Pennsylvania Railroad Company Records, Series I: Secretary's Office

Collection ID: 
Record Group 630, 641, 642, 644
Collecting Area: 

RESTRICTION: Case files are closed to 25 years after the death of an employee. Case anonymity must be respected.


The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was the largest railroad in the United States in terms of corporate assets and traffic from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the decline of the northeast's and midwest's dominance of manufacturing, caused by the evolution of the interstate highway system and the advancements in air transportation. Originally created by Philadelphia merchants in 1846, it sought to build a trunk route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh via the Allegheny Mountains to compete for freight traffic that by-passed Pennsylvania for New York via the Erie Canal. From those humble beginnings, it stretched into an 11,000 mile system running through New York, Washington, Chicago, and Saint Louis before reaching its final destination in 1970 in bankruptcy court. In the ensuing years, the Penn Central Corporation's holdings (created by a 1968 merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads), along with a number of other bankrupt railroads in the northeast were split between the federally-created National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for passenger rail assets and the Consolidated Rail Corporation (ConRail) for freight traffic assets. The remaining local rail routes were divided between respective regional transportation authorities.

Due to the overwhelming amount of records (360,000 linear feet) created by the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads, a consortium of archival and manuscript libraries systematically appraised and distributed more than 9,000 linear feet of the historically significant corporate records to the member institution's repositories. This includes the Hagley Museum and Library, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Temple University's Urban Archives Center, Pennsylvania State University's Historical Collections and Labor Archives, the University of Michigan's Bentley Library, Harvard University's Baker Library, the New Jersey Division of Archives and Records Management, the Ohio Historical Society and the New York Public Library's Manuscript and Archives Division.

The records of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company housed at the Urban Archives Center consist of twelve major departments, predominately consisting of office files relating to its operations in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. In addition, the collection also contains the corporate records for a number of subsidiary and related companies, mostly based in the Philadelphia area. The only exception to this regional emphasis are the records of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company's Voluntary Relief Department, the Employees Provident and Loan Association, and the Pension Department.


This collection has been arranged into thirteen series:
  • I. Secretary's Office (1847-1966)
  • II. Legal Department (1884-1966)
  • III. Financial Department (1948-1964)
  • IV. Real Estate Department (1869-1953)
  • V. Insurance Department (1923)
  • VI. Operating Department (1914-1948)
  • VII. Passenger Department (1922-1962)
  • VIII. Personnel Department (1910-1956)
  • IX. Pension Department (1899-1958)
  • X. Pennsylvania Railroad Voluntary Relief Department (1886-1968)
  • XI. Pennsylvania Railroad Employees Provident and Loan Association (1923-1938)
  • XII. Mutual Beneficial Association of Pennsylvania Railroad Employees (1933-1936)
  • XIII. Subsidiary and Related Corporations (1863-1966)

Scope & Content Note

This series consists predominantly of published annual reports that can be found at many of the consortium member repositories. In addition, this series includes acts of assembly (1881), by.laws (1893-1922), ordinances (1854-1893), photographs of the 32nd Street office building, and 2 volumes of floor plans of Broad Street Station.

This collection was appraised under the Penn Central Railroad Appraisal Project with funds provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. It was processed with funds provided by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Deposited by the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) and the Penn Central Corporation as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Records Project, Acc. 630, March 1987; Acc. 641, February 1987; Acc. 642, March 1987; Acc. 644, April 1987.

Box 1
Annual Reports

Box 2

Box 3

Box 4
1938, 1940-1942

Box 5
By-Laws and Organizational materials
Acts of Assembly, 1881
By-Laws and Organization,
1893, 1897, 1899, 1904
By-Laws and Organization,
1906, 1918, 1922
Ordinances and Resolutions, 1854-1893
Photographs-Office Building, North 32nd St., 1927

Box 6
Broad Street Station Floor Plans, 1896-1904

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