The Pennsylvania Railroad Volume 2: The Age of Limits 1917-1933

The Pennsylvania Railroad Volume 2: The Age of Limits 1917-1933

History Hangout: Conversation with Albert Churella


Even the standard railroad of the world had limits. At the dawn of the twentieth century the Pennsylvania Railroad was at the most powerful it had been. As they began to learn, even that power could only reach so far. 

Albert Churella’s The Pennsylvania Railroad Volume 2: The Age of Limits 1917-1933 is the recently released middle volume in his trilogy on the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In this interview Churella discusses how the railroad grew and changed in the early twentieth century as it faced increasing competition from other methods of transit, government oversight, and the realities of a world that was rapidly changing. Churella does this by interweaving corporate with personal history tracing the life and career of WW. Atterbury who began his career in the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona shops and retired as president in 1935. Atterbury oversaw many projects during his time leading the railroad ranging from the development of the M1 steam locomotive to electrification between New York City and Washington D.C. He also pioneered early experiments in intermodal shipping while advocating for railroad consolidation and abandoning lesser used rail lines. 

Churella also describes his writing and research process explaining how his railroad history became a trilogy. He also offers his thoughts on writing that a text of interest to academic and general audiences.  

Dr. Albert Churella is a professor of history at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, prior to consolidation he taught at Southern Polytechnic State University. Dr. Churella’s other books are The Pennsylvania Railroad, Volume I: Building an Empire, 1846-1917 and From Steam to Diesel: Managerial Customs and Organizational Capabilities in the Twentieth-Century American Locomotive Industry. 

The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast.