Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Philadelphia | Lecture Friday, February 17th

Susquehanna River Bridge, Perryville, Maryland. Images like this provide the visual clues of the evolution of the PRR network; the surviving piers of the 1866 Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna stands adjacent to its replacement completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906. Learn how I draw inspiration from historical imagery to create contemporary images that explore the surviving infrastructure of the PRR while considering its impact on the surrounding landscape. 

Susquehanna River Bridge, Perryville, Maryland. Images like this provide the visual clues of the evolution of the PRR network; the surviving piers of the 1866 Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna stands adjacent to its replacement completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906. Learn how I draw inspiration from historical imagery to create contemporary images that explore the surviving infrastructure of the PRR while considering its impact on the surrounding landscape. 

Please join me Friday, February 17th at the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society's monthly meeting conveniently located on Drexel University's main campus. I will be presenting a lecture on my ongoing photographic project, From the Mainline: A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The project explores the Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the most celebrated corporations in American history, operating the largest railroad in the United States for over 120 years. The PRR, as it was known, developed a unique high-capacity network that still carries trains throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. After the merger of the PRR with long-time rival New York Central in 1968, the network has changed considerably, separated by various successors into distinct corridors for both freight and passenger operations. What remains provides the visual clues of the PRR's monumental infrastructure and its contributions to developing the American way of life.

Inspired by the work of William H. Rau, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Road in the 1890’s to document the railroad and its destinations, "From the Mainline" is an exploration of the landscape along the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Examining both the inhabited landscape developed along the line while celebrating the grace of an engineering marvel undertaken over 150 years ago. Through a two-fold approach, photographs look at the context of the railroad in the landscape and also work to emulate the viewpoint of what the passenger might experience from a railcar window. The story of how this railroad influenced the development of United States is told by illustrating the transitioning landscape, uncovering the layers of growth, decline and rebirth of small towns, industrial areas and city terminals that were once served by this historic transportation system.

The lecture is Friday, February 17th, 2017, part of the NRHS Philadelphia Chapter’s monthly meeting. The program is free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 PM in 121 Randell Hall (accessed though the Main Building), Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. Drexel University's campus is centrally located near 30th Street Station and is easily accessible by bus, rapid transit and regional rail. For more information please contact me directly at Michael@michaelfroio.com. 

Winter News & Events

Northbound waiting room, Pennsylvania Station, Wilmington, Delaware. This remarkable space is part of the 1907 Frank Furness station in the city of Wilmington and is one of two new images included in the Professional Artist members Exhibition. 

Northbound waiting room, Pennsylvania Station, Wilmington, Delaware. This remarkable space is part of the 1907 Frank Furness station in the city of Wilmington and is one of two new images included in the Professional Artist members Exhibition. 

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST MEMBERS EXHIBITION 2017

Opening Reception Tonight: Friday, January 13th, 2016. 5:30 - 7:30 PM

I have two new prints from the Mainline project included in the 2017 Professional Artists Network Exhibition at the Mainline Art Center. The group exhibition features the work of roughly 50 artists and runs from January 13 – February 11, 2017. Gallery Hours are Monday – Thursday: 10 am to 8 pm and Friday – Sunday: 10 am-4 pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Mainline Art Center | 746 Panmure Road in Haverford PA


Mainline Art Center | 2017 Meyer Family Award for Contemporary Art Finalist
For the second year in a row The Mainline Art Center of Haverford, Pennsylvania selected the Mainline project as one of seven finalists for the 2017 Meyer Family Award for Contemporary Art. The competition featured over 200 applicants, awarding three solo shows to artists representing a diverse base of mediums while honoring an additional seven finalists with Professional Artist programming throughout 2017. For more information on programs and exhibitions at the Mainline Art Center visit their website


Some new work for the Mainline Project was recently included in Alexander Benjamin Craghead's article for Railroad Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. Image credits, clockwise from the top left; John Sanderson, Stuart Klipper, John Sanderson and Travis Dewitz. Reproduction courtesy of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Some new work for the Mainline Project was recently included in Alexander Benjamin Craghead's article for Railroad Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art. Image credits, clockwise from the top left; John Sanderson, Stuart Klipper, John Sanderson and Travis Dewitz. Reproduction courtesy of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

The [Rail]Road Belongs in the Landscape | J.B. Jackson and the Photographic Depiction of American Railroads

I am honored to be part of a fantastic article written by Alexander Benjamin Craghead for the Center for Railroad Photography and Art's quarterly journal Railroad Heritage. The article delves into the writings and lectures of landscape studies scholar John Brinckerhoff Jackson, exploring how his work has influenced several generations of noted photographers who's imagery focuses on the railroad landscape. It is a privilege to be featured among several accomplished photographers and peers including Edward Burtynsky, Jeff Brouws, Travis Dewitz and John Sanderson in a thoughtful piece that celebrates work about the railroad but not implicitly the trains themselves. The Center has taken significant initiatives to expand the horizons of both rail enthusiasts, historians and photographers alike while broadening the reach of this genre beyond the average audience. Craghead teaches American Cultural Landscapes at the University of California, Berkeley, a class started by J. B. Jackson many years ago. He'll be presenting more on the subject of Jackson and railroad photography at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art's annual Conference in Lake Forest, IL at the end of April. 


Upcoming Lecture | Philadelphia Chapter, National Railway Historical Society

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I’ll be presenting a lecture on my ongoing photographic project, From the Mainline: A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad for the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Inspired by the work of photographer William H. Rau, who was commissioned in the 1890’s to document the PRR and its destinations, the project explores the transitioning landscape along the former PRR mainline from New York to Pittsburgh, highlighting the unique vernacular of facilities and infrastructure built by the PRR. This project combines historical research and original imagery to present a creative documentation of one of the most important railroads in American history.

The NRHS was founded in 1935 by a group of rail historians. It has since grown from 40 founding members to include over 13,000 men and women of all ages and professions in every state and many foreign countries, making it the nation’s largest rail preservation and historical society. The Philadelphia Chapter, established in 1936 is one of the founding chapters and has been instrumental in preserving the local railway scene. The lecture, on Friday, February 17th, 2017, is part of the Philadelphia Chapter’s monthly meeting. The program is free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 PM in 121 Randell Hall, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. More information to follow as the date approaches. 

Lunch & Learn Lecture | Perkins Center for the Arts

View of the Pennsauken area landscape from the historic Delair Bridge, a vital rail link between Southern New Jersey and the national rail network. Understanding the history of the landscape plays a significant role in much of my work, the Lunch and Learn lecture will provide insight into my creative process and how I integrate these themes into my work

View of the Pennsauken area landscape from the historic Delair Bridge, a vital rail link between Southern New Jersey and the national rail network. Understanding the history of the landscape plays a significant role in much of my work, the Lunch and Learn lecture will provide insight into my creative process and how I integrate these themes into my work

Much of my work has drawn inspiration from the history of the local landscape and the influence the industrial age had in the Northeastern region. Please join me next week at the Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown, NJ for an informal talk about my projects and how social and industrial history inspires and informs my work, including the Relic and Watershed series as well as my ongoing project From the Mainline, a contemporary survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The event is January 5th from 12:30-1:30 in the historic home of the Perkins family on Evergreen Lawn in Moorestown, New Jersey. Lunch & Learn features culturally focused lectures, demonstrations, performances, and more. The series is designed to connect with and introduce opportunities to working and retired adults with interest in learning more about the cultural connections, creators and opportunities existing in South Jersey. Admission is free and attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch to the event.

Lunch & Learn: Photographs & History
January 5th, 2017 12:30-1:30PM

Perkins Center for the Arts – Moorestown
395 Kings Highway
Moorestown, NJ 08057 United States
856-235-6488

Of Railroads and Holidays

The 1932 painting "On Time!" by Griff Teller was part of a series of paintings commissioned for the PRR's annual calendar. Reproduced countless times author Dan Cupper wrote in the book "Crossroads of Commerce" that Teller's celebrated painting, "stirs a longing for - and makes a powerful statement about - railroading that melts boundaries of time and geography." This painting was an image used time and time again to illustrate the ability of the Pennsylvania, particularly in the Holiday season. Grif Teller reproduction collection of the Author

The 1932 painting "On Time!" by Griff Teller was part of a series of paintings commissioned for the PRR's annual calendar. Reproduced countless times author Dan Cupper wrote in the book "Crossroads of Commerce" that Teller's celebrated painting, "stirs a longing for - and makes a powerful statement about - railroading that melts boundaries of time and geography." This painting was an image used time and time again to illustrate the ability of the Pennsylvania, particularly in the Holiday season. Grif Teller reproduction collection of the Author

1948 holiday advertisement for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

1948 holiday advertisement for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

For many the railroads have long been associated with the holiday season. The notion of the long journey home to see loved ones or the family tradition of setting up the model trains from generations ago under the tree seems universal. TV and Cinema have celebrated the train countless times during the holiday season, like when Ralphie, his brother, and friends marveled over the window display of Lionel trains in the cult classic, A Christmas Story. Or when the Hollywood production based on Chris Van Allsburg's 1985 book, The Polar Express has the Pere Marquette 1225 take a central role in making the journey to the North Pole.

For over fifty years trains were just as essential to the holiday as the Christmas tree itself. Railroads prided themselves on the herculean effort of moving passengers, mail, and packages to ensure everyone and everything arrived on time for Christmas. Seasonal ads illustrated a concerted effort between Santa Claus and the transportation networks while traveling children slept snug in the berths on the latest streamlined train. Toy trains have been part of the American experience since the turn of the century. Lionel became the gold standard, leading the pack in producing electric powered trains for well over 60 years but some also took preference to the American Flyer and smaller competitors when constructing a holiday layout.

Today trains still play an integral part of the holiday season; at home, families continue the model railroad tradition started generations ago.  On the rails, our mail and packages don't specifically travel in railcars, but the trucks they get loaded into and containers they are shipped by are neatly stacked on the decks of flatcars making up one land ship after another of merchandise, parcels, and gifts heading for a coveted spot under the tree. Like the golden years of the railroads, armies of men and women work around the clock to keep the trains rolling; on the ground, in the cab and remote dispatching centers, often missing time with their loved ones to ensure the trains get through.
 

An eastbound container train descends the Allegheny mountains approaching the famed Horse Shoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. The contemporary railroad still plays a vital role in transporting the goods to stores and packages to homes around the country. Container ship lines as well as UPS, Fed Ex and trucking companies J.B. Hunt among others rely heavily on the use of the railroad to ensure merchandise makes it to the stores and packages get delivered in time for a spot under the Christmas Tree.

An eastbound container train descends the Allegheny mountains approaching the famed Horse Shoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. The contemporary railroad still plays a vital role in transporting the goods to stores and packages to homes around the country. Container ship lines as well as UPS, Fed Ex and trucking companies J.B. Hunt among others rely heavily on the use of the railroad to ensure merchandise makes it to the stores and packages get delivered in time for a spot under the Christmas Tree.

Whatever place the railroad has in your holiday season, share it with future generations. Consider expanding upon the trains handed down from family or start a new tradition of visiting a local model railroad, or perhaps take the kids or grandkids for a ride on a holiday themed excursion. While the train has been central to the holidays for many years, today it serves a different role, a diversion from the fast paced electronic lifestyles we indulge in day after day. An excuse to slow down and celebrate family time and traditions over generations. May you all have some time to rest and relax during the holiday season celebrating friends and loved ones!

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may you all have a safe and healthy New Year!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

 

Managing the Line: Communications on the A&S

This 1906 view shows the wood frame tower at Quarryville (Milepost 10.8), the first interlocking tower west of Parkesburg. "Q" had control over the two main tracks and four additional sidings to manage helper movements assisting trains to Mars Hill Summit. Additionally four water columns were available to top off steam locomotive tenders on their journey east or west. Image collection of William L. Seigford

This 1906 view shows the wood frame tower at Quarryville (Milepost 10.8), the first interlocking tower west of Parkesburg. "Q" had control over the two main tracks and four additional sidings to manage helper movements assisting trains to Mars Hill Summit. Additionally four water columns were available to top off steam locomotive tenders on their journey east or west. Image collection of William L. Seigford

Running over 53 miles in length the PRR's Atglen & Susquehanna Branch was a shining example of modern railway construction, running across rolling countryside and up the Susquehanna River on a gentle gradient. Fittingly for such a contemporary piece of railroad engineering, another advancement of modern times accompanied the line; the telephone. By the time the A&S opened for business in 1906, the PRR was rapidly working towards constructing one of the world's largest private telephone networks, laying cable along its system for critical functions like dispatching trains in addition to providing an extensive "in-house" communication network. The PRR's interest in telephone technology dates back to 1877 when officials invited Thomas A. Watson, assistant to Alexander Graham Bell for a demonstration in Altoona. While the railroad made a modest investment for non-critical communication following this meeting, it wouldn't be until 1897 when the technology was employed to dispatch trains entirely by phone on the South Fork Branch of the Pittsburgh Division.

The Pennsylvania Railroad maintained standard plans for watch boxes and telephone shelters among countless other items on the property. These structures were common along the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch; At one point there were 11 watch box locations in addition to line side telephones were spaced approximately 1.25 miles to provide direct contact with block operators and dispatchers in the event that a track inspector needed to report a problem with the line. Collection of Pat McKinney, courtesy of Rob Schoenberg's PRR page

The Pennsylvania Railroad maintained standard plans for watch boxes and telephone shelters among countless other items on the property. These structures were common along the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch; At one point there were 11 watch box locations in addition to line side telephones were spaced approximately 1.25 miles to provide direct contact with block operators and dispatchers in the event that a track inspector needed to report a problem with the line. Collection of Pat McKinney, courtesy of Rob Schoenberg's PRR page

As technology was improved, the PRR began investing heavily in building a communication network, and by 1920 almost the entire system was dispatched by telephone. East of Paoli in the electrified territory, cable was laid in an underground duct system, west of Paoli the cable lines were often above ground on lineside poles and west of Harrisburg an extensive line side open wire system was employed. By 1955 the PRR boasted some impressive statistics in their company magazine, The Pennsy stating, "Today the PRR's network is generally accepted to be the largest private telephone system in the world. Its transmission lines stretch 41,000 miles. It's cost, together with that of the associated Teletype network, totals $35 million. On any typical day, PRR lines carry an estimated half-million calls." 

With the start of operations, the A&S was dispatched by phone from Harrisburg, out on the line local control via eight block stations provided the means for changing tracks and relay orders to passing trains. These included Parkesburg (PG), Atglen (NI), Quarryville (Q), Shenks Ferry - (SF - later Smith), Cresswell (CO), Columbia (LG-42), Marietta (RQ) and Wago Junction (WJ). Additionally, the PRR constructed 11 watch boxes along the A&S that were staffed 24/7 due to the continuous risk of washouts and cave-ins with the numerous cuts, fills, culverts and bridges along the line. Track inspectors could reach dispatchers via the watch boxes or line side phone boxes spaced roughly every 1.25 miles for field access in the event a situation should arise.

L. Shenks Ferry (Smith) interlocking tower circa 1967. This tower survived the electrification and addition of automatic block signals in 1938 and was employed as needed in the event of a wreck or track work in the area. Photo by William R. Fry, Jr. R. LG27, one of 11 watch boxes on the A&S Branch, located just west of the Safe Harbor Viaduct where sharp cliffs and rock cuts posed concerns. These were staffed 24/7 and equipped with the necessary tools, a stove and telephone box for inspectors to conduct their work while staying in constant contact with block operators and dispatchers. Collection of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

L. Shenks Ferry (Smith) interlocking tower circa 1967. This tower survived the electrification and addition of automatic block signals in 1938 and was employed as needed in the event of a wreck or track work in the area. Photo by William R. Fry, Jr. R. LG27, one of 11 watch boxes on the A&S Branch, located just west of the Safe Harbor Viaduct where sharp cliffs and rock cuts posed concerns. These were staffed 24/7 and equipped with the necessary tools, a stove and telephone box for inspectors to conduct their work while staying in constant contact with block operators and dispatchers. Collection of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

Consolidation of block station and train order offices began during the Depression, with Quarryville placed out of service on August 11th, 1928. More change in operations came with the final phase of electrification completed in 1938. The project, which included the installation of automatic block signals and the implementation of established Current of Traffic Rule 251 eliminating the need for intermediate manned block stations. An additional benefit of the signal system was the integration of slide detector fences in areas prone to rockslides, eliminating the need for staffed watch boxes. Cola tower opened in Columbia sporting a 120 lever centralized traffic control machine, dispatching over 175 miles of freight only territory.  Under its jurisdiction on the A&S were Cresswell, LG-42 and Marietta (Shocks) as well as trackage down the Port Road south to Holtwood. Parkesburg was also rebuilt, relocated to a one of a kind brick single story building, containing a 39-lever Union Switch & Signal Model P interlocking machine. The last block station of note proved to be a bit of mystery, NI at Atglen just a few miles west of Parkesburg closed sometime between 1928 and 1945 based on various employee resources, but at this time I have found little else to narrow the dates of its demise. By the time electrification was complete all but one remaining manned block station survived on the A&S between Parkesburg and Cola; Shenks Ferry (SF), later renamed Smith, was retained as a part-time facility due to its location approximately midway between Cress and Parkesburg. While Smith ultimately met its demise, Cola survived into the Conrail era, closing in March of 1987, followed by the A&S in 1988. On the opposite end of the line, Parkesburg survived well into the 21st Century under Amtrak. The closing of Parkesburg during the Keystone Corridor improvements was the first in a string of tower closures that mark the end of an era in technology and dispatching that lasted longer than the company that helped pioneer the technology.

 

Quarryville | 19th Century Railroading With Big Aspirations

TM Fowler Map circa 1903, illustrating the town of Quarryville. Though construction of the A&S had just commenced in 1903, the line is clearly depicted In the bottom left corner, complete with a connection between the new route and Quarryville Branch that was never constructed. Collection of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society scanned from Mary Boomsma

TM Fowler Map circa 1903, illustrating the town of Quarryville. Though construction of the A&S had just commenced in 1903, the line is clearly depicted In the bottom left corner, complete with a connection between the new route and Quarryville Branch that was never constructed. Collection of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society scanned from Mary Boomsma

Quarryville has always been a crossroad of activity in the fertile farmlands of Southern Lancaster County. Farmers purchased lumber, grain, and fertilizer here and reciprocally exchanged their bounties in town and beyond via the local county railroad, a lifeline to the outside world. Commonly known as the Quarryville Branch this rail line had an interesting early history that started with big hopes and ended with financial disaster. The Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Railroad was chartered in 1871 to build a narrow gauge network between Safe Harbor and Reading via Lancaster including a branch to Quarryville, competing directly with the neighboring Reading Company subsidiary the Reading & Columbia.  Before construction commenced it was decided to build the line to standard gauge instead, but the Panic of 1873 quickly stalled progress. Falling into financial distress, the Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Railroad was ironically leased to the Reading Company becoming an extension of its Lancaster Branch, part of the R&C. 

A typical PRR train traversing the former Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Railroad between Lancaster and its southern terminus in Quarryville. Walter G. Minnich Jr. collection

A typical PRR train traversing the former Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Railroad between Lancaster and its southern terminus in Quarryville. Walter G. Minnich Jr. collection

With the contract secured for the branch to Quarryville, the Reading looked to another opportunity, the potential of connecting with the B&O mainline by extending south from Quarryville to Elkton, MD, a move that would involve the financially strapped narrow gauge railroad the Lancaster, Oxford & Southern. When presented the idea of becoming a bridge route, the LO&S optimistically commenced plans to build new extensions on its existing route including a new line to Quarryville, with the intention of everything being converted to standard gauge. Once complete perhaps the small common carrier would see financial success or even be purchased at a profit by the Reading or the B&O. The plan, however, began to crumble when the Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Railroad defaulted on their mortgage, rendering the Reading lease null and void, and the property went up for auction in 1900. At the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, a tense bidding war played out between extended representatives of the B&O, Reading Company and PRR. Charles H. Locher, a Lancaster businessman, minor shareholder of the L&RNGR and friend of the PRR attended the auction, outbidding the competition and thus protecting their coveted territory by eliminating the plan for the competitor's line once and for all. Regardless the LO&S completed the branch to Quarryville but the hopes for financial success or being converted to standard gauge were never realized, the railroad toiled in bankruptcy through 1910 scrapping its Quarryville Branch in 1917 with the rest of the railroad ceasing operation the following year. 

Quarryville Station, view before the Lancaster Oxford & Southern abandonment in 1917. Note the dual gauge trackage in the foreground, an area shared by the LO&S and the PRR. Image Walter G. Minnich Jr. collection, Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

Quarryville Station, view before the Lancaster Oxford & Southern abandonment in 1917. Note the dual gauge trackage in the foreground, an area shared by the LO&S and the PRR. Image Walter G. Minnich Jr. collection, Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

While the drama of railroad barons and hopes of back-road competition unraveled, another chapter in railroad history was playing out in the small town. The PRR commenced construction of the new Low Grade route across Southern Lancaster County. Situated at the approximate center of the eastern segment of the new Atglen & Susquehanna Branch, Quarryville was the epicenter of construction and staging between 1903 and 1906. Despite the building of the new line, it was very evident that the PRR had no intention to tap the small agricultural market with any additional resources other than the branch it maintained from Lancaster. When construction was completed the A&S cut through the Borough on an elevated fill with little more than a water stop, a telephone box and overpasses over its branch and another on Church Street. 

Pennsylvania Railroad track chart showing the grades and curvature of the former Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Quarryville Branch circa 1940. 

Pennsylvania Railroad track chart showing the grades and curvature of the former Lancaster & Reading Narrow Gauge Quarryville Branch circa 1940. 

For the next half a century the railroads continued to operate separately from one another. As the PRR entered its final year's maintenance on marginally performing branches were often deferred, and the Quarryville Branch was certainly no exception. Entering the Penn Central era, with finances already tight, management looked to shed money-losing lines; the Quarryville Branch made the short list when the Penn Central petitioned the ICC for the abandonment of over 138 line segments in 1971. Making matters worse the branch suffered an even greater blow in 1972 when it sustained significant damage from Hurricane Agnes placing most of the branch out of service.  Regardless, the shippers in Quarryville rallied, seeking a deal with Penn Central, who had estimated that a 1700’ line connection to the A&S would come with a price tag of $130,000 a burden the broken railroad could not afford. Shippers agreed to pay the cost of construction, and the PC withdrew 2.26 miles from the ICC petition, saving the most lucrative piece of the branch and rail service to local shippers. Finally, after 67 years of trains flying over the town, Quarryville had a connection to the A&S, but that too would only last another 15 years.  

The Engineer And the Contractor

BY 1903 William H. Brown, the man who earned the nickname the stone man for his preference of masonry bridge construction was winding down a rewarding 44-year career with the Pennsylvania Railroad, 32 of which he served as Chief Engineer. Brown's tenure was part of an era that was arguably one of the most transformative times for the PRR's infrastructure and right of way. His role in the construction of the Low Grade, especially the Atglen & Susquehanna segment would be his last major project before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. Brown had come full circle in life having been born and raised in the same rolling countryside of Southern Lancaster County where he'd close out an impressive career.

One of seven cuts and a fill illustrated in this Manor Township view in Southern Lancaster County. Chief Engineer, William, H Brown, saw to it that the ablest contractors were employed to complete this challenging work promptly. The Manor section was contracted to Patricius McManus a very accomplished railroad builder and neighbor of Brown. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PHMC

One of seven cuts and a fill illustrated in this Manor Township view in Southern Lancaster County. Chief Engineer, William, H Brown, saw to it that the ablest contractors were employed to complete this challenging work promptly. The Manor section was contracted to Patricius McManus a very accomplished railroad builder and neighbor of Brown. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PHMC

Throughout Brown's tenure in the Engineering Department, he relied on skilled contractors to undertake the task of completing a project, among them was arguably one of the most prominent railroad builders of the time, the McManus Construction Company.  By the time construction commenced on the A&S, Patricius McManus, president, and general manager had over 37 years of experience managing railroad construction projects.  McManus started his first project for the Sunbury & Lewistown building 11 miles of track at just 19 years old, developing an impressive portfolio of projects including the double tracking of the Reading's Atlantic City Railroad. The PRR also contracted McManus for the expansion and double tracking of the electrified WJ&S line between Camden and Atlantic City via Newfield as well as various components of the Philadelphia Terminal Division including the terminal trackage for Broad Street Station.  Brown and McManus shared a common thread in their lives and careers, coming from similar social circles, rising from humble roots to the upper echelon of society; they were both self-made success stories. Both Brown and McManus lived in the Powelton Village neighborhood of West Philadelphia, for a time as next-door neighbors, an area regarded as the home of the nouveau riche, outcasts from the old blue-blooded money of railroad executives on the fabled Mainline to Paoli.

This cut excavated on the Manor Township section of the Atglen and Susquehanna illustrates the massive scope of ongoing work. The temporary narrow gauge track used to haul some of the 1.3 million cubic yards of debris is evident in the cut complete with a steam shovel at lower right, one of the key pieces of equipment for such work. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Columbia Historic Preservation Society

This cut excavated on the Manor Township section of the Atglen and Susquehanna illustrates the massive scope of ongoing work. The temporary narrow gauge track used to haul some of the 1.3 million cubic yards of debris is evident in the cut complete with a steam shovel at lower right, one of the key pieces of equipment for such work. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Columbia Historic Preservation Society

L. Patricius McManus, Railroad Contractor. R. William H. Brown, Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

L. Patricius McManus, Railroad Contractor. R. William H. Brown, Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

When Brown parceled out eight contracts for grading and excavating the A&S in 1903, the engineering department knew that no section would be particularly easy. While some places required less significant work than others the line through Providence Township would be an imposing endeavor requiring the railroad to carve a path through the rolling hills since the local topography offered none. Brown charged McManus to execute this segment; Working west from Quarryville, equipment was brought in on an existing branch line via Lancaster and distributed by temporary trackage, moving in construction materials and supplies. Blasting and steam shovels did the grunt work of digging cuts through the hills, some up to 90' deep. McManus's crew of 300 men excavated some 1.3 million cubic yards of rock and earth creating seven cuts and a massive fill in the roughly 8 miles of line through the Township alone.

Brown closed out his storied career on March 1st, 1906 just shy of the dedication of the A&S on July 27th, but McManus's company would soon be involved with the construction of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Cut-Off between Park Summit and Milford, Pennsylvania another remarkable accomplishment of railroad engineering. Though Brown's Low Grade is abandoned now, so many other projects he and McManus worked on together remain a vital part of rail operations for the successors of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a testament to the     
formidable team of Engineer and Contractor. 

Lecture | A legacy of Photographing the Pennsylvania Railroad

Historical Image Credits (bottom row) L,R. W.T. Purviance, Collection of the New York Public Library, C. Frederick Gutekunst, Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Historical Image Credits (bottom row) L,R. W.T. Purviance, Collection of the New York Public Library, C. Frederick Gutekunst, Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Please join me this Friday evening for a lecture exploring the important role historical imagery plays in my ongoing project, From the Mainline, A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The lecture is part of the National Railway Historical Society's Delaware Valley Chapter's monthly meeting and is free and open to the public.

October 21st, 2016 | Lecture begins at 8:30PM
National Railway Historical Society
Delaware Valley Chapter

Morrisville Public Library
300 N. Pennsylvania Avenue
Morrisville, Pennsylvania

Fall News and Events

Well its fall, the weather is cooling off, the light is getting nice and its time to get back to work! I have a lot of good stuff in store for next couple of months including a big update of work on my website, a lecture for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and an article feature on the blog The Trackside Photographer, a platform that explores the larger idea of understanding the historic nature of the railroad landscape. Additionally I have a lot of great material in the cue for the blog Photographs & History, rounding out the exploration of the former Pennsylvania Railroad Atglen & Susquehanna Branch and continuing east exploring the mainline into Chester County, Pennsylvania. 


View of Peter’s Mountain from Sherman’s Creek, Duncannon, Pennsylvania

View of Peter’s Mountain from Sherman’s Creek, Duncannon, Pennsylvania

Feature Article | The Trackside Photographer
A new article on the Mainline project goes live Thursday, October 13th on the blog The Trackside Photographer, a wonderful online publication that features photographers who's focus is documenting the ever changing railroad landscape.  The article provides insight on my creative process while working on the Mainline project and is complemented by a cohesive gallery of imagery from the project. 

Continuing a Legacy | Photographing the Pennsylvania Railroad

I am honored to once again present for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the NRHS. My lecture will explore the legacy of photographic imagery undertaken by the Pennsylvania Railroad and how it has influenced my own work. The presentation looks at several noted photographers commissioned to photograph the railroad while tying them to a visual dialogue with my own contemporary works exploring the former Pennsylvania Railroad. 

Delaware Valley Chapter, National Railway Historical Society | Friday, October 21st, 2016 | Lecture begins at approximately 8:30PM
Morrisville Public Library, 300 North Pennsylvania Avenue, Morrisville, Pennsylvania

New Work from the Mainline Project

The image above is one of many that is being readied for a big update of new work on the Mainline project. The update will include a new gallery of imagery which includes additional views from PRR divisions already represented as well locations on the New York and Maryland Divisions which were not previously represented in the project. Once live a series of singe image posts will begin in addition to the regular format to highlight the new work and the significance of these places in the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

A Little Love From the Home Office

As many of you know I am a working professional photographer and educator, having run the facilities at Drexel University's Photography Program, part of the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design for 15 years. The last 12 of those years I have also taught various subjects in the medium sharing my experiences in photography with the next generation of great image makers. This week the College spotlighted my work documenting the Pennsylvania Railroad and it comes with great pride that I can share the piece here. Having the opportunity to work in a creative environment has largely shaped who I am and having my alma mater and employer recognize this work is a great honor.  Enjoy! 

MIKE FROIO'S RAILROADS

August 4, 2016

Michael Froio, Professor and Photography Facilities Manager, is often found in the Paul Peck Center’s Photography studios. However, if you’re lucky, you might find him at the break of dawn just about anywhere there’s train tracks, rail yards, or train stations. It’s not that Michael is a solitary individual, it’s rather that the focus of his work is largely based on lush landscapes, historical architecture and all aspects of the former Pennsylvania Railroad, which he uses to produce stunningly rich black and white photography. “From the Mainline,” Froio’s impressive ongoing project, operates as an homage to the industrial achievements of the past 150 years in which he documents the infrastructure and landscape that’s developed alongside the Pennsylvania’s ecology. “Much of what they engineered and built over 100 years ago remains a vital part of the Mid-Atlantic’s railroad infrastructure today, a testament of their foresight and engineering abilities” says Froio. His gorgeous photography is generally accompanied by meticulously researched text that recounts and pays tribute to the importance of railroads in our region and the nation. We strongly suggest you visit Michael’s terrific website and consider signing up for his pictorially vibrant, textually rich, and fascinating newsletter. 

Froio is inspired by the work of William H. Rau, who documented the railroad in the 1890’s, and by the social and industrial history and landscape studies writers John Stilgoe and Robert Adams. His earlier works were made possible by using a large format view camera, a process that forces the photographer to spend a dedicated time with the subject. In recent years he’s begun utilizing digital formats, yet he still treats his work with the same emphasis as with the view camera: spending time with the subject.

Froio most recently served on a panel as part of The Muse Behind the Artist at The Print Center, an event sponsored by Penn’s Village. In March, From the Mainline was exhibited at the Camerawork gallery in Scranton, Pennsylvania. 

The Print Center | The Muse Behind the Artist

Dear Friends,

Please join me in Philadelphia at the Print Center next Wednesday, July 20th from 5:30 - 7:30 for The Muse Behind the Artist, an event sponsored by Penn's Village. The Print Center's Executive Director, Elizabeth Spungen will moderate a panel discussion focused on where we as artists draw inspiration, followed by a wine and cheese reception. I look forward to discussing the influences behind the ongoing project, From the Mainline, a contemporary survey of the landscape and surviving infrastructure of the Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the most celebrated railroads in American history. 
 
Penn’s Village ask that you RSVP by email at info@pennsvillage.org or by calling 215-925-7333. There is a requested donation of $5 for guests. The event will be held at the Print Center from 5:30 - 7:30 at 1614 Latimer Street, Philadelphia, PA. 

End of an Era

One of the last remaining Amtrak AEM-7s heads north with a regional train through Holmesburg Junction in Northeast Philadelphia shortly before retirement in February of 2016. Photograph by Patrick Yough

One of the last remaining Amtrak AEM-7s heads north with a regional train through Holmesburg Junction in Northeast Philadelphia shortly before retirement in February of 2016. Photograph by Patrick Yough

Class GG1 electric locomotive number 4868 pulls The Congressional circa 1965. Amtrak's AEM-7 was the successor of the highly regarded GG-1 both of which had successful careers on the Northeast Corridor, only time will tell if the Siemens ACS-64 will prove to be a worthy replacement.

Class GG1 electric locomotive number 4868 pulls The Congressional circa 1965. Amtrak's AEM-7 was the successor of the highly regarded GG-1 both of which had successful careers on the Northeast Corridor, only time will tell if the Siemens ACS-64 will prove to be a worthy replacement.

While I don’t typically write about motive power and rolling stock on the railroad, this week, with much fanfare a workhorse of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor will go to the stables for the last time. The venerable Amtrak AEM-7 locomotive fleet built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors has been the common face of regional and long distance trains up and down the Corridor for over 37 years, logging over 220 million miles in the process. Developed after testing Swedish and French electric locomotives in the 1970’s the units were designed after the successful Swedish class Rc4. Ultimately the AEM-7 fleet would replace Amtrak’s hand-me-down fleet of 30 class GG-1 electrics of Pennsylvania Railroad/Raymond Loewy fame after the purchase of General Electric E60’s failed to deliver in the mid-70’s. Utilizing electrical components supplied from Swedish company ASEA and shells constructed by the Budd Company in Philadelphia, EMD manufactured 54 of the units for Amtrak in three separate orders; 1977 (30 units), 1980 (17 units) and 1988 (7 units). Maryland Area Regional Commuter Service (MARC) and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa) also made subsequent orders while New Jersey Transit purchased a fleet of its successor, the ALP-44. The boxy double-ended 7000hp motors (PRR term for electric locomotives) were considered lightweight, weighing just 101 tons and were capable of a maximum speed of 125mph

Over the years they have affectionately received the nickname Swedish Meatball or Toasters because of their origin and size and were widely regarded as a success, being the second long-standing fleet of electric locomotives to ply the former PRR territory since the GG-1. The AEM-7s have been replaced by Amtrak’s new fleet of 70 Siemens built ACS-64 class motors, based on the successful EuroSprinter platform. Only time will tell if the Sprinters prove to be a match to the durability of the Meatball or the holy grail, the GG-1. While the last AEM-7 on Amtrak’s roster is dropped, several remain in service for Septa and MARC but on short time; Septa has placed an order for 13 new ACS-64 units and MARC will drop all electric powered service all together, converting all Penn Line trains to diesel with new Siemens Charger series locomotives. While it can always be argued that the lines and styling of the GG-1 coupled with its battleship like design will never be replicated the AEM-7’s durability has certainly made it a worthy successor in hauling passengers safely up and down the Northeast Corridor for almost 38 years. 

Johnstown: Remembering the Great Flood of 1889

On May 30th, 1889 storms struck the Conemaugh Valley in Cambria County, dumping an estimated 6-10 inches of rain on the region. Tributaries and creeks flooded their banks, swelling the Conemaugh River with raging currents and miscellaneous debris. Fourteen miles east of the bustling city of Johnstown concerns were escalating at the elite South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club where a former reservoir for the Mainline of Public Works turned recreational lake, began to rise to dangerous levels. Lake Conemaugh had been stripped of its fail-safes after the Pubic Works system was abandoned and had no way of relieving the rising floodwaters. Various efforts to mitigate the high water were considered but were too little, too late, in a last ditch effort messengers were dispatched to South Fork to report the dangerous situation to neighboring towns via telegraph.

"The Johnstown Calamity" by George Baker depicts the devastation of the great flood, note homes tossed on their side as the waters recede leaving nothing but mud in an area that was once a residential neighborhood. Image collection of the New York Public Library.

"The Johnstown Calamity" by George Baker depicts the devastation of the great flood, note homes tossed on their side as the waters recede leaving nothing but mud in an area that was once a residential neighborhood. Image collection of the New York Public Library.

By the afternoon of May 31st, Johnstown was already experiencing flooding in various areas but at approximately 3:10PM the situation grew far beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. The dam holding back Lake Conemaugh collapsed, releasing some 20 million tons of water into the Conemaugh River valley. Taking approximately 40 minutes to drain the lake, flood waters raged through the valley taking less than an hour to reach the city of the Johnstown picking up houses, trees and even a railroad viaduct in its course. By the time it hit Johnstown the wall of floodwater was estimated to be 60’ high in places and traveling at 40 miles per hour.  The flood entered town in the areas of East Conemaugh and Woodvale leveling rail yards, tossing passenger trains and causing major damage to the Gautier Iron Works, picking up even more debris including barbed wire manufactured at the mills. Flood waters then ripped through the center of Johnstown which was hemmed in by the Stoney Creek and Conemaugh Rivers on the the valley floor becoming the epicenter of disaster. Spreading across the city the floodwaters washed back and forth forcing debris against the PRR stone viaduct near the Cambria Iron Works creating further peril during the situation. The unintended dam became engulfed in flames creating a 70’ high wall that had to eventually be blasted away after waters receded.

The great stone bridge on the Pennsylvania Railroad's mainline played a large role in the devastation during the flood when debris washed across the valley piling up against the bridge creating an unintended dam, trapping flood victims in a 70' high debris pile that burned for three days. After the fire and flood water subsided clearing of the bridge required the expertise of "Dynamite Bill" Flynn and a 900 man crewtaking 3 months to complete the task. Photograph by Ernest Walter Histed, collection of the Library of Congress.

The great stone bridge on the Pennsylvania Railroad's mainline played a large role in the devastation during the flood when debris washed across the valley piling up against the bridge creating an unintended dam, trapping flood victims in a 70' high debris pile that burned for three days. After the fire and flood water subsided clearing of the bridge required the expertise of "Dynamite Bill" Flynn and a 900 man crewtaking 3 months to complete the task. Photograph by Ernest Walter Histed, collection of the Library of Congress.

Efforts were mobilized immediately to provide disaster relief and recovery. The Pennsylvania Railroad restored the railroad west to Pittsburgh and was running trains by June 2nd bringing in manpower and supplies. Clara Barton, a nurse and founder of the Red Cross arrived on June 5th, staying for more than five months to lead the group’s first major disaster relief effort. The flood, the result of the of the South Fork Hunting Club’s negligence to properly maintain the earthen dam ultimately took 2,209 lives, 16,000 homes and cost $17 million in property damage, making the Great Flood of 1889 one of the worst floods to hit the US in the 19th Century.

The Cost of Labor | Constructing the A&S

Today when you walk along the path of the former Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade it is a very peaceful experience. There’s no shortage of lush foliage shrouding rock cuts blasted out of the rolling hills, the elevated fills and stone masonry look they were there since the beginning of time, and the railroad itself is long gone. Today it is hard to fathom the purpose of such a resource and even more difficult to imagine the human struggle that was involved in creating such a line.

Workers pause for a photograph, likely made by Lancaster based photographer Harry P. Stoner who was commissioned to document the construction of A&S. Blasting, the high cliffs and large loose rock along the stretch in Manor Township presented many hazards to the men while constructing the final few miles of the A&S along the Susquehanna River. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

Workers pause for a photograph, likely made by Lancaster based photographer Harry P. Stoner who was commissioned to document the construction of A&S. Blasting, the high cliffs and large loose rock along the stretch in Manor Township presented many hazards to the men while constructing the final few miles of the A&S along the Susquehanna River. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

Early in the era when railroads engaged in a wave of line and capacity improvements across the country, construction of the A&S commenced in 1903. Its scope was compared to that of the Panama Canal, which began around the same time, but took three times longer to complete.  In the course of three years the PRR spent $19.5 million to build an engineering marvel that completed the final piece of a freight by-pass collectively referred to as the Low Grade between Morrisville and Enola, Pennsylvania. With curvature limited to no more than 2% and the maximum grade held to 1% or lower the high cost of building such a line was justified with improved operating ratios and a reduction in fuel and crew demands while providing additional capacity to move freight trains away from the congested mainline. With no grade crossings, local industry or stations the A&S was strictly a conduit to move freight to and from the New York and Philadelphia markets across southern Lancaster County to the west via Enola. The premise of the Low Grade is pretty simple until you consider the topography the line spanned; In order to maintain such gradients the PRR had to wage war against the landscape employing thousands of men to construct the line between Parkesburg and the Susquehanna River. The western highlands and the descent into the Susquehanna valley was perhaps the most difficult aspect of the project. It entailed erecting a massive bridge at Safe Harbor to span the Conestoga gap and carving a path high above the river that continued down to Creswell where the line joined the Columbia & Port Deposit Branch. Other notable challenges included the spanning of the Pequea Valley at Martic Forge and the 90-foot deep cut excavated out of solid rock near Quarryville.

An excavation crew pauses with a rail mounted steam shovel that appears to be down for repairs. Steam shovels and air powered drills were initially utilized to excavate the right of way in Manor township as well as the deep cuts along the line to the east. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

An excavation crew pauses with a rail mounted steam shovel that appears to be down for repairs. Steam shovels and air powered drills were initially utilized to excavate the right of way in Manor township as well as the deep cuts along the line to the east. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

According to the late Ernest Schuleen who managed the Safe Harbor Water Power Corp, "The major portion of the laborers were immigrants from Italy, Turkey, Syria and the other southeastern European countries, who were taken directly from incoming boats to do the job... Getting the job done was the thing; safety was secondary.'' Roughly 1000 men and 150 horses were deployed along the bluffs of the Susquehanna and hundreds more worked east and west from Quarryville. Obstacles were met with steam shovels and drills, finishing work executed with pick axes and shovels. Dynamite was a necessary tool to complete the work in a timely manner but its nature made the job that much more hazardous, premature explosions killed some, flying debris others. In the course of three years over 200 died while working to complete the A&S. On a weekly basis headlines pitched tragic stories of workers killed on the job with hardly a mention of who they were. One of the most tragic incidents occurred near Colemanville, the location of a dynamite factory employing local residents to produce materials for the PRR and more recently the construction of the nearby Holtwood Dam. On June 6th, 1906, just weeks before the public dedication of the A&S, a blast ripped through the stamping house containing 2400 pounds of dynamite, triggering a subsequent explosion of nitroglycerin, the disaster killing eleven men. The only identified remains was the arm of 25-year-old Frederick Rice, the rest, all in their late teens or early 20’s were laid to rest in a single common casket. Despite the fact that the plant was no longer producing dynamite for the PRR’s A&S project the railroad faced continued criticism for their lack of concern for their seemingly disposable immigrant work force which ultimately brought such tragedy to southern Lancaster County. 

One of the deep cuts near Quarryville takes shape as crews blast and dig their way through solid rock to maintain the 1% maximum ruling grade on the A&S branch. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

One of the deep cuts near Quarryville takes shape as crews blast and dig their way through solid rock to maintain the 1% maximum ruling grade on the A&S branch. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

Regardless the project continued and on July 27th of the same year the PRR publicly dedicated the A&S line in the deep cut near Quarryville, where prominent Quarryville citizen George Hensel drove the final spike made of silver. Sadly the human tragedy and loss of life behind the construction of the A&S was the norm rather than the exception. Labor laws and unions had yet to gain a foothold and agencies like OSHA and the FRA had yet to exist. The Industrial Revolution was still very much a time where money ruled and the bottom line far outweighed the value of human life. The human story of the A&S was a dark reality repeated time and time again to build some the most important engineering accomplishments and transportation networks in the country.

Spring News & Events

Allegany National Photography Competition and Exhibition: I am very pleased to have a piece from the Mainline Series included in the 2nd annual Allegany National Photography Competition. This exhibition runs from April 8th to the 30th in the Allegany Arts Council’s beautiful Saville Gallery in historic downtown Cumberland, Maryland. Situated in the beautiful Allegany mountains the exhibition melds the region's rich concentration of photographic artists with an influx of national photographers through the juried competition. Juror Stephen Perloff is founder and editor of The Photo Review, a critical journal of fine art photography. Publishing since 1976, The Photo Review covers photography issues and events throughout the country and serves as a central resource for the Mid-Atlantic region. Perloff is to host a lecture Friday April 8th in the Schwab Gallery and the opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Saturday, April 9th from 6-8 PM. Gallery hours for the exhibition are Tuesday - Saturday, 11AM-5PM. The Allegany Arts Council is located at 9 N. Centre Street, Cumberland, MD 21502. For more information on the lecture, exhibition and the Allegany Arts Council please visit their website or call (301) 777-ARTS (2787).

From the Mainline | Exhibition: Continuing in its second month, my solo exhibition featuring work from the Mainline project is on display at the Camera Work space, located in the Marquis Gallery, in the historic Laundry building in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania. Plan a trip to see the exhibition and visit some area attractions; the city is very easy to navigate and there are several wonderful places to stay in town and of course, plenty of choices for lunch and dinner. The exhibition runs through April 30th and is open M-F 10 AM - 6 PM, Sat. 10 AM - 5 PM. The Camera Work space, located in the Marquis Gallery, in the historic Laundry building, 515 Center Street, Scranton, PA 18503. 

 

40 Years | A Brief History of Conrail

Two Conrail trains part ways at iconic Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline over the Alleghenies, October 21, 1988. Image courtesy of Mike Danneman

Two Conrail trains part ways at iconic Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline over the Alleghenies, October 21, 1988. Image courtesy of Mike Danneman

At the close of the 1960’s railroads of the Northeast struggled with mounting debts, declining traffic and deferred maintenance. Coal, once the railroads mainstay traffic source, took a nosedive as the nation’s appetite for oil increased, triggering financial panic among many rail carriers in the Mid-Atlantic. The Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central, once bitter rivals, merged into the Penn Central creating perhaps the most infamous face for the ensuing financial disaster seven major carriers faced in the early 1970’s. In order to avoid the complete collapse of railroading in the east, congress enacted the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1974 (commonly referred to the 3R Act). The Act provided interim funding for the struggling carriers while creating Consolidated Rail Corporation, a government funded private company. Under the Act the United States Railway Association prepared a plan to determine what lines of the seven carriers would be incorporated in the final system plan to be transferred to Conrail. This plan would be approved by congress under the subsequent Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4R Act) which was signed into law in February of 1976.

The original Conrail system map circa April 1st, 1976. Note the absence of the iconic Conrail logo. Collection of the Multimodalways Project

The original Conrail system map circa April 1st, 1976. Note the absence of the iconic Conrail logo. Collection of the Multimodalways Project

Conrail was incorporated in Pennsylvania the same month and began operations April 1st 1976. The company’s function was to revitalize freight service between the Northeast and Midwest, operating as a for-profit operation. In 1981 Conrail’s economic standings began to turn around showing its first profit since incorporation. Under the leadership of L. Stanley Crane, a former Southern Railway CEO, the railroad flourished, shedding an additional 4100 unprofitable and redundant miles from the system between 1981 and 1983. The Staggers Rail Act of 1981 also provided much needed deregulation of railroad rates and tariffs allowing for changes in rate structuring that dated back to the turn of the century, giving railroads the ability to better compete with trucking companies. By the time Conrail approached its 10th birthday the railroad was ready to return back to the private sector. In the fall of 1986 congress signed in the Conrail Privatization Act authorizing a public stock offering that resulted in one of the largest IPOs in US history raising $1.9 billion in 1987.

Tony Palladino worked for design firm Siegel & Gale when he developed the iconic Conrail logo and identity, shown here in a lettering diagram. Collection of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives. 

Tony Palladino worked for design firm Siegel & Gale when he developed the iconic Conrail logo and identity, shown here in a lettering diagram. Collection of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives. 

Conrail’s ubiquitous blue locomotives and “can opener" logo developed by designer Tony Palladino became the symbol of a profitable network, a success story for a new era of railroading which also saw the creation of Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. Ironically in the 1990’s NS and CSX engaged in a takeover battle that would have created an unhealthy imbalance in northeastern rail service, the compromise was instead a split of the Conrail system. CSX would take 42% of Conrail’s assets and the former NYC properties with NS assuming the 58% balance and much of the PRR network. Interestingly enough, the final split of Conrail is similar to a merger proposal from the 1950’s in response to the proposed marriage of the New York Central and Chesapeake & Ohio. The PRR had looked to join forces with the N&W and Wabash, both of which it already had a controlling interest in. Regardless, the ICC rejected both mergers but the net result some fifty years later is the same. Outside of the major split of Conrail assets three terminals where competition was in jeopardy continues to be serviced by the jointly owned Conrail Shared Assets Operation, providing equal access for both railroads in Detroit, Northern and Southern New Jersey/ Philadelphia continuing the Conrail name that began operations 40 years ago today. 

 

In Memoriam

Donald T. Rittler: 1919 - 2016

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of Donald T. Rittler, a former Pennsylvania Railroad train director who lived and worked in the Harrisburg area for most of his life.  In 2012 I had the privilege to meet Mr. Rittler during a private tour of the Harris tower museum, arranged by NRHS Harrisburg Chapter members. When Don arrived he brought this already fantastic interactive site alive with first hand experiences of running one of the most important interlocking towers on the PRR Philadelphia Division. Since to that meeting I had several opportunities to talk with Don about his experiences on the railroad including a very special return visit to Harris that I was so lucky to share with my father and son.

During my visit to Harris in 2012 I had some time to chat with Don while photographing him with the 4x5 view camera. I am lucky to have this image of Don at the train director's desk, a familiar place throughout his 42 years of working in interlocking towers for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central and Conrail.

During my visit to Harris in 2012 I had some time to chat with Don while photographing him with the 4x5 view camera. I am lucky to have this image of Don at the train director's desk, a familiar place throughout his 42 years of working in interlocking towers for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central and Conrail.

Don Rittler started his career with the Pennsylvania Railroad on October 11th, 1937 as a messenger for the interlocking towers on the PRR Philadelphia Division. The first person to be hired since the 1927 furlough of employees as a result of the Great Depression, Don worked the introductory job spending his days relaying messages and paperwork from tower to tower as needed, gaining a familiarity to the basic operations and chain of command among the many towers on the system.  On December 1st, 1940 Don posted his first position as a block operator and leverman, working the Philadelphia Division extra list, filling in at different towers over the years.

Detail of Don's home away from home, Harris Tower's interlocking machine and train director's desk, a post Don worked for many of his years during his tenure with the PRR which began in 1937.

Detail of Don's home away from home, Harris Tower's interlocking machine and train director's desk, a post Don worked for many of his years during his tenure with the PRR which began in 1937.

In 1944, like many other PRR employees Rittler was summoned to serve his country in World War II. Holding the title of Master Sergeant in the Army’s 775th Railway Grand Division and the 3rd Military Regiment, Don’s deployment centered in the Pacific Theater during the height of the war. Initially working in the Philippines operating the Manila Railway Don’s unit moved to Japan to secure a railhead for military transport inland in the event of land attacks. As a result of the infamous atomic bombs, their services were not needed for this purpose but they did continue to work keeping the Japanese rail systems functional. Returning to the US a short two years later almost exactly to the day, Rittler resumed his tenure with the PRR, holding tower positions as both leverman and eventually train director for State and Harris towers near the Harrisburg passenger station.  Rittler, who’s father was a master machinist for the Pennsy in Enola was always fascinated with the railroad, as it was always apart of his life, with many friends, neighbors and family also employed by the PRR.

Don and his wife Mary built a house in New Cumberland near Lemoyne and lived a wonderful life with their daughter Donna, sharing the family like atmosphere and camaraderie of the many railroaders Don worked with on a daily basis. He continued to work in the Harrisburg area well into the Penn Central era eventually moving to Conrail after the 1976 consolidation. Amtrak was slowly taking over operations on the Keystone Corridor in the mid 1970’s and Don’s choices of where to work were becoming increasingly limited. Don ultimately worked first shift at Lemo tower in Lemoyne, which he described as a welcome break from the busy towers he was accustomed to like Harris, finishing out a spotless 42 year career in railroading in 1979. After retirement, Don was very gracious with his time and experience in the towers, helping the NRHS Harrisburg Chapter develop the interpretive exhibit for the Harris tower project. He would also on occasion visit with small groups at the museum to provide first hand working knowledge of his craft like I was so fortunate to experience. Don’s presence at Harris will be greatly missed but thanks to his generosity, his legacy and knowledge will live on with the Harrisburg Chapter and the Harris tower museum.


May your presence always be felt at Harris tower, rest in peace Don.


For more information about memorial services for Mr. Rittler, please click here

 

From the Mainline | Upcoming Exhibiton

I am excited to share the details on my upcoming exhibition in Scranton, Pennsylvania featuring work from the ongoing project, From the Mainline. Scranton, though never served by the PRR could not be more of an appropriate venue to put together an exhibition exploring the relationship between railroads and the landscapes they travel. The Electric City is situated in the heart of Anthracite Coal Country and has a rich history largely associated with being at the crossroads of six railroad companies at its peak and home to the the sprawling Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad locomotive shops.  The railroads played an important role in the city of Scranton, providing extensive access to the nation's rail network while providing a wealth of jobs to the regional economy, much like the many places I’ve photographed throughout my time on the PRR.

Today Scranton is home to several major universities, the Steamtown National Historical Site as well as several other interpretive museums that explore the role railroads and coal played in the regional economy. Plan a trip to see the exhibition and visit some area attractions; the city is very easy to navigate and there are several wonderful places to stay in town and of course, plenty of choices for lunch and dinner. The exhibition opens next Friday, March 4th and will run through April 30th at the Camera Work space, located in the Marquis Gallery, in the historic Laundry building in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Hope to see some familiar faces at the opening!

Sincerely, 

Michael Froio

Lecture | Saturday

 Historical Image Credits (bottom row) L,R. W.T. Purviance, Collection of the New York Public Library, C. Frederick Gutekunst, Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

 Historical Image Credits (bottom row) L,R. W.T. Purviance, Collection of the New York Public Library, C. Frederick Gutekunst, Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Continuing a Legacy | Photographing the Pennsylvania Railroad

Please join me this Saturday for a lecture exploring the role of historical imagery with my ongoing project, From the Mainline, A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The lecture is part of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society's Philadelphia Chapter meeting and is free and open to the public.

February 13th, 2016 | 1:30PM

Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society
Philadelphia Chapter

Drexel Hill Methodist Church
600 Burmont Road
Drexel Hill, PA

Continuing A Legacy | Photographing the Pennsylvania Railroad

The Rockville Bridge, circa 1875, from the album entitled, "Scenery of the Pennsylvania Railroad" by Frederick Gutekunst. Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

The Rockville Bridge, circa 1875, from the album entitled, "Scenery of the Pennsylvania Railroad" by Frederick Gutekunst. Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

At the dawn of the industrial revolution the American railroad became the vehicle at which life’s pace was set. Growing in the east and expanding across the western frontier the railroad was responsible for America’s success. Engineering such a system at such a rapid speed was no small task, the men who ran these companies understood the value of their accomplishments and wanted to share it with the world. To tout their new transportation systems, luring travellers to ride this modern marvel and experience the American landscape railroads turned to another new product of the industrial age; photography. Employing some the most preeminent photographers of the time, railroads outfitted special cars placed under the direction of senior passenger agents to see that their photographer had the best accommodations to illustrate their pride and joy. By no coincidence was the Pennsylvania Railroad one of the biggest supporters of this endeavor being their corporate headquarters of Philadelphia also happened to be the epicenter of photography in the US in the 19th Century. The PRR employed photographers for a multitude of tasks including the glamorous commissions to illustratate the railroad and its destinations for the Centennial and Columbian Expositions to the more mundane day-to-day documentation of massive engineering projects taking place all over the system. 

Horseshoe Curve, William T Purviance, Circa late 1860's. Collection of the New York Public Library. 

Horseshoe Curve, William T Purviance, Circa late 1860's. Collection of the New York Public Library. 

While photography and the railroads redefined the 19th century’s perception of space and time, surviving imagery leaves us a rich visual legacy to derive tremendous amounts of information about the railroad, the landscape and the energy of the industrial age. It’s this imagery that feeds my creativity and imagination, that allows me to visualize the prominent role the Pennsylvania Railroad played in developing the United States and the continual improvements they made to better themselves in the process.  These volumes of visual assets are the foundation of what inspires my work; the photographer’s technical and aesthetic ability, the conceptual ideals and the resulting images rich with information foster a continued dialogue with my own image making, inspiring new works from images of the past.

This is a brief excerpt form the upcoming lecture “Continuing a Legacy, Photographing the Pennsylvania Railroad” which I will present on February 13th for the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society