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How to read the train descriptions in the railroad and route topics

For those who are not familiar with Official Guides: they are published monthly for use by railroad booking agents. The June 1935 Guide we have is 2-1/2" thick, crammed with details of every railroad, shipping line, ferry route, steamship connections, air and bus connections - in short, every means of public conveyance (other than walking) for the US, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, parts of Europe, Asia and South America.

Also listed are hotels, resorts, National Parks and major tourist attractions; as well as Public Agencies dealing with railroads, railroad suppliers and major booking agencies.

These incredible documents are set in minute 4 point and 5 point type - by hand! - printed by the tens of thousands and used for a single month before being thrown away. Our June 1935 Guide was printed on newsprint a human lifetime ago. It is faded, the paper has turned brown, and it is delicate as a dry leaf. But the information crammed into it is a priceless look at the Golden Age.

While some may argue that a later date should be used, 1935 can be thought of as the peak of the Railroad Age. The industry is fully mature. The equipment is still in transition - many Varnish cars still around, the first of the lightweights starting to appear. The greatest of steam, the finest electrics and the early diesels sit side by side. Doodlebugs and Trolley lines are still plentiful.

The worst of the Depression is passing (though times are still tough) and the economy is starting to rebound. Ahead lie cataclysmic events - World War 2, the post war reequipping boom and the growth of highways and air travel - that will distort and ultimately destroy the Passenger Train Era. What better place to set our marker, then?

A large part of why "The Limited" was created is to bring this Age to life again. Transcribing this 65 year old document into the modern electronic media will preserve a part of our heritage that will, otherwise, inevitably crumble to dust.

Each individual train description in the various "Railroads" and "Routes" is a brief summary as shown in the examples below. We are standardizing these descriptions based on current operations as of June 1935. Only the trains that are in service at the time will be listed.

Seasonal trains, trains that quit before or started after June, 1935 will be noted in various special Topics and click-to references. In "The Great Routes", separate sections will list the well known trains of the Lightweight Era as a supplement to the 6/35 timeline

No system of listing passenger trains can cover all the variables. However, this is likely the best way to do this. By listing all the trains as of a given date, it is easy to see the state-of-the-art and how various roads and classes of service relate to each other.

Each Topic will cover the Name Trains of the specific railroad, plus the principal numbered trains and a representative sample of local and branch line operations.

This will show you how to interpret these listings:

Basic Train Listings

PRR (trains 1077 / 1070) NYCity to Atlantic City, ex- su.
buffet parlor- coach.
tr 1077 (s) lv NYCity 2.10 pm - arr Atlantic City 5.00 pm.
tr 1070 (n) lv Atlantic City 8.25 am - arr NYCity 11.25 am.

This is your basic train listing. Given are the ROAD (train numbers) Start and End points and frequency of service (ex- su). Below this is a summary of the equipment. Finally, the timetable of each train shows direction of travel (s) departure (lv) and arrival (arr) times.

Combined Numbered Trains

CofGa Macon to Birmingham, daily.
obs sleeper- coach.
tr 3-9 (w) lv Macon 2.35 am - arr Birmingham 11.20 am.
tr 10-4 (e) lv Birmingham 4.50 pm - arr Macon 12.40 am.
Note: the first part of #3-9 starts out as a section of #3 "The Westerner", which it drops off at Macon before turning north to Atlanta. The "9" portion is a section of coaches brought up from Albany by the "Seminole". The two sections meet at Columbus and proceed to Birmingham. The reverse movement - #10-4 - delivers southbound sections to the "Seminole" at Columbus and eastbound to #4, the "Savannahian" at Macon.

Some train movements can be really complicated, especially the combined trains like the #3-9, shown here. Notes at the bottom of each train listing will try to sort these details out.

Hitting The Lunch Counter

CofGa Griffin to Chattanooga, daily.
coach- no food.
tr #1 (w) lv Griffin 9.25 am - arr Chattanooga 5.15 pm.
tr #2 (e) lv Chattanooga 6.40 am - arr Griffin 1.35 pm.
Notes: tr #1 (s) stops 20 min at Breman for lunch

Here is an interesting touch: note how tr #1 "stops 20 min at Breman for lunch". Curiously, tr #2 (returning) does not stop.

Joint Operations

B&M / CV / CN (trains 307 / 332)(CV) Boston via White River, via Montreal to Quebec, daily.
parlor- coach- buffet lounge.
tr 307 (n) lv Boston 8.00 am - arr Quebec (ferry station) 12.40 am (2nd day).
tr 322 (s) lv Quebec (ferry station) 11.30 pm - arr Boston 6.30 pm (2nd day).

This listing shows how a multi-road joint train is listed. Trains like these are common efforts with each road putting up part of the rolling stock. However, realistically, they become identified with one particular road, as given in parenthesis after the train number. In this case, the "Ambassador" (trains 307 / 332) is generally thought of as being a (CV) Central Vermont train.

The respective roads are listed in the order they receive the train in its primary direction of travel: in this case, the train is generally thought of as a run "from" Boston "to" Quebec, so the roads are listed as B&M / CV / CN, in order.

Note that the Quebec stop is at the (ferry station). Also note that it arrives on the morning of the (2nd day).

Foreign Road Through Trains

Wash DC to NYCity, daily.
rm sleeper- sleeper- sect sleeper- diner- bag club- sect obs
tr 122 (n) lv Wash DC 7.25 am - arr NYCity 11.59 am.

Some trains are run throughs which the railroad has no interest in. This is one of the Pennsylvania Railroad's combined trains: all foreign roads being forwarded to New York City. Even if a train is listed in a particular railroad Topic, unless the road's initials are in the lead line, it is not a participant.

Note how the first 3 roads are running unnamed "Expresses" while the Seaboard Air Line has a name train. Also note that the equipment is for the combined trains - as equipment varies from train to train.

The schedule numbers and running times are listed only for the particular Topic railroad. To follow the progress of any through train, refer to the subsequent railroad Topics.

Some specific details of train listings

(The) Train Name -

(shown at the head of the train description) this is the name that this train is most commonly known by. Other names and nicknames, if any, are listed in the notes.


(at the beginning of the first line) This is the railroad or railroads that run this train. All roads that have a part in this train are listed here.

(train numbers) -

This is the schedule number of this train on the particular railroad. Through trains often change numbers when they reach new carriers. Joint trains eventually split up, with each consist having its own name/number and the name/number of the rest often changing as well.

(lv) - the route - (arr)

This shows the respective end points of this train. In the case of through trains that are forwarded beyond the railroads end, or in the case of sections that split off of the main train, the further destination will be given in parenthesis. For example:

(NYCity) Richmond via Charleston to Jacksonville (Miami)(St. Petersburg)

This is a train forwarded from (New York City) to Richmond, traveling via Charleston, SC and arriving at Jacksonville, Florida where it splits into two sections for (Miami) and (St. Petersburg). Details will be given in the Notes.


Type Of Equipment

This is a brief summary of the accommodations. Included are:

"room sleeper" - (an all-room Pullman like a 6-3, 7 dwgrm, etc.),
"sleeper" - (a general purpose Pullman like a 12-1, 8-1-2, etc.),
"sect sleeper" - (a 14 section or 16 section car with no rooms),
"parlor" - (having deluxe parlor seating),
"chair" - (recliner chair cars),
"coach" - (regular coaches with bench seats),
"diner" - (one or more full dining cars),
"cafe" - (a mini diner with a reduced selection of full prepared meals),
"buffet" - (a limited prepared food capacity, generally sandwiches and snacks),
"tavern" - (a club or lounge serving drinks and snacks, but no prepared food),
"no food" - (should be self explanatory),
"sun" - (an enclosed sun room lounge observation car.),
"obs" - (an open platform lounge observation car - listed as "sleeper obs", "room sleeper obs", etc.),
"head end" - (having extensive head end equipment).

A typical listing might be:

room sleeper- chair- diner- buffet (or) sleeper- coach- no food- head end (or) parlor- diner- tavern

Sometimes, a car will have several types of accommodations, such as:

sleeper obs (or) coach lounge cafe (or) parlor buffet


Miscellaneous Notes:

Since timetables are crammed with cryptic symbols referring to details in the fine print, who are we to argue with tradition?

Frequency of service - This is how often this train runs.

daily - (go figure),
ex-su - (daily except Sunday),
ex-sa - (daily except Saturday),
sa-su - (Saturday and Sunday only)
m-w-f - (Monday, Wednesday & Friday (or any similar combination)
x2 - (the number of daily trips made by a given train or a common short haul pool)
Seasonal trains - will have their start and end dates in Notes: "Dec - May" or a general "seasonal" notation.

Air Conditioning - pending new A/C equipment will be given in Notes.

A/C - air conditioned (mechanical or ice).
part A/C - some of the cars are air conditioned. Specific cars will often be noted in the equipment summary.
P/C - pre cooled (a car that is cooled by a stationary cooling unit before departure, but does not have A/C).
part P/C - as with part A/C.

Class of service - noting peculiarities about this train.

X - denotes an extra-fare train or particular accommodation (e.g. "coach- cafe coach A/C X- head end").
Advance - an advance section operating ahead of the primary train.
2nd - 3rd - (etc) subsequent sections of a train. Different sections may have different classes of accommodation.
mixed - a mixed train.
motor car - a Doodlebug or other railcar.
motor train - an articulated or semi-articulated fixed consist powered by diesel or distillate.
diesel - powered by regular diesel locomotives.
MU - multiple unit cars.
"by boat to - " - ferry or steamship connections.
"by air to - -" - connections to or from airplanes, including joint rail-air schemes.
"2nd day" (etc) - trains taking roughly 24 hours or more.

(Note: a summary is available as a Free Downloads. We suggest you download it as a reference sheet.)

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North East Rails  Clint Chamberlin.
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Current Update: 03/12/00