The P70 in the Pennsy Coach Fleet

Overview

The P70 was the first of the Pennsy's 80-foot all-steel coaches. Over 1,000 of the cars were built by Altoona and several other car builders between 1907 and 1929. The early cars featured 88 seats, but as of 1926 they were built with 80 seats. Depending on the builder, some vestibule door windows were one solid panel where others had a vertical divider. A group of cars built by American Car & Foundry had larger vestibule windows.

The "P" prefix designates a "passenger" car -- a coach specifically -- and does not include "passenger baggage" (PB), "passenger baggage mail" (PBM), "cafe" (PC), or "electric cars and trailers" (MP).

The "70" designates the length of the passenger compartment. The P70 series was an 80-foot car less two vestibules leaving a 70 foot passenger compartment.

P70 As Built
  • Full length clerestory roof.
  • At least three variants of vestibule door windows.
  • Double vestibule.
  • 2D5P1, 2D5P2, and 2D-P5 trucks common in 1954.

Air Conditioning

The PRR began installing air conditioning in P70 cars during the summer of 1933. Cars that had received air conditioning earned an "R" suffix, so an air-conditioned P70 would become a P70R.

The newest cars were converted first. Coaches #3715-3759 were ice-air conditioned in 1933-34. 1935-36 saw the conversion of most coaches in the #3400-3500 series; again, with ice air. Prior to 1936, coaches were air conditioned while retaining the 80 seat capacity (floor plan). As of 1936, coach capacity was reduced to 76 (floor plan) to make more room for the air conditioning equipment; this resulted in the rightmost window being eliminated on both sides of the car.

Mechanical air-conditioning was added to coach #1497 as a test in 1937, and to many P70fR and P70hR groups in 1940.

In later years, non-air-conditioned P70s would commonly be referred to as a "hot P70". In 1954, the railroad actually dropped the use of the "R" suffix.

P70R
  • Air conditioning ducts added at all four corners of roof of mechanical air conditioned cars.
  • Ice bunkers added underneath cars of ice air conditioned cars.
  • Double vestibule.
  • 2D5P1, 2D5P2, and 2D-P5 trucks common in 1954.

Rebuilds

In the mid-1930s the Pennsy set out to modernize the fleet. In 1936 they developed six "scheme" coaches as prototypes, as follows:

Scheme 1: Coach #3525 was outfitted with seating for 60 in rotating seats and featured a luggage compartment. This car retained the P70R classification.

Rebuild Scheme 1 - P70R
  • Double vestibule.
  • 2E-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

Scheme 2: Coach #3521 was set up with seating for 60 in rotating, reclining seats and the carbody rebuilt with large picture windows. This car retained the P70R classification.

Rebuild Scheme 2 - P70R

  • Large picture windows.
  • Double vestibule.
  • 2D-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

Scheme 3: Coach #1735 had 42 reclining seats and the lavatories were located in the center of the cars. This car was reclassified P70eR.

Rebuild Scheme 3 - P70eR

P70 Scheme 3 1735

  • Large picture windows.
  • Lavatories in center of car affects window arrangement.
  • Double vestibule.
  • Ice air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

Scheme 4: Coach #1497 featured 76 rotating, reclining seats. This car was reclassified P70eR.

Rebuild Scheme 4 - P70eR

P70 Scheme 4 1497

  • 13'2" arch roof.
  • Single vestibule.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

Scheme 5: Coach #1774 with 76 rotating seats. This car was reclassified P70eR.

Rebuild Scheme 5 - P70eR

P70 Scheme 5 1774

  • Arch roof.
  • Single vestibule.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

Scheme 6: No information on the initial car. Scheme 6 became the design of choice for the 1937 rebuild program and was classified P70fR.

Rebuild Scheme 6 - P70fR
  • Multiple roof variants.
  • Multiple window variants.
  • Single vestibule.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5, 2EP6A, and 2D7P2 trucks common in 1954.



PRR P70 Coaches and Subclasses as of 2/1/1938
ClassSchemeCar #'sIntroducedSeating and Details
P70   various 1907 88
P70   various 1926 80; roller bearing class 2D7P2 trucks
P70 DeLuxe   1295, 1702, 7207, 7208 1929 52, 52, 66, 49 respectively
P70R   various 1933 80
P70R 1 3525 1936 60; rotating seats, luggage compartment
P70R 2 3521 1936 60; rotating seats, large windows
P70R Coach Broiler   3633, 3634 1935 70; small kitchen at end, tables opposite
P70R DeLuxe   3600-3603 1933 80; rotating seats
P70bR   3620, 3621 1934 42; coach-parlor-parlor lounge compartments
P70c   10 cars 1931 54; coach-parlor-parlor lounge compartments
P70cR   3604, 3608 1934 54; coach-parlor-parlor lounge compartments
P70d   various 1911 88; a 2-compartment "Jim Crow" car
P70d   various 1928 80; a 2-compartment "Jim Crow" car
P70dR   various 1934 80; a 2-compartment "Jim Crow" car
P70eR 3 1735 1936 42; reclining seats, toilet in center of car
P70eR 4 1497 1936 72; rotating reclining seats, toilet at end of car
P70eR 5 1774 1936 76; rotating seats, toilet at end of car
P70fR 6 various 1937 84; walkover seats with new cushions and backs
P70gR   various 1937 68; rotating reclining seats, 3 toilets

 

P70fR -- Class P70fR #3775-3935 were rebuilt from 1937-1941 with 84 walkover seats, round roofs, one vestibule, and mechanical air conditioning. By 1943, 163 Scheme 6 P70 coaches were rebuilt to P70fR coaches, starting with #3775.

P70fR

P70FR 3797

P70faR -- During the late 1930s, class P70faR (Scheme 6) cars #3936-3984 were rebuilt with 80 walkover seats, two vestibules, and arch roofs. P70faR coaches #3200-3229 were rebuilt during the summer of 1942.

P70faR

P70FAR 3940

  • Large windows.
  • Arch roof.
  • Double vestibule.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5, 2D-P12, and 2D7P2 trucks common in 1954.

 

P70fbR -- Following World War II, cars #1600-1675 were rebuilt to create the P70fbR coaches, delivered in 1948; #1676-1723 in 1949, and #1724-1728 in late 1949 into 1950, #1729-1736 during 1950, #1737-1743 in late 1950 into 1951, and #1744-1749 in late 1951 into 1952. P70fbR coaches #1760-1765 were also delivered between 1951-52. A total of 40 P70fbR cars, randomly scattered through the 9865-9935 series, were created for the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines in 1949-50.

On the PRR FAX list, Ralph Brown offered this additional [unverified] information on August 29, 2015:

"We had a brief discussion about these on the PRSLHS list. 'Buzz' Burnley provided the following info:

"They were all rebuilt with the original clearstory roofs and the toilet rooms were relocated to one end of the car and electrical and AC control cabinets were at the other end, so the 'porthole' toilet room windows were both at the same end of the car.

"The round roof or 'balloon roof' cars didn't appear until about 1960 when the clearstory roofs began to deteriorate and leak. The railroad didn't replace the original roofs, they just constructed a sheetmetal arch from the lower roof edge to the upper roof, hence the 'balloon roof'. This was also done on many of the B60 baggage cars for the same reason.

"PRSL never had any 'balloon roof' cars. They all kept their clearstory roofs until they were retired or sold.

"PRR P70fbR cars had Pennsylvania spelled out on the letterboard when they had clearstory roofs. When they were rebuilt with the 'balloon roof' the Pennsylvania was removed from the letterboard and 4 Scotchlite keystone decals were applied to each end-panel on the sides of the car.

"Simple rule: No clearstory roof P70fbR ever had Scotchlite decals and no 'balloon roof' P70fbR ever had Pennsylvania on the letterboard." [Not true; see below.]

On the PRR Modeling list, Rick Schoch countered on August 31, 2015:

"I have a photo of two clerestory roof fbR's in the Spartan scheme that I downloaded years ago before I took care to make a note of sources and photographers. It's a pic of a Valpo Dummy behind a PC Geep."

P70fbR
  • Clerestory roof.
  • Some roofs replaced with round roof.
  • Double vestibule.
  • Iconic round lavatory windows.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2E-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

P70gR -- Forty cars were rebuilt in 1937 to arch roof, one vestibule P70gR coaches with 68 rotating reclining seats (Scheme 4) and renumbered to #4360-4399.

P70fgR

P70GR 4363

  • Arch roof.
  • Single vestibule.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

P70gsR -- Another group of P70s were rebuilt to class P70gsR (Scheme 4) in 1939 and renumbered between #4310-4359. P70gsR cars #4310-4359 were rebuilt over the summer of 1939. The first half of 1942 saw the rebuild of P70gsR coaches #4194-4243.

P70gsR

P70GSR 4194

  • Arch roof.
  • Single vestibule.
  • Standard or picture windows.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D7P2 trucks in 1954.

 

P70hR -- A number of coaches were rebuilt in 1938-39 with 80 seats as class P70hR and renumbered between #3230-3242. As previously noted, they received air conditioning in 1940.

P70hR

P70H 1687

  • Two arch roof variants.
  • Double vestibule.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5 trucks in 1954.

 

P70kR -- P70kR cars #4272-4309 were rebuilt during the spring of 1940. In December of 1941, another group of 56-seat P70kR coaches, #4244-4269, were created.

P70kR

P70KR 4269

  • Picture windows.
  • Arch roof.
  • Mechanical air conditioning.
  • 2D-P5 and 2D7P2 trucks common in 1954.

 

P70L -- I have no background information on this car.

P70L

P70L 1002

 

Decline

Brand new coaches began arriving on the system in 1939, and in large numbers in 1946. These displaced the P70s on the premiere trains. In 1959-60, six P70 coaches had their ice bunkers removed and were renumbered to #1001-1006. By this time, all P70 coaches in the 1000-series were in non-air-conditioned "hot" commuter service.

In 1966, 21 P70fbR coaches were converted into 60 reclining seat coaches #3601-3621 and seven P70fbR coaches into snack-bar coaches #3644-3650 with 48 reclining seats. They received the "balloon" roof at the time of rebuilding, making them very similar to the "balloon roof" fbR's outwardly,  but they had clear glass windows with shades rather than the dark tint seen on the "balloon" roof P70fbR's [Rick Schoch, PRR-Modeling].

At the end of Pennsy, 80 of the P70fbR coaches remained in service, numbered in the #1612-1743 range.

Assignments

The opening of the tunnels under the Hudson River to reach Manhattan certainly was a trigger in the move towards all-steel cars... in order to eliminate the fire hazard of older wooden cars.

As the P70 series steel cars were built, they quickly replaced wood cars on the primary routes and eventually system wide.

The P70 series cars were eventually displaced from the primary routes following World War II with newer cars, such as the P85bR, and the most recent rebuilds.

It is difficult to determine absolute utilization of various classes over the system. The railroad published regular documents indicating the makeup of east-west trains. Their usefulness is limited as they only address several dozen trains that travel from New York City to Chicago or St. Louis.

A more inclusive document is the Makeup of Trains, New York Division. It includes all of the aforementioned east-west trains, all of the New York City to Washington, D.C., trains (Northeast Corridor), as well as commuter trains out of New York City. New York City's Sunnyside Yard was the end of the line to the east and this document is sort of a "grand daddy" of train makeup.

Unfortunately, there don't seem to be similar documents for other terminal areas which may have their own commuter services, such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, etc. Anyone who knows anything about Philadelphia rail service knows that there were a ton of P70s radiating out of the city. A lot of P70s were also utilized on the north-south routes between Baltimore and Erie/Buffalo.

As of the early 1930s, these documents specify coaches in trains, but do not elaborate on specific classes. As of 1939, the documents do indicate P70s, but no suggestion of subclasses.

In a 1943 document, subclasses seem to finally be getting some attention in these documents. While the notations are largely "P70", they are often noted as "reclining seats" or "scheme x", which narrows down the pool of cars which meet the requirement for a given assignment. There are also explicit calls for P70kR coaches.

During the 1950s, these documents show P70kR, P70gsR and P70fbR coaches in continued service on east-west routes, with very few other P70-series cars.

With the benefit of the New York Division document for 1954, a more detailed analysis is possible. Please be reminded that this affords no view of north-south trains or commuter service out of Philadelphia (including Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines), Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, etc. In order of declining numbers of assignments, here are the New York City assignments for 1954:

Service to the West (Chicago, St. Louis, etc.) -- P85bR, P70gsR, P70kR, and a rare P70R
Service to the South (Washington, D.C. and beyond) -- P70fbR, P70fR or P70faR, P85h, P70R, etc.
Service to Philadelphia -- P70fbR, MU, P70R, P70fR or P70faR, etc.
Service to Bay Head Junction (New York & Long Branch) -- P70R exclusively
Service to Atlantic City -- P70R exclusively

 

Documents from the 1960s show P70gsR and P70fbR coaches in continued service on east-west routes, but very few other P70-series cars.

Roster Numbers

PRR P70 Coaches - 1943-1968
Class1/1/431/1/471/1/511954 Register**1/1/551/1/591/1/631/1/672/1/68
P70 770 769 602 revise 314 93 61    
P70R 250 250 235 234 225 49 9 1
P70R Coach Broiler 2              
P70R DeLuxe 2 2 2 2 2      
P70R Scheme 1 1 1 1 1 1      
P70R Scheme 2 1 1 1 1 1      
P70bR 2 2 2 2 2        
P70d 36 36 32 27 ? 14 1      
P70dR 19 19 19 19 18      
P70eR Scheme 3 1 1 1 3 1 1 1    
P70eR Scheme 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
P70eR Scheme 5 1 1 1 1        
P70fR Scheme 6 163 163 163 revise 162 148 107 46 43
P70faR Scheme 6 79 79 79 79 79 79 39 14 14
P70fbR     139 156 156 153 150 119 87
P70gR Scheme 4 40 40 39 revise 39 36 17 8 7
P70gsR Scheme 4 100 99 99 98 98 89 30 15 14
P70hR 13 13 13 13 13 11 7    
P70kR Scheme 4 66 66 65 65 65 61 22 14 14
P70fba* Scheme 4               21 21
P70fbc*               1 1
P70fbd* Snack Bar               7 7
P70L   1 1   1        
* Class introduced after "R" suffix denoting air conditioning was dropped from practice. These cars were air conditioned.
** Massive renumberings occured during the late 1940s to make way for the arrival of new, lightweight equipment. This causes car numbers to not always match those described for earlier dates.

 

Sources:

Pennylvania Railroad, Register of Passenger Equipment, 1954.

Pennylvania Railroad, various Makeup of Trains and Consist books.

Liljestrand, Robert A. & Sweetland, David R., Passenger Equipment of the Pennsylvania Railroad - Volume 1: Coaches, The Railroad Press, 2001.

Subscriber comments from the PRR-FAX and PRR-Modeling Yahoo Groups, as noted.