I guess denial would be the closest reason for failures of Penn Central. Egos blinded almost all of the participants. Both Board of Directors were populated by too many 'yes' men who went along with the 'railroad' members [just keep the dividends coming]. Though NYC had more attentive BofD members, they were overshadowed by first Robert Young then Alfred Perlman. PRR did have a more collectival BofD but non-railroad majority were influenced by the railroad minority. There was a lot of cross membeship with other BofD's; Saunders was on several BofD's.
Bevan should have taken an offer early in the 1960s to go to a very high position with a Philadelphia bank, but the Railroad was the BIG time along the Main Line communities. Bevan had a lot of personal faults, he was a control freak to the extent that all accounting and finance was handled if it was a secret war project. Then there was the insider trading and the investment club; insider trading was illegal then but didn't get prosecuted much until 1980s. His communications with Saunders were minimal; Bevan believed he should have been the top dog all along. Bevan had his troubles with some of the PRR echelon too; he defintely thought that PRR's sales v.p. gave away too much [something it appears he and Perlman were in agreement]. Even though he had the best handle on the financial side, he had much less operating experience than even Saunders whose claim was his time at N&W.
Saunders did have to his credit the take over of the Virginia and the groundwork for the taking over of the NKP, Wabash and P&WV. Saunders, for a lawyer, seemed to give away too much in negotiations with labor and government.
Perlman had the most widespread experience as I have mentioned, but he had trouble controlling expenses surprisingly, most noted was what became Perlman Yard [Selkirk]. Bevan's group tabulated costs overruns of $8+ million, at least 30% higher than budget.
Then there was the M497 project in 1966, which the PRR from Saunders on down thought as a gimmick; especially in light of what PRR and what became DOT were working on [Metroliner]. Just to poke in the eye, M497 still holds the North American speed record in spite of the amount of money that has been spent and the now second generation of Acela [or whatever]. Of course, having a 40 some mile tangent helps.
The general consensus was that minimal preparation would be needed for the merger other than renumbering locomotives [PRR's were chaotic at best with only the electrics, J1, Q2 numbered in order]. Even though there was a planning group, it seems little was accomplished or lain down, even rule books and employee timetables reflect that. Like too much elsewhere, the merger was to hit the ground and grow organically by itself. The only thing I saw was that in the PC ett's they actually had line maps; NYC had very detailed maps, PRR did not have maps before merger.
As noted, in many articles, Perlman was to be in charge of operations and Bevan was in charge of the check book and Saunders was supposed to control those two.
Overlooked, is the role James Symes had. After all, he was the prime architect of the merger. Perhaps with different characters his vision would have worked better. I think he could have been influenced by the merger of PRR proper [Lines East] and PRR Lines West operations that happened early in his career. Maybe he thought the same could be accomplished in 1960s with control from Philadelphia. Even that 1920 grouping had its problems especially in Pittsburgh; they had three major yards [ for PRR, Fort Wayne and Panhandle] that wasn't started to be controlled until Conway became the main yard and expanded in 1950s.
Symes' dream of a single entity [Railroad] for the Northeast did not come about until shortly before his death in a nursing home with the 1976 formation of Conrail.
That still took billions of dollars some of which was politically wasted until they brought in a man from the Southern [L. Stanley Crane] and assistance from the Staggers Act. Of course, after all of that, NS and CSX split pretty much as what should have occurred in the 1960s.
NYC had its experience with mergers and acquisitions too. Look at what happened in 1914 when they formally took over the LS&MS. That ensured that they would do differently the Big Four and Michigan Central. They had some control challenges too. No one seemed to look back to see what happened before.
A lot is said about operating philosophies differences, but it depended on which line you were dealing with. On the NYC igroup, one of the former NYC employees said when rerouting some of the van trains onto C&P in Cleveland they were delayed by ore traffic and told the ore traffic built the line. That was true of the C&P, but if my acquaintance from NYC had been dealing with someone on the Fort Wayne, he probably would have probably agreement on the van trains. C&P did not get into priority traffic until Conrail.
But there were too many outside factors that could not be controlled: regulation, general business climate of the Northeast. For example, I believe only five steel mills sites are left that CSX and NS serve that were once on PRR and NYC. How many automotive assembly and supplier plants are missing since the 1960s [not railroad served but all four of the rubber plants I was employed are gone]? And you can write volumes about how regulation went well beyond what was needed and stayed too long, not allowing railroads to adjust.
Have to go now.