When the Chesapeake & Ohio gained control of the Pere Marquette
Railway during the 1920s through its ownership at the time by the Van
Sweringen brothers the company instantly served the entirety of Michigan. This also gave the C&O access to the then vitally important city of Detroit
(for rail service). While the railroad was never on the forefront of
passenger rail service it eventually launched a new named train to
connect Detroit with the Virginias called the Sportsman.
The train operated on a roundabout schedule in an attempt to reach all
of the major eastern markets it either directly or indirectly served.
Eventually, the train was streamlined when the C&O put in a large order for new equipment around the end of World War II. Interestingly, the train would survive the railroad's once flagship run, the Fast Flying Virginian, as it remained in service all of the way until Amtrak took over intercity passenger services in the spring of 1971.
This scene of the C&O's George Washington was captured at Doswell, Virginia on January 5, 1969 with the train being led by E8A #4003.
When the Chesapeake & Ohio took over the Pere Marquette the PM
provided regional service across Michigan but not much else. As such,
the C&O looked to expand these services and link Michigan to its own
network that reached Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, and the East
Coast cities of Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, and Norfolk/Newport
News. While there was a brief delay the Sportsman finally
entered service on March 30, 1930 between Detroit and Newport News with
an available connection to Washington, D.C. via the Southern Railway at
Charlottesville. Additionally, some years later after World War II and
the addition of new streamlined equipment the C&O launched other
Michigan services dubbed Pere Marquette that connected Detroit-Grand Rapids, Chicago-Grand Rapids/Muskegon, and Detroit-Saginaw.
It is somewhat interesting that when the train was launched the C&O took a much different stance to passenger services something that drastically changed just two years later during World War II. Overall, the C&O at the time did not believe it necessary to spend vast amounts of money on passenger trains. The train, listed as #4 and #5 on the railroad's official timetable, was a very modest operation featuring heavyweight equipment and the railroad's new Class F 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotives. In total, there were five of these locomotives, 490-494, and were built at the company's shops in Richmond during 1926. While not streamlined the steamers were elegant nonetheless with gleaming, shiny paint and white-wall wheels.
Seen here at Newport News, Virginia is the C&O's GW powered by an E8A on June 9, 1969.
The actual consist of the original train included a combine that offered smoking service, "Imperial Salon" coaches (something that would also be offered on the George Washington
inaugurated in 1932), a diner and club diner (the former was only
offered east of Ashland, Virginia while the latter west of the city),
Pullman sleepers, and an observation-lounge. Interestingly, this
heavyweight equipment on the train lasted only about 14 years. In 1942
the Chesapeake & Ohio gained new leadership in the way of Robert
Young, who as it turns was a strong proponent of passenger rail service.
With the back of the board of directors Young quickly set out to
purchase new, lightweight cars to completely reequip its passenger
In 1944 the C&O placed its first order of 14 streamlined,
lightweight cars from Pullman-Standard to update its regional services
in Michigan on the former Pere Marquette. Then, in 1946 the railroad
placed additional orders; 46 cars from the Budd Company as well as 287
additional cars from Pullman to complete the upgrade of its fleet.
Unlike most lines which simply placed its order or hired an industrial designer to design and layout car interiors, the C&O through its research
department worked very closely with Pullman and Budd with its cars.
For instance, the railroad moved its most expensive bedrooms to the
center of the sleepers where the ride was smoother and partitioned its coaches
to give passengers a more "roomy" feeling while seated.
(The below Sportsman (Detroit section) timetable is dated effective April 30, 1967. By this date the train, as a separate consist, ran only from Detroit to Ashland, Kentucky. For additional information about the train please click here.)
Time/Leave (Train #4-47)
Time/Arrive (Train #4-46)
4:55 AM (Dp)
1:05 AM (Ar)
7:10 AM (Ar), 7:25 AM (Dp)
Columbus, OH (Union Station)
10:45 PM (Dp), 10:30 PM (Ar)
F 7:57 AM
F 9:53 PM
F 8:40 AM
Upper Sandusky, OH
F 9:06 PM
F 9:08 AM
F 8:38 PM
9:50 AM (Ar), 9:55 AM (Dp)
7:55 PM (Dp), 7:25 PM (Ar)
F 10:30 AM
F 6:46 PM
11:50 AM (Ar)
5:25 PM (Dp)
the C&O began receiving its new cars although it ultimately
cancelled part of its order. Around this time the Chesapeake & Ohio also began receiving
new streamlined diesels from the Electro-Motive Divisions; E7As (1948),
E8As (1951-1953), and FP7s (1952). Overall, the new locomotives and
cars came delivered in a beautiful livery of gray, yellow, and deep blue
that was somewhat similar to the passenger scheme used by the
neighboring (and eventual subsidiary) Baltimore & Ohio. Like its
counterpart, the Fast Flying Virginian, the Sportsman was
purposefully scheduled so that passengers could see the beautiful New
River Gorge and Appalachian Mountains during the daylight hours. For more information about the C&O's late-era services please click here.
Chesapeake & Ohio E8A #1471 is powering today's George Washington as it rolls at-speed through Mitchell, Virginia on June 2, 1969.
Unfortunately, by the time the Chesapeake & Ohio received its new equipment and
upgraded its passenger trains, patronage from the public was already declining and continued
through the 1950s with the advent of faster airlines and the new Interstate Highway System. On April 29, 1962 the train was dropped east of Ashland and combined with the F.F.V. By 1968 most of the C&O's remaining services were combined along most of their routes with service on the Sportsman cut down to just three days a week (Friday, Saturday, and
Sunday) after August 2, 1970. Interestingly, though, the train survived
until the last day before Amtrak on April 30, 1971.