Private varnish Berlin Sleeping Car rides to New York via the Amtrak Crescent.
Berlin Sleeping Car
The Amtrak Crescent 🌙 #20 pulled three private railcars to New York’s Penn Station (NYP on 25-February-2022. We talked about the two Patrick Henry railcars in a previous post. So, the private car, “Berlin” was the third car. This photo shows Berlin coupled to AMTK 69001, a “Bag-Dorm” car. Those cars provide baggage storage for passengers. Additionally, they contain roomettes for crew.
Berlin bears the paint scheme and livery of the American Orient Express, a private railcar charter, and previous owner of the car. While the livery is similar to the Patrick Henry cars, there are two operators.
Union Pacific Sleepers
Pullman-Standard built ten “Placid” series sleeper cars for Union Pacific in 1956. The cars contained 11 double-bed compartments. UP operated the Placids until 1971. The railroad turned them over to Amtrak at that time. Amtrak operated the sleepers throughout the 1970s. American Orient Express acquired three of the Placids. They renamed Placid Lake, “Berlin,” and Placid Waters, “Vienna.” Those names tied into the AOE theme.
The Placid series Pullmans were streamliners. While other railroads chose the corrugated style for their new cars, UP operated smooth-siders. The City of Portland and City of Los Angeles, two of UP’s “name trains,” operated the Placids. Amtrak took these cars into service as part of their “heritage” fleet. As the national passenger railroad acquired its own equipment, Viewliner and Superliner sleepers, they phased out the Placids. Private charter companies refurbished the older cars. They offered charter service, re-creating the “golden” age of streamliners.
The Berlin Sleeping Car’s website presents a detailed history of Placid Lake/Berlin. They include photos of the UP and Amtrak incarnations of Placid Lake. The site includes a floor plan of the car’s current interior. Berlin now contains six bedrooms and an kitchenette. This offers passengers a great more space than the eleven double-occupancy rooms of the UP design.
While private railcar adventures aren’t cheap, the charters usually are priced per trip. So, if you put together a group of twelve, it’s something to think about!
Amtrak #20 in New Orleans
The Amtrak Crescent operates daily service from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOL) to New York Penn Station (NYP), via Atlanta, Richmond, and DC. In this photo the Crescent pulls Berlin over the underpass at Canal Boulevard in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood.
Operation Lifesaver Amtrak, a salute to the safety education organization.
Operation Lifesaver Amtrak
AMTK 203, a GE P-42 Genesis locomotive, painted to mark 50 years of Operation Lifesaver. The organization was originally sponsored by Union Pacific Railroad. OL promoted rail safety in the early 1970s. After localized campaigns in Idaho, the program expanded. Operation Lifesaver presented rail safety education nationally. Operation Lifesaver Amtrak demonstrates that passenger trains take safety seriously. AMTK 203 pulled the Amtrak Crescent #20 out of New Orleans (NOL) on 27-January-2022. Additionally, this was the day Catalpa Falls brought up the rear. Catalpa Falls is a restored Pullman car.
Operation Lifesaver accomplishments
The safety organization delivers its message to schools, community and civic groups. Additionally, OLI.org offers materials for download. They engage with film and television productions. Spotting unsafe actions in films, the group contacts production companies. While In 2006, they engaged with Pixar. They spotted a problematic scene in “Cars.” The lead character-car, “Lightning McQueen” races a train. While their advocacy doesn’t work all the time, they do have accomplishments.
OL offers a wide range of printed material for sale. Clubs and groups can distribute those materials. Additionally, OL offers merch such as t-shirts and keychains. So, safety-conscious supporters carry the message around regularly.
Amtrak endorses the OL mission wholeheartedly. Passenger trains operate at high speeds. Unsafe drivers and pedestrians present challenges for Amtrak. Amtrak cooperates with the railroads that own the tracks. So, every grade crossing displays a sign with a toll-free number. A motorist can call if they get stuck. They call, dispatchers stop trains.
We got word that AMTK 203 was on its way to NOL. It departed NOL two days later. It was a double-treat for train-watchers that morning. The Canal Boulevard underpass is quite the photo spot. Thanks, rail enthusiasts on social media!
Catalpa Falls – Private railcar running on the Amtrak Crescent.
Edward J. Branley photo
Private railcar Catalpa Falls, bringing up the rear of the Amtrak Crescent #20 (Northbound), 27-January-2022. Catalpa Falls is a 1949-vintage 6-double-bedroom/lounge car, built for the Pennsylvania Railroad by the Pullman Company. The car ran on the PRR signature train, Broadway Limited, from 1949 to 1967. Amtrak sold the car off when it took over passenger operations in 1971. Catalpa Falls operates as a private charter car now. While Catalpa Falls was built by Pullman-Standard, Budd also made similar cars.
The Broadway Limited
The Pennsylvania Railroad operated the Broadway Limited from New York to Chicago, from 1912 to 1971. So, Amtrak continued the route from 1971 to 1995. In 1995, the national passenger railroad discontinued the route. By 1995, Amtrak lost over $18 million a year on the Broadway Limited. The Three Rivers replaced the train in 1995. Amtrak later discontinued the Three Rivers. The Lake Shore Limited now offers daily service from New York to Chicago.
According to its Wikipedia entry, the Broadway Limited in 1956 ran a 14-car consist:
The February 1956 Official Guide listed the westbound Broadway Limited (Train 29) consist as having fourteen cars normally assigned: nine sleeping cars between New York and Chicago, one additional sleeping car from New York continuing through to Los Angeles on the Santa Fe’s Super Chief, the twin-unit dining car, lounge car, and observation car.
One of the sleeping cars at the time was Catalpa Falls. Additionally, PRR ordered replacements for their 1938 Broadway Limited trainsets in 1946, after World War II. Pullman-Standard delivered the cars in 1949.
Restored to original
Floorplan of the Catalpa Falls, restored to its 1949 design by Executive Rail.
Executive Rail, a division of Catalpa Falls Group, LLC, owns the railcar. The company restored the car to its mid-century glory. While Catalpa Falls contains modern amenities such as flat-screen televisions and wi-fi Internet service, they’re worked in so they don’t detract from the experience.
Like a number of private cars, Executive Rail offers passengers a throwback to a golden age of passenger rail. Instead of the usual Amtrak sleeper cars, Catalpa Falls tempts the traveler with a more elegant form of rail travel.
Norfolk Southern 1073 on the New Orleans Back Belt.
Penn Central livery on Norfolk Southern 1073
NS 1073 heads Eastbound on the “Back Belt” in New Orleans. The EMD SD70ACe loco leads a short consist out to the railroad’s yard in Gentilly. Norfolk Southern 1073 crosses the back belt underpass at Marconi Avenue, as it enters New Orleans City Park. The engine bears the livery of the Penn Central Railroad, the entity that resulted from the merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central Railroad. The combined entity was later acquired by Norfolk Southern, which is why it’s their heritage.
Pennsy to Penn Central
The Pennsylvania Railroad struggled in the 1960s, as the federal government built the nation’s Interstate Highway System. As the trucking industry grew, so did financial troubles for the railroads. The Pennsy absorbed the also-struggling New York Central Railroad, along with the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. The Penn Central operated from 1968 to 1976.
The Penn Central went bankrupt in 1976. PC and five other struggling railroads came together to form the Consolidated Railroad system, better known as Conrail. By 1996, Conrail sought a larger railroad to buy it out. The CSX system was interested. Norfolk Southern became concerned that CSX would grow too big, so they stepped in, offering to buy a portion of Conrail. CSX and NS divided up Conrail. So, Penn Central entered the Norfolk Southern system/fold.
About Norfolk Southern 1073
Norfolk Southern photo of their Heritage units. NS1073 is 8th from the left.
Electro Motive Diesel (EMD) manufactured NS1073 in May, 2012. So, in terms of many of the locomotives you see on the rails today, 1073 is a relatively young engine. EMD started the SD70 line in 1992. This model, the SD70ACe, dates to 2005. Norfolk Southern celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012 by painting twenty locomotives in the liveries of the railroads that made up the NS system. NS 1073, new off the EMD line, got the Penn Central livery. The loco makes the occasional appearance on the back belt.
AMTK 100, in Midnight Blue Anniversary livery.
Midnight Blue Anniversary
Caught the third of six Amtrak’s P42-DC “Genesis” locomotives painted to celebrate the railroad’s fiftieth anniversary, pulling the Crescent. This is AMTK 100, along with AMTK 817, heading out of New Orleans, Saturday morning, 18-December-2021. The Crescent rolls over Canal Boulevard in the Lakeview neighborhood. Like any good Midnight Blue color scheme, the engine looks almost black.
Six 50th Schemes
Amtrak painted six engines for the anniversary:
- Genesis P42 #46 in “Phase V 50th” – The standard Amtrak livery for the past two decades with our “Connecting America for 50 Years.” The logo includes a large golden yellow 50.
- AMTK 100 P42 in “Midnight Blue”: An all new one-of-a-kind paint scheme! Midnight Blue Anniversary celebrates the dedication and commitment of Amtrak employees. They move people around the clock and across the nation.
- Genesis P42 in “Phase VI” – The first adaptation of the latest Amtrak livery phase on a P42.
- P42 in “Phase I” – A rendition of Amtrak’s first livery phase dating back to 1972.
- P42 in “Dash 8 Phase III” – The award-winning livery designed for the Dash 8 locomotive. The fleet wore this in the early 90s. This is the livery’s first use on a P42 locomotive.
- ALC-42 #301 in “Day 1” scheme – A historic throwback to the unique design created for the first day of operations on May 1, 1971, applied to Amtrak’s newest locomotive.
So far, three of the six passed through New Orleans. AMTK 46, in the Phase V livery, a slightly modified version of the go-to scheme. AMTK 161 bears the Phase I livery. This was the first scheme after all the “heritage” equipment was assimilated. Most recently, AMTK 100, Midnight Blue Anniversary.
We won’t see AMTK 301 here, because the “Charger” models don’t run on any of the three routes that originate in New Orleans, the Crescent, City of New Orleans, and the Sunset Limited. My personal favorite (and I hope it gets here) is the “Dash 8 Phase III.” The Dash 8 locos used it in the 90s. We used to see Dash 8s on the Crescent, as second engines, but they were in Phase V livery by that time.
Happy Anniversary, Amtrak!
The Southern Crescent, heading to New York City, 3-June-1977
Mike Palmieri photo
Southern Crescent train to New York
The Southern Crescent train, crossing over the Canal Boulevard underpass on the “Back Belt,” 3-June-1977. Photo by Mike Palmieri. Here’s Mike’s description of the train:
Southern Railway Train No. 2 – the northbound SOUTHERN CRESCENT – was heading into the morning sun as it made its way out of New Orleans at the Canal Boulevard Underpass. The 12-car train consisted of E8A units 6905, 6902 and 6914, baggage-dormitory car 711, coaches 840, 844, 835, 834 and 3789, 10-roomette/6-double-bedroom sleeping cars 2016 ST. JOHNS RIVER and 2006 OCMULGEE RIVER, diner 3311, dome coach 1613, coach 837 and 11-bedroom sleeper 2301 ROYAL COURT.
Mike’s standing in the parking lot of Plantation Coffee House, a popular coffee shop in Lakeview.I write this from inside the successor to that coffee shop, PJ’s Coffee at 5555 Canal Blvd. The western side of the shop is all windows, making this a wonderful trainspotting location.
Crescent to Southern Crescent
Southern Railway operated Crescent (also known as the “Crescent Limited” in the 1920s and 1930s) from 1925 to 1970. The railroad also operated a second “name train” between New Orleans and New York City, the Southerner, from 1941 to 1970. The Crescent’s route ran from Atlanta to Montgomery, Mobile, then along the Gulf Coast to New Orleans. While the train ran on Southern Railway trackage from NYC to Atlanta, it continued to New Orleans on Louisville and Nashville tracks. So, because the train traveled on L&N, it arrived in New Orleans at that railroad’s terminal, on Canal Street at the river.
Southern Railway lost its mail contracts with the US Postal Service in 1970. As a result the company discontinued the Crescent. Southern merged the Crescent with the Southerner, branding the train the Southern Crescent. The merged train operated exclusively on Southern trackage. After Atlanta, the train traveled to Birmingham, then inland across Alabama and Mississippi, crossing Lake Pontchartrain on the “Five-Mile Bridge,” then into Union Passenger Terminal in downtown New Orleans.
Southern Crescent to Amtrak Crescent
Amtrak took over almost all passenger rail operations in the United States in 1971. Southern Railway chose not to opt-in to Amtrak in 1971. The railroad continued to operate the Southern Crescent until 1978. So, this train is indeed a Southern Railway consist.
The Southern Crescent became the Amtrak Crescent on 1-February-1979.
There’s a New Orleans Public Service (NOPSI) bus passing under the train! That’s a GM “New Look” bus running on either the Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd line or the Express 80 line. I can’t tell if the amber lights on either side of the rollboard are flashing, indicating Express service. This line started at the 100 block of Canal (where One Canal Place is now). It traveled the length of Canal, then turned right for a block on City Park Avenue. From there, it turned left, continuing up Canal Blvd to Robert E. Lee Blvd. From there, it took a right turn on RE Lee, then a left on Marconi Drive, heading up to Lakeshore Drive. The bus rolled along the Lakefront to Bayou St. John, then left on Beauregard Dr., terminating at Beauregard and RE Lee (Spanish Fort). The inbound run went RE Lee to Canal Blvd to Canal Street. That inbound route was part of my Cartier-Lake Vista-Lakeshore trip home from Brother Martin High School in Gentilly to Metairie.