Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

For many years, railroads – especially the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) – literally moved the nation. Affectionately called the Pennsy, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was not the first railroad in the United States, but it grew to become the largest and most powerful in the world. In its heyday, the company employed more than one hundred and sixty thousand workers in the Keystone State alone! In its peak years, its rolling stock included nearly seven thousand locomotives.

The Pennsy billed itself as “The Standard Railroad of the World” and took great pride in building its own locomotives at its expansive Juniata Locomotive Shops in Altoona, Blair County, which at one time employed seventeen thousand workers, who designed, built, and tested thousands of locomotives. The Pennsy also relied heavily upon the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, founded in 1831 by watchmaker Matthias W. Baldwin (1795-1866), to build what generations of railroaders and their families knew as “iron horses.”

For the Pennsy, the Baldwin Locomotive Works manufactured steam engine number 2846 (foreground) in November 1905. Acquired by the railroad for heavy freight service, the locomotive, of the 2-8-0 class, identified as an H6sb, was known as the “Consolida­tion” type. Of all the locomotive types employed by the PRR through the years, the most common by far was the 2-8-0 Class, which totaled near five thousand steam engines.

Locomotive number 3750 is one of only two surviving examples of four hundred and twenty-five steam engines constructed for the PRR, most at its Altoona shops, between 1914 and 1928. Built in March 1920 for passenger service, the locomotive, a 4-6-2 of the class K4, was known as the “Pacific” type. It weighed more than a half-million tons. In operation until 1957, the year the rail­road ceased using steam, number 3750 has been restored by volunteers of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, in Strasburg, Lancaster County.

The K4 has been designated the official steam locomotive of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The classic locomotive was depicted in a famous painting by renowned railroad artist Grif Teller (1899-1993), When the Broad Way Meets the Dawn (1928). Teller’s paintings of trains appeared on calendars issued yearly by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. In December 1998, the Commonwealth unveiled its official railroad heritage license plate, which features a K4 locomotive pulling the eastbound Broadway Limited through the picturesque Juniata River Valley in central Pennsylvania. The original painting is now part of the permanent collection of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Both Pennsy engines are on exhibit in the museum’s enormous Rolling Stock Hall.

For more informa­tion, write: Railroad Museum of Pennsyl­vania, P.O. Box 15, Strasburg, PA 17579; telephone (717) 687- 8628; or visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsyl­vania website. There is an admission fee.