Amid the height of the Great Depression, the Pennsylvania Railroad continued an ambitious modernization process of its mainlines between New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. The investment kept employees working during the lean years and would pay dividends as World War II brought record-setting traffic levels to what was already the world's busiest rail corridor.
As part of these improvements, the Standard Railroad of the World needed a new locomotive for mainline operations. True to its engineering pedigree, the Pennsylvania began vigorous testing of two potential designs in 1934. When the victor was chosen, Raymond Loewy was given the task to refine the new power house into a modern beauty.
Loewy's vision – a locomotive which appeared to be already at speed as the passengers walked beside it on the station platform – provided not only a fitting shroud but a unique form as striking and iconic today as it was on its debut.
While the public marveled at their looks, railroaders quickly came to respect these new motors for what lay under the hood.
Designed to propel heavy passenger trains at sustained 100 mph jaunts, the GG1's were quickly proven capable of much more.
A total of 139 locomotives were completed by 1943. Used in both passenger and freight service throughout their careers, GG1's could be found on everything from the Broadway Limited to ore trains.
The legendary status of the GG1 grew stronger with age. Outliving the PRR itself, the G's went on to serve Penn Central, Amtrak, Conrail and New Jersey Transit. They finally lost their grip on the catenary in 1985. Today 16 of the memorable motors have been preserved in museums, some far from the corridors they once owned.