• D.C. to New Haven/Boston through traffic before Amtrak.

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

Moderator: David Benton

  by USRailFan
Was there through traffic from D.C. Union Station to New Haven/Boston before Amtrak, or did everybody have to change in New York?

  by icgsteve
My 1969 official guide shows running through (was-bos):

The Colonial: Club, snack bar coach, coach

The Senator: Bar lounge, sleeper in day configuration, dining car, coach

The Patriot: Club, snack bar coach, coach

The Federal (overnight): lounge, sleeper, coach

  by Gilbert B Norman
As Steve notes, there have always been a number of Hell Gate trains ever since HGB was opened during WWI. Actually, the 1969 Guide noted by Steve represented an increase in frequencies. During 1958 the New Haven had discontinued The Senator, which departed Penn for Boston at 2PM. When the Penn Central took over the New Haven during Jan 1969, that frequency was restored.

Additionally, PC had all "Shore Line' trains originating from Penn prior to A-Day.

Even though "to a man" any of us "old New Haven hands' around here will lament "the takeover", that was simply doomed from from "Pussycat Day" forward, but PC did inaugurate some changes that improved operational efficiency about the entire system. For passenger service, one was establishing run through GG-1 locomotive assignments Wash New Haven, and assigning E-8's NH-Boston. A second was assignment of New Haven's FL-9 units "where they were needed', i.e. to service on NYC's Hudson and Harlem divisions. Away from the New Haven, all passenger service into Chicago other than Chi-Indy was consolidated at CUS. Chi-Indy Big Four trains continued to access Chi over the IC and used the IC 12th Street Central Station. With regards to freight operations, PC assigned locomotives by builder and model to one specific maintenance facility throughout the system. This meant that the quite new (ordered during Bankruptcy II) Alcos went "elsewhere", but additional GE motive power was assigned to the NH lines in their place.

Finally, let it be noted that even if I have reported some "positive' changes made to promote operational efficiency, by no means am I condoning the "takeover'. I do not for one moment concur with the line of "oh if only they didn't have the New Haven thrust at them, PC would have made it". With its almost 50-50 "mix" of Freight and Passenger revenues and with freight "having no way to go but down", the NH simply could not survive in the private sector as a viable business entity. It should have been conveyed to a public agency such as was the Long Island R R, but I guess now closing in on fifty years ago (Bankruptcy II occurred during 1961), the "political winds" were not quite ready to blow that way.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:02 am, edited 6 times in total.

  by bellstbarn
Probably this addition appears on other threads on this excellent forum. However, to the general question posed at the beginning, I must point out that a market existed for through Washington-Boston service more than a hundred years ago, and the railroad industry provided it.
You might look at this explanation of the Poughkeepsie Bridge route:
For a while, the Federal was floated across New York Harbor to Oak Point or some other landing spot in The Bronx.
While we rode between GCT and Winsted in the late 1940's, Dad would point to Pennsylvania Railroad equipment on some trains from Boston to Washington. I don't know whether the equipment pools were in full sets or half New Haven, half Pennsylvania, but this forum certainly has people who know about that.
In the late 1940's, Bridgeport-to-Penn Station was a higher fare than to GCT, but not as huge a difference as today.

  by JimBoylan
bellstbarn wrote:In the late 1940's, Bridgeport-to-Penn Station was a higher fare than to GCT, but not as huge a difference as today.
In Mar., 1969, and also before the takeover, in Aug., 1968, there were higher fares through Penn Station, but not to or from it! At other times, I don't know if tickets bought at the rate to or from Grand Central could be used to or from Penn Station. The fare panel on a Through Train schedule did mention that the fares listed were "Via Hell Gate Bridge Route".

  by John_Perkowski
Moderator's Note:

Moved to Mr Benton's Rail Travel and Trip Reports forum. As the thread author stated, this is pre-Amtrak.

I have a NYC timetable from 1952/3 or so. Will check it to see what it shows.

  by timz
bellstbarn wrote:In the late 1940's, Bridgeport-to-Penn Station was a higher fare than to GCT
According to what?

  by bellstbarn
"According to what?" is asked.
I should have added, "As I recall." More often than not, we visited my father's parents in Winsted by using a round-trip excursion fare from Grand Central to Winsted. I do not have the documentation on this, but the fares for one-day (Sunday) excursions were inexpensive. Other times, Dad chose inventive ways home to New York, usually because they permitted a later departure from Winsted: Bus to Hartford, then catch a Springfield-NY train. Or take a New England Transportation bus via Waterbury and Naugatuck to New Haven, where we might have a choice of m-u to 125th Street or something like the Advance Gilt Edge. "According to what?" is asked regarding the differential in prices to GCT and Penn Station. My recollection from the 1940's is that Dad was reluctant to board a train for Penn Station because he explained a fare differential. Sorry, I cannot quote the hard data of fare charts. Maybe (and again I cannot back it up), the Penn Station route cost more because of the added miles, or maybe there was a "Via Hell Gate Bridge" surcharge. My memory is far from perfect.
As a New Yorker, I never had reason to ride through from Washington to Boston, the original question of this thread. It is good that Amtrak provides through service for destinations north and south of New York, and I hope the one-seat ride draws passengers.
Joe McMahon

  by timz
Sure, there definitely was a Hell Gate surcharge-- the question is, did it apply to New York. (And if it did, from which stations.) But if you were trying to get from Bridgeport to Newark NJ for the cheapest possible total, you couldn't take a thru train-- you'd have to get off in New York and take the H&M to Newark. Question is, could you go to NY Penn or did you have to go to GCT and walk down to 32nd St?

The timetables I have that show fares to NY don't mention NY Penn costing more than GCT. That's not conclusive-- but there was a NY Times article that did say the surcharge didn't apply to NY itself. (The reason for the article was some court case about the legality of the surcharge-- which was upheld.)

  by Noel Weaver
To clear up a few things here:
1. Service was definately not improved by Penn Central anywhere on the
New Haven end of the railroad. New York - Boston trains went from 13
trains east and 14 trains west in the last NHRR timetable dated 5-12-68 to
8 trains each way in the first Penn Central timetable dated 2-2-69.
The Springfield line did not do any better as the last NHRR timetable of
5-12-68 had 12 round trips between New Haven and Springfield and the
first Penn Central timetable of 2-2-69 had only 9 round trips and it was
not long after that that further major reductions in service occurred on the
Springfield Line.
Promotional fares, parlor, dining and grill cars were dropped from trains
all over the place and the whole atmosphere of the passenger trains was
depressing at best. In many cases through trains or through cars were
also dropped making it necessary to change at New Haven for Hartford
or Springfield, South Norwalk for Danbury and even from one Budd Car
to another Budd Car at Danbury for Pittsfield. The promotional fare of
$4.90 for a round trip between New York and Pittsfield on the Sunday
train was dropped immediately and it was not too long after that that the
Pittsfield trains became a single Budd Car north of Danbury. Penn Central
did not care if this change resulted in standing room only or in complaints
as they wanted to drop this service from day one.
The one positive thing that resulted from the Penn Central takeover was
that all of the New York - Boston trains departed from or arrived in Penn
Station, New York which centralized all of the departures in one station.
As for the "Senator", that train was out of the New Haven Railroad
timetables for a period but it was restored by the New Haven before the
Penn Central take over and that train is in the NHRR timetable of 5-12-68.
As for fares to Penn Station via Hell Gate Bridge, the fare from Boston,
New Haven or any other point to New York was the same whether the
ticket was used to Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station. Where the
higher fare via Hell Gate Bridge came in was on a through trip from say
New Haven to Philadelphia and in this case the fare was higher but I do
not remember just how much higher, maybe around a dollar each way.
We actually were very concerned that there would be no more service at
all between New Haven and Springfield and very little service between
New Haven and Boston during the period following the take over.
Even between New Haven and New York the service was drastically
reduced. We lost all of the mail operations out of Grand Central Terminal
the very first week after the take over and many of the trains involved in
mail came off on February 2, 1969.
One other thing occurred soon after the take over which I was more or
less in favor of was the increased use of MU cars between New York and
New Haven on trains that did not go east of New Haven. This together
with the replacement of the FL-9's on the Penn Station trains with GG-1's
helped to insure that electric operations west of New Haven were again
relatively secure.
Over all the Penn Central take over of the New Haven resulted in cuts
and much worse service than before and this did not improve until the
states got involved in the commuter service and Amtrak took over the
corridor services to Boston.
New York - Boston service today is more frequent and faster than it was
at the end of the New Haven Railroad but New Haven - Springfield service
has never really fully recovered from the severe cuts that the Penn
Central did in 1969 and 1970.
Noel Weaver

  by John_Perkowski
NYC Public TT, January 14, 1951

Between New York, Springfield, and Boston Combined service of the NH and the B&A: 5 movements each direction daily.

Between New York and Albany: 12 movements each direction daily

Between Albany and Boston: 9 movements each direction daily.

  by bellstbarn
I was wrong to assert above that late 1940's fares Bridgeport to Penn were higher than to GCT.
The NYNH&H public timetable Form 200, effective June 26, 1949, has a one-page fare chart, no distinction made concerning fares to Pennsylvania Station or Grand Central. New York to Bridgeport was $1.74 in coach.
The same public timetable lists these westbound NYNH&H trains through or to Penn Station:
The Washingtonian (from Montreal) due at 7:55 a.m.
The Colonial at 1:20 p.m.
The Senator at 3:20 p.m.
The Patriot at 7:30 p.m.
The William Penn at 11:00 p.m.
The Hell Gate Express terminating at Penn at 2:50 a.m.
The Federal at 3:50 a.m.
The Quaker at 5:25 a.m.
Joe McMahon

  by walt
I can vouch, first hand, for the PRR, NH pre- Amtrak ( and pre PC) through DC-Boston service--- As a 12 about to become 13 year old in 1957, I made a trip from Philly to Boston on a train made up of stainless steel New Haven passenger cars. My first relatively long trip on a train. Also, if we remember, it was the overnight Boston-Washington Federal, powered by PRR GG1 # 4876, that lost its brakes and plowed into Union Station in January 1953. ( Actually it was the brakes on the last 10 cars which failed to engage because of a defective angle cock on the third of the 13 New Haven Cars in the consist which closed off the air line to the trailing 10 cars. The brakes on #4876 and the first three cars worked fine)

IIRC, There were locomotive changes at Penn Station ( from PRR GG1's to NH Electrics) and at New Haven ( from the NH Electrics to NH Diesels). During that era, the road was electrified only as far as New Haven.

  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Closson, circa 1955, of the Boston-Wash trains, the Colonial was a New Haven consist, the Senator was PRR P-85 "Congo' equipment, The Patriot and Federal were "mixed', although the Federal had New Haven 8600 coaches.

Possibly some here such as Mr. Weaver with a collection of NH consist books, can perfect this posting. Mr. Weaver's (feline) "librarian' I'm sure will assist in the research.

Here is more on the 1953 Wash incident noted in Mr. Closson's posting:


The Federal was quite the "hard luck' train; not only was there the incident noted, but also July 14, 1955, there was a bad derailment on the New Haven at Bridgeport of EW #172 The Federal. The New Haven never had cab signals on its NH-NY line (the West End to us New Haven hands) and apparently under adverse conditions, the experienced Engineer and Fireman got confused where they were and entered a restricted speed curve at normal speed (no web material regarding this incident available).

  by walt
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Mr. Closson, circa 1955, of the Boston-Wash trains, the Colonial was a New Haven consist, the Senator was PRR P-85 "Congo' equipment, The Patriot and Federal were "mixed', although the Federal had New Haven 8600 coaches.

Possibly some here such as Mr. Weaver with a collection of NH consist books, can perfect this posting. Mr. Weaver's (feline) "librarian' I'm sure will assist in the research.
Unfortunately, in those days, I wan't paying much attention to the train names ( though I paid plenty of attention to the actual train). I remember that we boarded the train in Philly around dinner time and got into Boston near or somewhat after midnight. ( The train was an hour late at Philly because it had to wait for a four hour late train from south of DC, then we sat for almost an hour in Connecticut because of a freight derailment further north) I remember that the entire trip was in the dark ( it was at Christmas Time). BTW--- my great aunt and I were riding--- on the NH portion of the trip, on my cousin's pass. He was a chief steward on NH dining cars during the 1950's and 1960's--- actually, he outlasted the NH, and wound up retiring from Amtrak in the early 1970's.