The railroad ferries - tug boats - and their connecting inland steamboats were once very important parts of railroad history. They were also important elements of the nation's inland transportation history.




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The Trains - From Trolleys to Streamliners

new york central

The New York Central's The Empire State Express



Travel In Style - Travel Pullman


wrap text around imageThe Pullman Company's Upper Berths, Lower Berths and Drawing Rooms set the standard for comfortable, safe travel up until the late 1950s.

Once, thousands of people went to bed every night between crisp white sheets and under the woolen Pullman blankets in railroad Sleeping Cars tavelling all over the country. Many of the sleeping cars were operated by the Pullman Company. It was an era where service and comfort mattered. Every passengers' shoes aboard Pullman sleeping cars were shined overnight while their owners slept. The Pullman Company's policy of personal courtesy and considerate attention to the passengers was carried out cheerfully by the thousands of Pullman Porters. And aboard the trains, fine dining and congenial lounges were standard fare. In most recent years, travel has become faster -- although probably not finer.

wrap text around imageBy the mid-1950s, the Pullman Company had become a part of railroad history but many of their sleeping cars, the on-board traditions, standards and service survived but were operated by the railroads. Newer railroad cars were of the lightweight streamlined sleepings cars also included the Sleepercoaches such as this car on the New York Central Railroad that provided economical sleeping car roomettes and bedrooms with private facilities.



The Olympian shown climbing the mountains on the mainline of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway.


The Railroad Steam Locomotives




The steam locomotives were called Mikado, Mountain, Berkshire, Niagara, Hudson or Mogul depending on their mechanical designs. They came in many sizes and they were all impressive. Their smells of coal smoke, steam and hot oil co-mingled and their melodious steam whistles echoed across the countryside. Whether they pulled fast passenger trains, locals of only a few cars, or long freight trains, the steam locomotives created wonderful, never to be forgotten memories for millions of people.


Second to none were the steam locomotives of the New York Central Railroad System that powered that railroad's fleets of freight trains and passenger trains including the famous 20th Century Limited.





prr6769( Left) Along the mainline route of the Pennsylvania Railroad, locomotive 6769, a 4-8-2, hauls a westbound merchandise freight along the Juniata River toward Lewistown, Pennsylvania. It was also the route of the PRR's famous passenger train fleet including the all first class Broadway Limited operating overnight between New York City and Chicago.


erie( Right > ) The Erie Railroad was one of the oldest of the eastern railroads and had its eastern terminal on New Jersey's Hudson River shoreline in Jersey City. But from the New Jersey waterfront to the mid-west, scenes such as this Erie local train serving the smaller cities and towns were common.


dl&w ( Left ) With passengers from the west, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad passenger train New York Express headed by locomotive #1404 (a 4-8-2) races eastward towards Clarks Summit, PA. Making up the consist was a sleeping car, parlor car, dining car and coaches. Originating in Buffalo, NY, the train arrived at the Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken, NJ in mid-afternoon.






Steam passenger trains were at their finest on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad's high speed Cut-Off that provided a straight line route with almost no grades across much of western New Jersey. The Cut-Off's western end was at the Delaware Water Gap where the railroad crossed the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania on this historic multi-span concrete bridge. The Cut-Off's high embankments, concrete tunnels and concrete viaducts now over 100 years old and still intact were an engineering marvel when built early in the 1900s.















The end of railroad operated steam locomotives also brought an end to that unique railroad facility - the Roundhouse. Years after the last steam locomotive moved away from the maintenance pits toward the turntable and its date with the scrappers, this Delaware, Lackawanna & Western RR locomotive roundhouse in Binghampton, New York still remained although long abandoned and silent.





Postponing the End of the Steam Era


Examples of American classic steam locomotive power still existed in mainline service as excursion trains operated by a few railroads such as the Southern Railroad and by private individuals well into the 1970s. In the Northeast, the most famous individual operator was the High Iron Company.759web2

In this photo, led by the rebuilt, classic Nickel Plate Railroad's Berkshire 759, one of the High Iron Company's repeated finest two day runs orginated on Day 1 in May 1970 in Hoboken, New Jersey. The northwest route followed the old Erie Railroad's mainline through the Catskill Mountains and then along the upper Delaware River to Binghampton, New York. The Day 2 leg, took the long train south down to Scranton, Pennsylvania then east across the old Lackawanna Railroad's mainline through the Delaware Water Gap and across northern New Jersey at speeds of up to 60 MPH on the elevated tracks back toward the Lackawanna's Hoboken Terminal for a late afternoon on-time arrival.








The Ghost Train

theThe new Pullman train between New York and Boston in 1891 quickly became known to railroaders as The Ghost Train because of the creamy white exteriors of its all Pullman car consist. With lettering and other decorative features in gold, the train offered a marked contrast with every other passenger train.

The northbound train left New York at 3 PM, traveled over the New York and New Haven and New York and New England lines, with a scheduled arrival in Boston at 9 PM. An identical southbound train set left Boston at 3 PM and arrived in New York at 9 PM. Speed was not important at that time for these overnight trains. With all stops they averaged only 38 miles and hour over the 227 mile route. What made these trains popular was the comfort and service provided on board combined with the constant regularity of arriving at stations on time.

Each train's consist included a combination car, passenger coaches and drawing room cars. The combination car included a baggage compartment and a smoking room provided with upholstered willow chairs, lush carpeting and white shades and draperies on the windows. The drawing room cars were outfitted with 20 revolving chairs and 6 reclining chairs. Car lighting was provided by gas fixtures and each car carried its gas supply in nine foot long cylinder tanks under the car. During night time, and especially during periods of mist or fog, the brightly lit interiors and the white exteriors made the trains appear especially ghostly. Built especially for this service, each Pullman car cost about $8,500 at the time.



gorgeThe railroads opened the nation. As difficult and dangerous as it was to build across and through the mountains, for those that followed it provided spectacular scenery. The year was 1929. A Denver, Rio Grande & Western RR passenger train that had traveled hundred of miles through gorges and over mountains, stops at the Hanging Bridge. At this point, the Royal Gorge is a half mile deep yet only forty feet wide at the bottom, a quarter mile wide at the top.




Northeastern Rail Crossroads

wrap text around imageThe Delaware & Hudson Railroad, the New York Central Railroad and the Boston and AlbanyTroy Station platform side Railroad were three important railroads that converged in and around Albany and Troy, New York. The steady stream of freight and passenger trains provided a consistent high level of activity seven days a week. The area had three major passenger rail stations. In Albany there was the architecturally renowned Delaware & Hudson headquarters and passenger station and adjacent was the New York Central's imposing station. Across the Hudson River in Troy, New York was the generally lesser known but operationally and architecturally significant Troy Union Station shown soon after opening in the early 1900s.



wrap text around imageThe New York Central's locomotive 5450 raised a cloud of steam and smoke as it moved through the interlockings near Troy's Union Station. (photo by Gene Baxter)

Troy meet








A southbound New York Central passenger local and a northbound train met near Troy's heavy industry area that included steel mills and petroleum storage tank farms in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Photo by Gene Baxter)




wrap text around imageAt the heart of railroad steam locomotive operations up until the 1950s was the railroad roundhouse with its turntable to orient steam locomotives into the individual "stalls" or work bays. In Troy, New York, the seven stall roundhouse was built by the Boston and Maine Railroad. It was located at 8th Street and Middleburgh Street north of the Troy Union Station. The structure still survives today as an industrial building.

These photos taken on a winter's night by Gene Baxter about 1950 show the Central Vermont Railroad's steam Locomotive number 501 and its tender fully loaded with coal on the turntable.









wrap text around image (Left) After its arrival from Montreal over the Delaware & Hudson mainline along Lake Champlain and into Troy, the Laurentian's passenger train consist was transferred to the New York Central Railroad. Headed by NYC locomotive 5415, the Laurentian again rolled southbound for Croton-Harmon, NY where the steam power was replaced by an electric engine for the Laurentian's final leg of the trip to the New York Central Railroad's Grand Central Terminal in New York City. (Photo by Gene Baxter)


(Below)The New York Central's Lake Shore Limited Boston Section (Train 22) headed by the Boston and Albany Locomotive 600 about 1951. The 600 was in the lead of the steam locomotive double header team for the climb over the Bershire Mountains in western Massachusetts. The photo shows Train Number 22 at the Austerlitz Street crossing just after leaving the train depot in Chatham, New York on schedule in the late morning heading east for the train's late afternoon arrival in Boston. The Lake Shore Limited had originated in Chicago for the overnight run to Abany, NY where the train split into the New York Section enroute to New York City's Grand Central Terminal and the Boston Section enroute to Boston's South Station. (Photo by Gene Baxter)


lake shore chatham



The Private Railway Cars

In the earlier days, the private cars at the rear of passenger trains were the home for the rich and famous as they traveled from city to city on business and pleasure. Mrs. August Belmont, whose husband built the IRT subway in New York City and Belmont Race Track among other business pursuits, once quietly described the appeal of private railroad cars:

"A private car is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately."


By the 1960s, private railroad cars experienced a small resurgence and were in use by businesses and individuals of more modest means than the private car owners of earlier years. Many of the new private owners began providing the ambiance of their private cars carrying passengers on railroad tours and charters.

Virginia BeachAtlantic Coast Rail's Virginia Beach at Savannah, Georgia.The Virginia Beachwas built for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in the early 1950s equipped with six double bedrooms, a small buffet and a large lounge area. Later taken over by Amtrak, the Virginia Beach was used as a bedroom lounge car until its retirement when it was sold to a private owner.

Later acquired by another private individual then operated under the name of Atlantic Coast Rail, the Virginia Beach was mechanically modernized to meet railroad operating realities of the early 1980s and changes made to the interior including adding rich wood veneer accents and the addition of a dining area in the lounge. The Atlantic Coast Rail's Virginia Beach operated private tour service at the rear of Amtrak trains out of New York City to such destinations as Washington D.C., Savannah, Miami, Boston and New Orleans providing the on-board service amenities of the past that were recreated by the staff that included a former Pullman Company sleeping car porter and a former Pennsylvania Railroad chef.




The 1980 Irving Trust Winter Olympic Special Private Train

plattsburgh The 1980 Winter Olympic Special Train ready to depart on for a late morning southbound run from Plattsburgh, New York enroute to Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The challenge for the special train made up of five private cars pulled over different parts of the route by both Amtrak and Delaware & Hudson Railway locomotives was to operate five round trips on time between New York City and Plattsburgh, New York to transport the New York City based bank's guests from around the world to the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games.

The Special's consist was made up of five private cars: a diner / entertainment car, two sleepers for passengers and crew, the Virginia Beach sleeper lounge with 6 double-bedrooms for passengers, and an open platform business car on the rear. The train's passengers boarded at 5 PM enjoying cocktails and dinner as the vestabule doors slammed shut and the special rolled north out of Grand Central Terminal at 7:00 PM for the overnight run northward. The returning southbound run was mostly in daylight and evening that provided the oustanding vistas along the Hudson River such as West Point. AnonymousSouthbound along the Delaware & Hudson Railway's mainline hugging the western shore of Lake Champlain, New York with the Virginia Beach as the fourth car behind the Delaware & Hudson's diesel locomotives 5001 and 5002.

Few things in railroading are easy especially operating passenger cars and passenger trains on time in the dead of winter. So at the conclusion of the five round trips of the Olympic's special train, Irving Trust Company's chairman of the board wrote to Richard O. Aichele, who organized and supervised the operation of the special train, that: "We learned to have some idea of the impossible complications and frustrations of trying to put the train together and of keeping it running smoothly, so we weren't fooled by the apparent ease with which virtually everything went so precisely during the actual trips, but it certainly overwhelmed our guests - and us."




The Private Car St. Lucie Sound


wrap text around imageThe St. Lucie Sound,another private car of the 1980s, the was originally built for the Florida East Coast Railroad by the Budd Company and served as the rear round end observation car on streamliners between the northeast and Florida's sunny beaches and resorts. In later years, the car was acquired by a private group of railroad commuters in New Jersey and the car operated as a private commuter car daily between Newark and Bay Head Junction, New Jersey. Following its retirement from that service, it was purchased by another New Jersey owner and completely rebuilt in the 1980s.

wrap text around imageThe new interior layout changed the car into an ideal private car configuration. The forward lounge area became three bedrooms with private toilets plus a shower annex. A dining room comfortably seating six was added. The original bar, in the classic stainless and glass styling of the 1950s was retained and refurbished and the adjoining pantry was converted into a full kitchen. The rear observation room, always a popular place for passengers to view the passing scenes, relax and enjoy the company of fellow guests was tastefully refinished complete with the very comfortable railroad chairs and seatees typical of the earlier years of the St. Lucie Sound in Florida East Coast Railroad service.

It's very likely that Mrs. Belmont would have approved.



Revisiting Amtrak's Early Years


wrap text around imageAmtrak's The National Limited ran between New York City via Pittsburgh to St. Louis and then onto Kansas City. At Kansas City, one of the sleeping cars was uncoupled and held in the station for several hours and then attached to the westbound consist of the Super Chief enroute to Los Anfgeles, California. The photo taken in December, 1971 shows the crew of the ex-Penn Central dining car relax after serving the last of the diners before arrival in St. Louis.

Many of Amtrak's on-board crews were veterans of the Pullman Company and other first class rail service providers. They still wanted to provide traditional old style 1st class service as they had done for years. But the reality was that at Amtrak's inception it was generally forced to depend on an infrastructure of worn out rolling stock, rundown stations in many regions and insufficient investment capital to make the necessary improvements as quickly as needed.


wrap text around imageOnce one of the finest classic rail stations in the nation, St. Louis' Union Station had fallen on hard times by December, 1971 when cars of Amtrak's National Limited occupied adjacent tracks amid mud from water coming through the deteriorated train shed roof and years of general grime.

The equipment and facilities taken over from the western railroads was significantly better than the eastern railroads. The Union Pacific Railroad's distinctive yellow coaches and sleepers became a common sight on eastern trains such as The Broadway Limited. Stainless steel passenger cars were easier to mix throughout Amtrak's system since their exteriors blended together easily.


wrap text around imageThe locomotive motive power was still destinctive in those early years of the 1970s as Amtrak's eastbound and westbound Super Chief / El Capitan with the Santa Fe diesels in traditonal War Bonnet colors met high in the New Mexico mountains near Raton Pass.

wrap text around imageThe long Amtrak trains' consists of 18 passenger cars and baggage cars were the combination of the El Capitan's coach train and the Super Chief's sleeping cars, dome lounge car and diner.










Streetcars - Trolleys - Interurban Rail Transit



berlin1967The pair of S-Bahn streetcars on the left operated in the suburbs of Berlin, Germany in 1967. It was typical of the streetcar rail systems of many American and European cities that formed the transportation webs allowing cities to grow in a well planned and environmentally acceptable manner. Some regions had Interurban cars and rail systems that provided fast passenger and small package freight service between towns and cities often competeing with the heavy rail passenger trains. Both systems strongly developed in the early 1900s were even at that time very energy efficient and clean since they relied totally on electric power. Although, streetcars have remained in service in Europe and other cities of the world, they almost totally disappeared in American cities to be replaced by internal combustion engine powered buses.

San Francisco, California is one of the few American cities that has successfully retained a streetcar system and is now expanding it now using the vintage streetcars that operated in various cities of the world in the past while also preserving the famous cable cars, .

"From a peak of fifty lines in the late 1920s, streetcar service waned in San Francisco for the rest of the twentieth century. By 1982, the last five streetcar lines went into a subway beneath Market Street and the popular PCC streetcars were retired. But neighborhood and business leaders joined with Muni and Mayor Dianne Feinstein to mount the historic Trolley Festivate in 1983, bringing vintage streetcars from around the world to run on Market Street. With support from a nonprofit volunteer group named after the old Market Street Railway Company, five successful years of the Trolley Festival spurred development of the permanent F-Line which opened in 1995," according to the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Today, using the vintage streetcars thousands of riders daily travel smoothly and cleanly though the heart of the city.

PCC Car from Washington, DC

PCC Car from Cincinnati, Ohio

Car 1818 from Milan, Italy operated there 1930s - 1970s



Visit www.streetcar.org for more information on San Francisco's streetcars including streetcar images and their history. The website includes a map http://www.nextmuni.com/googleMap/googleMap.jsp?a=sf-muni&r=F of the F Line from 17th St. & Castro to the Fisherman's Wharf area showing the cars in service and their movement as they are tracked by GPS.


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