• E7's/Niagara on the Century

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Howard Sterenberg
I have a video that tells me that the New York Central received delivery of a pair of E7 diesels in 1945. Those were the first passenger train diesels the Central received, and they were immediately assigned to the Century. I have another video that tells me that with the arrival of the Niagara in 1947, another half hour was sliced from the elapsed time of the Century trip. So, did diesels and steam share the Century for a while in the late 1940s? How long was the Niagara used on the Century before it was reduced to commuter duty?

Howard S
  by shlustig
The S-class Niagara locomtoives were delivered in 1945 & 1946. In 1946, the famous cost comparison tests were made between the Niagaras and 2 unit and 3 unit E-7's.

The 16' basic schedule between GCT & Chicago was implemented witht eh 1938 streamlined consist. There was a brief period after WW II in which the schedule was reduced by 15" and 30" as the track was rehabbed from the beating taken from the extremely heavy traffic during the war years. However, the 16' schedule for the 960 miles called for a 60 mph average speed, and the shortened schedules reverted back to 16' with regard to the number of permnent speed restrictions along the route.

The Niagaras were bumped from the premier passenger runs with the influx of more diesels (E-7's & 8's, PA's, and FM's) and worked the secondary mainline passenger and M&E trains. As dieselization progressed from east to west, they worked from Clevelnd west and south and eventually finished out their days on the Southern District (Big Four). Most were retired in 1955, with a few lasting until spring 1956.
  by bill8106
How long was the Niagara used on the Century before it was reduced to commuter duty?
That is an interesting question particularly in the 1945 to mid-1947 period when only 12 E7s (8 A's, 4 B's) were on the roster at the same time the Niagaras were being delivered. I'm not saying that brand new S's (or L's for that matter) never pulled the Century, but I figured that J3's would've been assigned to the Century more often than those other classes, especially the J's that had PT tenders and whatever shrouded/streamlined engines were left after WW2. To the extent that the Central was still image-conscious in the immediate post-war period, the shrouded engines matched the 1938 version of the Century.
  by NYC_Dave
I don't know that art is a definitive answer to the question, but 1947 appears to be a pivotal year. For many years, the annual NYC calendar featured the 20th Century. 1946 had a Dreyfuss Hudson. 1947 showed the observation & 1948 had E7s on the head end.
1946 magazine advertising still featured the streamlined Hudson logo, but 1947 ads featured a new E7 logo.
Artwork on public timetables also showed a transition from steam to diesel in 1946 & 1947.
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  by SemperFidelis
My father's favorite childhood book, which in turn became my favorite childhood book, which now is my two sons'' favorite book, the 1950 "Diesel Electric 4030" (author Billings?) makes a present tense (1950 being then present) reference to the use of both Niagaras and E units for the runs from New York to Chicago.

Though it doesn't answer your question really, I suppose that the reference at least dates the Niagara's use on such runs until after 1950.

The book makes specific mention of the fact that the "new Niagaras" could make the run from New York to Chicago without having to change engines or, thanks to track pans helping out with water, stopping for fueling needs.

Great book BTW, and wonderfully illustrated.
  by NYC1956
Although I have never seen an official directive, I think it is safe to say that Niagaras were not regularly assigned to the 20th Century. That train was so special to the New York Central that it always received the best and most fashionable equipment. Both the Niagaras and the E7s were delivered in 1945. Thus once the E7s became available, they were the preferred locomotives to lead the 20th Century. That is not to say that no Niagara or no Mohawk ever pulled the 20th Century, just that those instances would have been very rare.
For support, just consider the photographic evidence. The 20th Century had to be one of the most photographed trains. I searched all my books about the New York Central and found only two photographs showing a Niagara on the 20th Century. One was a special case where severe winter weather in January 1948 had the train 3-1/2 hours behind schedule, likely because the E7s had been unable to cope with the deep snow. The other was June 1946 with a Niagara leading the 20th Century out of Chicago.
On the other hand, there are many photos with references about Niagaras pulling the Commodore Vanderbilt and the Advance Commodore Vanderbilt and other named limiteds. The other limited trains mentioned were the Empire State Express, Ohio State Limited, Knickerbocker, Laurentian, Chicagoan, Lake Shore Limited, North Shore Limited, Mercury, New England States, and many mail and express trains.
Mike Kmetz
  by Statkowski
You're thinking one set of E7s for one set of Twentieth Century Limiteds, but the Century routinely ran with multiple sections (I think the record was seven second sections). The Central didn't have enough E units to cover all sections, so I'm certain that many of the sections got whatever heavy-duty power was available.
  by Howard Sterenberg
On page 23 of the 2nd quarter 2001 Central Headlight there is a picture of an L4 Mohawk at the head end of train #25 at Garrison New York in August of 1944. It's during WWII, demand was heavy, and they probably didn't have a J3 available on that day. However, the L4 was probably quite new and it looks great in that picture.

Did the Century operate in multiple sections as late as 1947?

Howard S
  by shlustig
IIRC, the first sections of #'s 25 & 26 were each assigned 3 units (A-B-A) between Harmon and Chicago. Until sufficient E-units were available, 2nd sections would draw eaither a pair of E-'s or a J or S engine.

In the late 1950's and into the 1960's, sections were infrequent and usually attributed to heavy traffic for a specific reason such as a national political convention or an airline strike.
  by Jack Shufelt
When I was working in the towers on the Hudson Division in the late 50's and early 60's No. 25 always ran in sections for the beginning of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. No. 26 of course ran in sections at the end of those holiday period's.

I do not recall sections being operated for Independence Day or any other holiday, except Christmas and Thanksgiving.