|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.
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.
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: