After surviving the decade of train-off decline in the 1960s, the arrival of Amtrak in 1971 was a source of both concern and hope. The first concerned the many “last races” of April 30, 1971, several of which I was able to attend and photograph in Chicago; the latter was inspired by the initial marketing slogan of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, “Making trains worth traveling again”.
Amtrak’s early years are known as the “rainbow” era, as equipment still painted in the colors of its former operators began to be distributed across the country and combined into compositions. like never before. , and certainly, once they were repainted in Amtrak’s initial “useless arrow” livery, not since then either.
In fact, in a significant part of my railroad world at the time, that is, the old “Empire Service” of New York Central, most of the equipment remained the same: old steel wagons. NYC 3000 Series Post-War Pullman-Standard Fluted Sidewall Stainless Steel. Eventually a modest amount of variety appeared, in the occasional form of RF & P / SCL trainers, but since these were also unpainted stainless steel, they really didn’t offer much visual variety.
During this time, I was commuting between New York’s Grand Central Terminal during the week and occasionally saw the Empire Service departing early westbound for Buffalo as we approached GCT. I’m sure I may have missed this time and time again while reading the morning paper, but I remember being quite surprised in October 1973 when I noticed that train 71 was being followed by a lounge car of ‘observation.
I have always enjoyed seeing, photographing and making observations made easy, although the opportunities in the first two categories of activities far outweighed the third. The NYC, of course, after December 1967, when the 20th century limited was abandoned, had ceased to operate obs cars.
At first I wondered if this had been a one-off sighting, but soon learned that from the fall schedule change it was now a daily operation. As a result, on October 28, 1973, I arranged to be at Croton North Station to photograph this wonderful event, capturing Amtrak 3341, formerly SCL 5841, and delivered as a SAL 6001 Tavern Lounge Sighting in July 1947 .
At this point, Amtrak had tagged this train with the history Empire State Express name, since train 71 (and its eastbound counterpart 78) operated on a schedule similar to that of NYC 50 and 51 between New York and Buffalo. I had ridden New York trains at their peak in the 1950s, and I have recollections of the pleasure of riding in their tavern-lounge sightings a few times; Did not the current situation (at the end of 1973) offer the opportunity to recreate at least part of these memories?
Alas, events (including the usual suspects, time and money, and, for that matter, inertia) all worked together to prevent this from happening, which I have long regretted, as the return of the cars observation at Hudson’s division did not last long. In the spring of 1969, I had succeeded in setting up the Silver meteor between New York and Richmond, Va. (Penn Central and RF&P), and I had enjoyed spending most of the trip in one of the old SAL sightings, so at least I had the experience of riding one of the cars shown in the photo above.
Today, if you want to make an observation in regular service, the only option is essentially that of VIA Rail. Canadian (assuming it works). The one I managed to accomplish, although another iteration isn’t out of the question!