Pennsylvania Railroad's "GG-1" Locomotives

Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive is one of the most iconic (steam, diesel, or electric) of all time. Sporting a beautiful streamlined design it not only looked good but it also performed exemplary reaching speeds of over 100 mph and remained in service for nearly 50 years after it first entered service during the mid-1930s.  During this time the locomotives carried all of the Pennsy's crack trains up and down the east coast from the Broadway Limited to regional services such as the Congressionals and Senator.  In many ways the “G” became the face of the Pennsy herself and while newer locomotives eventually retired the last GG1 in 1983 (which operated on the New Jersey Transit) the locomotive’s legendary status has not dampened. 

Today, several GG-1's have been preserved around the country.  The question is often asked, will one ever run again? The straightforward answer is no.  The locomotives utilized Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) as the cooling oil for the transformer units, a highly toxic material.  In addition, it was discovered in later years the locomotives' frames had experienced significant cracking due to years of service.  Alas, it would likely be cheaper to simply rebuild a GG-1 from scratch than attempt a restoration on a preserved unit.

In this famous postcard, Pennsylvania GG-1's are lined up and ready for service at the Sunnyside Yard (New York) in June, 1954.

A Brief History Of The GG-1

The PRR GG1 has its beginnings as the P5 class of electrics. The P5s were intended for use in the Penny’s high-speed passenger service along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). However, the motors never lived up to their lofty expectations and suffered from reliability and traction motor issues (carrying a 2-C-2 wheel arrangement, the high torque exerted from the dual traction motors caused heavy damage to the axles) causing the PRR to eventually bump them to freight service.  Still hunting for a reliable, fast, and efficient main line electric to haul premier passenger trains along the NEC the Pennsylvania turned to the New Haven’s EP-3 boxcabs for help. The EP-3 design was very reliable and did not suffer from the traction motor issue of the P5s. Based from the EP-3 design the Pennsylvania built two experimental designs for testing; the Class R1, a 2-D-2 wheel arrangement that was essentially the same arrangement as a Northern-type steam locomotive; and the Class GG1, which sported a 2-C+C-2 wheel arrangement and was based directly from the EP-3 design.

Pennsylvania GG-1 #4907 hustles a commuter run northbound along the Northeast Corridor at Edison, New Jersey, circa 1962.

Both locomotives featured a center-cab, bi-directional, design. However, the GG1 quickly proved that it was the superior motor and the PRR selected it to replace the P5s. The locomotive included a continuous rating of 4,680 hp which could sometimes peak as high as 10,000 hp, giving the locomotive impressive acceleration and pulling power.  The initial exterior design of the GG1 was rather unappealing and somewhat boxy with riveting used for the sheet metal carbody. Wanting the locomotive to have a classier and more streamlined look the Pennsylvania hired renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy to improve her looks (Loewy was also hired by the PRR for several projects, including fashioning the railroad’s famous Broadway Limited). While his touches were subtle they were perfect. Loewy suggested the carbody be welded rather then riveted giving the locomotive a more streamlined look (he also softened the edges and curves a bit). Loewy also gave the GG1 the famous “cat whiskers” pinstriping livery, which would go on to be used as the Pennsy’s standard paint scheme.

Wearing Penn Central black the GG-1's appeared as if they were dressed for a funeral; ironically, this was not far from the truth. Here, #4900 has train #111, the southbound "President," hustling past the station at Seabrook, Maryland on March 23, 1969. Roger Puta photo.

In all the Pennsylvania Railroad would own 138 GG1s (numbered 4800 to 4938), including the original riveted design, #4800 (known as Old Rivets) that remains preserved today! Because of their speed and reliability the Gs were loved as much by the train crews that operated them as the general public who rode behind them or witnessed them in operation. For decades after their debut in 1935 one could watch GG1s leading the Pennsylvania’s most prestigious passenger trains (like the Broadway Limited) as well as that of other railroads.  Regarding passenger operations one interesting aspect on the PRR was that the railroad never bothered to have its locomotives match the rest of the train. Streamliners were typically linear in nature with the locomotive and cars matching one another uniformly with some type of ended design for the observation car.

Pennsylvania GG-1 #4859 with a mail/express consist in November, 1956. Richard Wallin photo.

However, while streamlined, the GG1 included a curved nose on each end (and “cat whisker” pinstriping that sloped downward at each end) and the Class K4 Pacific #3768 (which powered the original Broadway) was painted in Brunswick green (unlike its rival, where the New York Central designed and painted its 20th Century Limited to match perfectly).  Beginning in the 1950s some PRR GG1s began to be pulled for freight duty. However, the adept locomotives proved to be just as capable at this rugged type of service as hustling passenger trains up and down the NEC.  Beginning with the creation of Penn Central in 1968, however, the Gs’ days became more uncertain. While still in daily use due to their unwavering reliability the GG1 fleet was painted in an ugly and simple black and white scheme with the “PC” symbol flanking its sides. 

Conrail GG-1 #4800, "Ole Rivets," is seen here wearing its Bicentennial livery with an Amtrak special at Leaman Place, Pennsylvania. Jerry Custer photo.

However, it was the creation of Conrail that saw most of GG1s retired or sold. Not interested in electrified freight operations Conrail retired or sold the rest of its GG1 fleet in 1979 two years before quitting on the practice altogether. By the late 1970s parts were also becoming more difficult (and expensive) to come by for the locomotive and the discovery of frame cracks ultimately led to their retirement. The last GG1 in active service operated on the New Jersey Transit on October 29th, 1983.  On a positive note, however, many Gs survive. Along with Old Rivets other surviving GG1s include (per their original PRR numbers) 4859, 4876, 4877, 4879, 4882, 4890, 4903, 4909, 4913, 4917-4919, 4927, 4933, and 4935.

These Pennsylvania Railroad GG1s can be found in the east at museums like the B&O Railroad Museum and Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and as far west as the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the Museum of the American Railroad in Dallas, Texas.  The GG1 is a railroad legend and it is a real blessing to have so many of these iconic locomotives still surviving today. While it has many times been proposed to restore a GG1 to operation the astronomical costs of doing so will probably prohibit such from ever happening. However, with so many examples of the G still surviving just visit one of the many museums that feature the locomotive to see what these Queens of the rails looked like.

GG-1 Locomotive Roster

PRR Number PC Number Conrail Number Amtrak Number Builder Date Built Disposition
480048004800-GE/Baldwin8/1934Retired 1/1980, Preserved*
480148014801-GE5/1935Retired 4/1979, Scrapped
480248024802-GE5/1935Retired 3/1979, Scrapped
480348034803-GE6/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
4804---GE6/1935Retired 3/1966, Scrapped
4805---GE6/1935Retired 1/1968, Scrapped
480648064806-GE6/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
4807---GE6/1935Retired 3/1967, Scrapped
480848084808-GE7/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
480948094809-GE7/1935Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
48104810--GE7/1935Retired 7/1969, Scrapped
481148114811-GE7/1935Retired 3/1979, Scrapped
4812---GE7/1935Retired 10/1966, Scrapped
4813---GE7/1935Retired 3/1967, Scrapped
4814---GE8/1935Retired 3/1967, Scrapped
481548154815-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse4/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
48164816--Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 4/1968, Scrapped
4817---Baldwin/PRR/GE5/1935Retired 3/1967, Scrapped
48184818--Baldwin/PRR/GE5/1935Retired 3/1970, Scrapped
4819---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 3/1967, Scrapped
4820---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 1/1968, Scrapped
482148214821-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
482248224822-Baldwin/PRR/GE6/1935Retired 7/1979, Scrapped
4823---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1967, Scrapped
482448244824-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
482548254825-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
48264826--Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 4/1969, Scrapped
48274827--Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 7/1969, Scrapped
482848284828-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 7/1969, Scrapped
4829---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 4/1967, Scrapped
4830---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1967, Scrapped
4831---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 3/1966, Scrapped
48324832--Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 3/1970, Scrapped
4833---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 10/1966, Scrapped
4834---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse7/1935Retired 11/1967, Scrapped
483548354835-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse7/1935Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
483648364836-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse7/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
48374837--Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse7/1935Retired 4/1968, Scrapped
483848384838-Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse7/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
4839---Baldwin/PRR/Westinghouse7/1935Retired 12/1968, Scrapped
484048404840-PRR/Westinghouse4/1935Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
484148414841-PRR/Westinghouse4/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
4842---PRR/Westinghouse4/1935Retired 4/1969, Scrapped
4843---PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 4/1967, Scrapped
484448444844-PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
48454845--PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 8/1975, Scrapped
4846---PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 3/1967, Scrapped
4847---PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 3/1966, Scrapped
484848484848-PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 12/1977, Scrapped
484948494849-PRR/GE5/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
485048504850-PRR/Westinghouse5/1935Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
485148514851-PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
485248524852-PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
485348534853-PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
485448544854-PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
485548554855-PRR/GE6/1935Retired 4/1979, Scrapped
485648564856-PRR/GE6/1935Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
485748574857-PRR/Westinghouse6/1935Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
485848584858-PRR/GE10/1937Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
485948594859-PRR/GE12/1937Retired 2/1980, Preserved
486048604860-PRR/GE12/1937Retired 5/1979, Scrapped
486148614861-PRR/GE12/1937Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
486248624862-PRR/GE12/1937Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
486348634863-PRR/Westinghouse1/1938Retired 12/1977, Scrapped
486448644864-PRR/Westinghouse1/1938Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
486548654865-PRR/Westinghouse1/1938Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
48664866--PRR/Westinghouse1/1938Retired 8/1975, Scrapped
486748674867-PRR/Westinghouse1/1938Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
486848684868-PRR/Westinghouse2/1938Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
486948694869-PRR/Westinghouse12/1938Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
487048704870-PRR/Westinghouse12/1938Retired 2/1979, Scrapped
4871---PRR/GE12/1938Retired 8/1967, Scrapped
487248724872-PRR/Westinghouse1/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
487348734873-PRR/GE1/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
487448744874-PRR/Westinghouse1/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
487548754875-PRR/GE1/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
487648764876-PRR/Westinghouse1/1939Retired 10/1983, Preserved**
487748774877-PRR/Westinghouse1/1939Retired 10/1983, Preserved**
487848784878-PRR/GE2/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
487948794879-PRR/Westinghouse2/1939Retired 10/1983, Preserved**
488048804880-PRR/GE2/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
488148814881-PRR/GE2/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
488248824882-PRR/GE2/1939Retired 10/1983, Preserved**
488348834883-PRR/Westinghouse3/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
488448844884-PRR/GE3/1939Retired 10/1983, Scrapped**
488548854885-PRR/Westinghouse3/1939Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
488648864886-PRR/GE3/1939Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
488748874887-PRR/GE4/1939Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
4888---PRR/Westinghouse4/1939Retired 8/1967, Scrapped
488948894889-PRR/Westinghouse3/1940Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
48904890-4890, 930PRR/GE3/1940Retired 1980, Preserved***
489148914891-PRR/Westinghouse4/1940Retired 12/1979, Scrapped
48924892-4892, 900, 4900PRR/GE3/1940Wrecked 1980 (?), Scrapped
48934893-4893PRR/Westinghouse4/1940Transformer Fire 1979, Scrapped
489448944894-PRR/GE4/1940Retired 2/1980, Scrapped
48954895-4895PRR/Westinghouse4/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
48964896-4896PRR/GE4/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
48974897-4897, 901, 4901PRR/Westinghouse4/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
489848984898-PRR/GE5/1940Retired 12/1979, Scrapped
48994899-4899, 902, 4902PRR/Westinghouse5/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
49004900-4900, 903, 4903PRR/GE5/1940Retired 1980, Scrapped
49014901-4901, 904, 4904PRR/Westinghouse5/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
49024902-4902, 905, 4905PRR/GE5/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
49034903-4903, 906, 4906PRR/Westinghouse6/1940Retired 1981, Preserved
49044930-4930PRR/GE6/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
49054931-4931PRR/Westinghouse8/1940Retired 1/1979, Scrapped
49064906-4906, 907, 4907PRR/GE6/1940Retired 6/1978, Scrapped
49074907-4907, 908, 4908PRR/Westinghouse8/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
49084908-4908, 909, 4909PRR/GE7/1940Retired 1981, Scrapped
49094932-4932PRR/GE12/1941Retired 1981, Preserved
49104910-4910, 910, 4910PRR/GE12/1941Retired 1981, Scrapped
49114911-4911, 911, 4911PRR/GE1/1942Retired 1980, Scrapped
49124912-4912, 912, 4912PRR/GE1/1942Retired 1981, Scrapped
49134913-4913, 913, 4913PRR/GE1/1942Retired 1980, Preserved
49144914-4914, 914, 4914PRR/GE6/1942Retired 1981, Scrapped
49154933-4933PRR/Westinghouse6/1942Retired 1979, Scrapped
49164916-4916, 915, 4915PRR/GE6/1942Retired 1980, Scrapped
4917493449344934PRR/Westinghouse6/1942Retired 1/1979, Preserved
49184918-4918, 916, 4916PRR/GE7/1942Retired 1981, Preserved
49194919-4919, 917, 4917PRR/Westinghouse7/1942Retired 1981, Preserved
49204920-4920, 918, 4918PRR/GE7/1942Retired 1981, Scrapped
492149364936-PRR/Westinghouse7/1942Retired 3/1979, Scrapped
492249374937-PRR/GE8/1942Retired 3/1979, Scrapped
49234938-4938PRR/GE8/1942Retired 1/1979, Scrapped
49244924-4924, 919, 4919PRR/GE8/1942Retired 1980, Scrapped
49254925-4925, 920, 4920PRR/Westinghouse8/1942Retired 1980, Scrapped
49264926-4926, 921, 4921PRR/Westinghouse9/1942Retired 1981, Scrapped
49274939-4939PRR/GE9/1942Retired 1981, Preserved
49284928-4928, 922, 4922PRR/Westinghouse10/1942Retired 6/1978, Scrapped
49294929-4929, 923, 4923PRR/Westinghouse2/1943Retired 12/1979, Scrapped
49304930--PRR/Westinghouse2/1943Retired 10/1968, Scrapped
49314931-4931, 924, 4924PRR/Westinghouse2/1943Retired 1981, Scrapped
49324932-4932, 925, 4925PRR/GE3/1943Retired 1981, Scrapped
49334933-4933, 926, 4926PRR/Westinghouse3/1943Retired 1981, Preserved
49344934-4934, 927, 4927PRR/GE3/1943Retired 1981, Scrapped
49354935-4935PRR/GE4/1943Retired 1981, Preserved
49364936--PRR/GE4/19434/1971, Scrapped
49374937-4937, 928, 4928PRR/Westinghouse4/1943Retired 1981, Scrapped
49384938-4938, 929, 4929PRR/GE6/1943Retired 1979, Scrapped

  Originally numbered 4899, re-numbered 4800 in November, 1934.  On display at Railroad Museum Of Pennsylvania.  The original GG-1 that featured riveted, not welded, construction.  Nicknamed "Old Rivets."

**  Sold by Conrail to NJ Transit on July 1, 1980.  Of the thirteen units, just six were placed in service with three actually operating; #4877, #4879, and #4882.  It was #4879 that had the honor of being the last GG-1 to pull a revenue train when it led train #3323 out of New York's Pennsylvania Station at 5:20 PM on October 28, 1983.  It ran as far as South Amboy, New Jersey where a locomotive change took place.  The next day all three units pulled three round-trip excursions between Matawan and Newark, New Jersey, officially ending the GG-1's service history after nearly 50 years of operation.

*** Sold to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum on March 20, 1981; acquired by the  National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1995; preserved indoors and presented in Tuscan red with pinstripes.

Preserved GG-1 Locomotives

PRR Number Location Owner Condition
4800Ronks, PARailroad Museum Of PennsylvaniaFair: Stored Outdoors, Black Paint
4859Harrisburg, PARailroad Museum Of PennsylvaniaFair: Stored Under Roof At Harrisburg Station, In Brunswick Green/Pinstripes
4876*Baltimore, MDB&O Railroad MuseumDerelict: Stored Outdoors
4877Boonton, NJUnited Railroad Historical Society of New JerseyGood: Stored Outdoors In Brunswick Green/Pinstripes
4879Boonton, NJUnited Railroad Historical Society of New JerseyGood: Stored Outdoors In Brunswick Green/Single Stripe
4882Elkhart, INNational New York Central Railroad MuseumPoor: Stored Outdoors, Black Paint
4890Ashwaubenon, WI (Green Bay)National Railroad MuseumExcellent: Stored Indoors, Tuscan Red/Pinstripes
4903Frisco, TXMuseum Of The American RailroadFair: Stored Outdoors, Brunswick Green, Single Stripe
4909Cooperstown Junction, NYLeatherstocking Railway MuseumDerelict: Stored Outdoors, Black/Primer Paint
4913Altoona, PARailroader's Memorial MuseumFair: Stored Outdoors, Tuscan Red/Pinstripes (Faded)
4917Cooperstown Junction, NYLeatherstocking Railway MuseumDerelict/Abandoned: Stored Outdoors, Black Paint/Rusted (Penn Central/CR)
4918St. Louis, MOMuseum Of TransportationPoor: Stored Under Train Shed, Black Paint
4919Cooperstown Junction, NYLeatherstocking Railway MuseumDerelict/Abandoned: Stored Outdoors, Black/Primer Paint
4927Union, ILIllinois Railway MuseumGood: Stored Under Shed, Brunswick Green/Pinstripes
4933Solvay, NYCentral New York Chapter, NRHSFair: Stored Outdoors, Tuscan Red/Pinstripes (Faded)
4935Ronks, PARailroad Museum Of PennsylvaniaExcellent: Stored Indoors, Brunswick Green/Pinstripes

* Significant as the GG-1 which crashed through the floor of Washington Union Station in 1953.



Pennsylvania GG-1 #4930 hustles a mail/express train westbound past Leaman Place, Pennsylvania (near the Strasburg Railroad interchange) circa 1962.

For more reading on the Pennsylvania Railroad's electric locomotives and operations The Pennsylvania Railroad Under Wire by author William Middleton (and released through Kalmbach Publishing, the same company which prints the popular Trains Magazine, among others) provides a nice retrospective on the subject, beginning when the system first entered service.  Also, Trackside Under Pennsy Wires With James P. Shuman by authorJeremy Plant is a coffee table title featuring a fine series of images, many of which in color, depicting the PRR's expansive electrified operations from the 1950s through the 1960s.




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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich




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