• Commuter coaches: open vestibule

  • Discussion relating to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Erie, and the resulting 1960 merger creating the Erie Lackawanna. Visit the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society at http://www.erielackhs.org/.
Discussion relating to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Erie, and the resulting 1960 merger creating the Erie Lackawanna. Visit the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society at http://www.erielackhs.org/.

Moderator: blockline4180

  by Suburbanite
The closed vestibule passenger car made its debut in 1887. My understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that most passenger coaches, including commuter equipment, constructed after about 1900 were closed vestibule (such as the famous Erie Stillwells). However, the DL&W, which was normally in advance of most of its Northeastern competitors when it came to power, rolling stock, and infrastructure innovations, deliberately ordered, about 1912 I believe (if memory serves me right) a large shipment of what were by then rather archaic open-vesibule passenger coaches, particularly for its Boonton Line passenger services. (Maybe they used them for the M&E as well until electrification? I don't know.) But they continued to order more of these things until the 1930s, and used them through the 1960s: open-vestibuled, rattan-seat, clerestory cars, with individual stoves in each car for warmth in the winter months. These are known throughout the preserved railway world as "Boonton Line cars," and there must have been a lot of them, because there are still quite a few in existence.

The question is: why did they choose and stick with such an archaic design, on a rich railway which was generally known for innovation? Was it because they were cheaper, or because they wanted to discourage more passenger traffic on the primarily freight Boonton Line? Or was there some practical reason?
  by H.F.Malone
The "Boonton" cars came equipped with steam heat, not individual coal stoves in the cars. Any "Boonton" you might see so equipped today, had the stove added after DL&W/EL service.

Many of the cars became "high roof trailers" for the electrified M&E Lines, by enclosing the ends and adding controls/end windows. Most of the surviving "Boonton" cars are of this variety.
  by Suburbanite
Interesting. Some of the examples I've seen, if they were the real article, must have been retrofitted with stoves to make them more "archaic" or because they had been adapted for use with freight engines or on mixed trains, where the steam couldn't get through to the car from the engine. Are you saying that all of the DL&W coaches in commuter service were open vestibule until the advent of electrification?

Also: if my information is correct that most of the other railroads of the era were ordering only closed vestibule equipment by that date, do you know if there was any reason, other than as a cost-saving measure, why the Lackawanna would have preferred the older variety?

  by ExCon90
I grew up near the DL&W and never saw a coach on a steam-powered train on the Boonton Line that had closed vestibules. I did ride in an open-platform coach on No. 47 in the late 40's (a mixed train leaving Hoboken at 0-dark-30 and running via the old Main Line -- not surprisingly I was the only passenger); the coach had a coal stove because of the freight cars. For all I know it may have been the only one they had.
  by JimBoylan
TAN: The New York, New Haven & Hartford bought open platform MU cars after 1907 with the Engineer in the car body. Even combines had open platforms on the baggage end. They ran into the mid 1950s.
  by Suburbanite
So what was the reason? Price? Conservatism? Or did the open vestibule car have some advantage over the closed vestibule one?
  by Statkowski
The rationale for the open platform cars could have been for the type of service they were used on - frequent stops on trains with stations relatively close together. With a relatively high number of passenger embarking or debarking, one wanted as many car entrances available as possible - steps at each end of each coach, unlike more modern long-distance coaches with only one set of doors, and no doors and traps to play with. The Erie's Stillwell ends may have been enclosed, but they lacked traps and doors.

Back when the Long Island Rail Road still used MP54s and such, trains along the South Shore between Jamaica and Babylon normally ran with the doors and traps open in the summertime - it expedited the movement of people boarding and departing the train once it stopped at a low-level station (yes, I'm showing my age).
  by ExCon90
I believe the same was true on the CNJ. Their cars all had traps and doors but I think the trains all ran with traps up and doors open -- nobody thought anything of it. So maybe the DL&W decided that vestibules on commuter coaches were unnecessary. At least they had collision posts.