What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

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

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CSXT 4617
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by CSXT 4617 » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:50 pm

If Penn Central had been called off a list of factors would have occurred.

1.) The Pennsylvania Railroad would have a chance at surviving into the modern era. The freight and commuter operations of the railroad would still be continued to this day. The intercity passenger service would still probably be handed over to Amtrak. Then, the railroad would eliminate unessential and non-profitable branch lines and would eliminate service to areas where money was low and not really turning a profit. The railroad would've probably purchased out the Reading Company and eliminated the unessential lines of the Reading and keep the profitable and the commuter lines and offer long commuter service much like SEPTA does. The railroad would examine its aging system and improve the system, so that derailments would occur less and less. The low-grade freight lines that Conrail removed the overhead wire and subsequently abandoned would still be in service on the system. The Northeast Corridor would still see frequent freight service like it did during Penn Central and the early Conrail years. The Pennsylvania would have a strong steam program.

2.) The New York Central would've also had a chance at surviving into the modern era. The intercity passenger service would probably be discontinued and well freight service would continue to pay the bills whilst passenger would be a thing of the past. The third rail would probably be converted to overhead wire so to prevent issues and maybe the Canadian Pacific will take over the New York Central and its subsidiaries and make them Canadian Pacific subsidiaries. Commuter service would probably go over to the Metro North Railroad. The New York Central would just become a memory.

3.) The New Haven might become Pennsylvania Railroad property. The trackage will be kept as an active source of income and well commuter service will go to MBTA and Metro North. The Hell Gate Bridge would become Pennsylvania Railroad trackage and the Northeast Corridor from New York to Boston will become the Pennsylvania's tracks and well freight service will carry over to the Pennsylvania. The intercity trains will probably deeded to Amtrak. The railroad will replace the overhead wire and poles and make them Pennsylvania Railroad styled. Thus, the Northeast Corridor from Washington D.C., to Boston will become a Pennsylvania Railroad owned line.

That's what it'd be like if Penn Central had been called off in my opinion.
"Norfolk Southern: One Line, Infinite Possibilities."

Noel Weaver
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Noel Weaver » Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:25 am

I do not agree with the previous post. The New York Central was the best managed property and had the best freight
operation with the lowest operating costs. The Pennsylvania allowed much of their property to go down the hill toward
bottom and had more commuter operation than the Central had as well with Philadelphia and New York/New Jersey combined. The passenger operation on the Central had been slimmed down to an operation that had a decent chance of at
least less loss than the PRR did with a lot of redundant trackage especially in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
The New Haven and PRR would not have been a good combination. There was no direct freight connection between the two
without car floats or the L & HR through Maybrook. Looking at the former New Haven in 2010, there are a number of lines
that in 1968 had mostly through freight operations with very little local business on them. Today most of these lines are
gone or out of service. There were terminals and yards with operations in 1968 that today are gone or reduced so drastically
that they might as well be gone.
I have said this before but I guess it bears repeating now, the freight business in Southern New England and especially
Central and Western Connecticut is simply gone and will never ever return to what it once was if at all. Formerly busy
terminals, especially Waterbury, which were pretty busy in 1968 today are basically history. In 1968 there was probably
more freight in and out of Waterbury in one day than in 2010 there is in a six month period.
Today to the best of my knowledge there is not one single railroad job based in Waterbury.
I know the traffic patterns changed upon the Penn Central takeover in 1969 but this would have happened anyway and for
the most part it resulted in cheaper, more efficient and better operations for the railroad although I know lots of folks on
here and elsewhere who would not agree with me. I think the Penn Central did the best they could with the New Haven but
even by 1969 it was mostly a lost cause made worse by various mistakes by top management.
Noel Weaver

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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by the sarge » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:36 pm

The better half of the PC was the PRR, not the Central. The NYC stunk and was a worthless railroad. That was my opinion as a train crazy kid growing up in and around Philadelphia and nobody could tell me different. Today, I agree with everything Noel wrote above. When I found out the truth, it was like the disclosure of Santa Clause.

As to the future of the pre-PC railroads, too many variables to correctly speculate, but just by comparing the health of the two main railroads, the NYC had the better chance to survive a few more decades.

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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Noel Weaver » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:43 am

[quote="the sarge"]The better half of the PC was the PRR, not the Central. The NYC stunk and was a worthless railroad. That was my opinion as a train crazy kid growing up in and around Philadelphia and nobody could tell me different.
Sorry but I can't agree with this one. I have ridden thousands of miles of former Penn Central territory under Penn Central on
my pass and you could not compare the two.
The New York Central had an ideal east/west route with two tracks, CTC, controlled from a central location. The grades were not severe enough to require help at any locations between New York and Chicago or St. Louis. Two locomotives could
handle any train on any portion of the former New York Central and for the most part make track speed as well. Maybe in
the case of the early models three units would be needed but the Central was one of the first purchasers of GP-40's which
had 3000 HP and they also had ample modern power from GE and earlier EMD units as well. Nearly the entire railroad was
controlled from a dispatcher's office at a division point or in a central location. The Central also believed in good track
maintenance and their track and train speeds were high as a result. The NYC was also using a modern system wide dial
telephone system where you could dial direct anyplace on the railroad while the PRR was still using anchient "crank and
cuss" phones over much of their system. I will concede on just one point, the only thing that was better on the PRR than
on the Central was the cab signal system. It was similiar to the New Haven cab signal set up and was far superior to the
inductive train stop system in use on the Central but this is the ONLY point where the PRR had a better set up.
Contrast this with the former Pennsylvania. Outside of the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington it was
not nearly as efficient as the New York Central of the same period was. They had signal towers all over the place and most
of them were manned 24/7 as well and this was a huge operating expense and was not as efficient as dispatcher control
direct with CTC. The PRR also had helper grades especially between Altoona and Pittsburgh and you would not get over that
piece of railroad with just two four motor units. This is the reason that Penn Central routed as much east/west freight
over the fomer NYC as they possibly could and after Conrail got their act together, they phased out much of the former PRR
west of Pittsburgh.
I could say more on this but I've said enough for now.
Noel Weaver

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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by the sarge » Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:21 am

Noel - did you read my whole post?

Either way, thank you for the post -good info.

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charlie6017
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by charlie6017 » Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:48 am

I got ya Sarge........your post was actually quite complimentary of the Central.........good info by everyone!

Charlie
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Noel Weaver
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Noel Weaver » Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:31 am

the sarge wrote:Noel - did you read my whole post?

Either way, thank you for the post -good info.
I sure did.
Noel Weaver

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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Jeff Smith » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:15 am

Noel Weaver wrote:
the sarge wrote:Noel - did you read my whole post?

Either way, thank you for the post -good info.
I sure did.
Noel Weaver
Just so you know, that "Sarge" is not this Sarge. Hello to my alter ego! We need more NCO's in this world. Heading to New Smyrna this weekend; I doubt I'll see much traffic on the FEC with the holiday.
Next stop, Willoughby
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Matt Langworthy
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Matt Langworthy » Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:04 pm

CSXT 4617 wrote:3.) The New Haven might become Pennsylvania Railroad property. The trackage will be kept as an active source of income and well commuter service will go to MBTA and Metro North. The Hell Gate Bridge would become Pennsylvania Railroad trackage and the Northeast Corridor from New York to Boston will become the Pennsylvania's tracks and well freight service will carry over to the Pennsylvania. The intercity trains will probably deeded to Amtrak. The railroad will replace the overhead wire and poles and make them Pennsylvania Railroad styled. Thus, the Northeast Corridor from Washington D.C., to Boston will become a Pennsylvania Railroad owned line.

That's what it'd be like if Penn Central had been called off in my opinion.
Nope. NH was begging to get into the merged PRR/NYC system. Management had not been asking to merge with the PRR alone. As Noel said, NH and the Pennsy did not have a direct connection and that would've made a PRR/NH merger rather difficult to achieve with any degree of success.

On the other hand, NH did have a decent amount of industrial traffic until the New England manufacturing base declined during the '80s... so I think it could probably continue to run under the trusteeship for quite a while. Let's not forget the NYO&W ran while under bankruptcy for 20 years, so it seems quite conceivable for an independant NH to do the same thing. It is also possible that some of the shareholders of leased proeprties (like the P&W) might've taken control of the NH and rationalized the company into profitability.
Matt Langworthy

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Penn Central
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Penn Central » Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:19 am

The NYC was not a completely flat railroad. The West Shore and the B&A had grades that required more than two units on most trains.

Noel Weaver
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Noel Weaver » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:24 am

I agree that the New York Central was not completely flat. The B & A was more hills and mountains than anything else. As for the West Shore (River Line), today's six motor
diesels can run this line with two decent units on just about anything except maybe a unit coal train and I don't think they get too many of them anymore.
Even west from Selkirk to Buffalo we had a good grade right out of Selkirk but it was not that long, two units were no problem here. The ruling grade from Selkirk to Buffalo was
at South Byron (east of Batavia) for about 10 or so miles. We actually had a "G" signal on this grade and more than once trains stalled on this one. I never happened to but I had
a couple of close ones.
The legendary grade of years past on the Central was the West Albany grade on the main line where a Hudson on a westbound passenger train needed a push from an 0-8-0
for the grade up to an area near the West Albany Shops where the pusher could cut off and the Hudson could run like the wind from there west. After Selkirk opened there was
not much freight using this grade and things eased off a lot.
Noel Weaver

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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by cobra30689 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:22 pm

With your experience Noel I'm going to throw this question directly at you....as I grew up in Elizabeth and remember all the electric powered freight traffic to and from Waverly Yard....if the PRR were to survive, would its electric operations outside of the NEC have prospered, or floundered?

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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Noel Weaver » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:02 am

cobra30689 wrote:With your experience Noel I'm going to throw this question directly at you....as I grew up in Elizabeth and remember all the electric powered freight traffic to and from Waverly Yard....if the PRR were to survive, would its electric operations outside of the NEC have prospered, or floundered?
If the PRR had remained the PRR maybe the electrification could have lasted for some years but maybe not today. Who knows what would have happened to the Corridor, the PRR might have sold it off to some authority for passenger train use.
I don't think the PRR would have made it on its own given the management that it had at the time and the feeling that they had for the railroad. They had a modern physical plant by 1930 or maybe 1940 standards but the New York Central had a modern physical plant based on 1968 standards.
This is a difficult one to focus on because it happened and it happened way too long ago to focus back on now as to what might have been.
Noel Weaver

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Kilgore Trout
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by Kilgore Trout » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:47 am

I think a better way to look at it is this - the failure of PC is what sparked the creation of Amtrak, USRA, Conrail, and more indirectly the Staggers Act. Yes, the NYC and PRR were almost certainly both on their way to bankruptcy independently (the NH was already there, of course), but it was the failure of the merged companies that really solidified the idea that serious intervention was necessary. Would Amtrak have happened even without a PC bankruptcy? Maybe. But it was that very bankruptcy that made everyone sit up and take notice.

Had the merger not occurred, the NYC probably could have held on long enough to figure out a long-term survival plan, and if it was allowed to get rid of its unprofitable services I think that would have made its survival almost certain. But that only was allowed in 1980, and was one of the last items in a long series of events that was set off by the Penn Central failure. So it's hard to talk about what may have been if you remove the primary catalyst!

(Note: I was not present for Penn Central, having been born after they got rid of their rail assets, so the above post is based purely on my reading of the historical record.)
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Re: What If The PC Merger Had Been Called Off?

Post by gawlikfj » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:48 pm

Thank you all for so many good points of view . The only thing that really bothers me is :Why after the Poukeepsie Bridge fire and the L&HR offered to rebuild the bridge with their own money & equipment didn't the PC let them ?
Would it have helped in any way to keep the Maybrook line open for passenger or any freight ops that were left ?

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