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From the days of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroads were arch rivals. Here a NYC Hudson Locomotive is racing a PRR Pacific Locomotive for the daily bragging rights.
In reality, there was such a daily race. The 20th Century Limited left LaSalle Street and the Broadway Limited left Chicago Union Station at the same time each day. The two mainlines merged south of Chicago and ran parallel for 6 miles creating the most famous "drag strip" in railroad history.
Below is Howard Fogg's great painting of the daily event entitled, "The Race of the Century."
Race of the Century

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Last edited by NYC Fan
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Now that is great Skip. I don't remember where I saw/read/watched, probably on YouTube, one of the many New York Central videos or a compilation of some. In part of the video they are talking with one of the crew(retired as I think this was in the 1960's-1970's), and he was explaining the race they did on a daily basis. How they would come into the section of track and out pace the Pennsy passing them and getting into the station before them. I want to say this person smiled in saying so, so much to say also that the Pennsy crew were not to happy about it. Wish I knew what video it was, but I've watched so many on YouTube it would take a few years to find it.

Lol😄

You have just displayed why you have taken the OGR call name as @NYC Fan. The three paintings would be a wonderful display for anyone’s train room…

West has truly electrified the race of the century. I can hear the thunder from both the heavens and the steel rails.

Your engine collection is a wonderful display for the three rails! I have enjoyed your four engines depicted in the paintings.  

Is this truly not the realism of the “essence “ as addressed in the Forum…

What a race,

What a hobby ☺️

@Seth Thomas posted:

Lol😄

You have just displayed why you have taken the OGR call name as @NYC Fan. The three paintings would be a wonderful display for anyone’s train room…

West has truly electrified the race of the century. I can hear the thunder from both the heavens and the steel rails.

Your engine collection is a wonderful display for the three rails! I have enjoyed your four engines depicted in the paintings.  

Is this truly not the realism of the “essence “ as addressed in the Forum…

What a race,

What a hobby ☺️

Steel Steam and Thunder

Thank You Seth! I also like the West painting but I believe he used a great deal of artistic license in that he has the trains heading in the wrong direction. The structure in the background is the New York Central lift bridge over the Calumet River. It would be to the east of the Pennsy mainline. That would mean these trains are heading north, or west by the timetable toward Chicago. The daily race occurred as the two trains left Chicago heading south, or east by the timetable toward New York.

The structure still exists today.

Calumet Lift Bridge

This photo is looking west. The Pennsy bridge, still used by Amtrak, can be seen on the other side of the NYC bridge, which is no longer used and left in the up position. The high bridge further west is I-90. Therefore, the West painting which has the trains heading from left to right in this photo, actually has them heading north toward Chicago.

Still, as you pointed out, there is a great amount of energy West has captured in his painting.

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Last edited by NYC Fan

@NYC Fan I appreciate your explanation on the correct directions the West Painting apparently is depicting.  

But, appears this artist was more interested in painting what the Title portrays, the Steel and the Thunder.  

Possibly, West loved the huge swing bridge in his background rather than opposing direction.  At least he was in the vicinity of the location of the “race “.

I’m particularly taken by the story of the race happening on each scheduled run.
No internet available the last two days thanks to Suddenlink! Otherwise I would enjoy investigating the race near Chicago. As well as the artist, West.


And @Apples55 I have enjoyed your race to the Poconos tonight. I find I am amazed on the number of platforms available for your passengers.  Great design and much fun in the future.  Your engines are great as well.  I like the silver fleet of passengers cars as well.

I just came in from my train room.
I’m painting, not a picture but two buildings for my hometown.  No race involved but the two buildings were located on Railroad Street. One the local Peoples bank, the local post office the second.

Thanks again Skip an Paul 😊

@Seth Thomas posted:


I’m particularly taken by the story of the race happening on each scheduled run.
No internet available the last two days thanks to Suddenlink! Otherwise I would enjoy investigating the race near Chicago. As well as the artist, West.

The two trains left their respective stations, on opposite sides of town at the same time 12:40pm. The two lines converged on the south side at Englewood where they both had scheduled stops. After the brief stop The Broadway Limited, having arrived first, usually left Englewood first having a slight head start, and it was the Century that would have to catch up and pass The Broadway during the race. From what I've read, the passengers and the crew were very much into the race. For the 10 minutes that it took to cover the 6 miles, almost all on the two trains were glued to the windows.

Last edited by NYC Fan

I always, mistakenly, thought the Robert West painting "Steel, Steam and Thunder," depicted the Race of the Century. On close examination of my print, it is noted under the title "approaching Englewood Illinois..."

While I've never heard mention of any such race on the Westbound trains, theoretically it is possible that they both arrived at the "drag strip" at the same time, as both were due to arrive at Englewood between 7:43am and 7:46am. That being said the Robert West rendition is an accurate portrayal of a possible Broadway and Century meeting early in the morning heading north toward Englewood.

Last edited by NYC Fan

@NYC Fan

There you go Skip. the answer you have discovered yourself. It was there, just needed a little prodding and time.

The more we look, the more we find… I just can read the words under the title as you have determined.  It means nothing to me as I don’t know the territory.

As the salesman says while on the train in the “Music Man”,  “you’ve got to know the territory”.

Gents, I grew up on Chicago’s south side. My dad was a rail fan and passed it to me.

when I was a kid;
We would leave home after dad got off of work and head to the Illinois/ Indiana State Line road. Just before the tracks was a restaurant; Phil Schmidt’s . We would stop there. After the tracks was the lake and rocky beach off Lake Michigan where the street ended. If early we would skip rocks across the calm water. Across from the restaurant was, I believe, the Lever Bros plant. I can still remember the pungent soap aroma. Now a Schmidt’s was a fine restaurant and “watering hole”. I would sit at the bar with dad and his railfan cronies while they juiced up and I 7-upped. At train time we left the bar and walked over to the tracks. There was a gateman’s shanty between both railroads where a gateman stayed and protected the crossing. Inside was a small desk, coal stove and old timey extendable wall phone that would accordion out when in use. A single overhead hood- light  hung from the ceiling by cord and illuminated the shack. Two windows faced oncoming and going directions.  That’s where they would put me. I could see the action while being safe from flying debris as trains rushed by.
The men would get a call from Englewood that the trains had departed. The gateman, a crusty ole guy, would tell me to go in there, AND STAY. Dad saved his nickels and dimes for this event. These friends, who were well lubed, would start betting as headlights came into view. Their banter grew louder and I could hear a cuss word now and then as the race neared. The lamp in the shack would start swaying, the phone hand piece rattled, and the pencil, stuck in the sharpener on the desk, fell to floor as the thunder of the diesels reached into that building. I got scared and got yelled at for trying to leave and get to my father by the gateman. The horns and engines were deafening as both trains came upon us. The boys outside were now screaming at each other and their respective bets. Wonder replaced fear as the race passed my secure vantage point shaking all inside. Then tail lights and all was over. The gateman came back shaking his head at the folly of these grown men kicking me back to my dad while picking up his phone. Going home was somber as we both reran what we had witnessed. I always hoped Dad would tell me if he made or lost money on his gamble. He never did.

When my dad died, we celebrated his life at his post burial at Phil Schmidt’s. Both the race and Father are long gone. But my memories are not. So they both live on for me and now you.

Larry Dalke





i

@NYC Fan posted:

That was great, Larry! Almost felt like I was there with you. What year do you think that was? And, do you have any idea what locomotives were pulling those great trains?  I always figured the NYC had an advantage with the Hudsons and Niagaras but not so sure about the diesels.

Probably E units. The year mid 50s. I went a few times, my dad more often. They were beautiful. There were quite a few vantage points in. South Chicago. But State Line was where they were at speed. My dad witnessed the event back in the steam era too.

That should be the Broadway Limited Streamlined K4 Torpedo if I am not mistaken.

Correct.  It is the 3768 which was displayed at the 1939/40 Worlds Fair.  Streamlined by Raymond Loewy.

S Scale model shown:

PRR 4-6-2 3768 SF

While at the Fair the 3768 was painted a bronze color.  After returning to service, it was repainted DLGE.  The 3768 eventuality lost its streamlining and went to scrap in 1953.

Rusty

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  • PRR 4-6-2 3768 SF

Somebody mentioned that the two stations from which the PRR and NYC departed Chicago were on the other side of town from each other, kind of implying a great distance since Chicago has always been kind of a spread out town.  A better description would be to say that those stations (Chicago Union Station and LaSalle Street Station) were only about 5 city blocks apart.  That distance gradually narrowed until they reached Englewood Station which was also in Chicago, just somewhat further south.  From there, they both started their curve around the southern tip of Lake Michigan, and, if I remember correctly, NYC had the inside lane of that curve, giving them a little "advantage" in that race.

Chuck

Last edited by PRR1950

Correct.  It is the 3768 which was displayed at the 1939/40 Worlds Fair.  Streamlined by Raymond Loewy.

S Scale model shown:

PRR 4-6-2 3768 SF

While at the Fair the 3768 was painted a bronze color.  After returning to service, it was repainted DLGE.  The 3768 eventuality lost its streamlining and went to scrap in 1953.

Rusty

Well that explains the bronze colored ones I've seen modeled. Always wonder what that was about. Thanks Rusty.

@clem k posted:

If you want to see the Race..there is a video.   Herron Rail Video...reflections of the New York Central.  Video shot from the Broadway Ltd. ,  looking at a Niagara coming up fast !!

I'll have to check that out Clem.

@NYC Fan posted:

The structure in the background is the New York Central lift bridge over the Calumet River. It would be to the east of the Pennsy mainline.

The structure still exists today.

Calumet Lift Bridge

This photo is looking west. The Pennsy bridge, still used by Amtrak, can be seen on the other side of the NYC bridge, which is no longer used and left in the up position.

Would you suspect that the PRR and NYC drawbridge operators may have raced, too?  Not as spectacular as the trains racing, but Home Road pride extends throughout the railroad.

@Number 90 posted:

Would you suspect that the PRR and NYC drawbridge operators may have raced, too?  Not as spectacular as the trains racing, but Home Road pride extends throughout the railroad.

I would assume the default position of the bridges when both were in use was down. The Pennsy bridge is still in use by Amtrak. As the NYC bridge no longer serves a purpose, no tracks lead to it anymore, it is always in the up position.  Still makes a cool picture.

@Apples55 posted:

Thanks for all the fascinating historical info (Dave, Rusty, Chuck, and Tom). I was aware of Loewy’s involvement with the streamlining of the T1 and S1 (and, of course, the GG1), but this is new info to me - one of the things I love about this forum!!!

Paul, believe I am just a big novice with mostly everything on here. I am the guy that only knows the batting average of a few players so to speak. Or the best way to say it, I know steam locomotives have smoke stacks, lol. Skip, Rusty, Chuck, Tom and anyone else for that matter know way more than me. The only thing I do know is that Victor McLaglen starred in a movie called Broadway Limited(1941). I saw part of this on Youtube I think in 2019. I forget what I was looking up but saw that and had a laugh or two. They show some of the scenes of the streamlined K4 Torpedo traveling about with Victor playing the role of the engineer of the train. I only saw the short bit of this and can't remember too much of what was going on other than him having some issues with someone on the train. It is a romantic comedy and what I saw was somewhat funny to me. I think if I watched the entire film I could appreciate it since I usually like old films.

Since the topic is "The Race of the Century," here's another aspect that came to my aging mind:

  1. Were there any connecting tracks between the PRR and NYC at Englewood, and east of the drawbridges?  These could have been justified as being interchange tracks for cars destined to and shipped from industries served exclusively by only one of the two railroads.  However, in an emergency, such tracks could have been used to detour over the other railroad if, say, there was a big freight train pileup blocking all tracks of PRR or NYC (or if one of the drawbridges was out of service for some reason).*
  2. If -- if -- there were track connections, does anyone know of the 20th Century Limited or the Broadway Limited actually having detoured over the detested competitor's rails on the famously competitive stretch of track between Englewood and East Chicago?  We're not talking about Penn Central or Amtrak here -- only the two flagship trains of NYC and PRR.

If that ever happened, there would certainly have been glee in one of the railroads' headquarters, while there was seething anger in the headquarters of the road which had to detour.

I know one thing:  I would not want to be a member of a crew whose derailment caused such a detour to occur, nor would I want to be an officer or a supervisor on the Division which included that territory.

*  Normally, if the NYC or the PRR became blocked, and there was time to arrange another way to detour, say, via B&O, Monon, Erie, or NKP, that might have been the preferred solution, but, if the westbound Broadway or Century had already passed the last location where that could be done, there may have been only one heartily despised solution.  I'm only casually familiar with this territory, so that's why I am asking for experts to chime in.

Last edited by Number 90

That's a great question Tom. I myself would think that both railroads would have their schedules at hand and being prepared they would make sure that there was no interruptions. That being said however, we all know that no matter how well planned something is there is always a snafu. I could imagine the hectic dispatchers barking orders out, the signal men, anyone or everyone trying to right things to get their company ahead of schedule in such cases.

Can't speak for the NYC, but the PRR had a little used alternative route out the north end of Chicago Union Station during the early part of the 20th century.  Not sure how long it lasted, but they went north from the station, turned west after a short run, then turned due south for a good distance before turning southeast toward Indiana.  (Can't remember if this was the Panhandle Division entrance to CUS or another division?)  Most likely what would have been used in emergency, despite the passengers waiting at Englewood to head east.

Chuck

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