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  • February 1 - Amtrak discontinues the Panama Limited passenger train service in favor of the City of New Orleans on the same route.





  • June 30 - Last commuter train from Bethlehem Union Station to Philadelphia, PA operated by Conrail under contract with SEPTA, service from Quakertown to Lansdale continued until July, 26. All diesel trains on former Reading commuter lines were terminated in 1981 (Pottsville-Reading-Norristown, West Trenton-Newark) except the Fox Chase-Newtown line which continued until early 1983 which is also when SEPTA took over operation of Regional Rail electric commuter lines from Conrail. CR was initially forced to operate commuter services upon startup in April 1976, but petitioned to discontinue them by the 1980's, hence the state agencies taking over the services themselves by 1983. Rails are being lifted from Bucks/Lehigh County line just below Coopersburg north to Hellertown, about 7 miles, for a trail as of late 2008 after laying dormant since October, 1984 between north of Quakertown at Calif. Rd. and High St. in Hellertown just south of the former Saucon Yard. Crossings were paved over or removed between Calif. Rd. north of Quakertown and Water St. in Hellertown sometime in the 90's. The Saucon Yard was ripped up following Bethlehem Steel's closure, the mill closed 1995 and the coke works 1998. About a mile of single track was removed between Union Station and Iron Hill Yard through South Bethlehem around 2006. There is a proposal to restore commuter service between Shelly off Rt. 309, Quakertown and Lansdale within the next 5 years.


  • July 19 - The San Diego Trolley (a new interurban light rail mass transit system) makes its inaugural run on the 15.9-mile long South Line between the U.S. International Border and Centre City San Diego.
  • July 26 - The San Diego Trolley begins regular revenue service.


The last passenger train on the Northampton-Market Harborough line
  • August - The last passenger train is operated on the Northampton - Market Harborough branch line in England.


  • September 1 - With the help of the Michigan National Guard as well as Grand Trunk Western and Chessie System railroads, Pere Marquette 1223 is moved to Grand Haven.
  • September 15 - The Smithsonian Institution operates John Bull for the 150th anniversary of the locomotive's construction, making John Bull the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world.
  • September 27 - SNCF inaugurates TGV service between Paris and Lyon.
  • September 30 - Amtrak discontinues the Cardinal, Shenandoah, Black Hawk and Pacific International passenger train services.


  • October 1 - Amtrak inaugurates the Capitol Limited connecting Chicago, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. via the Valpo Local line through Valparaiso, Indiana.
  • October 2 - Amtrak renames the Inter-American passenger train service connecting Chicago, St. Louis, Missouri, Little Rock, Arkansas, Dallas and San Antonio, Texas as the Eagle.
  • October 4 - Amtrak discontinues the Prairie Marksman passenger train service between Chicago and Peoria, Illinois.
  • October 25 - Amtrak discontinues overnight service on the former Milwaukee Road's Pioneer Limited route.



Unknown date

Industry awards

North America

1981 E.H. Harriman Awards
Group Gold medal Silver medal Bronze medal
Awards presented by Railway Age magazine
  • 1981 Railroader of the Year: Lawrence Cena (ATSF)