The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading
  NUMBER 110


© June 08, 2008   

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The Pennsy GG1


Written by Brian Long
photos by Bill Shields

In August of 1934 the Pennsylvania Railroad took delivery of two prototype passenger locomotives. The first locomotive, built to a 2-D-2 (4-8-4) wheel arrangement, was classified as R-1. The second, built to a 2-C+C-2 (4-6-6-4) wheel arrangement, was classified as GG1. The GG1 was a streamlined version of the New York, New Haven, & Hartford’s EP-3 electric locomotive, while the R-1 was a logical step up from the P5a electric passenger locomotive of the PRR.

Both locomotives were put to extensive tests after delivery. While both locomotives outperformed the P5a, which they were built to replace, the GG1 ended up being the railroad’s choice. The R-1, having a larger wheelbase, couldn’t negotiate sharp curves and certain turnouts, unlike the articulated GG1. Thus on November 17, 1934, the Pennsylvania Railroad ordered 57 GG1 locomotives. Although the numbers would become 139 before production ceased.

The prototype GG1 locomotive was numbered 4800, and the other 57 locomotives were numbered consecutively after that. The prototype was made of a riveted body, while all other GG1s were welded, and owed its streamlined appearance to concern for crew safety. The GG1 was built to run on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s 11,000 volt alternating current catenary, and the electricity was run to a built in transformer, inside the locomotive, shared between the two pantographs. The electricity was then transferred to the 12 traction motors which were arranged two per axel. Each traction motor could put out 385 hp, giving the locomotive a total of 4620 hp.

Geared for 100 mph, the GG1 was used on the electrified line between Washington D.C. and Penn Station in New York City. The GG1 proved itself as a great puller, and the locomotive the Pennsy was looking for, hauling most of the passenger trains between the two cities. It was an incident on one of these trains, the Federal Express, which would show how rugged the locomotive was.

On January 14, 1953 the Federal Express pulled into New York’s Penn Station 38 minutes late because of an unexpected airbrake malfunction up the line in Kingston Swamp, RI. The New York, New Haven, & Hartford locomotive was switched out for GG1 #4876, which would lead the train over the Pennsy’s electrified main to Washington Union Station. The train made up a few minutes before it pulled into Baltimore, MD to set out one of its passenger cars. Leaving Baltimore, the engineer opened up the throttle on the 15 car train, bringing it up to a speed of 80 mph for most of the trip to D.C. Two miles out of Washington Union Station the engineer set the breaks, yet the train didn’t respond. The emergency break was then set but it was to no avail.

With nothing else to do, the engineer began to give multiple blasts of his horn to give some indication of the emergency to those up ahead. The tower operator heard the blasts and warned those in the station to clear the area around track 16, on which the train was due to approach. Then at 8:38 A.M., the train slammed through the wall, the stationmaster’s office, and the main news stand before the floor gave under the locomotive’s enormous weight, and the GG1 fell into the basement.

With the imminent inauguration of President Eisenhower, and massive crowds expected, the cars were removed and a temporary floor was built over the basement with the locomotive still in it. In all, 87 people were injured in an accident that was caused by a closed angle cock that was never reopened after the set out in Baltimore. The GG1 was later cut into three pieces and taken to the Pennsy’s Altoona shops where it was reassembled and lived on in service into the 1980s.

As new locomotives were purchased and passenger traffic decreased, some GG1s were regeared for freight service and proved to be fantastic pullers at that job too. Almost all of the locomotives went on to work for the Penn Central and then the absorption into Conrail. In 1971, Amtrak took 40 GG1s from Conrail for passenger service where the locomotives served until 1981. New Jersey Transit took possession of 13 from Conrail for use in commuter service after Conrail retired its GG1s in 1979.

But time finally caught up to these locomotives and they had to be retired. New Jersey Transit still operated GG1s into 1983 and the locomotives were beginning to show their age. To top it all off, an impending frequency change of the overhead wires from 25hz to 60hz would make it impossible to operate the last few remaining GG1s. However, some would say that the last 3 locomotives went out with a bang. New Jersey Transit hosted the "Farewell to the GG1s" day on October 28, 1983. That day the three locomotives were used on three round trip excursions which were run from Matawan, NJ to Newark, NJ, with GG1 #4877 being the star of the show. But that night, GG1 #4882 became the last GG1 to operate when it pulled its two sisters back to the yard.

In all, 16 GG1s survive today, ranging from pristine museum pieces, to a vandal’s dream. Today they lie as if in-state with their transformers shot, their frames cracked, and most of them missing multiple parts. For some of these locomotives it is a fitting end to be sheltered in a climate controlled museum, under a roof, or at least being cared for. But for the GG1s that are neglected, it may only be a matter of time before they join their other sisters as piles of metal. However, all the survivors have one thing in common. It is an absolute that none of these locomotives will ever run again.

But the legacy of the GG1 is that of a locomotive that could pull a passenger train with dozens of cars at speeds of up to 100 mph. It was a locomotive that lasted in service for almost 50 years. And, it was a locomotive that could take a beating and still prove itself.

*Sources for this (and additional information) GG1 article include: (crash pantograph prototype r-1) (survive roster)


Written by Brian Long
photos by Bill Shields


Editors Note:  Information contained in this article is for reference only. 
We at and our authors are not responsible for any loss that might occur from the practical application of ideas presented here.






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