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Penn Central Railroad


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[float=right]51JHYM1ESAL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_.jpg[/float]The Penn Central Transportation Company was officially created on February 1, 1968 as a result of the merger of the iconic Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central System. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was subsequently absorbed on January 1, 1969. Despite their legendary status within the transportation industry, the involved roads had fallen on hard times. The initial merger plan estimated the corporate union of the two carriers would generate annual savings of at least $80,000,000 so all participants had big expectations.

 

Unfortunately, Penn Central turned out to be the biggest American corporate failure of its era. Due to a variety of factors including competitive imbalances resulting from misguided federal transportation infrastructure and rate setting policies, ineffective management, draconian work rules and deferred maintenance, Penn Central declared bankruptcy on June 21, 1970. Since the effects of the company's collapse were so far reaching, its failure succeeded in drawing to the attention of the federal government and public the need for efficient rail transportation. During the ensuing years, the nation's intercity rail passenger network, which had been on life support, had new life breathed into it with the formation of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) on May 1, 1971. Several years later, on April 1, 1976, Penn Central and a number of other bankrupt Northeastern railroads were merged to form the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail). Despite early difficulties, Conrail evolved into a well respected provider of efficient freight transportation. The assets of Conrail were eventually split between CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1999. The Northeastern region of the United States now enjoys a level of rail freight service the quality and frequency of which had not been seen previously. Despite its failure, Penn Central's initially sound merger plan and subsequent failures in execution played a key role in what ultimately turned out to be a very happy ending for the rail industry as a whole.

 

"Penn Central Railroad" is a 160 page hardcover book released by MBI Publishing Company as part of its MBI Railroad Color History Series. It is authored by Peter E. Lynch who, among his many other credits, was employed by Penn Central and had the opportunity, or misfortune depending upon your point of view, to experience PC on a personal basis. The book does not seek to provide a detailed account of the company's financial collapse. Rather, its content focuses on Penn Central operations and what actually happened on the railroad, itself. For those seeking a detailed business oriented treatment of Penn Central's collapse, I strongly recommend "The Wreck of the Penn Central" authored by Joseph Daughen and Peter Binzen. This book is a superb account of the forces which contributed to the company's failure and should be required reading for all amateur and professional railroaders.

 

"Penn Central Railroad" is divided into chapters based upon its operating regions and classes of traffic/commodities. The text provides an informative yet easy read. True to his intentions mentioned above, the author has succeeded in refraining from making the book an analysis of the company's failure and has given us a book which is very operations oriented. The volume is profusely illustrated with several hundred photographs, approximately 90% of which are in full color. Many images of interesting and unique equipment are included. Some of these are the United Aircraft TurboTrain, Metroliner electric multiple unit cars, GG1's, FL9's, former New York Central box cab electric locomotives and the brutally efficient E44 freight motors. With the passage of time of the tendency of history to be revisionist in nature, Penn Central and its unique operations have resulted in the build up of a significant fan base. This book represents perhaps the best option for those who wish to go back in time and relive even just a small portion of the Penn Central era.

 

"Penn Central Railroad" is priced at $36.95. MBI is a widely distributed publisher and its products are stocked in many of the major retail book stores such as Barnes and Noble and Borders as well as on-line sites like Amazon so the book is easy to find. MBI's website is http://www.mbipublishing.com for those who wish to see an image of the book's cover or check out the company's extensive selection of railroading titles.

 

Enjoy,

 

Earle

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