1846: The Pennsylvania Railroad is Established

April 13, 1846

Samuel Vaughan Merrick

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) received its charter. The first president of this railroad was Samuel Vaughan Merrick, who had been born in Maine in 1801. He moved to Pennsylvania as a teenager, settling in Philadelphia. Merrick subsequently acquired a strong knowledge of engineering, and in 1824 he helped establish what was then known as the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of Mechanic Arts. (The Franklin Institute is now one of the oldest centers of science education and development in the United States; Merrick was the institute’s president from 1832 to 1854.)

Along with serving as the first president of the PRR, Merrick was also president of two other Pennsylvania-based railroads during his high-octane career in transportation and engineering – the Sunbury and Erie Railroad (later merged into the PRR); and the Catawissa Railroad (later part of the Reading Railroad). Merrick died in Philadelphia in 1870.

From its relatively small start, the PRR – also commonly referred to as the Pennsy – grew by leaps and bounds. During the course of much of the 20th century, it was the largest American railroad in terms of both traffic and revenue. The PRR also set the standard for other railroads in a variety of other areas. It was the PRR, for example, that first discarded wooden-bodied passenger cars in favor of safer ones made out of steel.

This trendsetting railroad remained in existence for well over a century after receiving its charter. Ultimately, however, the PRR merged into Penn Central Transportation in 1968. The original name and spirit of the Pennsy lives on, however, not just in cherished memories but also as one of four railroad squares in the popular board game Monopoly.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Railroad, please check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_Railroad

Additional information on Samuel Vaughan Merrick is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Vaughan_Merrick

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