answers to students who were on the train for the first time (likely their last trip on rails, too!), and I even saw some of these Ba$tards INTENTIONALLY lock the toilets to make people suffer. Anybody remember that regular practice? A perfectly good toilet would be locked up.

Indeed, it was a sleazy game, and they played it well. I vaguely recall a story of two college guys smacking one of these pathetic Conductors around before they detrained somewhere, and according to the circumstances, the Conductor had provoked the confrontation.

Dieter/
No doubt there were some who were just plain crabby but I think the
worst of them were in the west where they witnessed busy main lines go
from several decent passenger trains to one junk train with dirty cars,
AC not work, cold car(s) in the winter and a host of other unpleasant
conditions and problems. I always though on the Penn Central that the
worst people on the trains were the ones in the west and on the Central
things got much better at Buffalo and on the PRR, things got somewhat
better at Harrisburg.
In the Penn Central days, there were numerous locations where timetable
special instructions required that toilet doors be locked as the train would
be in a watershed area. These instructions were not to be taken lightly
and it was required that they be carried out. Occasionally, the crew would
make an announcement to that effect but they were not required to do so.
I was both a fireman at times and an engineer at times and believe me,
we did our very best to get the people to their destination as safely and
close to on time as we possibly could. My theory was that the railroad did
enough to make their trip unpleasant, I was not going to add to that.
Noel Weaver

Dieter
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Post by Dieter » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:34 pm

Hello, Mr. Weaver!

Thanks for the enlightment regarding toilets being locked in Watershed areas, that's the first I've heard of that.

Even so, how DARE they NOT announce restricted use of the toilets to the passengers. I remember seeing women suffering, my mother included. It was just a miserable trick to perpetrate against anyone.

I appreceate your dedication to getting folks to their destinations, and I have to say this in defense of ALL employees who worked in the cabs back then; The trackage and equipment were in such bad shape, the cab crew didn't have to do anything to compound the effect on passengers, of the miserable behaviour of the "Crotchety Conductors" of Penn Central. Keep in mind kids, the guys like Mr. Weaver wanted to get home in one piece too, and some of them had a real time with the junk they were working with, to get the job done. I have to tip my hat to you, and wonder how you guys managed to keep that railroad running with the decrepit equipment you were provided with.

I recall being in Harmon waiting for the engine change on the Montreal train. They made the swap, and there was a problem. Making a long Penn Central ordeal short, we didn't continue northward until the THIRD diesel had been coupled up to the consist.

Dieter/
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Penn Central
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Post by Penn Central » Sun Jul 02, 2006 5:14 pm

Although the Conrail era had begun in 1976 when I marked up as an engineer on the New York spare board as an engineer on the New Haven, I fired in the Penn Central days. Some of those runs were with Noel on both sides of the Hudson. One of the funniest things that happened in the Penn Central days was during the time streaking was popular (running around naked, for our younger viewers). One college kid coming south on the Montrealer decided to streak through the train as it ran through Noroton Heights. The conductor, "Chisel Chin" Hadley, threw him off the train in Stamford onto a crowded platform and gave the engineer two whistles to go. The GG-1 got the train out of town in a hurry while one young man was left very embarrassed and cold.

Noel Weaver
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Post by Noel Weaver » Sun Jul 02, 2006 11:25 pm

I had 60 and 61 between New York and New Haven (the Montrealer in
both directions) with two gentlemen both of whom I had the pleasure of
working on the west side of the Hudson River as well in freight service.
Bill Miller and Bob Adams, two of the finest railroaders one could ever want to work with. We had a number of eventful trips on those trains together.
The east/northbound Montrealer out of Penn Station especially on a Friday
evening in the ski season could be a real adventure sometimes and that
train ran quite heavy two. I was almost always lucky enough to have
good firemen on that job too. A good crew made a heap of difference on
a job like that one.
Noel Weaver
PS, I remember "Chisel Chin" too, I'll have a couple of stories sometime.
Noel Weaver
Last edited by Noel Weaver on Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Nacho66
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Post by Nacho66 » Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:09 pm

Thank you all for keeping this thread alive.
I'm 39 and grew up, in the '70's, wondering, exactly who, was running the trains. Septa, The Reading, PC, and Amtrak? Back then you couldn't tell by reading the letterboards on the cars!
If anyone out there could give a travelogue of an average trip from, say - Philly to Chicago - or, St. Louis circa, 1969-70, I would be most appreciative.

Peace.

Dieter
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Post by Dieter » Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:35 pm

The trip always took a lot looooonger than indicated in the schedule, with no visible reason, nor explanation given most times.

The train would creep and stop and creep and stop, and rock and sway along and creep and stop..... The lights went off, the lights came back on (if you were lucky) the air would stop..... Am I describing Railroad Hell? Oh, it's PENN CENTRAL!!!

Perhaps it was a marketing ploy to drive patrons to the new Metroliner service?

D/

AgentSkelly
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Post by AgentSkelly » Tue Aug 22, 2006 9:03 pm

I just read Dieter's post out loud to my grandfather about the Crotchety PC Conductor to my grandfather and he erupted in laughter because on a train he took to Detroit from Buffalo during the Penn Central era, he said he ran into such a conductor.

Though he said at some point on the journey, he thinks it was the assistant conductor that would as he said "compensated for the awful conductor's crotchety-ness".

Dieter
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Post by Dieter » Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:10 pm

One of the worst scenes I ever saw was an old woman trying to get up the steps while boarding. She had to stop partway up and required assistance. Please keep in mind that one of the first things Penn Central did was to toss off all the Step-Stools, to make it so only an agile young person could board from a low platform!

The conductor became angry and began barking at the woman to hurry up, and sarcastically snapped something of the nature that she probably shouldn't even be travelling by train. Everybody was shocked, and I couldn't believe it. Back then, good manners were still important to the majority of people.

Several men closed in on this jerk on the platform, and a larger man leaned over the Conductor and told him that if he wasn't going to do his job and help the lady, "SHUT UP AND BEHAVE YOURSELF".

This particular Crotch of a Conductor became visibly startled, then when he tried to reassert his tyrrany, the three men told him they were boarding too, just to make sure he behaved himself. Boy, do I wish I had seen what happened on the rest of that trip........

D/

AgentSkelly
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Post by AgentSkelly » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:06 pm

Got rid of the step stools? I'm suprised they didn't also get rid of all the high platforms too.

Dieter
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Post by Dieter » Wed Aug 30, 2006 2:52 pm

AgentSkelly, what are you talking about?

When the brand new high platform at White Plains burned totally, they said it was a newspaper that caught fire on the third rail.

Now, who do you suppose PUT that newspaper where it could burn down an entire platform, and why didn't anybody get the fire department down there before the whole thing went up?? That was around 1971. Back then, we really had to wonder if Penn Central Management was passing out bonuses to kill passenger service.

Gee, is that SMOKE I smell? Naawww, just a little spilled CREOSOTE left over from New York Central times! :wink:

D/
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Septaman113
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My Penn Central Experience

Post by Septaman113 » Fri Nov 17, 2006 6:44 pm

I have a Penn Central story, not a horrible one but a good one. I'm 41 (going to be 42 in January) but I was going on 6 when this occured.


The date was Dec 31st,1970. My parents decided to go to NY to see the ball drop in Times Square. We were living in Palmyra,NJ at the time and I remember taking the TNJ #9 bus into Philly (now the Rte 419),hopping on the El at 8th St and being fascinated at the PCC's running underground. We arrived at 30th St Station and boarded the Penn Central to NY, I can't recall exactly what time it was but I think it might have around 9- 9:30 in the morning. On board the train I remember we sat in the snack car right near the counter, I recall the guy behind the counter wearing a chef's hat and white chef's shirt, had a huge mustache and he was kidding around with everyone who came up to the counter. Also the conductor came around and my Dad asked him something and then mentioned to him that this was my first real train trip to NY. Well the conductor made a big fuss over me and asked if I liked trains and so on and gave me a cancelled stub which I gave to my dad to hold. I remember looking out the window as we were going through NJ and the ground was snow covered and when the train came upon a turn, I recall seeing 2 black GG1's puling the train and when we stopped in Newark, being fascinated by the PATH train and asking Mom to take me on it. Anyway the rest of the story we arrived in NY,checked in at the Woodstock Hotel, had dinner at this restaurant,seen the ball drop and went back to the hotel.


Anyway, Mom has since passed on and when Dad passed back in March of 2005, he kept a tin box which had some of his coin collection,his army papers,etc which he had kept for years. The funny thing is when I went through it to look for his insurance papers, I came across the cancelled stub the conductor had given me that day. I couldn't believe that Dad kept it for me all these years. I guess the crew was happy because it was New Years Eve.
"Doors are opening.69th St train making all stops.Doors are closing"

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