The Pennsylvania Railroad, known also by it’s “PRR” initials or by the affectionate “Pennsy” nickname, was founded in 1853 as an alternative to transportation via canals in the state of Pennsylvania, building lines between Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Railroad quickly became profitable and expanded it’s network, becoming in 1882, thirty years after it’s formation, the world’s largest railroad (by traffic, revenue and trackage), the word largest transportation enterprise and the world’s largest company, with a budget second only to the national budget of the United States.
At it’s peak, in the 1930s, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran over 12 000 miles (22 000 Km) of tracks and had over 250 000 employees. The company quicly became famous for it’s stylish limited express trains, hauled by streamlined steam locomotives, such as the S1 and T1 classes, designed in an art-déco style by famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy, departing from grandiose neoclassical-style terminuses.
The Pennsylvania Railroad was also an early supporter of electrification, having electrified it’s main line between New York and Washington D.C. in 1935, and was also one of the first railroads to replace old semaphore signals with the more modern color light signals.
After world war two, however, due to the competition of the ariplane and the private automobile, the ridership and carried freight tonnage of the Pennsylvania Railroad shrunk, with the company entering a phase of financial hardships. In an attempt to save itself, the PRR agreed to a merger with it’s long-time arch-rival, the New York Central Railroad, forming the Penn Central Transportation Company. The merger became effective on the 1st of February 1968, with the “original” Pennsylvania Railroad being disbanded soon after.
To this day, the Pennsylvania Railroad has left it’s mark on the United States railroad scene, with most of the railroad infrastructure in the north-eastern United States (primarily on the extremely busy North-East Corridor) having been built during the PRR era. Furthemore, many of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s locomotives, such as the K4, S1 and T1 steamers and the GG1 electrics are revered to this day as some of the United States’ most iconic locomotives ever built.
The Pennsylvania Railroad still holds the enviable and unmatched record of the longest continuous dividend payment history, having paid out annual dividends to shareholders for more than 100 consecutive years.
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