ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

GG1: 20th Century Workhorse

Updated on April 23, 2013
GG1 4876
GG1 4876

History

Built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1934, the first GG1 went into service the following year and the last one was removed from service in 1983. The GG1 outlasted the railroad that built it and Penn Central, the railroad that succeeded the PRR. When the GG1s were finally retired they were in operation for Amtrak, Conrail and New Jersey Transit.

The GG1s were constructed at the Altoona Works between 1934 and 1943. The Altoona Works consisted of four units: the 12th Streetcar Shop, the Altoona Car Shop, the Juniata Shops and the South Altoona Foundries. These four units were comprised of 122 buildings containing 37 acres of floor space, 4,500 machine tools and 94 overhead cranes. There were 13,000 employees and the rail yard covered 218 acres.

The PRR designed the GG1 to meet their need for a locomotive that could pull more than 12 to 14 passenger cars; however, some were geared for freight service. The GG1 has a streamlined design and appears as if the front halves of two locomotives have been put together and, as such, is designed for bidirectional operation. The control cabs are located just in front of the center of the locomotive separated by the steam generator and the transformer. The design of the GG1 required two crew members for operation, an engine-man and a fireman. With seats on either side of the engine each was able to look down the nose of the engine allowing a binocular view of what was ahead.

The steam generator provided heat to the passenger cars and steam for cooking in the dining car. The main water tank was located inside the hood at one end with a secondary tank along with a fuel oil tank at the other. While you could walk around inside the hoods at either end, space was tight. The positioning of the tanks was designed to give the crew some protection if they were involved in a collision; at the very least they would have something in front of them. During the winter months the steam generators would need to be kept running so the pipes wouldn't freeze. To prevent the necessity of topping the tanks off on each locomotive before they went out to work they would be train-lined. That is the GG1s would be knuckled together with their steam pipes coupled and the lead engine’s boiler would be kept running and feed steam through the rest of them. Any night you could see four, five or six GG1s coupled together with steam rising from the couplings and blowing out of the last one. In this way you only had to maintain the water and fuel on one locomotive.

The GG1 was almost 80 feet long and weighed 475,000 pounds. Its frame was made in two pieces and coupled together in such a fashion that there was a certain amount of swivel. This swivel allowed the locomotive to negotiate sharp curves at speed. Twelve 385-horsepower traction motors drove the 57-inch driving wheels mounted on six axles. Pony trucks containing four much smaller unpowered wheels were mounted on each end. Power to the drivers, the locomotives auxiliary power and the coaches was supplied from the catenary (overhead wires) through the use of the pantograph. The pantograph collected the 25 Hz, 11,000 volt alternating current and transferred it to the transformer located between the two cabs. There the voltage was stepped down to the voltages usable by the traction motors and other equipment. Typically the locomotive ran with the trailing pantograph raised. In this way if something should damage that pantograph it would deflect to the rear and not damage the pantograph on the leading end. The only time this wasn't true was in icy conditions. When the catenary was coated with ice both pantographs would be raised and the leading pantograph would break the ice allowing the trailing one to remain in uninterrupted contact with the wire.

GG1s were allowed 75 – 80 mph with few exceptions until the late 1970s. At that time track improvements to the Northeast Corridor coupled with an overhaul of the Metroliner fleet enabled Amtrak to run them at 100 mph pulling Amfleet cars. Amtrak was making a concerted effort to replace them but they were still the best locomotive in the fleet and able to maintain the 3 hour 20 minute time for the run from New York to Washington.

View from the cab
View from the cab

The Crash at Union Station

On January 15, 1953 train 173 from Boston pulled by GG1 4876 was approaching Washington. All locomotives have three braking systems: 1) an independent air brake which applies brakes to the locomotive, 2) an automatic air brake which applies brakes to the locomotive and the cars; and, 3) a hand-brake which is somewhat similar in purpose to the hand-brake in a car. As the engine-man applied the automatic brakes he quickly realized something was wrong; the front end of the train was being pushed by the cars in the rear and the train was not slowing quickly enough. After the fact it was discovered that an angle cock at the end of the third car had somehow closed. This would shut off the flow of brake pipe air to the remaining cars making it impossible to apply their air brakes.

Most railroad stations, 30th Street in Philadelphia is an example of one, are run-through stations. In other words a train goes in one end and comes out the other. Union Station is not like that. As a train pulls into Union station it has reached the end of the line.

When the engine-man began to apply the brakes he was 2.1 miles from the station traveling between 60 and 70 mph. He managed to get the train slowed to between 34 and 40 mph as he entered the station by applying the hand-brake, using the braking he did have and engaging the sanders. It was miraculous he got that far as the train had to maneuver several switches at excessive speeds and did not derail. With the engineer sounding the horn all the way in the 4876 rammed through the buffer stops, through the station wall and offices and was sliding across the concourse toward the waiting room when it fell through the floor and into the basement. There were 87 injuries but no one was killed. The 4876 was cut into three sections and shipped back to Altoona. It was reassembled and back in service ten months later. Today it is stored at the B&ORailroadMuseum.

4876 laying in Union Station
4876 laying in Union Station

The End of An Era

Amtrak tried to replace the GG1 when they ordered a new locomotive from General Electric, the E60. The replacement ended up a failure as the E60 was never approved for speeds over 90 mph. They then experimented with a locomotive of Swedish design and contracted with Electro-Motive to build it. When the AEM-7s were delivered and placed into service Amtrak finally was able to begin replacing the GG1s. Conrail continued with a few GG1s until they ended the use of electric traction locomotives in 1980. The last GG1s in service were retired from New Jersey Transit in 1983.

Of 139 GG1 locomotives 15 remain in museums in various states of preservation. Because the transformer on the GG1 requires a PCB laden coolant none of them are operable and most probably will never be again. The rest have been cut up and sold for scrap.

GG1 4935
GG1 4935

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Like watching a documentary film. Interesting hub!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)