The GG1 was designed by the Pennsylvania Railroad to satisfy the need for a locomotive that could pull more than 12 to 14 passenger cars and do so at high speed. The GG1 was given a sculptured car body with contoured, tapered hoods to provide good visibility for the engine crew. The GG1's shape came from Donald Roscoe Dohner and the earlier redesign of the P5 electric boxcab; famous designer Raymond Loewy restyled the locomotive after the prototype was built. He recommended the change from riveted body constriction to seamless welded construction, added the distinctive pinstriping, Futura lettering and other detail improvements.
The Pennsy built 139 GG1s between 1934 and '43. The bidirectional streamlined locomotive was mainly used for passenger trains, although several examples were regeared for freight service. The massive 460,000 lb. locos could hit speeds of 100 mph and the electric motors had a peak horsepower rating of 8,000 (4,600+ hp for continuous operation).
These amazing locomotives shook the ground when they passed at speed along the four-track PRR Northeast Corridor - I clearly remember feeling the ground move and the large wind gusts as they passed by when I was a kid fascinated by trains - but glided smoothly and almost silently into stations. The big G's reliability kept them in regular service until the early 1980s when age, rust, frame cracks and replacement part difficulties made it more cost-effective to replace them with modern, but duller-looking electric locomotives.
Sixteen GG1s remain; none are operational. Most are now displayed in museums. Nevertheless, over a 50-year period, the engine became one of the most recognized electric locomotives in the world and is still well-known to train enthusiasts everywhere.
In 1947, Lionel offered an O-gauge model of the GG1 and, even though the real locomotive operated in a limited geographic area of the U.S. (New York to D.C and east of Harrisburg, PA only), Lionel's reproduction was a big seller all over America. The GG1 has been since been modeled in every scale.
The O-gauge model on my layout is a scale offering from Williams Trains. It is painted Tuscan red - a special color picked by PRR in 1952 to haul its new silver Congressional passenger cars on the D.C.-New York run.
GG1s were a common sight when I was growing up in Philadelphia. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran 'clockers' - hourly trains (22 per day, over 150 per week) between Philadelphia and New York - single GG1 electric locomotives carrying eight to ten passenger cars. Watching the Williams model run on my layout brings back pleasant memories of seeing full size GG1s in action during their prime.
I have posted a two-minute video of my GG1 operating on the layout: