The Japanese Shinkansen "bullet trains" had been introduced to the world in 1964. In 1965, with the passage of the High Speed Ground Transportation Act, the U.S. also put a toe into the world of high speed railroading. A Department of Transportation-backed consortium which included the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Budd company as well as Westinghouse and General Electric took on the ambitious task of designing a modern high-speed rail service, intended to operate between New York and Washington at speeds up to 160 miles per hour. The new service was intended to make its debut in 1967—but production delays and other setbacks pushed the initial introduction of the first Metroliner back to January of 1969.


From the pages of the Official Guide, February 1970

Penn Central herald

The Metroliners

Penn Central
October 26, 1969

Train Number 101 103 105 107 109 111
Services Mo-Fr Daily Daily Daily Daily Mo-Fr
C R New York, NY (Penna. Sta.) (ET) Dp 7 30A 8 30A 11 30A 1 00P 4 15P 5 00P
C R Newark, NJ R 7 40A R 8 42A R11 42A R 1 12P R 4 27P
C R Trenton, NJ 9 18A 12 18P 1 48P 5 03P
C R Philadelphia, PA (30th St. Sta) 8 32A 9 46A 12 46P 2 16P 5 31P
C R Wilmington, DE 10 10A 1 10P 2 40P 5 55P
C R Baltimore, MD 9 38A 10 57A 1 57P 3 27P 6 42P
C R Washington, DC (ET) Ar 10 10A 11 29A 2 29P 3 59P 7 14P 7 30P

Train Number 100 102 104 106 108 110
Miles Mo-Fr Daily Daily Daily Daily Mo-Fr
0.0 Washington, DC (ET) Dp 7 30A 8 30A 12 00P 1 00P 4 30P 6 00P
40.1 Baltimore, MD 7 59A 9 02A 12 32P 1 32P 5 02P 6 32P
108.5 Wilmington, DE 9 47A 1 17P 2 17P 5 47P 7 17P
Philadelphia, PA (30th St. Sta) 10 10A 1 40P 2 40P 6 11P 7 40P
168.5 Trenton, NJ 10 39A 2 09P 3 09P 6 39P 8 09P
216.6 Newark, NJ D11 16A D 2 46P D 3 46P D 7 16P D 8 46P
226.6 New York, NY (Penna. Sta.) (ET) Ar 10 00A 11 29A 2 59P 3 59P 7 29P 8 59P

Train 101: 3 stops, 2:40, 85.0 MPHTrains 103 & 105: 5 stops, 2:59, 76.0 MPH

Trains 107 & 109: 5 stops, 2:59, 76.0 MPHTrain 111: Nonstop, 2:30, 90.6 MPH

Train 100: 1 stop, 2:30, 90.6 MPHTrains 102 & 104: 5 stops, 2:59, 76.0 MPH

Trains 106 & 108: 5 stops, 2:59, 76.0 MPHTrain 110: 5 stops, 2:59, 76.0 MPH

NEW YORK - WASHINGTON

EQUIPMENT

No. 101Metroliner
Mondays thru Fridays.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 103Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 105Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 107Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 109Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 111Metroliner
Mondays thru Fridays.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

For purchase of tickets on Metroliners between Newark and Trenton, consult Ticket Agent at Newark or Trenton.

WASHINGTON - NEW YORK

EQUIPMENT

No. 100Metroliner
Mondays thru Fridays.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 102Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 104Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 106Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 108Metroliner
Daily.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

No. 110Metroliner
Mondays thru Fridays.

Metroclub Car (Meals and Beverages served at seats.)
Metro Snack Bar Coach.

For purchase of tickets on Metroliners between Newark and Trenton, consult Ticket Agent at Newark or Trenton.

METROLINER RESERVATIONS
Any Penn Central ticket office will be glad to arrange your Metroclub Car reservations. Please make your reservations as much in advance as possible.
If your plans change, please cancel your reservations promptly.
Telephone numbers for Metroclub Car reservations in principal cities are listed at right.
Coach seats on Metroliners are not reserved, but tickets must be purchased in advance of departure.

The Metroliners suffered from a number of "teething problems". I refer you to this discussion on the Railfan.net forums for more thoughts and viewpoints. In brief, while the Metroliner concept was sound the execution was flawed. In the first place, although Budd was an experienced builder of standard passenger cars they had limited experience with electric MUs—and the builders who had constructed the earlier generation of US multiple-unit electrics, such as the Electroliners, were by this time out of the passenger train business. There were no problems which could not have been corrected with a second generation design after a proper test and evaluation period—but with the Penn Central bankrupt, successor Amtrak hanging on by a political thread, and the DOT turning its attention to other priorities, there would be no second generation design. Secondly, the track had not been upgraded to match the capabilities of the trainsets. While some improvements had been made, the final result was spotty at best. As an example, I have heard that the Penn Central evaluated its track gangs' productivity by the number of ties they replaced. So, naturally, the easy-to-change ties under main line track were well maintained, while the more difficult and labor-intensive ties under switches were left to rot. Travelers' reports of the period indicate that crossing an interlocking junction at 125 mph could be an exciting experience. Furthermore, the Metroliners shared this trackage with passenger trains of every description, commuter trains, even freight trains—whereas other high-speed trains such as the Shinkansen operate on a dedicated right-of-way which is reserved for express trains only.

Despite all of the foregoing, Metroliner service was a success. There was and is a market for fast and reliable downtown-to-downtown express rail passenger service between the major cities of the Northeast Corridor. Within three years of the date of this timetable, Metroliners would be making 14 round trips a day between New York and Washington. The original multiple-unit equipment would eventually be replaced by more conventional locomotive-hauled trains beginning in 1976; the last MU Metroliner would be withdrawn and demoted to Keystone service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg in 1982.  However, the Metroliner Service name would be continued until finally supplanted by the high-speed Acela Express in October 2006.