September 1st, 2013

krazy koati

There's lots of stations on my railroad track

The Penn Central Railroad was an agglomeration of the Pennsylvania Rail Road and the New York Central, lashed together in the late 60s in the attempt to keep both lines operating. The merger revealed that the decade of preparatory work for it was spent mostly on figuring out how they'd issue new stock certificates so the investors wouldn't lose equity, with no thinking put into how combining two railroads --- with very different operating cultures and less overlapping track than you might have imagined --- would produce any substantial savings, other than their deciding that there would surely be tens of millions of dollars in savings when they merged. The company staggered on with Bourbon-like arrogance and obliviousness, trusting that the people could be ordered to have the state legislatures provide (needed) support, with the railroad apparently not realizing that they didn't have a monopoly on commuter or long-distance traffic anymore, and the whole project collapsed into the then-largest corporate bankruptcy in history in less than two years. The shards of the mess staggered on until they could be put into Amtrak, Conrail, or other responsible corporations. The name lives on as a footnote in economic histories, as the first great American financial crisis of the 70s, and in railroad histories, as a sorry epilogue for two great names.

So how was I now faced with a wall of Penn Central memorabilia ready for the buying?

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With the trains passed, and the sun moving on, we got back to our car and went to a little spot just outside Altoona, where we could go to our next amusement park, the fourth we would visit in four consecutive days.

Trivia: The French Republican calendar month of Prairial was translated into Italian as Pratile, into German as Wiesenmonat, and into Dutch as Grasmaand. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: War With The Newts, Karel Čapek. Translated by Ewald Osers.