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A Tale of Two Memos concludes ...

      PRR support of the project did not flag, however. The company’s 1929 calendar artwork, titled Harnessing the Plane to the Iron Horse, featured a depiction by artist Grif Teller of a Pennsy K4s Pacific locomotive and a trimotor at the Columbus, Ohio, station, where a new airport had been built adjacent to the railroad.  In 1931, the PRR had Teller depict another TAT trimotor flying above a K4s, with the title Giant Conquerors of Space and Time. (This painting is on display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.)

Giant Conquerors of Space and Time
Giant Conquerors of Space and Time
1931 PRR Calendar

Nevertheless, the outcome was inevitable. Night flying soon became practical, weather problems were surmounted, and coast-to-coast air travel no longer depended on the train. In 1936, concluding that the airlines had little need for a relationship with the railroads and that its investment would not benefit its stockholders, the Pennsylvania Railroad sold its portion of Transcontinental, which was eventually to become Trans World Airlines (TWA).

Had Atterbury foreseen as much? Perhaps it’s only the benefit of hindsight, but his pamphlet’s concluding comments seem forced; their tone seems to reveal a bit of uncertainty about the future:

We are not attempting anything visionary or experimental, but only that which we feel can be sold to the public regularly and dependably and in full faith and confidence. I have no illusions about the commercial limits of airplane transportation. For a long time to come, I believe airplanes will serve in an exclusive field of their own, providing exceptionally fast transportation at a necessarily higher rate than that charged by the railroads . . . and appealing to those whose needs or tastes are beyond the usual.

I do not feel that the airplane will measurably compete with the train ... but that it simply will stimulate a demand for a new form of transport.... There are tremendous opportunities ... for the successful operation of airplanes in their own peculiar field.

As the future would prove, the "peculiar field" of airplanes came to be most long-distance travel --  which for so long had been the province of the railroads --  just as shorter distance travel was embraced by the automobile.

Decades later, one scholar was to refer to the Pennsy’s involvement as “General Atterbury’s rather heavy-footed leap into the air.”  Perhaps the scholar, who was only fourteen in 1929, had forgotten the wonderment of the time, but as the following shows, the Pennsylvania Railroad did not.

Pennsylvania Railroad Memorandum, Philadelphia, July 17, 1950, from H. T. Cover, Chief of Motive Power, to J. A. Lockard, Supervisor of Motive Power Expenditures:

E6s No. 460, out of service awaiting Class 3 repairs since April 2 this year, is the locomotive that hauled to New York the motion pictures of the Lindberg [sic] Reception in Washington after his Trans-Atlantic Flight.

Do not include this locomotive in any list of locomotives to be scrapped or sold. When it is retired from active service, arrange to have it retained as a relic for historical and exhibition purposes.

After completing its run on the Lindbergh Special, locomotive No. 460 was serviced, then went back to Washington for a publicity photo the following day. It worked until 1955, serving in the New York and Philadelphia regions and on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line. H. T. Cover’s directive was carried out. In 1955, the engine joined the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Historical Collection and was faithfully preserved at Northumberland, Pennsylvania.

The last extant example of a PRR E6s Atlantic, No. 460 now proudly resides at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg. Sometimes coupled to it have been two other Pennsylvania Railroad survivors, a B60 baggage car and a P70 passenger coach. Together, they keep alive the spirit of Extra 460 East, the Lindbergh Special,  on that spring day in 1927, when it left the mundane world behind forever and raced into history.

No. 460 in Atlantic City, 1954.   No. 460 today in RR Museum of Pennsylvania.

Children in Awe (left).  On September 18, 1954, famed railroad photographer Don Wood captured this scene while No. 460 was on layover in Atlantic City. The following year the Lindbergh Engine was retired.

At its current home (right) in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The engine was moved in 1969 to the museum from Northumberland, Pennsylvania where it had been in storage. Cosmetically restored, it is on display with the rest of PRR’s historic collection.  It still inspires admiration -- from little boys and writers too....

Jim Alexander with favorite locomotive.The version of this article that appeared in Locomotive and Railway Preservation magazine also included details on No. 460, its technical and operating characteristics, and history. In addition, a sidebar discussed how the exciting race between train and plane of 1927 is mirrored in today's intense competition between Amtrak and the airline shuttles on the busy Northeast Corridor.

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