To get the full story of the South Pennsylvania Railroad, read "The Railroad that Never Was," by Herb Harwood, 2010. Briefly, the South Penn wasn't really intended to feed the New York Central at the east end. It would have connected with NYC via the P&LE at its west end. It was really intended by its supporters and promoters to divert traffic from the Pennsylvania Railroad. It probably was not intended as retribution to the PRR for construction of the West Shore. In fact, the PRR involvement in the West Shore has never been proven.
The supporters of the South Penn were primarily Andrew Carnegie, who chafed at a PRR monopoly for his steel traffic at Pittsburgh; William Vanderbilt, who more than incidentally controlled the NYC and P&LE; and Franklin Gowen, who was building a house-of-cards empire around the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.
The Reading had not yet come under control of the B&O. In fact, the B&O had to go through a bankruptcy in 1895 and a period of control by PRR before it reached out for the Reading and the CNJ.
D&H content - Leonor Fresnel Loree made his first mark on the PRR as a civil engineer and operating officer. When the PRR gained control of the B&O, it appears that some of the PRR clan were worried that Loree might overshadow them, so they shipped him off to take over their B&O as president. He spent so much capital rebuilding the B&O that it became a threat to its parent PRR, so the PRR again made a change and left Leonor out in the street. He landed on his feet at the Delaware and Hudson Company, and the rest is history.
So that all might put the West Shore and South Penn back into context. As I said before, the D&H once had considered involvement in a projected railroad on the West Shore of the Hudson, but by the time the New York, West Shore and Buffalo was organized, the D&H had no further interest.
- Gordon Davids