• A-Day Weekend; Where Were You?

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

Moderator: David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
I believe it is a fair statement for most railfans that A-Day weekend probably was the most momentous weekend spent in the pursuit of their hobby.

I would guess that in order to have any first hand "where were you' experiences, one is now likely almost the age of fifty; anyone much younger than that came from a family where railfanning was either a family, or at least a father-son, activity.

May I relate mine?

Friday April 30, 1971 (I was "closing in" on 30) saw me at CUS (then a cavern under construction account the abomination known as 222 S, Riverside Plaza, that "took out" the Concourse) along with a party of four for a last ride on MILW 103, The City of Everywhere. Destination was Savanna, IL. As always, the 20 some car Armour Yellow train "strecthed out of sight"; but tonight in addition to the media, many a fan was there taking photos of the event.

Once aboard I could not help but observe fans at every grade x-ing as well as a few places that could only be describes as trespassing. Dinner in the Diner was still "nothing could be finer'. I had my final bottle of UP's own vintnered Cabernet that I had been enjoying on UP Diners ever since I "was of age" (I know a collector that has an unopened bottle; it is probably vinegar by now, but I doubt if it is for sale). Even though the Dome Diner had been withdrawn some two years earlier, there was still the UP pride and style. If the crews, both MILW and UP, were riding off to an uncertain future, one would not know it.

We detrained at Savanna, and as 103 highballed, one knew that they were part of history. The drumhead, "Adios", said it all (there is a photo of that drumhead in a TRAINS). After a walk over to the CB&Q station and about a one hour wait, the Afternoon Zephyr showed up. This I must say was an anticlimatic ride home. By return to CUS, the media had dispersed, but a cadre of diehards were still there (including, sorry to note, an individual who commited an act of theft when in full view of many, whipped out a screwdriver, and helped himself to an "E-9" plate; this by the way cost him his Membership in at least one NRHS Chapter).

Saturday, A-Day I was back at CUS; there was a media presence because Richard the First (or the first Mayor-for-life-Daley) was there to "christen" Amtrak. The inaugural Empire Builder was there and the Mayor rolled on about "a new day for rail travel...Chicago's heritage as the Railroad Capital, etc, etc..) The only visible suggestion of Amtrak was a Pointless Arrow behind the mayor.

But basically, the only change, to the non-fan public was that "the 1030AM train to Milwaukee and Minneapolis" had a collage of BN (all predecessors represented) equipment, but otherwise was departing from the exact track that MILW #5, The Morning Hiawatha, departed from yesterday. Once aboard, it was pretty much business as usual, the MILW Conductor lifted transportation in the usual way (wasn't sure just how valid my Pass was going to be; it was). However, it was fun to observe the C&M from a Budd Dome, which, for those tuning in late, offered the best visibility of any dome design.

On arrival at MILW, we were met by a fellow I knoew who was "known for his "interpretations" of posted speeds in his Pontiac "Goat". To get West to a curve at Nashotah, was "no big deal" - plemty of time to set up and "bag" the NP (still complete with a Monad) F-Unit leading the inaugural Amtrak Empire Builder. Back to Milwaukee for a ride home on an inaugural Hiawaths Service train, which, with its four car MILW consist, could just as well been yesterday.

Arriving back at CUS, realtiy started to set in. Yesterday at 5PM most of the South Concourse tracks were hosting railroad LD trains. Now the only intercity train to be seen was the Super Chief making its inaugural run from CUS.

Sunday, or A+1, there were still railroad operated trains out on the road that would be arriving for the final time. So another fellow and I started to chase 'em in my 1968 VW (yup, that's what I had in younger days). On that day we 'caught and shot" the last MILW #104 at Davis Jct, the last BN #32 Builder-Coast-Zephyr at Rochelle, and ATSF #2, San Fran Chief at Streator (I believe #2/30th was the final non-Amtrak train to tie up anywhere).

Now it was time to head for the barn, catch up on "sleep deficit", reflect on the era that had now closed, and return to work Monday MILW and several colleagues saying "what's Amtrak?" (my Internal Audit Dept position was pretty much "fans welcome, just don't let it get in the way of the job").
  by bill haithcoat
I was on the last train out of town, May 2, 1971. the remnants of the former Georgian. From Chattanooga to Atlanta. Two streamlined coaches(one of them an extra). Not too many people on board. Not much publicity, there were a few small newspaper articles.

Train was 2 hrs. 35 min. late. Came back home that night on Greyhound bus. Was sort of in shock the whole day, and for a long time thereafter.
  by John_Perkowski
Just for you Gil...

I was a ninth grader going on a Boy Scout campout :)


  by EastCleveland
During the small hours of Saturday morning, I was in the front row at the Fillmore East in New York, watching the Grateful Dead.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend caught the eye of the guitar player, Bob Weir. Meaningful glances were exchanged. I was not amused.

Needless to say, neither the Penn Central nor Amtrak were on my mind -- although trains did play a role nonetheless. When the concert ended at daybreak, we headed uptown aboard the Lexington Avenue subway, engrossed in a running argument over what had just transpired at the concert.

My girlfriend (drama queen that she was) finally shouted "F*** you," stormed off the train at Grand Central, and headed up the stairs.

At that moment, I realized I was in love (I always liked girls with spirit). I followed her upstairs and all the way into the Terminal itself. There, we ultimately kissed and made up, right by the ticket windows, as the PA announced the day's first train to Poughkeepsie.

  by Aa3rt
I was a 17 year old high school senior. The nearby Erie Lackawanna had ended passenger service in 1970-I did manage to ride the last eastbound Lake Cities from Greenville, PA to Jamestown, NY.

After the EL ended passenger service, the nearest passenger trains were on the PennCentral's former NYC line between Buffalo and Cleveland. I was determined to observe and photograph the last PC passenger trains through Westfield, NY, about 30 miles north of my boyhood home. (After all, this was history-what was this know-it-all, soon to graduate senior going to learn in one more day at dear old Eisenhower High School?)

So with great eagerness I coaxed my 1962 Chevy Bel-Air across the state line, through Jamestown, and along the western shore of Lake Chautauqua through Mayville, and then down the escarpment to the forlorn former NYC depot in Westfield where the Jamestown, Westfield and Northwestern interurban used to make connections with the NYC. I remember that one of the trains was numbered 51 (have forgotten the other) one eastbound, one westbound that both passed through Westfield in the late morning. Then it was all over, no more daylight trains-and while I was feeling adventurous, the nearest passenger trains that I could observe in daylight hours were in Buffalo, about 50 miles away. While I was up to the trip, I knew the old Chevy would be doing good to get me back to my home on the Pennsylvania-New York border.

High school graduation was followed by junior college and a letter from Uncle Samuel that he was in need of my services. By the time I returned in 1978 the old EL was Conrail and there were few trains through Jamestown.

Now, the EL is the WNY&P, the depot in Westfield has been lovingly restored and the old NYC mainline has been transferred from PC to Conrail to CSX. Amtrak trains still pass through, although I believe only at night, stopping in Dunkirk, NY and Erie, PA.
  by 2nd trick op
In the spring of 1971, I was an admittedly not-mature-enough Penn State senior, preparing for a graduation that was going to take me out of the two sheltered, provincial environments in which I'd spent my first 21+ years.

So there wasn't much opportunity to go exploring; Moving from the Northeastern quadrant to the geographic center of Pennsylvania had given me an opportunity to make a couple of bus/rail trips to Philadelphia, using Lewistown as the interchange, and I'd kept up a long acquaintance with the PRR's Harrisburg station, which I'd explored whenever my family visited relatives since my teens.

But A-day itself came and went without much notice. Going off to college had reduced the distance from my home base to the old PRR Middle Division from 80 miles, at Duncannon, to 19, at Spruce Creek. When I'd first come upon this, traffic was still high from the Vietnam buildup, but by 1971, the cutbacks due to the PC bankruptcy were being felt, with a vengeance.

Early one Sunday morning a few weeks later, I found myself up early, and fired up my battered 1962 Chrysler (its color was officially "Desert Beige", but when my friends and I drove it up to Elmira to legally visit a bar, it became "The Pink Pig") and headed to Altoona for the day; saw my first Amtrak livery when the eastbound Broadway came around Horseshoe a few hours late.

And one more memory for our moderator:

It was not much past dawn when I drove up past the Altoona reservoir, listening at the time to Chicago (WCFL) disk-jockey Barney Pipp, who for some unexplained reason, was working an overnight shift instead of his usual evening slot.

I never heard Pipp's distinctive voice again; over 30 years later, I was to learn, via the Web, that he'd moved on to Alabama, and died in an auto accident in 1975.

Happiness is never experienced; only remembered. (Oscar Levant)
  by Aa3rt
As this is the 40th anniversary of the beginning of Amtrak operations, I thought it might be appropriate to give this thread a little "bump" and give some newer Railroad.Net members a chance to contribute any memories they have of that day.
  by Ocala Mike
Not a new member, but I never got to post to the thread earlier, probably because A-Day was pretty uneventful for me. I was living in a garden apartment in Deer Park, NY on A-Day, and most of my train trips back done were over the LIRR and NYC subway. I do remember, however, cutting out a newspaper article (probably Newsday) about the NRPC and preserving it for a while suggesting i was aware of the historical significance of the day.

I did have an early experience on Amtrak's National Limited, NYP -STL mostly over former PRR/PC tracks in the early 70's to visit my father-in-law's farm in the Ozarks.

By the way, I like EastCleveland's story the best. Wonder if he's still together with that gal.