• Phoebe Snow

  • 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 PDT009
How did the Phoebe Snow compare to other LD trains of the day? Were the amenities and services levels as good as the premier trains of the 1950's?
  by henry6
Any DL&W fan will say it was as good. Remember Pullman service was the standard and even after Pullman sold to the railroads the service remained high. As time progressed the cleanliness, onboard services, etc were high quality. Keeping up the on time performance was the #1 task of every railroader. Was it the 20th Century, the Broadway, the Super Chief? No. Was it a great train, well presented, maintained and on time? Yes. As the EL wore on of course, amenities were reduced, time keeping became a little sloppy, but employee pride never dwindled. Real DL (and EL) still have that pride.

  by pdman
Phoebe Snow Amenities --

There was a neat little fold-out flier that was put in every seat with tid-bits of information about the entire route along with the train schedule.

Also, in the observation car were free postcards. If you filled them out while on board, you could drop them into a box and they would be mailed for you (the company attaching the 2 or 3 cents postage at either Buffalo or Hoboken).

Free peanuts in the table area of the observation car. They wouldn't serve them to you in the cushioned seat area, because they didn't want the oil from the peanuts that would get on our fingers to get on the arm rests.

Neat train.

  by pdman
Still another thing about the Phoebe Snow:

When it left Hoboken and Buffalo, there was an air of it being special. The crew standing at the gate of Track 8, how they greeted passengers, the crews at the steps of the cars, and the terminal announcements. They were all special. There was a buzz in the air throughout the terminal. It was like the departure of a ship's voyage. It was an event.

It was all very subtle but you knew you were getting on a princess of a train for the day.

British Airways created the same kind of buzz in the terminal and departure gate with the departure of the Concordes.
  by Matt Langworthy
Since I was born 3 years after our dear Phoebe made her final journey, all I know comes from my parents and family members. The agreement is also universal that DL&W was superior to its neighbors (Erie and LV) in terms of comfort and customer service, and it was comparable to the Ltds that plied the rails of NYC and Pennsy. Since my family is a bunch of Easterners, I have no idea how it compared to fabled western runs like Hiawatha or Super Chief.

  by pdman
The Super Chief was another that the road set up as being a very special daily event. With that one, you got a sense of a long distance voyage that would last for 35 hours or so...two nights. You would meet celebrities on it. Pillows, place mats, china, and many other things were constant reminders of how special you were to be aboard this form of luxury travel. The DL&W captured some of that with the little over eight hour Phoebe Snow run during daylight hours.

One cab ride I had on #3 (engine 817 in the lead): we had an approach medium going into the Bergen Tunnels. At West End we had a red signal and stopped. The engineer blew the horn and a minute or so later we were cleared to proceed. The engineer, fireman, and road forman of engines talked continuously about the two minute loss in the schedule. We finally made it up by the time we got to Blairstown.

The closest in air travel today is the 18-19 hour Singapore Air non-stop from Newark over the North Pole to Singapore. PanAm and TWA in the late 1950s and early 1960s used to have what they called Polar Services with non-stops from London and Paris to San Francisco and/or Los Angeles that were in the air for 22-23 hours. They, too, were some special departures -- flight amenities that were specific to those flights .
  by henry6
SPECIAL: YES! But employee pride went a long way in making it special.
Timetable instructions were that first class trains were to be cleared by 5 minutes except numbers 3 and 6 which demanded 10 minutes.

Time note: there was always an apparently long stop at Scranton in both directions ostensibly for changing engines and loading and unloading mail. I was once told that the real reason for the almost 20 minutes was so that the 8 hour 15 minute schedule Buffalo to Hoboken, Hoboken to Buffalo, would not "embarrass" the New York Central which had several officers on DL board of managers!!!

LV and Erie had their own trains but were made up of refurbished cars with a few new thrown in. PHOEBE was all new from the F's (later E8's) to the Tavern Lounges.

  by pdman

Yeah, the NYC representation on the board put the DL&W into a youngest step-child like behavior. I think it was always looking over its shoulder and asking permission if it can do some things. I don't know why, but it might have come from needing an infusion of cash way back and the NYC might have bought a big chunk of bonds or stock. Sad, if it acted on its own and had managements with real gumption, it might have been even more different.

  by Matt Langworthy
I think you're selling DL&W short with the NYC connection. Bill White certainly showed vision when he revived the Phoebe Snow name with a new trainset in 1948. Given DL&W's nearly bankrupt condition when he became president in 1941, White had to work hard to revive the road in a declining anthracite market and in the face of burgeoning truck traffic. I am convinced that only the revenues from World War II saved the anthracite carriers from a much earlier final bankruptcy.

White's successor Perry Shoemaker could hope for little better. After all, PRR had its dirty hands in the back pockets of Nickel Plate to prevent a powerful DL&W/NKP merger that might have become the dominant rail carrier in the Northeast and Great Lakes. And he was also forced to sell the very lucrative NKP stock in the late '50s to finance repairs from Hurricane Diane. Again, he had little control over external events that had a very negative impact on the Lackawanna. Both men did as much as possible under trying circumstances. White, in particular, deserves his accolades, for saving DL&W and EL. He literally gave his life to preserve the RRs in his care.
Last edited by Matt Langworthy on Mon Oct 24, 2005 7:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.

  by pdman
Matt, good insights. Thanks for them.

It would have made a different story if DL&W and NKP had linked up.


  by charlie6017
As a DLW, Erie and EL fan myself, all I can say is I wish there were a time machine we could use to experience it for ourselves! Like Matt, I was born too late (in 1971).
  by Matt Langworthy
Charlie- there will be a way to revisit the service when Phoebe Snow is restored to operation! :-D
  by Movieman
Matt Langworthy wrote:Charlie- there will be a way to revisit the service when Phoebe Snow is restored to operation! :-D
As with others I was also born to late to ride the Phoebe Snow, but seeing the parts of The Lackawanna Cutoff every day I can't wait to ride atop the high banks and viaducts and see the countryside. I hope that time will come soon :wink:

  by AndyB
The "original" Phoebe Snow still runs.

OK, I admit, it is in 1/4 scale, but it is the original and with "F" units.
The train operates on the layout of The New York Society of Model Engineers See: www.modelengineers.org
For a photo of tavern/lounge see: http://modelengineers.org/Web%20Pics/Picture%20014.JPG

The model was built prior to the Phoebe Snow and put on dispaly at Lackawanna Stations to publicize the coming of the new train. It was later given to NYSME to run on the Society's layout in the Hoboken Terminal. The entire train still runs, a testament to the model builders of that time.
Before anyone says anything about the Tavern Lounge photo, Yes, the roofs of the Tavern Lounge and Dining Car are not fluted. Anyone knowing the construction history of the train knows why.

The Society also has a 1/4" Scale model of White's busines car. Also tail signs from the Tavern - Lounge, the business car and the Lackawanna Limited are on dispaly. Visitors always welcomed.

  by pdman
Odd memory about the observation cars. Liquor was sold by the drink. I remember the servers making an announcement that the train was coming up upon a dry county and that he wouldn't be able to serve for about ten minutes or so.

Too, one county in New York State required an added tax to be collected on drinks. The two or three car servers I got to know would just charge the regular amount and put a nickle or dime in a special country tax envelop that they would turn in at the end of the trip in either Hoboken or Buffalo.