The museum is proud to be the caretaker of a rare piece of history – PRR Passenger Car #1444. Built in 1902, the all-wooden car is a “PK Class Car” – one of only 600 manufactured by the Pennsylvania Railroad, built in West Philadelphia and the only known survivor of this class of car. It is in fact the last all-wooden passenger car built by the PRR – the next class of car was manufactured with steel.
Passenger cars pulled by a steam engine ran on the Pennsylvania Railroad Newtown Square branch between 1895-1908, and one can certainly imagine that Car #1444 could well have been one of those cars. Even if this exact one never made it to Newtown Square over 100 years ago, it represents the style of cars that did.
An excerpt from an August, 2008 article by Sam Coco, one of the founders of this museum, describes the history and importance of the PK class car:
The Pennsylvania Railroad, although styling itself the “Standard Railroad of the World”, tended to be a very conservative railroad. Thus the PK class of coach used for first-class passenger service on the PRR, with its open platforms, battened exterior, and semi-duckbill roof, looks older than it actually is.
As a wood coach, however, its Pennsylvania peculiarities, aside, it is a representative of the wood car builder’s art at the peak of wood car construction in the United States, supporting features such as wood beam trucks reinforced with flitch plates and riveted steel plate truck bolsters.
Over 600 coaches of this class were built for the PRR and its subsidiaries between 1897 and 1907, mostly by the PRR’s own shops, but also by Jackson & Sharp, Pullman and a few smaller builders.
Although this coach was built with open platforms, versions of the PK were also built wide as well as narrow vestibules . Some later cars were also built in steel.
The last year of this car type’s production, 1907, saw the PRR’s introduction of its P-70 steel coach, the first steel railroad passenger car produced in quantity.
The example of the PRR’s conservative management adopting large numbers of steel cars for regular coach service is generally considered to have sounded the death knell of the wood passenger car in the United States.
PK class cars remained in service on the PRR until 1928, when wood cars were taken out of PRR passenger service.
The Newtown Square PRR Museum Association is pleased to have the opportunity to restore this historic all-wood passenger coach, built in the West Philadelphia shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It is the only known survivor of the 600 that were built.