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atrains the trains the new york central's the empire state express   travel in style. travel pullman. upper berths, lower berths and drawing rooms were terms very common to travelers up until the late 1950s. once, thousands of people went to bed every night between crisp white sheets and woolen blankets in railroad sleeping cars, many operated by the pullman company, on trains traveling all over the country. 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 recent years, travel has become faster -- although probably not finer.             the ghost train the 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 trains. with all stops they averaged only 38 miles and hour over the 227 mile route. what made the 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.     the 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 the delaware & hudson railroad, the new york central railroad and the boston and albany railroad were three important roads 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 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 union station shown soon after opening in the early 1900s.             after its arrival from montreal over the delaware & hudson mainline along lake champlain and into albany, the laurentian's consist was transferred to the new york central. 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 train's final run into grand central terminal in new york city.     new york central 5450 raised a cloud of steam and smoke as it moved through the interlockings near troy's union station.     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.                 coming into the final leg of the journey from boston to albany, ny and after the climb over the berkshire mountains, boston & albany locomotive 600 headed the double header team pulling a westbound new england states passenger train through east chatham, new york.     more of the railroad steam locomotives they were called mikado, mountain, berkshire or mogul. 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. 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.   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.   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.       the end of 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 roundhound house in binghampton, new york still remained although long abandoned and silent.                 the private 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.               atlantic coast rail's virginia beach at savannah, georgia awaiting passengers.   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 train 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 . 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."     southbound 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.               the 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, nj. following its retirement from that service, it was purchased by another new jersey owner and completely rebuilt in the 1980s. the 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.             it's very likely that mrs. belmont would have approved.           revisiting amtrak's early years     the national limited ran between new york city via pittsburgh to st. louis and then onto kansas city where a set-out sleeper was added to the consist of the super chief. heading west on a cold day in early december, 1971 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 capital to make the necessary improvements as quickly as needed.. once one of the finest 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. union pacific 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 without attracting attention. motive power was still destinctive in those early years of the 1970s as amtrak's eastbound and westbound super chief / el capitan meet high in the new mexico mountains near raton pass.                   links of interest   information works inc. homepage at sea - the great and near great ships vessels on america's inland waters   author : richard o. aichele last updated 01-28-08 © 2008. all rights reserved by information works inc., saratoga springs, ny, usa. contact: webmaster@inforworks.com     s="na";c="na";j="na";f=""+escape(document.referrer) s=screen.width;v=navigator.appname if (v != "netscape") {c=screen.colordepth} else {c=screen.pixeldepth} j=navigator.javaenabled() function pr(n) {document.write(n,"n");} ns2ch=0 if (navigator.appname == "netscape" && 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