NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/7/24 12:25 p.m.

Pennsy fans got another shot at a PRR-painted GG1 just a year later though. As Conrail wound down electric freight operations, the GG1s that they had were the first to go, since they had plenty of newer E33s and E44s, and so a handful were transferred over to New Jersey Transit in 1979, with all of them in the Penn Central solid black. None of the GG1s used by NJT were ever repainted into the NJT "disco stripe" livery, but in 1981 the #4877 was repainted into Pennsy Tuscan Red with gold pinstripes. By this point, NJT was planning to purchase ALP-44s, and so the GG1s were running on borrowed and the #4877 was basically a salute to the GG1s before they met their end.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/7/24 12:30 p.m.

On June 6th, 1981, a "Farewell to GG1" excursion was sponsored by the Lancaster and Philadelphia chapters of NRHS, using doubleheaded GG1 locomotives to pull the special train. The trip originated at Harrisburg, PA,. In this this shot, GG1s #4877 and #4876 are taken off the train at the station and will be turned with the #4877 leading, finishing the trip to Philadelphia. The circle trip operated via Lancaster, Philadelphia, Perryville, Harrisburg, and back to Philadelphia, traveling over the Keystone Corridor and the Port Road.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/7/24 12:35 p.m.

Its interesting that this trip, while using NJT's GG1s, was running with Amtrak equipment over Amtrak rails. But, they were ex-PRR locomotives on ex-PRR rails, and this was back when railroads were a little more friendly and receptive to such things. What's the deal with the F40PH right behind the #4876? The GG1s were equipped with oil-fired boilers for steam heat and air conditioning and did not have HEP capability, while the Amfleet cars had electric lighting and heating, so the F40PH is along for the ride to provide lighting and air conditioning. Here they are passing through ROY interlocking, so named because it was in Royalton, PA. PRR towers were typically named by taking the first three or four letters of the locale (ALTO was Altoona, LEMO was Lemoyne Junction, etc.)

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/7/24 12:41 p.m.

A really cool shot of the excursion passing a waiting Conrail freight on the Port Road at Safe Harbor, PA. The upper bridge is the PRR's the old PRR Atglen & Susquehanna Branch, also known as the Enola Low Grade Line (seems paradoxically named here). The Port Road is an awesome piece of railroading, but sadly was de-electrified and only sees NS freights, all at nighttime these days.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/7/24 2:52 p.m.

The two performing a photo runby at the end of Lancaster station on the same trip. The #4876 is also a bit famous for a GG1 wearing that number having plowed into Washington Union Station and fallen through the concourse floor just days before Eisenhower's inauguration, set to be held on that spot. Why'd I word it that way? Well, the story has always been that Pennsy constructed a false floor over it and the inauguaration was held over the wreckage, which is true, and that afterwards the #4876 was cut into three parts, extracted and reassembled. That last part was always questioned because those who worked at the B&O Railroad Museum, where the #4876 is "preserved", said that the #4876's frame showed lots of welding to address cracks but showed no signs of welds where the frame would have been reassembled if it truly was cut the way it supposedly was. Then, a couple years ago some PRR internal insurance photos surfaced and there were some of #4876. And they showed the frame and body chopped up into many cubes and tossed in a gondola. Certainly not a "carefully section for later reassembly" job. It appears that the easily removable components (traction motors, trucks, transformers, control stand, compressors, steam generator, etc) were removed, the body and frame were scrapped, and a new frame and body were constructed and had those components transferred over to the new locomotive, which was then numbered #4876 to fill the slot. So, yes, the #4876 that exists and is in this photo is considerably removed from the #4876 that fell through the floor at Washington Union.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/7/24 4:28 p.m.

Not a good photo, but an important one. As the last sun of a March day, March 9th, 1982 to be exact, illuminates the Northeast Corridor at Trenton, New Jersey, Amtrak train 82, the Silver Star, slows for its station stop. This train represents the end of an era, with the last-ever steam heated Amtrak consist. Delayed by a strike at the Westinghouse Air Brake factory, the end of a large Amfleet order has arrived, allowing the retirement of the last legacy cars. Although Amtrak’s last GG1’s had been retired the previous year, in a fitting move, Amtrak eschewed the usual E60’s in favor of a pair of borrowed NJTransit GG1s, including retro-painted PRR #4877, to usher out an era. Another “last” on today’s train is the last full-service dining car with a cooked-to-order menu, completing the initiation of the despised “Amfood” microwaved airline-style dinners.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
5/7/24 6:18 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

All of my experiences with Amtrak food have been markedly worse than airline food. It's shockingly bad, almost as if the poor quality is intentional. It's made so much worse by having experienced real order-from-the-menu, white tablecloth dining on European trains.

VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic SuperDork
5/7/24 11:06 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

My only experience riding Amtrak was riding on the Empire Builder on a round trip from Minot to Chicago (1600 miles?) during Thanksgiving back in 1990 (I know this because I watched Bird on a Wire with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson about 8 times in the bar car.) On the way home during record cold temperatures and on a packed train, the steam heating froze up and in about a hundred miles ALL of the toilets froze and then piled up with human waste. Luckily the train stopped every 100 miles or so and we could get off and use the toilets at the stations.

My main recollection besides the toilets was that the trains run through the oldest, most run down parts of the nation.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 7:50 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

For a while, when Joe Boardman (who actually lived here in my hometown of Rome, NY) was Amtrak president, he worked up a pretty good meal program at Amtrak. He realized that Amtrak couldn't beat the airlines on travel time, so they had to offer a better experience and one of those things was pushing for better dining options. Unfortunately, as soon as he retired, Amtrak's new president, who was an ex-airline exec, undid that and replaced it with the current microwaveable meals. I remember Boardman writing into Trains, spitting nails over that move.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 10:29 a.m.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Poughkeepsie Bridge fire, which occurred under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

Poughkeepsie Bridge, constructed in 1889, formed the southwest end of the New York, New Haven & Hartford's system. All westward freight traffic on the New Haven crossed Poughkeepsie Bridge and then went to Maybrook Yard, where it was handed off to one of five other railroads; Lehigh & Hudson River, Lehigh & New England, New York, Ontario & Western, Erie, and New York Central. From there that traffic went west (Erie, NYO&W, NYC) or south (L&HR and L&NE) and was handed off to other railroads (CNJ, Reading, Lehigh Valley). That made Poughkeepsie Bridge a pretty vital connection between New England and the rest of the national system, although NYC could also move traffic out of New England over the Boston & Albany as well.

Over the years, Maybrook Yard's significance began to decrease, with the NYO&W filing for abandonment in '57 and the L&NE filing for abandonment in '62, but it remained the lifeblood of the L&HR, who was moving a sizable amount of traffic from New England to Allentown Yard for hand-off to other northeastern railroads, and the Erie/Erie-Lackawanna also saw some traffic as well. In 1968, the New York Central merged with Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central and a year later, as part of the ICC's stipulations, the New Haven was also incorporated into Penn Central.

Penn Central managament now could funnel ex-New Haven trackage over the Boston & Albany to the ex-NYC yard at Selkirk, and then send it to points west over the NYC network and south through New York City over the ex-Pennsylvania network, keeping the cars almost entirely on their system and earning more of the haulage fees. This caused a loss of traffic over the L&HR, whose whole existence was as a bridge line between Allentown and New England, and the Erie-Lackawanna, to a lesser degree. There were also complaints from shippers and New England railroads. Most notable was the Bangor & Aroostook, who relied heavily on moving the Maine potato crop for revenue. The yard staff at Maybrook had been well-versed in handling the carloads of potatoes and preventing them from freezing, but the crews at Selkirk didn't have that training and when the entire crop rotted in the cars at Selkirk, the Maine potato farmers swore to never move their potatoes by rail again. And they haven't until a couple years ago.

Eventually, the L&HR, and the railroads that the L&HR handed traffic off to (LV, CNJ, Reading) all pitched a fit to the ICC, and the ICC eventually mandated that Penn Central had to move a certain amount of traffic over Poughkeepsie Bridge and into Maybrook Yard. The PC complied but was not happy about that, since the Poughkeepsie Bridge was in poor shape and required 10mph speeds over it, and they had been bankrupt since 1970 and couldn't afford to repair the bridge and would much rather keep the interchanged traffic on their own lines and pocket more of the money.

Where the controversy lies began on May 1st. Citing cost-savings, Penn Central removed the bridge watchmen, who were to watch for fires on the wooden decking of the bridge, and had the fire hydrant lines were disconnected. On May 8th, 1974, just one week later, the decking of the Poughkeepsie Bridge caught fire after an eastbound freight passed over it, and when fireman from the surrounding areas arrived, it wasn't until they had hooked their fire hoses up to the lines that they found the waterlines were inoperable. When it was all over, some 700 feet of the bridge's superstructure had been engaged; the rail showed extreme kinking, but the issue of structural weakening was never determined. Initial reports were optimistic regarding restoration of the bridge, but with final implementation of Conrail less than a year away, the plans eventually fell through.

Now, there's a couple of diverging theories here:

  • Some say that the whole thing was just an honest accident; Poughkeepsie Bridge had always had a fire risk, hence why there were watchmen to begin with. Penn Central was bankrupt and bleeding cash and removing the watchmen was simply a cost-cutting measure, just an ill-advised one, and PC didn't intend for the bridge to burn. Lineside fires are known to occur from sparks from the exhaust or from the brake shoes, which is why railroads try to keep the weeds cleared back from RoW.
  • Another theory is that Penn Central knew that removing the watchmen would result in a fire in pretty short order, and so did that as a cost-cutting manner, knowing that an accident would take the bridge out in short order and free them from the Maybrook interchange. Essentially, they didn't burn the bridge, but they intentionally created the conditions to cause an accident that would get rid of it.
  • And the third theory is that PC intentionally set the bridge ablaze. Some people claim that before the fire, and before that final eastbound freight passed through, PC moved whatever power it had at Maybrook Yard east over the bridge, although this seems to be unsubstantiated. With only one eastbound and one westbound train from PC out of Maybrook, it seems unlikely they had any power stored there to work the yard. 

W. Gifford "Giff" Moore, the president of the L&HR at the time and the railroad's final president, subscribed to one of the two last theories. He was alive until 2017 and folks said that at any NRHS convention or historical event he was at, he swore up, down, left and right that PC had intentionally taken actions that resulted in burning the bridge so that they wouldn't have to interchange traffic with his railroad. The book on the final years of the D&H recounts how on May 8th, 1974, the D&H, an L&HR interchange partner, got a call from Moore and someone came into the office and said "Giff Moore just called. Turn on the TV, Poughkeepsie Bridge is burning. He says his railroad is finished."

And the L&HR was. Bankrupt since 1972 due to PC's decision to move most of the traffic away from Maybrook and PC, under bankruptcy, no longer having to pay per diem charges to other railroads still while requiring those railroads to still pay them, the L&HR filed for inclusion into Conrail as soon as it became apparent that Poughkeepsie Bridge wouldn't reopen.

Today, Poughkeepsie Bridge has been converted into a walking path and still stands.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 10:44 a.m.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog Dork
5/8/24 12:03 p.m.

A view from the center of the span... looking South.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
5/8/24 4:11 p.m.

In reply to Purple Frog :

I ride my bike over the Poughkeepsie bridge (or Walkway Over the Hudson, as it's now known) numerous times every summer. One of the old Maybrook signals is still extant maybe a mile or two east along the trail. There are rail lines that pass under the bridge on both shores: Metro-North's northern terminus is just south, but you get Amtrak about once an hour on the east side, and CSX is quite active on the west.

I've got quite a few photos of the area, but these are a bit unusual: a NY State Police helo under the span (looking east).

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 4:22 p.m.

Three New Haven U25Bs crossing the bridge in '67

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 4:23 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 4:25 p.m.

A southbound NYC passenger train, lead by NYC Hudson #5431, with Poughkeepsie Bridge in the background.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 4:34 p.m.

Reading & Northern did a test run with the #2102 today, just a 10mph light run from Port Clinton up to Tamaqua and back. The #2102 has been sitting in the shop at Port Clinton since November of last year and has it's first Ramble of the year coming up May 25th, so I'm sure they wanted to make sure everything was good. Mr. Andy Muller himself was at the throttle for the run.

Something I noticed was that the Ramble tickets for May 25th, which is Reading to Jim Thorpe, are still available, with a little over 100 coach seats still up for grabs. But the June 22nd Nesquehoning-Tunkhannock trip is completely sold out (I have tickets for that one) and the August 17th Nesquehoning-Pittston trip has about the same amount of unsold seats as the May 25th trip, but with still plenty of time for more tickets to sell. I guess, since it runs multiple summer trips to Jim Thorpe and then a bunch of the fall trips, maybe some of the novelty of #2102 running Reading-Jim Thorpe has kind of worn off. Definitely a good idea to shake things up and run to some different destinations.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 4:35 p.m.

The #2102 at Tamaqua with Andy Muller at the controls. What is amazing is that yesterday, R&N announced that they would be conducting the test run on Facebook and even said the time and destination. It's kind of amazing how open the R&N is about these things, when a lot of other railroads treat those sorts of things with the secrecy of a military operation. When I was down to R&N for the RDC trip I was talking to Pete Swanson about that and how some of the shortlines local to us (he lives in western NY, I live in central) run on such intermittent schedules and are so hard to get any info about that you basically have to waste a day and hope. He pointed out how the LA&L is particularly ridiculous about that sort of stuff, and the vast majority of their traffic is just grain, it's not like they're hauling any petroleum or chemicals or hazmat.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/8/24 4:43 p.m.

VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic SuperDork
5/8/24 6:01 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

That's one impressive bridge.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
5/8/24 8:36 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

The Poughkeepsie platform still looks very similar, though the yard facilities seen toward the river side are long gone and have been replaced by a parking garage. Interestingly, famous photographer Andre Kertesz took a very well-known photo (known simply as "Poughkeepsie, New York") there in 1937:

I shot this from the same spot a few years ago:

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/9/24 10:34 a.m.

Well, Alan Shaw and the existing core of NS managed to hold off the proxy takeover from Ancora Investment, with 10 of the 13 existing board retaining their seats. Ancora only managed to get 3 of their people onto the board, far short of the majority. Particularly good news is that Jim Barber, the ex-UPS exec, and "Boom Boom" Boychuk both failed to win their seats. While the current management of NS still has their flaws, they're a damn sight better than those clowns at Ancora.

The Ancora appointees that won their seats are former Surface Transportation Board member William Clyburn Jr.; former Canadian National and Kansas City Southern executive Sameh Fahmy; and rail financier Gil Lamphere. So, people with bring relevant transportation experience and who are all independent of Ancora.

The president of the International Association of Machinists, Artie Maratea, said Ancora’s proposed leadership “would’ve signaled a return to the cut-at-all-costs mentality and would’ve pressured the rest of the industry to double down on what got us into this mess.” He then took a shot at the BLET jumping ship to Ancora, remarking, “I’m proud that our union stood with Alan Shaw, even when some chose to abandon their principles in pursuit of short-sighted gains.” I'm curious if we'll see the BLET union body oust their leadership over this whole mess, with the union president basically selling them out for his 30 pieces of silver.

https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/norfolk-southern-shareholders-back-ceo-alan-shaw-but-give-activist-investors-three-board-seats/?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAR3xRJusfyEDpLBElJtCJYqp6AqOOVCu1zoa_0U69kcrF_WRwVLNxUwvu3Q_aem_AcLENIbJ-izAGhYhObaTJX_U5bzD3M6XPWGlP1vpoICnO8T9GzDOU6Uxga5948n9itZpc-dlui8vTqBQc1URb-4M

VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic SuperDork
5/9/24 11:16 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

They dressed a lot sharper back in the 30s.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
5/9/24 11:52 a.m.

In reply to VolvoHeretic :

Seriously. I mean, I'm no fashion plate, and I don't want to have to put that much effort into my daily outfits, but how hard is it to at least look tidy when going out in public? The slovenliness I see today is appalling (I work in a university, so maybe I'm more inundated than most).

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/9/24 12:10 p.m.

In reply to VolvoHeretic :

Something interesting I noted was that back in the '50s through the '70s, folks would also ride railroad fantrips dressed in their Sunday best. It seems like it was the '80s where all of a sudden everyone riding was trying to pretend they were part of the crew and wore denim overalls and Kromer caps, which was kind of a weird move. Then in the '00s it turned into the guys who have to wear a hi-vis vest with all sorts of pins and patches for every steam locomotive they've seen and a hat for their own Youtube channel that has like 15 subscribers.

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
d2QezZL0BENq2QlUR8SWmnUFjOdUz86jLYcMa4LIWrohI6AJgyZJLr1QZHq0ZHTp