New York Central "20th Century Limited" at Grand Central in 1955

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And introduced by Alastair Cooke!
I remember Omnibus as a child

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnibus_(American_TV_program)

In 1955 CBS used Grand Central as its master control for TV

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CBS_Broadcast_Center#Early_history

To do a live interview with the engineer as the train was moving somewhere in Westchester County was impressive for 1955 as videotape was still a dream. It would have required a large microwave dish on the train pointed at the Empire State Building.

The Pullman reservation system of 69 years ago looked to be far more reliable than what we have now.

The "20th Century Limited" was the gold standard in the 50s and was finally immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock in 1959.
 
This is pure gold for rail historians.


Makes me wish that I could have had an opportunity to ride this magnificent train its heyday.
Imagine, a crew of 46 required to operate this train!
Reservation system amazingly clunky, but it worked well for the day.
And to think that there was talk of demolishing GCT back in 1955...thank goodness that never materialized. Probably Robert Moses' biggest disappointment and one of NYC's greatest triumphs.
 
A crew of 50+. Including two dining car stewards, 5 chefs, 10 waiters, a Pullman supervisor and 12 Pullman porters, one for each sleeping car, barber, secretary, and a bartender.

This is why no Amtrak train will ever provide the same kind of service today.

If this were made as a video today, there would be all kinds of background music set to provide "drama." I certainly appreciate TV reporting from the good old days without all the distractions.
 
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A crew of 50+. Including two dining car stewards, 5 chefs, 10 waiters, a Pullman supervisor and 12 Pullman porters, one for each sleeping car, barber, secretary, and a bartender.

This is why no Amtrak train will ever provide the same kind of service today.
I don't even know if any of the luxury cruise trains of today offer that kind of staffing, let alone any trains anywhere that provide daily transportation service. In fact, I'm not even sure that first class air travel of today has that kind of staffing level.

I wonder how the 20th Century Limited staffing compared to that of the NYC secondary trains like the old Lake Shore Limited.
 
I wonder how the 20th Century Limited staffing compared to that of the NYC secondary trains like the old Lake Shore Limited.
I suspect it's not too much different. I counted about 5 specialty positions like barber and train secretary that wouldn't be on a regular train, only one Pullman conductor would have been needed (rather than a second one and supervisor), and 5 chefs and 10 waiters would also have been reduced. So maybe instead of a crew of 46, it would be more like 30-35?

The passenger to crew ratio would have been about 1:0.3. As the sample below shows that's about the same as a river cruise ship in Europe but less than a larger cruise ship . But that's not really a fair comparison since cruise ships by definition also provide on board activities and entertainment in addition to transportation. Of course for railfans, the train is the entertainment.

I think the airline standard is 1 attendant for 50 passengers plus 2 or 3 for flight crew. You could double that crew size and still not approach the staffing of the Century.

Screenshot 2024-07-11 at 4.06.26 PM.pngScreenshot 2024-07-11 at 4.07.27 PM.png
 
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I think the airline standard is 1 attendant for 50 passengers plus 2 or 3 for flight crew. You could double that crew size and still not approach the staffing of the Century.
I believe on airlines 1 cabin staff per 50 passengers is an FAA requirement. Typically the cabin up front have 2 for 12 to 20 First Class passengers on domestic flights.

IIRC there is no FRA requirements on cabin attendants. There are rules on minimum staffing required for operating staff. OBS staffing levels are typically a matter of Union agreements on trains. Operating Staff beyond FRA requirements are again a matter of Union contracts.
 
Were there ever through cars to San Francisco or elsewhere on the 20th LTD or B'way Ltd (or similar trains - or elsewhere west like Portland/Seattle)?
 
Were there ever through cars to San Francisco or elsewhere on the 20th LTD or B'way Ltd (or similar trains - or elsewhere west like Portland/Seattle)?

Yes: both NYC and Pennsylvania sent through sleepers on the California Zephyr, City of San Francisco, Super Chief, and City of Los Angeles. The attached snips from their 1955 timetables show the Super Chief connection being carried by the 20th Century and Broadway, the other three by the Commodore Vanderbilt and the Pennsylvania Limited.

There were also through cars to Texas on MKT's Texas Special and MP's Texas Eagle.

I'm not aware of anyone ever running through cars from the east coast to Portland or Seattle, but perhaps someone will chime in with something I haven't seen in an old NP or GN timetable.
 

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I don't think it really took "two to three minutes" to stop the train from 75 mph in emergency braking.

edit: Maybe this is how long the engineer would take to stop the train for a station...
He seemed to sort of correct himself on that one iirc - like down from five minutes.
 
Yes: both NYC and Pennsylvania sent through sleepers on the California Zephyr, City of San Francisco, Super Chief, and City of Los Angeles. The attached snips from their 1955 timetables show the Super Chief connection being carried by the 20th Century and Broadway, the other three by the Commodore Vanderbilt and the Pennsylvania Limited.

There were also through cars to Texas on MKT's Texas Special and MP's Texas Eagle.

I'm not aware of anyone ever running through cars from the east coast to Portland or Seattle, but perhaps someone will chime in with something I haven't seen in an old NP or GN timetable.
I don't think that there ever was a sleeper through Chicago for either Portland or Seattle. There were plenty of other through services that would seem amazing today. For example:
  • Sleeper Montreal <> Mission City <> Seattle.
  • Sleeper St. Paul <> Sault Ste. Marie <> Montreal.
  • Sleeper Vancouver, BC <> Portland.
  • Sleeper Vancouver, BC <> Flavel (Boat Train).
  • and so forth.
 
Yes: both NYC and Pennsylvania sent through sleepers on the California Zephyr, City of San Francisco, Super Chief, and City of Los Angeles. The attached snips from their 1955 timetables show the Super Chief connection being carried by the 20th Century and Broadway, the other three by the Commodore Vanderbilt and the Pennsylvania Limited.

There were also through cars to Texas on MKT's Texas Special and MP's Texas Eagle.

I'm not aware of anyone ever running through cars from the east coast to Portland or Seattle, but perhaps someone will chime in with something I haven't seen in an old NP or GN timetable.
I am surprised that the California Zephyr had through cars from the PRR and NYC. The Zephyr's cars were of a unique and harmonious design and branded for the train. Wondering if those cars were used as the through cars on the the Commodore Vanderbilt and Pennsylvania Limited.
 
I am surprised that the California Zephyr had through cars from the PRR and NYC. The Zephyr's cars were of a unique and harmonious design and branded for the train. Wondering if those cars were used as the through cars on the the Commodore Vanderbilt and Pennsylvania Limited.
Indeed they were. The PRR’s contribution to that pool was their unique stainless steel, California Zephyr lettered, Pullman 10-6, “Silver Rapids”.
Perfectly named…”Silver” prefix for the CZ, “Rapids” suffix for a PRR 10-6 sleeper.
Due to the pool, it sometimes went on New York Central trains…a strange sight at Grand Central Terminal.😉

It still survives today, in private ownership…
https://www.calzephyrrailcar.com/silver-fleet/silver-rapids.html
 
My late Uncle Gus was a conductor for 40 years for New York Central but was assigned to the Boston and Albany division.

He went to his deathbed saying that NYC should have bought the New Haven simply to control commuter rail into GCT
I don’t understand what you mean by “control”…
The NYC did “control movement” of New Haven trains that used their tracks from Woodlawn into GCT.

If you mean as to passenger traffic, the New Haven could have sent their commuter trains into Penn Station instead, but with a restricted capacity.
 

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