Amtrak Kenner – The City of New Orleans heading out of and into downtown.
Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, #58 (Northbound), passing through Kenner, Louisiana, approximately 20 minutes out of Union Passenger Terminal (NOL). The train picks up speed as it leaves the New Orleans metro area, to head out along Lake Pontchartrain. So, after clearing the lake, it turns north (on the old IC, now CN tracks) to run parallel to I-55, and off to Chicago. Therefore, the route is essentially unchanged from the days when the Illinois Central operated the all-Pullman “Panama Limited” and the City.
This intersection is Williams Boulevard, in the “Laketown” section of the city of Kenner. While the platform to the left of the tracks is now unused, it was built to be the terminus of an experimental Amtrak line that ran from here to NOL in 1984. The plan was to connect the suburbs with a rail diesel car for commuter service. The concept didn’t last beyond the trial period, which coincided with the 1984 World’s Fair in downtown New Orleans.
Diner (Cross Country Cafe – CCC)
The train is pulled by a single GE P-42 Genesis locomotive.
Heading to New Orleans
The Southbound/inbound trip is Amtrak #59. Like the northbound train, #59 is approximately 20 minutes away from arrival at Union Passenger Terminal (NOL). The train still moves quickly through Kenner, as it enters the metro area from Lake Pontchartrain.
At some point during the 8 minutes separating the northbound and southbound trains at this point, they passed each other, then #59 changed to the north (lake side in NOLA geographic terms), approaching NOL on the track #58 used to depart.
The southbound consist differs from #58 in that it has one more coach car. As on #58, the train is pulled by a single Genesis locomotive. Unlike the Crescent and Sunset Limited trains, the trip up the Mississippi Valley only requires the power of one engine.
The school off to the left (lake) side of the tracks is Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. OLPH is the oldest Catholic parish in Jefferson Parish.
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.
Amtrak’s Superliners Viewliners, and an anniversary locomotive.
Two passenger rail videos for y’all today, Amtrak’s City of New Orleans and the Crescent. The City of New Orleans travels up to Chicago, and the Crescent to New York City’s Penn Station. The train to Chicago carries passengers on Superliner equipment. The Crescent uses Viewliner equipment.
Monday Morning Rails
Amtrak #58, the City of New Orleans, is a direct descendant of the Illinois Central Railroad (ICRR) route of the same name. While the ICRR considered the Panama Limited their premier route, Amtrak went with the “local” train’s name. They believed Arlo Guthrie’s version of the song would be better for marketing.
AMTK 37, a GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotive, pulled the City out of New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOL) on 18-November-2021.
Amtrak operates two-level Superliner equipment outside of routes in and out of the Northeast Corridor. The railroad ordered 235 Superliners from Pullman-Standard in 1975. Employees of the US’s national passenger railroad chose the name, “Vistaliner” for the equipment. They later learned that name was copyrighted, so the cars became Superliners.The “Phase I” cars entered service in 1978.
Passengers embraced the Superliners with the same enthusiasm Santa Fe travelers embraced the old “Hi-Level” cars operated by that railroad in the 1950s and 1960s. So, Amtrak chalked them up as a success. Additionally, the railroad ordered additional Superliners in 1991. This time, the contract went to manufacturer Bombardier. The City rolled with Superliners in 1994. This past summer, Amtrak invested $28M in upgrades to the Superliner fleet.
Amtrak interited single-level passenger cars from passenger-train operators in 1971. So, they referred to these cars as “heritage” equipment. In the railroad’s first years, So, the Crescent continued operating with Southern Railway cars. While the heritage equipment remained the railroad’s backbone, Amtrak standardized the paint scheme to the red-white-and-blue stripe livery by 1974. While the Superliners excited rail passengers, the bi-level cars were too high for operation in the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Amtrak had concerns about the cars clearing tunnels into New York Pennsylvania Station (NYP) and Baltimore Pennsylvania Station.
By the early 1980s, the heritage cars showed their age. Amtrak contracted the Budd Company to develop single-level equipment for the NEC. So, Budd prototypes operated on Amtrak routes. Production cars, named “Viewliner,” entered service in 1995 as Viewliner I. A second generation, Viewliner II, entered service in 2011.
So, New Orleans gets to see both types of Amtrak equipment. Since the Crescent travels to NYP, it uses Viewliners. The City of New Orleans and the NOLA-to-Los Angeles Sunset Limit run Superliners.
The Times-Picayune regularly offered ads for various railroad destinations in the 1920s.
Yesterday’s post of NYC 3, an “executive car” from 1928, inspired this collection of ads for various railroad destinations. New Orleans served as an active hub for railroad connections. Travelers used trains more than automobiles in the early 20th century, particularly for long trips.
The Times-Picayune featured two ads for Southern Railway on 3-November-1925. “Two Trains Every Day” to Cincinnati. The early train departed at 8:30am. Southern offered coach and sleeping car service, with meals served in a dining car.
The railroad also offered sleeping car service to Meridian, Mississippi. The car, attached to a northbound train, departed at 8:10pm daily. It arrived at 2:10am the next day. “Sleeping car may be occupied at Meridian until 7:30 A. M.” – thank goodness! Nobody wants to be booted out of bed at two in the morning. Once at Meridian, the traveler could catch trains to other Southern destinations, getting a jump on the trip.
Along the Apache Trail
While Southern Railway traveled to destinations North and East, Southern Pacific transported passengers westward. Heading to California meant scenic views:
All-motor mountain trip through the heart of Arizona’s most rugged mountain scenery. The gigantic Roosevelt Dam, with its thundering cascades and picturesque mountain setting is only one of the marvels of the Apache Trail, a motor side-trip available to passengers using the Sunset Route to California.
The ad doesn’t explain how travelers taking the side trip get back on track to Los Angeles. Since the “New Sunset Limited” ran three times a week, did the train wait in Globe, Arizona? Did it drop off the side-trip travelers, who then took the next train? No doubt interested travelers learned the specifics at the City Ticket Office, located on the ground floor of the St. Charles Hotel.
The description of SP’s “New Sunset Limited” is similar to the current Amtrak version of the route. The train, with its consist of Superliner coaches, sleepers, along with diner and lounge cars, departs Union Passenger Terminal three times weekly.