The Broad Way: PRR -- Corporate Structure

PRR -- Corporate Structure


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This is a long-term undertaking, a listing of the various railroads that came ultimately to make up the Pennsylvania Railroad. Additions and corrections are gratefully appreciated. Exact dates, where only a year or year and month are given herein, would be most helpful.


Burgess & Kennedy, Centennial History of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Railroad, 1949.
Kobus K, Consoli J, The Pennsy in the Steel City. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, 1996.

The Pennsylvania Railroad

Pennsylvania Central RR

Company proposed and debated in Pennsylvania legislature; amendment added withholding charter to B&O before 1847.06.30 if legislature passed a charter for a Harrisburg--Pittsburgh RR by that date and 30 or more miles of railroad were put under contract by the same date. So far as I can tell, a RR under this name was never chartered; rather, these terms later applied to the Pennsylvania Rail Road Co. [vide infra].

Pennsylvania Rail Road Co.

Chartered 1823.03.31 at behest of Col. John Stevens.
Charter revoked 1826.04.07, no line built.

Columbia, Lancaster & Philadelphia Rail Road Co.

Chartered 1826.04.07.
Built along Vine St. from Broad, thence up Pennsylvania Ave., which might explain why these streets are so wide today.
1840.03.04 Expanded: 6.5 miles at Columbia end, eliminating plane
1850.10.15 Expanded: 7.5 miles, Ardmore--West Philadelphia, terminating at Market St. bridge.

Main Line of Public Works

Allegheny Portage Railroad

Chartered __ , opened 1834.03.18
Hollidaysburg -- Johnstown (36.69 mi.)
Built 1st (?) railroad tunnel in U.S., 901 ft. long, ~4 mi. from Johnstown.
Line used by PRR fall 1850 -- 1854.02.15 when PRR line over mountain was completed.
Sold to PRR in 1857 and promptly abandoned. PRR thus gained previously unowned Harrisburg -- Philadelphia trackage as well as relief from tonnage tax (not until 1861) designed to prevent diversion of traffic from the Main Line.
1903 RoW resurrected Hollidaysburg -- Gallitzin to relieve mainline bottleneck.
Tracks abandoned by Conrail; (new) US-22 fill now covers part of RoW.

Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mountjoy [?Mount Joy] & Lancaster Rail-Road Co.

Rechartered 1833.__.__ from P&L RR Co.
to extend line to Harrisburg.
1835 start of contruction
1838 in service.
Tunnel 850 ft. near Elizabethtown, eliminated not long after.

Portsmouth & Lancaster Rail-Road Co.

Chartered 1832.06.09
Portsmouth (now Middletown) -- Lancaster

Pennsylvania Rail Road Co.

  • Chartered 1846.04.13 to build from connection with HPMtJ&L to or near Pittsburgh or elsewhere in Allegheny County. Also authorized to build a branch to Erie Pa. and branches in counties through which the PRR main line passed.
  • Letters patent issued 1847.02.25.
  • J.[ohn] Edgar Thomson elected Chief Engineer 1847.04.09.
  • 1847.07 Contracts let for 15 miles of track on each end. Meeting the necessary conditions, the B&O charter was declared null and void, forcing the latter to terminate in Wheeling Va..
  • 1850 Connected to Portage Railroad in Hollidaysburg.
  • 1851 Pittsburgh-end work recommenced, to Brington (on Turtle Creek).
  • 1852.12 Opened to Big Viaduct (E of Johnstown; connection with Portage RR).
  • 1854.02.15 Mountain Division, Harrisburg to Johnstown, opened, bypassing inclined planes.
  • 1854 First Union Sta. in Pittsburgh (with PFtW&C ?).
  • 1855.11.01 Main line declared complete (with 136 miles, of 245, double-tracked).

Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne, & Chicago Rwy.

Later, Pennsylvania Lines West; Later, Eastern Div. PRR

Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, & St. Louis Rwy.

Later, Pennsylvania Lines West; Later, Panhandle Division PRR

Pittsburgh & Steubenville RR

Chartiers Valley RR

Pittsburgh, Virginia & Charleston Rwy.

Later, Monongahela Division PRR; Later, Monongahela Branch

Western Pennsylvania RR ("West Penn")

Later part of the Conemaugh Div.

Allegheny Valley Rwy.

Later part of the Conemaugh Div.

Populations of cities mentioned in the Centennial History

City 1830s 1840s
Lancaster 8,000 (34)
Harrisburg 5,000 (34)

Significant dates in the histories of other area railroads and canals:

Braddock Road

National Road

reaches Wheeling, Virginia

Erie Canal

ground broken
completed to "Great Lakes" (?Ontario, ?Erie)

Baltimore & Ohio

first stone laid (by Thomas Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence)
charter obtained in Pennsylvania allowing B&O to build to the Ohio, provided completion by 1843.02.27; later extended to 1847.02.07.
opened to Ellicott's Mills
opened to Frederick
opened to Harper's Ferry
opened to Cumberland

Main Line of Public Works

survey performed
final plan approved

Mark D. Bej, M.D.