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.
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.
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.
Follow-up to yesterday’s post featuring an Amtrak Anniversary Locomotive.
Amtrak Anniversary Locomotive
Yesterday’s post featured the Amtrak Crescent #20, northbound to New York City. On Monday, I went over to where the Back Belt crosses Marconi Boulevard, rather than staying close to the coffee shop on Canal Boulevard. The two locomotives pulling the train were AMTK 75 and AMTK 161. While 75 sports the standard livery for GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotives, 161 wears an “anniversary” paint scheme. AMTK 161’s livery matches the Phase 1 scheme used from 1972 to 1974. The railroad added a gold “50” on the side.
AMTK 161 left on Monday, then turned around on Wednesday. On Thursday, the locomotive led #20 out of New Orleans.
Amtrak’s first livery phase is an iconic design of the 1970s that was first revived on P42 #156 a decade ago for our 40th Anniversary. It was an instant fan favorite and gained a big following. The 156 is no longer in service, so we had to bring this retro classic back for the big 5-0 …but we’re keeping our leisure suits in the attic.
Locos painted in Phase 1 are incredibly popular among model railroaders of all scales. The original locos sporting this livery were EMD “E” and “F” units. Amtrak inherited these from the legacy carriers. While they operated in their original colors in 1971, Amtrak painted them with Phase 1 the second year of operation.
AMTK 161 bears the modern Amtrak logo, just above the gold “50.”
Additionally, Amtrak painted several other locomotives to celebrate 50. AMTK 46 bears the current livery, with the words “Connecting America for 50 Years,” with the “50” in gold. This loco has passed through New Orleans, pulling the Crescent. P42 #100, with its “Midnight Blue” paint, hasn’t made it down here yet. Neither have #108, in Phase VI (which never made it to P42s otherwise), and #160, in the “Phase III Dash-8” scheme. Hopefully we’ll catch these on one of the three Amtrak trains out of NOL.
The Amtrak Crescent #20 celebrates the railroad’s 50th!
Amtrak Crescent #20 celebrates
Amtrak Crescent #20, about 20 minutes after departing Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans (NOL). P42DCs AMTK 75 and 161 pull a consist of 3 coaches, 1 cafe’ car, 2 sleepers, and 2 bag-dorms (one is a deadhead).
AMTK 75 is in the standard Genesis livery. The railroad re-painted AMTK 161 in “Phase 1” livery, with a “50” badge marking 2021 as Amtrak’s 50th anniversary year. Amtrak ran the “Phase 1” livery from 1972 to 1974. At this time, the railroad continued use of passenger rail equipment from other operators.
The Amtrak Crescent continues over a century of service from New Orleans to New York City. Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern, due to mergers) operated the route as the New York & New Orleans Limited in 1906. By 1925, they changed the name of the route to the Crescent Limited. Amtrak named the train simply, the Crescent. It’s not a “limited” route, as it stops in a number of small towns along the way.
The northbound train is #20, the southbound, #19. The train travels from NOL to New York Penn Station (NYP). The full trip takes about a day and a half, but riding the Crescent to Atlanta makes for a fun one-day ride.
Crescent in New Orleans
My usual haunt for taking train pictures is the PJ’s Coffee Shop at 5555 Canal Boulevard, in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood. The coffee shop is right next to the Norfolk Southern “Back Belt” tracks. These two tracks run through all of New Orleans, from the parish line in the West to Lake Pontchartrain and the “five mile bridge” without grade crossings. Streets use underpasses or overpasses to cross the tracks. The original route of the Crescent Limited left New Orleans via Louisville and Nashville tracks. Since 1954, the train arrives/departs from Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue. Additionally, the City of New Orleans and the Sunset Limited arrive/depart from NOL.
So, usually I’m lazy and just shoot the trains crossing the overpass. This particular morning, I drove over to Marconi Blvd. As you can see there’s a grassy area as the Back Belt approaches the outfall canal and pumping station.
The Amtrak Crescent runs from New Orleans to New York City daily.
Amtrak Crescent, train #20 on the timetable, departing New Orleans on 6-October-2021. There are a couple of things about this particular run of note to train fans, so why not make a blog post about them! This train is pulled by two GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotives. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, the Genesis locos are the backbone of Amtrak operations. This train consists of the two locomotives, three coach cars, a cafe car, two sleepers, and a full baggage car. When the pandemic forced schedule changes, the Crescent cut back to 3-days-a-week service. Then it returned to daily service with two coaches. Now it’s back to daily with three. The Crescent departs New Orleans daily at 9am Central time.
New Orleans to New York
Viewliner coach on the Amtrak Crescent
The Crescent’s roots go back to 1891. In 1906, the route was named the New Orleans and New York Limited. By 1925, it was dubbed the Crescent Limited. Amtrak operates the Crescent in “local” service, so they dropped “Limited” from the name.
The train departs Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans (Amtrak code NOL) at 9am Central. It reaches this point, the underpass at Canal Boulevard, about 9:26am. The Norfolk Southern “Back Belt” has no grade crossings in Orleans Parish. The Amtrak Crescent won’t stop until it reaches Slidell.
This full baggage car is atypical for the Crescent lately. The train usually runs a “Bag Dorm” car at the end. That car is half-baggage compartment, and half “roomettes.” The crew takes rest breaks in those compartments.
Dining and sleeping
Viewliner Cafe car
The Crescent operates Amtrak’s “Viewliner” equipment. While the other two trains running out of NOL use the two-level “Superliner” cars, the Crescent requires single-level equipment. The Superliners won’t fit in the tunnel going to Penn Station in NYC. So, passengers booking full bedrooms or roomette compartments ride in cars like the one above.
Viewliner sleeper car
Amtrak discontinued full diner cars on the Crescent in 2019. The train ran both a diner and Cafe cars like the one above. So, to cut back on expenses, the railroad only uses the Cafes