This paper is a historical review of the design and operation of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s class GG1 electric locomotive over its heavily-trafficked New York City-Washington, DC main line during the period 1934–1983. The locomotive was designed in-house by the railroad in corroboration with Baldwin Locomotive, General Electric and Westinghouse Electric following competitive tests of several electric locomotive designs. Its outstanding performance and long operating life has resulted in it being generally considered the most highly regarded electric locomotive in North America.
The Pennsylvania Railroad embarked in the late 1920’s on a major AC electrification program for its New York-Washington and Philadelphia-Harrisburg main lines and local branches. It initially planned to use a fleet of class P5 rigid frame 2-C-2 electric locomotives for service. However problems were quickly encountered with damaging lateral track impacts, axle cracks, truck hunting, and inadequate tractive effort. The railroad responded with a series of competitive evaluation tests of several locomotive designs including a recent New York, New Haven & Hartford (NYNH&H) Railroad articulated frame locomotive, using an ingenious method to measure truck lateral forces. As a result, the railroad developed two prototype electric locomotive designs, a rigid frame class R1 2-D-2 and an articulated frame class GG1 2-C+C-2. Follow-up track testing verified that the GG1 had lower track lateral forces, and was selected for production.
The 4,620 hp GG1 combined several significant North American design concepts:
- Exceptional power from six double-armature traction motors for heavy passenger train operation at 100 mph;
- Double-ended body design to eliminate the need to turn locomotives;
- Use of separate truck frames with an articulation joint connection, allowing improved rail tracking and lower lateral forces;
- Housing the main transformer and locomotive cabs in the center body, providing increased crew accident protection in collisions;
- Use of high voltage Alternating Current (11 kV at 25 Hz); and
- One of the first applications of Industrial Design (by Donald R. Dohner and Raymond F. Loewy) producing a streamlined locomotive using a welded carbody.
The GG1 was quickly recognized as a rare combination of stellar performance, robust construction, and low maintenance costs. It was used to inaugurate electrified New York-Washington operations, performed admirably during World War II, successfully made the later transition to freight train operation, and was finally retired in October 1983. The prototype GG1 locomotive 4800 has been designated an ASME national engineering landmark.