Night Owl (train)

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Night Owl
Overview
First service June 6, 1972
Last service July 10, 1997
Former operator(s) Amtrak

The Night Owl was a passenger train operated by Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts via New York City. It operated from 1972 to 1995 on an overnight schedule with sleeper service; it was the only such train on the Northeast Corridor. In 1995 Amtrak dropped most individual train names from its Northeast Corridor services and the Night Owl became another NortheastDirect service, but still on an overnight schedule. Amtrak replaced it with the Twilight Shoreliner in 1997.

History[edit]

At first Amtrak did not feature overnight service on the Northeast Corridor. The last such train was the Federal, operated by Penn Central. Amtrak did not retain the Federal and it made its last run on April 30, 1971.[1] Amtrak restored overnight service on June 6, 1972. The new train was named the Night Owl (numbered 168/169) and carried coaches, sleeping cars, and a buffet-lounge-sleeper. The southbound Night Owl departed Boston's South Station at 10 PM and arrived in Washington's Union Station at 8:30 AM. The northbound train departed Washington at 10:30 PM and arrived in Boston at 8:25 AM.[2]

In early 1977 Amtrak upgraded the Night Owl with Amfleet coaches and an Amfleet dinette.[3] Between 1978–1979 the Night Owl operated combined with the Hilltopper between Washington and Boston. South of Washington the Hilltopper continued west to Catlettsburg, Kentucky.[4]:73

Between April–October in 1992 Amtrak operated a section of the eastbound Night Owl via the so-called "Inland Route". At New Haven cars separated and operated via Hartford, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts into Boston. At the time Amtrak contemplated replacing the overnight Washington–Montreal Montrealer with a Boston–Montreal day train. If this had come to pass the Inland Route section would have connected with this train in Worcester, Massachusetts. Nothing came of the proposed change to the Montrealer and ridership on the section was low.[5][6] Amtrak permitted smoking aboard the Night Owl until 1994.[7]

One regular patron of the Night Owl was Senator Joseph Biden, who recalled falling asleep (on more than one occasion) on the train north out of Washington and waking up in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, well past his usual stop at Wilmington, Delaware. Biden jokingly blamed the incidents on fellow senator Arlen Specter, who, Biden claimed, "told [the conductors] not to wake me up in Wilmington."[8]

Executive Sleeper[edit]

In October 1984 Amtrak revived the concept of the "set-out sleeper", last seen on the Northeast Corridor in 1970. Amtrak parked a sleeping car at Pennsylvania Station in New York City. Ticketed southbound passengers were permitted to board beginning at 9:30 PM. The car was attached to the southbound Night Owl, which had a scheduled departure time from New York of 3:50 AM. Conversely, the northbound Night Owl dropped a sleeping car in New York at a similarly early hour, but passengers could remain aboard until 8:00 AM. This service made the Night Owl a real option for business travelers between New York and Washington. Amtrak termed this service Executive Sleeper, although New York Executive and Washington Executive were also employed.[9][10] Amtrak ended the service on August 19, 1994, because of equipment shortages.[11]

MBTA crash[edit]

On December 12, 1990, the Night Owl was involved in what was then the most serious accident in the history of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). While under the direction of an apprentice engineer, the Night Owl entered a curve near Back Bay station in Boston at excessive speed. The train derailed and struck an MBTA Stoughton Line commuter train on a different track. 453 people were injured. The crash wrecked the two EMD F40PH diesel locomotives which were hauling the train, a material handling car (carrying express freight), a baggage car and two Amfleet coaches.[12][13]

Replacement[edit]

In 1995 Amtrak applied the NortheastDirect branding to all intercity services on the Northeast Corridor, save long-distance trains, the New York-Philadelphia Clockers, and the premium Metroliners. The schedule remained the same and timetables still showed the Night Owl name underneath the "Northeast Direct" brand.

The Night Owl made its last run on July 10, 1997. Losses were high and its equipment was outdated. Amtrak relaunched the service as the Twilight Shoreliner. The train carried Viewliner sleeping cars, replacing Heritage Fleet equipment and a first class-only lounge called the "Twilight Lounge". The train's southern terminus was extended from Washington to Newport News, Virginia. Dave Nogar, then Amtrak's general manager for NortheastDirect services, reflected that "Anyone who rode the Night Owl knows it was a rather unique experience. Now we have a deluxe overnight train."[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Passenger trains operating on the eve of Amtrak". Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ Amtrak (June 11, 1972). "Nationwide Schedules of Intercity Passenger Service". 
  3. ^ Amtrak (February 1977). "Welcome aboard Amtrak's new Night Owl". 
  4. ^ Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. OCLC 61499942. 
  5. ^ Keveney, Bill (March 7, 1992). "Amtrak Resuming Morning Run Between Hartford And Boston". Hartford Courant. 
  6. ^ NARP (August 28, 1992). "Hotline #736 – August 28, 1992". 
  7. ^ "Amtrak Bans Smoking on More Trains". Chicago Sun-Times  – via HighBeam (subscription required). August 28, 1994. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr delivers remarks on Amtrak's new cities sprinter electric locomotive". Washington Transcript Service  – via HighBeam (subscription required). February 2, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ Amtrak (1985). "Amtrak's Executive Sleeper Service". 
  10. ^ Wade, Betsy (November 11, 1984). "Sleeper Service to the Capital". New York Times. 
  11. ^ NARP (August 19, 1994). "Hotline #839 – August 19, 1994". 
  12. ^ NTSB (February 25, 1992). "Railroad Accident Report". 
  13. ^ Blake, Andrew (February 26, 1992). "Apprentice, Amtrak faulted in '90 Back Bay train crash". Boston Globe  – via HighBeam (subscription required). Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ Chapman, Mark David (July 20, 1997). "All aboard for Amtrak's revamped night service". Boston Herald  – via HighBeam (subscription required). Retrieved July 4, 2014. 

External links[edit]