Crescent (train) - History - 19th Century

19th Century

A decade after the Civil War, the predecessor of the Southern Railway, the Richmond and Danville Railroad established the "Piedmont Air Line Route." This connected the Northeastern US with Atlanta and New Orleans both via Richmond and via Southern's present route through Charlottesville and Lynchburg. The "Southern Express" and the "Southern Mail" operated over these routes on an advertised time of 57 hours and 40 minutes, including a change at Atlanta.

Today's Crescent is the lineal descendant of the Washington & Southwestern Vestibuled Limited, inaugurated on January 4, 1891, by the Richmond and Danville. This Washington-Atlanta train was soon nicknamed the Vestibule because it was the first all-year train with vestibuled equipment operating in the South.

The brochure announcing the train hailed it as "a service second to none in completeness and elegance of detail ... providing all the latest and best facilities for the comfort and enjoyment of its patrons." The Vestibule lived up to its billing. Drawing-room and stateroom sleeping cars, dining cars, smoking and library cars and observation cars embodied the latest, most luxurious designs. They were gas-lighted throughout and equipped with hot and cold running water. The vestibuled platforms proved an interesting novelty. Many passengers spent considerable time walking from one car to another just to enjoy the unusual experience of being able to do so without having their hats blown away.

Soon the Washington-Atlanta routing expanded via the West Point Route from Atlanta to Montgomery and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad from Montgomery to New Orleans. New York was brought into the schedule via a connection in Washington with the Pennsylvania Railroad's Congressional Limited. Scheduled time for the New York-New Orleans run was advertised as a "40-hour, unprecedented" trip. Because of the popularity of this service, the Vestibule became a solid train of through cars between New York and New Orleans. It also carried the first dining cars to operate between those two cities.

After the R&D's successor, Southern Railway, came into existence in 1894, the train was called the Washington & Southwestern Limited southbound, and the New York Limited northbound.

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