Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Subscription Club Car No. 2454
The Whippany Railway Museum (WRyM) has acquired former Delaware Lackawanna & Western (DL&W) MU Subscription Club Car No. 2454 (ex-Erie Lackawanna / NJ Transit No. 3454). The acquisition was arranged with the cooperation and donation of the car to WRyM by the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey (URHS). Through the efforts of long-time WRyM supporter Frank Reilly, a very substantial grant has been gifted to the Museum which is being directed towards the complete restoration-to-operation of this historically significant railcar that comes to us with an abundance of NJ transportation history.
The DL&W club cars dated from 1912, and operated in steam locomotive-hauled service before being rebuilt for New Jersey suburban electric MU (Multiple Unit) service in 1930. Also known as “Subscription Cars” on the DL&W, they catered to the “gentlemen’s club” set. In order to ride in the car, an individual had to be sponsored and voted in by the other members, so the membership would have had a air of exclusivity. Members paid an extra fare each month, which was turned over to the railroad to pay the expenses of operating the car.
The five original DL&W MU subscription / club cars (Nos. 480 – 484) were built new for the Lackawanna by Barney & Smith in 1912 as steel body, open platform subscription cars. They were not rebuilds from earlier main-line parlor cars. No. 2454 was originally DL&W No. 484. Throughout 1930, American Car & Foundry Co. converted the original open platform club cars into vestibule-equipped club cars and fitted them out for electric MU service, the same as all the other high-roof MU trailers that started life with open platforms.
DL&W No. 2454 was assigned to the Hoboken to Gladstone Branch run… on a train known as The Millionaire’s Express . The Gladstone club car was the only one that had a porter, and it was the only Lackawanna MU car that received air conditioning. It was cool air vented out of the ceiling via ducts from ice bunkers filled with huge blocks of ice.
After the October 1960 merger of the DL&W and the Erie Railroad, which created the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, No. 2454 was renumbered as 3454, the number which it carried until the end of its operating career in 1984.
Some memories of riding onboard the 2454 / 3454 are provided below by New Jersey commodities broker-turned-steam-excursion-entrepreneur Ross Rowland:
“When my family and I first moved to Bernardsville in the spring of 1968 I noticed that one car on the 7:45 am train had air conditioning while the entire rest of the fleet depended upon little fans near the ceiling to move the hot air around and provide at least a little relief from the heat. The cars all sat in the Hoboken yard all day in the hot summer sun and were plenty hot each evening for the commute home.
I asked around about how one could avail themselves of joining the one subscription car that had the A/C and was told that it was a private commuters club whose members were a ” whose-who” of Wall Street senior leaders and heavy duty political figures from the NJ “establishment” and that one could only join if sponsored by 2 members and that there was a 3 year waiting list.
A few weeks later I discovered that one of my largest commodity futures customers (at Merrill Lynch) was a long standing member of the car and he agreed to ” sponsor” me and find the 2nd. sponsor. I was soon elected to membership and began enjoying the commute home a lot more all summer.
If I recall correctly I was the first new member in the previous 7 years, and from my memory I was (at age 28) at least 25 years younger than the next youngest member. I was rather used to being the “kid” in the crowd as all the members of the futures exchange where I worked were in their 60’s-70’s.
The car was divided near the middle with one end being non-smoking and reserved for members guests. The rules allowed us to bring a total of 4 guests aboard per year (one at a time) and guests were required to ride in the non-smoking/guest end. There were no women members.
The other end was set-up with rattan seats and 2 card tables. Every day there were 2 bridge games on the way into Hoboken and each night there were 2 gin-rummy games on the way home. Both games had regular players and scores were kept and everyone settled up on the money Friday nights coming into Basking Ridge. The players were in fact a “whose-who” of Wall Street and included Mr. Percy Chubb, II – CEO of Chubb Insurance Webster Todd, Director – Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; Cyrus Vance, Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Lyndon Johnson and later Secretary of State for President Jimmy Carter; C. Douglas Dillon, Wall Street financier and former Treasury Secretary under President John F. Kennedy; etc.,etc. I never tired of enjoying some of the squabbles that would develop between them on settlement night when they’d frequently argue strongly over pennies when during their average workday they dealt in millions!!!
I recall one day Webb Todd brought his daughter Christie aboard for the ride into Hoboken and she sat next to me (I rode in the non-smoking end mornings to read the paper in library silence, and this end was the only space females were permitted) and I remember being very impressed with her. It did not surprise me in the least when she went on to become New Jersey’s Governor years later.
We were blessed to have as a faithful attendant , Mr. Bob White who worked the car for many years. Each member kept a bottle of his favorite hooch in Mr. White’s galley and he knew just how each member liked his drink prepared for the journey home. Mornings he served coffee / tea and crumpets. Each year at Christmas a generous collection was taken and Mr. White did quite well. He was a total professional in every sense and added a great deal to the pleasure of the car.
My memories of riding the club car are extensive, fond and lasting. I always enjoyed the sounds of the mahogany wood paneling creaking as we’d go through the turnouts in Hoboken and the wonderful conversations overheard during the serious card games between those titans of Wall Street on all manner of topics.Ross Rowland
The ability to enjoy a scotch & soda along with a good cigar, served by a true professional in the comfort of an air conditioned car in the blazing heat of summer, was truly wonderful and will always be remembered as such
Each morning during the summer the car’s ice lockers (slung underneath) would be filled with large blocks of ice to keep the A/C going strong all day as the car sat in the summer heat in the yard. Mr. White would draw all the window shades to keep out the sun’s rays and not lift them until he was on his way into the shed to receive guests. The car was always nice and chilly when we left Hoboken no matter how hot the day.
And all this for the incredible price of $120. a year !!! Great memories….sadly never to be repeated!!”
No. 3454 was the featured lead car during NJ Transit’s “Lackawanna Electrics Retirement Celebration” in August 1984 at Maplewood, NJ, and once again during the Tri-State Railway Historical Society’s “Farewell to the DL&W MU’s” excursion on August 19, 1984. The 3454 “closed the show” so to speak by being placed at the head-end of the very last NJ Transit 1930’s-era electric MU train from Hoboken to Dover, NJ on August 24, 1984.