1968: the year on rail

It may seem that 40 years ago was quite long ago in terms of technology, but in the railroad industry, things haven't changed much. Much technology and rolling stock from that year still remains today.

By the late 1960s, most of the original early century rolling stock on American passenger rail lines had reached retirement age and was by then obsolete. From the PRR/LIRR MP54s (first mass-produced electric MU cars in North America) to the first generation of NYCT Subway cars built in the 1910s-30s, railroad were now taking time to look for new modern fleets.

Modern design for passenger cars was now becoming standard and stainless construction was become across the board for all car builders including Budd, St. Louis and Pullman. Moving from the conventional "box shape" design of older passenger cars, these newer cars would have streamlined exteriors with smooth curves, often with stainless corrugations on the side (originally a Budd trademark) and interiors that were designed for customer confort in mind. Air conditioning was now standard equipment on most new fleets by the late 60s.

Famed designer Raymond Loewy who did work with the PRR (GG1), NASA, Coke, Studebaker and did various corporate logos including Exxon, Shell, Lucky Strike the US Postal Service and Nabisco was contracted by the New York City Trasnit Authority to design the 400 R40 series cars being built by St. Louis Car that were scheduled for delivery in 1968. The R40s were intended to retire the remaining BMT Standards back from World War I and the first of the R1 series, which were the oldest of the IND's original cars.

Loewy however including a 15-degree slanted end on each car's cab end. Viewed as futuristic and modern, the "slant" wasted interior passenger and cargo space and posed a serious safety hazard for those passing or riding between cars. After the first run of R40s on the F local in January 1968, it was determined that the "Slant" was impractical and unsafe and modifications would be made. These came in the form of large pantograph gates and steel guards on each car's cab end.

By mid-1968 the NYCTA decided that the last 100 cars in the R40 order would be "modified" in order to avoid the infamous slanted front. A modest straight front was adopted and would be similar to the R42s that would be built beginning in 1969. These final 100 R40s, built in later 1968 and into 1969 are now referred as R40M ("M"-modified).

At the same time St. Louis was completing the R40Ms, it was working on a order from the State of New Jersey called the Arrow I or "Jersey Arrow". The New Jersey Department of Transportation ordered 35 electric MU cars for the Penn Central to supplement and to begin replacement of the older PRR MP54 cars. Directly derived from the Budd Silverliner design, the Arrows (officially MP85) were also related to the SEPTA/PRR Silverliner III also built by St. Louis in 1967. The first cars arrived in New Jersey in August 1968 and began service on the Northeast Corridor between Trenton and New York Penn Station.

The Arrow I cars were followed in the mid 1970s by two larger orders of Arrow cars from Budd/GE, the Arrow II and Arrow III in 1974 and 1978 respectively. In the late 70s and early 1980s the Arrow Is became "sidelined" or stored out of service. After NJ Transit took over rail service in the early 1980s it was decided to convert the Arrow Is into push-pull cars. In 1987-89 Morrison Knudsen would rebuilt the fleet into Comet I-B push-pull cars, which still run on NJT's Hoboken Division to this day.

The idea of high speed electric rail service gained ground in the late 1960s, after Japan's Shinkansen was first introduced in 1964. Congress approved the High Speed Ground Transportation Act in 1965 to develop high speed rail technology in the Washington-Boston Northeast Corridor. Budd, General Electric, Westinghouse worked with the US Department of Transportation and the PRR to develop high speed electric service. The result was the "Metroliner": a series of electric high-speed multiple unit cars capable of 160 mph with streamlined, tubular bodies not unlike an airline fuselage.

61 Metroliner cars (31 coaches, 20 cafes, 10 club) were ordered by the PRR from Budd prior to the Penn Central merger. These cars were delivered and testes beginning in 1968 along the Northeast Corridor where they broke speed records. Regular Metroliner service began January 16, 1969. Upon the delivery of AEM7s in the early 1980s, newer Amfleet cars were used for Metroliner service and the original cars were put in storage. Many were rebuilt as push-pull cars in the late 1980s and like their Arrow I contemporaries, still run in service, on the Keystone between Harrisburg and New York working with AEM7s on the Springfield-New Haven diesel shuttle.

The Long Island Rail Road, the busiest commuter line in the nation had its MP54 backbone fleet well worn out by the 1960s. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a New York State agency was formed in 1965 to assume control over the NYCTA bus and subway lines and the LIRR. Using secured MTA funding, the LIRR ordered 620 new M-1 electric cars from Budd in 1967. These cars were a radical departure from prior designs as the M-1s had no end vestibules, trap doors and were of a rounded stainless design. All LIRR electric branch stations had to be be converted to high-level platforms prior to the arrival of M-1s.

The first M-1s arrived in fall 1968 and began service on December 30. In 1972, the MTA exceuted a contract for an additional 150 M-1 cars to be delivered by 1973 for a total of 770 cars. The 1968 M-1 design would also serve as the basis for the related Budd M-3 followup in 1985, and the Metro-North/ConnDOT "Cosmopolitan" series cars for the New Haven Division: the GE built M-2 built in 1972-77, the 1988 Tokyu Car M-4 and Morrison Knudsen M-6 in 1993.

-Kevin Wong