Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad

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Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad
Map of the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad up to 1945
Broad Street Station, Philadelphia housed the headquarters offices of the PB&W until 1930.
HeadquartersPhiladelphia (Broad Street Station)
LocalePennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Dates of operation1902–1976
PredecessorPhiladelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad
Baltimore and Potomac Railroad
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad
SuccessorAmtrak (passengers)
Conrail system (freight)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification12 kV 25 Hz
Length717 miles / 1,154 km
(pre-PCC&StL merger)

The Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad (PB&W) was a railroad that operated in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia in the 20th century, and was a key component of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) system. Its 131-mile (211 km) main line ran between Philadelphia and Washington.[1]: 228  The PB&W main line is now part of the Northeast Corridor, owned by Amtrak.


This 1906 bridge over the Susquehanna River, now called the Amtrak Susquehanna River Bridge, replaced the Civil War-era 1866 PW&B Railroad Bridge between Havre de Grace and Perryville, Maryland.

The railroad was formed in 1902 when the Pennsylvania Railroad merged two of its southern subsidiaries, the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad.[1]: 226 

In 1907, the PB&W became a co-owner of the new Washington Terminal Company, which operated the new Washington Union Station, the marble structure dubbed the "Transportation Temple of America".[2]

In 1916, the PB&W operated 717 miles (1,154 km) of road, including 9 miles (14 km) of trackage rights.[1]: 226–227 


The PB&W acquired six railroad companies:


In 1928, the PRR began to electrify the main line between New York City and Washington, D.C., using catenary. Electrification of the PB&W portion was completed in 1935.[3] Amtrak still uses the 25 Hz traction power system.


Union Junction Tower in Baltimore, built in 1910. It operated into the Amtrak era and was closed in 1987.

In 1968, the Pennsylvania Railroad and its longtime rival New York Central Railroad merged to form the Penn Central Railroad. The PB&W remained a separate legal entity, although controlled and operated by the new company. The Penn Central declared bankruptcy in 1970 but continued to operate trains until 1976, when the company's railroad assets were sold under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act. Under the new law, Congress authorized the sale of the PB&W right-of-way between Philadelphia and Washington, and related assets (such as the Washington Terminal Company), to Amtrak. Other PB&W assets, including almost all of the PCC&StL (Pan Handle), were sold to the new Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail).[4]: 122  [5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Flip Wilson's "Ugly Baby" (1965) routine is set on the Pennsylvania Railroad, outbound from Baltimore.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Poors Intermediate Manual of Railroads. New York: Poor's Manual Co. 1917.
  2. ^ Tindall, William (1914). Standard History of the City of Washington. Knoxville, TN: H.W. Crew. p. 418. Retrieved 2009-09-16. washington terminal company.
  3. ^ "Electrification History to 1948". Pennsylvania Railroad Electrification. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  4. ^ Schafer, Mike; Solomon, Brian (1997). Pennsylvania Railroad. Osceola, WI: MotorBooks International. ISBN 978-0-7603-0379-5. OCLC 36676055.
  5. ^ "Penn Central Railroad." Accessed 2010-05-23.
  6. ^ Wilson, Flip (1965). "Ugly Baby". Johnny Carson Show. Archived from the original on 2012-06-26.
  7. ^ Pompilio, Natalie. "Legends and Legacies: Flip Wilson". Retrieved June 27, 2015.

External links[edit]