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Memories

May 14th, 2009

James Whitcomb Riley...

...was a famous poet from Indiana. It was also the name of a NYC passenger train that ran through that state. While I model the NYC, I am not very familiar with the Big Four lines. Being curious, I decided to look up information about this train. I am glad I did. It would be an excellent (and colorful) train to model. It is not very long, and offers run-through traffic and some interesting switching operations. Here is some of what I learned.

Train #3: Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Lafayette – Kankakee – Woodlawn – Chicago
Train #4: Chicago – Woodlawn – Kankakee – Lafayette – Indianapolis - Cincinnati

Inaugural run: April 28, 1941
All equipment was painted red and gray
Locomotive: Pacifics K-5b #4915 and #4917, from the Mercury
Baggage car #8551 (heavy weight)
Coaches #2560 and #2561 (light weight)
Diner #576 (heavy weight)
Coaches #2562 and #2563 (light weight)
Observation #52 (heavy weight)

During the war, the four Budd coaches were replaced by six Pullman-Standard coaches, numbers 2601-2606, painted red and gray. In January 1947 baggage car #8551 was replaced by baggage car #9001, and the two streamlined engines were replaced J-1e by Hudsons #5333 and #5401, both with centipede tenders.

In April 1947, ACF combination coach #298 was substituted for the #9001; and new Pullman-Standard coaches #3001-3008 replaced the #2601-2606, which then went to the Mercury trains, painted gray and silver. Finally, in January 1948, Budd tavern/lounge #41 was added, and in April 1948 two Budd grill-diners (#452 and #453) replaced the #41 and heavy weight diner #576. A new Budd tavern/observation #50 replaced the heavy weight observation #52.

In 1953, No. 3 included a Pullman-operated 14-roomette/4-double bedroom sleeper from Southern Railway train No. 28 originating in Asheville, North Carolina. Connecting service was made at Cincinnati.

In 1955, No. 3's schedule was lengthened to include stops at Greensburg and Shelbyville, Indiana. The dining services were listed as a “thrift grill” but in 1956, the “thrift” disappeared and “dining service” resumed. Also the Southern Railway substituted a 10-6 for the 14-4 and in October 1956, the Riley added another 10-6, this one from Newport News, Virginia, from C&O train No. 1-41 at Cincinnati. This necessitated only a minor lengthening of the train's schedule. Westbound train No. 3 left Cincinnati at 8:15 AM and arrived at Chicago Central Station at 1:15 PM. Eastbound, No. 4 left Chicago at 4:20 PM and arrived Cincinnati Union Terminal at 11:00 PM.

You can read more about this train in the book New York Central's Great Steel Fleet 1948-1967, by Geoffrey H. Doughty.

This has been an interesting trip into the past for me! I will tell you about some surprises, but first let me try to answer your questions. The train ran with the red and gray cars until April 1947 when the coaches were replaced by the corrugated stainless steel Budd coaches. The transition to an all stainless steel silver train was completed by April 1948.

The previously-mentioned book has a photo of the train during the war. Unfortunately it is black & white and doesn't show much detail. The train is being pulled by one of the streamlined Pacifics. The tender, baggage car, and coaches clearly have a broad stripe through the center. It appears from the shades of gray that the base color is gray and the stripe is red, perhaps with some narrow white or silver striping between the colors. These cars are the smooth side Pullman-Standard coaches with the heavyweight baggage, diner, and observation.

One mystery is the original train that had four Budd coaches. The book says clearly that ALL equipment was painted red and gray. The pictures of these cars as delivered are unpainted corrugated stainless steel, and their trucks are painted silver. The coaches 2560 & 2561 were delivered in May 1938. Coaches 2562 & 2563 were delivered in March 1939. Maybe the window panel was painted red when the cars were assigned to the Riley in April 1941. [I have also seen this color described as orange and even yellow]. In any case, they were probably replaced soon after by the Pullman-Standard coaches which were delivered between August and October 1941. Another tidbit is that the Riley remained powered by steam into the early 1950s. Photos show it so at least into 1952. Doubleheaded steam was often used. One photo shows the train pulled by a J1e Hudson with a de-streamlined K5b Pacific in the lead. Still another surprise – as I searched through another of Doughty's books (New York Central's Lightweight Passenger Cars, Trains and Travel) – looking for photos of the cars. I noticed a photo of an orange and brown Illinois Central E8 pulling the Riley in April 1956. The E8 was leased by the NYC in an effort to eliminate steam power from the train without degrading its own motive power requirements. Illinois Central E8s and run-through sleepers from other roads can provide excuses to run some real mixtures.

June 8, 2010
I brought this topic back as I finally found better information. I'm beginning to think that railfans and historians must be color blind. The window band and tender striping has been decribed as red, orange, and even yellow in various sources. My research had led me to believe the color was a deep orange, which I would call vermilion. That seems to have been correct. See the following:

From a brochure published by the New York Central System in 1941:
"The fast, dark gray Pacific locomotive, especially adapted to this new service, with its striking red driving wheels and trim, and the various cars of the train, effectively joined by the vermilion window band, give a touch of gayety, yet dignity; power and serviceability, are instantaneously reflected.
The colorful new train unquestionably, will be one of the most distinctive in America, and one which will stir the imagination and win the approval of the traveling public.
The silver-like lustre of the stainless steel coaches, a happy clash with the predominantly gray mail, dining and observation cars, and in sharp contrast with the vermilion window band, present a striking color combination."

This is confirmed by the only color photo I have ever seen. It shows the dark gray tender and locomotive with "The James Whitcomb Riley" under the cab window, broad vermilion band on the tender with red NYC oval under it, and white driving wheels with vermilion ring. (Why this was mentioned as red in the brochure, I can't explain - sometimes I think we're all color blind). It makes sense to have all the trim in a matching color, in this case, vermilion.

The locomotive, originally designed by Dreyfuss for the Mercury trains, had illuminated drivers and valve gear. If this feature was retained for the Riley, it must have been quite a sight at night on its return trip to Cincinatti.

Modeling the NYC of the 1950s in N scale.

Mike Kmetz


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