The Giant That Stumbled: Baldwin Locomotive Works Dominated Its Field for a Century, Then Vanished

How could a Philadelphia-based global giant with 20,000 employees and a history of 120 years of operation disappear, leaving little trace? It happened to the Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW), which perfected the art and science of building steam locomotives for domestic and worldwide markets. Baldwin was so dominant that in 1901, eight smaller builders that were scattered around the East banded...
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Gallantly Saving Railroad History: The Adventures of George M. Hart, Founding Director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Four months before his retirement in 1983 as founding director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, George Michener Hart (1919–2008) received high praise as the state’s premier railroad historian from the Smithsonian Institution’s curator of transportation, John H. White Jr. Addressed to Hart’s boss, Peter C. Welsh, director of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Bureau of...
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Marketing Patriotism: Pennsylvania Railroad Advertising During World War II

During World War II, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) spent lavishly on patriotic magazine advertising. No other railroad put so much effort, money or creative talent into a campaign to boost the war and create favorable public opinion for itself. As the single largest railroad in the United States, the Philadelphia-based “Pennsy” carried 10 percent of all freight in America and 20 percent of all...
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Editor’s Letter

This edition of Pennsylvania Heritage was produced mostly through teleworking, as all of us in the Keystone State — and the world — have been in the midst of what already has become one of the most momentous episodes in contemporary history. In the devastating weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, every realm of human existence has been profoundly affected. As we continue through the crisis, history...
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Pittsburgh’s Wood-Paved Roslyn Place

It’s not often that architectural historians look down — we usually leave that to the archaeologists — but on Roslyn Place, one of Pennsylvania’s newest National Register–listed historic districts, we turned our heads to the ground to consider something that is rare in America: a wood-paved street. Roughly 26,000 oak blocks make up the 250-foot-long cul-de-sac surrounded by 18 houses in...
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WWII Target: Altoona

The tale of the bold but fizzled 1942 Nazi plot to sabotage the Horseshoe Curve railroad landmark near Altoona, Pennsylvania, has been told in books and articles almost since the day the spy-thriller story began to unfold. First came a juvenile-fiction account in 1944 titled The Long Trains Roll by Stephen W. Meader. It recounts the story of Operation Pastorius, a wry allusion to the theme of...
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Terror and Extortion on the Pennsylvania Railroad

Threats of terrorism and challenges to security are nothing new for railroads; these phenomena have been around for nearly 200 years of railroading in the United States. Safety and security, therefore, have been of the utmost importance for railroad lines from the 19th century to the present, and railroad police have had authority equivalent to state police in many locations. Yet, the amount of...
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Editor’s Letter

With the recent premiere of Country Music, director Ken Burns has launched another epic PBS TV docuseries that amplifies the significance of an enduring American institution. In this issue’s cover story, “High on a Mountain,” we follow up with a look at Pennsylvania’s key role in the evolution of country music and the state’s later contributions to the genre. Author Joe Baker takes us on a...
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The Old Stone Arch Bridge over Jack’s Creek

The Old Stone Arch Bridge over Jack’s Creek in Derry Township, Mifflin County, captured in this c.1937 postcard, has been enhancing travelers’ journeys ever since 1813, when it was built as part of the first turnpike to connect Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Construction of this segment of the road began in Lewistown and was completed to Harrisburg in 1825. The single-span, semielliptical stone...
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Branch Line Empires by Michael Bezilla with Luther Gette

Branch Line Empires The Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroads by Michael Bezilla, with Luther Gette Indiana University Press, 370 pp., cloth $55, e-book $54.99 During my time as a student at Penn State, I saw plenty of railroad tracks in Centre and Clearfield counties. Many of them were weed-grown and disused. I thought, “Somebody built these, but why? And what happened?” Now author...
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