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Louis T. Klauder and Associates, Office of High Speed Ground Transportation job files

Accession: 2609


Founded in 1921, the Philadelphia firm of Louis T. Klauder and Associates specializes in the design and evaluation of railroad and rail transit systems, including equipment, infrastructure and operations. Their collection consists of selected job files covering Klauder's work for the Federal Office of High Speed Ground Transportation in developing the first U.S. high-speed rail project in the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The collection also includes smaller job files on tangential rail projects and a series of files Robert B. Watson, former Northeast Corridor project coordinator for the Pennsylvania and Penn Central Railroads, brought with him when he joined Klauder in 1972.


  • 1962-1975



24 Linear Feet

General Physical Description note

22 cartons, 2 drawings rolls, 1 flat oversize file

Historical Note

The professional engineering firm of Louis T. Klauder and Associates was founded in Philadelphia in March 1921 by Louis Tobias Klauder (1880-1945), who remained proprietor until his death. He was succeeded by his son Louis Thornton Klauder (1907-1999) as managing partner from April 1945 to December 1984. The firm came to specialize in the design and evaluation of railroad and rail transit systems, including equipment, infrastructure and operations, as such it is now (2014) the only U.S. consulting firm specializing in rail systems, and is employed by numerous passenger rail and rail rapid transit operators. Although still a partnership Louis T. Klauder and Associates registered the "doing business as" name of LTK Engineering Services on November 21, 1994. It has relocated its headquarters from Center City Philadelphia to suburban Ambler and maintains several branch officers around the country. As the leading railroad engineering consultancy, Klauder was a natural choice for the federal government's earliest attempts to implement high speed rail service in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Northeast Corridor Demonstration Project began as a reaction to Japan's first "bullet trains," the 1964 New Tokaido Line between Tokyo and Osaka, and from an initiative of Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island to improve ground transportation in the Boston-Washington population corridor. President Johnson included a high speed rail line in his "Great Society" state of the union message in January 1965, and on September 30 he signed the High Speed Ground Transportation Research and Development Act, with an initial appropriation of $90 million and a goal of 160 miles per hour. The act created the Office of High Speed Ground Transportation in the Department of Commerce (DOC), later moved to the Department of Transportation (DOT) when that department was created in 1967, and still later subsumed in the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Louis T. Klauder & Associates were engaged as consulting engineers to prepare estimates, develop specifications, secure bids from contractors, and then oversee implementation of the project as intermediaries between the participating companies (the railroads and equipment manufacturers) and the government administrators. The government staff devoted more of their time to evaluating more exotic technologies, such as magnetic levitation (maglev) vehicles and linear induction motors. Klauder also helped the USDOT develop the High Speed Ground Test Center's test track near Pueblo, Colo., on which a variety of rail or tracked vehicles could be tested.

The Department of Commerce ordered a set of four test cars from the Budd Company, basically electric commuter car shells modified for high speed running and packed with test instruments. The Pennsylvania Railroad spent additional sums to improve the track, catenary wire, signals and infrastructure for high-speed running. Two tracks of the four-track main line between COUNTY Interlocking south of New Brunswick and MILLHAM Interlocking north of Trenton, a straightaway through sparsely populated territory, were designated as the test tracks. The main focus was on the New York-Washington half of the Northeast Corridor, where the PRR main was completely electrified, had long straight sections, and was already equipped for fast running. The New York-Boston half was then owned by the bankrupt New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company (NH), was only electrified as far east as New Haven, and had long sections of winding track along the shore of Long Island Sound. The NH became the site for a second, lesser demonstration project with a low-center-of-gravity gas turbine train, the TurboTrain of United Aircraft Corporation, that was equipped with tilting devices to permit it to take curves at higher speeds. The Northeast Corridor Demonstration Project was to become a textbook example of how not to do things. Unlike high speed rail projects in other countries, which start with entirely new rights of way, the U.S. planned to run high speed passenger trains on existing tracks, whose alignments often dated from the mid-19th century, and which were also used by much slower freight trains and conventional intercity and commuter trains. As speeds increase above 90-100 MPH, a host of issues become ever more critical, including aerodynamic drag, stresses on the rails, trucks and suspension systems, the mounting of the traction motors that power the wheels, braking, maintaining contact between the roof-mounted pantographs and the overhead catenary wire that provides the power, and maintaining sufficient voltage to the cars. U.S. railroads and equipment builders had mastered the art during the first phases of high speed running between the 1890s and 1930s, but as events were to show, had fallen badly behind. Indeed today, high speed passenger rail is almost entirely the domain of foreign firms. The mechanical and electrical systems required for sustained high speed operation proved almost insurmountable obstacles, a learning curve not unlike that in the U.S. space program in the 1950s and very early 1960s.

It did not help that the project was rushed to meet political and public relations-inspired deadlines or that struggling railroads and passenger car builders were desperate for government R&D funding and good press. The four DOC test cars were delivered by Budd and the propulsion contractor, General Electric, and began road testing in the fall of 1966, but experienced numerous problems at speeds over 80 MPH. The instrumentation contractor, Melpar, Inc., was relieved because of tangential connections to the Bobby Baker influence-peddling scandal. Eventually, the test cars were coaxed up to 155 MPH, which was the target for government acceptance, on April 2, 1967.

However, the 50 prototype cars, eventually dubbed Metroliners, were ordered before the test cars had been debugged, with the stated goal of beginning high speed service in October 1967. The Budd Company made the winning bid, with the electrical work shared between General Electric and Westinghouse. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through the commuter agency SEPTA, ordered an additional 11 cars for a projected Philadelphia-Harrisburg service. As it turned out, most of the work and Budd's in particular, failed to meet the performance specifications, with over 100 specific shortcomings. SEPTA refused to accept its cars, and leased them to become part of the Metroliner pool.

Eventually, six Metroliner cars were considered acceptable to begin regular revenue service with one train each way in early January 1969. A reasonably full service was not achieved until mid-1971. Even so, there were numerous equipment failures, and the trains had to carry teams of technicians to monitor their performance and intervene in case of emergencies. The trains never achieved their goal of 160 MPH, rarely running over 125 MPH, and even having their speeds cut to close to conventional train speeds in their first years. However, their new look and airline-style amenities did lead to a resurgence of rail passenger travel in the Corridor that has continued.

Before the Metroliners could be put in sufficient shape for revenue service, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had merged with the New York Central (February 1, 1968) to form the Penn Central Transportation Company, then absorbed the New Haven at the end of the year, giving it ownership of the entire Northeast Corridor. Penn Central in turn collapsed in bankruptcy in June 1970. On May 1, 1971, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) assumed the operation of most intercity passenger trains, including the Metroliners, and it assumed full ownership of the Northeast Corridor in 1976.

At the end of 1971, Robert B. Watson, who had been the Penn Central's coordinator on the Northeast Corridor Project left the bankrupt company and joined the Klauder staff, taking with him personal copies of many of his files from the railroad's side of the project. Watson continued to work with the never-fully-debugged Metroliner cars, as well as other commuter rail and high-speed rail projects across the U.S. and in Korea, becoming LTK's Project Manager for all work for the Federal Railroad Administration. This included working on an upgrade of some of the Metroliners that improved their performance at the cost of reducing their maximum speed. The test cars remained the property of the federal government and were later used as instrumentation beds in a variety of tests around the country. One of Klauder's other assignments was to develop the concept of what became Auto-Train. Vacationers would drive to a central spot in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, where their autos would be placed in special railroad cars and carried overnight to Jacksonville, Florida, from which they would disperse to scattered Florida destinations the next day. The original concept called for people to remain in their automobiles, leaving only to use bathrooms and visit lounge and dining cars. When Auto-Train was implemented by a private company, they used second-hand standard auto carriers and conventional passenger cars, which achieved a more efficient packing of automobiles and a better ride for passengers. The construction of Walt Disney World and the location of the principal resorts on both coasts dictated placing the Florida hub at Orlando instead of Jacksonville.

LTK's involvement in the Northeast Corridor tapered off during the 1980s. By then, the original Metroliners had been bumped from their Northeast Corridor runs by locomotives of Swedish design hauling cars that are really unpowered Metroliner shells. These were superseded in turn by the next-generation Acela, combined with billions in government-funded infrastructure improvements. The Metroliners were first downgraded to Philadelphia-Harrisburg service, and then either converted to cab control cars for push-pull service on regular trains or scrapped. The Auto-Train service was popular enough that it was later assumed by Amtrak after the private operator failed.

Scope and Content

The records document Louis T. Klauder and Associates involvement with the first phase of the Northeast Corridor Demonstration Project, which includes the design and operation of the original Department of Commerce (later Department of Transportation) test cars T-1 through T-4, the Budd-GE-Westinghouse "Metroliners," including those originally intended for SEPTA service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, the United Aircraft Corporation's "TurboTrain," and infrastructure improvements. In addition, there are files on several related projects: the original design of the "Auto-Train" concept for carrying passengers and their automobiles on the same train; the Pueblo test track and the test of linear induction motor mag-lev vehicles; the SEPTA "Silverliner" commuter cars: the tests of a Budd gas turbine car on the Long Island Rail Road; and a plan for high-speed rail service between New York and Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., which was to become an additional jetport for New York City.

The Klauder files are arranged according the Klauder's numbering system. These are actually job account numbers and sub-numbers, not file numbers, so they often reflect the fact that different aspects of the same thing were charged to separate accounts. The files are typical engineer's job files insofar as they were kept as proofs of design decisions and calculations against any future controversies, and include worksheets, rough calculations and penciled notations as well as formal letters and memoranda. Klauder terminology has been preserved throughout, except that the "Metroliners," "TurboTrains," and "Auto-Train" are identified by those names, even though they were not chosen until the equipment was close to entering revenue service.

The R. B. Watson files are a group of files representing his original work as project coordinator for the Pennsylvania Railroad and Penn Central that he brought with him when he joined the Klauder firm. He retained possession of others, which now form the Robert B. Watson professional papers (Accession 2577). Watson's files cover the same events from the perspective of the railroad company, with the exception that Watson was not involved with the "TurboTrain" except when it was tested between New Brunswick and Trenton, and was not involved with the "Auto-Train" except when automobiles were shoehorned into one of the DOC test cars to check riding qualities at high speed. Again, Watson's arrangement and file titles have been retained, although some material had not been placed in file folders. Both set of files showed evidence of disarrangement and misfiling that occurred over the years when they were active, and this has been corrected as much as possible.

Researchers should note that the term "squawks" refers to the disputes that ensued when the engineers decided that a contractor's submission or an object's performance did not meet the specifications and refused to approve it.

The files document the great difficulties encountered to get both the "Metroliners" and "TurboTrains" from design concepts to properly functioning pieces of equipment. There is a smaller amount of material on various proposals to upgrade the Northeast Corridor trackage for fast running, including unexecuted plans for a straight tunnel with an underground station under downtown Baltimore, and running the "Metroliners" down the Reading line from North Philadelphia and through the proposed Center City Commuter Connection for stops in Center City.

The Drawing files represent a selection of about ten percent of the total. The drawings are mostly folded blue line ozalid prints of what would be termed fabrication drawings or shop drawings that were submitted by the contractors, principally the Budd Company for the "Metroliners" and United Aircraft Corporation for the "TurboTrains," for approval by the Klauder firm. This means that there had to be a drawing, usually at a very large scale,for every single component. Most of these drawings would be incomprehensible except to a trained engineer or machinist, for whom the drawings would serve as instructions. We have preserved drawings that show the overall arrangement, such as plans, sections and elevations of the cars, plus such major subassemblies as seats, control cabs, rest rooms, galleys and snack bars, and in the case of the "TurboTrain," the power plant and suspension. Graphic timetables plot time on the X-axis against distance on the Y-axis and show the relationship of regular and high-speed trains as they would stop, accelerate and pass one another. Track charts show how tracks were to be assigned for high-speed running, plus the existing gradients, curvature and speed limits. There are additional track charts for the route of the projected "Auto-Train" over the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad between Washington and Columbia, S.C., a site plan of the Broad Street Station in Richmond, Va., now converted into a museum, and simplified floor plans of the head house of South Station in Boston.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Material

Robert B. Watson professional papers (Accession 2577), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Language of Materials


Additional Information

Additional Description

Separated Material

Louis T. Klauder and Associates photographs (Accession 2014.258), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Louis T. Klauder and Associates, Office of High Speed Ground Transportation job files
Christopher T. Baer
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA