On Sunday, June 26th, the Hickory Creek made its inaugural run as a restored signature car of the 20th Century Limited. It was indeed fitting for this car to run most of its trip on the ex-New York Central trackage – tracks that it had plied upon for so many years past.
The fact that it departed Penn Station, New York on ex-Pennsylvania Railroad track was an acceptable compromise, since the journey soon took it over ex-NYC trackage in the form of the ex-NYC west shore freight line to Spuyten Duyvil. At that point it joined the ex-NYC main line from Grand Central Terminal.
The "Niagara Weekender" excursion, sponsored by Railroad Passenger Services of Union, New Jersey had scheduled a trip to Niagara Falls. However, they were unable to use "business car", NYC 3, for that excursion. The car was being chartered for a trip to Portland, Oregon. So the sponsor inquired whether the Hickory Creek could be used for their trip to Niagara Falls.
Ray Clauss of Star Trak, Inc. who was still in the process of rebuilding the observation car's trucks to meet Amtrak specifications, told Railroad Passenger Services his crew would do their best to have the car ready for the trip. Ray and his son, Scott, had been working long days, nights and weekends for some time to complete the Hickory Creek. It would not be long now.
On June 20, 2006 after regular correspondences with Amtrak inspectors the car was approved for service. Arrangements were made with NJ Transit to move the car from Lebanon, New Jersey to "Hudson" via a regular shop move on Thursday night, June 23rd. Amtrak then moved the car from "Hudson" to Sunnyside Yard in Long Island City on Friday, June 24th.
At 9:45 AM on June 26th, Amtrak Train 287 left Penn Station with the Hickory Creek at its rear. The "Creek" rode like a brand new car just delivered from Pullman Standard. Actually, the Hickory Creek is a new car. Star Trak, Inc. had rebuilt it from the ground up and had made "state of the art" improvements over its original 1948 design.
The trip was eventful. Amtrak Train 287 was delayed by track work and the many CSX freight trains in its path. The train arrived at Niagara Falls station (former a Lehigh Valley Railroad freight station) after a circuitous "back-up" move which turned the train for its return.
The passengers were taken to a hotel in Canada and spent Monday and Tuesday sight-seeing and visiting various attractions.
Below is a picture of the passengers and crew aboard the inaugural run. From left to right – Fred Heide, Ray Clauss, Scott Clauss, Ted & Terese Heim, Charles Leemans, Ed Schmidt, Nancy & Walter Grosselfinger, Tom Vaught, Peter Calleo Sr., Peter Calleo, Charles Reinbold, Tim Bruno.
On the cloudy Wednesday morning of June 29th, Amtrak Train 286 started eastward with the Hickory Creek's passengers enjoying a fabulous breakfast. As the morning progressed, the weather improved and everyone enjoyed the friendships that had developed over the last few days. Station stops at Rome, Syracuse and Utica were interesting because NYC fans were out there to view and record the "passing of the Century" once again. We assured them that this would not be the only time and that the Hickory Creek would return.
The Hickory Creek Chef – Ray Clauss dressed in his New York Central attire.
After several delays due to freight trains and track work, the train returned to Metro North rails at Poughkeepsie, NY. From there it "flew" down the Hudson River to Spuyten Duyvil, finally arriving in New York, Penn Station around 9:00 PM. Only three hours late! But, who cared? The Hickory Creek had passed its test – it is still very much the "most famous car in the world".
Come, join us in the celebration of the return to service of this great car.
If you or your group are interested in riding on the Hickory Creek email the URHS at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charters are also available through Luxury Rail Vacations, Inc. We are always establishing a list of potential passengers for another excursion.