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Rick Giles on Big Four Passenger Trains


Big 4 Railroad
Post on 12/28/04 at 06:53:26 in "New York Central"

In reply to a question in the New York Central Forum at Railfan.Net about Big Four Passenger Trains, Rick Giles said:
You asked about Big 4 passenger trains. The Big 4 had three of the more renown members of the Great Steel Fleet. They were THE SOUTHWESTERN LTD.; THE OHIO STATE LTD.; and THE JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY. These were all very important trains in the NYC schedules. THE SOUTHWESTERN LTD, #11-12 ran from New York City to St. Louis and was 2nd only to the 20th CENTURY LTD in terms of the attention it received from NYC management.

Whenever #25-26 was upgraded #11-12 followed shortly behind including post WW2 modernization. It was the only other train in the postwar streamline period to operate with a raised lookout lounge observation car other than the 20th CENTURY LTD. Unfortunately, it suffered from the usual postwar passenger train maladies and ultimately dwindled down to a locomotive and a single coach as of the November 5, 1967 timetable. #15-16 THE OHIO STATE LTD operated between New York City and Cincinnati, Ohio and was the premier train on that route. While not as well pampered as # 11-12 it did carry the best equipment from the passenger equipment pool. It was streamlined after WW2 and did operate with a carbon copy observation lounge however the observation area did not have the large windows and raised floor of the SOUTHWESTERN and 20th CENTURY LTD observation cars.

#15-16 and #27-28 THE NEW ENGLAND STATES were actually identical trains equipment wise. #15-16 became the workhorse of the Big 4 New York City -Midwestern routes as it lost it's observation car when the cars of the truncated SOUTHEWESTERN LTD were tacked on the end after 1959 and on into the 1960's. By the Nov. 5, 1967 timetable it too was down to a single coach and ran only from Cincinnati to Cleveland. It even sometimes operated as a Budd RDC car.

#3-4 THE JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY was the premier train on the Cincinnati- Chicago route. It was one of the first streamliners on the system using a combination of streamline equipment from Budd and heavyweight cars converted to streamline cars in the Big 4's shops at Beech Grove, Ind. After WW2 #3-4 received the new stream line equipment from both Budd and P-S and operated with coaches, diner and observation lounge up until the 1960's, after 1960 as train #303-304. It's name lasted into Amtrak timetables and it operated over a different route because of bad track on the PC's ex-NYC line to Chicago. It was, by the way, one of the last steam operated name trains of the Great Steel fleet utilizing steam power up into the mid-1950's.

There were other passenger trains on the aforementioned routes and the Cleveland-Cincinnati route even had a Mecury, which used the original 1936 Mercury equipment. If you really want a cross section of Big 4 passenger trains get Geoff Doughty's Book on THE GREAT STEEL FLEET. It offers a good explanation of services on the various routes of the NYC

Rick Giles


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