The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
J. Edgar Thompson

John Edgar Thomson (1808 –1874) was a civil engineer and industrialist, best known for his leadership of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) from 1852 until his death 1874. The PRR became the largest business enterprise in the world and a model for technological innovation under his leadership.

In his day, the PRR was the largest railroad in the world with 6,000 miles of track, and was famous for high quality construction, steady profits, and technological advances (such as replacing wood with coal as locomotive fuel). Thomson’s pragmatic attitude and engineering knowledge created a lasting legacy- the PRR operated for over 100 years and still holds the record for longest continuous dividend payout to shareholders. The PRR consolidated with the New York Central in 1968.