Sad but fact, there's nothing to romanticize about Penn Central.
What was obvious to my parents generation was that the railroad wanted out of the passenger business, and went out of their way to prove it. They made EVERYONE regret having taken the train for any length of trip.
These recants of NO heat, NO AC, NO working toilets. It's all true. I have to say that I've seen better attempts at service and on-time performance on railroads in Communist countries than what I witnessed on Penn Central. No wonder, the crew might have been taken out and shot for exercising Penn Central standards.
I was 11 when the merger went through, and there was so much hope placed by the public in what was promised to be a "Great Thing". What I saw made me wonder if the Management had taken from the New Haven, regarding how to run a railroad into the ground. Like a cancer, peeling floor tile started on the New Haven, and spread to Penn Central, and even the Delaware and Hudson. If Amtrak pulled on the public TODAY what Penn Central did until Amtrak, you would see lawsuits beyond comprehension.
If you're too young to remember the "Penn Central Experience", perhaps you are old enough for this one. I would compare PC efficiency to the kind of abuse and nightmares people endured with Eastern Air Lines in it's death throes.
The best example of Penn Central "Quality" that held over through Amtrak was how Penn Central/Conrail/MTA ran the Harlem and Hudson lines, preceeding the 1983 inception of Metro North.
No food, but there was always someone eager to sell you a beverage and nuts to keep you thirsty for the ride. NO AC, NO HEAT in the seasons you needed it most. NO LIGHTS, NO AIR. Shot suspension. "NO-SHOWS" in the AM during cold weather, and after 8 PM departures from GCT. Water sloshing out of AC vents onto passengers in the ends of the cars. NO drinking water from the coolers. NO working plumbing, ice build-ups in the vestibules during winter storms with no effort made to clear them..... How many of you remember the "Penn Central Aquarium"? That was when there was water between the two panes of glass in the windows, which lazily sloshed back and forth, like that "Sea In A Tube" novelty.
One thing you guys have missed, or probably blocked if you remember, was the unusually high number of NASTY conductors who were mean to everything between small children to senior citizens. What conditions couldn't drive off to the "Friendly Skies" was finished off by a staff that truly could leave you with your hands shaking, for no good reason.
When I see people restoring locomotives and rolling stock to Penn Central, I scratch my head and wonder why for the expense they are bothering. When I see model railroad cars available in Penn Central, I snort and turn the page. Want to "prototypically" run a Penn Central Empire Region train in the "Hey-Day" of PC? Weather a NYC E-8 to the max with rust and grime, simulate peeling paint, put a "Worm" on the nose, add two PC lettered coaches or a coach and a combine and adversely weather them similarly. VOILA!
Speed of such a model? Make sure it doesn't go any faster than what could be described as a "Limp", and put weights to the right side of one coach, and the left of the other, to accurately simulate the kind of totally shot suspension I described.
Penn Central was so low, it made the Delaware & Hudson look like a top notch outfit. I think most of you might agree to say, it was so bad, it was probably even WORSE than we choose to remember!
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