Discussion relating to the Penn Central, up until its 1976 inclusion in Conrail. Visit the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: JJMDiMunno

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  by LCJ
 
pdman wrote:There was also a quarter of an inch difference in the track gauge between the NYC and PRR that prevented locomotive efficiencies between the two properties.
I was under the impression that the standard gauge for North America (AAR interchange) was (is) 4' 8-1/2". Why would there have been a quarter inch difference between these companies? How would this affect locomotive efficiencies?

  by JoeG
 
A good discussion of the PC fiasco is in Richard Saunders, Jr's (no relation to Stuart) book, Merging Lines. It's a great book, covering railroad mergers, etc from about the beginning of the 20th century to Conrail. The sequel, Main Lines, brings the story up to the present.

  by LCJ
 
I'll look for it. Thanks.
  by gawlikfj
 
Xplorer I was told from a Brakeman that was on the Maybrook run that a short time before the Fire on the Poukeeksie Bridge all water drums and hoses on the bridge were removed !

  by Andyt293
 
The LHR Book by Jim Boyd and Tracy Antz mentions how the President of the LHR offered to send a crew to help repair the bridge and was rebuffed by the PC's management.

  by LCJ
 
Andyt293 wrote:The LHR Book by Jim Boyd and Tracy Antz mentions how the President of the LHR offered to send a crew to help repair the bridge and was rebuffed by the PC's management.
And we all have a pretty good idea (or can guess, anyway) why this was so. A conscious decision (or maybe a decision not to decide anything constructive?) was made quickly somewhere in the bowels of 6 Penn Center that the bridge was history as far as PC operations went.

Whether this was communicated publicly is a different matter. I recall someone in the company making a media statement shortly after the fire that PC would repair it, but I doubt the person making that statement had control of that much capital!
  by gawlikfj
 
I also saw in the newspaper that the bridge would be fixed but ,We know it wasn't and the rest is history.
  by ChiefTroll
 
pdman wrote:
There was also a quarter of an inch difference in the track gauge between the NYC and PRR that prevented locomotive efficiencies between the two properties.


I was under the impression that the standard gauge for North America (AAR interchange) was (is) 4' 8-1/2". Why would there have been a quarter inch difference between these companies? How would this affect locomotive efficiencies?
_________________
LCJ

Larry et al: There was no difference in gauge standards between the NYC and the PRR - 56-1/2 inches. The locomotive and car wheels were all set to the same standard. Track gauge can be as tight as 56 inches without adversely affecting operations. I believe that PRR tried to maintain a gauge of 56-1/4 inches on high-speed tangent track to reduce truck hunting, but that was only an engineering nicety, not a problem for train movement. By the way, the Strasburg Railroad at one time had a gauge of 57 inches, but that never prevented them from operating standard gauge cars and locomotives. That was far back in history.

Gordon Davids, P.E.

  by LCJ
 
I recall reading somewhere that back in the days of the four track "Water Level Route," NYC maintained somewhat tighter gauge on the tracks that were used mostly by passenger trains.
  by ChiefTroll
 
Larry - I believe the NYC as well as the PRR kept slightly tighter gauge on higher speed passenger tracks. Just 1/4 inch tighter. The accepted minimum for tight gauge at the time, and now in the FRA Track Safety Standards, is 56 inches. They didn't lay it that tight, because there was no tolerance to work with. They also had to gradually widen the gauge approaching a turnout, because tight gauge caused flanges to hit the frog point.
LCJ wrote:I recall reading somewhere that back in the days of the four track "Water Level Route," NYC maintained somewhat tighter gauge on the tracks that were used mostly by passenger trains.

  by thirdrail
 
Why did the PC merger fail??

1.) PC was forced to pay $125 million for the bankrupt New Haven, which had a negative cash flow.

2.) PC was required to operate well over one half of all the passenger service in the US, which by that time had a monstrous negative cash flow. Amtrak only partly relieved this in 1971, as PC was still saddled with commuter service in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

3.) Freight rates and adandonments were rigidly regulated, preventing PC and others from adapting to market conditions.

4.) The "red" and "green" teams were more interested in "oneupmanship" than creating a viable enterprise. No thought had been given prior to the merger, for example, on compatibility of computer reporting systems.

How do I know? I was a Sales Representative for the PC from its creation to its demise!
  by Noel Weaver
 
I would like to add to the previous, FAILED MANAGEMENT.
The railroad failed to put sufficient funds back into the physical plant.
This resulted in roadbed, tracks, equipement etc all falling into the catagory of "deferred maintenance". This resulted in major increases in
operating costs in handling through freight, the bread and butter of any
major railroad.
The New York Central was not perfect but under Pearlman, a large amount
of funds were put into the physical plant making improvements that paid
huge dividends in savings of operating costs. The New York Central had
a modern two track railroad all controled from central locations for the
most part while the Pennsylvania had a four track railroad with towers
all over the place, most of them manned 24/7. The PRR also allowed their
physical plant to deteriorate to a point where the yards especially were
literally falling apart. Freight trains were outlawing all over the place and
this resulted in delayed delivery of freight to customers and connections
and a huge increase in operating costs as additional crews were called for
the same train. Locomotives were also tied up on these outlawed trains
when they were needed for other trains. One big mess, I was there.
Item, the former NYC West Shore under Penn Central was allowed to go
downhill to a point where over half of the line was under 10 MPH slow
orders. This was the main freight line from the south to New England and
was a main east/west link out of Northern New Jersey as well.
Passenger trains, yes they lost a fortune but Penn Central did not help
their cause one least bit. Pearlman remarked on the New York Central
that they did not want the passenger trains but the ones that they were
forced to operate, they would operate well and they did just that. What
remained of the "great steel fleet" was clean, well maintained and on time
for the most part. Penn Central took over, told the PO that they did not
want the mail, result on the former New Haven Railroad was that most of
the RPO cars came off the first week after the takeover. The result of this
was that trains that carried huge amounts of mail remained with a single
unit and one coach. Needless to say, these trains did not last very long
after that. Penn Central intentionally downgraded many trains just to show as much loss as possible to them. Again, I was there and witnessed
all of this stuff.
Noel Weaver

  by AmtrakFan
 
The Reason I thought PC Failed was 1. Too many parrell lines, 2. Bad Mangement PRR vs NYC was never put to rest, 3. Service poor service = Lost Custmoers, 4 PC was stuck with Passenger Service no wonder they wanted to dump all their Intercity Trains was it them who dumped the 20th Century or was that NYC?

AmtrakFan

  by LCJ
 
Uh huh. Yup.

But no, the death of the Century was pre-merger ('67).

  by Tadman
 
Call me ignorant, but how does a steel bridge burn? The only wood I can think of is ties.
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