J.P. Morgan was a New York banker but he had plenty of occasions to visit Washington. When you control as much money as he did, you tend to keep a close eye on the government – and vice versa. And so, it’s no surprise that Morgan came to the nation’s capital from time to time for discussions with the powers that be.
Given that he was a pretty important fellow with a busy schedule, it’s also no surprise that Morgan didn’t want to waste a lot of time in transit between D.C. and the Big Apple. After all, he had deals to strike, businesses to reorganize and railroads to consolidate amongst other items on his “to-do” list.
And so, on January 23, 1911, Morgan took it upon himself to set a new world record for rail travel between Washington and New York. As the New York Times reported:
“Mr. Morgan took a seat in a specially chartered car of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Washington yesterday morning and said he’d like to get to New York in a hurry. He did. He made the 226.8 miles in 3 hours 55 ½ minutes.” The previous record had been four hours and seven minutes, set by a reporter for The London Daily Mail a few weeks before Morgan’s trip, and normal rail travel between New York and Washington averaged around five hours.
The record breaking trip was the return leg of a very quick down-and-back for Morgan. He had arrived in Washington about 9am, spent about an hour at the posh Arlington Hotel near the White House and then hustled back over to Union Station to head home alone on a special charter, which had a total of only three cars, including the locomotive.
“The order of the special train was given unexpectedly at Washington yesterday morning. The train, consisting of Locomotive No. 2766, a steel coach, and Special Car No. 90, was ready and Mr. Morgan got aboard at 11:10 o’clock. At 11:12 o’clock the train, in charge of Conductor Kitchen and E. Doan, the engineer, with the empty car sandwiched in between the locomotive tender and Mr. Morgan’s car, pulled out of the Union Station in Washington.”
After stopping briefly in Philadelphia to change locomotives, the train reached New York at 3:07pm at which point, “Mr. Morgan stepped from the train, lit another cigar, and was whirled downtown in his waiting automobile to attend to business.”
When asked about his record setting trip, representatives of J.P. Morgan & Co. claimed that their number one man “had no particular purpose in his excessive speed” but that “much satisfaction was expressed” at having set the record. Seems like they might’ve been playing coy.
In any case, it seems J.P. Morgan was clearly a man who enjoyed winning – even when he wasn’t really trying (wink, wink). What seems doubly clear is that he REALLY wanted to get out of D.C. on January 23, 1911.