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B&O Lounge/Observation Car 3302

By J. Shelley Hopkins, RailRoad Passenger Cars Inc.

(originally written 1995; updated 2003 and 2005)

This article was published in the May 2005 issue of the Bull Sheet

Lounge/observation car #3302 was originally built by the Pullman Standard Car Company for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as their coach #5234 in 1923. The car served in that capacity, operating in many trains, until 1941 when it was pulled from service and converted to a flat-end observation/lounge car at the B&O's Mount Clare Shops in Baltimore for use on the 'Columbian' train which ran between Washington and Chicago. This car has the paired, narrow windows characteristic of all but the final equipment built by or for the B&O. Over the years, the car operated in many train sets, especially after the B&O acquired the newer, light-weight cars for the 'Columbian' in 1949. Unlike the other flat-end B&O observation cars in operation at the time, the 3302 had a diaphragm on the rear so that the car could also be used in mid-train service.

The 3302 was officially retired by the B&O in 1969, at which time the Baltimore Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society purchased the car for scrap value, to be used in their excursion operations. The car was given a fresh coat of B&O blue and gray paint, lettered for the Baltimore Chapter, and officially named the 'Edward G. Hooper' in honor of the chairman of the board of the NRHS at the time, and for his many years of work on the B&O Railroad. Many Baltimore Chapter volunteers spent much time in restoring the interior of the car, removing paint from the brass fittings of the light fixtures and woodwork, and making other improvements where needed.

Edward G. Hooper entered the service of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in June 1904 as a clerk in the accounting department. In 1906 he transferred to the office of the secretary and became chief clerk to the secretary in 1939. In 1941 he was appointed assistant to the secretary, the post he held until his retirement from the B&O on March 31, 1954.

Mr. Hooper joined the National Railway Historical Society in June 1936, and he was elected a national vice president in October of that year. He was one of the incorporators of the Society in 1937 and was also elected a director of the Baltimore Chapter at that time. He held that post until 1951. From 1943 until 1958, Mr. Hooper served as president of the Society and since that time he held the position of chairman of the board until his death on March 12, 1974, at the age of 90.

During the many years that Mr. Hooper served the Society, he made many personal sacrifices for the organization to which he was totally dedicated. His death was a great loss to the Society and to all of those who knew him.

Car 3302 not only operated in several rail excursions during the final years of regular B&O/C&O passenger service, but was leased each holiday season, and used by the B&O as an extra car in the 'Metropolitan,' the 'Shenandoah' and the 'Capitol Limited.' The B&O/C&O passenger service operated these trains until all intercity passenger trains were turned over to Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

The Baltimore Chapter continued to own and maintain the car until November 1972, whereby the car was sold to RailRoad Passenger Cars Inc. (RRP), along with the diner 1091 'Pittsburgh,' due to problems with insurance requirements placed on the Baltimore Chapter. RRP had been organized in 1970 by the Baltimore Chapter, as a separate leasing company to own and operate passenger cars for rail excursions. Almost all of the original members of RRP were also members of the Baltimore Chapter.

Photo of car 3302 at Camden Station, Baltimore, 1980, by Warren E. Olt.. From collection of Baltimore Chapter NRHS, Maryland Rail Heritage Library.

Immediately after RRP purchased the 3302, the car was leased to many other NRHS chapters in the eastern part of the country, along with the various other RRP coaches. Both the Baltimore Chapter and RRP operated excursion trips with these cars over the next 22 years.

The 3302 'Edward G. Hooper' saw service on many railroads while in the private ownership of RRP. The car saw service in excursion trips all over the then-Chessie System (B&O/C&O & Western Maryland), including various official trips with the B&O and C&O railroad office cars. Many dignitaries rode in the 3302, including governors, mayors and congressmen from all around the area.

During the Bicentennial year 1976, the 'Hooper' was repainted in a red, white and blue scheme and renumbered as 1776. During that year, if the car was not on the road in excursion service, the car was occasionally used by Chessie as a 'protect car' for the Baltimore-Washington commuter trains. In 1977, the car was repainted once again back into the B&O blue and gray scheme.

After the Chessie System celebrated the 150th birthday of the B&O Railroad, which included the operation of two years of special steam excursions trips in 1977 and 1978, the railroad did not operate any special steam trains in 1979. The 3302 was not used by the railroad for any of the steam excursions in 1977 and 1978, even though other RRP coaches were used. However, there were officials of the Chessie System who felt that the 'Edward G. Hooper' should have been in the consist, since it was a higher capacity first-class car than those cars being used. It can also be noted that although the Chessie System was celebrating the birthday of the B&O Railroad, not one piece of B&O equipment was operated in the consist of that train.

In 1980, the Chessie System again decided to operate some steam excursion trains. These trips were operated as part of an Operator Lifesaver program and were called the 'Chessie Safety Express.' When the consist of this special train was being considered, the railroad management picked the 3302 to be the observation car. The car was moved to the Chessie shops in Huntington, West Virginia, for repainting into the Chessie yellow, vermilion and blue scheme. The rear diaphragm was removed from the car at the same time, for use on the Safety Express, giving the car the appearance of the other flat-end B&O observation cars.

During the years that RRP owned the 3302 'Edward G. Hooper,' over $50,000 was spent in upgrading the car for mainline operation. Over the years the major railroads made many changes to their rules of operation of private passenger cars. RRP was forced to spend large amounts of money in order to comply, especially to operate with Amtrak. Prior to entering the 'Chessie Safety Express' service, modern FRA marker lights were installed on both ends of the car, and the braking system was upgraded to the more modern D-22 system. At the same time, the hand brake was also modernized.

One of the more controversial moves that RRP made was the conversion of the steward's room in the 3302, and the enlargement of the service bar area. When the car had operated under the ownership of the B&O and during the few years that the Baltimore Chapter NRHS owned the car, it had a small bar area and a steward's room. The bar area was too small, and the steward's room was basically useless for excursion train service. Even though a few car attendants used the room as a bedroom, when the car was in service out of state, the management of RRP felt that elimination of the room and an enlargement of the bar area could make better use of the space. This idea was even discussed with several key personnel of the Chessie System, utilizing their feedback for the project. A new plan was developed and approved by the board of directors of RRP. The car was taken out of service for a short period and the steward's room was removed. The new construction added a new water system, which included two overhead water storage tanks, and the bar area was increased. New tables were made, replacing the two tables near the bar area. The electrical system was upgraded with a 110-volt system being added to power a coffee maker, stereo system and other appliances. An alternator for 110-volt power was added to the car. (This system was already in use on all upgraded heavyweight and newer lightweight passenger cars in operation on the B&O.) Car 3302 could now be lighted, in stationary service, without using the 32-volt D.C. system, as the 110-volt system operated immediately upon plugging in the 220-volt, 3-phase lines used in most railroad stations, like the B&O's Camden Station in Baltimore.

After RRP made the improvements to the 3302, there were many who objected to the conversion of the steward's room since in their minds this ruined the integrity of the car in that this car represented one of the last pure B&O cars of the time, still in operation. RRP stated that their position was that the car needed to be upgraded to continue to be leased and maintained. Moreover, who is to say that if the B&O were still in the passenger business during that time, that they would not have upgraded the car, considering all of the rebuilding they made during their many years of operation? RRP also felt that with this rebuilding, the car became more desirable for the 'Chessie Safety Express,' as well as all future excursions.

The 3302 'Edward G. Hooper' traveled all over the Chessie System, the Seaboard System, as well as many excursions operations over the former Southern Railway System. The car was used many times in the consists of both the Southern and Norfolk Southern steam excursions operating from the Washington, D.C., area.

During the mid-1980's, car 3302 was no longer eligible to operate on the main lines, as the rules of operation were once again changing. After the Norfolk Southern had suffered a derailment and overturn of a passenger car during the operation of one of their steam excursion trains, that railroad, along with (by then) CSX, made major changes in the operation of excursion trains. They immediately required that all passenger equipment in operation would have to have either type H tight-locked or slack-adjusted couplers (as also required by Amtrak). All cars would also have to have roller-bearing journals for wheel sets as no more friction bearings of any kind would be allowed. The 'Hooper' already had roller-bearing wheels, however at the time of the rule changes, the car did not have the modern couplers. Therefore, RRP could no longer lease the car to any of the major railroads or to any group desiring to operate the car in mainline service over these roads.

RRP wanted to upgrade the 3302, and they had been planning to do so for some time. However, without any substantial rental income, and with the ever-increasing insurance costs, RRP was forced to postpone these improvements. Then - due to the building of the new Camden Yards Baseball Stadium and the rebuilding of the MARC train platform at Camden Station - the car was moved to CSX's Bay View Yard in East Baltimore. Since there were no facilities in Bay View to hold meetings and parties, RRP could no longer even lease the car in stationary service.

After the car had been moved to Bay View, RRP was approached by the owner of the EnterTRAINment Line Dinner Train about leasing the car for their service. EnterTRAINment Line had a contract with the Maryland Midland (with headquarters in Union Bridge, Maryland), operating over a portion of the former Western Maryland Railway. An agreement was reached to lease the car in 1989, and the car headed off to Union Bridge. At first the car was operated as a lounge car in the dinner train. However, as more customers desired seating at tables for their meals, the 3302 was converted to a table car, and all of the car's furniture was removed and placed into storage.

Since the 3302 was now in regular operation each weekend by the EnterTRAINment Line as a dining car, RRP decided to continue to upgrade the mechanics of the car. Another organization was leasing shop space from the Maryland Midland and was set up to rebuild passenger equipment. This group was qualified to perform heavy repairs, and they were also available to convert conventional passenger equipment to full headend power and/or add a diesel generator. RRP signed a contract with this group to convert the coupler on the platform-end of the car to the proper Amtrak-approved 'slack adjuster' type coupling. At the same time, the diaphragm was also changed to a modern Amtrak type. RRP was planning to add headend power to the car next, as soon as money was available. RRP had already purchased most of the components during the same time when RRP's diner/ lounge car 2066 'Leonard J. Buxton' was upgraded. However, the plans for the 3302 were never completed due to the other expenses for repairs and upgrade to the wheels.

While the car was running on the EnterTRAINment Line, RRP was notified that several of the wheel-bearing boxes were leaking oil, and they needed to be repaired. The officers and directors of RRP gave authority to have the wheels converted to the modern bearings approved by Amtrak and the other major railroads. The wheels were converted using the same procedure as the Washington D.C. Chapter's car 'Dover Harbor.'

No sooner had RRP spent the money to upgrade the bearings, RRP was notified that the 3302 had a defective truck on the platform-end of the car. This was discovered upon an inspection of the dinner train equipment by the Federal Railroad Administration. RRP was extremely upset upon receiving this report, since the car had just been in the shop for the wheel replacements. Why wasn't the truck problem identified at that time? RRP would have been able to have the repairs made while the car was in the shop for wheel work.

The owner of the EnterTRAINment line - who was also an RRP member - notified the RRP officers that the car was desperately needed for the dinner train. He did not have any spare cars for the service and he was willing to swap out the defective truck from another former B&O passenger car, which he owned, which was out of service at the time. Since RRP did not have the funds to place the car back in the shop for the truck to be rebuilt, the decision was made to exchange the trucks from the other car, allowing the 3302 to continue to operate in the dinner train.

Unfortunately, the truck from the other former B&O car did not match the one from the 3302, since the axles of the 3302 were slightly shorter than those of the other car. The shop could not exchange the 3302's new wheels using the other car's truck. The decision was made by the management of the dinner train, and with the approval of one RRP officer, who was overseeing the operation of the car while in service on the dinner train, to exchange the truck and wheels completely.

With the truck problem temporarily resolved, the car continued to operate as part of the dinner train for the next five years. During that time, the dinner train was sold to new owners. These new owners were starting to have financial problems as the dinner train was unable to earn enough money to meet their payroll and to maintain the equipment to FRA guidelines. During the final year of operation, the owners were not paying RRP on time for the lease of the 3302, and they were always in arrears. This was the end of 1993 going into 1994.

Since RRP was now starting to incur financial problems, in that rentals had fallen off, especially for the 'Leonard J. Buxton,' insurance costs were increasing, and RRP was not receiving dinner train payments on time, a special meeting for RRP was held, at which time it was discussed and voted upon to dissolve the organization. The whole operation was to be terminated within 30 days, and all of its equipment (including the 3302 'Edward G. Hooper,' diner/lounge 2066 'Leonard J. Buxton,' B&O coach 3587, and RRP's two storage cars) would be donated to the B&O Railroad Museum. RRP also donated its remaining assets, including cash and securities, along with all parts and tools. The only stipulation made was that the operating cars 3302, 2066 and 3587 would be maintained as part of the permanent collection of passenger equipment at the B&O Railroad Museum.

When RRP ceased operations, the B&O Railroad Museum continued to honor the leases for the RRP cars, including the 3302 'Edward G. Hooper.' However, within a short period, the EnterTRAINment Line was closed down for continued financial problems and back taxes. The B&O Railroad Museum contacted the Maryland Midland and immediately made arrangements to have the 3302 moved to the museum in Baltimore. The museum did not want the car held under any kind of legalities resulting from the dinner train's financial problems. The museum was never able to collect any of the money that was still owned from the final months of dinner train operation.

Since the 3302 has been part of the B&O Railroad Museum's collection, the car has been used as part of their excursion train operating over their short line. The car has also been used a few times by CSX as a stationary car at Camden Station, serving refreshments for their employee Santa Claus train trips. As of today, the car is sitting outside in the front yard of the B&O Railroad Museum and hopefully, in the next year or two, it can be restored for stationary service within the museum. This involves some body work, repainting and repairs to some of the windows. The interior needs some window sills to be replaced, new carpet, and to have the furniture reinstalled. This should not be too costly to achieve, as hopefully the furniture is still in good shape since it has been in storage for many years.

Without a proper railroad expert going over the entire car, here is my best guess as to what is needed to fully restore the 3302 for operation. From my personal experience, it will need much work.

First, the car needs to have the truck problem resolved by either rebuilding the original 3302 truck, which is still under another B&O car that also belongs to the museum (or the museum also has additional spare heavyweight B&O trucks of which one could be rebuilt to fit the 3302). The rear coupler also needs to be changed to a slack-adjuster, Amtrak-compliance type.

The second major project is to either add a diesel generator and/or completely head-end power the car as RRP had planned to do, using the HEP equipment that RRP purchased for the car. The entire electrical system must be overhauled to comply with modern standards, and to conform to Amtrak and MARC train operations.

The third major project is to add a complete, modern air-conditioning system. The system that is still on the car is obsolete and no longer operates. A complete Amtrak-type system would be required. The water system most likely needs repairing and a sewage holding tank would have to be added for the restrooms.

I would have to guess that for anyone to fully restore the 3302 for operation, one would be looking at a figure in the range of $150,000 to $200,000. A lot of the work could be performed by volunteers, working along with professionals. The most expensive part of the work will be in the rebuilding of the trucks to pass the Amtrak 40-year inspection that is needed in order to operate the car on any major railroad.

Is it worth it?

In my mind, it is, for the simple reason that this car represents a major part of the history of the B&O passenger train from the golden age of railroading in the USA. To the best of my knowledge, there are no other paired-narrow window B&O observation cars anywhere else that have been saved. This car can be identified with many travelers who rode on the B&O, as well as the later generations who had the opportunity to ride on the many excursion trains that operated over the Chessie System, including the B&O, the C&O, the Western Maryland, and other class I railroads.