The Man who gave us the new Montrealer and changed Amtrak

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The Man who gave us the new Montrealer and changed Amtrak
Posted by Miningman on Sunday, October 14, 2018 2:50 PM

Mike MacDonald's father was THE driving force behind the new  Montrealer and quite possibly turned around  the direction of Amtrak.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015020444405;view=1up;seq=565

A document containing a letter Mr. MacDonald wrote in bed, because he was no longer strong enough to sit in a chair and type, to his friend and fellow Montrealer advocate Jim Ullman. 

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015082339188;view=1up;seq=1

My letter to our friend Mike:

It strikes me that your Dad clearly saw the very last chance to save passenger service from vanishing altogether. At the time of his letters and active efforts there was still a functional system in place but facing extinction. In addition grave errors were being made, perhaps deliberately, in routing and scheduling to further the decline. This he pointed out and fought against. Thankfully he got the ear of key politicians and powerful people and argued well. 
 
There are a lot of unsung hero's in these things and although he did get recognition with the naming of a car it still represents a change of direction and the saving of a entire system and even societal direction. 
 
I am grateful for his efforts and to know we have someone to thank for what we do have still today. 
 
Regards,
 
Vince 
 
Mike added in a letter to me that yesterday was his Dads birthday. He passed at 63 yrs, would be 104th birthday. 
 
... this stands out .  "  forcing the Amtrak people into going for the sure things instead of looking to the true needs of the country."

-- Joseph V. MacDonald 

Late Edit--- Some spelling errors slipped through and  fixed. My sincerest apologies. 

 

 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, October 14, 2018 7:07 PM

Remarkable stuff!

I asked this on another thread, and I'm going to ask it again...

Hey Mr. Moderator, whoever you are, would you please let Mike back on here again?  He's been out in the cold too long and his contributions are sorely missed by all of us!

Listen to us subscribers of "Trains," "Classic Trains," "Classic Toy Trains," "Model Railroader," and all the other Kalmbach customers.  We're the ones who pay your bills after all.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, October 14, 2018 7:23 PM

Source: http://www.nwhs.org/archivesdb/listdocs/select.php?index=search&Searchword=montrealer

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, October 15, 2018 12:29 AM

Thanks for the pic Mr. Jones 1945.

Plenty of lore and legend and very good times go hand in hand with the Montrealer. 

The big takeaway for me on Mr. Joseph MacDonalds passionate letters, speeches and answers to Committee members is how one person, one idea, delivered with clear thinking, vision and accuracy can create a lot of change for the betterment of everyone. Without his knowledge and input along with passion and understanding the Montrealer would have been implemented on the wrong route entirely, if at all. 

If ever you need to dispel the myth of air travel being superior to rail, even for long distance then read Mr MacDonalds shredding of that with solid actual examples travelling by rail as an employee of Continental Can Company all over North America while his counterparts went by air. Trip by trip, he beat them all with superior time management and results. 

Much has been taken away from us unnecessarily, deliberately, making it impossible to function properly in many instances. I do believe that rail passenger service will make an enourmous and much required comeback in the future. It just makes too much darn sense right across the entire board. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, October 15, 2018 2:35 AM

I agree with all your points and feel somewhat derelict in not making them myself earlier.

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, October 15, 2018 12:21 PM

Thank you David. Your Imprimatur means a lot. 

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, October 15, 2018 8:36 PM

 

 

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 12:20 AM

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 3:56 AM

Bolt Beranek and  Newman, and certainly Klepper Marshall King were nowhere as big as Continental Can, but I did have similar experiences in my travels for acousstical conaulting on architectural acoustics projects, both remedial and new construction.

I may have aleady posted some details on a conference in Troy, Michigan, at the offices of Eiro  Saranon (Sp?) and Associates on the basic design of Dulles Airpot, the firwt airport world-wide to employ noise-determined public address sound-level control, (Noise-operated-audio-level-control, NOALA).

The conference was scheduled for Sunday morning.  I was to fly out of Boston with Bob Newman, the partner in charge of the project.  (My plan waw then to use some vacation time to visit my sister and famlly and return by the Wolverine - New England States through sleeper, a contraction of what had been the New England section of the Wolverine,)   Sunday brought a huge snowstorm, and radio reports had Logan Airport closed with no estimation of opening time.  I called Bob Newman, and he was happy to have be take the complete resonsibility for the firm's recommendations if I could get there by train.

The Central still honored the Rail Travel Card.  I got to South Station in plenty of time, with what is now the Red Line running nearly normally, but was told the sleeper was sold-out.  A non-resserved coach ticket was all that was available.  The train was packed and left wiih standees.  I checked with the porter and found two roomettes had not been taken in Boston or  Framingham.  He said that if they were not occupied by Albany, the new conductor boarding there would sell the space.  He also said he would be glad to watch my carryon bag and briefcase.

I then went to the dining car and sat a table.  When the steward informed me that the seats were for people eating, I  replied that I intended to order dinner at the first seating.  He then said he would allow me to sit there as long as I wished after eating, as long as the seat was not required for another customer.  And the food was the normal excellent New England States standard.

As soon at the train stopped at the pre-Renselaer Albany Station, I went downstairs to the ticket office, asked the agent to upgrade by already single-punched coach ticket for "Roomette 27-9-10," and paid for the upgraded with my RTC.

After a good night's sleep, I dressed and rushed out of the Michigan Central Station to be sure to get a taxicab to the Troy office, and the rest of the trip went as schedued, with a complete hand-written report to give Bob's secretary on the return to the Cambridge office.  

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Posted by Jones1945 on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 3:57 AM

Miningman

Thanks for the pic Mr. Jones 1945.

Plenty of lore and legend and very good times go hand in hand with the Montrealer. 

The big takeaway for me on Mr. Joseph MacDonalds passionate letters, speeches and answers to Committee members is how one person, one idea, delivered with clear thinking, vision and accuracy can create a lot of change for the betterment of everyone. Without his knowledge and input along with passion and understanding the Montrealer would have been implemented on the wrong route entirely, if at all. 

If ever you need to dispel the myth of air travel being superior to rail, even for long distance then read Mr MacDonalds shredding of that with solid actual examples travelling by rail as an employee of Continental Can Company all over North America while his counterparts went by air. Trip by trip, he beat them all with superior time management and results. 

Much has been taken away from us unnecessarily, deliberately, making it impossible to function properly in many instances. I do believe that rail passenger service will make an enourmous and much required comeback in the future. It just makes too much darn sense right across the entire board. 

You are welcome, Miningman! This is actually a very encouraging topic. That letter by Mr. Joseph MacDonald reminds me of myself when I was much younger, I wrote a lots of suggestion letters (not in my “shaky English”) to different transportation companies which I loved to travel by, suggesting things like how to improve the routes, what should have done to attract more patrons, how to make the train/tram/buses more comfortable; what kind of seats, color of lights, floor or window frames should be used to make the interior looks better etc. Some of my suggestions were adopted and it was a very good experience to see things get improved.
 
When I was 16 (the year I took a roller coaster 16 times in a roll), a transportation company sent me a thank you letter with a little gift inside it, expressed how grateful they were and their thought of my suggestions. It was about how to save time, man power and how to avoid traffic jams for an express bus route within the core of the CBD,( I know you don't like buses miningman Stick out tongue), but it was such a positive and encouraging feeling when I know my ideas were completely adopted.
 
 
Although not many years later, my health was slowly, slowly deteriorated by some very rare disease which had a very negative impact for my life; but I never lost my faith that if more people willing to express their wills, speak out for things that we should enjoy, preserve and protect, there would be changes if you give it a try.   
 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 8:38 AM

daveklepper
at the offices of Eiro Saranon (Sp?)

Eero Saarinen.  Perhaps most famous for a building at a different airport:

Son of another famous architect, Eliel Saarinen, designer of perhaps the most influential unbuilt building of the '20s.

I love these stories! Keep them coming.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 9:58 PM

I would have been OK with Mr. McDonald just trying to restore any train, however, his mission here was to poach a train that ran thru Albany, for one that would run thru his family home state of Vermont.  Anyone who praised his acuracy, apparently did not check his acuracy.  The immedaite thing that struck me was his repeated statement that the Albany (NYC/D&H) route only served a population of 237,000 people between the NY and Montreal endpoints.  The first city north of New York City is Yonkers, which had a population od 200,000 at that time.  Westchester County had a population of 800,000.  When you add Poughkeepsie and Albany, you have over a million, which is what Mr McDonald claimed was the population served by the NH/CV route.  I was also incredulous to hear that he thought the Montrealer would be a money making train at only 200 passengers a day, while dispariging the Albany route, which last carried 800 passengers a day, as a subsidy drain.  

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 10:57 PM

 Perhaps David Klepper or Overmod can help out with some comment.

I don't have April 1971 Penn Central timetable but Canada Southern has January 1968 New York Central.  Albany is the 2nd stop, after Croton-Harmon, which I think was to change engines.
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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 11:48 PM

MidlandMike
I would have been OK with Mr. McDonald just trying to restore any train, however, his mission here was to poach a train that ran thru Albany, for one that would run thru his family home state of Vermont.

This is a bit specious, considering that you got the train via Albany back from 1974 to 1977 as the Adirondack, complete with rebuilt PAs.  (Albany is where the PAs went on; I rode this train as far as Rouses Point, near the border, while in high school and I think we had the usual black E units coughing their way up from Harmon) 

Had the numbers been there as you claim, and the New York subsidy Mr. MacDonald mentions forthcoming, it seems to me there would still be an Adirondack.

Perhaps the New Yorkers needed a better 'mouthpiece' to persuade the lawmakers to keep "their" train to Montreal running.  It was certainly a splendid train to a 17-year-old, even if the mashed potatoes in the diner had no taste at all.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 12:49 AM

Miningman
Note route via Albany
 

I made this to help me understand the route , I can't add the last two stops in google map though.

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 2:46 AM

Pre-Amtrak, I used both the NYCent.-D&H Montreal Lmtd. and the Montrealer-Washingtonian when going overnight between NY and Montral.  I ended up preferring the latter, even with a longer running time, because of the lounge car and diner.  Amtrak has a day train on the via Albany route.  They also should have an overnight train, and if it can provide a connection between Vermont and Montreal it would make a lot of sense.  I also rode the Laurentian, now the Adirondak, but never, unfortunately, the Ambassador from or to New York.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 11:06 AM

Jones1945
I made this to help me understand the route , I can't add the last two stops in google map though.

Here are a couple of resources that may help with the geography:  First, an ancient map that shows you the physical route through Rouses Point (compared with the eventual 'eastern route')

and then a current commuter-system map, conveniently drawn not with the usual pseudo-artistic different colored spaghetti but with outlined geography, showing Montreal-Ouest and the lines approaching it.

Between these, I think you can deduce the way in which the train would reach Montreal from Rouse's Point and incorporate that on your map.  I'm sure there are better maps and I'll keep looking for one.

 

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Posted by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 1:15 PM

Did you have to bring up Continental Can Company at a time like this? 

Memories, memories, crusin' around Tampa on a Friday night during the autumn of 1962 with my late best friend of all time (RIP Robert Taff) in his dad's "borrowed" '55 Pontiac, we'd often observe the Seaboard switching CCC.  Across Adamo Drive from CCC was the American Can Company, where we'd catch Atlantic Coast Line 700 series SW7's performing the same duty.

Add to this a giant Cuban sandwich and Coke (Reg.U.S.Pat.Off.) from the Silver Ring Cafe in Ybor City, the latest issue of Trains, THE Magazine of Railroading on the back seat (purchased from the newsstand at Tampa Union Station!) under a Big Fat Florida Silvery Full Moon and you got a couple of excited 15 year old railfan boys who were hell bent on becoming railroad men after they finished high school!

Talk about the human side of railroading.  Oh, the photo showing Governor Snelling with Mrs. MacDonald and daughter Rosemary is timeless.  Gads guys, I got gobs of goosebumps a bustin' out all over!

Thanks a million!

Item: Was there life after high schllo?  Robert went on to become a Locomotive Engineer for Agrico Chemical Co. in the Bone Valley phosphate mines of Central Florida. I joined the US Army Transportation Corps being sent to Germany in January 1965 with all the Deutsche Bundesbahn steam a guy could get his hands on, this after having witnessed USATC "Saturday Steam Ups" at Ft. Eustus, Virginia, just a few months prior to being stationed overseas.

Call all this "Life is Like a Mountain Railroad" with or w/o the mountains!*

*Watch the late George Hamilton IV sing the old time religious hymn on YouTube.  It'll MAKE YOUR DAY!

 

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 4:07 PM
NY Times photo of MTA founding chairman William Ronan and the future Vice President in a commuter car:
Ogdensburg Advance News, May 2, 1971
State Rail Lines Dwindle Under Amtrak 
The clock ticked off a minute past midnight, and the skeleton known as New York State’s railroad passenger system lost a few more of its limbs. 
But even as the National Rail Passenger Corporation — Amtrak — proceded Saturday with the dismemberment, there remained hope that New York and other states would restore the missing parts. On Friday, just hours before Amtrak assumed control of the nation’s rail passenger service, Gov. Rockefeller sent a telegram to the corporation’s board chairman, asking that trains between Albany and Montreal, and from Buffalo westward be kept running. 
The governor’s message informed Chairman David W. Kendall that the state legislature was considering a bill authorizing the subsidy required by Amtrak to keep those trains running.  
Under the schedule decided upon by Amtrak, the following trains have been dropped: —The two daily round trips between Albany and Montreal. —Two of the five daily round trips between Albany and Buffalo. — All three trains running round trips between Buffalo and Chicago, via Erie, Pa., and Cleveland. — The single round trip daily between Albany and Boston. 
Although Amtrak did not act immediately upon Rockefeller’s request, the rail unit announced its directors would vote next week on proposals to beef up the network. Among the proposed routes would be links from New York to Chicago, and runs from Buffalo to Toronto and New York to Montreal. Amtrak officials indicated they expected legislatures in New York, Ohio and Michigan to vote the financial backing needed, with possibly other states following suit. Under federal law, Amtrak can expand its system, provided the state served is willing to pay two-thirds of any operating loss incurred. 
Pennsylvania and Ohio joined New York in asking for the Buffalo - west service, and Rockefeller’s telegram, requesting continuation of the Albany-Boston run, anticipated support from Massachusetts. In a separate development Friday, a federal Bankruptcy Court in Philadelphia ordered Penn Central to continue rail service between New York and Chatham on its Harlem Division line. The order was in response to a suit filed by New York, asking that the division he kept operating until the Interstate Commerce Commission decided whether the line was of an intercity or commuter nature. Judge John P. Fulla ordered the railroad to keep the Harlem line in operation, even if Amtrak should gain jurisdiction and decide to discontinue service. 

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 10:37 PM

Miningman

 Perhaps David Klepper or Overmod can help out with some comment.

I don't have April 1971 Penn Central timetable but Canada Southern has January 1968 New York Central.  Albany is the 2nd stop, after Croton-Harmon, which I think was to change engines.
 

The timetable is condensed betwen NY and Albany.  While night train 63 did not stop between Harmon (which was a electric/diesel change point) and Albany, train 71 did make intermediate stops.  Both trains continued on to Buffalo, and the Montreal sections (9 & 35) were apparently handed over to D&H.  The southbounds had a similar arrangement.  This is from Official Guide, Oct. 1970, PC timetables 6 and 10.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 11:07 PM

Overmod

 

 
MidlandMike
I would have been OK with Mr. McDonald just trying to restore any train, however, his mission here was to poach a train that ran thru Albany, for one that would run thru his family home state of Vermont.

 

This is a bit specious, considering that you got the train via Albany back from 1974 to 1977 as the Adirondack, complete with rebuilt PAs.  (Albany is where the PAs went on; I rode this train as far as Rouses Point, near the border, while in high school and I think we had the usual black E units coughing their way up from Harmon) 

Had the numbers been there as you claim, and the New York subsidy Mr. MacDonald mentions forthcoming, it seems to me there would still be an Adirondack.

Perhaps the New Yorkers needed a better 'mouthpiece' to persuade the lawmakers to keep "their" train to Montreal running.  It was certainly a splendid train to a 17-year-old, even if the mashed potatoes in the diner had no taste at all.

 

Not sure which part of my quote you are disputing.  At least a half dozen times he advocated that the Montrealer should have been re-instated rather than the D&H route.

Not sure what numbers you have doubts about.  My passenger numbers were from Mr. Mcdonald's text.  My population numbers are from what I remembered from living in Westchester County.  But just to check my memory I looked up Yonker's population which I remembered as 200.000.  It turns out it was 204,297 in 1970:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonkers,_New_York

As to why Amtrak decided which train ran, I am not a mind reader, but the two trains have fallen in and out of favor over the years.

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 11:22 PM

Thanks for that Midland Mike. At the time Mr. MacDonald was a passionate and serious advocate for his cause and it won out. There is no doubt it was due to his efforts. Both trains are legendary and we are all fortunate to have known them. 

I did want to honour Mr. MacDonalds successful efforts but also to point out that one person can make a difference and introduce change, even at what are large government institutions, powerful politicians and locked mindsets. No one should ever give up a good cause that benefits all and is the right thing. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, October 18, 2018 2:36 AM

Yonkers was not served diretly by any full-service New York Central train that I know about (diner and 1st class, sleeper and/or parlor), but Yonkers travelers did use the frequent commuter-train service to access these trains at Croton-Harmon and do the sam with Amtrak today.

Similarly with towns like Harrison and Stratford at New Haven and New Haven intercity trains.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Thursday, October 18, 2018 5:45 AM

Overmod

Here are a couple of resources that may help with the geography:  First, an ancient map that shows you the physical route through Rouses Point (compared with the eventual 'eastern route')

and then a current commuter-system map, conveniently drawn not with the usual pseudo-artistic different colored spaghetti but with outlined geography, showing Montreal-Ouest and the lines approaching it.

Between these, I think you can deduce the way in which the train would reach Montreal from Rouse's Point and incorporate that on your map.  I'm sure there are better maps and I'll keep looking for one.

Thank you very much, Overmod!. That's very thoughtful of you Thumbs Up

 

Miningman

Thanks for that Midland Mike. At the time Mr. MacDonald was a passionate and serious advocate for his cause and it won out. There is no doubt it was due to his efforts. Both trains are legendary and we are all fortunate to have known them. 

I did want to honour Mr. MacDonalds successful efforts but also to point out that one person can make a difference and introduce change, even at what are large government institutions, powerful politicians and locked mindsets. No one should ever give up a good cause that benefits all and is the right thing.  

 

Very well said, Miningman. Thumbs Up

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, October 18, 2018 10:55 PM

Yonkers was basically a commuter stop in the NYC days, but today most of Amtrak's Empire Service trains stop there, including the Adirondack.

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