I recently found myself in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, an area where I’ve not spent much time in recent years. And, since it’s been decades since I last visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, which is located just across the street from one of America’s best-known tourist rail lines, the Strasburg Rail Road, I carved out a couple of hours for a fresh visit. And, I’m glad I did, as so much has been added over the past 25 years.

Since this is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, a fair portion of the locomotives and rolling stock on display represents the heritage of the state’s namesake railroad … which is not necessarily bad. After all, the Pennsylvania Railroad did have some pretty great locos, a fair number of which were designed and built in their own shops.

As the centerpiece in the huge equipment hall, PRR’s beautifully-restored GG1 electric locomotive #4935 stands tall and shiny. Between 1934 and 1943, the Pennsylvania Railroad had 193 of these beauties built, the first group by General Electric in their Erie, Pennsylvania, locomotive plant in the mid-1930’s, the second group constructed in the early 1940’s at the Railroad’s own Juniata Shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania is one of the few American railroads which undertook electrification in a big way, beginning in the early 1930’s, quickly installing overhead wires between New York City and Washington, D. C. (the Northeast Corridor) plus both passenger and

freight lines to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and its line down the northern New Jersey coast — now it needed electric locomotives powerful enough to haul long passenger trains … which predecessor electric “box cab” locos were not able to do.

With input from acclaimed industrial designer of the first half of the 20th century, Raymond Loewy, the sleek design you see here was finalized … placing the engineer near the middle of the locomotive for safety reasons, requiring the sides of the body to be lowered to provide visibility for the operator.

There’s much more to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and what is housed there, such as the replica of the John Bull, one of the first steam locomotives to operate on American rails back in 1831 … but that is for another time.

And, there’s more to the GG1 story, such as the accident which occurred at Union Station in Washington on January 15, 1953 … four days prior to the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower. Yes, it was a GG1 which came to rest in the station’s basement.

Visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania online:  https://rrmuseumpa.org/

December 27th, 2017

Posted In: Railroads

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