Before There Were Airlines...

Temporary suspension of rail service from New York City to Chicago prompts an engaging column, particularly for train buffs, on a bygone era when travel by rail was glamorous.
June 11, 2018, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Loco Steve

"The temporary suspension of the storied route is the result of repair work by Amtrak to a bridge and a tunnel that are part of the rail connection between Pennsylvania Station and upstate New York," reports Sarah Maslin Nir for The New York Times on June 8.

From the end of May until Sept. 3, the Lake Shore Limited, the most famous of the New York-to-Chicago trains, will run only between Boston and Chicago. A second link, the Cardinal, which travels between New York and Chicago along a southern route, is also temporarily suspended because of the same repairs. It will only run from Washington to Chicago.

The stoppage of the service, even if it is brief, marks a precipitous fall from what was once the most advanced and glamorous way to get around — in the middle of the last century two train companies, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad, were in a race to provide ever more luxurious travel on fancier trains at faster speeds. The lines they operated carried renowned trains like the Broadway Limited and the 20th Century Limited.

The 20th Century Limited, "known as the world's greatest train" during the 65 years it operated between Chicago and New York, according to this archived New York Times article [pdf], published on the last day of its service on Dec. 3, 1967. 

“The 20th Century was probably the most famous train in the country — it had what we would call today ‘star-power,’” said Robert Holzweiss, the president of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. “Before airlines, the famous people would travel by train and they would travel very glamorously,” he said.

Train service between America's two great cities is still available but requires a transfer.

By the end of the summer when the repair work is scheduled to be completed, Marc Magliari, a Chicago-based spokesman for Amtrak, said he hoped that customers would believe that the improvements were worth the disruption of the historic rail path.

“We are doing what we said we were going to do,” Mr. Magliari said. “We promised to make improvements at New York Penn Station — and we’re doing it.”

    Click on the source article to view the historic photos.

    For train travel between New York City and Albany on the Empire Service, the Manhattan terminal will be Grand Central Station through the summer until the Penn Station repairs are completed. According to Amtrak, service to/from Penn station will resume on Sept. 4.

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    Published on Friday, June 8, 2018 in The New York Times
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