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Sharing the Common Wealth

This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine
Volume XXXV, Number 2 - Spring 2009

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) developed the GG1 class locomotive as part of a system-wide electrification of its main lines in the early 1930s. The PRR's electrification program was intended to reduce pollution from coal burning steam engines in urban areas and to increase the energy efficiency of the system by powering locomotives with electricity generated by modern power plants. Most of the lines electrified during the 1930s--and the power plants the Pennsy helped construct, such as the facility at Safe Harbor in Lancaster County--are still in use, including the northeast corridor from New York to  Washington, D.C., and the main line from Harrisburg to Philadelphia. Through 2009, for which Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has adopted "Energy: Innovation and Impact" as its annual theme, visitors will want to visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, Lancaster County, where they can see PRR's GG1 No. 4935, built in 1943 at the Pennsy's shops in Altoona, Blair County, and used by Amtrak until it was retired. Affectionately known as "Blackjack" by railroading enthusiasts, the locomotive is considered to be the best restored GG1 in existence. The museum has installed a special exhibit, on view through December 31, 2009, underscoring the energy theme. To learn more, visit www.rrmuseumpa.org.