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|
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.
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|
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
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
Scheme 4: Coach #1497 featured 76 rotating, reclining seats. This car was reclassified P70eR.
Rebuild Scheme 4 - P70eR
Scheme 5: Coach #1774 with 76 rotating seats. This car was reclassified P70eR.
Rebuild Scheme 5 - P70eR
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|
|PRR P70 Coaches and Subclasses as of 2/1/1938|
|Class||Scheme||Car #'s||Introduced||Seating and Details|
|P70||various||1926||80; roller bearing class 2D7P2 trucks|
|P70 DeLuxe||1295, 1702, 7207, 7208||1929||52, 52, 66, 49 respectively|
|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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
P70L -- I have no background information on this car.
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.
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.
|PRR P70 Coaches - 1943-1968|
|P70R Coach Broiler||2|
|P70R Scheme 1||1||1||1||1||1|
|P70R Scheme 2||1||1||1||1||1|
|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|
|P70gR Scheme 4||40||40||39||revise||39||36||17||8||7|
|P70gsR Scheme 4||100||99||99||98||98||89||30||15||14|
|P70kR Scheme 4||66||66||65||65||65||61||22||14||14|
|P70fba* Scheme 4||21||21|
|P70fbd* Snack Bar||7||7|
| * 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.
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.