Amtrak GG1 No. 923 has just pulled out of 30th St. Station in Philadelphia in May of 1976 heading to New York with a Clocker train.

(Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, California Republic, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Clocker was a passenger train service between Philadelphia and New York City on the Northeast Corridor at first by the Pennsylvania Railroad and later by Amtrak. The service was nicknamed the Clocker by riders as trains were scheduled to leave each terminal at the top of the hour. The name was eventually adopted into official use by Amtrak in 1981. The service was briefly renamed Acela Commuter in 1999 before the name reverted to Clocker in 2003. Amtrak discontinued the service on October 28, 2005, and it was partially replaced by additional NJ Transit express trains between Trenton, New Jersey, and New York City at times approximating the Clocker schedule.



Pennsylvania Railroad

The Clocker was originally a Pennsylvania Railroad express train service between New York and Broad Street Station in Philadelphia; the name was unofficial, and PRR timetables did not use it. Soon after New York Penn Station opened in 1910, the express trains began departing New York and Philadelphia on the hour through the day, giving rise to the Clocker name (which the railroad itself seems never to have used). Until the electrification of the Northeast Corridor in 1933, most Clockers were scheduled to both leave and arrive on each hour, but faster schedules after electrification eliminated the on the hour arrival.

Gradually, the Pennsylvania Railroad cut back on the schedule, and by the time Amtrak took over the nation's passenger rail service on May 1, 1971, the Clocker service no longer ran hourly.


At the launch of Amtrak, the railroad assigned each run an individual name (listed in the table below). Starting with the October 1981 timetable, Amtrak officially adopted the Clocker name for the service. The trains were unreserved, coach class only, and Amtrak targeted the Clocker service at commuters travelling to local stops bypassed by the high-speed Metroliner trains, the Regional trains, and other named long-distance trains.

During the 1990s, NJ Transit started contracting with Amtrak to accept their monthly passes on the Clocker trains. These two decisions drastically shifted the clientele on the trains. Passholders from New Jersey preferred the Clocker trains over the NJ Transit trains because they were faster and more comfortable, meanwhile, Amtrak's passengers avoided the Clocker trains because they were slower and frequently crowded. Also, the pass holder program meant that few passengers traveled to or from Philadelphia.

Until 2002, the 7:59 AM Clocker from Princeton Junction included a private club car known as Club 200 that members paid up to $1,200 per year to join (equivalent to $1,808 in 2021). This was the last private club car used in regular commuter service on the Northeast Corridor.

When the Acela Express was introduced in 1999, Amtrak launched what it called the Capstone Program, a short-lived plan to re-brand the NortheastDirect, Keystone Service and Empire Service trains as Acela Regional and the Clocker trains as Acela Commuter. Following mass rider confusion between this service and the high-speed Acela Express service, the name reverted to Clocker in 2003.

By the early 2000s, NJ Transit was paying $6 million per year to compensate Amtrak for passholders riding Clocker trains, and was loaning Amtrak its new ALP-46 locomotives to haul the trains' Amfleet coaches.

On October 28, 2005, Amtrak discontinued the Clocker service altogether and sold the Northeast Corridor operating slots to NJ Transit which used them to partially replace the service with additional Northeast Corridor Line express trains between Trenton and New York City at times approximating the Clocker schedule.


NJT Clocker in 2003.

An Amtrak Clocker train, pulled by a NJ Transit Bombardier ALP-46 locomotive at Philadelphia's 30th Street station in 2003.

(Vicky van Dal, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons



Name - Number - Notes

New York-Philadelphia

Philadelphian - 237
Betsy Ross - 211 - Sunday-only service ran Springfield-Washington
Keystone - 219 - Also the name of a Keystone Service train 1980–1981; see Valley Forge
Garden State - 221
William Penn - 223
Quaker City - 225
Rittenhouse - 227, 241
Schuylkill 229 - Discontinued April 26, 1980
Philadelphia-New York
Manhattan Limited - 252
Gotham - 254
Edison - 200
New Yorker - 202
Big Apple - 204 - Also the name of a Keystone Service train 1980–1994; see Valley Forge
Central Park - 210 - Discontinued April 26, 1980
Murray Hill - 220
Herald Square - 222



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Northeast Corridor
First service: May 1, 1971
Last service: October 28, 2005
Successor: NJ Transit
Former operators: Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central, Amtrak
Route Termini: Philadelphia / New York
Distance traveled: 91 miles (146 km)
Average journey time: 95-110 minutes
Service frequency: Multiple weekday round-trips
On-board services
Class: Unreserved coach
Rolling stock: Amfleet coaches
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification: Overhead catenary
Track owner: Amtrak