• Pre-Amtrak: Your favorite train and why?

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by John_Perkowski
This poll is for those of us who are 40-somethings or older.

If you had rail opportunity before A-Day, worldwide, what was your favorite run?

As for me, I have three trips in my log: SF Overland Limited connecting to the City of Saint Louis, 1959, UP City of Saint Louis, 1963, and UP City of Los Angeles/Saint Louis, 1967.

Of mine, the 1967 trip is the one that stands out the most (probably because I was 10 and easily understood what was going on around me :)

I remember the 1963 trip, though. Made a huge pest of myself to my Mom going between our Pullman and the dome lounge ;)

I've managed to pick up several UP coloring books in the intervening years. I've even used them :)

  by CarterB
Pre Amtrak ....several

Broadway Ltd
Capitol Ltd
California Zephyr
Empire Builder
Panama Ltd
All end point to end point and class act trains.

and just for fun
Illinois Terminal Champaign-St Louis
Meadowlark Tuscola-Chicago

  by EastCleveland
As kid during the 1950s and 60s, I traveled long distance on several eastern railroads. But my favorite by far was the New York Central, which twice each year transported me, my parents, and my three siblings from New York City to Cleveland (and back) aboard my favorite train, the Cleveland Limited.

My father always wore a suit. My mother usually wore a nice hat. And I was known to occasionally sport a bow tie. The highlights were many: the oak-benched waiting room and huge Kodak panorama inside Grand Central Terminal. . . the endless tunnels under Park Avenue. . . the sprint through Spanish Harlem along the elevated viaduct. . . the trip northward along the beautiful Hudson. . . the small towns in the Mohawk Valley. . . and, long after dark, the magnificently illuminated Kodak headquarters in Rochester and the mysterious Buffalo Central Terminal.

I still remember the distinctive "passenger car smell" of the New York Central's Budd coaches, the heavy clunk when one of the vestibule doors slammed shut, the railroad "butchers" who came through selling sandwiches and coffee, and the enormous (at least to a kid) communal restrooms, where men wearing wifebeaters and baggy trousers with suspenders always seemed to be shaving in the middle of the night.

I rarely slept, and always spent most of the trip staring out the window. By the time we pulled into Erie, in Pennsylvania, the sun was rising. When we finally stepped off the train in Ohio, at the now-vanished East Cleveland station, my steel-worker grandfather was waiting with his old DeSoto, and my grandmother already had breakfast heading toward the kitchen table (the two of them were dead-ringers for the actors who, years later, played the grandparents on "The Waltons").

Today, I travel along the same route several times each year. My parents and my grandparents are gone. But though my ticket now says "Amtrak," I always pretend that the New York Central never went away, and that I'm still traveling with my family on the Cleveland Limited.


  by vector_one75
Having been 3 years old from a refugee family from Lithuania after the Soviet occupation in WWII, we wound up in Boston Harbor on the ship fom Europe, and my Dad's cousin from a previously long-immigrated branch of the family greeted is to take the train to New York's Penn Station in 1949. At my age I don't remember whether the cars were either "American Flyer" types or "PS Corrugated stainless steel", but in both cases as I recall, my first impressons on a train (other than the boxcar my parents birthed me while sneaking through Iron Curtain borders on a freight train, whicj I would not have consciously remembered!) were of looking up from sitting on a carpeted floor to see rows of floursescent lights, lights I had not seen before in Germany. Ot must have been at night as I recall. Between mt birth and my first ride on the New Haven at arrival, Mom used to bring me in my baby carriage to the grade crossing in Stuttgart to greet dad from gis work. For some reason he'd arrive not at a "proper" staton but at a multi-track (6?) road crossing, probably a flag stop, with dense stram loco taffic every few minutes.

As I grew up and went to school, I guess from my birth therefore, it was logical for me to simply start to like trains, first the Pitkin Ave/Euclid Ave/Liberty Ave "El" in Brooklyn where we first lived with Dad's cousin, and eventually elsewhere in the New York area. At school I quickly found myself a friend who liked trains too, we just knew each other by the fact that we were the only two kids who didn't "hang around" in the candy store doing "no good"! After school instead of just going home, we'd put up a map of the New York area onto a dart board and that's how we'd determine where our next trip would be, and by the time we were in 8th grade we had already BEEN to places around New York our classmates never even heard of, or cared. That was THEIR loss!

We wound up in the same high school and continued a lifelong friendship beyond just railfanning. We travelled the "Queen of the Valley", "Crusader" (post Budd version, later RDC version), an around the far New York suburbs as well. My heritage community youth activities gave me more opportunities than most "non-ethnic" students for longer distance travel, to Lithuanian youth conferences, in both high school and college days, and wound up on the 20th Century Limited, Broadway Limited, Wolverine, The Chief, San Francisco Chief, California Zephyr, Coast Daylight, Denver Zephyr, Nebraska Zephyr, Morning/Afternoon Hiawathas, several of the bi-level "400"'s, James Whitcomb Reilly, Pocahontas, City of San Francisco, Abraham Lincoln, Land'o'Corn, Capitol Limited, Erie Limited, George Washington, (PRR) Buffalo Day Express, Empire State Express, Congressional, Keystone, Colonial, Merchants Limited, Day Cape Codder, (CN) Rapido, TH&B Buffalo-Toronto RDC, New London-Worceter RDC, Montreal-Ste.Agathe RDC, Laurentian, all places served one way or another that had Lithuanian communities in thye USA and Canada. But my favorite train of all, and my "usual" NY-Chicago way to go was always the "Phoebe Snow", both pre- and post- NKP combination. Others I sampled at times on trips, but Miss Phoebe was always my "staple".

Why, I guess it's very personal. It was a luxurious train but not ostentatious. Friendly and comfortable. Pride of the communities it served. And few trains by then still actuallly had observationl-full lounge cars! There was a trainman in the obs car throuh the Southern Tier who'd give impromptou sightseeing descriptions along the train, including where one farmer had a buffalo trackside, with lots of stories about this by the trainman. The diner was tasty and elegant, but not snotty, always friendly staff, and I loved those "Krusty Korn Kob" rolls! The jourbey gave you great Pocono Mountain and Delawate Water Gap scenery in daytime and fairly even sleep at night through Ohio and Indiana. We had a group of about 15 from Europe I sent to Chicago from New York for one of the conferences I was involved in organizing and they loved the trip, even though it took 24 hours and the "Limiteds" were only overnight, and by that time most young people used to fly in a coule of hours. Waking up in the morning in Indiana, a bunch of us opened to tops of the dutch doors and sang along with the "Kellogs" jingle: "New Country Corn Flakes...! The trainmen would tell us tall tales of the railroad to our group. Yet there was always the sense of the gentility of "Miss Phoebe's Train", with all the fun we had, the train maintained a dignity appropriaste for a luxury train that still stopped for smaller towns along the way. And of course returning to New York, what better and moe pleasant way to enter the Big Apple on the ferry, to actually see the skyscrapers approaching right up close. All railroads from the west had to go through the Jersey Meadows, but it was the Phoebe Snow who gave you what you wanted to see in arriving in New York!

Yes, those were the days!

PS, my wife is from Australia and she got homesick for hr home town after being ith me 12 years in New York, so I wund up living in Perth Western Australia from 1982, but we continued travelling by train in Australia (she too was nvolved with Lithuanian community activities and opportunbities fgor travel) We were on the Indian Pacific, Prospector, Australind, the XPT, Explorer, and on trips to South Africa, on the Trans-Natal (Johannesburg-Durban), The (ex?-) Star of Egypt (Cairo-Aswan) - the last worlwide operation at the time being oprated by the CIWL Wagons-Lits Company, and a number of trains in Europe as well, but I must finish this lettter now!

Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Australia

  by David Benton
fascinating story , thanks for that .

  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Radzivanas--

Here is discussion we have had at the forum in the past regarding Miss Phoebe

What a train
  by bill haithcoat
I share honors equally between the Dixie Flagler and the Georgian. They were run by the Chicago & Eastern Illinois between CHI and Evansville, Ind.,the Louisville and Nashville between Evansville and Nashville , the Nashville, Chattanooga and St.Lous from NASH to ATL. The Georgian terminated in ATl. The Flagler went on to JAX via Atlantic Coast line, and then JAX to MIA via Florida East Coast. In 1957 the L&N took over the NC&STL.

I was taken on the Flagler at age 3 from Chattanooga to Daytona Beach and back.Got hooked on trains at that time.

I took many rides in childhood with my mother from Chattanooga to spend the day in Atlanta. We would ride The Georgian, eat breakfast on the way down. Visit the zoo and go shoppiing(for mother) then eat dinner on the Georgian returning. I made that trip many times. The people with whom I traveled varied and the itineary in Atlanta varied, but it was always the Georgian.

I took some later rides on the Dixie Flagler(re-named Dixieland in Dec. 1954) , too, but it was discontinued early on, 1957 (under the name Dixieland).I was to take many longer trips on the Georgian as I got older.

I count these two trains as equals. They will always be my "sentimental favorites " as they were so entwined with my childhood, and the beginnings of my lifelong hobby.
  by NellieBly
For me, it's an easy question to answer. My favorite train ride was eastbound from Oakland (3rd Street) on the "real" California Zephyr in 1968. It was my first trip west of Chicago, and my first experience with domes, and after that trip, any train without domes would always seem incomplete.

We boarded the train outside the WP station in the middle of Third Street, then traveled south parallel to the then under construction BART line to Fremont, turning west through Niles Canyon. I exclaimed over the treeless green hills (it was March, so things were green instead of brown), and was laughingly told by one Californian that I'd be seeing REAL mountains a little bit later.

Then there was the trek back north up the flat floor of the Central Valley through Sacramento, then in the afternoon we headed up the Feather River. Just before dinnertime we traversed Williams Loop, and then it was off into the wilds of Nevada.

One experience I will never forget was sitting on the right front seat in the first dome, watching the green signals approach, shimmer in the locomotive exhaust, and drop to red, reflecting off the stainless steel ribs of the car roof, as we ran east at 79 MPH under a full moon. My grandmother had gone to bed, but I could have stayed up all night, and almost did.

Finally one of the signals was yellow over green, then red over green, as we headed into a siding for a meet (must have been east of the joint track at that point -- pretty late at night). We stopped at the red signal at the east end of the siding, with no sound except the airconditioning and the ticking of cooling metal. In the distance, I could see a headlight approaching. It was the westbound CZ! I heard a door slam, and a trap being lowered, and our rear-end brakemen walked across the main for a rollby.

Then suddenly the westbound was by us, in a blur of lights and stainless, the softly lighted domes glowing in the darkness. We rocked slightly in the wake of the passing train. I heard the trap lift and the door slam, the signal cleared, and we were off.

The rest of the trip was magnificent, even the last of it, up the middle track between double-deck commuter cars (the first I'd seen) and into Chicago. But it was that meet in the Nevada desert that has stayed with me. And now...it's all gone.

  by Rockingham Racer
The Merchants Limited, late 60's. I lived & worked in Manhattan and my family was/is near Boston. Fast, good service [parlor cars, dining car], and convenient. Typical trip went like this, eastbound:
Cocktails in the parlor car until New York-New Haven; dinner New Haven-Providence; recuperate from preceding Providence-Boston.

Great trip, either way. 5 PM departures, both ends. Carried 3 parlor cars.

  by Gilbert B Norman
Oh Mr. Herrick, you should have seen the Merchants circa 1959 when such had SEVEN Parlors Diner, Grill and six Coaches.

I was eighteen, and "treated" myself to a ride. I rode into New York, Merchants to Boston (Parlor of course) and return on The Owl. At South Sta, the Owl sleepers (four of them plus one from Providence) were open for occupancy at 10PM

My Mother and Father could "not understand' how I could 'waste' my summer job money on such "nonsense", but I was eighteen and deemed a responsible kid.

So off I went on a "journey of a lifetime". with the entire experience costing $35.86 in Rail, Parlor, and Roomette fares. A steak on the Merchants diner was about $7.

My Mother's parting words; "Now if you're going to do this, make sure you properly tip'. I did.