The joyride I should have taken in 1966

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MARC Rider

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Apr 5, 2011
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October 1966. I was 13 years old and beginning to do the train geek thing. We had just moved from the Main Line suburbs to a new home in Center City Philadelphia. This made it a lot easier for me to get to the train station on my own and such. So here's a trip I never thought about doing because it would have been a whole day traveling what in 1966 were considered considerable distance for a day trip. Hard to imagine these days when people commute 4 hours a day and think nothing of living 100 miles from their workplaces, but back then, being at the end of a suburban commuter line, 20 miles out of the city was pretty much like going to the far outposts of the rural countryside.

Here's the trip: The main purpose would be to ride the Northern Central Railway between Baltimore and Harrisburg. Fortunately, back in the day, even before all the federal funding beefed up the NEC and the Keystone service, there were frequent trains between Philly and Harrisburg, and between Philly and Baltimore. The real sticker was the Northern Central, which was near the end of it's life. (The last passenger trains passed through on April 30, 1971, most of the tracks were abandoned after Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.)

Fortunately, I have a copy of a Pennsylvania railroad system timetable from October 1966 that will help me plan this trip. Now all I need is a time machine and some way to obtain cash from that period. ( A "series 2013" Federal Reserve Note might catch the attention of the ticket agent and raise some eyebrows at the Secret Service.)

Scan_0037.jpg

First we need to decide which direction we should travel. The key, as noted, is the service on the Northern Central.

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Looking at Table 16, one can see that there are three trains a day on that route. Actually, the Broadway Limited also runs this route, but it's a "all private room train," and I suspect they don't sell tickets on it between Baltimore and Harrisburg. From the point of a day trip, where I'm starting in Philly, it looks like the best bets are to either ride northbound on #571 the Buffalo Day Express that leaves Baltimore at 8:15 AM or #554, an unnamed train that leaves Harrisburg at 2:40 PM. Note that the term "Express" here is used as a courtesy, as the BAL - HAR travel time is 2:30 (You could do the drive in about an hour and a half, as I believe I-83 had been completed at this point.) The Express also made every intermediate stop (New Freedom, Glen Rock, and York).

OK, let's start with doing this clockwise -- PHL -- BAL -- HAR -- PHL

First, we have to depart from 30th St. Station. No problem, with my new found freedom of living in the city, I can just take the Market-Frankford line from 5th St. to 30th St., I ride I took many times in the years before I graduated high school. So which train to take to Baltimore?

Scan_0041.jpg
Here you can see the entire NYP - WAS NEC service in 1966. It looks like my only choice if I want to make the 8:15 Buffalo Day Express in Baltimore is to take #177, the Federal, which leave 30th St. at 5:09 AM and gets into Baltimore at 6:53 AM. That's 1:53 travel time. (Northeast Regional does it now in 1:10.) The Federal seems to be the equivalent of today's 66/67, an overnight run from Boston. It is famous for being the train that lost its brakes and crashed into Washington Union Station in 1953. It is equipped with sleeping cars, coaches, and a "buffet lounge car," which seems more promising for breakfast than a "snack bar coach." On the other hand, I have almost an hour and a half in Baltimore, but I'm not sure what the restaurant situation is in the Penn Station Baltimore in 1966, nor do I know what sort of carryout restaurants there are in the neighborhood. The station layout is a little different, as the ticket office is located where the newsstand will be in 2020, and the nice stained glass skylight in the head house was painted over during Word War 2 as a blackout precaution, in case, for some odd reason, German bombers were to fly over Baltimore. Despite the fact that the war ended in 1945, the blackout paint wasn't removed until some time in the 1980s.

So, at 8:15, I board the Buffalo Day Express. It's pretty much coaches only, no food service, so if you're going to Buffalo (scheduled to arrive at 8 PM that night), you'd better pack a 2-meal picnic. I won't have that problem, I can pick up lunch in Harrisburg, as I'm arriving at 10:45 AM. Soon, I'm following what in 2020 is the route of the light rail line up to Cockeysville, then north of there into York, I can see how the scenery in 1966 compares with that of the rail trail in 2020. Finally, arrival in Harrisburg, where I note that all of the platforms in 1966 are low level, unlike the situation in 2020. For that matter, all of the platforms in Baltimore in 1966 were low level (I think). I'm not sure when they built the high level platform for tracks 6 and 7 that was needed to accommodate the Metroliner service that started in 1969.

Scan_0038.jpg

In Harrisburg, I have the choice of either taking the PRR intercity trains, most of which stop only at North Philadelphia and thus require an additional ride (frequent service) to get me back to 30th st., or take the PRR suburban trains, subsidized by SEPTA, now known as the Keystone Service. As I need to dig around a little more to see if I have any Philadelphia - Harrisburg suburban timetables from 1966. For now, I think I want to ride the intercity trains, as I've had my fill of riding on Silverliners in 1966, and I want to experience the intercity equipment. It looks like #54, the Pennsylvania Limited/St Louisan fits my bill. It departs at 2:13 PM, arriving at North Philadelphia at 4:15 PM. The train is equipped with coaches, sleeping car, and a "snack bar coach," which they say includes hot food as well as cold food. I was never a fan of the snack bar coach, as the food choices were limited, and it didn't have tables, You had to take your food back to your seat, and coach seats didn't have fold-down tray tables in 1966, at least not on the Pennsy. Fortunately I have a 3 hour plus layover in Harrisburg, where I can get myself a good lunch.

When I get to North Philly at 4:15, I can either ride home on the Broad St. Subway, or catch a southbound corridor or suburban train to take me to 30th St. If I were able to get a Silverliner from Harrisburg, it would run me into Suburban Station, which is a bit closer to my house.

All in all, not a bad day or an impractical joy ride.

Let's plan this in the counterclockwise direction: PHL -- HAR -- BAL -- PHL
We will need to catch 554 from HAR to BAL, whcih leaves HAR at 2:40 PM.

Scan_0039.jpg
Unless we can find a Silverliner that leaves Suburban Station, we'll have to take #25, the Duquesne, a coach-only train that leaves North Philadelphia at 9:01 AM. I'll need to either take a connecting train (frequent service) from 30th St. or just ride the Broad St. Subway up to North Philadelphia. The neighborhood around North Philly was a bit sketchy in 1966, but this is 9 in the morning, it should be OK. I used to be a daily rider of the Broad St. Subway when I was in high school, and except for one incident, I had no problems.

The Duquesne arrive in Harrisburg at 11:10 AM. The layover is plenty long enough for a good lunch somewhere. My unnamed local train #554 leaves Harrisburg at 2:40 PM, and arrives in Baltimore at 5:05 PM. The big question for me is whether this train had reclining seat air-conditioned coaches or I get an old P-70 with the horsehair bench seats and overhead fans. I generally expect the Trains running to Pittsburgh will have reclining seats. (I used to joy ride the Juniata, the companion train to the Duquesne a lot when I was in High School, and they always had reclining seats. The New York - Washington corridor trains were a mixed bag, you never knew what you were going to get.)

Now, to get home from Baltimore.

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Looks like my choice to get home is #154, the Embassy, which leaves Baltimore at 5:45 PM and arrives at 30th St. at 7:17. My backup train is the Mt. Vernon #164/156, which leaves Baltimore at 6:43 on weekdays, 6:44 on weekends and arrives at 30th st. at 8:19 on weekdays and 8:14 on weekends. The Embassy, #154 only runs on weeksdays, so If I'm doing this joy ride on the weekend, I'll have to take the Mount Vernon.

The Embassy has a Parlor Car, a "Parlor Room Buffet Lounge Car" and a snack bar coach. The weekend Mt. Vernon, #164, has a parlor car, "Parlor Room Bar Lounge Car," a dining car, and a snack bar coach. the weekday Mt. Vernon, #156, has a parlor car, parlor room bar lounge car, dining car, and a snack bar coach. Despite the fact, that I could make my connection to the Embassy, well, maybe my train from Harrisburg will be late, so I think I'll take the Mt. Vernon, and enjoy a nice dinner in the dining car. It might be interesting to pay the extra for a parlor car seat, but my Dad will give me grief about spending money unnecessarily ("What, do you think we're Rockefellers?") and, while I'd like to check out the "Parlor Room Bar Lounge Car," I'm only 13, so even if they'd serve me, I could only get a Coke or a Shirley Temple.

Looking at the alternatives, if I were going to do this ride, I think I'd do it counter clockwise, PHL -- HAR -- BAL -- PHL, mainly so I wouldn't have to deal with connecting from North Philadelphia at the end of the day, and also so I could get a meal in the dining car on the Mount Vernon. I had one meal in a PRR dining car when I was a kid, and I think it was pretty good. Also, on some Amtrak dining cars around 1975, when they must have still been operated by PRR veterans, and they were pretty good, too.
 

anumberone

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October 1966. I was 13 years old and beginning to do the train geek thing. We had just moved from the Main Line suburbs to a new home in Center City Philadelphia. This made it a lot easier for me to get to the train station on my own and such. So here's a trip I never thought about doing because it would have been a whole day traveling what in 1966 were considered considerable distance for a day trip. Hard to imagine these days when people commute 4 hours a day and think nothing of living 100 miles from their workplaces, but back then, being at the end of a suburban commuter line, 20 miles out of the city was pretty much like going to the far outposts of the rural countryside.

Here's the trip: The main purpose would be to ride the Northern Central Railway between Baltimore and Harrisburg. Fortunately, back in the day, even before all the federal funding beefed up the NEC and the Keystone service, there were frequent trains between Philly and Harrisburg, and between Philly and Baltimore. The real sticker was the Northern Central, which was near the end of it's life. (The last passenger trains passed through on April 30, 1971, most of the tracks were abandoned after Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.)

Fortunately, I have a copy of a Pennsylvania railroad system timetable from October 1966 that will help me plan this trip. Now all I need is a time machine and some way to obtain cash from that period. ( A "series 2013" Federal Reserve Note might catch the attention of the ticket agent and raise some eyebrows at the Secret Service.)

View attachment 17377

First we need to decide which direction we should travel. The key, as noted, is the service on the Northern Central.

View attachment 17378
Looking at Table 16, one can see that there are three trains a day on that route. Actually, the Broadway Limited also runs this route, but it's a "all private room train," and I suspect they don't sell tickets on it between Baltimore and Harrisburg. From the point of a day trip, where I'm starting in Philly, it looks like the best bets are to either ride northbound on #571 the Buffalo Day Express that leaves Baltimore at 8:15 AM or #554, an unnamed train that leaves Harrisburg at 2:40 PM. Note that the term "Express" here is used as a courtesy, as the BAL - HAR travel time is 2:30 (You could do the drive in about an hour and a half, as I believe I-83 had been completed at this point.) The Express also made every intermediate stop (New Freedom, Glen Rock, and York).

OK, let's start with doing this clockwise -- PHL -- BAL -- HAR -- PHL

First, we have to depart from 30th St. Station. No problem, with my new found freedom of living in the city, I can just take the Market-Frankford line from 5th St. to 30th St., I ride I took many times in the years before I graduated high school. So which train to take to Baltimore?

View attachment 17379
Here you can see the entire NYP - WAS NEC service in 1966. It looks like my only choice if I want to make the 8:15 Buffalo Day Express in Baltimore is to take #177, the Federal, which leave 30th St. at 5:09 AM and gets into Baltimore at 6:53 AM. That's 1:53 travel time. (Northeast Regional does it now in 1:10.) The Federal seems to be the equivalent of today's 66/67, an overnight run from Boston. It is famous for being the train that lost its brakes and crashed into Washington Union Station in 1953. It is equipped with sleeping cars, coaches, and a "buffet lounge car," which seems more promising for breakfast than a "snack bar coach." On the other hand, I have almost an hour and a half in Baltimore, but I'm not sure what the restaurant situation is in the Penn Station Baltimore in 1966, nor do I know what sort of carryout restaurants there are in the neighborhood. The station layout is a little different, as the ticket office is located where the newsstand will be in 2020, and the nice stained glass skylight in the head house was painted over during Word War 2 as a blackout precaution, in case, for some odd reason, German bombers were to fly over Baltimore. Despite the fact that the war ended in 1945, the blackout paint wasn't removed until some time in the 1980s.

So, at 8:15, I board the Buffalo Day Express. It's pretty much coaches only, no food service, so if you're going to Buffalo (scheduled to arrive at 8 PM that night), you'd better pack a 2-meal picnic. I won't have that problem, I can pick up lunch in Harrisburg, as I'm arriving at 10:45 AM. Soon, I'm following what in 2020 is the route of the light rail line up to Cockeysville, then north of there into York, I can see how the scenery in 1966 compares with that of the rail trail in 2020. Finally, arrival in Harrisburg, where I note that all of the platforms in 1966 are low level, unlike the situation in 2020. For that matter, all of the platforms in Baltimore in 1966 were low level (I think). I'm not sure when they built the high level platform for tracks 6 and 7 that was needed to accommodate the Metroliner service that started in 1969.

View attachment 17380

In Harrisburg, I have the choice of either taking the PRR intercity trains, most of which stop only at North Philadelphia and thus require an additional ride (frequent service) to get me back to 30th st., or take the PRR suburban trains, subsidized by SEPTA, now known as the Keystone Service. As I need to dig around a little more to see if I have any Philadelphia - Harrisburg suburban timetables from 1966. For now, I think I want to ride the intercity trains, as I've had my fill of riding on Silverliners in 1966, and I want to experience the intercity equipment. It looks like #54, the Pennsylvania Limited/St Louisan fits my bill. It departs at 2:13 PM, arriving at North Philadelphia at 4:15 PM. The train is equipped with coaches, sleeping car, and a "snack bar coach," which they say includes hot food as well as cold food. I was never a fan of the snack bar coach, as the food choices were limited, and it didn't have tables, You had to take your food back to your seat, and coach seats didn't have fold-down tray tables in 1966, at least not on the Pennsy. Fortunately I have a 3 hour plus layover in Harrisburg, where I can get myself a good lunch.

When I get to North Philly at 4:15, I can either ride home on the Broad St. Subway, or catch a southbound corridor or suburban train to take me to 30th St. If I were able to get a Silverliner from Harrisburg, it would run me into Suburban Station, which is a bit closer to my house.

All in all, not a bad day or an impractical joy ride.

Let's plan this in the counterclockwise direction: PHL -- HAR -- BAL -- PHL
We will need to catch 554 from HAR to BAL, whcih leaves HAR at 2:40 PM.

View attachment 17385
Unless we can find a Silverliner that leaves Suburban Station, we'll have to take #25, the Duquesne, a coach-only train that leaves North Philadelphia at 9:01 AM. I'll need to either take a connecting train (frequent service) from 30th St. or just ride the Broad St. Subway up to North Philadelphia. The neighborhood around North Philly was a bit sketchy in 1966, but this is 9 in the morning, it should be OK. I used to be a daily rider of the Broad St. Subway when I was in high school, and except for one incident, I had no problems.

The Duquesne arrive in Harrisburg at 11:10 AM. The layover is plenty long enough for a good lunch somewhere. My unnamed local train #554 leaves Harrisburg at 2:40 PM, and arrives in Baltimore at 5:05 PM. The big question for me is whether this train had reclining seat air-conditioned coaches or I get an old P-70 with the horsehair bench seats and overhead fans. I generally expect the Trains running to Pittsburgh will have reclining seats. (I used to joy ride the Juniata, the companion train to the Duquesne a lot when I was in High School, and they always had reclining seats. The New York - Washington corridor trains were a mixed bag, you never knew what you were going to get.)

Now, to get home from Baltimore.

View attachment 17386

Looks like my choice to get home is #154, the Embassy, which leaves Baltimore at 5:45 PM and arrives at 30th St. at 7:17. My backup train is the Mt. Vernon #164/156, which leaves Baltimore at 6:43 on weekdays, 6:44 on weekends and arrives at 30th st. at 8:19 on weekdays and 8:14 on weekends. The Embassy, #154 only runs on weeksdays, so If I'm doing this joy ride on the weekend, I'll have to take the Mount Vernon.

The Embassy has a Parlor Car, a "Parlor Room Buffet Lounge Car" and a snack bar coach. The weekend Mt. Vernon, #164, has a parlor car, "Parlor Room Bar Lounge Car," a dining car, and a snack bar coach. the weekday Mt. Vernon, #156, has a parlor car, parlor room bar lounge car, dining car, and a snack bar coach. Despite the fact, that I could make my connection to the Embassy, well, maybe my train from Harrisburg will be late, so I think I'll take the Mt. Vernon, and enjoy a nice dinner in the dining car. It might be interesting to pay the extra for a parlor car seat, but my Dad will give me grief about spending money unnecessarily ("What, do you think we're Rockefellers?") and, while I'd like to check out the "Parlor Room Bar Lounge Car," I'm only 13, so even if they'd serve me, I could only get a Coke or a Shirley Temple.

Looking at the alternatives, if I were going to do this ride, I think I'd do it counter clockwise, PHL -- HAR -- BAL -- PHL, mainly so I wouldn't have to deal with connecting from North Philadelphia at the end of the day, and also so I could get a meal in the dining car on the Mount Vernon. I had one meal in a PRR dining car when I was a kid, and I think it was pretty good. Also, on some Amtrak dining cars around 1975, when they must have still been operated by PRR veterans, and they were pretty good, too.
 
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