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The Pennsylvania Railroad's GG1 class of electric locomotives was built between 1934 and 1943 at the PRR shops in Altoona, Pennsylvaniamarker, with a total of 139 units constructed. They remained in service with the PRR's successors until the early 1980s. The GG1 became one of the most recognized and famous classes of locomotive worldwide.

Technical information

The GG1s were large locomotives, long and weighing . The double-ended main body was a single unit formed as a bridge-truss framework and clad in welded steel plate. The cabs were set up high about a third of the way along the locomotive from each end for greater crew safety in the event of a collision. A narrower section of the nose in front of the cab windows was lowered to improve the view forward, although the central part of the nose remained full height to carry the current-collection pantograph. The bodywork as a whole was smoothly rounded, with an appearance that suggested immense power and speed.

The axle was mounted upon two great cast steel locomotive frames linked by a hinge at the locomotive's middle which allowed side-to-side movement. Six driving wheels (three axles) were fitted towards the center of the locomotive on each truck (twelve in total) and a four-wheeled, unpowered guiding truck was mounted toward each end. In the Whyte notation for steam locomotives, each frame comprised a 4-6-0 locomotive; in the PRR's classification system, 4-6-0s were class "G". The GG1 consisted of two such locomotive frames mounted back to back, so it was classified GG—4-6-0+0-6-4. This arrangement is called 2-C+C-2 in AAR wheel arrangement notation. Each driven axle was powered by two 385 hp (305 kW) GEA-627-A1 traction motors mounted above and to either side of the axle. Drive was through a reduction gear and a quill drive assembly.

While the famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy did not design the shape (the original GG1, No. 4800 was designed by Donald Roscoe Dohner) of the GG1 electric locomotives (borrowed from the earlier P5a), he did improve their looks by recommending the use of a smooth, welded construction instead of riveted assembly, along with a pinstriped paint scheme to highlight their smoothly rounded forms; the "streamline" style, evoking speedy travel, was popular at the time. The mechanical design behind the GG1 came from the New Haven Railroad EP3 electric. The New Haven allowed the PRR to borrow a pair of EP3s for testing, and the PRR was quite impressed with their performance and decided to base the design of its electric locomotive on the EP3.

The GG1 was designed to run on the standard Pennsylvania Railroad catenary power of 11,000 V AC, 25 Hz. This high voltage was stepped down by a large transformer mounted in the center of the locomotive body for the traction motors, cooling blowers and all other onboard equipment. The locomotive's power was controlled via a tap-switching arrangement; the number of secondary windings in use could be varied, thus adjusting the output voltage. The units were rated at 4,620 hp (385 hp per motor) continuous rating and a maximum of 9,500 hp at 49 mph (intermittent duty). For passenger service, the GG1 was geared to run at 100 mph maximum, although it achieved 128 mph in testing . For freight service, the locomotive was geared to run at 90 mph maximum.

One flaw in the design of the GG1 became apparent in the Blizzard of 1958. This storm, which swept across the northeastern United States, began on February 16. The usually unstoppable GG1s were knocked from service when their electrical components were shorted out due to moisture. The story is told of a baffled technician, stepping away from the stream of cooling air, saw his outer jacket covered in ice. It developed that ice crystals formed adjacent to the tracks at the height of the cooling air intakes. The crystals were so fine that they went right through the air filters. Once they got into the warm electrical components, they melted, shorting out those components. The solution was to raise the air intakes to the upper part of the body. This may not have contributed to the GG1's lines, but it did make it possible for winter operation to go on with no further complication.


GG1 4876 after the crash.

A GG1 crash

One of the more interesting moments in the history of the GG1 locomotive took place on the morning of January 15, 1953, at Washington's Union Stationmarker. Due to a brake line cock (valve) that closed due to poor location (its location caused the valve to close due to contact with the bottom cross member of the car), the Federal Express from Bostonmarker was unable to apply the brakes on part of the train. Pushed by the unbraked cars, the GG1 engine (#4876) and two passenger cars ran off the end of Track 16 and crashed through the floor of Union Station and into the baggage room. With President Eisenhower's inauguration in days, the cars were hauled out by the next day. The GG1 was left in the basement under a temporary flooring. After the inauguration, in a remarkable demonstration of the durability of the GG1 engines, Engine #4876 was later cut into three pieces, removed from the baggage room, and reassembled at the Altoona (PA) shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It then re-entered commercial service and went on to be one of the last-serving GG1 engines. As of February 2008 it is owned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore; the museum has no plans for restoration in the near-term.


Although it is widely believed that the GG1s were retired due to a change in the electric power supply on the former PRR electrified zone, other concerns led to the retirement of the GG1s. This is proved by the fact that Conrail retired their GG1s in 1979, two years prior to ending electrified freight service with E33s and E44s. While the GG1's performance easily met the schedule demands of the Northeast Corridor in the late 1970s, the final nail in the GG1's coffin was an ever growing problem with frame cracks. After a service life of almost 50 years, availability of replacement parts for the locomotives became problematic as well. Amtrak's first attempt to replace the GG1, the General Electric E60, did not live up to expectations. Amtrak's purchase of AEM-7 electric locomotives allowed it to retire its fleet of GG1s. With the AEM-7s on hand Amtrak was not only able to replace its own GG1s, but sell a number of E60s to New Jersey Transit to replace their GG1s operating commuter trains on the North Jersey Coast Line (all E60s have since been retired by both Amtrak and NJT, with both agencies using AEM-7 or ALP-44 locomotives, with Amtrak augmenting its AEM-7 fleet with HHP-8 locomotives and NJT purchasing ALP-46 locomotives).

It has often been proposed to restore a GG1 to operating condition. While it would be theoretically possible to run a GG1 on the current Northeast Corridor's electrical system, most surviving GG1s have had their transformers drained of PCBs, rendering them inoperative, and have asbestos in their electrical systems. These put restoration costs far out of reach for most non-profit preservation groups.

Surviving examples

  • PRR 4800Railroad Museum of Pennsylvaniamarker, Strasburg, PA (a.k.a. "Old Rivets" — the prototype GG1 and was the only GG1 that had a riveted body; was formerly painted in Bicentennial colors and was the only GG1 to receive Conrail blue). "Rivets" is now awaiting a full cosmetic restoration, and is residing in a black base coat to protect it from the elements.
  • PRR 4859 — Transportation Center, Harrisburg, PA (designated as official electric locomotive of PA in 1938).
  • PRR 4876B&O Railroad Museummarker, Baltimore, MDmarker (as of Spring 2006, in rapidly deteriorating condition); the GG1 was languishing and vandalized in a CSX Yard south of downtown Baltimore (seen from Interstate 95 northbound between Washington Boulevard and Maryland 295). As of February 2008 it is owned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, but is currently parked on one of the museum's outdoor sidings not accessible to museum guests, but visible on the museum's train ride. The locomotive has some degree of rust and graffiti; the museum has no plans for restoration in the near-term.
  • PRR 4877 — New Jersey Transit yard, Morristown, NJ. Currently undergoing renovations at Lebanon Station (Raritan Valley Line).
  • PRR 4879 — URHS of New Jersey - Relocated to Boonton, NJ in July 2008
  • PRR 4882 — National New York Central Railroad Museummarker, Elkhart, INmarker (currently painted as Penn Central 4882)
  • PRR 4890 — National Railroad Museummarker, Green Bay, WI.
  • PRR 4903/Amtrak 4906 — Museum of the American Railroadmarker, Dallas, TXmarker (pulled Robert Kennedy's funeral train along with GG1 4901 from New York to Washington on June 8, 1968).
  • PRR 4909/Amtrak 4932 — Cooperstown Junction, NY (owned by The Henry Fordmarker).
  • PRR 4913/Amtrak 4913 — Railroaders Memorial Museummarker, Altoona, PA.
  • PRR 4917/Amtrak 4934 — Leatherstocking RY Museum, Cooperstown Jct, NY (one of 75 GG1s built with Westinghouse components, the other 64 GG1s used GE devices and motors).
  • PRR 4918/Amtrak 4916 — Museum of Transportationmarker, St. Louis, MO (was once the property of the Smithsonian Institutionmarker).
  • PRR 4919/Amtrak 4917 — VA Museum of Transportation, Roanoke, VA.
  • PRR 4927/Amtrak 4939 — Illinois Railway Museummarker, Union, IL (Amtrak's renumbering in 1976 to 4939 bucked 42 years of numbering by making it the highest numbered GG1).
  • PRR 4933/Amtrak 4926 — Central NY Chapter NRHS, Syracuse, NY. It has been cosmetically restored and is on display at the NYS Fairgrounds Historic Train Exhibit.
  • PRR 4935/Amtrak 4935 — Railroad Museum of Pennsylvaniamarker, also known as "Blackjack"; arguably the best-restored and best-displayed GG1, kept in a non-climate controlled environment.

Last scrapped GG1s

  • PRR 4872/NJT 4872 — Date Scrapped Unknown by New Jersey Transit.
  • PRR 4873/NJT 4873 — Sold for scrap in 1992 by United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey.

The GG1 in the movies

  • In the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate, the train that Marco (Frank Sinatra) takes north from Washington, D.C.marker is being pulled by a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 dressed in the standard PRR pinstripes.
  • A GG1 can be seen briefly during the first robot attack sequence in the 2004 film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
  • A GG1 can be seen briefly during the first few minutes of the 1945 film The Clock.
  • Two GG1s (one painted black with white Penn Central logo; the other in silver, red and blue for Amtrak) can be seen at the end of the movie The Seven-Ups.
  • An inoperative GG1 can be seen in a train station in Barry Levinson's movie Avalon. The scene was filmed at Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station and the train was actually pushed by a diesel locomotive and can be heard in the movie.
  • A GG1 is seen pulling into a station in the 1952 movie Bright Victory.
  • A GG1 is seen pulling into a station (head-on shot) in the 1973 movie Last Detail with Jack Nicholson
  • A GG1 pulls at least one of the circus trains in Cecil B. DeMille's award winning 1952 epic film The Greatest Show on Earth.


  1. 1983 ASME document on GG1, Strasburg, PA - see Page 6

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