(first posted 5/31/13) The Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive can lay claim to a number of “firsts”, one of which was that it was the longest lasting locomotive in US history, in use from 1935 until 1983. It saw service in the PRR system and later the Penn Central, Amtrak, Conrail, and New Jersey Transit lines.
A total of 139 GG1s were built, 15 by GE’s Erie shop, and the remaining 124 by the PRR Altoona Works. Some, if not all, have frames built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA.
Although Raymond Loewy is popularly given credit for the GG1’s styling, some sources claim that the form of the locomotive was established in-house at Altoona, and later refined by Loewy. Loewy’s main contributions were welded rather than riveted bodies, and the paint scheme (rail nuts prefer the term “livery”)
Amtrak still had GG1s in daily service when I worked there. They ran from Washington DC to New York City and from Philadelphia to Harrisburgh. Gearing limited the top speed to 100 mph (161 kph).
There are 15 GG1s in US museums but none are thought to be operational, even the 4935 shown here, which now resides at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg. The PCBs once used to cool the transformers have been removed.
Although the paint on the 4935 appears to be black, it is actually a dark green that the PRR called “Brunswick Green”. Beginning in the early 1950s, some units were painted “Tuscan Red” to match many of the coaches that the PRR operated. See the first photo for this coloration, there is a coach in the background painted this color.
When the 4935 completed its restoration it was brought to Washington Union Station to be exhibited in 1977. Not sure what month but it was summery and warm.
GG1s have been designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
The red pinstripe is an elegant, if not dainty detail for a locomotive that weighed 475,000 lbs (215,000 kg), was 79.5’ long (24.2 m), and 15’ high (4.6 m).
GG1s had 12 traction motors each producing 385 hp (287 kw), for a total of 4620 hp, with a ton more on the short term.
So why get rid of a asset that cost Amtrak only $50,000 to acquire, had Head End Power (HEP), and could pull consists at 100 mph with ease? The answer was age. The Baldwin frames exhibited copious amounts of cracks, and virtually all maintenance parts had to be custom manufactured. Same reason you don’t see DC-3s in use anymore, at least in passenger airlines operated in the US.
For those of you into arcana, the Whyte notation for this loco was 4-6-0+0-6-4.