The history of the Shenandoah can be traced back to an earlier B&O train, the Pittsburgh And Chicago Express (westbound, train #9)/Chicago And Pittsburgh Express (eastbound, train
#10), which began during early 1918 (the railroad actually already had
service long-established between the two cities but simply renamed the trains). During this era when rail travel was at an all-time the B&O hosted a bevy of regional trains like this, particularly between Pittsburgh and Chicago (with many operating via Wheeling, West Virginia). Following the railroad's entrance into the streamliner craze during the mid-1930s with trains like the Capitol Limited, Royal Blue, and Columbian the B&O began to significantly update its passenger timetable to better reflect the changing times.
For instance, trains #9 and #10 became the Shenandoah after May of 1937, which were later renumbered trains #7, westbound and #8, eastbound (#9 and #10 then became the Chicago-Pittsburgh-Washington Express). The B&O's new run was extended beyond its former regional status and operated all of the way to the East Coast at Baltimore/Washington, D.C. The railroad marketed the train to those who could either not afford or did not wish to pay top price to ride the Capitol Limited, while still offering top-level service. The B&O also timed the train to make sure the westbound leg left D.C. and Pittsburgh overnight and arrived in Chicago during mid-afternoon. This insured that passengers wishing to catch late-afternoon western trains could do so.
Additionally, the eastbound run left Chicago later that night and was then passing through the Appalachian Mountains during midday to allow passengers breathtaking views during the daylight hours. Aside from the fact that the Shenandoah was popular for its timed western connections at Chicago it also handled a large amount of mail and express within its consist. Interestingly, it remained a steam-powered, heavyweight train until after the end of World War II. With more money to spend the B&O upgraded its top passenger trains during 1945 acquiring either new streamlined equipment from Pullman-Standard or building its own at its Mount Clare Shops. This effort saw trains like the Capitol Limited, Columbian, National Limited, Cincinnatian, and Shenandoah all reequipped.
The railroad also purchased second-hand, light-weight cars from other
lines, notably the Chesapeake & Ohio including three
dome-sleepers. Of these, the Capitol Limited received two while the Shenandoah
was given one, which first debuted on April 13, 1950 between Chicago
and Pittsburgh. It normally operated every other day, going west and
then returning east. Interestingly, as the secondary run for the Cap when the flagship's dome-sleeper was out-of-service for standard maintenance the Shenandoah's replaced it so sometimes the train would operate for many weeks without sleeper service available. Overall, the train's
consist mostly included coaches along with a diner, buffet-solarium
lounge (the only of its kind ever operated), and aforementioned
dome-sleeper. Except for the sleeper, while streamlined all of the cars
were rebuilt from older heavyweights.
During the late 1940s the Shenandoah finally received diesel power in the form
of E7As (first acquired in 1945) as the B&O continued upgrading its
fleet with more new locomotives such as E8As/Bs and F3As/Bs (some of
which were assigned to passenger service, notably the Columbian).
While the B&O may not have been as rich as the Pennsylvania or as
glamorous it nonetheless offered only the very best service. Take for
instance, the Shenandoah, which may have been a secondary train
but offered first class amenities including stewardess-nurses that
tended to a passengers every need. Unfortunately, all of these great
services could not stem increasing losses after the war. During 1948
the B&O offered some 185 different trains across its network according to Craig Sanders' book Limiteds, Locals, And Expresses In Indiana, 1971.
However, this number had dropped to 98 by July of 1956 and continued to fall throughout the rest of the decade. As for the Shenandoah
it lost its dome-sleeper after October 27, 1963. Additional cutbacks
had already preceded this, however, when it lost its buffet-solarium
lounge on October 30, 1960 and began terminating only to Washington,
D.C. during the fall of 1962. During that decade the train had begun receiving more head-end, mail/express as other less-noteworthy runs were dropped from the timetable. While this improved the train's financial performance it slowed its schedule. During 1964 the B&O changed the train's name to the Diplomat (once, a well-known train itself that served St. Louis) but then in an interesting move brought back the Shenandoah name in 1970.
As for the B&O the railroad was very passionate about its passenger
services. Unfortunately, the severe losses incurred simply forced its
hand. For instance, as early as 1950 passenger revenues were only 5% of
the B&O's gross revenues but accounted for 47.5% of deficits on
freight's net income. The year 1970 also witnessed the Shenandoah
truncated to only a Akron - Washington, D.C. routing although it
survived in this capacity until the start of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.
Incredibly, the new national carrier brought back the name for a few
years beginning in October of 1976 running between Washington and
Cincinnati (the same route as the former Cincinnatian) along
the B&O's now-abandoned St. Louis main line. However, this version
survived only until 1980 due to lack of ticket sales.
One of Amtrak's more scenic trains to skirt the Appalachian Mountains was its Shenandoah,
which operated between Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati. The idea for
the train was actually thanks to a senator from West Virginia who hoped
to see rail service restored across the Mountain State, which had once
been provided to both the northern and southern regions. Thanks to his
efforts Amtrak began to serve both areas including a forerunner to the Shenandoah as well as the Cardinal along the New River Gorge. For nearly a decade the national carrier tried to make things work for
the northern corridor although just as predecessor Baltimore & Ohio
had experienced a lightly populated region made ridership numbers
difficult to both gain and sustain. Ultimately, Amtrak pulled the plug
on the route in the early 1980s and a few years later much of the line
was shortsightedly abandoned by Chessie System/CSX Transportation.
the first few years of Amtrak's operations the carrier actually
experimented with several trains using the B&O's main line from
Baltimore/Washington, D.C. to St. Louis. This route headed west to
Cumberland where it continued due southwest to Grafton, West Virginia.
From there it wound its way through the Mountain State's northern
foothills with the largest cities along the corridor at Clarksburg and
Parkersburg, the latter of which lay along the Ohio River. Crossing
over into Ohio the line reached the small college town
of Athens, then on to Chillicothe and Greenfield before connecting to
Cincinnati. From there it continued westward through southern Indiana
and Illinois before reaching St. Louis. For decades it was a key route
for the B&O, both in terms of passenger trains like the National Limited
and expedited freight movements, especially from the 1960s onwards when
the route was heavily upgraded through West Virginia to raise tunnel
heights for COFC (Container On Flat Car) and TOFC (Trailer On Flat Car) traffic.
By the early 1970s this was still an important source of
revenue for the railroad. However, after Amtrak took over intercity
passenger responsibilities on May 1, 1971 it initially ended scheduled
trains over the route. The B&O's final service over the route ended
a day before on April 30th with the National Limited. However,
thanks to democratic congressman Harley Orrin Staggers, the future
brainchild behind the Staggers Act which would deregulate the industry
in 1980 the loss of passenger rail service to the Mountain State was
shortlived. In September, 1971 Amtrak launched the West Virginian
between Washington, D.C. and Parkersburg. Interestingly, the B&O
had operated a train of the very same name between Jersey City, New
Jersey (New York City, as the B&O liked to proclaim) and Parkersburg
listed as trains #23 and #24.
It was a dayliner that served the 351-mile corridor for many years
although lack of ridership eventually forced the B&O to merge it
with the Cleveland Night Express in 1954 and tried to increase
patronage by extending it to Cincinnati. New equipment was even
purchased in 1962 but eventually the railroad gave up on the train with
its last run occurring on July 4, 1964. Amtrak's version, which also
became known as Harley's Hornet or the Staggers Special
because of the congressman's influence, also had trouble attracting
ridership (it did not help that around the time the train was introduced
the city of Parkersburg razed their beautiful, two-story Sixth Street
Station in place of a parking lot). Interestingly, in 1972 in an
attempt to gain attention and passengers Amtrak experimented by
rerouting its high speed UAC Turbo Train along the line and renaming it as the Potomac Turbo. The trainset later became known as the Potomac Special
but unfortunately, mechanical issues and a lack of ridership saw Amtrak
pull it from service on April 29, 1973.
In its place the carrier
inaugurated the regional Blue Ridge from Baltimore/Washington to
Martinsburg and while it was later canceled the route is still served
today by commuter line MARC Train. Surprisingly, this was not the end
of passenger service over the route. On October 31, 1976 Amtrak again
inaugurated a train between Baltimore/Washington and Cincinnati known as
the Shenandoah. From Cincinnati passengers had the opportunity to catch a connecting train to Chicago via the James Whitcomb Riley/Mountaineer, later renamed the Cardinal in 1977 and operated to Newport News, Virginia. By the late 1970s Amtrak had acquired enough new equipment that the Shenandoah's consist usually included Amfleet cars
and either a GE P30CH or EMD F40PH for power. Accommodations on board,
since it was only a short run of under 300 miles, only included coaches and a cafe/snack car. However, due to complaints Amtrak began offer makeshift sleeping accommodations known as Ampads at the ends of coaches.
About 1979 the train began to receive Superliner sleepers.
Unfortunately, later that year congressional budget cuts to Amtrak
forced the carrier to reduce its network, particularly those trains that
saw the lowest ridership. As on of its worst performing routes, as
stated by the company, Amtrak was quick to cut the Shenandoah in 1980.
The train made its final run September 30, 1981. The eastern leg of the route was picked up by the Capitol Limited
(Cumberland-Baltimore/Washington). Sadly, the hope of riding a train
through northern West Virginia and southern Ohio was no longer an option
after 1985 when CSX/Chessie System oddly elected to abandon the route
between Clarksburg and Cincinnati citing high maintenance and low
traffic. Today, the Mountain State section of this line is now a
rail/trail while the Ohio portion is mostly an overgrown path save for a
few sections that remain in use by short lines.
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