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The George Washington

Last revised: January 12, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The George Washington joined the C&O's timetable in 1932, marking the bicentennial of George Washington's birth.  The railroad spared no expense launching this deluxe, heavyweight train, which featured an array of new and improved accommodations.

The train quickly eclipsed its counterparts - the Sportsman and Fast Flying Virginian - as the railroad's premier first class service.  Initially, the C&O had little interest in the streamlined movement.

However, that changed under new president Robert Young, who strongly believed in the concept and passenger service in general. During - and immediately after - World War II he devoted millions to new lightweight equipment from Budd and Pullman-Standard, and also attempted to launch a new steam-turbine powered streamliner, The Chessie.

As Thomas Dixon, Jr. notes in his book, "Chesapeake & Ohio Passenger Service: 1847-1971," Young even boasted his Pullman order was the "largest ever" from an individual builder.

Unfortunately, with waning interest in postwar rail travel, coupled with the steam turbine's issues, a considerable portion of Young's order was ultimately sold off.  However, the C&O did go on to acquire 130 new lightweight coaches, sleepers, parlors, lounges, and diners.

While the train's name is but a memory part of the route it followed is still used by Amtrak's Cardinal today between Washington and Chicago.

Photos

A Chesapeake & Ohio publicity photo of the newly streamlined "George Washington" (Washington/Newport News - Cincinnati/Louisville) seen here during the early 1950s.

History

The C&O's modest passenger fleet is somewhat ironic considering it launched the most beloved and successful PR campaign of any railroad, Chessie the kitten, in 1933. 

The mascot was used extensively for marketing purposes and is still widely recognized today.  The C&O was even working to launch a streamliner by that name during the 1940s but ultimately gave up on the idea.

Inauguration

The George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1932 in conjunction with the real George Washington’s birth year, which had occurred 200 years earlier (but not on the same day), operating between Newport News and Cincinnati, with through sleepers provided as far as New York City and St. Louis. 

Interestingly, as Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh note in their book "Streamliners: History Of A Railroad Icon," the train's original Pullman equipment and diner were named for people, places, and events associated with President Washington.

Timetable and Consist (March, 1933)

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Its interior was adorned in Georgian designs of the Colonial period and featured the very latest in passenger accommodations which included air-conditioning, "Imperial Salon" coaches with 2-and-1 seating, and carpet flooring. The railroad went so far as to boldly proclaim it the "Most Wonderful Train In The World."

Chessie The Kitten

The train itself followed the C&O’s super-scenic main line through the Appalachians and West Virginia's New River Gorge.  To promote the train the Chesapeake & Ohio used the now iconic Chessie, the kitten. 

Timetable (1952)

The creator of the sleeping kitten image was artist Guido Grenewald although Chessie is credited to Lionel Probert, an assistant to the C&O president.  

Probert, once given permission for the design's use, added "Sleep Like a Kitten"; within just a few years, Chessie had earned nearly legendary status!  When the C&O began offering the kitten as a merchandise piece demand was so high it regularly sold out.

The advertising campaign remains one of the most successful of all time and even today the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Historical Society continues to sell calendars and other memorabilia featuring Chessie.

1933 Advertisement

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Chessie’s celebrity status did not end with merchandise and an advertising campaign; the kitten became synonymous with the C&O.  She earned renewed famed in 1972 when the Chessie System was unveiled, a holding company for the C&O, B&O, and Western Maryland.

The railroad's new paint scheme featured the kitten’s silhouette overlaid in the Chessie System "C."  The livery was a mix of vermilion, yellow, and blue. 

Timetable (April 30, 1967)

Time/Leave (Train #1/Chesapeake & Ohio) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #2/Chesapeake & Ohio)
4:35 PM (Dp)0.0
Washington, D.C. (Union Station) (ET)
8:40 AM (Ar)
4:52 PM8
Alexandria, VA
8:05 AM
F 6:14 PM85
Orange, VA
F 6:40 AM
F 6:24 PM94
Gordonsville, VA
F 6:28 AM
6:51 PM (Ar) 7:14 PM (Dp)115
Charlottesville, VA (Main Street Station)
6:05 AM (Dp) 5:35 AM (Ar)
7:59 PM141
Waynesboro, VA
4:51 AM
8:23 PM154
Staunton, VA
4:30 AM
9:42 PM210
Clifton Forge, VA
3:13 AM
10:02 PM223
Covington, VA
10:42 PM245
White Sulphur Springs, WV
2:08 AM
F 11:18 PM269
Alderson, WV
11:54 PM290
Hinton, WV
1:06 AM
12:26 AM313
Prince, WV
12:27 AM
12:45 AM324
Thurmond, WV
12:08 AM
1:41 AM361
Montgomery, WV
11:16 PM
2:30 AM387
Charleston, WV
10:43 PM
3:28 AM (Ar), 3:45 AM (Dp)437
Huntington, WV
9:40 PM (Dp), 9:27 PM (Ar)
4:11 AM (Ar), 4:31 AM (Dp)453
Ashland, KY
9:04 PM (Dp), 8:49 PM (Ar)
5:09 AM484
South Portsmouth, KY
8:11 PM
F 5:29 AM505
Vanceburg, KY
F 7:41 PM
6:04 AM535
Maysville, KY
7:13 PM
6:23 AM552
Augusta, KY
F 6:53 PM
7:09 AM594
Newport, KY
6:15 PM
7:40 AM (Ar)599
Cincinnati, OH (Cincinnati Union Terminal)
6:00 PM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #1/Baltimore & Ohio) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #2/Baltimore & Ohio)
8:20 AM (Dp)599
Cincinnati, OH (Cincinnati Union Terminal)
5:15 PM (Ar)
F 8:49 AM621
Lawrenceburg, IN
F 4:40 PM
9:50 AM671
North Vernon, IN (ET)
3:40 PM
9:04 AM686
Seymour, IN (CT)
2:18 PM
9:51 AM725
Mitchell, IN
1:34 PM
10:43 AM768
Washington, IN
12:47 PM
11:02 AM787
Vincennes, IN
12:18 PM
11:16 AM797
Lawrenceville, IL
12:05 PM
11:45 AM819
Olney, IL
11:45 AM
12:17 PM841
Flora, IL
11:20 AM
12:45 PM866
Salem, IL
10:54 AM
F 2:00 PM934
East St. Louis, IL
9:45 AM
2:30 PM937
St. Louis, MO (Union Station) (CT)
9:30 AM

The stateliness of the original George Washington, along with its spectacular scenery through western Virginia's Blue Ridge, West Virginia's New River George, and portions of Kentucky soon transformed the train's into C&O’s flagship.

Its popularity even surpassed the railroad’s top service of the period, the Fast Flying Virginian. Its popularity also stemmed from the many online resort hotels, most notably the "Greenbrier" in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Consist (1952)

Listed as trains #1 (westbound) and #2 (eastbound) the train could reach New York City, via the Pennsylvania Railroad and available Pullman/sleeper service, or St. Louis, via the Baltimore & Ohio. 

In the early 1950s it was updated with lightweight, streamlined equipment including matching EMD E-series diesels, adorned in a beautiful livery of blue, yellow, and gray.


Chesapeake & Ohio's Newport News section of the "George Washington" departs westbound from Williamsburg, Virginia during a summer's morning in the early 1950's. Nearest the photographer is one of C&O's 10 roomette/6 double-bedroom Pullmans, the "City of Clifton Forge." Author's collection.

Final Years

The George Washington's consist included Pullman service sleepers, a slumber-room coach, reclining seat coaches, a diner-lounge, and sometimes a coffee shop car.  

According to Mr. Dixon's book, in the summer of 1963 the C&O, having gained control of the Baltimore & Ohio, transferred a slumbercoach, sleeper, and standard coach from the B&O's National Limited (Baltimore/Washington - St. Louis) to George Washington.

This was move was temporary due to the B&O's major daylightling project ongoing along the Parkersburg Branch section (Clarksburg - Parkersburg) of its St. Louis main line at the time.  This arrangement, however, was later made permanent in both directions in 1965.  The George Washington remained in service lasted until the end, when Amtrak took over most intercity passenger services on May 1, 1971. 

Sources

  • Dixon, Thomas W. Chesapeake And Ohio Railway:  A Concise History And Fact Book.  Clifton Forge:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2012.
  • Dixon, Thomas W. Chesapeake & Ohio K-4 Class 2-8-4 Steam Locomotives.  Clifton Forge:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2013.
  • Dixon, Thomas W. Chesapeake & Ohio Passenger Service:  1847-1971.  Clifton Forge:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2013.
  • Schafer, Mike and Welsh, Joe. Streamliners, History of a Railroad Icon. St. Paul: MBI Publishing, 2003.

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