Electric Traction on the Pennsylvania Railroad, 1895-1968

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Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980 - History - 233 pages

The first comprehensive case study of railroad electrification in the United States, this pioneering book highlights a subject of current government and industry studies and a target of billions of dollars of Amtrak rehabilitation funds. Both energy conservation and environmental quality remain at stake together with transportation efficiency.

Electric traction on the Pennsylvania Railroad was a technological success handicapped by an economic factor: the onetime relatively low cost of petroleum, which gave diesel locomotives and highway vehicles a temporary advantage. Today the growing cost advantage of electricity--generated with coal; atomic energy; water, wind, and solar power--prefigures a revival of electric railroad traction.

Drawing upon previously untapped records of the PRR and its suppliers, notably General Electric, the author traces stages in cooperative risk management. First came challenges of limited scope which steam locomotives were unable to meet: the New York City tunnel extension of 1910 and the Philadelphia suburban modernization begun in 1913. Next came a decade of mainline electrification, 1928-38: first New York to Washington and then passenger and freight extensions to Harrisburg. These projects were preceded by large-scale research and experimentation, followed by constant improvement in equipment and operations. Electric traction is depicted as a program involving not only the railroad but also its consultants, equipment and energy suppliers, and (to a lesser degree) governmental bodies.

Locomotive and power transmission design is described in detail--with copious illustrations--as are the creative achievements of managers, engineers, and workers. And the presentation will be clear to readers without specialized technical or business backgrounds.

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About the author (1980)

Michael Bezilla, Historian of the Pennsylvania State University, has written extensively on his state's railroad history. He was a graduate fellow of the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute while completing his doctorate in the history of technology. Publication of this book has received support from the Association of American Railroads.

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