What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

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What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby GulfRail » Sun Oct 18, 2009 12:24 pm

If the PRR and NYC had decided that the Penn Central merger wasn't worth it because of the ICC's condition of taking in the New Haven. I mean, UP did it with the Rock Island when the ICC tacked on alot of conditions that they refused to abide by, so why not the PRR and NYC? Would a crisis have been averted? How long would the PRR and NYC have survived on their own? (Especially the PRR. The NYC was being managed rather well by Perlman, so we can assume that it would have continued down that path.) What would have happened to the New Haven? What about the eastern railroads like the Reading that were decimated by the Penn Central?
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Sun Oct 18, 2009 2:36 pm

I have thought about this question myself at various times. I agree that the New York Central was far better managed than
the Pennsylvania was and may well have made it on its own. Perlman was a very good railroader and he had some very good
people under him. Sometimes his theory was that you had to spend money in order to save money down the road and he was
very good at that.
As for the New Haven, I worked for them at the time and of course like all of the other New Haven people, I was very
concerned over just what was going to happen. As it was the main line was just too important to let go and I think the local
governments (states and cities) were beginning to realize that. It sure took them a long time to act.
Unlike some others, I do not put the full blame on the Penn Central for the cuts that took place on the New Haven after they
took it over, business was falling by the wayside as industry closed down or moved away leaving nothing but abandoned
buildings and vacant property as they left. It was very, very evident that the New Haven could not survive on its own any
longer and the authorities though the Penn Central was a cure all, turned out it was and did not cure anything.
There are a lot of reasons that the Penn Central did not make it, poor management especially from the PRR side was a prime
reason, the pasenger losses did not help, the loss of freight business did not help either. High taxes by some communities
and excessive benefits to some employees added to the problems. There are probably some more too.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Jeff Smith » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:13 am

Here's a what-if: The merger gets called off by NYC, and the PRR and NYNH&HRR merge sans NYC? Think about this: shared connection over New York Connecting/Hell Gate Bridge. Now, I don't know what Penn Station was like then as far as congestion, but what if this enables the NH to divert its traffic from NYC owned GCT, where it pays fees to use, to Penn? After all, one of the NH's downfalls was its lack of its own access to NYC. That's why they tried to push off traffic on the NYW&B, after all.

Pros:

1. No fees to access GCT over Harlem Line.
2. Common infrastructure with PRR (catenary) and no need for dual-mode equipment.
3. Additional (revived) stations on Harlem River line.
4. Gain west-side access for commuters (already running LD trains there)
5. Connections to LI.

Cons:

1. Lose GCT access (east0side)
2. Congestion issues.
3. Lose stations at Pelham, Columbus Av, and Mt. Vernon (or have to run shuttle trains to New Rochelle).

Now, I am now where near an expert on these issues, but wonder what thoughts some of the NH experts from the era have on this.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:28 pm

You would have had the same situation at Penn Station as you have today. Penn Station would not begin to have the
capacity to handle all of the New Haven's local commuter trains and the MU's at the time did not have the required cab signals either. Penn Station has only 21 tracks period and GCT has way more than that plus yards underground to store the
stuff too.
The only thing you might have seen would have been the diversion to Penn Station for all of the New York - Boston trains
which the Penn Central did in 1970. Penn could have handled that increase but nothing more than that.
It was bad enough with Penn Central, a straight PRR takeover of the New Haven would have been even worse. The Central
and the New Haven worked very well together in GCT over a long period of years and the PRR had an attitude toward the
New Haven long before the PC merger, a direct PRR would have been a disaster. The only benefit to the employees would
have been a Pass good all the way west and south but we got that anyway with the Penn Central.
I have said this many times but if Perlman had a free hand in the operation and the finances of the Penn Central you may
well have had a different story, he did not and it went to hell fast.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby trainwayne1 » Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:59 pm

Noel....didn't the Penn Central's diversion of freight away from Maybrook have a big effect on the New Haven? When I was working for the EL, starting in '68, there were at least two jobs with sizeable trains from Port Jervis to Maybrook every day......after the PC-NH merger the traffic declined steadily until it was a mere trickle by the time of the Poughkeepsie Bridge fire. It seems to me that PC was taking more freight away from the NH just to make sure that it would fail.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:13 am

Maybrook traffic declined after January 1, 1969 because Penn Central wanted to carry the freight from Chicago or whereever
rather than share it with the EL or the B & O or any other railroad. The Boston and Albany route via Selkirk was the best
way into New England. The former New York Central east - west mainline was far superior to the former Pennsylvania east -
west mainline with a better track structure in better shape, much less grades resulting in less cost to move a car of freight
and very modern yards and terminals.
The decline in operations in and out of Maybrook was not immediate but it was steady and yes by 1974 there was only one
round trip to handle traffic with both the EL and L & HR.
The same old story, less traffic means less railroads and even in 1974 freight business in Connecticut was on a downhill
trip.
I know a lot of people liked the Erie Lackawanna but its freight route was far inferior to the New York Central.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby trainwayne1 » Tue Oct 20, 2009 7:32 am

"I know a lot of people liked the Erie Lackawanna but its freight route was far inferior to the New York Central."

While I wasn't trying to invoke any type of "favorite railroad" thoughts into my last post, and, on paper, the NYC freight ROUTE was superior to both the EL and the PRR, in the end, it was service that was the deciding factor......that's why the EL, even with it's "inferior route", ended up with the bulk of the UPS business. A good portion of the freight diverted from the Maybrook route was moved for finacial purposes only, not because of service issues. EL managed to hang on and stay out of bankruptcy until 1972, and then, the biggest causes for their failure were the hurricane, and non-receipt of payments from the PC, while being forced to pay what was owed TO the PC. This is well documented in H. Roger Grant's EL book.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Jeff Smith » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:28 am

Thanks for the answer, Noel. If the NYC and NH had worked so well together, than why not a merger between those two, sans PRR? That saves the fees the NH had to pay NYC for GCT, and would have allowed the NYC (as it did Conrail) pretty much access anywhere in New England while getting rid of inefficient routes.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:18 am

Sarge wrote:Thanks for the answer, Noel. If the NYC and NH had worked so well together, than why not a merger between those two, sans PRR? That saves the fees the NH had to pay NYC for GCT, and would have allowed the NYC (as it did Conrail) pretty much access anywhere in New England while getting rid of inefficient routes.


There is a lot more to this than is apparent at first sight. First off it did not matter what happened to the New Haven in so
far as freight business was concerned because it was going downhill week by week and not the New York Central, the
Pennsylvania or Penn Central could save it no matter what they did. The freight on the New Haven was depended to a large
extant on the industry in Southern New England and by the 70's there was a huge decline in this industry.
My favorite source for this is the Naugatuck Valley which during the NHRR had huge factories all of which were heavily
depended on the New Haven for transportation. Not very many years later these huge factories were shut down, empty,
abandoned and in many cases torn down. With this went much of the economy in Western Connecticut and for much of it
no recovery is even in sight.
The short term survival of the New Haven alone without either/or Penn, Central or both was not good and even in the long
run it would not have made it, They couldn't possibly make any profit on the commuter passenger service and probably not
any of the rest of it either and the freight was getting worse by the day and could not carry the financial load.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Jeff Smith » Tue Oct 20, 2009 2:38 pm

I think I see your point. I don't think there's any scenario that would have saved any of the three; just some scenarios that may have prolonged the slide. I guess the three were victims of over-regulation, competition, and location, location, location (that being the rust belt). It's just interesting to surmise the what-if's of the various pairings leaving the two main players separate.

Quick question: didn't PC (or maybe it was the NH) petition to abandon passenger service below Larchmont (or thereabouts, not exactly sure) at one point?
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:03 pm

Sarge wrote:I think I see your point. I don't think there's any scenario that would have saved any of the three; just some scenarios that may have prolonged the slide. I guess the three were victims of over-regulation, competition, and location, location, location (that being the rust belt). It's just interesting to surmise the what-if's of the various pairings leaving the two main players separate.

Quick question: didn't PC (or maybe it was the NH) petition to abandon passenger service below Larchmont (or thereabouts, not exactly sure) at one point?


Yes, The New Haven actually published a proposed schedule which would have killed New Rochelle to Mount Vernon entirely.
Much reduced operation of local service between Larchmont and Stamford would have continued. They proposed these
changes to take effect March 29, 1965 but they never could get permission to make the changes. I have a couple of copies
of this proposal. Believe me we were sweating this one out, I could have been cut off for a period of time and I did not
relish that situation.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Allen Hazen » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:55 pm

Not only was the New York Central better managed than the PRR, there's a little hearsay evidence that its managers had better interpersonal skills. I chatted with the crew of a New Haven local freight (? maybe m.o.w.? anyway, a crew that was out on the main line in West Haven CT with an Alco S-class switch engine) in probably the spring of 1969, and asked what they thought of the new management: I was told that the New York Central managers they had had contact with were all "gentlemen," but the PRR people were unpleasant and always profane in speech...

What would have happened without the merger? I find it hard to imagine any big railroad in the Northeastern U.S. making it in the long term without the Staggers Act regulatory reforms which were in part a response to the Penn Central collapse, but the New York Central would have been able to struggle along longer than the others (wasn't the Central's main line largely out of the path of the hurricane that finally did in the Erie-Lackawanna?). But it was struggling: nowhere near as much deferred maintenance as on the PRR, but wasn't, e.g., the track on the West Shore pretty decrepit in the 1970s?
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:11 pm

Allen Hazen wrote:Not only was the New York Central better managed than the PRR, there's a little hearsay evidence that its managers had better interpersonal skills. I chatted with the crew of a New Haven local freight (? maybe m.o.w.? anyway, a crew that was out on the main line in West Haven CT with an Alco S-class switch engine) in probably the spring of 1969, and asked what they thought of the new management: I was told that the New York Central managers they had had contact with were all "gentlemen," but the PRR people were unpleasant and always profane in speech...

What would have happened without the merger? I find it hard to imagine any big railroad in the Northeastern U.S. making it in the long term without the Staggers Act regulatory reforms which were in part a response to the Penn Central collapse, but the New York Central would have been able to struggle along longer than the others (wasn't the Central's main line largely out of the path of the hurricane that finally did in the Erie-Lackawanna?). But it was struggling: nowhere near as much deferred maintenance as on the PRR, but wasn't, e.g., the track on the West Shore pretty decrepit in the 1970s?


The 70's equals Penn Central at least until 1976. After the Penn Central took over the New Haven traffic doubled and then
even increased some more as a result of the rerouting of all of the freight traffic away from the car float operation into Bay
Ridge. The shifting traffic pattern made lots of sense because all of the New Haven was accessible from the Boston and
Albany at Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Framingham. More traffic is east - west rather than north - south and for
east - west traffic the former New York Central was by far the best route and Selkirk was the logical gateway to the former
New Haven territory.
Maybrook was kept open for traffic routed via the EL or the B & O but both routes were inferior to the former New York
Central and the Penn Central did not want to short haul itself by keeping much traffic on the Maybrook Line. I think the
only question here is how much longer the Maybrook Line would have survived if the fire had not occurred in 1974. I have to
think that the Maybrook Line would not have remained in operation for too much longer even if the fire had not occurred.
The only thing that might have saved this line would have been if the Penn Central could have gotten their hands on the
Lehigh and Hudson River and thus have a one line operation from New Jersey to Connecticut but this did not happen. Even
that would probably only prolong the end but not saved the line.
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby lvrr325 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 3:38 am

Distance-wise, time-wise with track conditions being equal it's a wash as to what route is superior. All have strengths and weaknesses. Some have better grades and less curvature, others have less oportunity for congestion.

Was the New Haven inclusion an initial factor in the merger? They were preparing for it several years beforehand, as early as 1964 or 1965 if I remember right (what year did the LV renumber the high-hood RS11s? those were leased from the PRR and renumbered as PC merger prep). Seems like it was thrown at them kind of last minute, which is why they weren't included until later on. I'm not sure they could have walked away over that if they'd wanted to.

And you can't blame the entire failure on the NH. The NYC and PRR both had routes connecting just about every pair of medium to large midwestern cities you can think of, and the ICC didn't let them abandon enough duplicate track fast enough to do much good. It wasn't the most logical merger - on paper it made sense to consolidate, in practice they weren't allowed to follow through.

That said, I think the NH should have been liquidated and it's best assets divided up among other roads. Forcing it on the PC was a mistake that didn't take into account why the road was losing money and what would best create at least some bridge traffic to make money from. Obviously there was some money to be made in New Haven's freight territory, or there wouldn't be a Providence & Worcester today (that was able to buy new locomotives in the mid-1970s at that).
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:55 pm

The New Haven still performed a vital service both freight and passenger. It was too vital to be just wiped out and broken
up. The New Haven was not the cause of the Penn Central at least not the direct cause. The mismanagement of the
finances, putting too much into outside stuff that did not help the core business which was freight transportation. What
killed the railroad for one thing was the high cost of performing the transportation of freight. Trains that should have taken
6 hours from point to point took over 12 hours in many case because the track was literally falling apart, the slow orders
killed freight train performance. Crews cut out because of the hours of service law, trains were on the hook for power
because the engines were still out on another train and when they got to their destination, they had to be serviced and often
something was wrong with one or more locomotives in a consist causing a further delay all this while an outbound crew was
already on duty and waiting for the power. I don't know how many times I had to wait at the Selkirk Fuel Plant for engines
that were on their way in from somewhere and then when they got there there were troubles with them. When we finally
got the OK, I would check them out before leaving and find still more problems that had to be taken care of before we could
turn a wheel and move a car of revenue freight.
In Saunders eyes it was more chick to put money into things that had nothing to do with railroading while the railroad was
falling apart fast.
Penn Central with or without the New Haven could have been profitable had they put their funds into their core properties,
the main freight lines that were supposed to be making money for the railroad instead of telling everybody what a great
job the management was doing running the railroad. We worked for them and we knew otherwise.
Many on here are familiar with the River Line between North Jersey and Selkirk, imagine that line with a top speed of 30 MPH and over 50 per cent of the line under 10 MPH slow orders. It was almost impossible for a southbound (northbounds had
preference) to get from Selkirk to New Jersey. Four out of five southbound trips I did not make it all the way resulting in a
lot of extra costs for the company as we got a higher pay for cutting out on the road and they had to call a relief crew to
finsih the trip. In addition another train often had to wait longer for the power and the cars often did not make their
connections.
I still have some of the old bulletins from these days when the line was under slow orders for long stretches. We made a lot
of money but it was a hard way to make it.
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