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Tuesday, August 22, 2023


Although the New York Central railroad ran its 20th Century Limited service between Chicago and New York City from 1902, the post "Hickory Creek" luxury service began in 1948 (above).

Now through November, a New York state tour group is offering 48 or so vintage railroad round trips thru November 2023 aboard two historic rail cars. 

For the third year in a row, Hudson River Rail Excursions has organized rides from Manhattan to Albany New York on restored [AMTRAK worthy) luxury trains that were in service from 1948 to 1967. 

The newly buffed-out train called “the Hickory Creek” operated as the 20th Century Limited, which in it day was advertised as “the most famous train in the world.” Those running the famed Orient Express from London to Istanbul might disagree but that’s not our story today. 

If you thought the term “red-carpet treatment” came from Hollywood, think again. The phrase actually began with railroads in the early 1900s, when the New York Central used crimson carpets to direct people boarding its posh 20th Century Limited. The likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Walt Disney and Marilyn Monroe were passengers on original 20th Century Limited trains. 

“Our train runs on the very same tracks on which the train ran in the 1940s,” Kevin Phalon, executive director of the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey, told Travel + Leisure: “Folks in 1948 looked out the very same windows at the very same view that we see 75 years later. It really is as close to time travel as you can get.” 

The 20th Century Limited stars for 25 minutes in "North by Northwest."

The 20th Century Limited, which operated between 1902 and 1967, is a “bucket list item” for “train buffs,” Phalon said. The train has had an indelible effect on pop culture, featured prominently in films like The Sting (1973) and Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) pictured above starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. 

The 20th Century Limited traveled between Grand Central Terminal and LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, Illinois from 1902 to 1967. This 958-mile, 16-hour trip was known as the “Water Level Route.” 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE. This summer, the two types of cars passengers will be able to ride on a Hudson River Rail Excursion are the Hickory Creek and the Tavern-Lounge No. 43. The original Hickory Creek car debuted in 1948. It is a Pullman-style observation-sleeper-lounge car designed by Henry Dreyfuss. 

The URHS acquired the car in 1991 and restored it to its original appearance. 

 Tavern-Lounge No. 43 cars are another product of the 1940s. No. 43 is one of 13 tavern-lounge-style cars made by the Budd Company for New York Central. The tavern-lounge cars operated on daytime long-distance passenger runs. The car features “comfortable lounge chairs and cozy tavern booths” that “offered passengers a reprieve from their coach seats, where they could drink, eat, and socialize with other passengers.” 

After New York Central was done with No. 43, it went to the Penn Central Railroad where it often ran on trains between New York and Washington. In 1976 it passed to Conrail then NJ Transit. The car was retired in 1987 and donated to URHS in 1991. 

Current trips, offered through November 5, will begin at Penn Station’s Moynihan Train Hall. Then, passengers will board one of two historic cars: the Hickory Creek ($349 per traveler) or the Tavern-Lounge No. 43. ($149 per traveler). The luxury package includes a four-course meal and alcoholic beverages, while the BYOB lounge class includes a buffet. 

After stopping at the Albany-Rensselaer station, the train will resume its journey along the Hudson as the sun sets. 

Modern day re-enactors on the Hickory Creek observation rail car.

. Love birds looking for a romantic escape can sign up for the all-inclusive Valentine’s Special, offered between February 10 and 14. For a hefty price ($399 for luxury and $299 for lounge), passengers in both cars will receive a series of small plates and wine pairings in a tasting menu format. 

The New York to Chicago corridor was one of the most hotly contested passenger markets east of the Mississippi and New York Central’s 20th Century Limited competed with Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited for top honors, a rivalry which persisted for decades (based from historic traffic figures the Century did have a slight edge over the Broadway). 

The final westbound run left Track #34 from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan a 6 PM on the evening of December 2, 1967. –From various Internet sources. 

More information is available at URHS’s new excursions webside: 


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