That about sums up railroads in the Midwest and Northeast in the seventies. Railroads were hurting. The economy was hurting. Factories were moving, closing, or being absorbed by mergers. Steel mills were in the same state. The oil embargo of the early decade made us extremely aware of how much America depended on the automobile.
The railroads were losing millions on passenger trains, leading of course to Amtrak in 1971. Railroads infrastructure in the Midwest and Northeast was in a sad state. A big majority of this was the collapse of the Penn Central, and the fallout felt throughout the region railroad-wise. Railroads, especially Penn Central struggled on with many trains traveling over weed infested rights of way and numerous slow orders. Derailments increased as the mid-seventies approached.
As with any bankruptcy, there wasn’t any funds to care for this deteriorating situation. Railroading in general in these regions were in decline, really until the Staggers Act was passed in 1980. But it took until 1980. Not with PC however, which wouldn’t last that long. The morass became Conrail in 1976. Even Conrail had a rough time its first several years, due to severe winters in 1976 and 1977.
Someone on a page I post in noted how dirty my Penn Central locomotives were, that they did have wash racks. Well, my response was that in all my time being around the railroad, I only ever saw a clean, shiny locomotive once, and it was a GE U-boat that had just been delivered.
My main point about this decade: this was a dirty, gritty time for railroads throughout the region mentioned, especially for the Penn Central. Everything had a dirty, grimy look and feel to it. Locomotives were not clean. Freight cars were not clean. Cabooses were not clean. Yards were not a clean place to be around. However, through all this dirt and grime, most railroaders continued to do their jobs as mightily as they could, with the resources they had. This was true in the early eighties as well, with the troubles of the Rock Island and Milwaukee.
As a modeller, take these factors, and the era in account when modeling this region and these railroads. It was a dirty, gritty time….