The Pennsylvania Railroad, Volume 1
Building an Empire, 1846-1917
Albert J. Churella
Figure 38. When the Pennsylvania Railroad was chartered in 1846, it was a Philadelphia company, organized by Quaker City merchants and designed to bring grain from the Midwest to their community. Thirty years later, when this photograph was taken in West Philadelphia, the PRR was a far-flung railroad empire, controlling routes as far west as Chicago and St. Louis. The company's organizational structure reflected its regional orientation, with its managers committed to protecting the railroad's strategic interests, even at the expense of the city that had given it birth.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-57212.
Figure 71. For much of the nineteenth century, Pittsburgh residents had complained about the lack of adequate passenger facilities in their city, almost as often as they had criticized the PRR's virtual transportation monopoly in southwestern Pennsylvania. By 1898, PRR officials had concluded that the inefficient passenger facilities, including the tracks down Liberty Avenue, would have to be replaced. They hired Daniel Burnham, a Chicago architect well known for his work with the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The facility, completed in stages between 1901 and 1903, in turn inspired structures in Washington, D.C. (designed by Burnham), and New York (designed by Charles Follen McKim and his associates).
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-det-4a17357.
Figure 63. In October 1898, the Schoen Pressed Steel Company constructed the first Class Gl hopper cars for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The design was not all that different from earlier Class Gg wooden hopper cars. What set the new cars apart was their construction from pressed-steel components, which increased capacity and lowered the all-important ratio between dead weight and paying load. The earlier Gg hoppers had required PRR locomotives to move 45.7 pounds of dead weight for every hundred pounds of coal. The new steel design lowered the ratio to 36.4 pounds for every hundred pounds of cargo.
Pennsylvania Railroad Negative Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.
Figure 69. For half a century after its opening in 1910, New York's Pennsylvania Station constituted a magnificent technological and architectural achievement. This view, looking generally southwest, depicts the station's principal façade along Seventh Avenue (to the left), with the less ornate Thirty-Third Street side tapering off into the right center distance. From the Seventh Avenue entrance, travelers walked along the arcade (between the two low-lying baggage courtyards and indicated by the small lunette windows, barely visible) in order to reach the General Waiting Room. Penn Station architect Charles Follen McKim added a massive cupola to the design, against Alexander Cassatt's objections, in order to give the waiting room a ceiling height of 150 feet.
Hagley Digital Images Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.
Figure 41. By 1873, J. Edgar Thomson, Tom Scott, and other PRR executives had established an impressive railway empire, one that included access to the western gateways of St. Louis and Chicago; the Ohio River towns of Louisville, Cincinnati, Wheeling, and Pittsburgh; the Great Lakes ports of Toledo, Cleveland, and Erie; the nation's capital; and the tidewater ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. In the years to follow, their successors would extend that empire to include Buffalo, Detroit, and the port of Cape Charles, at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Based on George H. Burgess and Miles C. Kennedy, Centennial History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, 1846–1946 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Railroad, 1949), 318–19.
Figure 50. The Washington Limited Express, making a steady fifty-five miles per hour on the Pennsylvania Railroad's immaculately groomed right of way circa 1896. While scenes like this endowed the Pennsylvania Railroad with the aura of invincibility, by the end of the nineteenth century the railroad was in a vulnerable position. Overbuilding and competition among the northeastern railroads had pushed rates so low that PRR executives found it diffi cult to bring order to their industry, or to fund new construction. Within the next few years, the PRR would rely on both inter-firm agreements and federal regulation to ensure rate stability.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-89495.
Figure 82. When Pennsylvania Station opened to the public in 1910, the General Waiting Room was the largest interior space in New York City. While based on the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla, the neoclassical décor was merely a façade covering a structural steel framework. Architect Charles Follen McKim orchestrated a transition from the plain Doric columns of the exterior to the Ionic order flanking the north and south entrances, ahead of and directly behind the photographer. Six massive Corinthian columns, grandest of all, lined the east and west sides of the room, but they were merely stone skins covering steel girders. Large lunette windows flooded the space with light and disguised the location of the floor, some fifteen feet below ground. The murals that were positioned directly under the north and south windows gave little doubt that this station was the property of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Pennsylvania Railroad Company Photographs, Hagley Museum and Library.
Figure 47. As president of the Empire Line, Joseph Potts was anxious to capture waterborne traffic on the Great Lakes, by diverting it to the PRR's Philadelphia & Erie Railroad. He oversaw the establishment of the Erie & Western Transportation Company, a firm better known as the Anchor Line. Many of the facilities at Erie, shown here early in the twentieth century, were tied to the operations of the PRR and its rail and water subsidiaries, including a coal dock, freight and passenger termini, and a grain elevator. Virtually all of the cars are directly or indirectly owned by the PRR, but they are lettered for a variety of companies—the Pennsylvania Railroad; the Pennsylvania Lines (that is, the Lines West of Pittsburgh and Erie); the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (also a part of Lines West); the Northern Central Railway; the Union Line; and the Empire Line—an indication of the many administrative entities that PRR officials employed in order to capture traffic and circumvent legal restrictions on common ownership.
Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-D4-12893.