Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Sunday Streamline #7: Pennsylvania GG1

The PRR GG1 is a class of electric locomotives that was built for the Pennsylvania Railroad for use in the northeastern United States.

The GG1 was designed by the Pennsylvania Railroad based on the need for a locomotive that could pull more than 12 to 14 passenger cars. The railroad thought it had designed the perfect electric passenger locomotive, the P-5a (shown below), but as the P-5a locomotives arrived, it became necessary to double head them on many trains in order to protect schedules.

Two other factors were involved in the development of the GG1. The chassis and wheel arrangement were a result of experiments with a leased New Haven EP3a and the streamlined body and center crew cab were an outcome of concern for crew safety.

A tragic grade crossing accident in which a box cab P-5a hit a truck killing the engineer, reinforced the need for better protection for the crew. After the accident, a hold was put on further manufacture of the box cab P-5a and the locomotive was redesigned to include a center crew cab. The GG1 was given a sculptured carbody with contoured hoods that were tapered to provide visibility for the enginemen. As a result, a very aesthetically pleasing design evolved.

Raymond Loewy, the renowned industrial designer, reviewed the prototype and recommended welding the shell rather than using rivets. He then suggested adding the famous pin stripes, making the design an award winner.

The railroad built 139 units (#4800 through #4938) between the years 1934 and 1943. Many of them were built at the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, PA.

This streamlined locomotive, designed for bidirectional operation was mainly used for passenger trains, but a few were regeared for freight service. Lasting from 1934 to well into the 1980s it would be hard to find any other American locomotive design that operated for a longer period of time. The 79.5 foot long 230+ ton GG1 was built on an articulated frame which permitted its 2-C+C-2 wheel arrangement to negotiate tight curves even in congested areas.

Power was picked up from an overhead 11,000 Volt AC catenary wire by a pantograph and the voltage stepped-down through an on board transformer to feed the 12 single phase 25 cycle traction motors. Each of these motors developed 385 HP giving the GG1 a total of 4620 HP in continuous operation and allowed speeds up to 100 mph. The body of the locomotive also housed large blowers for motor and transformer cooling, a steam boiler for passenger car heat, electric controllers and sanding boxes.

Initially introduced into service by the Pennsylvania in 1935, the GG1 was operated by its successor companies—Penn Central, Conrail and Amtrak. For decades after their debut in 1935 one could watch GG1s leading the Pennsylvania’s most prestigious passenger trains (like the Broadway Limited) as well as that of other railroads.

In the 1950s some Pennsylvania Railroad GG1s began to be pulled for freight duty. However, the adept locomotives proved to be just as capable at this rugged type of service as hustling passenger trains up and down the NEC.

Beginning with the creation of Penn Central in 1968, however, the Gs’ days became more uncertain. While still in daily use due to their unwavering reliability the GG1 fleet was painted in an ugly and simple black and white scheme with the “PC” symbol flanking its sides.

The last GG1 was retired from service by New Jersey Transit in 1983.

Of the 139 units built, only 16 survive today. Some have been restored superficially and can be visited. It is not likely that any of these survivors will ever run again because of the prohibitive cost to rebuild or replace the electrical components.


Some pictures from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, Pennsylvania, where GG1 #4935 is preserved:

Sources: Steamlocomotive.com, american-rails.com
Images: RailPictures.Net, raymondloewy.org



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Comment by thetrainguru on November 8, 2013 at 2:48pm

probably the most reliable locomotive ever made in north america, It was used up until the late 1980's in New Jersey (NJT).

Also its just so beautiful in the old pennsylvania scheme.

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