Posted by George Hamlin
on Tuesday, May 3, 2022

It’s now been fifty-one years since the launch of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, and many of the road’s patrons today have no knowledge of the visceral feelings of loss associated with the many “last runs” of once famous intercity passenger trains that took place on April 30 of that year.

In addition to the demise of individual trains, entire routes vanished from the landscape in the process.  Some maintained vestiges of their former glory, while others had descended to the status of a single coach, sans any other service offerings, and could have been considered to have been put out of their misery in the process.

On the other hand, while it had become an amalgamation of what had been a fleet of trains operating between Chicago and points west, what what was known as the “City of Everywhere”, departing the Windy City via the Milwaukee Road, and, west of Omaha, proceeding to most of its western termini on the Union Pacific, was certainly a reasonable, comfortable way to get to your destination, that is, if you were able to depart on or before April 30. 

A few days into May, places like Rock Springs, Wyoming, on the UP’s route west were without passenger train service; something that had been offered on this route before most of the towns existed in their present form.  Things were different if you lived on the former Santa Fe route through Kansas on the way to California; the “Super Chief” continued, albeit with the railroad withdrawing its permission for use of the name of what had been its premium train a few years later due to its perception that traditional service standards were not being met. 

In the east, service between New York City and Montreal, Quebec ceased entirely.  While trains on the “inland” route, via Springfield, Massachusetts, had been gone since 1966, right up until Amtrak’s inception there still was double-daily service on the route via Albany, New York, with the Penn Central being utilized between Manhattan and the state capital, and the Delaware and Hudson taking over north to Canada. Through coaches were featured on both runs, with dining car service on the D&H portion of the daylight train.  The overnight, known historically as the “Montreal Limited” still had sleeping car service, including a six double-bedroom lounge car. 

In 1972, Amtrak re-launched service between New York and Montreal on an overnight basis via Springfield, utilizing the historic “Montrealer” as the name of its new operation.  Two years later, with sponsorship by New York State, the “Adirondack” restored service on the route via Albany in August 1974. 

Interestingly, the D&H provided both motive power and some passenger equipment for their portion of the run, including Alcos both old (PA units) and newer (freight service hood units, with the PAs providing steam for heating the cars). 

Since the railroad was in the process of refurbishing some of its former Rio Grande passenger cars, including the diners, for the newly-restored service, it provided meal service and lounge space via the lease of a pair of “Skyline” dome cars from the Canadian Pacific.  As seen in the photo above, at Fort Edward, New York on September 7, 1973, they were repainted for the D&H, and assigned names, “Bluff Point” and “Willsboro Point”, for this purpose. 

Following the return of the D&H’s own diners, a year later this sight was no more, and the cars had been returned to their owner.  The overhauled D&H diners, which hailed from the C&O’s enormous postwar order of Pullman-Standard streamlined cars, were nice, but they weren’t domes. 

Later, Amtrak did provide some of its own dome coaches for the scenic part of the route north of Albany, but this ceased once Turboliner equipment was assigned to be congruent with the rest of Amtrak’s “Empire Service” in New York state. In any case, brief or not, it was fun while it lasted. 

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