Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:54 pm

As LD cars were converted into commuter coaches,the maintainance was minimal at best,
at times the stainless steel sheeting would fall off the car sides and was not replaced,
showing the failing insulation and interior wall starting to rot.

From time to time some of the commuter coaches would wind up on LD trains for cars that were shopped
or needed seating capy
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby twropr » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:51 pm

After the all-Pullman Broadway was discontinued (trains 28/29), the General (trains 48/49) had a few Pullmans added and was renamed the BROADWAY LIMITED. 48/49, both before and after the change, had twin unit diners and a 6-bedroom lounge, but none of the other amenities of the all-Pullman flagship.
Andy

lstone19 wrote:
bill613A wrote:For the record the all pullman BROADWAY LTD's last run was December 12, 1967.

As I have heard it, the Broadway's train number was discontinued in the late '60s (perhaps the 12/12/67 date above) after which the Broadway Limited name was moved to a different train. The ICC regulated trains by their numbers, not names, which is how in some cases towards the end we ended up with a railroad having multiple fragments of the same train number with gaps (e.g. train 1 ran from A to B and also from C to D but not between B and C) or long layovers and equipment changes (e.g. train 2 ran A to B and also B to C but there was a six hour layover and a change of equipment at B). Names were strictly for marketing purposes; it was the number that officially defined the train.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Zeke » Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:00 pm

One has to remember the PC was bankrupt and a few times even had trouble meeting it's payroll. Under this cloud the feds demanded they maintain passenger service. The Kennedy brothers RFK and Teddy forced the PC to take on the New Haven as a prerequisite of the merger which helped doom it from the start let alone the financial skullduggery of crook PC treasurer Paul Bevan.

Setting the stage one can realize some effort by management to at least run a safe operation albeit not a clean one, the money just was not there. The people running the PC were hard boiled up from the ranks dyed in the wool railroad men. Of course, they hated the ICC for forcing the PC and other Railroads to maintain passenger ops that were losing fantastic sums of money and definitely taking chunks out of freight revenue. Many of them were arrogant mean sobs with no people skills which alienated the public and more importantly the Congress. How Amtrak emerged as early as 1971 is a testament to the dogged determination of the Northeast's congressmen and senators.

I fired the Broadway off and on for several years when my seniority would increase as the PC promoted firemen as the old guard enginemen retired. In my opinion the Broadway was looked after by all concerned including Bill Moore who was off the Southern Railway and helming the PC. Whenever his private car was on the hind end you could bank on him walking through the train and up to the motors. A very personable southerner. My regular assigned engineer Benny Eckman off handily mentioned he could use a double header as the GG-1's were getting tired and single units had trouble meeting the super tight schedule. The next trip we had two GG-1's and rocketed up to Harrisburg a few minutes ahead of schedule instead of the usual 10 late. The double headers were regular assigned power for several years afterwards until Amtrak got it's hooks deeper into the operations. Overall I thought the east end of the PC was no broken down slouch of a railroad but a company that most employees cared about and did there level best to provide a safe trip to the riding public.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby John Laubenheimer » Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:23 am

[quote="twropr"]After the all-Pullman Broadway was discontinued (trains 28/29), the General (trains 48/49) had a few Pullmans added and was renamed the BROADWAY LIMITED. 48/49, both before and after the change, had twin unit diners and a 6-bedroom lounge, but none of the other amenities of the all-Pullman flagship.
Andy

48/49 operated with the 5-bedroom lounge HARBOR-series cars (except for shopping requirements), not the 6-bedroom lounge FALLS-series, from 12/1967 until 1970. (The HARBOR cars were removed from 28/29 in 1/1967.)

After 1970, the 6-bedroom lounge could be either a FALLS-series or a STREAM-series (ex-NYC) car. The 4-4-2 IMPERIAL-series and 12-4 CREEK-series cars were also removed after Summer 1970.

48/49 also had a through 10-6 sleeper from Chi-Was; this was discontinued in the Summer of 1968.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Noel Weaver » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:55 pm

One big reason the Penn Central failed as a railroad was because the Saunders leadership failed in general. They allowed the maintenance of the physical plant to get so bad that mainlines were littered with 10 MPH slow orders, locomotives were not being maintained so they could not rely on them when they reached their destination. The former PRR yard facilities were falling apart especially in New Jersey which was a critical part of the railroad. If Perlman had had a free hand to run the railroad his way it still would not have been perfect but it would have been in far better shape during the early 70's than it was. I worked for them too and I saw it everywhere. The former New Haven even in its darkest days was a fairly well maintained mainline but under Penn Central parts of the New York Division as well as the Shore Line and Springfield Line had major slow orders and the Maybrook Line had even more of them too. As a result of poor or maybe I should say lack of maintenance crews could not make their terminals in the 12 hours they were allowed to work and thus operating costs went up some more. Delayed trains again due to conditions again resulted in higher costs. Saunders was not a good railroad man and he would not allowed the one who was (Perlman) to make major decisions. I could go on but this is it.
As for Amtrak vs Penn Central there was a drastic change on day one of Amtrak mainly that most trains west of Harrisburg and Buffalo no longer operated after day one but the ones that remained were an improvement over Penn Central. This did not have to happen, the railroad could have used some government help in operating essential passenger trains (at least they should have been considered essential) could have remained in operation and needed improvements could have taken place at least in time. Plenty of blame to go around in this case.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jun 08, 2016 1:29 pm

Good grief Mr. Weaver, were things so bad under Puddy Tat that you couldn't make Cedar Hill to Maybrook without dying?

Atop the Hudson River, perhaps?
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Thu Jun 09, 2016 7:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:22 pm

As to Noel Weaver's comment that Saunders was not a good railroad man, the argument has been made that he was not a railroad man at all, but a lawyer by trade and made his reputation in that field. (He was reputedly an expert bridge player, however.) According to reports, he rarely used a business car, preferring to fly, and was criticized at one point for "making too many right-of-way inspections from 30,000 feet." (I think that quote may have been in Time magazine.) I suppose now it can be told--on one occasion he was hi-railing with Perlman and the Superintendent (who told me the story some years later), plus whoever was driving. At one point he said, "what was that we just passed?" Upon being asked to describe it he said that if he saw another one he would point it out. He did point one out: it was a white keystone, outlined in black, with a black letter W. Apparently he hadn't seen a whistle post before and wondered what it was. Perlman's reaction was not expressed, but can be imagined.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Jun 08, 2016 3:30 pm

ExCon90 wrote:According to reports, he rarely used a business car, preferring to fly, and was criticized at one point for "making too many right-of-way inspections from 30,000 feet." (I think that quote may have been in Time magazine.)

In the summer 2016 Classic Trains, Don Phillips alleges that Saunders was primarily inspecting naked flight attendants on the Penn Central business jet. (As a result, Phillips says, when word got to the senator in charge of banking, he permanently quashed a Federal bridge loan to PC; in hindsight, wise financially as well as morally.)

Sorry, no direct quote available, I don't have a copy in front of me.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby MACTRAXX » Wed Jun 08, 2016 10:32 pm

Everyone:

Interesting topic about Penn Central passenger service as compared to the early days of Amtrak...

What makes this interesting is the short period Penn Central operated passenger service following the 2/1/1968
merger until Amtrak began operation on 5/1/1971 - just three years and three months time...Only the Burlington
Northern (1 year 2 months) had a shorter period operating passenger service from merger going into Amtrak.

Good memories from all that posted about this subject - Being the son of a PRR/PC passenger employee I was
always interested in this short era of transition and compilation from the PC merger and NH takeover into the
Amtrak years. It was a turbulent time for PC especially with events like the 1970 bankruptcy.

I noticed timetables mentioned - PC kept forms from the PRR and NYC with the mentioned exception of system
timetables being succeeded by the mentioned "East-West" schedule types for one.

What PC did do is issue New Haven's system timetable in 1970 identified as PC for at least one schedule change.

This is the type of subject that is a historical lesson thanks to all of the contributors that were "there" back then...
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EXPRESS TRAIN TO NEW YORK PENN STATION-NO JAMAICA ON THIS TRAIN-PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING TRAIN DOORS
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby rhallock » Wed Jun 08, 2016 11:35 pm

One thing I really miss from the old days, not necessarily PC vs Amtrak, is the once ready availability of modest but low priced sleeping accommodations on so many routes. Now, sleeping space is very nice but only for the well-off. Back then there were upper and lower berths for relatively little. Sure they only offered the basics but it beat the heck out of trying to sleep in a coach seat with arm rests in between seats. Also the sleepers were so well suited to civilized arrival times. One train might have several sleepers to be switched off at cities en-route, and you could occupy your space until say 8 am, regardless of when the car arrived. In the early Amtrak days, I took a sleeper from NY to DC overnight and even though it was a relatively short trip I had plenty of time to get a good nights sleep as the car sat at the station. At least that's my memory. Very civilized.
One thing from PC days which makes me still cringe was the dreadful blue with white face paint job that PC put on the FL9s. It was ugly even when clean and new, but when the paint started peeling badly they looked like something from a horror movie (Zombie Train). I know it was only cosmetic but to me it symbolized the debacle that PC had become. At least the early Amtrak paint schemes were bright and cheery even if the reality was less so.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Zeke » Wed Jun 08, 2016 11:57 pm

I think the PC had two distinct areas of operation the lines west of Buffalo and lines east. As Noel points out the Empire service across New York state was a well run operation as I believe Perlman took an interest in its daily ops as a olive branch to Governor Rockefeller. When you have heavyweights like that nosing around, things get quickly done the the right way or heads will roll. I rode the Empire service for a number of years up to Rochester from GCT and other than battling blizzards or very heavy freight traffic time keeping was pretty good. Those trains were usually spotless inside and out and many trains had a snack bar / lounge car in the consist.

The PC on the NEC was also a heavily scrutinized property after the Feds dumped boat loads of money on the Metroliner project and the attendant track rebuilding. The railroad was maintained in absolute top shelf condition and bulletined for 120 mph. The ride quality was superb except for the interlocking's which were pounded daily by 40-50 high speed freight, mail and piggyback trains. I cant recall any temporary speed restrictions that were not fixed with in a week or so of going up. The Harrisburg division's passenger main line had no temporary speed restrictions and it was bulletined with a 75 mph speed limit. Although most of it was stick rail, it was in excellent shape and mostly good for a smooth 85 mph if one was inclined to make up time.

Most of the PC passenger train horror stories seemed to originate in the Midwest and New Haven lines. I assume the neglect was justified as the PC on it's own was spread way to thin financially to support all of the remaining passenger service pre Amtrak. Probably the dumbest move the Feds made in the mid sixties was yanking the mail off the rails and going with the airlines. What the hell did they think was going to happen depriving the railroads of the USPS revenue that subsidized passenger service ? That is what started the train off blood bath of the mid to late 60's.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Jun 09, 2016 9:05 am

I got out my March 1971 Guide, which, as train offs were frozen after RPSA was enacted, was what there was on A-Day Eve. So with both that Guide and Amtrak's last printed System TT in hand, I note what follows.

I don't want to get into a "counting contest" regarding what was and what is now on the Corridor; Keystone, looked like "eight a day" vs. today's 14.

Empire; NY-Alb "eight a day" then; 13 now. Alb-Buf "five a day" then, 4 now, however then one was a "0 dark 30", so, except for the somnambulist crowd, a draw.

Out of Chicago, "three a day" on the Central, "four a day on Penn" to NY two with Sleepers; "no comparo" on that anymore (2). Penn still had "two a day" StL NY; one with Sleepers.

Regional Midwest, Chi-Det "three a day" then and now. Chi-Cinci "one a day" via both Central and Penn routes; well we know when The Cardinal runs nowadays. Chi-Louv then 'every other day" providing a Coach only connection to the South Wind. Finally "Big Four" Cinci-Cleve and Ind-Cleve made it to "The End".

All told, where it counts - much more and much better today under Amtrak.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby Greg Moore » Thu Jun 09, 2016 9:12 am

I just have to give kudos to Mr. Norman for the great use of somnambulist.

My hat is off to you Sir.
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby merrick1 » Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:30 am

Zeke wrote: Of course, they hated the ICC for forcing the PC and other Railroads to maintain passenger ops that were losing fantastic sums of money and definitely taking chunks out of freight revenue. Many of them were arrogant mean sobs with no people skills which alienated the public and more importantly the Congress.



I've often wondered why railroads had such a hard time dealing with regulators. Other heavily regulated industries such as insurance, telecommunications, and electric and gas utilities seem to be able to deal with regulators. Was the ICC harder to deal with than the typical state insurance department or public utilities commission?
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Re: Was the Penn Central better than Amtrak at all?

Postby edbear » Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:17 pm

In most instances, other regulated industries had no competition from another operator in the same territory. Most regions of a particular state had only one company in a particular field; one gas company, one electric company, one phone company. The regulators of those industries guaranteed a certain return on investment; if the return was deficient a rate hike, if an excess a rate reduction. Quite often, until recent years, many of these utilities, except the phone company didn't even cross state lines. The non-railroad utilities were regulated when they were growth industries. Railroads were regulated by states from the start, but when the ICC started regulating them, they were pretty much a mature industry. With railroads, they sometimes had competition from another railroad and they also had bus, truck and air and even waterway competition. For years railroads which cited passenger losses were not allowed to tinker with their service very much because freight profits could absorb the losses and the railroads could still be profitable overall. Look how fast regulators responded when utility customers complained that the bills they paid were subsidizing the transit operations of New Orleans Public Service and Public Service Gas and Electric in NJ. They raised a big enough stink and the transit operations were dumped, fast.
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