Pennsylvania Railroad photographsCreation: 1863-1973 Creation: Majority of material found within 1910-1960
The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was the largest railroad in the United States in terms of corporate assets and traffic from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the decline of the northeast's and midwest's dominance of manufacturing. This collection of photographs primarily depict the PRR itself, but numerous views of similar facilities and equipment on other railroads, of nearby buildings and properties, or of standardized equipment and accessories that were collected for reference are included. Almost all of the photographs are the work of commercial photographers hired on short term contract, but some are prints from the company's own negatives. The collection have been arranged by subject and organized into three series: Equipment, trains, and personnel; Structures and right of way; and Company magazine photographs.
- Creation: 1863-1973
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1910-1960
- Pennsylvania Railroad (Organization)
35 Linear Feet
approximately 6000 photographic prints : b&w ; mostly 8 x 10 in. approximately 43,000 items (photographic prints and negatives) : b&w and color ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was the largest railroad in the United States in terms of corporate assets and traffic from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the decline of the northeast's and midwest's dominance of manufacturing. The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was chartered in 1846 to completing an all-rail road across the state. This was accomplished in 1854. In 1857, the PRR purchased the state's old "Main Line" of canals and railroads and brought the entire line from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh under one management complete a route from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, thus opening up the entire state of Pennsylvania to east-west train service. This was accomplished in 1854. In 1857 the Pennsylvania Railroad purchased the old Main Line system and eventually brought the entire line from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh under one management.
Between 1855 and 1874, the PRR underwent rapid expansion and emerged as one of the two largest railroad systems in the area east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio. Through stock purchase or lease, it reached Baltimore in 1861, Chicago and Indianapolis in 1869, St. Louis in 1870, Jersey City opposite New York in 1871, and Washington in 1872. Purchase of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad in 1881 brought complete control of the important New York-Washington corridor, and in 1910, the PRR entered Manhattan through tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers. Most of the main lines lying east and south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were electrified between 1915 and 1938.
More than other railroads, the PRR was highly dependent upon the coal and steel industries and was burdened on its eastern end with a high-density passenger service. After 1958, the former began an irreversible decline, and the latter became a source of red ink. The PRR merged with its major rival, the New York Central, in 1968 to create the Penn Central Transportation Company. The merger was ill-planned, bankruptcy in 1970. In 1971, the federal government created Amtrak to assume the most essential passenger service, and in 1976, viable portions of Penn Central and other bankrupt railroads in its territory were conveyed to Conrail, which rehabilitated them with federal funds.
The "Pennsy," the company magazine for employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), began publication in 1952. In 1968, after the merger of the PRR and the New York Central Railroad formed the Penn Central Company, the magazine continued publication under a new name, "Penn Central Post." The length of the magazine decreased as Penn Central suffered financial difficulties and then declared bankruptcy in 1970. The final issue of the "Penn Central Post" was published in March 1976, one month before Conrail took over railroad operations from Penn Central. Both magazines were distributed to all PRR/Penn Central company employees and retirees. The publication of both magazines was sporadic; some years vary between monthly and bi-monthly issues.
Scope and Content
This collection of photographs primarily depict the PRR itself, but numerous views of similar facilities and equipment on other railroads, of nearby buildings and properties, or of standardized equipment and accessories that were collected for reference are included. Almost all of the photographs are the work of commercial photographers hired on short term contract, but some are prints from the company's own negatives.
The largest number of images come from the PRR's Engineering and Motive Power Departments and depict physical plant or infrastructure on the one hand and rolling stock on the other. Other images come from the Transportation, Finance, Test, Personnel, Legal, and Public Relations Departments. In no case do the surviving photographs represent anything near the full extent of the departments' original holdings or cover the entire range of their activities and interests. While the majority of the photographs are narrowly focused on railroad subject, many also have interesting background or details, with representative period streetscapes, landscapes or costumes.
The collection have been arranged by subject and organized into three series: Equipment, trains, and personnel; Structures and right of way; and Company magazine photographs.
The Equipment, trains, and personnel series is organized into four subseries: Freight and passenger equipment; Locomotives; Motor cars, work cars and special trains; and Personnel. The photographs date from 1905 to 1961. There are photographs of passenger and freight equipment including coaches, troop cars, Pullman sleeping car, dining cars, lounge cars, grill cars, and car trucks. Non-PRR passenger equipment and trains include cars of the B&O, Boston & Maine, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, New York, New Haven & Hartford and Seaboard Air Line, a publicity shot of the Milwaukee Road's "Olympian", and the interior of the Pullman observation car "American Milemaster" exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair. There is an album of interiors of lounge cars used on the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific, a photo of the Pearl Harbor Day christening of the New York Central's new "Empire State Express" and of American Car & Foundry's low-center-of-gravity TALGO train.
Other passenger equipment includes railcars by Goodyear-Zeppelin and Buggati, a Wilkes-Barre & Hazleton railbus, a gas-electric train of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, an MU car from the New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad, and a "Brilliner" streamlined streetcar. Non-PRR marine equipment includes the 1928 German train ferry "Schwerin", and barges and tugboats of the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.
Photographs include examples of cars, locomotives, and trains from PRR, other American railroads, and foreign railway companies. The images include reproductions of early steam locomotives, later steam, electric, and diesel locomotives.
There are relatively few diesel locomotive photographs. The most interesting is a rendering for an unexecuted proposal from General Motors to equip the "Broadway Limited" with its type EA road passenger diesel. There are representative exterior and interior views of passenger cars, including electric multiple unit (MU) cars, troop cars, and gas-electric railcars. Floating equipment includes pioneer diesel tugboat "No. 16", and the "Virginia Lee" and "Elisha Lee" of the Cape Charles-Norfolk ferry.
Steam locomotive classes include the E7s, H8, J1, K4s, L1s, M1, Q1, Q2, S1, S2, and T1. Of note are photographs of the wind tunnel model tests for the Raymond Loewy streamlined K4s of 1936 and a rendering of an unexecuted Loewy design for streamlining the S2. There are also photographs of some of the older locomotives from the company's historical collection, including the "John Bull" and train, the Cumberland Valley Railroad " Pioneer", and the "John Stevens" replica. Electric locomotive classes include the B1, DD1 (as restyled by Loewy), L6w, O1, P5a (both original and modified), GG1, and R1.
Non-PRR locomotive photographs include the Timken Roller Bearing Company's northern type demonstrator locomotive, the Delaware & Hudson's high-pressure steam locomotive "L.F. Loree,,the Norfolk & Western's Class J, Reading 4-6-2 No. 108, and other steam locomotives of the Atlantic Coast Line, B&O, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Florida East Coast; New York Central; Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac; Southern Pacific, Waynesburg & Washington, and Wabash. There are two signed, limited-edition etchings of New York Central locomotives No. 999 and No. 5200 by illustrator and designer Otto Kuhler. Non-PRR diesel locomotive photographs include those of the Electro-Motive Company, H.K. Porter, and the New York Central.
There are posed or candid photographs of people at work and date from 1921 to 1958. These images include groups of officials, engine and train personnel, women workers during World War II, inspection trips, and the Foreign Railroad Delegation in Japan in 1953.
The Structures and right of way series has been organized into nine subseries: Accidents and court cases; Bridges, Engine houses, facilities, and shops; Offices and buildings; PRR General Manager files; Stations; Tracks, signals, safety devices; Tunnels; and Yards. The photographs date from 1891 to 1979.
There are images of wrecks and personal injury incidents. Freight yards, engine terminals and shops represented include Altoona, Enola, and Pittsburgh, Pa., Clearing Yard, Chicago, and Columbus and Crestline, Ohio. Marine terminals include coal piers at South Amboy, New Jersey, Sodus Point, New York, and Sandusky, Ohio; the ore pier at South Philadelphia and a Hulett ore unloader at Cleveland, and freight piers at Baltimore, Jersey City, and Calumet Harbor.
A number of views show factories and other buildings adjacent to the PRR right of way. There are also photographs of shop tools, including Corliss stationary engines and other machinery made by Robert Wetherill & Co. of Chester, Pennsylvania. One of the more interesting equipment series is a sample of vending machines of the types used in railroad stations in the 1940s.
Photographs from the Engineering Department are skewed somewhat to the northwestern part of the PRR system or to big cities, particularly Chicago. There is an excellent set of construction photographs of Chicago Union Station, plus a few photographs of the earlier 1881 Union Passenger Depot and the large Polk Street Freight Station. Other large projects with extensive coverage include the redevelopment of Conway Yard in the 1950s, grade crossing elimination at Indianapolis and on the West Side of Chicago, line relocation for Conwingo Dam in Maryland, eliminating tunnels on the Panhandle Division, a study of employee bunk houses, construction of the PRR lines into Detroit, the produce terminals and warehouses at Detroit, Pittsburgh and South Philadelphia, and the Girard Point Grain Elevator and Grays Ferry Stock Yards in Philadelphia.
There is good coverage of Pennsylvania Station in New York from original construction to its partial replacement by Madison Square Garden, including many construction shots of the underwater tunnels. Photographs of the Jersey City and Pittsburgh stations show the removal of the nineteenth century arched train sheds. Photographs of Broad Street Station in Philadelphia include depictions of the aftermath of the 1923 fire, and others marked to show stages for the demolition of the head house. A photo of the Cincinnati riverfront in the 1850s shows the old station of the Little Miami Railroad.
Other stations represented include Dover, New Castle and Wilmington, Del.; Union Station at Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania Station and old and new Calvert Stations at Baltimore, Md.; Dunkirk, Fort Wayne, Frankfort, Gas City, Indianapolis and Lebanon, Indiana; Burlington, Camden, Frenchtown, Jersey City (Exchange Place and Journal Square), Linden, Newark and Trenton, New Jersey; Cortland Street ferry station, and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) Flatbush Avenue station, New York City; Akron, Bucyrus, Columbus (old Union Depot and later Union Station), Coshocton, Covington, Dayton, Torrance Road, and Youngstown, Ohio; and Johnstown, Norwood, Pennypack, and Philadelphia (30th Street, North Philadelphia, and Suburban Station/Penn Center), Pennsylvania.
Non-PRR stations include Kansas City Union Station, Cleveland Union Terminal (including its city planning aspects), the old Grand Central Station in New York, and a cutaway rendering of the 1913 replacement Grand Central Terminal showing the underground levels. Non-PRR freight facilities include the Lehigh Valley Railroad's marine repair facilities at New York harbor, the Port Covington coal terminal of the Western Maryland at Baltimore, and views of other McMyler-Interstate coal dumpers. Non-railroad buildings and structures include the Traymore Hotel at Atlantic City, the Western & Southern Life Insurance Building in Cincinnati, an aerial view of Washington National Airport in the early 1950s, and small renderings of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Henry Street Bridge in Philadelphia.
The collection includes photographs of track structure, ties, bridges, overhead catenary wire and supports, signals (including the first position-light signals), track pans for scooping water on the fly, and The collection also includes photographs of track structure, ties, bridges, overhead catenary wire and supports, signals (including the first position-light signals), track pans for scooping water on the fly, and early tests of train radio communication systems. A damaged photo shows the model of Horseshoe Curve displayed at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Other photographs show damage from the 1913 Ohio River floods, the Altoona Cricket Club grounds, and the 1838 "Newkirk Monument," an obelisk erected at Grays Ferry, Philadelphia, to mark the completion of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. Major tunnels include the Spruce Creek Tunnel and the Union and B&P Tunnels in Baltimore.
The Company magazine photographs series consists of photographs, negatives, contact sheets and supporting notes from the "Pennsy" and its successor the "Penn Central Post," the company magazines for employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad (later the Penn Central Transportation Company). Materials in this collection date from 1961 to 1976. The photographs document a variety of innovations and activities within the PRR and Penn Central (PC), including new and changing rail services, features on industries that used the PRR for shipping, industrial safety campaigns, regional employee organizations, and employee's accomplishments and avocational activities. The majority of the images feature employees. These images include men and women employed at all levels of the corporation, from PRR President Stuart Saunders to office staff to yard workers and maintenance crews. Most of these images are posed, featuring employees in uniform and actively involved in their jobs. Employees participating in charitable activities are also featured, assembling holiday food and gift baskets, working with underprivileged children and participating in fund or clothing drives. Many issues of the magazine also featured one or more photographs of employees involved in unusual or interesting hobbies and avocational activities, and these more casual images are also included in the collection.
Other photographs in the collection relate more directly to the operations of the PRR/Penn Central railroad and include images of both passenger and freight car construction and maintenance. These include both interior and exterior views of railcars, including images of the construction and amenities of the then-new Metroliner passenger trains. Several hundred photographs feature the company-wide "Project Beaver" maintenance campaign run annually by the PRR in the early 1960s. Maintenance photographs also consist of images of repairs being made to tracks and to buildings and structures owned by the corporation. Corporate photographs also include a series of images charting the construction of the new Penn Station and Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Several thousand images throughout the collection deal with issues of industrial safety and safe shipping. A number of these images demonstrate proper safety procedures when working in railroad yards or feature employees who were saved from injury by the correct use of safety equipment like goggles or hard hats. Safe shipping was a major concern for the PRR/Penn Central, and the collection includes photographs showing damaged freight, classes demonstrating proper freight handling, and the warehouses and freight handling of companies who shipped materials with the railroad. Miss Careful Handling, a company wide ambassador for the safe shipping of freight, is also featured in a large series of articles and shots from the rear cover of the "Pennsy." The shipping of large or unusual items is also featured in a number of photographs.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Litigators may not view the collection without approval.
Negatives (Boxes 49-65) are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at email@example.com
Literary rights retained by depositor.
Language of Materials
On Deposit from ConRail.
Pennsylvania Railroad Co. Records (Accession 1810), Manuscript and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Conrail photographs (Accession 1993.231), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Pennsylvania Railroad photographs
- Laurie Sather
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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