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History of the Pennsylvania Railroad
The Pennsylvania Railroad's history has been a long and colorful one. Our roots reach back to some of the earliest days or railroading in the United States. From its earliest days, the Pennsylvania Railroad and its predecessors have served as vital links between towns and cities, and even helped bridge the country for the first time. Read more to learn about how the Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation came to be what you know today.

The Pennsylvania Railroad

  • 1846, April 13, The Pennsylvania Railroad is chartered to build from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and Erie
  • 1849, The Pennsylvania Railroad enters an operating agreement with the Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Moutjoy & Lancaster, providing a connection to Philadelphia
  • 1857, The Pennsylvania Railroad buys the Main Line of Public works
  • 1860, John Edgar Thompson, Presendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad acquires a large block of the Northern Central Railway, and transferred ownership to the PRR, providing a link from Harrisburg to Baltimore
  • 1861, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Moutjoy & Lancaster
  • 1862, The Pennsylvania Railroad buys an interest in the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad
  • 1864, With Pennsylvania Railroad aid, the Philadelphia & Erie connects Sunbury to Erie
  • 1868, The Pennsylvania Railroad consolidates the Panhandle Railway and Stubenville & Indiana as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway
  • Jupiter Locomotive1969, The Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad meet at Promontory Point, Utah, competing the first transcontinental railroad
  • 1869, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Rail Road and the Columbus, Chicago & Indiana Railway
  • 1869, The Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway leases the Little Miami Railroad, providing a line from Cincinnati to Dayton and Columbus
  • 1871, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Camden and Amboy, Philadelphia and Trenton, and Deleware and Raritan Canal Co., and United Canal and Railroad Companies of New Jersey
  • 1872, After buying the charter to the Baltimore and Potomac, the Pennsylvania constructs and opens a line from Baltimore to Washington
  • 1873, Through service from Washington to Jersey City commences with a trackage agreement with the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore
  • 1874, The Pennsylvania Railroad gains a controlling interest of the Allegheny Valley Railroad
  • 1877, Thomas Scott and Alexander Cassatt first formulate the concept of a Pennsylvania-controlled transcontinental line
  • 1877, The Pennsylvania Railroad helps fund expansion of the Texas and Pacific Railroad
  • 1877, The Pennsylvania Railroad begins investing in several western railroads, including the Central Pacific and Rio Grande Western Railroad
  • 1879, The Pennsylvania Railroad buys the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northern mainline from St. Louis to Kansas City
  • 1880, Thomas Scott sells his stake in the Texas and Pacific to the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 1881, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore
  • 1881, After reaching Tucson, Arizona the Texas and Pacific is unable to continue west due to Southern Pacific expansion; the T&P enters receivership and is leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad, its principal creditor
  • 1882, The Pennsylvania Railroad connects to Mackinaw City, Michigan
  • 1885, Pennsylvania Railroad interests prevent the lease of the Central Pacific to the Southern Pacific
  • 1890, Cassatt presents the idea of a Pennsylvania Pacific Railroad to the Pennsylvania Railroad board
  • 1890, The Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and St. Louis and several other short lines are consolidated as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway
  • 1893, George Roberts gives Cassatt the go-ahead to formalize a plan for the Pennsylvania Pacific.
  • 1893, Silver crisis.
  • 1894, The Pennsylvania Pacific Corporation is formed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Alexander Cassatt serves as president.
  • 1895, To help finance the Pennsylvania Pacific, the Pennsylvania Railroad sells some of its branch lines in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana
  • 1900, The Pennsylvania Railroad gains a majority ownership of the Northern Central Railway and leases the Allegheny Valley Railroad
  • 1900, The Pennsylvania Pacific and Pennsylvania Railroad gain a controlling interest in the Rio Grand Western
  • 1900, The Pennsylvania Railroad buys the Long Island Railroad
  • 1900, C.P. Huntington, the last of the "big four," dies and the Pennsylvania Pacific and Pennsylvania Railroad buy much of his Central Pacific stock
  • 1901, In order to help fund the expansion efforts of the Pennsylvania Pacific, the Pennsylvania Railroad sells its line from Fassett, PA to Sodus Pt., NY to the New York Central Railroad.
  • 1902, The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore and Baltimore and Potomac are consolidated as the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington, which forms the Washington Terminal Company with the Baltimore & Ohio to build a new Union Station in Washington D.C.
  • DD1 New York Penn Station1904, The Pennsylvania Railroad begins construction of Pennsylvania Station in New York
  • 1905, The Vandalia Railroad is incorporated to consolidate the lines west of Indianapolis
  • 1905, The Pennsylvania Railroad runs the first direct train from San Francisco to Jersey City, NJ via operating agreements with the Central Pacific, Rio Grande Western, Colorado Midland, and Colorado and Southern.
  • 1907, Union Station Washington D.C. opens
  • 1910, Pennsylvania Station New York opens
  • 1915, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its line from Philadelphia to Paoli, PA
  • 1916, The Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway, the Vandalia Railroad, and several short lines are consolidated as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad
  • 1917, The New York Connecting Railroad opens in New York City, providing a link with the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
  • 1917, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington
  • 1921, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad
  • 1928, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its line from Philadelphia to Wilmington, DE
  • 1929, The Pennroad Corporation is formed to hold the assets of the Pennsylvania Railroad

The Pennsylvania Pacific

  • 1879, Thomas Scott and Alexander Cassatt first formulate the concept of a Pennsylvania-controlled transcontinental line
  • 1890, Cassatt presents the idea of a Pennsylvania Pacific Railroad to the Pennsylvania Railroad board
  • 1893, George Roberts gives Cassatt the go-ahead to formalize a plan for the Pennsylvania Pacific.
  • 1893, Silver crisis.
  • 1894, The Pennsylvania Pacific Corporation is formed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Alexander Cassatt serves as president.
  • 1895, To help finance the Pennsylvania Pacific, the Pennsylvania Railroad sells some of its branch lines in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana
  • 1897, To help finance its reorganization efforts, the Union Pacific sells its stake in the Central Pacific, as well as a controlling interest of the Denver Pacific and Kansas Pacific to the Pennsylvania Pacific
  • PRR C&S Logo1898, The Pennsylvania Pacific provides financial and administrative aide to the newly formed Colorado and Southern in return for 10% of the new company
  • 1900, The Colorado and Southern and Denver and Rio Grande jointly buy the Colorado Midland Railroad
  • 1900, The Pennsylvania Pacific and Pennsylvania Railroad gain a controlling interest in the Rio Grand Western. The Rio Grande Western is leased to the Pennsylvania Pacific late in the year and begins construction from Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs to meet the Colorado Midland
  • 1900, C.P. Huntington, the last of the "big four," dies and the Pennsylvania Pacific and Pennsylvania Railroad buy much of his Central Pacific stock
  • 1901, In order to help fund the expansion efforts of the Pennsylvania Pacific, the Pennsylvania Railroad sells its line from Fassett, PA to Sodus Pt., NY to the New York Central Railroad.
  • 1901, The Rio Grande Western connects to Glenwood Springs and the Colorado Midland
  • 1902, The Pennsylvania Pacific tries to help fund David Moffat's Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific, but is rebuffed in favor of the Rio Grande
  • 1904, the Pennsylvania Pacific gains a controlling interest of the Central Pacific Railroad
  • 1905, The Pennsylvania Railroad runs the first direct train from San Francisco to Jersey City, NJ via operating agreements with the Southern Pacific, Central Pacific, Rio Grande Western, Colorado Midland, and Colorado and Southern.
  • 1906, The Pennsylvania Pacific gains a controlling interest of the Colorado and Southern and Fort Worth and Denver City
  • PRR RGW Logo1909, Shareholders and the ICC approve a merger of the Central Pacific into the Rio Grande Western
  • 1912, Shareholders and the ICC approve a merger of the Fort Worth and Denver City, Kansas Pacific, and Denver Pacific into the Colorado and Southern.
  • 1914, The Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific links to Salt Lake City
  • 1915, The Denver and Rio Grande merges with the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific. The state of Colorado mandates the Colorado and Southern to sell its stake in the Colorado Midland, and the D&RG rescinds the Pennsylvania Pacific's operating agreement over the Colorado Midland
  • 1915, The Pennsylvania Pacific Incorporates the Colorado Junction Railroad, which begins rapid surveying and construction from Glenwood Springs up the Grand River and Blue River, as well as from Golden up Clear Creek. Surveyors are also sent to Loveland Pass to find a suitable route for a tunnel
  • 1915, Surveyors are sent to Tucson, Arizona and San Bernardino, California to link the Rio Grande Western to the Texas and Pacific
  • 1915, The Pennsylvania Pacific leases the Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern Railroad and begins upgrades to the route, as well as construction of a bridge over the Suisun Strait to guarentee its own path to San Francisco.
  • 1916, The Colorado and Southern sells its trackage north of Denver to the Union Pacific
  • 1916, The Pennsylvania Pacific buys a controlling interest in the bankrupt St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railroad
  • 1916, Boring of the Cassatt Tunnel from the west at the base of Lenawee Mountain and from the east at Graymont begins. Later in the year, tracks reach east portal
  • 1917, Upgrades to the Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern Railroad are completed.
  • 1917, The Pennsylvania Pacific completes an extension from Columbus, TN to Hickman, TN and agrees to trackage rights with the Nashville, Chatanooga, and St. Louis Railroad from Hickman to St. Louis
  • 1918, Tracks reach the west portal of the Cassatt Tunnel via Dillon and Keystone
  • 1920, Two bores of the Cassatt tunnel meet under Mt. Sniktau. Two weeks later, the Pennsylvania Railroad begins operation of the Pennsylvania Limited with direct service from San Francisco to New York via the Rio Grande Western, Colorado Junction, and Colorado Southern.
  • 1923, The Colorado and Southern begins converting narrow gauge lines to standard gauge.
  • 1925, The Pennsylvania Pacific purchases the Rio Grande Western
  • 1927, The Colorado and Southern conducts feasibility studies to eliminate the smoke hazard of the Cassatt Tunnel through electrification
  • 1928, The Colorado and Southern completes its standardization project
  • 1928, The Pennsylvania Pacific consolidates the Colorado Junction Railroad into the Colorado and Southern
  • 1929, The Pennroad Corporation is formed to hold the assets of the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 1929, The Pennsylvania Pacific is dissolved and passes all of its leases and holdings to the Pennroad Corporation.

T1 6111Pennroad and The Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation

  • 1929, The Pennroad Corporation is formed to hold the assets of the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 1929, The Pennsylvania Pacific is dissolved and passes all of its leases and holdings to the Pennroad Corporation.
  • 1931, The Pennsylvania Railroad gains a controlling interest in the Lehigh Valley Railroad and leases it
  • 1933, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its line from Philadelphia to New York
  • 1933, The Pennroad Corporation secures WPA money to electrify many of its subsidiaries' mountainous lines in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New York, as well as its California line between Reno and Sacramento, and Oakland to Los Angeles
  • 1933, The Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern begin operation over the San Francisco Bay Bridge
  • 1934, The Pennroad Corporation transfers the Rio Grande Western's line from Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs to the Colorado and Southern
  • 1935, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its line from Wilmington, DE to Washington, D.C. and Quantico, VA
  • 1935, The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the bankrupt New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
  • 1939, The Pennsylvania Railroad completes its WPA projects
  • 1941, The Pennroad Corporation buys the New York, New Haven & Hartford and consolidates it into the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 1941, The Rio Grande Western begins construction from San Bernardino, California to Tucson, Arizona through Phoenix, Arizona
  • 1942, The Pennsylvania Railroad extends its electrification from New Haven, CT to Boston
  • 1943, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies all of its branch lines in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts
  • 1944, The Rio Grande Western connects to Tucson
  • 1945, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its lines on Long Island, NY
  • 1946, The Rio Grande Western buys the rights to the Yosemite Valley Railway right-of-way from Merced, CA to Yosemite National Park
  • 1948, The Pennsylvania Railroad begins extending clearances on major passenger routes for dome cars
  • 1950, The Pennsylvania Limited's parlor car is replaced with a Superdome, and the California Limited is re-equipped with Budd corrugated coaches, including vista-dome cars
  • 1950, The Colorado and Southern advertises and operates the first "ski train" with service to Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Basin
  • 1950, The Pennroad Corporation consolidates all of its holdings east of St. Louis as the Pennsylvania Lines and reorganizes itself as the Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation
  • PRR BART Logo1952, The Pennsylvania Railroad petitions the BART commission in the San Francisco bay area to build and operate the BART commuter system with state and local subsidies
  • 1952, Colonial service is extended from Ottawa to Montreal over the Canadian National Railroad
  • 1957, San Francisco Bay Area voters approve the Pennsylvania Railroad proposed commuter system
  • 1957, The Pennsylvania Railroad announces that its Pennsylvania Lines are in merger talks with the New York Central
  • 1958, The Pennsylvania Railroad buys the Northwestern Pacific Railroad from the Southern Pacific
  • 1960, The Pennsylvania Railroad begins limited operation of the BART system
  • BART Train1965, The Pennsylvania Railroad shifts operation from the shared trackage on the Oakland Bay Bridge to the new four-track Trans Bay Tube from San Francisco to Oakland
  • 1966, The Rio Grande Western rebuilds a rail connection from Merced to Yosemite National Park
  • 1967, The Pennsylvania Railroad inaugurates the final link in the BART system with completion of electrification to Cloverdale
  • 1967, The Pennsylvania Lines' merger with the New York Central is denied, but the Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation is allowed to lease the New York Central on the condition that the new railroad divest iteslf of several holdings to encourage competion
  • 1968, The Pennsylvania Railroad funds construction of Keystone ski resort in Colorado
  • 1970, The New York Central divests itself of the Boston & Albany Railroad, which begins independent operation
  • 1972, The New York Central consolidates the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, & St. Louis Railroad and the Michigan Central Railroad into the Buffalo, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad. Attempts to sell the line are unsuccessful
  • 1975, The Empire Corridor electrification project is completed
  • 1976, The Federal Government creates the Consolidated Rail Corporation, which assumes control of the Buffalo, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad and several branch lines in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, completing the Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation's obligations related to the purchase of the New York Central
  • 1976, The Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation sells a controlling interest in the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, as well as the Lehigh Valley Railroad to the Consolidated Rail Corporation
  • 1980, The Stagger Rail Act passes, deregulating the railroad industry
  • 1981, The Philadelphia, New York, & Chicago Railroad reorganizes as the Pennsylvania Rail Lines and scraps several of its redundant or unused lines in New York
  • 1982, The Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern is consolidated into the Rio Grande Western Railroad
  • 1984, The New York Central is consolidated into the Pennsylvania Railroad, and electrification is begun on the former New York Central Water Level Route from New York City to Buffalo, NY
  • 1985, The Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation purchases a controlling interest in the Lehigh Valley Railroad back from the Consolidated Rail Corporation, and it is consolidated into the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 1987, The Southern Pacific Santa Fe merger is denied. The Pennsylvania agrees to buy the former Southern Pacific physical plant and assets, but the purchase is denied by the Federal Government. Eventually, the purchase is split between the Pennsylvania Railroad (which gains contol of the central valley route from Los Angeles, CA to Portland, OR, and the Rio Grande, which gains control of the balance of the former Southern Pacific
  • 1988, The Pennsylvania Railraod Corporation buys back a controlling interest in the New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroad from the Consolidated Rail Corporation
  • 1989, The St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern and the Texas and Pacific are consolidated into the Colorado and Southern
  • 1992, Upgrades begin to several sections of the network in preparation for high speed rail service, including an extension from Los Angeles to San Diego
  • PRR Bridge1994, The Capital Corridor, Keystone Corridor, and Empire Corridor infrastructure upgrades are completed and ACELA high speed rail service begins between Buffalo, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. Early production and performance problems with the ACELA trainsets and improved rail lead to major redesigns and grade seaparations in other high-speed markets
  • 1999, The New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroad is consolidated into the Pennsylvania Rail Lines
  • 2003, The California Corridor infrastructure upgrades are completed. High speed rail service begins between Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego
  • 2004, The Gulf Corridor infrastructure upgrades are completed and high speed rail service begins between Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans using JetTrain technology
  • 2010, Using American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding, work begins on preparations for high speed service along the I25 corridor from Cheyanne, WY to Trinidad, CO
  • 2014, The Pennsylvania Railroad invests in the private effort to build a new PRR class T1 steam locomotive.