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PC: Review: Penn Central Railroad by Peter Lynch

Hi all,

Earlier this week I finished reading Peter Lynch's new book in the 
Motorbooks Railroad Color History series, "Penn Central Railroad." I bought 
it while at the PRRTH&S convention a couple weeks ago. I think I paid $28 
for it from Dave's Books. List price is $34.95, and you can buy it at 
Amazon.com for $23.77 plus shipping, so the price is very reasonable.

The book is 160 pages in length and is divided into nine chapters, with an 
introduction and an index. The first chapter introduces the merger 
partners, the background behind the merger, and what happened afterwards. 
The second chapter covers PC's passenger service, both intercity and commuter.

The next six chapters then cover the Penn Central system geographically by 
region, starting with the Eastern Region, then working west to the Central 
Region, the Western and Lake Regions, then the Northern Region, the 
Southern Region, and wrapping up in the Northeastern and New Haven Regions. 
The final chapter describes what happened during Penn Central's 
post-bankruptcy years, and the eventual arrival of Conrail.

The book is filled with many color and black-and-white photographs from 
about twenty photographers, many who you probably have heard of like Thomas 
J. McNamara, J.W. Swanburg, Dave Sweetland, etc. List member David Oroszi 
also contributed many photographs, both of his own and from his collection. 
Fortunately, there were many locations represented which were off the 
beaten path for a railroad book. For example, there are pictures from 
Rockville Bridge, Berea Tower, Conway Yard, and Chicago Union Station, to 
name a few of well-know locations, but there were a lot of places in 
between as well, such as Erie, PA; Weirton, WV; Bradford, Ohio; Canton, NY, 
and Pana, Illinois. The diversity of the photography makes the book 
worthwhile all by itself.

As I was reading the book, it seemed to me that Lynch was writing in a 
style similar to Jerry Taylor's "A Sampling of Penn Central" book, which 
covered the operations and facilities of the Southern Region in great 
detail. The meat of this book provides that kind of information at a higher 
level than Taylor's book, but it also covers the entire railroad. For each 
Region, he covers the primary through routes, including major cities and 
yards, and then also covers the secondary routes and branch lines in the 
area and their purpose. Lines which saw more or less traffic as a result of 
the merger are pointed out, including some proposed operational changes 
that never happened due to lack of financial resources after the merger. 
Lynch does use some terms that I wasn't familiar with, such as "Down River" 
to describe the Toledo Branch south of Detroit, and "North Country" to 
describe the Massena Branch north of Syracuse. I'm assuming those must have 
been terms used by the railroaders in those areas, so now I've learned 
something new. I only found a couple of minor errors in the book, mostly in 
photo captions, but nothing that detracts too much from an otherwise fine work.

Overall, I give this book five "worms" out of five. If you're a Penn 
Central fan, by all means get this book. The photography is well done and 
covers a wide swath of the PC's territory, and the text provides a good 
overview of PC's operations and how they tried to meld the two systems 
(later three) together into one railroad. And for the money, it is about 
half the price of and longer than many of the books that are coming out 
today in the railfan press, so its a great value for your buck. Get it, 
read it, and enjoy it.


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