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Empire State Express

empire state express, empire state express locomotive 999
The Empire State Express was one of the named passenger trains and onetime flagship of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad a predecessor of the later New York Central Railroad On September 14, 1891 it covered the 436 miles 702 kilometers between New York City and Buffalo in 7 hours and 6 minutes including stops, averaging 614 miles-per-hour 988 km/h, with a top speed of 82 mph 132 km/h12


  • 1 History
    • 11 Amtrak
  • 2 Empire State Express No 999
  • 3 Equipment used
  • 4 In song and film
  • 5 See also
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


The train soon gained worldwide acclaim, and its route would later stretch to 620 miles 998 kilometers, to Cleveland, Ohio The Empire State was the first passenger train with a schedule speed of over 52 mph and the first to make runs of 14288 miles 230 km between stops between New York City and Albany: the longest scheduled nonstop run until then

The 1893 Guide shows an 8 hr 40 min schedule for 440 miles New York to Buffalo

RPO canceled cover from the first streamlined run of the "The Empire State Express"

On December 7, 1941, the New York Central inaugurated a new stainless-steel streamlined Budd train, powered by a streamlined J-3a Hudson 4-6-4 steam locomotive Later that day Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese Like many long haul passenger trains through the mid-1960s, the "Empire State Express" carried a 60-foot stainless steel East Division ED Railway Post Office RPO car operated by the Railway Mail Service RMS of the United States Post Office Department which was staffed by USPOD clerks as a "fast mail" on each of its daily runs3 Mail handled by the "Empire State's" RPOs was canceled or backstamped by hand applied circular date stamps CDS reading "NY & CHICAGO RPO" and the train's number: "TR 50" eastbound or "TR 51" westbound


See also: Empire Corridor

When Amtrak took over the nation's passenger service on May 1, 1971 it consolidated trains on the New York—Albany—Buffalo corridor into the "Empire Service" Amtrak revived the name, although not the route to match, on January 6, 1974 when it gave names to Empire Service trains The Empire State Express returned as a New York—Buffalo train, numbers 71 and 78 On October 31 that year Amtrak extended the train to Detroit via southern Ontario, Canada On April 25, 1976 Amtrak renamed this train the Niagara Rainbow Amtrak brought the name back in 1978 as a New York—Buffalo service, which in 1979 was extended to Niagara Falls A few years later Amtrak dropped train names on the Empire Corridor4:174

Empire State Express No 999edit

Main article: New York Central and Hudson River Railroad No 999 New York Central and Hudson River Railroad No 999, the "Queen of Speed," slows to 60 mph 97 km/h as it leads the Empire State Express through Palatine, New York in 1905

The key to the Empire State's initial fame was a 37-foot 11 m-long American-type 4-4-0 steam locomotive built in West Albany, New York especially to haul the train The handmade unit had 86" diameter driving wheels and was the first of its kind to have brakes on the front truck The bands, pipes, and trim were polished; the boiler, smokestack, domes, cab, and tender were given a black satin finish, and "Empire State Express" was applied to the sides of the tender in 2 ft 6 in 76 cm high gold leaf lettering

After touring the nation and making appearances at numerous expositions including the Chicago Railroad Fair, the unit was retired from service in May, 1952, at which time it was relegated switching service in western New York shuttling express service milk cars The New York Central donated the locomotive to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in 1962, where it has been preserved and placed on display It lacks its original 86" drivers, which were removed sometime after the historic speed run and replaced with smaller driving wheels1

Equipment usededit

An early circa 1905 heavyweight consist:

The Budd-manufactured cars in a 1944 Saturday Evening Post ad
  • Buffet
  • Coach 2
  • Sleeper drawing room car

Note: The Vice President's private car was often attached to the end of the train for excursions

In 1941 the New York Central ordered new lightweight stainless steel cars for the ESE trains from Budd Initially a Hudson with matched streamlined stainless steel panels was used The NYC planned their first day of operation with the new fluted equipment as December 7, 1941, but drew little fanfare as the US was focused on the attack of Pearl Harbor A set of the 1941 cars is owned by the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum

In song and filmedit

On 12 October 1896, The Empire State Express, a short documentary film made in the experimental 68mm American Mutoscope Company process, premiered at Hammerstein's Olympia Music Hall Theater in New York City The film was described by the critics of the day as "the greatest train view ever taken"5

In 1965, blues singer and guitarist Eddie James "Son" House, Jr, at the time a New York Central employee, recorded "Empire State Express" at the New York Folk Festival:

Went down to the station, Leaned against the door Went down to the station, Ileaned against the door I knew it was the Empire State, Can tell by the way she blows No 999 preserved on static display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, photo from 2003 Asked the depot agent, "Please let me ride the blinds" Asked the depot agent, "Please let me ride the blinds" He said, "Son, I like to help youyou know, But the Empire State ain't mine" The Empire Stateyou know she, Rides on Eastern time The Empire State, She rides on Eastern time, She's the "rollingest" baby, On the New York Central line excerpt from "Empire State Express" by Son House

No 999 was the inspiration for the eponymous steam engined-shaped space vehicle in the Galaxy Express 999 series of manga and animated films

The 2007 Lyle Lovett song "This Traveling Around" includes the verse:

And that 999, It's so fast you cannot see And that 999, It's so fast you cannot see

Members of the Chicago band, Empire State Express ESE, drew inspiration in naming their project from both the Son House song a staple of ESE's live performances and the No 999's static display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry The band's 2009 debut EP was titled "Land Speed Record" in honor of the train's legacy

See alsoedit

  • 20th Century Limited
  • Ohio State Limited
  • City of Truro
  • Race to the North British trains racing from London to Scotland in the same era


  1. ^ a b John Lienhard "Rain, Steam & Speed: Inventing Powered Motion" Retrieved 2007-01-28 
  2. ^ "GREAT SPEED Off THE CENTRAL; Empire State Express Engine Travels at the Rate of 112 1-2 Miles an Hour" PDF New York Times 1893-05-12 Retrieved 2007-12-13 
  3. ^ Riding the Fast Mail Popular Mechanics, February, 1943 p 56 et seq
  4. ^ Goldberg, Bruce 1981 Amtrak--the first decade Silver Spring, MD: Alan Books OCLC 7925036 
  5. ^ SilentEra entry


  • "Empire State Express No 999" Genesee County, New York Archived from the original on December 30, 2005 Retrieved March 1, 2006 
  • Hollingsworth, Brian and Arthur F Cook 1987 The Great Book of Trains Portland House, New York, NY ISBN 0-517-64515-7 
  • "The Two Fastest Long Distance Runs Without Stop" Scientific American — September 3, 1898 Retrieved March 1, 2006 
  • Yenne, Bill 1992 The Great Railroads of North America Brompton Books Corporation, Greenwich, CT ISBN 0-88029-783-2 

External linksedit

  • New York Central Sleeping and Parlor Car Equipment and Assignment of Space for the Empire State Express, Part I
  • New York Central Sleeping and Parlor Car Equipment and Assignment of Space for the Empire State Express, Part II
  • Empire State Express on Internet Movie Database
  • The Empire State Express & Webb C Ball contains various vintage images and trivia

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