In the United States, in 1926, rail passenger travel was in its glory years. That year, the New York Central Railroad, one of the most prestigious, powerful, and largest railroad corporations in the world at the time, wanted a faster and stronger locomotive to pull the longer and heavier passenger trains required by the increase in passenger travel in the United States.
That year, although the elegant and mightily Pacific steam locomotives had been handling the bulk of the fastest and longest passenger lines in the United States by most of the first world national railroad companies, the New York Central ordered the mighty 4-6-4 wheel arrangement “Hudson” locomotives, as they were to be called by the New York Central Railroads.
The Hudsons were popularized in the US American public via an intense publicity campaign. Television ads, new movies, billboard signs and magazine articles abound. Model trains pushed the “Hudson” as the epitome of the beautiful, grimy, energetic and powerful passenger steam locomotive that was constructed in the social imaginary during these times.
Later, the Hudson locomotive was re-designed on the exterior with a silver and gray streamlined body, which were assigned to the famous passenger trains: The 20th Century Limited and the Empire State Express.
Even later, as Diesel locomotives began erasing steam locomotives off their roster and into their garbage heaps, a stronger, faster and more efficient locomotive was to enter the New York Central Railroad’s roster–the Niagara. I will cover this locomotive more in detail later.
If I were to be asked what is my most favorite of favorite locomotives of all time and I had to begrudgingly decide, it would have to be the NIAGARA. But i am off-topic here. Here I cover the Hudson locomotive, which dutifully and proudly served the New York Central from 1927 to the demise of steam in the mid-to-late 50s in the US. Versions of the Hudson remained popular throughout the world however, into the 70s.
More reading: http://www.steamlocomotive.com/hudson/
This is one of the most famous express passenger trains that ran in the United States. In its various stages, it was pulled by many of the most famous steam locomotives such as the Hudson, the Niagara, and the streamlined Hudsons.
Here are vintage clips, where you can see these locomotives hauling at full speeds of between 80 to 100 miles per hour, unlike these days, where insurance and track mechanics, as well as wanting photographers to get good photos, have kept speeds of excursion steam between 20 and 70 miles per hour at best. The best and strongest steam were most often running between 60 to over 100 miles per hour (160.93 km/h).
Below are PoathTV’s commentary (from YouTube) on the 20th Century Limited:
The 20th Century Limited was an express passenger train operated by the New York Central Railroad from 1902 to 1967. The train travelled between Grand Central Terminal in New York City and LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, Illinois along the railroad’s famed “Water Level Route”. The NYC inaugurated this train as direct competition to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited, both lines intended for upper class as well as business travellers between the two cities. Making few station stops along the way and utilizing track pans along the route to take water at speed, the train completed the 960.7 miles (1,546 km) journey in 16 hours, departing New York City westbound at 6:00 P.M. Eastern Time and arriving at Chicago’s LaSalle St. Station the following morning at 9:00 A.M. Central Time., averaging 60 miles per hour (97 km/h).
This collection of clips shows The 20th Century Limited in it’s heyday being hauled by classic NYC streamlined steam locomotives including the famous Hudsons.
The clip below is from the Great Vintage Video company: HERRON Rail, from their video entitled: Trains at Speed.