• What was the worst pre-Amtrak passenger railroad and why?

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by SouthernRailway
 
Penn Central seems to get bad reviews, but what was so bad about its passenger trains? Was it or was another railroad the worst, for passenger trains, in the years leading up to Amtrak? If you think one is the worst, why?

Thanks.
  by ExCon90
 
I think probably the worst thing about PC passenger trains was the lack of maintenance, particularly of air-conditioning. Hot cars were fairly common, I think particularly on locomotive-hauled commuter trains from GCT; almost unbearable on a hot, humid day, with no escape--you just had to sit there and endure it. I have no experience of the Empire Service at that time, so that may have been different. I also don't have much experience of other railroads during that period, but I'd hate to think there were many worse ones. At that time I was riding the City of Los Angeles and the California Zephyr almost annually, and they maintained standards until the end; I think the sheer volume of passenger traffic on PC compared with freight made it virtually impossible to improve things without major expenditures which were not even being made in tracks and freight yards.
  by doepack
 
I nominate the Rock Island. Its infrastructure and equipment was in a sad state of decay during the latter part of the 1960's as it pinned its hopes and dreams on a merger with UP.

I don't know if joining Amtrak would have changed its fortunes, but it certainly could not have been any worse than it was...
  by TomNelligan
 
The main problem with Boston & Maine intercity trains as they approached their end in the mid-1960s was probably the lack of food and beverage service. Imagine spending all day on one of the B&M/CP Boston-Montreal runs with nothing but water from the drinking fountain at the end of the car. The daytime Ambassador between New York and Montreal also lacked food service. And aside from the Connecticut River trains shared with the NH, CV, CN, and (in the case of the Montrealer/Washingtonian, the PRR), everything else was single or paired RDCs with nonreclining commuter seating. That was OK for a relatively short trip of a couple hours like Boston-Portland, but hardly for the aforementioned Montreal run. Of course all this was gone by late 1966 and B&M passenger operations were limited to short commuter runs for which the Budds were well suited.
  by J.D. Lang
 
Toward the end of New York Central they had a day train between New York and Buffalo called the Cayuga. I rode it a couple of times between Albany and Syracuse. It was mostly Flexi-Vans with two coaches and a "meal a mat" car on the end. Everything was filthy and the meal a mat car was an old coach with all of the seats removed with a couple of vending machines at one end. I did get some pretzels from it but was never brave enough to try one of the pre-package sandwiches. Nothing like the Ohio State limited that used to run in that time slot a few years previously.
  by GWoodle
 
doepack wrote: Sat Dec 14, 2019 5:17 am I nominate the Rock Island. Its infrastructure and equipment was in a sad state of decay during the latter part of the 1960's as it pinned its hopes and dreams on a merger with UP.

I don't know if joining Amtrak would have changed its fortunes, but it certainly could not have been any worse than it was...
By then Rock Island passenger trains were cut to the Peoria Rocket & the Quad City Rocket, 2 Illinois trains. Maybe a Des Moines Rocket could continue some service into Iowa. Without funding to keep the track in good repair the service was doomed. In the 1970's don't think the state was ready to have some sort of Illinois Rail authority to keep passenger service in key parts of the state.
  by CarterB
 
C&EI Meadowlark after 1955 ran a 7 1/2 hour trip to/from far southern Illinois to Chicago with NO provision for food service. No breakfast on way up, no dinner on way back.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
J.D. Lang wrote: Tue Dec 24, 2019 9:32 amToward the end of New York Central they had a day train between New York and Buffalo called the Cayuga. It was mostly Flexi-Vans with two coaches and a "meal a mat" car on the end.
So NYC did run a "mixed" that late in the game? Obviously Flexi-Vans couldn't come out of GCT, so did they originate from the freight terminals on Manhattan's West Side?
  by Statkowski
 
R36 Combine Coach wrote: Mon Mar 30, 2020 8:35 pmSo NYC did run a "mixed" that late in the game? Obviously Flexi-Vans couldn't come out of GCT, so did they originate from the freight terminals on Manhattan's West Side?
The Flexi-Vans were picked up at High Bridge, Bronx, N.Y., about the third stop on the Hudson River line from Grand Central. These were passenger-equipped Flexi-Van cars, so they could run on passenger trains as passenger cars. No more "mixed" than the New Haven running passenger-equipped REA G-85s on its trains.

Rode an overnighter from Grand Central to Buffalo under PC governance. Woke up in the morning with ice on the roomette's windows, on the inside! I had paid for service, I got service, quality not guaranteed.

On the bright side, arrived in Buffalo just in time to catch the Harrisburg Day Express (can't do that any more). One E-8, one baggage car, one coach.
  by davidp
 
I grew up riding the New Haven from Fairfield County into GCT in the mid-sixties. Equipment was very dirty by then, both inside and out. Lots of cracked exterior window glass, and as a kid who wanted to see everything, I felt very lucky if we could get a seat by a window that wasn’t fogged up with condensation between the panes.
  by D Alex
 
As a kid, I took the Empire Service between Utica and Rochester a couple of time in the last year before Amtrak took things over. The cars were getting ratty, maintenance was deferred, and cleanliness was spotty at best. But the worst were the stations, especially Rochester, which at the time was still being served by the remaining side-building of the recently demolished Claude Bragdon station. Around the same time I first flew on Mohawk, which was a similarly forgettable experience.

Probably the WORST passenger rail experience in the pre-Amtrak era had to be riding the Erie; the management made no secret that they wanted to get out of passenger service, and as soon as possible. Service, cleanliness and equipment was all second-rate, often third-rate even. There was a popular joke from the period: A guy runs up to a ticket counter, and says "I need to get to Buffalo in the WORST way possible!" The agent says to him, "Well, I'd better get you a ticket on the Erie, then..."
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Let's not be that harsh on "weary ERIE".

I had one ride in this life June 1960. Hoboken to Binghamton on #1 Erie Limited.

I think the heavyweight Coaches and Diner were "adequately " maintained; of course, what did this eighteen yo kid have to compare with other than the moribound New Haven?

I did get a walk through the completely empty lightweight Pullman deifying by name a former ERIE CEO (they were called President back then,).

A Fried Chicken Lunch was $1.95, hopefully I left a $.25 tip.

But they knew some railfan kid was taking a joyride, changing to the DL&W to go to Dansville, then returning on #6 Mail to Hoboken.

A "very early" EL ride Dec '60 to Meadville was OK. They already were liverying former ERIE equipment to DL&W/EL.

So let's leave it with "we report, you decide".