Where was the pinnacle of the postwar passenger-train revival?

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Where was the pinnacle of the postwar passenger-train revival?
Posted by Overmod on Friday, January 19, 2018 9:28 AM

I'd submit that the high-water mark of the (as it turned out, grossly mistaken) development of postwar streamlined trains is represented in this picture otherwise featured on the Classic Trains site today:

Just two years after the Train of Tomorrow -- a beautiful train, run to take advantage of the route characteristics, a sensible business model... was this at the peak of enthusiasm over modern trains driving increased patronage in the postwar years just as they'd done so often and so well in the '30s?  Or was this essentially a bit past it already, with no one observing the 'signs and symptoms' of coming decline?

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, January 19, 2018 4:56 PM

I would say December 8, 1941.

With the mobilization of men and materials required for the war effort millions and millions of people were introduced to transportation concepts that many of them could only have read about prior to Dec. 7.  The war time experiences coupled with returning GI's having wealth they would have otherwise frittered away in peacetime enviornment - troops in the field can't spend a lot of their pay.

When the GI's came home they had money to buy cars and houses and get married and have kids - they had seen a mobile world during the war and wanted a mobile world when they returned.

Railroad management, having remained states side never saw or understood what the GI's had seen and experienced.  Railroad management just did more of the same that they had started in the 30's and could not comprehend the fundamental change that had happened in passenger transportation.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Penny Trains on Friday, January 19, 2018 7:13 PM

I'm with you mod, I say the Zephyr represents the best attempt at getting passenger train dollars in the postwar period.  The Century, Super Chief and others were all refitted to be sure, but they had their origins before the invasion of Poland.

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Posted by Miningman on Friday, January 19, 2018 11:21 PM

Yes,  everytime I see pictures of the CZ I think that exactly ...Thinking David Klepper would agree as well, being a D&RGW afficinado, but I should not speak for him

This however was on the same level of optimism and hope with a much earlier realization of misplaced and dashed hopes.

Creating the Olympian Hiawatha

Industrial designer Brooks Stevens (center) and two associates pose with drawings of the Milwaukee Road’s new Olympian Hiawatha, launched in 1947.
Classic Trains coll.

 

Now to the questions asked by Overmod:   " Or was this essentially a bit past it already, with no one observing the 'signs and symptoms' of coming decline? "

 

Thats a lot of great minds, economists, planners, engineeers, people driven by success and forward thinking completely failing in many locations all simultaneously and sudden like.  No...I do not think so.  It cannot be blamed on a single individual ( such as not converting Imperial to Metric on a Mars lander)....but you can point a finger to collusion. Big government, big oil, big auto, big rubber, Madison Ave.

 

The trains were indeed beautiful and magnificient. They were built to serve society well but society was sold a bill of goods, constantly and over and over.  

 

Now instead of being way ahead of the game like Japan and Europe ( just think how far ahead we were of them when that Milwaukee Olympian Hi pic was taken), we are saddled with dangerous white knuckled highways overcrowded with monster trucks, and airports, airlines and services that are horrendous and embarassing. 

 

I think the railroads had the RIGHT IDEA....but they were innocent despite their years and never had a chance. 

 

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, January 21, 2018 8:37 AM

For coach passengers, the pinnacle was the new high-level El Capitan.  For passengers in general, yes the CZ because of its scenery and domes, with everything else quite first class until the last few years when wear showed.  When it comes to pure equpment and its maintainence, possibly the Super Chief.  When it comes to diners, hard to chose, but certainly the King's Dinner on the Panama must be an entry.  For a single sleeper passenger, hard to do better than a single duplex room on a PRR Creek car.  Or any space in an NP dome sleeper, unique to NP.  For real luxury, the Torquise Room on the Super Chief.  There certainly were a lot of very good trains, and I am glad I had the chance ot ride many of them.  For exzmple, I am glad I sampled the El Cap on one LA - Chicago trip, even though at the time I could have paid for a sleeper.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 12:18 PM

I'm still trying to figure out where to place the Congos in this discussion; they represent one of the last concerted efforts with very large capital participation with an eye toward 'whole beautiful trains' with good service.  (And I know they're among Dave Klepper's most favorite trains!)

I think we can, however, definitively place the Budd 'tubular train' PAST the point of no return ... leaving out most if not all of the 'lightweight' trains as being on the cheap motor-train side of passenger accommodation, and not any sort of pinnacle of service or performance... and that was a pity, as I think we could have easily had 100+mph trains with carefully upgraded Gs at least a decade earlier with a sufficient number of those trainsets.   (Perhaps matched sets of Speed Merchants north of New Haven in runthroughs?)

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Posted by matthewsaggie on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 8:54 PM

Quote- "... never saw or understood what the GI's had seen and experienced".

 

Never mind the actual war- I have talked to many WWII vets who spent days and days on troop trains (both heavy weights and "Pullman"  box car troop trains and swore that they would never ride another train. Mass produced cars and good highways helped them keep their promises.

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 9:46 PM

Yes of course, would say the Congressionals should be included in the discussion. Reading about the planning, care. detail, look and purpose of these trains is quite astonishing. 

A person can even feel the pride of the PRR by osmosis just from reading an article on them. 

Those were heady days for everyone. Manicured roadbed on the Rock Island, new PA's for the Erie, Monon unveiling smart new services and trains. 

Then right at the height and best of development and advance ...poof gone. 

There was no reason at all why North American society could not have had the best of all worlds. None whatsover. It was decided so by key individuals reigning over the great unwashed. 

The railroads could not have seen that as it was collusion, conspiracy, greed and a deliberate forced, sinister. planned and manipulated direction to reduce rail passenger service to irrelevance.  

Ike knew....The military industrial complex. 

By then Passenger service was on crutches. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, January 25, 2018 10:41 AM

Overmod, of course you are right.  A GG! heading an all-Budd matched consist with a proper obs at the end was a beautiful sight.  And the interiors were as fine in every respect.  Food in the diners first class.  And one can add the Senator with almost identacle equipment, and the chance to be behind an EF 3a north of Penn Station.  I seem to have restricted my preveous post to trains providing sleeper service.

But the train probably still closest to my heart, and a fine re-creation while it lasted was the Rio Grande Zephyr, which did recreate the atmosphere of the Glory Days after they had past.  Beautiful to look at, top secenery, clean, friendly and attentive crew, domes, and by my standards terrific food.  Except for time-keeping, doesn't The Canadian do so today?

I think about the RGZ (and Leonard and both Alice and Dorothy Bernstein) every day.

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, January 25, 2018 4:52 PM

...and the question posed that goes along with the posting?

Or was this essentially a bit past it already, with no one observing the 'signs and symptoms' of coming decline?"

I've made my point several times...now I know that that I'm essentially a little rubber dingy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on this one and it's pretty easy to shoot a hole in my little rubber dingy but I'm sticking to it. 

It would have required a very special carve out in the free market capitalist system, such as what they do with commuter trains or what became Amtrak and VIA.

If..if if ..when the Interstates were being built and the airports were being rushed to completion and the St. Lawrence Seaway was completed, all of it with massive taxpayer dollars and subsidies, that a similiar pro rated deal went to the private free market railroads to develop, capitalize and  subsidize passenger trains in exchange for holding true to their commitments in good faith and as a reward for their incredible effort and sacrifice during WWII.  

Creating a more compeitive structure to air and highways...even it out. Surely we had the chops to do this. 

What happened in the US ( and up here, because we stand with you always) was unique in the world and as a result we fell far behind. 

I see no reason for this demise to have occurred at all. It was created. It is even likely that many of those mergers would not occur at all and the New York Central would be operating and running trains beyond what Japan and Europe have in 2018. 

That could have happened but it did not. 

Perhaps yet someday.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, January 26, 2018 12:30 PM

A reasonable analogue to this -- oriented toward high-speed transportation and not sybaritic nostalgic luxury for the well-heeled -- actually did get done, in the mid-Sixties, with a fairly large aggregate amount spent on it or thrown st it depending on your perspective.  The thing to speculate over is what would have come out of that program had Johnson not wimped out of re-election, perhaps particularly if the Vietnamese boondoggle had been short-routed before the Tet Offensive and all that.  Right at the time Nelson Rockefeller and others were understanding the value of massive public investment in better commuter service. 

I thought at the time, and sometimes still muse about it, that a Kennedy presidency would have produced good modern-passenger-rail efforts too.  That was a great road we did not get to take.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, January 27, 2018 10:13 AM

Overmod makes a valid point.  Suburban passenger service began its revival in 1958 when Pennsylvania decided that subsidies to re-equip suburban service were proper.  It grew from there, starting in the Northeast and gradually spreading elsewhere.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by BLS53 on Sunday, January 28, 2018 10:18 AM

matthewsaggie

Quote- "... never saw or understood what the GI's had seen and experienced".

 

Never mind the actual war- I have talked to many WWII vets who spent days and days on troop trains (both heavy weights and "Pullman"  box car troop trains and swore that they would never ride another train. Mass produced cars and good highways helped them keep their promises.

 

Interesting point, when considering the WWII vets drove the consumer economy for the next half century.

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, January 29, 2018 4:49 PM

Remember too that passenger train usage declined throughout the 1920's because of an increased reliance on autos and buses, but bounced back in the 1930's due to the new streamliners and then boomed during the war. The railroads thought this boom would continue, but were wrong. Some railroads realized what was happening, like the Soo Line, and after about 1950 didn't buy any passenger diesels that couldn't also be used as freight engines if/when passenger service was discontinued, like GP-9s or F-7s (rather than E-units or Alco PAs).

Stix

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