George Washington (train)

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The streamlined George Washington in 1969, approaching Alexandria, Virginia

The George Washington was a named passenger train of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway running between Cincinnati, Ohio and Washington, D.C.[1] A section divided from the main train at Charlottesville, Virginia and operated through Richmond to Newport News. It began service in 1932 to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the first president of the United States.


When the George Washington was inaugurated as C&O's top-notch train on April 30, 1932, it was one of only two all-air-conditioned, long-distance trains operating in America. (the other was the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Capitol Limited, which was instituted as an all-air-conditioned train only a week or so before the George Washington).[2][3] New equipment was not built for this train; instead, older cars that were completely refurbished by Pullman and by C&O shops. It was still a few years before the streamliner craze, so C&O persisted with the standards of the time using its solid, heavy cars.[4][1]

The Pullman Company normally lettered its sleepers in a standardized fashion so that they could be interchanged and routed in any train in the United States with some uniformity, but there were some "name trains" to which specific cars were assigned on a regular basis, and C&O's George Washington was one of these. They differed from the standard Pullman sleepers in that they had the name of the train at the center of the letterboard where "PULLMAN" was usually placed, while the word "PULLMAN" was relocated to the end of the letterboard in small letters.[2]

In keeping with the theme, all the sleeping, dining, and lounge cars on the train were named for people, places, or events connected with Washington's life. In the sleepers the rooms were likewise given names of people associated with him.[5] Booklets about Washington's life, followed by descriptions of the new train, were issued in great quantity, the train appeared in advertising in major magazines and on C&O timetables, and the whole introduction was given huge attention and publicity. A country starved for good news latched onto the railway's confidence in the future and willingness to spend money to introduce a fine new train.

The April 1952 issue of Tracks Magazine reported:

"The George is a sizeable train as it pulls into Covington,(Ky): engine, three baggage cars, a diner, three coaches, four Pullman cars. The crew to handle it reflects its size: engineer, fireman, conductor, assistant conductor, flagman, Pullman conductor, four Pullman porters, two train porters, dining car steward, ten waiters, two baggagemen." [6]
Buffalo Pottery plate made for the George Washington

The George Washington was also known for its diner and its beautiful china manufactured by Buffalo Pottery. The diners on the George traveled all the way from Washington to Cincinnati.

After World War II, C&O chairman Robert Ralph Young attempted to upgrade the George Washington route service with newer equipment and steam turbine motive power. However, despite the C&O's substantial investment and planning, the project (which was to be called the '"Chessie") was aborted before service was to begin. In that era, automobiles and airline travel were quickly developing in the United States as the travel mode of preference over long distance passenger rail services.

Amtrak took over intercity passenger rail service on May 1, 1971. Amtrak kept the George Washington, including both the Washington and Newport News sections. Starting in July, Amtrak began integrating the George with the James Whitcomb Riley, an old New York Central/Penn Central daytimer running from Cincinnati to Chicago. The George began exchanging through coaches with the Riley on July 12, adding a through sleeping car on September 8.[7]:33 The two trains merged on November 14, 1971; the George Washington name was used for the eastbound train until May 19, 1974.[8]:38 The Riley was renamed the Cardinal in 1977. The present-day Cardinal still operates over the former George Washington route between Cincinnati and Washington. The Newport News section of the James Whitcomb Riley was replaced by the New York-Newport News Colonial (later merged into the Northeast Regional brand) on June 14, 1976.[8]:41

Chessie, The Sleeping Kitten[edit]

Chessie, mascot of the C & O RR

Part of the reason for the success of the George Washington, aside from the stunning scenery the train passed through, was the highly successful advertising campaign of Chessie the sleeping kitten. The kitten debuted in 1933 to promote the C&O's passenger trains with the catch phrase "Sleep Like A Kitten."[citation needed] While the kitten's rendition is credited to Guido Grenewald the success of the tiny feline as an advertising campaign for the railroad is honored to Lionel Probert, an assistant to the C&O president at the time.[citation needed]

The 1950 coaches[edit]

These cars were in two sections divided in the center. Fifty-nine coaches in the 1610-1668 series were delivered to the C&O by Pullman for service on most C&O trains, including the George Washington. Eight of these cars were sold to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Good photographs of this car may be found on page 8 of "Chesapeake and Ohio color guide to freight and passenger equipment". C&O removed the corrugations in 1967.[9]

The 1950 sleepers[edit]

On the George Washington the C&O used the new Pullman 10-roomette/6-bedroom 85’ sleepers built in the "City of" series, and 56 were built. Some C&O cars were used on the Pere Marquette; these cars were unusual in that the bedrooms were in the middle rather than on one end. See photos on page 107 of "Some Classic Trains", page 189 of "More Classic Trains", or page 9 of "Chesapeake and Ohio color guide to freight" and passenger equipment.[9]


  1. ^ a b "The George Washington". The Chessie System. American-Rails. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  2. ^ a b GEORGE WASHINGTON'S Heavyweight Cars, THE Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine, BNET
  3. ^ THE PULLMAN PROJECT, Air Conditioning Topics, Copyright 2001–2007 Thomas C. Madden[dead link]
  4. ^ GEORGE WASHINGTON'S Heavyweight Cars, THE - page 2, Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine
  5. ^ "The George Washington". Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. 1932. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  6. ^ "Captain of the George". Tracks Magazine. April 1952. Archived from the original on 2003-08-30. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  7. ^ Lynch, Peter E. (2004). Penn Central Railroad. Saint Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 0760317631. OCLC 53356627.
  8. ^ a b Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34705-3.
  9. ^ a b Prototypes for N scale passenger cars part 4: Streamlined lightweight corrugated cars, Model Power to Rowa; JnJ, Fred Klein, November 2003

Further reading[edit]

  • "The 75th Anniversary of 'The George'". Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Magazine. 39 (5). May 2007.

External links[edit]