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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 Early Years of 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
  • 1863, The Leavenworth, Pawnee, and Western Railroad is reorganized as the Union Pacific Eastern Division (and later in 1869 as the Kansas Pacific Railway) as part of the Pacific Railway Act. The Pennsylvania Railroad invests in the railroad, and its effort to build a transcontinental railroad through Colorado
  • 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.  The Pennsylvania invests in both railroads
  • 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
  • 1870, The Kansas Pacific Railway reaches Denver, forming the first continuous transcontinental rail link across the United States (Union Pacific passengers and cargo must still cross the Mississippi River by boat)
  • 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
  • 1871-1872, Thomas Scott serves as the president of the Union Pacific, beginning efforts at integrating the Union Pacific into the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • 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
  • 1873, The Panic of 1873 allows Jay Gould to gain control of the Union Pacific Railroad.  The Pennsylvania Railroad sells its interest in the Union Pacific and is able to gain a controlling interest in the Kansas Pacific Railway and St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northern Railroad           
  • 1874, The Pennsylvania Railroad gains a controlling interest of the Allegheny Valley Railroad
  • 1877, The Pennsylvania Railroad funds expansion of the Texas and Pacific Railroad
  • 1877, The Kansas Pacific Railway invests in the Denver, South Park and Pacific construction into the mountains of Colorado       
  • 1880, Thomas Scott transfers 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
  • 1882-1884, Now under the control of the Union Pacific Railroad, The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad and the Colorado Central Railroad build branch lines toward Loveland Pass as a threat to the Denver and Rio Grande to build a short line between Denver and Leadville
  • 1885, Pennsylvania Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad  interests prevent the lease of the Central Pacific to the Southern Pacific
  • 1890, The Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and St. Louis and several other short lines are consolidated as the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway

PRR C&S Logo- Linking the Atlantic to the Pacific -

  • 1898, The Pennsylvania Railroad and Kansas Pacific Railway provide financial and administrative assistance to the newly formed Colorado and Southern Railroad, which includes the former Colorado Central Railroad and Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad, in return for a combined 20% stake in the new company. Combined with existing investments, the stake is enough to gain a controlling interest
  • 1900, The Pennsylvania Railroad gains a majority ownership of the Northern Central Railway and leases the Allegheny Valley Railroad
  • 1900, The Pennsylvania Railroad buys the Long Island Railroad
  • 1900, C.P. Huntington, the last of the "big four," dies and the Colorado Southern, Kansas Pacific Railway, and Pennsylvania Railroad buy much of his Central Pacific stck, gaining a controlling interest 
  • 1901, David Moffat incorporates the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific Railway with financial backing of the Colorado and Southern Railroad, Kansas Pacific Railway, and Pennsylvania Railroad and begins construction from Denver to Salt Lake City
  • 1901, The Central Pacific builds a branch south from Ogdon to Salt Lake City
  • 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
  • 1906, Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific Railway tracks have extended west through Gore Canyon, and up to the east and west portals of a massive tunnel under construction under Rollins Pass. The Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad sues the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific, arguing that the route was built illegally, as Moffat spent $200,000 of Denver and Rio Grande Western money while he was president of that railroad to survey the route used by the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific. The lawsuit is successful, and the Denver and Rio Grande Western is allowed to buy a controlling interest in the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific, which immediately cancels trackage rights with the Colorado and Southern and Kansas Pacific
  • 1906, David Moffat serves as president of the Colorado and Southern. Work begins immediately to build a new line to Salt Lake City using  a route over the Continental Divide from Denver up Clear Creek to Loveland Pass to the Snake and Blue River
  • 1906, The Central Pacific begins extending its Salt Lake Branch east over the Wassach Mountains toward Heber City
  • 1907, Union Station Washington D.C. opens
  • 1908, The Central Pacific reaches Duchense, Utah via the Strawberry River, and continues down the Duchense River
  • 1908, The Colorado and Southern completes upgrades to the Clear Creek branch and Keystone Branch, and by the end of the year, the Colorado and Southern reaches Kremling and crosses the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific before continuing north along Muddy Creek
  • 1909, David Moffat personally finances conversion of the High Line narrow gauge branch up Ten Mile Creek to standard gauge, completing the Union Pacific's threat of 25 years earlier to build a short line from Leadville to Denver
  • 1910, Pennsylvania Station New York opens
  • 1911, Cassatt Tunnel under Loveland Pass opens, and the Colorado and Southen links to the Central Pacific Railroad at Massadona, Colorado, innaugurating transcontinental service between San Francisco (Oakland) and New York City
  • 1915, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its line from Philadelphia to Paoli, PA
  • 1915, The Central Pacific leases the Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern Railroad and begins upgrades to the route, including constructing a bridge over the Suisun Strait to shorten the route from Sacramento to Oakland
  • 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
  • 1916, The Kansas Pacific Railway leases the bankrupt St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern 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

T1 6111- The Pennroad Corporation -

  • 1929, The Pennroad Corporation is formed to hold the assets of the Pennsylvania Railroad and its subsidiaries
  • 1930, The Pennroad Corporation reorganizes all of its holdings under three subsidiaries: the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Colorado and Southern Railroad, and the Central Pacific Railroad
  • 1932, Plans are finalized by the California Toll Bridge Authority for construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The structure is only designed to allow for lightrail operations on the Bridge Railroad on the lower deck. The Central Pacific Railroad, Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern Railroad, Colorado and Southern Railroad, Western Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific Railroad, and Santa Fe Railroad jointly form the San Francisco Tunnel and Railroad Company to build a heavy rail connection under the bay. Each railroad takes an equal share of the new company, giving the Pennroad Corporation a 50% stake
  • 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 California, Utah, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and the entire Pennsylvania Railroad mainline from New York to Washington
  • 1935, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its line from Wilmington, DE to Washington, D.C. and Quantico, VA
  • 1939, The San Francisco Tunnel and Railroad Company completes a link from the Southern Pacific Railroad's 3rd and Townsend Depot under the Transbay Terminal and under the San Francisco Bay to Oakland. In a parallel project, the new Central Pacific Headquarters and Penn Station San Francisco building also opens using the north end of the platforms
  • 1939, The Pennsylvania Railroad completes its WPA projects
  • 1945, The Pennsylvania Railroad electrifies its lines on Long Island, NY
  • 1946, The Central Pacific buys the rights to the Yosemite Valley Railway right-of-way from Merced, CA to Yosemite National Park
  • 1948, The Pennsylvania Railroad, Colorado and Southern Railroad, and Central Pacifc Railroad begin 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

- The Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation -

  • 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 Railroad
  • 1958, The BART District buys the Northwestern Pacific Railroad from the Southern Pacific for use in the BART system
  • BART Train1960, The Pennsylvania Railroad begins limited operation of the BART system
  • 1966, The Central Pacific Railroad 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 approved, on condition that the New York Central first divest iteslf of several holdings so as not to unduely stifle competion
  • 1968, The Colorado and Southern Railroad funds construction of Keystone ski resort in Colorado under a new Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation subsidiary, Keystone Recreation
  • 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 merger the New York Central. Conrail also assumes control of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford, as well as the Lehigh Valley Railroad
  • 1980, The Stagger Rail Act passes, deregulating the railroad industry
  • 1982, The Oakland, Antioch, and Eastern Railroad is consolidated into the Central Pacific Railroad
  • 1984, The New York Central is consolidated into the Pennsylvania Lines, 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 from the Consolidated Rail Corporation, and it is consolidated into the Pennsylvania Lines
  • 1987, The Southern Pacific Santa Fe merger is denied. The Pennsylvania Railroad Corporation 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 Central Pacific Railroad, which gains contol of the coastal route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Rio Grande Industries, which gains control of the balance of the former Southern Pacific
  • 1988, The Pennsylvania Railraod Corporation buys 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, which begins building a link from Tuscon, Arizona to Los Angeles
  • 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.