The Mysterious “Golden Era” Passenger Railcars on the Northeast Corridor
Sometimes, very rarely, but sometimes, when taking a train into New York City, you can glimpse a jewel from a bygone era, a vintage Pullman or classic railcar. Curious when I first saw one, I dug into some research and it turns out that you can rent them and, for a fee, Amtrak will, basically, tow you and your group along for the ride. I’d imagine it would be a great way to take a trip across America, although starting in the industrial graveyards of Newark wouldn’t be a scenic place to begin your journey. After departing east-bound from Newark, and as you pass through Harrison, NJ, there is a large rail yard to the south. That’s where you can see these cars.
Apologies for the blurry-cams, that’s the consequence of only getting to see this on a train nearing full speed.
The Babbling Brook was built for the New York Central Railroad in 1949. Having problems competing with inexpensive and faster air travel, the heyday for passenger rail travel in the U.S. was ending, and the car was sold to Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1957. Passenger jets and still cheaper air travel finally caught up to Babbling Brook, and, in 1969, the car was sold to the Quebec Mining Company, where it was used as the official car for executives. Since 1986 the car has been in private ownership, available for rental. Sleeping for 8, with buffet, observation lounge, full service kitchen, shower, and separate water and fuel tanks.
The Hickory Creek was built in 1948, again, for the New York Central Railroad. Christened by Dwight Eisenhower, it part of New York Central’s famous “20th Century Limited” line, between New York City and Chicago. As it was with Babbling Brook, the 20th Century Limited could not compete with air travel, and it closed in 1967 – the Hickory Creek was retired that same year. After a few years in the service of Ringling Brother’s and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Hickory Creek sat in a junk rail yard for nearly 20 years. In 1991, the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey purchased the Hickory Creek, and it has since been fully restored to its former glory as an observation & parlor car.
Information about this car is hard to come by, but the Ohio River was built in 1926 for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, a “Golden Era” leader in passenger rail travel. The car was recently publicly featured in celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal.