Branch Line Empires
153 pages
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153 pages
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Description

The Pennsylvania and the New York Central railroads helped to develop central Pennsylvania as the largest source of bituminous coal for the nation. By the late 19th century, the two lines were among America's largest businesses and would soon become legendary archrivals. The PRR first arrived in the 1860s. Within a few years, it was sourcing as much as four million tons of coal annually from Centre County and the Moshannon Valley and would continue do so for a quarter-century. The New York Central, through its Beech Creek Railroad affiliate, invaded the region in the 1880s, first seeking a dependable, long-term source of coal to fuel its locomotives but soon aggressively attempting to break its rival's lock on transporting the area's immense wealth of mineral and forest products.

Beginning around 1900, the two companies transitioned from an era of growth and competition to a time when each tacitly recognized the other's domain and sought to achieve maximum operating efficiencies by adopting new technology such as air brakes, automatic couplers, all-steel cars, and diesel locomotives. Over the next few decades, each line began to face common problems in the form of competition from other forms of transportation and government regulation; in 1968 the two businesses merged.

Branch Line Empires offers a thorough and captivating analysis of how a changing world turned competition into cooperation between two railroad industry titans.


Preface
Acknowledgments
1. Switchbacks and Rattlesnakes: The Bellefonte and Snow Shoe Railroad
2. Moshannon's Black Gold: The Tyrone and Clearfield Railroad
3. The PRR Tightens Its Grip: The Bald Eagle Valley Railroad
4. Forever Divided: The Lewisburg and Tyrone Railroad
5. Uniting the Branch Lines: The PRR's Tyrone Division
6. Breaking the Monopoly: Beech Creek Railroad/New York Central
7. Nittany Valley Short Lines: Bellefonte Central Railroad/Central Railroad of Pennsylvania/Nittany Valley Railroad
8. Railroads at High Tide
9. The Tide Recedes: Passenger Service
10. The Pennsylvania and the New York Central on the Plateau, 1918-1968
11. Railroading in the Valleys, 1918-1968
12. Empires Dismantled: Penn Central and Beyond
Index

Sujets

Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 06 novembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253029911
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 3 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Extrait

BRANCH LINE EMPIRES
RAILROADS PAST AND PRESENT
George M. Smerk and H. Roger Grant, editors
BRANCH LINE EMPIRES
The Pennsylvania
and the
New York Central Railroads
MICHAEL BEZILLA
with Luther Gette
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
iupress.indiana.edu
2017 by Michael Bezilla
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z 39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Bezilla, Michael, author.
Title: Branch line empires : the Pennsylvania and the New York Central railroads / Michael Bezilla.
Other titles: Railroads past and present.
Description: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, [2017] |
Series: Railroads past and present | Includes index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017035674 (print) | LCCN 2017001784 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253029584 (cl : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253029911 (eb)
Subjects: LCSH : Pennsylvania Railroad-History. | New York Central Railroad Company-History. | Railroads, Local and light-Pennsylvania-History. | Railroads-Pennsylvania-History.
Classification: LCC TF 25.P4 B49 2017 (ebook) | LCC TF 25.P4 (print) | DDC 385.06/5748-dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017035674
1 2 3 4 5 22 21 20 19 18 17
In memory of
JEFFREY L. FELDMEIER (1965-2016),
whose knowledge of the Beech Creek Railroad and its territory was unsurpassed .
Contents
Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Switchbacks and Rattlesnakes: The Bellefonte and Snow Shoe Railroad
2 Moshannon s Black Gold: The Tyrone and Clearfield Railroad
3 The PRR Tightens Its Grip: The Bald Eagle Valley Railroad
4 Forever Divided: The Lewisburg and Tyrone Railroad
5 Uniting the Branch Lines: The PRR s Tyrone Division
6 Breaking the Monopoly: Beech Creek Railroad/New York Central
7 Nittany Valley Short Lines: Bellefonte Central Railroad/Central Railroad of Pennsylvania/Nittany Valley Railroad
8 Railroads at High Tide
9 The Tide Recedes: Passenger Service
10 The Pennsylvania and the New York Central on the Plateau, 1918-68
11 Railroading in the Valleys, 1918-68
12 Empires Dismantled: Penn Central and Beyond
Maps
Index
Preface
PHILIPSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, NOVEMBER 20, 1884. CORNELIUS Vanderbilt II, chairman of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad and one of America s wealthiest men, arrives by special train in this community of some 1,800 residents high on the Allegheny Plateau. Accompanying him on this overcast, unseasonably cold afternoon are his brother William K. Vanderbilt and a host of coal company investors and local dignitaries. They have traveled over the newly constructed Beech Creek, Clearfield and South Western Railroad-a carrier within the New York Central s orbit-from the town of Jersey Shore, 74 miles to the east.
They intend to inspect a site proposed for the Beech Creek s station, to be built in a flat, treeless area called Beaver Meadow, off Presque Isle Street just across the Moshannon Creek from the downtown. The new station, with a supporting roundhouse nearby, represents the spearhead of the NYC s attempt to break the monopoly that the Pennsylvania Railroad has enjoyed in the coal-rich Moshannon Valley for more than twenty years. The monopoly fills the PRR s gondolas with nearly 4 million tons of coal annually and is the largest single source of bituminous riches in the railroad s eleven-state system. Many of the valley s coal operators, merchants, and mill owners see in the coming of the New York Central deliverance from what they regard as unwanted by-products of the monopoly: unreasonably high freight rates and poor car service.
The Vanderbilts train is unable to reach the Meadow because the Pennsylvania has obtained a court order that prohibits the Beech Creek from crossing the PRR s existing Tyrone and Clearfield Branch at grade. The Pennsylvania has insisted publicly that such a crossing would be unsafe, but there is speculation that the injunction is intended primarily to slow the advance of archrival New York Central. So the special must halt in the swamps north of town, a half-mile short of the proposed Beech Creek station. The tycoons continue their journey toward Philipsburg aboard carriages provided by local citizens. They go first to the Meadow, then to the Potter House at Front and Presque Isle Streets, where the chill of the day is replaced by a warm welcome from the town s dignitaries and capped by a sumptuous dinner.
By midnight, the Vanderbilts and their associates are on their way back to Jersey Shore, delighted with their enthusiastic reception and confident in their decision to confront the Philadelphia-based PRR in the heart of that road s own territory. The next day, the Philipsburg Journal reports ecstatically on the visit. The days of grinding, unjust railroad monopolies are past in this section of the country, the editor proclaims. The crown has been torn from the brow of the tyrant and placed on the head of one who would see justice done to our people.
That bit of theater on a long-ago autumnal day symbolized the beginning of earnest competition between the Pennsylvania and the New York Central railroads for the lucrative coal traffic of central Pennsylvania. It was the first time the two companies battled on a grand scale for the coal trade anywhere. In fact, it was the first time the two carriers went head to head to capture a variety of natural resources-not only coal, but clay, timber, limestone, and even iron ore, all of which were essential to powering America s industrialization. Those resources could be found to varying degrees along the Moshannon Creek, which forms the boundary between Clearfield and Centre Counties high on the Allegheny Plateau, and in the valleys of Centre County to the southeast. There were few if any other locations where the PRR and NYC competed so intensely with one another for such a broad array of nature s bounty.
Within this territory, roughly 40 miles square, the two corporate giants sometimes slugged it out head to head. Philipsburg was ground zero for that kind of rough-and-tumble sparring. At other times, they battled by proxy, positioning short lines as pawns. The New York Central, for example, used the tiny Altoona and Philipsburg Connecting Railroad as a stalking horse for developing coal traffic in the Moshannon Valley s upper reaches, beyond Philipsburg. Elsewhere in Centre County, where fertile valleys and forested ridges contrasted with the harsh terrain on the plateau, other short line railroads carried the NYC s flag. There were no coal deposits off the plateau. The primary trade in the Nittany Valley, which encompassed the county seat of Bellefonte, was in limestone, lime, and iron ore; and the Pennsylvania was the exclusive carrier of those resources to distant markets. Nittany Valley residents professed the same eagerness as their Philipsburg brethren for a competing railroad. After the PRR foiled an attempt by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad to penetrate the valley in the 1880s, the newly formed Central Railroad of Pennsylvania linked Bellefonte with the Beech Creek Railroad in 1893. The CRR and its tiny affiliate, the Nittany Valley Railroad, were creations of Vanderbilt allies. Another short line, the Bellefonte Central, interchanged with both the Pennsylvania and the Central Railroad but tried to steer an independent course.
The PRR owed its dominance to the fact that it was first on the scene in central Pennsylvania. The PRR s acquisition in the 1860s of such fledgling railroads as the Lewisburg, Centre and Spruce Creek, the Tyrone and Clearfield, and the Bald Eagle Valley rescued those lines from oblivion at a time when local investors were unable to bring them to fruition. Whether they resided in Bellefonte or Philipsburg, Philadelphia or New York, investors realized that only rail transport could give economic worth to central Pennsylvania s natural resources. Railroads offered the only practical, low-cost way to ship raw materials to the far-away markets that demanded them. Roads were primitive; and while a system of canals was attempted, it proved unequal to the task. Without railroads, the minerals and the forests that were so abundant in the region had little value. At no other place and no other time was Ralph Waldo Emerson s famous declaration more applicable: Railroad iron is a magician s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water. 1
The competition between the PRR and the NYC in this small patch of central Pennsylvania during the late nineteenth century evolved into coexistence by the early twentieth century. The two lines worked side by side-sometimes literally-to exploit coalfields, clay beds, and forests. Still later, coexistence was transformed into cooperation as the two railroads confronted such common foes as stifling government regulation and competition from trucks and automobiles. Rivalry between the two roads was not entirely absent in the twentieth century, however. As late as 1932, the PRR was maneuvering to neutralize a threat from a possible NYC incursion via the Bellefonte Central Railroad in

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