Famous Locomotives

The GG1

The United States never embraced railroad electrification in a big way. Distances were generally too great and traffic densities too low for electrification's expensive infrastructure to make sense. The Pennsylvania Railroad's multi-track main line between New York and Washington was a dramatic exception.

By 1934, Pennsylvania had developed the locomotive that would become the operation's mainstay for almost half a century-the mighty GG1. The prototype, No. 4800, was cloaked in a somewhat ungainly, riveted shell. Fledgling industrial designer Raymond Loewy was given the important assignment of turning this proverbial ugly duckling into a swan.

The result was a shiny dark green carbody tricked out with five elegant gold pinstripes that plunged to vanishing points on the locomotive's shapely nose. Small red keystones provided discreet splashes of color. One hundred and thirty-nine GG1s were built.

By the 1970s the GG1s were aging; though still able to outhaul anything in sight, their days were numbered. To provide a fitting finale, a group called "Friends of the GG1" restored one of Amtrak's "Gs" to its original pinstripe scheme. On May 15, 1977, GG1 No. 4935 was rededicated at Washington Union Station and put back into service.

Four years later, the Jersey Central Railway Historical Society and NJ Transit restored GG1 No. 4877 to glorious Loewy pinstripes-but in this case in Tuscan red (worn by a handful of Gs in the fifties). Like No. 4935, 4877 entered regular service and was on hand for the bittersweet ceremony on October 29, 1983, when the last active GG1 was retired from service on Transit's North Jersey Coast Line.