Pennsylvania Railroad Company ’Pennsy’ Extinct American History

Pennsylvania Railroad Company 'Pennsy' Extinct American History

Pennsylvania Railroad Company, commonly known as Pennsy or simply the Pennsy, was once one of the most influential and successful transportation networks in American history. By 1882, Pennsy’s budget was second only to that of the U.S. government, making it the largest railroad (by traffic and revenue), the largest transportation enterprise, and the largest corporation in the world.

Pennsy dominated the Northeast rail network. It acquired, merged with, or owned part of at least 800 other rail lines and companies. By the 1920s, Pennsy carried nearly three times the traffic compared to other railroads of comparable length, such as the Union Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroads. Its only formidable rival was the New York Central, which hauled around three-quarters of the Pennsy’s ton-miles.

In 1968, the Pennsy merged with its long-time rival, New York Central Railroad, forming the Penn Central Transportation Company, or “Penn Central” for short. Unfortunately, the former competitors’ networks did not integrate well together, and the new railroad was forced to file for bankruptcy within two years. In 1976, the railroad eventually gave up its railroad assets, along with the assets of several other failing northeastern railroads, to a new railroad named Consolidated Rail Corporation, or Conrail for short. Conrail was then purchased and split up in 1999 between the Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, with Norfolk Southern acquiring 58 percent of the system, including nearly all of the remaining former Pennsy trackage. Amtrak received the electrified segment of the Main Line east of Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company, known fondly by many as the Pennsy, is no more, having given up its railroad assets over 40 years ago. What remains today is the legacy of the company, which had once become the largest corporation in the world and carried twice the traffic of its rivals. From trains to privatization and annulment, the Pennsylvania Railroad continues to shape American history with the story of its success and ultimate failure. Although it is no longer in existence, the legacy of "The Pennsy" lives on thanks to its contribution to the industrial revolution and American history.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.