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Part 1: The trains called Congressional

By Joseph H. Lechner

When toy train enthusiasts hear the name “Congressional”, they usually think of a deluxe O gauge train set introduced by Lionel in 1955. However, the Pennsylvania Railroad had operated a fast limited-stop passenger service between New York City and Washington , D.C. since 1885.

The first “Congressional” was a steam-hauled train called Congressional Limited Express. By 1930, it was capable of making the 226-mile run from Penn Station to Washington 's Union Station in five hours, including a stop at Manhattan Transfer to exchange its tunnel electric for a steam road locomotive, plus at least four more station stops at Newark , Philadelphia , Wilmington and Baltimore .

By 1935, the PRR had finished electrifying its main line between New York and D.C. An electric-powered test run took place on January 28 of that year; during this run, GG-1 #4800 set a speed record of 102 mph near Seabrook , Maryland . The first Congressional to be hauled completely by electric power ran on February 10, 1935 . GG-1s were so fast that the train's schedule could be shortened to three hours and 35 minutes. Lionel's outfit #2144W of 1948 would have represented this Congressional well: a five-stripe GG-1 in Brunswick green pulling Tuscan heavyweight coaches.

In 1952, Pennsylvania Railroad upgraded its passenger service by ordering 64 lightweight cars from the Budd Company in Philadelphia . The new varnish was used to equip two Congressionals and two consists of The Senator, which ran between Washington and Boston . Pennsy painted six of its GG-1s (#4908-4913) Tuscan red with five gold stripes to match Budd's cars, which were gleaming stainless-steel with Tuscan letter boards. Later, four more GG-1s (#4856, 4857, 4876 and 4929) got a similar paint job.

PRR's streamlined Congressionals entered regularly-scheduled service on March 17, 1952 . Each train consisted of eight coaches, a tavern-lounge, a two-car diner, a room car, five parlor cars, and a parlor-observation. Congressionals were very popular with the traveling public, and the PRR recorded a 9% increase in ridership on this route. Eventually there were three Congressionals per day in each direction: morning, mid-day, and afternoon.

Lionel Toy Corporation introduced its model of the streamlined Congressional in 1955. Outfit #2254W was ground-breaking in more ways than one. It was the first postwar Lionel passenger train whose cars were lettered for a prototype railroad. Retailing at $100, #2254W was also the most expensive toy train set cataloged up to that time, if we exclude Lionel's electronic outfit #4110WS of 1948-1949, which was loaded with extras such as switches, accessories and a large transformer.

#2254W continues to be among the most coveted postwar trains today. Originals in like new condition command prices in excess of $6000. Reproductions have been issued by Lionel, MTH and Williams.

Set #2254W included a #2340 five-stripe GG-1, the first time Lionel offered this engine in Tuscan red. The handsome electric locomotive pulled four 16” streamlined aluminum cars: #2544 Pullman Molly Pitcher; #2543 Pullman William Penn; #2542 vista dome Betsy Ross; and #2541 observation Alexander Hamilton. Set #2274W in 1956 contained the same rolling stock, except that the GG-1 was numbered #2360. All Lionel-published illustrations of the Congressional, including the cover of the 1956 catalog, depicted the cars in descending numerical order with #2544 first.

The names Molly Pitcher, William Penn, and Betsy Ross appeared on actual 85' stainless-steel parlor cars that were used on the real Congressional: PRR class PP85, numbered #7143, #7137 and #7145 respectively. Each car seated 29 passengers on swiveling chairs in the main 54' parlor section, plus five persons in a private 8' drawing room. Each car was equipped with men's and women's lavatories and a 4' luggage compartment. Pennsylvania Railroad owned sixteen PP85s altogether.

Lionel's #2500 series Pullman represents a PP85 surprisingly well. Budd Company drawings show one door, eight large 6' windows, and two smaller windows. The Lionel model has one door, five large windows and five smaller ones (remember that Lionel's cars were selectively compressed to scale 60' length to negotiate 031 curves!).

However, Lionel literature (and fifty years of hobbyists) are not accurate in referring to these cars as “ Pullmans ”, for two reasons. First, the Congressional was a daytime train on a relatively short run, so it did not need sleeping accommodations. Second, Congressional's cars were built by Budd, not by Pullman-Standard. In 1952, only the Budd Company could supply all-welded stainless-steel cars. Construction of these cars depended upon a patented Shotweld technique that Budd either did not, or would not, license to competitors.

According to a Pennsylvania Railroad equipment diagram, PRR #7137 was originally named William Penn as Lionel modeled it; however, according to a roster compiled by D. Garrett Spear, it was later renamed Anthony Wayne. #7137 was photographed, lettered Anthony Wayne in Penn Central livery, in 1972. It was later acquired by AMTRAK, which renumbered it #3322 but retained the name Anthony Wayne, and operated it on the Sunset Limited. The renaming of #7137 might be connected to the fate of PRR #7504, a heavyweight business car that was originally built at Altoona in 1927 and was originally named Quaker City . #7504 was renamed Baltimore in 1954; and again renamed Wm. Penn (Wm., not William) in 1960. At some point Wm. Penn was renumbered #8976. In November 2000, Wm. Penn was delivered to Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh , Indiana where it was going to be restored and displayed.

Lionel's #2542 Betsy Ross was manufactured as a Vista-dome, although the real Betsy Ross was a parlor car of the same type as Molly Pitcher and William Penn. A Vista-dome symbolized the epitome of travel luxury, and it added glamour to postwar toy train sets. Ever since Lionel introduced its 2500-series aluminum cars in 1952, every set had included a Vista-dome, except for the budget-priced #2244W of 1955, a three-car set pulled by F3 diesels in Wabash livery. The real Congressional did not have a dome car. Most eastern railroads did not operate Vista-domes because their rights-of-way had too many low overhead clearances. Further, railroads avoided using Vista-domes on electrified routes for fear a damaged pantograph or catenary might smash into the dome.

Lionel's #2541 Alexander Hamilton was inspired by PRR #7128, a class POC85B parlor-bar-lounge-observation car. The prototype seated eighteen passengers in swiveling chairs in a 32' parlor section; thirteen persons in a lounge section with two tables and a compact bar; and twelve persons in an observation section at the rear. However, the rear of a POC85B was squared-off, unlike Lionel's graceful boat-tail observation which was based on either an ATSF or a California Zephyr prototype.


PART 2: In Search of Molly Pitcher

by Joseph H. Lechner

Lionel's Congressionals, outfits #2254W (1955) and #2274W (1956), are among the most-coveted and most-imitated train sets of the postwar era. The real Congressional operated between Washington , D.C. and New York 's Penn Station, making intermediate stops at all the locations depicted in Lionel's catalog, plus Wilmington , Delaware .

Robert Sherman's artwork for outfit #2274W from Lionel's 1956 catalog looks very similar to the 1955 drawing (see previous article), but details of car lettering are different. The 1955 illustration shows " PENNSYLVANIA " lettered in black on a stainless-steel letterboard; in 1956, " PENNSYLVANIA " was gold lettering directly on the Tuscan stripe, the way Lionel actually made the cars.

Lionel's model was a good one, successfully duplicating the appearance of its prototype (albeit shortened to negotiate 031 curves) and using actual car names that appeared on the real Congressional. Prior to 1955, Lionel's toy passenger cars were lettered Lionel Lines, and most were named after New Jersey communities located near Lionel's factory. However, the Pennsylvania Railroad named its Congressional cars after historical figures from the colonial era or the American War for Independence .

Students of American history will readily recognize three of the names commemorated on Lionel's Congressional.

Betsy Ross (1752-1836) served as tailor to George Washington, and she created the first American flag. Betsy herself claimed that Washington showed her a proposed design that included six-pointed stars. He revised his design after dexterous Betsy demonstrated how quickly she could cut out a perfect five-pointed star with a single snip.

William Penn (1644-1718) chartered the colony of Pennsylvania as a sanctuary for religious dissenters to escape persecution.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) captained an artillery company during the Revolutionary War; represented New York at the Constitutional Convention; and served as Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington.

But who was “Molly Pitcher”? Was she an actual person; is she a composite of several historical figures; or is she an American legend?

Hundreds, if not thousands, of women accompanied the Continental army during the American Revolution to care for the fighting men. They were called “camp followers”. At first, George Washington wanted to ban them altogether. When he couldn't eliminate them, he ordered them to remain off the battlefield and out of sight. He tried to limit their number to one female per thirteen soldiers; but ultimately he had to recognize that his army could not get along without them. Camp followers might have been addressed by the generic title “Molly”. Molly was a common nickname for Mary; the word moll (probably from Latin mulier, “woman”) has come to mean a female accomplice of a gunman or gangster. Most camp followers of the Continental Army cooked, cleaned and tended the sick; but at least three women are known to have participated in combat.

Although several women have been nominated for the title “Molly Pitcher”, the most likely candidate is Mary Hays McCauley of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

She was born Mary Ludwig on October 13 to a dairy farmer named John George Ludwig and his wife Gretchen. There are several opinions concerning the location of the Ludwig farm (take your pick of Allentown PA ; Carlisle PA; or northern New Jersey ). There are also disagreements about the year of Mary's birth (ranging from 1744 to 1754). What is almost certainly true is that the Ludwigs immigrated from Germany in the 1730s, and that they were very poor.

Most historians agree that Anna Irvine, the wife of a Dr. John Irvine, visited the Ludwig farm and arranged to hire Mary (aged fourteen or fifteen) as a domestic servant. Mary bade her family good-bye and went with Anna to the Irvine home in Carlisle , Pennsylvania . If in fact they set out from New Jersey , their trek was some 150 miles westward, a week's journey at that time. Supposedly, Mary's wages were sent home to aid her struggling parents.

In Carlisle, Mary met a local barber named William Hays (some sources call him John), and they were married on July 24, 1769 at a ceremony in the Irvine home. I tend to believe that Mary's correct birth year was 1744 and that she was 25 years old on her wedding day. While it was certainly not unheard of for a girl of fifteen to marry, I question whether a girl in Mary's financial circumstances would have been free to marry only a few months after joining the Irvine household.

Dr. Irvine was keenly interested in the growing colonial desire for independence from England , and he kept his neighbors informed about developments in Massachusetts , including the Boston Massacre ( March 5, 1770 ) and the Boston Tea Party ( December 16, 1773 ). On July 12, 1774 , Irvine is said to have organized a meeting in Carlisle at which he urged residents to boycott English goods. William Hays was present at that meeting, and he signed the boycott pledge.

War with England began with the battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 . At some point after that, Dr. Irvine took a commission as an officer in the Continental Army.

In October 1777, William Hays enlisted in the army; some say that he belonged to an artillery unit commanded by Irvine . Hays and his comrades arrived at Valley Forge , PA on December 19 and spent the winter there. When Mary heard about the desperate conditions at Valley Forge , she joined her husband there to cook, mend clothes, tend the sick, and help in any way she could.

Mary's shining moment came during the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778 , which was remarkable on two counts. Lasting twelve hours, it is said to have been the longest continuous engagement of the Revolutionary War. It may also have been the hottest; according to one source the mid-day temperature reached 103°F, and dozens of combatants on both sides collapsed of heat exhaustion.

Tradition holds that Mary revived many an exhausted soldier that day by bringing them drinks of water from a nearby spring. She is also said to have rescued a wounded soldier by hoisting him over her shoulder and carrying him off the battlefield. In addition to refreshment against the parching heat, artillerymen also needed water to maintain their cannons. After every round, they would swab the gun's bore with a wet rag tied to a rammer. This was necessary, not only to clean out gunpowder residue, but also to extinguish sparks that might otherwise set off the next round prematurely.

When William fell wounded, Mary grabbed his rammer and took over his position at the cannon. During the battle, a British shell whizzed between her legs and tore away half her skirt and petticoat, but she was unharmed and went on reloading the cannon.

The only known eyewitness, Private Joseph Martin, later recorded this incident in his diary:

“A woman whose husband belonged to the artillery and who was then attached to a piece in the engagement, attended with her husband at the piece the whole time. While in the act of reaching a cartridge and having one of her feet as far before the other as she could step, a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat. Looking at it with apparent unconcern, she observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else…”

Dawn's first light on June 29 revealed that the British army had retreated during the night. The Battle of Monmouth was a pivotal moment in the revolution. It was the first clear victory for the Continental army; and it would prove to be the last major battle fought in the North. General George Washington rode into camp and asked to meet the woman whom he had noticed firing a cannon the previous day. In appreciation for her valor, he made Mary a noncommissioned officer. Thereafter, the men called her Sergeant Molly.

Joseph Martin's diary, published in 1830, was the first known written reference to a woman tending a cannon during the revolutionary war. Martin did not mention the woman's name. Later accounts in newspapers referred to “Captain Molly”. The name “Molly Pitcher” first appeared in 1848, as the title of a print by Nathaniel Currier that depicted a woman loading a cannon on the battlefield.

In 1780, Mary gave birth to a son, John. Some time between 1781 and 1783, the Hays family went home to Carlisle PA, where William resumed his barbering. He died in 1786. Seven years later, Mary married John McCauley, who had been a friend of William's and a member of the same artillery company. Their marriage was evidently not a happy one. John disappeared circa 1807 and was never heard from again. Mary spent the remainder of her life in Carlisle , earning a meager living by doing laundry, cleaning houses, and caring for children. On February 11 1822 , the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded an annual pension of $40 “for the relief of Molly Mkolly, widow of a soldier of the revolutionary war”, later amended to read “for services rendered during the war”. After 1830, Mary resided in the household of her son John.

Her friends and neighbors described her as “homely in appearance”; “a very busy talker”; “a tobacco chewer” who drank whiskey and “swore like a trooper”; but “kind-hearted and a good woman”; “blind in one eye, but healthy, active and strong; fleshy and short, and passionately fond of children.”

Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, aka Molly Pitcher, died January 22, 1832 at an age between 78 and 88. Her remains are buried in the old graveyard on South Bedford Street in Carlisle , four blocks south of East High (PA 74) and two blocks east of Hanover Street (PA 34). Mary's grave is marked with a flag staff, a cannon, and a life-size bronze statue of her with a rammer in her hands. Bronze reliefs on the pedestal depict her acts of heroism during the Battle of Monmouth.

Carlisle is located at the junction of Interstate-81 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I 76). A visit to Molly Pitcher would be an easy side trip for TCA members who are traveling to an Eastern Division York meet. PA 74 is Carlisle Avenue on which the main entrance to York Expo Center is located.


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