Pennsylvania Railroad

The Pennsylvania Railroad (AAR reporting mark: PRR) was an American railroad that existed between 1846 and 1968, when it merged with the New York Central Railroad, its longtime rival, and the smaller New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad to form the Penn Central Railroad. Commonly referred to as the Pennsy, the company was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The PRR was the largest railroad in terms of traffic and revenue in the United States during the first two-thirds of the 20th century and for a long while was the largest publically traded corporation in the world. The corporation still holds the record for the longest continual dividend history, over 100 years of never missing an annual shareholder payment.

Table of contents
1 Standard Railroad of the World
2 PRR Keystone
3 PRR Equipment Colors and Painting
4 Steam Locomotives
5 See Also
6 References

Standard Railroad of the World

For a long time the PRR called itself the Standard Railroad of the World, by which it meant that it was the standard to which all other railroads aspired, the "gold standard". For a long time that was literally true; the railroad had an impressive lists of firsts, greatests, biggests and longests. The PRR was the first railroad to rid itself of wooden-bodied passenger cars in favor of the much safer steel-bodied cars. It led the way in many safety and efficiency improvements over the years. This advantage lessened as the years progressed, and the PRR eventually abandoned the use of the phrase.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was standard in another way, too - it was an early proponent of standardization. While other railroads used whatever was to hand or available, the Pennsylvania tested and experimented with solutions until they could decide on one, and then made it standard across the whole company. Other railroads bought locomotives and railroad cars in small lots, taking whatever was available from manufacturers at the time. The PRR produced huge numbers of standardised designs. This gave the railroad a feel of uniformity and greatly reduced costs. The PRR was also an early adopter of standard liveries and color schemes.

PRR Keystone

The PRR adopted the keystone as its symbol (Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State), and this was normally depicted outlined in silver-grey with silver-grey overlapping P R R in the middle. The inside was filled in with toluidine red ('Coke red'). PRR passenger steam locomotives bore a cast Keystone containing their number instead of the PRR lettering on their smokebox fronts; some freight locomotives also bore this (mostly later/larger types) while others bore a round cast numberplate there. Diesel and electric locomotives bore a Keystone logo on their sides. When the livery scheme for passenger locomotives changed from five pinstripes to a thick single stripe, the size of the side keystone increased also. The keystone also began to be given a black dropshadow.

This 'Shadow Keystone' also appeared on freight cars from the 1950s onward.

PRR Equipment Colors and Painting

Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives were uniformly painted in a color commonly called Brunswick Green but known to the railroad as Dark Green Locomotive Enamel (DGLE, or DGLC for -Color.) This was an effectively black paint that contained a high proportion of copper oxides. These gave it a very slight greenish tinge that became more pronounced over time and with wear as the paint further oxidised. DGLE is often described as being indistinguishable from black when fresh unless next to a pure black paint (as used on the underframes of PRR locomotives beneath the running boards).

PRR steam locomotives bore PENNSYLVANIA on their tenders and their numbers on the cab sides; diesel and electric locomotives had PENNSYLVANIA centrally and numbers closer to the ends. The font for the railroad's name was traditionally Craw Clarendon but there was a brief flirtation with Futura in the 1930s advocated by the PRR's favorite designer Raymond Loewy. Freight locomotives were lettered in Buff (a light yellow) but passenger locomotives were lettered in true gold leaf; this practice ceased in the late 1940s and thenceforth all locomotives were lettered in Buff.

Raymond Loewy suggested the use of five pin-stripes down the middle of the PRR's new GG1 electric locomotives, tapering down at each end, to improve its appearance; these pinstripes were initially gold leaf to match the lettering, but changed to Buff when the lettering did. These pinstripes were also worn by passenger diesel locomotives. Many freight diesel and electric locomotives wore a single, somewhat thicker stripe in the same place. Later on, a single even thicker stripe replaced the five pinstripes for easier painting; this was accompanied by much larger PENNSYLVANIA lettering.

Passenger cars were almost without exception painted in Tuscan, a brick-red shade, with gold leaf or later Buff lettering and striping. A number of other railroads used this shade or similar.

In the 1950s the PRR experimented with painting a few of its GG1 electric locomotives in Tuscan to match the passenger cars. Most GG1s continued in DGLE, but the PRR did adopt this livery for passenger diesel locomotives; most were soon repainted in Tuscan. These locomotives also bore five Buff stripes and followed the same history of being repainted with single broader stripes and bigger lettering/keystones.

A very few passenger cars were left in natural stainless-steel; the PRR otherwise painted its stainless-steel cars unlike most railroads.

Freight cars were painted in 'Freight Car Color' (FCC), an oxide red. This was historically a brighter red than that used by most American railroads although it became a more standard shade from the 1950s. They bore an underlined 'PENNSYLVANIA' until the 1950s; from that point they bore a large Keystone herald also.

PRR work equipment was painted battleship grey until the 1950s when a bright yellow replaced it. Wreck derricks were painted black, however.

Towers (signalboxes) were generally painted a light grey, as were most other buildings.

Steam Locomotives

For most of its existence, the PRR pursued a motive power policy of conservatism and standardisation. Almost uniquely among American railroads, the Pennsylvania designed most of its steam locomotive classes itself and built a fair proportion of them in its own Altoona Works - in fact, the PRR is believed to have been the 4th greatest builder of steam locomotives in the United States, after the three largest commercial builders.

Outside builders were, of course, used - the sheer numbers of locomotives the PRR ordered were far greater than its own works could produce. Unlike most roads who left the majority of the decision-making and design to the locomotive builder, giving only a broad specification, the PRR generally used a commercial builder as a subcontractor, building exact replicas of an existing PRR design.

When it needed to use a commercial locomotive builder, the Pennsy favored Philadelphia's Baldwin Locomotive Works over all others. Baldwin was a big PRR customer, for one thing -- its raw materials were delivered by the PRR, and its finished products were shipped over PRR metals also. That the two companies were headquartered in the same city certainly had a bearing - PRR and Baldwin management and engineers knew each other well. The second preference, when both the PRR and Baldwin shops were at capacity, was the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. Only at a last resort, it seems, would the PRR use Alco, the American Locomotive Company, based in Schenectady, New York - serviced by and favorite locomotive supplier to the Pennsy's arch rival, the New York Central Railroad.

The PRR had a definite style that it favored in its locomotives. The square-shouldered Belpaire firebox was a PRR trademark that otherwise found little favor in the United States; almost every PRR locomotive had it. It traded more difficult construction for a greater heating surface and simpler firebox staying. The PRR used track pans extensively to pick up water on the move, so the tenderss of their locomotives had a comparitively large proportion of coal (which could not be taken on board while running) compared to water capacity. The PRR was wary of gadgets and its locomotives were not generally festooned with devices; the PRR also favored a neat mounting of such devices when necessary, leaving the lines of the locomotive comparitively clean. Smokebox fronts bore a round locomotive numberboard (freight) or keystone numberboard (passenger) and were otherwise uncluttered except for a headlamp mounted at the top, with a steam-driven turbo-generator behind it. In later years the positions of the two were reversed, since the generator needs more maintenance than the lamp.

The PRR, until its final years, preferred a philosophy of smaller locomotives rather than buying the biggest.

See Also


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