A Wide Variety of Equipment

Posted by George Hamlin
on Monday, July 10, 2023

As of the Spring of 1966, the New York Central’s Twentieth Century Limited seemed to be in reasonable shape, often running with fourteen or more cars on its daily travels on the New York City-Chicago route in both directions.  This particular westbound trip, at Oscawana, New York, is down to eleven cars, however, likely due to its departure on May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday.

By this time in the train’s storied existence, while the glamor days of all-Pullman/First Class and the “Century Club” that featured an on-board shower, among other luxuries, were over, it was still the pride of what was left of the NYC’s long-haul intercity passenger business. The pair of EMD E8s now providing the motive power look like they’ve been washed for the occasion, and all of the cars in the train are lightweight streamlined equipment, and with the exception of the baggage-RPO (Railway Post Office) immediately behind the locomotives, the rest are all of post-World War II vintage.

It's easy to notice that the initial set of passenger cars are all stainless steel, while those following are painted in the railroad’s two-tone gray with white stripes paint scheme.  The former, of course, are products of the Budd Company, while those behind them came from Pullman-Standard.  Previously, the dignified gray colors had been applied to the entirety of the Centuries’ consists, but following the addition of coaches in the late 1950s, the road elected to utilize stainless steel cars in this service; it had streamlined gray coaches, but they were pre-war.  Eventually, other stainless steel cars, including sleepers, migrated into number 25 and 26’s equipment pool, as well.

The sole head-end car now was decorated with only the dark gray of the former two-tone scheme, along with white lettering.  The first car in the Budd/Stainless cohort was a baggage-dormitory car utilized for the onboard service personnel (dining and lounge) that made the entire trip, as opposed to the operating crews that worked only on their assigned portions of the route.

Next after the dorm was the sole coach for this evening’s run, a 56-seat Budd product in the 2900 number series.  It was followed by a single-unit (conventional) Grill Diner, which was there for food service for the non-first class passengers, who rode in the coach, and the “Sleepercoach”, as NYC termed the car behind the forward diner.  This type of equipment, rebuilt from 22 roomette sleepers in the early 1960s, provided private sleeping accommodations for the coach fare plus a modest space charge, and proved to be quite popular.

Behind the economy sleeping space was the first of the train’s contingent of “first-class” sleeping accommodations, in the form of a 22 Roomette stainless car bearing a name in the “Harbor” series.  These cars had been quite popular in the immediate postwar years for business travelers, but by 1966, many of these individuals had chosen to travel by air, rather than overnight train.

Following the “Harbor” series car is what’s left of the 1948 Pullman-Standard equipment. First up is a twin-unit diner, i.e. one car with kitchen and lounge facilities operated in conjunction with another that was solely a dining room for its entire length.

Behind the imbibing, cooking and eating facilities are a pair of 12 Double Bedroom sleepers in the “Port” series, name-wise.  These were by now the NYC’s premium sleeping accommodations, and at this point, used regularly only on the Centuries.  Bringing up the rear is the “Hickory Creek”, one of the two five Double Bedroom lounge observation cars provided in the 1948 re-equipping.  In any case, no sleeping car passenger was going to have a long walk to a lounge facility on tonight’s train!

To put this in perspective, of the eleven cars in the train, there are ten different car types; only the all-bedroom cars are represented in multiple.  And for that matter, there’s something missing that was usually in the consist of this train in this time period: the ubiquitous (in postwar equipment terms) “ten and six” (10 Roomette, 6 Double Bedroom) from the NYC’s stainless “Valley” series. 

In about 18 months, of course, what will missing will be the Century itself; retired, so to speak, at sixty-five years of age in December 1967.

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