Today in rr history: January

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Today in RR History:


1: 1872 – The Denver and Rio Grande begins service between Denver and Colorado Springs.

1952 – The first gas-turbine-electric locomotive in the US begins service on the Union Pacific.

1986 – The Soo Line merges with the Milwaukee Road. Soo SD60 6-28358_2786

3: 1967 – The Chesapeake and Ohio acquires the Chicago South Shore and South Bend. C&OLegacy s-2 6-38472_7076

4: 1877 – Cornelius Vanderbilt dies. Originally a steam boat captain, he is most remembered for his role in the development of the New York Central. He was 83.

1987 – Conrail locomotives run a red signal at Chase, MD and collide with Amtrak’s Colonial, killing 16. Toxicology results indicate that marijuana use likely played a role in the disaster. CR GP30 6-34604_8768

5: 1885 – The Long Island railroad loads farm wagons onto flatcars and creates the first Piggyback service. In addition to the wagonloads of market goods, horses are also transported by flatcar and a coach is provided for the teamsters.

1905 – The first electric freight locomotive operates on the B&O.

1956 – GM introduces the Aerotrain – a lightweight passenger train based on GM bus designs. GM and railroads hoped it would revitalize railroad passenger service. The two prototypes toured many railroads but found no buyers.

1984 – One of America’s oldest railroads, the Delaware and Hudson, becomes part of Guilford Transportation. DH GP38-2 88CA_6-28578

6: 1866 – The first en-route train robbery occurs in New Haven, Conn. Great Train Robbery Set 409_6-31939

1893 – The last American transcontinental line, the Great Northern Railroad, is completed at Everett, WA. GN 2-6-0 6-11270_7852

7: 1830 – The first 1.5 miles of track open on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The coaches are pulled by horses. Commemorative AC60006-38403_5184

8: 1863 – Construction begins on the Central Pacific Railroad in Sacramento, CA.

10: 1853 - First meals served on a train. Napa Valley diner 6-15549_2726

12: 1877 – Railroad labor strike begins on the B&O over wage reductions.

1929 – The Great Northern completes the 7 mile-long Cascade Tunnel in Washington. It is the longest tunnel in North America. GN Boxcab w. horn 6-22286_5011

1962 – Merger is first proposed between the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads. The ill-fated merger is finalized in 1968. PC GG1 6-18356_2224

1977 – VIA rail is created as a subsidiary of Canadian National to operate Canadian intercity passenger trains.

13: 1857 – Thaddeus Fairbanks receives a patent for the first track scale. These scales allow accurate reading of car weight for billing customers.

14: 1878 – The Supreme Court rules that states cannot forbid racial segregation on transportation vehicles. The argument posed was that segregation was not a state issue and that such a restriction posed a burden on interstate commerce.

1981: President Reagan transfers ownership of the Alaska Railroad to the state of Alaska.

15: 1953 – A closed brake valve on the Federal Express causes the train to speed out of control and crash into the concourse of Washington D.C.’s Union Station just days before President Eisenhower’s inauguration. Amazingly nobody is killed and a temporary floor is built over GG-1 No. 4876. Most attendees to the celebration know nothing of the accident.

16: 1952 – Passengers aboard the City of San Francisco are finally rescued after being snowed in for 3 days in the Yuba Gap of the Sierra Mountains. The train itself remained encased in the snow for three more days.

1969 – Metroliner high-speed service begins on the Penn Central’s Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington D.C.

17: 1871 – Andrew Halliday issued a patent for the first commercially successful cable car.

1968 – First run of the Santa Fe Super C – an all piggyback hotshot from Chicago to L.A. in 34.5 hours.

1981 – UP Challenger No. 3985 is steamed up for the first time in 22 years.

18: 1978 – Budd introduces the SPV200, a self-propelled passenger car designed as a replacement for the amazingly successful RDC.

19: 1938 – General Motors begins mass production of diesel engines.

1944 – Railroads are returned to private ownership after being seized by the Federal government during wage disputes.

21: 1941 – First of two Eletroliners delivered to the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee.

22: 1912 – The Florida East Coast Railway opens railroad service to Key West via an amazing series of viaducts across the Florida Keys.

23: 1890 – A Santa Fe train sets a new American speed record – 78.1 mph.

24: 1854 – Rails reach Chicago from the East. The city will quickly grow into one of the largest railroad centers in the world.

1900 – Mayor Van Wyck breaks ground on New York City’s first subway.

26: 1901 – The Great Western Railway begins operation in Colorado. The sugar-beet hauling line became famous in the 1960s when it continued operation of its steam locomotives. One of those engines, No. 90, is still in service on the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania today.

27: 1948 – A locomotive carries 1,000,000 pounds for the first time.

28: 1935 – The first GG-1 electric locomotive is placed in service on the Pennsylvania Railroad. 139 GG-1’s were built, hauling both passengers and freight for the PRR and its successors until final retirement in the 1980s.

29: 1873 – C&O completed from Richmond to the Ohio River.

1884 – Patent issued to Wilson Page for an “Animal Chaser.” The device sprayed water from the boiler ahead to clear livestock from the track.

1956 – Last passenger train on the Virginian Railway.

31: 1935 – Union Pacific’s M-10000 streamliner starts daily operation between Salina, KS and Kansas City, MO.


1: 1968 – Penn Central created from the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads. It is the world’s largest merger to date and doomed to bankruptcy from the beginning.

1979 – Southern Railway turns over the Crescent service to Amtrak. Southern had maintained this service independently since Amtrak’s creation in 1971.

2: 1886 – Representatives from several southern railroads convene and agree to a massive conversion to standard gauge on all of their lines to take place May 31-June 1.

4: 1830 – The Camden and Amboy Rail Road Transportation Co. is founded

1887 – President Cleveland signs the Interstate Commerce Act, creating the ICC.

1941 – Santa Fe no. 100 is the first diesel electric locomotive used in road freight service.

1961 – Lehigh Valley operates its last passenger train, the Maple Leaf, for the last time.

1963 – C&O acquires control of the B&O. Actual merger remains decades away.

5: 1836 – The American 4-4-0 is patented by Henry R. Campbell.

10: 1935 – GG1’s placed in passenger service. C:\Users\Owner\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\HTS5RDO3\6-30171_1806[1].jpg GG1 set

11: 1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln takes a circuitous and often secretive train trip from Springfield, IL to Washington D.C.

12: 1934 – UP M-10000 delivered.

14: 1854 – Pennsylvania Railroad’s mainline from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh completed with the opening of Horseshoe Curve near Altoona.

15: 1870 – Ground is broken for construction of the Northern Pacific in Duluth, MN.

16: 1881 – Canadian Pacific Railway Company chartered.

18: 1947 – Pennsylvania’s Red Arrow derails near Gallitzin, PA killing 24.

20: 1852 – Completion of the Michigan Southern brings rails into Chicago from the East. The Michigan Southern would later become part of the New York Central. C:\Users\Owner\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\OSQMWC1T\6-29973_9703[1].jpg NYC Pacemaker box.

1877 – The first cantilever railroad bridge is completed over the Kentucky River and spans 1,125 feet.

1893 – The Philadelphia and Reading declares bankruptcy, forshadowing the Panic of 1893.

1894 – The Southern Railway is chartered in Virginia.

21: 1968 – Last run for the SP / Rock Island Golden State Limited.

22: 1854 – The Chicago and Rock Island is the first railroad to reach the Mississippi River.

1856 – The first railroad service on the West Coast begins between Sacramento and Folsom, CA.

1867 – The Pullman Palace Car Company is chartered.

23: 1902 – JP Morgan meets with President T. Roosevelt in hopes of averting anti-trust action against his Northern Securities firm. Northern Securities holds controlling interest in the Northern Pacific, Great Northern and CB&Q and is deemed a monopoly.

1947 – The Great Northern’s Empire Builder returns as the first post-war streamliner.

26: 1973 – Chessie System is incorporated from B&O, C&O and WM.

1979 – Amtrak’s hilevel Superliner cars debut on western long distance trains.

27: 1928 – D&RGW opens Moffat Tunnel replacing the line over Rollins Pass.

1948 – GE delivers a 6800 hp electric locomotive to the Virginian Railway. No. 125, class EL-2B has 16 drive axles and is 150 feet long.

1965 – The Buffalo Creek and Gauly ends operations.

28: 1827 – The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is chartered in Baltimore, MD

1920 – The Esh-Cummins Act returns railroads to private control after the Federal Government takeover during WWI.

29: 1948 – Santa Fe introduces the Super Chief – premier train between Chicago and Los Angeles.

1980 – Milwaukee Road (CMStP&P) ceases operation.

1988 – ICG retakes the Illinois Central name.


1: 1863 – UP adopts standard gauge for its construction.

2: 1877 – Rutherford B. Hayes learns he has been elected President while traveling aboard a train. He is probably the only President to do so.

1893 – The Railway Safety Appliance Act is passed. The law requires interstate common carriers to adopt automatic couplers, continuous brakes, grab irons and driving wheel brakes for locomotives. The act is credited with saving untold thousands of lives.

1970 – Burlington Northern is created from the CB&Q, NP, GN and SP&S railroads. The mega-railroad is similar to the monopoly once proposed by James Hill but denied by the ICC.

3: 1831 – George Pullman born in Brooklyn, NY.

1863 – President Lincoln signs a bill favoring standard gauge for the construction of the Transcontinental RR.

1871 – The Texas and Pacific is incorporated by act of Congress.

1968 – The Santa Fe retires its Alco PA’s. 4 are later sold to the D&H.

5: 1872 – George Westinghouse patents his triple air brake. It is the forerunner to the airbrakes still in use today.

8: 1904 – The Lucin cut-off across the Great Salt Lake opens on the Southern Pacific.

1982 – Amtrak operates the last train heated with steam – the Silver Star.

9: 1949 – The IC places the first all-electric dining car in service. The Café St. Louis operates between Chicago and St. Louis.

1954 – The Santa Fe is completely dieselized.

11: 1908 – Golden Spike on the Spokane Portland and Seattle at Sheridan’s Point, WA.

12: 1914 – George Westinghouse dies.

13: 1967 – Last run of the Twentieth Century Limited.

14: 1977 – Wm Graham Claytor retires as Chairman of the Southern Ry. and becomes Secretary of the Navy.

15: 1974 – The fully automated and electrified Black Mesa and Lake Powell RR in Arizona becomes operational. The 73-mile line carries coal from the Black Mesa mine to the Navajo Power Station near Page, AZ.

17: 1853 – The New York Central Railroad is formed. The railroad will continue to evolve and grow through the acquisition of additional feeder lines over the coming decades.

1881 – The first train covers a mile in less than a minute.

1975 – The Rock Island declares bankruptcy.

18: 1834 – First RR Tunnel in US completed.

1858 – Rudolph Diesel born.

20: 1949 – The California Zephyr is launched by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy, Western Pacific and Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroads.

22: 1967 – CNJ files for bankruptcy.

1970 – California Zephyr service ends on the WP – the last passenger service on that line. Zephyr service ends completely on all roads the following day.

24: 1828 – The Pennsylvania Legislature authorizes construction of the Commonwealth-owned Philadelphia and Columbia Railway. The line will be part of the Main Line of Public works which uses rail, canal and inclined plane to connect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Much of this road later becomes part of the mainline of the Pennsylvania RR.

1932 – The first radio broadcast from a moving train is made aboard the B&O in Maryland by New York station WABC.

1967 – Soo Line ends regular passenger service.

25: 1961 – The railroad used in the filming of Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase and the 1950 film I’d Climb the Highest Mountain – the Tallulah Falls Railway – shuts down.

1986 – Conrail, created and operated by the government since 1976 to rescue bankrupt railroads of the Northeast, is sold to the public in the largest stock offering in history. Shares sell at $28.

26: 1884 – High winds push 8 coal cars along the CB&Q east of Denver – for a distance of 100 miles!

1891 – 4-6-0 No. 4493 rolls out of the Rogers Locomotive Works. The locomotive is better known as Sierra RR #3 and has been filmed more than any other staring in movies such as; High Noon, Dodge City, Duel in the Sun, and Back to the Future III and TV classics like The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, Gunsmoke and Little House on the Prairie.

1987 – N&W 2-6-6-4 Class A No. 1218 is returned to service by Norfolk Southern for excursions.

28: 1975 – The American Freedom Train begins a 2 year 17,000 mile cross country trip. The train carries artifacts from the Smithsonian and leaves from Washington behind former Reading T-1 No. 2101. In western areas of the country, the larger and more streamlined Southern Pacific GS-4 No. 4449 pulls the train.

29: 1839 – The Railway Express Agency is established. The REA becomes the leading hauling of packages and “LCL” freight in the country in a fleet of dark green wagons, trucks and rail cars.

1957 – The New York Ontario and Western is abandoned. At the time it is the largest rail abandonment in history (541 miles) and is a harbinger to the crumbling stature of America’s railroads.

31: 1946 – Nearly 80 years after completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, the first through sleeping car service coast-to-coast is established. Previously, a connection and change of trains had to be made somewhere mid-route.

1980 – The Rock Island becomes the largest railroad abandonment in US History – 7500 miles.


1: 1976 – The Consolidated Rail Corporation, Conrail, assumes control of Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Reading, Lehigh Valley, Jersey Central, and Lehigh and Hudson River Railroads.

2: 1834 – The first state-owned railroad, the Philadelphia and Columbia, runs its first train.

3: 1883 - Humphrey H Reynolds was the first black inventor to patent an improved window ventilator for railroad cars. His invention was adopted on all Pullman cars, but as an employee, he received no payment from the Pullman Company. Reynolds quit his job as a porter and successfully sued Pullman for $10,000.

1900 – The Vanderbilts take over the Reading, Erie and Lehigh Valley.

1972 – The Lehigh and Hudson River files for Bankruptcy.

4: 1976 – Amtrak receives its first F40PH from EMD. The 414 locomotive fleet would be the backbone of America’s passenger service for the next 20 years.

1993 – After an extension to Miami, Amtrak’s Sunset Limited becomes the first true coast-to-coast transcontinental train.

5: 1887 – First meeting of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

7: 1991 – Amtrak moves all of its passenger operations to Penn Station in New York, leaving Grand Central Station to commuter rail operations.

8: 1997 – CSX and Norfolk Southern agree on a division of Conrail’s assets

10: 1869 – President Grant signs a resolution designating Promentory Summit as the official meeting point of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific. This settled a dispute between the two companies who were now building past each other. The Transcontinental Railroad would be joined 30 days later.

12: 1862 – A group of 22 Union soldiers capture the locomotive The General on the Western and Atlantic Railroad in what would become the most famous railroad raid of the war popularized in song and early motion pictures.

1987 – Pennsylvania K4s 1361 makes its first excursion run on the Nittany and Bald Eagle RR near Altoona.

13: 1846 – The Pennsylvania Railroad is incorporated by the state legislature.

1869 – Westinghouse patents his improvements for “steam power brake devices.”

1910 – The Pennsylvania begins running trains through the Manhattan Tunnels.

14: 1960 – The longest motorcar or “doodlebug” run in the US – The GM&O’s Kansas City to Bloomington, IL run comes to an end. The trip is 362 miles long.

15: 1954 – Patrick McGinnis wins control of the New Haven. The novel “McGinnis” paint scheme subsequently applied to the New Haven’s locomotives was designed by his wife.

16: 1953 – Fairbanks Morse introduces the 2400 hp Train Master. It is the first high-horsepower road switcher.

18: 1934 – The Budd Company delivers the Pioneer Zephyr to the CB&Q.

19: 1891 – A fatal collision near Cleveland caused by a broken timepiece prompts legislation requiring strict standards for railroad timekeeping. New General Railroad Timepiece Standards went in effect in 1893.

20: 1866 – Representatives from several railroads approve general rules for the interchange of freight cars. These rules invoke standards in reporting marks, off-line car repair and more.

1932 – The B&O operates the first completely air-conditioned passenger train.

21: 1856 – The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi opens from Rock Island, IL to Davenport, Iowa.

1865 – Lincoln’s funeral train departs Washington, D.C.

22: 1833 – The inventor of the first steam locomotive, Richard Trevithick, dies at age 62.

1884 – A patent is awarded to Orange Jull for the first practical rotary snow plow.

1942 – Baldwin delivers the prototype T-1 4-4-4-4 to the Pennsylvania.

24: 1834 – Long Island RR incorporated.

1955 – The transcontinental “Canadian” introduced.

1970 – Budd puts its railcar division up for sale.

1983 – The Rio Grande ends independent passenger operations with the last run of the Rio Grande Zephyr. It is the last major railroad to hold onto independent passenger operations.

25: 1960 – Canadian National retires all steam,

26: 1954 – A new trailer-on-flatcar service introduced by Pullman Standard who calls the technology “piggyback.”

1956 – The C&O introduces RoadRailers on the back of Pere Marquette passenger trains. The highway trailers carry mail and feature special railroad wheels and can be attached to the train without a flatcar.

1960 – GE enters the domestic diesel locomotive market with the U25B.

28: 1869 – Central Pacific workers lay more than 10 miles of track in a single day, winning a bet with the Union Pacific and setting a record which stands to this day.

29: 1851 – The B&O tests the first battery-powered electric locomotive.

1873 – Eli Janney patents his knuckle coupler. It is eventually the design chosen as the standard for American railroads and is still in use today. Desperate for funds and convinced the idea would never catch on, Janney sold his patent for practically nothing before railroads were forced to adopt a new standard.

1900 – First run of the North Coast Limited on the Northern Pacific.

1960 – Last run of Southern Pacific narrow gauge operations.

30: 1900 – John Luther “Casey” Jones dies in a rear-end collision at Vaughn, MS on the Illinois Central.

1987 – The Baltimore and Ohio is officially merged into the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, finally ending the 160 year independence of America’s oldest railroad.


1: 1888 – Santa Fe completes its route from Chicago to California.

1888 – The first electric freight locomotive, built by Pullman Car Co., is tested on the Ansonia, Derby and Birmingham.

1908 – The Hepburn Law goes into effect, prohibiting railroads from hauling products in which they have a controlling interest. The law is targeted at northeastern railroads like the Reading and Lehigh Valley which own substantial coal mining operations captive to their rail lines.

1942 – The Panama Limited – the first lightweight passenger train – enters service on the Illinois Central.

1971 – Amtrak assumes operation of nearly all intercity passenger trains in the United States. Notable exceptions include the Rio Grande and Southern Railway which maintain independent passenger operations.

3: 1865 – Lincoln’s funeral train arrives at Springfield, IL.

1881 – A patent is issued to Leonides Woolley for the first electric locomotive headlight.

4: 1845 – The first iron-truss bridge is opened on the Philadelphia and Reading.

6: 1960 – Last steam on the Norfolk and Western – the last major railroad to build and run steam.

1983 – Last mixed trains run on the Georgia Railroad.

7: 1964 – Railroads begin eliminating firemen from locomotives. As firemen are promoted or retire, their positions will not be filled.

1977 – The Chessie Steam Special begins excursions to celebrate the B&O Sesquicentennial.

8: 1837 – The first American type locomotive is completed in Philadelphia.

10: 1869 – A Golden Spike completes the first Transcontinental Railroad at Promentory Summit, Utah.

1893 – New York Central Empire State Express breaks the 100 mph barrier.

11: 1892 – The first industry owned locomotive enters service at the Whitin Machine Works in Whitinsville, MA.

1893 – New York Central 999 sets a speed record of 112.5 mph.

12: 1936 – First run of the Santa Fe Super Chief.

13: 1829 – The Stourbridge Lion arrives from England in Honesdale, PA for the Delaware an Hudson.

1968 – Last run of the Santa Fe Chief.

14: 1851 – The Erie Railroad is opened, with President Fillmore presiding. With its 6 foot gauge, it is both the longest and widest railroad in the country at this time.

16: 1956 – New York Central debuts the Xplorer lightweight experimental streamliner.

17: 1853 – The New York Central System is created from the merger of 10 railroad companies.

19: 1955 – A planned celebration by the Dept. of Transportation for the passage of steam locomotives is protested by the National Coal Association – noting that there were still 6500 in service.

20: 1830 – The first railroad timetable is published by the B&O.

21: 1877 – Alexander Graham Bell’s assistants begin tests with the Pennsylvania Railroad resulting in the installation of telephones in the company’s Altoona shops.

1927 – The Milwaukee Road’s Pioneer Ltd becomes the first Pullman train completely equipped with roller bearings. MILW pass cars 6-25622_1451 2011Sig 65

1932 – To promote ticket sales, the Missouri Pacific sells Mystery Excursions. Passengers purchase tickets out of St. Louis, MO for an unknown destination. The train ends up in Arcadia, MO.

22: 1868 – Seven members of the Reno gang hold up a Jefferson Madison and Indianapolis train in what becomes known as The Great Train Robbery, making off with $98,000.

23: 1891 – The first chapel car is dedicated. The Evangel is a traveling church and is used on the Northern Pacific.

24: 1961 – Last run for the Milwaukee Road Olympian Hiawatha.

25: 1865 – The first Bessemer steel rails are manufactured in Chicago.

1903 – The Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley RR in Scranton is the first to be powered by an electrified third rail.

1945 – The New York Susquehanna and Western becomes the first US railroad to completely dieselize.

26: 1934 – The Zephyr makes a 1000+ mile non-stop run from Denver to Chicago in 13 hours 5 minutes.

1946 – Southern Railway gets its first EMD F unit.

27: 1794 – Cornelius Vanderbilt born.

1836 – Jay Gould born.

29: 1935 – Milwaukee Road begins Hiawatha’s.

1976 – Santa Fe ends the Super C intermodal service.

31: 1950 Last run on Nevada’s Virginia and Truckee.

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