Saturday, April 12, 2014

Moving a GG1

Amtrak; Harris Tower, Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
On January 15, 1938, the city of Harrisburg, Penn., saw the arrival of its first electric-powered passenger train. On the point of the Metropolitan that day was GG1 No. 4859, built by PRR in its Altoona shops just a month earlier. This sleek GG1, designed by Raymond Loewy, would primarily power passenger trains for the Pennsy until 1964, when it was transferred to freight service (although it could be occasionally found pulling passengers on New York-Philadelphia "Clockers" or in commuter service on the New York & Long Branch in New Jersey). No. 4859 went from the PRR to Penn Central in the 1967 merger, then on to Conrail in 1976. Conrail phased out electric freight operations, and No. 4859 powered the last Conrail GG1-powered freight before being retired in November 1979.

Noting the historical significance of the locomotive to its city's history, the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society purchased No. 4859 and donated it to the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority. It was cosmetically restored, deeded to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and moved into the Harrisburg Transportation Center (the former Pennsy station) on November 13, 1986. For the next 27 years it would sit on display under the train shed, ultimately being joined by caboose ("cabin car" in PRR terminology) No. 980016. It has the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places twice (once in 1982 while undergoing restoration in Strasburg, Penn., and again in 2004 in Harrisburg) and was bestowed the title of the official electric locomotive of  the  state of Pennsylvania in 1987. The Harrisburg Chapter once again became owners of the locomotive in 2009 when it was deaccessioned by the Museum Commission.

The Harrisburg Transportation Center is slated to undergo a massive improvement project, including new trackwork, signals and platforms, and No. 4859 was in the way. Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation devised a plan to move the GG1 and cabin car 1000 feet west of the station, where they would be "cocooned" for a three-year period; the cocooning will protect the equipment from the elements while still allowing air to circulate.

April 5, 2014, marked the day of the move. The sun was trying to peek through the clouds as rail photographers gathered at Harris Tower (also owned by the Harrisburg Chapter NRHS). On the radio scanner, the crew of Amtrak B32-8 No. 514 could be heard switching to get ready for the move. Amtrak greased the rails on some curves and switches so the long wheelbase of the GG1 could slide on through.
Amtrak; Harris Tower, Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
Norfolk Southern's busy main line passes next to the station complex, where freights swing off the former Reading Company main at Capitol Tower (just railroad east of the station) and onto the former PRR to continue west.
Norfolk Southern; Harris Tower, Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
First out was the cabin car. The display track is stub-ended, so Amtrak No. 514 had to first pull the equipment east, change tracks, and then push west past Harris Tower to the final storage location. A group of Amtrak and PennDOT employees, as well as members of the media, were documenting the move from the ground and from the back of the caboose.
Amtrak; Harris Tower, Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
As the cabin car approached the end of the Market Street Running Track, where it would be uncoupled and left, a Norfolk Southern eastbound freight made an appearance.
Amtrak and Norfolk Southern; Harrisburg, Penn.; April ,  2014
No. 514 went back to the station to retrieve No. 4859. Meanwhile, on the other side of the State Street Bridge, an eastbound Norfolk Southern train led by NS's Norfolk & Western heritage locomotive, was getting ready to head out. The photo line on the bridge watched as the nose of No. 4859 poked out from under the station canopy at the same time as the freight started moving. Was there time to run across State Street to shoot the freight and get back across State Street in time to shoot the GG1 passing Harris Tower. Everyone looked south, then north, then south again, then north again. As soon as it became apparent that there would be time for both, about 25 photographers charged across State Street to get the heritage unit.
Norfolk Southern; Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
Racing back across State Street, the photographers got a Pennsy electric locomotive passing a Pennsy tower as No. 4859 gingerly stepped through the switches on its way west.
Amtrak; Harris Tower, Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
Things stayed busy, as empty intermodal cars at the rear of the train pulled by the N&W unit, a second eastbound freight and the westbound GG1 all passed. In a few more minutes, No. 4859 would be reunited with its companion cabin car and the two would await cocooning. They will emerge from their cocoons sometime in 2017 and once again a GG1 will briefly move along the rails of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Amtrak and Norfolk Southern; Harrisburg, Penn.; April 5, 2014
A complete photo gallery of the day can be found here.

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