The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad


As you most likely know, Pennsylvania is a state rich with history. Philadelphia was, after all, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. However, this was not the only major achievement to come out of Pennsylvania. The state was also home to the most successful railroad company in the history of the country -- the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

What was the Pennsylvania Railroad?

The Pennsylvania Railroad was built in 1846 as a way to connect Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. Two years later, its first passenger train ran between Philadelphia, where it was headquartered, and Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Railroad quickly expanded after its first lines were built. It took control of the Northern Central Railway in 1861, giving it access to Baltimore, Maryland, as well. Within the next couple of decades, the Pennsylvania Railroad also had lines that reached Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

The Success of the Pennsylvania Railroad

It wasn't long until the Pennsylvania Railroad became the biggest railroad (by measures of traffic and revenue) in the country, taking over 800 other railroad lines and companies in the first half of the 20th century.

By 1925, the railroad consisted of 10,515 miles of rail line and carried three times as much traffic as the Union Pacific or Topeka & Sante Fe railroads, which were similar in length. It's only real competition was New York Central, and it only carried about 75 percent of what the Pennsylvania Railroad managed.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was so successful that it became the biggest publicly traded corporation in the entire world. It employed a quarter million people and boasted a bigger budget than that of the U.S. government. In fact, it was so successful during this time that it still holds the record for the longest continuous dividend in history, paying out annual dividends to its shareholders every year for more than a century.

Besides being a financial success, the Pennsylvania Railroad had a huge impact on American history. Not only was it the biggest railroad in the world for a long period of time, but it gained a reputation for the quality of its construction, its innovative use of technological advancements -- which included the replacement of wood with coal -- and its innovative management techniques that are still used today to run large organizations.

The Decline of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company

By the second half of the 20th century, more and more people were buying cars, which were quickly taking over as the transportation method of choice. The Pennsylvania Railroad decided to merge with New York Central in 1968. The merged company was called Penn Central Transportation Company, which only lasted two years before it was forced to file for bankruptcy.

What remained of the Penn Central Transportation Company was transferred to Conrail in 1978, and it broke apart in 1999. What was left of it was transferred to the Norfolk Southern Railway.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company played an important part in the history of Pennsylvania and the country by making the country more accessible for Americans. While railroads still exist, most people get around more easily by car today. If you're looking to invest in a new Honda, then be sure to contact us at Bobby Rahal Honda to find out about our inventory of new and used Honda vehicles.