The Army-Navy Game and the Pennsylvania Railroad

The fall collegiate football bouts between the United States Army’s cadets of West Point versus the United States Navy’s midshipmen of the Naval Academy date back to 1890.  Another tradition which went hand in hand with this one for decades started in 1936. That year, the Pennsylvania Railroad started to offer game day service for the thousands of fans to get to Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia for the game and home afterward. The railroad was able to accomplish this thanks to tremendous coordination and concentration of resources that were planned months in advance.

Near Municipal Stadium, the Greenwich freight yard was converted to a sprawling passenger station for one day only. Service for the game involved upwards of 40 trains at times to bring people to and from the stadium.  Heading up the game trains was largely the task of the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotives, with some involvement by steam engines, which generally were used to move the trains around non-electrified portions of the Greenwich yard. This whole endeavor was a remarkable effort by the Pennsylvania Railroad for a single event and represented the power and influence railroads wielded in their day.

Though numbers would wane in the 1950s, the Pennsylvania Railroad continued service until its transition to Penn Central and, even into a much lesser extent, Amtrak. Despite the official Army-Navy trains ceasing operations around 1975, the game remains very popular with the many thousands of fans that regularly pack Lincoln Financial Field every year for this tradition.

Highlights of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s November Pop-up Display on the Army-Navy Game and the Pennsylvania Railroad:

  • Reproduction poster of artist Grif Teller’s Mass Transportation painting, depicting GG1s lined up outside the stadium after a 1955 game.
  • Reproduction poster for the Liberty Limited II, a special train organized by Vivian and Bennett Levin to transport wounded troops to the Army-Navy game from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, DC via privately-owned, luxury railroad cars.
  • Army-Navy game statistics book from 1947, providing meticulous details of resources the Pennsylvania Railroad used for the day, including how many people were transported, the trains used, the revenue earned and so on.
  • Various photos of passengers arriving at the Greenwich yard for an Army-Navy game in the late 1940s.
  • Blueprint of what the converted Greenwich yard would look like on game day.