Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary to the Pride of the Rails

It’s only fitting that we recognize the Great Republic's 80th Birthday early in the 2010 season. Certainly this unique Parlor Car is deserving of a season-long happens to be 1 of only 14 Pullman cars built for the Yankee Clipper, the fastest, Boston-New York express train of its day on the New Haven Railroad.

The Yankee Clipper, named in acknowledgment of the gallant clipper ships that carried America to its peak in sail powered commerce, made its first duo run between New York and Boston on March 18th, 1930. The 4-hour and 45-minute excursion was 15 minutes quicker than any previously scheduled train on the New Haven Railroad. Each of the 14 coaches was named for a famous clipper ship; the Great Republic commemorates the largest clipper ship ever built.

The Yankee Clipper included the most advanced equipment and technology of its time. Luxurious interior furnishings included mohair-covered plush seating and Georgian walnut paneling, tables and trim. The quality of the workmanship was outstanding; the bottom of every table and chair had the car name carved into the wood. Individual lamps and call buttons were provided. Each car had 1 or more Pullman attendants, serving beverages at the passengers’ seats.

The Yankee Clipper service lasted for 20 years, but by the 1960’s, the original cars were being scrapped. That’s when a postal employee named Jim Bradley, who lived near the Amtrak line in Stonington, Connecticut, decided to save some of the Yankee Clipper’s railroad heritage. In 1962 - 1964, Jim purchased 6 cars marked for destruction. Bradley built a spur track on his property and maintained the equipment for 30 years. By keeping roofs and windows weather tight, each car became a time capsule from an earlier era.

Upon Jim’s death, the Valley Railroad purchased the Great Republic from his nephew, David Bradley. Valley Railroad employees and “Friends” volunteers spent thousands of hours making extensive exterior and interior renovations to restore the Great Republic to as close to its original condition.

In 1991, when cinema director Spike Lee was preparing to film his movie “Malcolm X", the Valley Railroad was contacted for the use of a car that would resemble the Pullman on which Malcolm Little worked as a young man. Spike Lee's crew had come to the right railroad...the Great Republic was most likely one of the actual cars Malcolm was a porter on for the New Haven Railroad. With some fast cosmetic work by the movie’s creative team, the Great Republic was taken to 125th Street Station in New York for filming.

Today, the Great Republic proudly carries thousands of visitors aboard the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat. This first-class Parlor Car features individual swivel seats for maximum comfort and viewing pleasure of the beautiful Connecticut River Valley. It also continues to be a highly sought backdrop for for movie shoots, magazine layouts and wedding photography, as depicted in this stunning photo by Melani Lust.

Hop on board the Great Republic to relax in style, sip a cool beverage, and revel in the stunning vistas...all while enjoying a piece of rail and maritime history. For a modest extra fare of $5.00 per person, the Parlor Car is the way the way to celebrate...anyone's birthday or anniversary!

All Aboard,

~ Susan

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