Before He Had a Musical Named After Him...

Posted by George Hamlin
on Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Alexander Hamilton, a “Founding Father” of the United States, as well as the nation’s First Treasury Secretary, was honored by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which named one of its postwar streamlined “feature” cars after him.

By 1952, the PRR had taken delivery of Budd-built stainless steel passenger cars to equip two sets if trains, the Congressional and the Senator; four consists were built in total, two for each named train.

Both of these trains operated in what is termed today the “Northeast Corridor”.  The Congressional ran between New York and Washington, while the Senator served the Washington-Boston market via New York’s Penn Station, with the New Haven operating the train north of New York City.

In realty, the Congressional was a “mini-fleet” of named trains, comprising the Morning, Midday and Afternoon Congressionals (operating people at the PRR were known to refer to them as the “Congos”). Each set of equipment assigned to this run made one-and-a-half round trips per weekday, and ended up at the opposite point from its initial departure in the morning.

Equipment for both named trains included 60-seat coaches, a lunch-counter tavern car intended for coach passengers, parlor cars with 29 individual seats and a drawing room and a dining car. In the case of the Senator this was a standard single-car unit; the Congressionals rated a twin-unit dining room/kitchen bar-lounge. In addition, it also had a very unique piece of equipment in the form of a 7-room “Conference” parlor car, which also included a telephone room.

Finally, bringing up the rear in appropriate fashion, each train had a parlor buffet observation. All of the cars bore the names of famous Americans (or supporters such as the “General Lafayette”).  Bringing up the rear of the Congos were the “George” and “Martha Washington”; the Senator’s tail cars were named “Benjamin Franklin” and “Alexander Hamilton”. These two cars had four less parlor seats than the “George” and “Martha” due to the inclusion of a telephone room, since they didn’t have the Conference parlor car.

By the latter part of the 1960s, the use of the observations on the Congressionals was confined to the “afternoon” departures, in both directions. As seen in the photo above, at Washington Union Station on April 2, 1967, the Midday Congressional has arrived from New York with its parlor car on the south end. Shortly, the consist will be towed north, and then pushed onto the cars waiting at the right to become the northbound Afternoon service.

Bringing up the rear will be “Alexander”, himself, with another standard parlor that likely will be needed for the anticipated heavier load in the afternoon. The conference car is nowhere to be seen, so the use of “Alex” will allow the telephone service feature to still be available to the patrons of the Pennsy’s finest Washington-New York service; here (below) is a look at the other side of the car while a redcap trundles luggage past it.

Interestingly, while much of the early-1950s equipment from these trains has now vanished, the “Alexander Hamilton” not only still exists, but continues to bear its name, now in the service of the Morristown & Erie, based in New Jersey. Amazingly, when this railroad had the contract to operate the former Maine Central’s Rockland Branch between 2004 and 2015, it included summertime scheduled passenger service between Brunswick and Rockland. As seen below, the “Alexander Hamilton” was still performing point-to-point, common carriage scheduled passenger service (seen at Woolwich, Maine) on July 13, 2012. Alas a new contractor subsequently replaced the M&E, but maybe this fine car will appear elsewhere as it approaches its 70th birthday. We can hope!

Photos by George W. Hamlin; 

Information about the PRR equipment from Car Names, Numbers and Consists, by Robert J. Wayner, Wayner Publications, 1972.

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy