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The PRR

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The PRR
Posted by willy6 on Friday, November 03, 2017 8:42 AM

I recently watched a video about the PRR. It was the state of the art railroad of it's time. It had the famous "Horseshoe Curve", it controlled the Northeast Corridor passenger service with their famous GG-1's, had great freight service all over the northeast to Chicago then they just fell apart. What was their demise?

trains
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Posted by Attuvian on Friday, November 03, 2017 9:28 AM

willy6

I recently watched a video about the PRR. It was the state of the art railroad of it's time. It had the famous "Horseshoe Curve", it controlled the Northeast Corridor passenger service with their famous GG-1's, had great freight service all over the northeast to Chicago then they just fell apart. What was their demise?

 

I'm sure there were multiple factors,  But, as with other railroads, I'll offer that a major one was the development of the Interstate highway system.  Granted that shipment by truck has always been higher per ton, but the time savings and convenience, especially to medium and smaller shipping points, would override those losses.  And all the more so for businesses putting out smaller lots that they couldn't aggregate.  The Interstate highway factor may have been mitigated somewhat where large shipments over greater distances prevailed, as with large items and commodities going across the country or between regions.

And throw in the gradual reduction and redistribution of heavy industry to other parts of the country (or overseas).

And that's just for freight.  The speed and convenience of air travel and even passenger travel by car over the Interstates had the same effect over passenger service except in the heavy passenger corridors of the Northeast.

John

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, November 03, 2017 9:34 AM

PRR never was a profit maker due to the high overhead that was compounded by the dying passenger business sucking millions from the bottom line and the added poor management and in the later years poor service doomed PRR. It was not uncommon to have freight cars go missing or misrouted..Some times baggage cars loaded with mail was lost as was loaded REA cars.

It didn't help when PRR started chasing away single car shippers in favor of PRR's truck lines.At one time PRR own Grayhound Bus lines.

The Feds and State Government help encumber PRR plans to abandon unprofitable branch lines and drop unprofitable passenger trains..

Larry

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, November 03, 2017 9:36 AM

Well, here's a "debate" Hmm thread frrom rr.net about the Pennsy, and the only true consensus was...it didn't "Rock" post WWII...
What If: Pennsy In Operation today as Pennsy.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, November 03, 2017 9:55 AM

Actually, from what I read the NYC was a profit-maker up until the last few years before it merged with the PRR in Feb '68.  The auto and the interstate (and the freedom to travel more independently) - along with inexpensive gas - was the real demise of passenger service on all the railroads.  Airline travel also allowed for faster service to more distant destinations.

And I have to exert my bias here and say that the NYC was more "state-of-the-art" and better known for their passenger service than the PRR.  They were fierce competitors - that's for sure.

Tom

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Posted by gregc on Friday, November 03, 2017 11:27 AM

i thought to two main factors were

  1. government regulations that limited prices and required service on non-profitable routes, and
  2. an over-abundance of railroads in the northeast

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Posted by NVSRR on Friday, November 03, 2017 11:48 AM

Dont forget lcl. And trucking were big factors.   It wouldnt surprise me if bad manangment played a hand like it did the penncentral

 

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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, November 03, 2017 12:15 PM

willy6

I recently watched a video about the PRR. It was the state of the art railroad of it's time....then they just fell apart. What was their demise?

 

Their "time" had passed?

 

Ed

 

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, November 03, 2017 12:50 PM

NVSRR

Dont forget lcl. And trucking were big factors.   It wouldnt surprise me if bad management played a hand like it did the penncentral

 

Wolfie

 

And as I mention PRR own trucking companies and bad management..

Larry

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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, November 03, 2017 2:07 PM

willy6

It was the state of the art railroad of it's time. 

Quite possibly.  

But when you KNOW you're state of the art, you KNOW the way you do things is better than everybody else.  So, why change?

To survive as a state of the art company, you have to "be", not "know", Grasshopper.

 

 

Ed

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Posted by cefinkjr on Saturday, November 04, 2017 12:23 PM

tstage
And I have to exert my bias here and say that the NYC was more "state-of-the-art" ... than the PRR. They were fierce competitors - that's for sure.

I can confirm this, Tom.  I was an NYC Management Trainee when the PC merger became effective and was assigned to former PRR locations from day 1 of the merger until I left the training program for a permanent position (at a former PRR location).

Not only was the Central more "state-of-the-art" (e.g., in the mid-sixties, a Collins telecommunications computer monitored by a twin that took over immediately if the first had any problem at all), the Central's physical plant was in better condition.  Good example here, I saw an empty gondola rolling down a PRR hump roll backward (toward the hump crest) a couple of feet before finally coming to a stop.  This, incidentally, was on a "rider" hump (no retarders) at a fairly important PRR location.

One more example, Pennsy people didn't believe us when we talked about NYC freights moving at 50 mph.  That is, 50 mph unless they were Flexi-Van (Super Van) trains; SVs were allowed passenger train track speeds of 60 mph.  In fact, I rode a multi-level train once that I timed at 81 mph east of Collinwood; the engineer told me the speedometer was broken.  Whistling

Chuck
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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, November 04, 2017 2:40 PM

Improved highways and the internal combustion engine, and constant improvements to both.  This leads to loss of shorter haul traffic, both freight and passenger.  It might not be cheaper by road, but it is more convenient.     

It doesn't help that railroads were still regulated as if they were the only game in town.  Other modes also were regulated, but not near as heavy as the railroads.  And the railroad network in the East and Midwest was overbuilt, reflecting a time when railroads for the most part were the only game in town.  Regulators then seemed to try make railroads maintain service to lines that had long since lost viability.  Along with the cost to operate lines that were no longer profitable, many states taxed railroad property heavier than other property.  

Loss of some lines of business.  Early on, loss of coal for most residential and business heating.  Later on, loss of heavy manufacturing to other locations.  

Ambivalent or outright bad managment decisions.  

At times all or some of these things plagued the railroads.  Not just the PRR either.  Railroads in the East/Northeast were first affected, but the disease spread.  I recall reading in a 1975 item that the railroad problem had reached Denver CO and Tucumcari NM with the RI's bankruptcy.  In 1977 it reached Puget Sound with the Milw Rd's bankruptcy.  The SP didn't go bankrupt, but it was aflicted as were other railroads.  While some roads were healthy, reading period news articles show they were clearly worried about the long term future.  Most were setting up holding companies to separate non-rail subsidiaries from rail assets in case the railroad industry was nationalized.  

Jeff

  

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Posted by gregc on Saturday, November 04, 2017 2:44 PM

why doesn't it seem that western railroads were affected as much by these same issues?

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Saturday, November 04, 2017 3:32 PM

gregc

why doesn't it seem that western railroads were affected as much by these same issues?

 

There were a lot of viruses that plagued eastern roads.  

1) Short distance of haul, competition from interstate highway system.

2) Declining hard coal traffic

3) Too many railroads in the east.  Many cities were served by up to 7 rail lines.

4) Passenger traffic that was not being subsidised by tax payers/regulated by government to the point that it was unprofitable (limits on ticket prices etc).   Tax payers were subsidising roads and air travel for the previous 2 decades.   This hurt freight traffic as well as passenger traffic.

5) Too stringent regulation of the rates that the railroads could charge for hauling traffic.

NYC/PRR specific.

Neither railroad was especially healthy at the time of the merger.  The federal government in their infinite wisdom thought it would be a good idea to force the bankrupt New Haven onto the PC.  This further saddled the new railroad (remember they already did not like or trust each other) with additional debt and NH's money loosing commuter traffic.

 All three railroads had, by this time, a worn out fleet of first generation diesels, including many Alco's with 244 prime movers that were not all that reliable.   The mis-matched hodge-podge of every type of locomotive caused more red ink (you have to stock parts for all manufacturers (logistics nightmare)).

Incompatible accounting systems. 

PC pretty much wrote the book on how not to do a merger.  B&O/C&O/WM and future Family Lines took note.

Rule 108: In case of doubt or uncertainty, the safe course must be taken.
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Posted by BRAKIE on Saturday, November 04, 2017 4:51 PM

BMMECNYC
PC pretty much wrote the book on how not to do a merger. B&O/C&O/WM and future Family Lines took note.

Actually C&O/B&O was already going strong when PRR/NYC merged.The C&O/B&O took control of the WM in '67.These roads would merge under CSX in '87 and contrary to popular belief not under Chessie. The Chessie System was the parent company.

Also family lines railroads was not merged until 1982 and would become the short lived  Seaboard System which was merged into CSX..

PRR had GP30s,GP35s,SD35s,SD40s SD45 and other "second Generation" locomotives from GE and Alco.

Larry

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Saturday, November 04, 2017 6:23 PM

BRAKIE
These roads would merge under CSX in '87 and contrary to popular belief not under Chessie.

Which is why I typed what I typed.  Their merger process was a long, drawn out process where they slowly integrated their operations over a period of several decades.  

BRAKIE
Also family lines railroads was not merged until 1982 and would become the short lived 

SCL owned L&N in 1971.  Similar to Chessie system, the full merger didnt happen until the 1980s, but the ground work was laid in the late 1960s/1970s.  Family Lines was a convienient, call it lazy, way of refering to the related railroads and eventual merged corperations.  Didnt feel that it was really relevant as to why PRR failed, so I glossed over it (heavily).

PRR and NYC decided to jump into an inadvisable merger situation in a relatively short period of time.  

BRAKIE
PRR had GP30s,GP35s,SD35s,SD40s SD45 and other "second Generation" locomotives from GE and Alco.

Yep, and they had a lot of junkers from the first generation, which quickly populated Conrail's deadlines in the late 1970s (not all of which were from PC, but many were).  

For those of you who are interested in Conrail, here is a pretty good website.

Conrail locomotives by type:

http://crcyc.railfan.net/locos/locomotives.html

1976 roster:

http://crcyc.railfan.net/locos/misc/rosters/roster-76.html

 

Rule 108: In case of doubt or uncertainty, the safe course must be taken.
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Posted by BRAKIE on Saturday, November 04, 2017 7:08 PM

BMMECNYC
PRR and NYC decided to jump into an inadvisable merger situation in a relatively short period of time.

I was in that awful mess called PC..What one doesn't hear was the melt down of service to include cars and complete trains went missing.PRR crews would be called for NYC trains which these crews was not qualified for that district  or worst two and some times three crews was called for the same train.

Thankfully I missed the CSX merger fiasco due to old ready Freddy stealing my job..

Back to C&O/B&O..What really help was C&O shoring up B&Os aging fleet of diesels by buying new second generation diesels and sending B&O several C&O diesels. Alco and cab units was among the first to go.

Although C&O controlled the B&O they operated as separate railroads as did the WM after the take over by the C&O/B&O in  '67.

Larry

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Posted by NWP SWP on Saturday, November 04, 2017 7:44 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the government dictate that the railroads could merge without approval? But IIRC that entity was abolished in the late 20th century? That's why you can now count the number of class Is in the US on one hand?

Steven

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Modeling the combined lines of the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Northern Pacific after a fictional Depression Era merger forming the SouthWestern Pacific and NorthWestern Pacific Railroads. SP, WP, and NP operations remain independent but also operate alongside NWP and SWP equipment.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Saturday, November 04, 2017 8:46 PM

NWP SWP
Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the government dictate that the railroads could merge without approval?

STB still has to approve mergers.  This is why NS is still a railroad.

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Posted by NWP SWP on Saturday, November 04, 2017 10:47 PM

So it's more of not enough business to go around when there were multiple roads in one region not a policy change. Thanks

Steven

Crooner, Imagineer, High School Senior, and President of the NWP-SWP System.

Modeling the combined lines of the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Northern Pacific after a fictional Depression Era merger forming the SouthWestern Pacific and NorthWestern Pacific Railroads. SP, WP, and NP operations remain independent but also operate alongside NWP and SWP equipment.

Hook'em Longhorns! 

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Posted by Uncle_Bob on Saturday, November 04, 2017 11:21 PM

BMMECNYC

 

 
NWP SWP
Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the government dictate that the railroads could merge without approval?

 

STB still has to approve mergers.  This is why NS is still a railroad.

 

Say what?  What else would they be, an insurance company?  Oh, wait --that was Penn Central's ultimate fate.

The OP should read Rush Loving's The Men Who Loved Trains for a good overview of what went wrong, and how it eventually got better.  Also,besides the Interstates, the Interstate Commerce Commission, state taxes, too much rail infrastructure, and too many companies, another factor was the St Lawrence Seaway, which diverted rail traffic from trunk lines to large ships that were able to navigate the Great Lakes and head out to sea.  It cut out much of the railroads' role in carrying goods between the Midwest East Coast for import and export, so there was less money coming in.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, November 05, 2017 6:41 AM

NWP SWP

So it's more of not enough business to go around when there were multiple roads in one region not a policy change. Thanks

 

That has nothing to do with it at all..A company on the PRR couldn't have the B&O to switch them and rubber to rail wasn't cheap nor desired.

Trucks took away a lot of  rail business because it was fast and cheaper. A boxcar could take four to five weeks to travel from Baltimore to Huston while a truck could do it within  five days.

Railroads started chasing single car shippers away in droves in favor of unit train service or their TOFC service. This was done to curtain costs of running a local with a full five men crew. Even back then they toyed with the idea of cutting the crew size to two or three and doing away with cabooses.

Then came the start of the rust belt..No

Larry

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