1947: The Christening of a Streamlined Passenger Train at New York City’s Penn Station

May 18, 1947

The streamlined passenger train Silver Comet was inaugurated with a great deal of fanfare by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) at Penn Station in New York City. Prior to its first-time run between New York City and Birmingham, Alabama, this newly built train was christened by film and stage actress Jean Parker (1915-2005).

Parker’s christening duties that afternoon involved smashing a bottle of champagne across the grab iron of the Silver Comet’s 48-seat observation car. The Birmingham News’ account of the ceremony included details on how Parker fared in carrying out those duties. “Not once, twice, but three times did the diminutive little redhead heave the be-tasselled bottle against the Silver Comet’s side,” reported that newspaper. “When it did break, it doused her from head to foot.”

The Silver Comet remained in operation for more than two decades, providing daily service between New York City and Birmingham via Richmond, Virginia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia. During those runs, the train was handled by the Pennsylvania Railroad between Washington, D.C., and Richmond; by the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad between Washington, D.C., and Richmond; and by SAL between Richmond and Birmingham. (Starting on July 1, 1967, SAL merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad). The rail vehicles comprising the Silver Comet included not only an observation car but also coaches; Pullman sleepers; baggage cars; and a dining car.

As a consequence of declining ridership and mail deliveries on the Silver Comet’s regular runs, service on this train was gradually discontinued in stages starting in 1968. The Silver Comet went out of service altogether on October 14 of the following year.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Silver Comet, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Comet_(train)

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