Living Large in Mamroneck in 1972

Posted by George Hamlin
on Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The New Haven’s EP-5 electrics made quite a splash at the time of their debut in 1955.  They were the road’s first passenger locomotives to be delivered in the striking red/black/white “McGinnis” paint scheme designed by Herbert Matter, which certainly helped from a visual image standpoint.  They also featured the latest in electrical propulsion technology, including mercury arc rectifiers to convert alternating current from the overhead catenary to direct current for the unit’s traction motors.

There were only ten built, with cabs at each end that resembled those on Alco FA diesels.  While they didn’t smoke like Alcos (that would come later, unfortunately), their loud blowers earned them the nickname "Jets”; my recollection is that the sound of the New York Central’s ex-Cleveland Union Terminal “P-Motors” was similar; the two types both put in multiple appearances on a daily basis in New York’s Grand Central Terminal from the latter part of the 1950s until the early 1970s.

Both of the large toy train manufacturers created models of them, Lionel in O scale and American Flyer in S scale.  A closer look at the Lionel version showed that it rode on non-prototypical B-B EMD Blomberg-style trucks (as did Lionel’s Budd RDCs); the Flyer S scale offering rode on three axle trucks, and thus was more prototypical.

Since the extent of the New Haven’s electric zone extended from New York only to its namesake city in Connecticut (less than 80 miles from either Grand Central or Penn Station), the Jets could, and did, make multiple round trips in a single day.

Only a year into their careers, however, there was a major change in EP-5 usage when EMD began delivering FL9s to the New Haven.  Once all deliveries were completed, in 1960, there was no longer a need for the EP-5s on “long-distance” trains to and from Grand Central, since the new locomotive type could access the New York terminal, and thus, eliminated the need for the electric-to-diesel (or vice-versa) change at New Haven.

While the Jets were still useful for services to Penn Station (most of which continued south to Washington, DC on the Pennsylvania Railroad), this didn’t require the entire fleet, so that many of the Jets migrated to rush-hour commuter runs, particularly those that served points east of Stamford, Connecticut.

A further downgrade of EP-5 assignments occurred in 1969, when the New Haven was absorbed by the Penn Central.  Prior to this there had been an electric-to-electric change of motive power at Penn Station; now, the former PRR GG-1s could, and were, run as far as New Haven.

Thus, Grand Central commuter runs became their only refuge, until a fire in the Park Avenue tunnel in 1973 caused them to be banned from the premises.  A few survived in secondary freight service on the former Pennsy part of the PC, but this didn’t last long either.

So, enjoy the accompanying photo of the 4976 (its PC number) rolling a lengthy consist (I count 14 cars) of commuter equipment, including now-downgraded postwar intercity coaches, east at Mamaroneck, in New York’s Westchester County on June 7, 1972.  A year later the cyclopean headlights of the Jets will no longer be seen here, or anywhere else on their former home rails.

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