John W. Barriger: Rail Historian and Railfan


Barriger is shown (at right) in 1960 at a Railroad YMCA event. This was during his term as head of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)


John W. Barriger was an outstanding railroad manager; a real live railfan; an advocate of super railroads; and a railroad historian.

He was born in Texas in 1899 and graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Beginning with the Pennsylvania, he worked for at least nine railroads as well as the government.

He was active in the NRHS (as well as the R&LHS). Barriger published a story on Civil War railroads in the NRHS BULLETIN (Volume 31, #6 1966). He was a photographer and rode many railfan trips.

Barriger had been labeled “Doctor of Sick Railroads”. He served and saved such everyday railroads as Monon, Katy and B&M.

He really aimed to create and head a super railroad but his timing was not right.

He advocated electrification and railroad mergers. He envied railroad builders who had gone before him like Harriman, Hill and Loree.

Barriger’s 1956 book “SUPER-RAILROADS FOR A DYNAMIC AMERICAN ECONOMY” proposed many changes in America’s railroads. Some of his findings and conclusions were:

· Railroads offer nationwide service for all types and quantities of freight and passenger traffic. Why nota nation-wide system (super-railroad)?

· Railroads operate best as a “wholesaler” of mass transportation. A super-railroad should concentrate on doing what it can do best.

· Railroads cannot gain full advantage of quantity production unless traffic volume is commensurate with efficient working capacity. As utilization of capacity increases, unit costs decline and earnings increase.

· Failure to earn a reasonable rate of return impairs the railroad’s efforts to attract capital and credit. A super-railroad would have this ability.

· Technological progress has been uneven. Dieselization produced significant savings yet signal systems, car construction and yard design have lagged. Car modernization can only be accomplished with a unified system because each train is only as strong as its weakest link (worst car).

· Skillful planning and coordination of system-wide local and through train service with yard and terminal work, by using schemes of “prior classification”, thereby minimizing the number of times cars must be switched en route, will achieve important reductions of expense and delay.

· More money is spent in repairing and servicing cars and locomotives than in running them.

· Electrification should be expanded in and limited to high traffic situations. Off-peak power could be used to move non-preference freight at off-peak hours.

His knowledge of railroad history was extensive. He amassed a large collection of railroad books and magazines. His collection of books, photos and memorabilia was donated to the Mercantile Library in St. Louis. The collection was valued at over $1 million and $250,000 was needed just to move and catalog it.

In 1927 he left the Pennsylvania to become a railroad consultant. In 1934 he became chief of the railroad division of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. He stayed with the government throughout World War II, working for the Office of Defense Transportation. At the same time he was reorganization manager of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois. He was a vice president of the Chicago Union Stockyards and Transit Co. In 1944 and 1945 he managed the diesel division of Fairbanks-Morse.

One of his first acts on becoming president of the ailing Monon in 1946 was to announce a schedule of fast freights which would run even if there was nothing between the locomotive and caboose. Profits were a reflection of the wisdom of spending money to make money. He cut costs through substantial road and equipment improvements. He felt that dieselization had saved the road because without bridge rebuilding, the Monon could not run modern heavy steam power.

Barriger approached rebuilding the 552-mile, 2000-employee Monon by integrating the best engineering methods and standards of operation into the entire property. Not a big road, the Monon would hardly constitute a single division of a large system. While World War II saw most railroads set new revenue and traffic records, Monon was unable to provide enough service and set no records at all.

Of its 3000 freight cars in 1946, over 1200 were unfit even for repair. Barriger immediately ordered new cars. He replaced 100-pound rail with 112-pound or higher. 75,000 horsepower of diesels handled 25 percent more traffic than 160,000 horsepower of old steam locomotives could handle. Coal, stone, cement and grains were the chief carloadings on the Monon. Coal was the main source of traffic, but almost every town in Monon territory had a grain elevator.

Passenger business increased because of equipment upgrades. In 1946, Monon’s passenger equipment was antiquated and well-worn. New cars weren’t easily available so Monon purchased some Army hospital cars. Some of these cars were brand new and others were only slightly used. They were converted to passenger use with the six-wheel trucks being retained. The interiors were designed by Raymond Loewy. Many of the car interiors were horse-related because Monon served Louisville and ran Kentucky Derby specials.

Barriger put these cars to work. He ran two-and-one-half hour schedules between Chicago and Indianapolis. Chicago trains ran from South Hammond to Dearborn Station over the CW&I. The Monon mainline ran from Chicago to Louisville. There was a freight branch to Michigan City and several shorter branches.

He left Monon in 1953 to become a New Haven vice president. After that, Barriger was off to the Rock Island. From 1954 to 1964 he was president of the prosperous Pittsburgh & Lake Erie. In 1961 his use of wrist watches on the P&LE was a first on American railroads. He “retired” only to become head of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT). There he sold its junk and financed new engines and freight cars. His work kept the Katy alive.

In 1973, at age 74, he put in a year as president of the Boston & Maine. Not happy with retirement, he served as special assistant to the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington. He closed out his career as “senior traveling freight agent” for the Rock Island.

John Walker Barriger died in 1976 at the age of 77.



Chicago Rail Fair of 1948-1949. We have searched out tons of information available on this memorable event. Most of the railroads in the United States were represented, or exhibited. Union Pacific’s Big Boy locomotive was one of the most popular exhibits. At this time, Chicago was the Rail Capital of the U.S.





John Barriger leaves the P&LE in 1965


Barriger at the New Haven

Every contemporary reference that have ever seen regarding Barriger’s New Haven vice presidency, including those that were based upon press releases from the railroad, avoided mentioning specifically what it was that Barriger was vice president of. More importantly, I have also seen reports in the financial pages of contemporary newspapers indicating that Barriger was to be appointed president of the New Haven after the 1953 annual stockholder’s meeting, with Buck Dumaine thereafter serving as chairman of the board.

Barriger was appointed a New Haven vice president and board member (both logical prerequisites to becoming president) on January 8th 1953. He left the New Haven on May 15th 1953, just a few months later, to go to the Rock Island.

Dumaine, in an effort to placate influencial stockholders and maintain control of the railroad, promised to guarantee substantial influence on the board of directors for the common stockholders by making Charles Bay chairman of the board. I suspect that this “deal”, which according to contemporary accounts was made just before or at the annual stockholder’s meeting, basically cut Barriger adrift.

Barriger had an earlier relationship with the New Haven, when he was the Railroad man at the RFC and dealt with the New Haven during the bankruptcy years of the 1930’s.


Leonore F. Loree: Rail Giant

Leonore F. Loree was best known for a long career with the Delaware & Hudson as president. But, before that he received a civil engineering degree from Rutgers, and in 1877 joined the Pennsylvania Railroad as a rodman in engineering department. He spent 2 years in the Army Corps of Engineers then went to the Mexican National Railways in 1881. Rejoining the Pennsylvania. he made a critical evaluation of a yard plan which got him recognized. He became assistant engineer in the Chicago division in 1883. In 1886, Loree rebuilt 26 bridges, 3 culverts, 2 trestles and 7 miles of track in 6 days after an Ohio flood. In 1889 after the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood, he led the task of cleanup and was able to resume traffic in two weeks using 1,500 men. By 1896, he had become the general manager of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He went on to become a vice president in 1901 at the age of 38. He left the Pennsylvania in 1901 to be the president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In 1904, he became president of the Rock Island Railroad.

L.F. Loree came to the Delaware & Hudson in 1907 at the urging of E.H. Harriman ( Union Pacific. He was the president from 1907-1938. One of his most significant contributions was the D&H Building in Albany. This building was designed by architect Marcus T. Reynolds in 1913 and is a 12-story flemish gothic castle-like structure. From that building, the D&H controlled railroads, coal mines, rapid transit systems, hotels and resorts, steamship companies, real estate and so much more. Amazing how things have changed both for the D&H and the world since it was built! In 1923, the D&H had its 100th anniversary and Loree had his 65th birthday.

Loree was very involved in the railroad “merger-mania” of the 1920’s. Four major consolidations had been proposed and, in 1925, Loree proposed a fifth trunk line. As well as the D&H, it included:
Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh
Lehigh Valley
Wheeling and Lake Erie
A new line thru Pennsylvania
This route would be 50 miles shorter toChicago and eliminate many “Alphabet Routes”.

Unfortunately, the Interstate Commerce Commission vetoed his proposal. In the process, he had acquired a great deal of stocks which he sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad for $63 million. His profit of $22 million was invested in 595,000 shares of the New York Central Railroad This gave the D&H a 10 percent ownership!

In 1929, Loree proposed the “North Atlantic Terminal System”, but it was killed by the Great Depression. Headed by the D&H, it included 17 railroads which included:
New Haven RR
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western
Western Maryland
Boston & Maine

He expected a lot out of his employees. He is known for his practice of not using mechanical stokers on steam locomotives. Instead, he felt he was giving the firemen the best tool: Red Edge shovels.

By the time Loree took over the D&H in 1907, over 200 2-8-0’s had largely replaced all the Moguls in main-line service. Long an advocate of big power, Loree continued buying even larger 2-8-0’s, which fell into an E-5 classification. The first 18 of the new 1000s were double-cabbed, but, with the arrival of #1025 in 1907, the throttle on the D&H engines returned to the backhead once again. These E-5’s had 222,000 pounds on the drivers, 210-pound boiler pressure, piston valves, Walschaert valve gear for the first time on the D&H, and 57-inch drivers, giving them an impressive 49,650-pound tractive effort. The 48 new E-5’s could easily handle 1230 tons up Belden Hill out of Binghamton, where a hogger on an E-3 had his hands full with only 985 tons. Another technological advancement under Loree that originated on the D&H that gained wide acceptance was the application of roller bearings to locomotive driving wheels and side-rods.

The following is from “DELAWARE & HUDSON“, by Jim Shaughnessy: “……. to assert that the steam locomotives of the D&H were daring in design and austere in appearance is to say they were cast after the character of the man who ruled the line for 31 tumultous years.” Thus does a respected railroad journalist characterize the man and his locomotives. “Like his engines, Loree was a stark model of efficiency-a great and proud figure of a man who believed in flat profiles and super locomotives, a day’s work for a day’s pay, discipline of organazation and freedom of management……….Because of Loree the company achieved a rank out of all proportion of its modest mileage. “The locomotives purchased or rebuilt throughout Loree’s administration mirrored its trials and triumphs. Often experimental in concept, always disciplined in design, they ran the gamut from high-pressure 2-8-0’s to Pacifics with rotary cam poppet valve gear and recessed headlights. They seldom agreed with contemporary U.S. engineering and yet they included the first driving-axle and and side-rod roller bearing assemblies, tender booster and welded boiler. The industry learned to look when the D&H unwrapped a new engine because Leonor Loree was a man well-versed in locomotives.”

Not surprisingly, Loree was always an advocate of bigger and better motive power and began to upgrade the D&H’s roster as soon as he arrived in 1907. Larger and heavier engines sparked a long series of alterations and improvements on the D&H. The new locomotives were capable of improving the speed and tonnage of trains and, to operate to their best advantage, required stronger bridges, longer roundhouses, longer turntables, better roadbed, easier grades, larger capacity cars, more water and better service facilities at terminals and shops. Each improvement was followed closely by another, for larger locomotives brought longer trains which demanded longer passing tracks, larger and more efficient yards, and, eventually, the cycle returned to even bigger locomotives again. In 1908, the yard at Binghamton was enlarged, and, in the following year, new yards were buit at Bluff Point, near Plattsburg, and Jermyn, near Carbondale. It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Loree was anything BUT an idle fellow!! The state of the D&H proved that!!

Consolidation # 1111 was the first of the dozen homemade D&H engines, the E-5a class, that were about as powerful and efficient as a 2-8-0 could be made. The last of the series was built in 1932, after which the depression ended the need for new motive power. the #1114 had a different appearance from the others, because of the semi-streamlined enclosure on the top; it also carried more boiler pressure and much more superheating surface. Of course, Mr. Loree was always very proud of his locomotives, and he was more than happy to show of his best for a visit by the presidents of the NYC and LV in 1927.

This article was originally published in 1933 for The NEW YORKER MAGAZINE and again rewritten in 1961.

“Leonore F. Loree is perhaps the one man in Wall Street who would not be eclipsed by the office suite occupied by the president of the Delaware & Hudson railroad. It is a gaudy affair in the florid manner on the ninteenth century. The ceiling is a profusion of nymph’s heads, festoons of fruit, and fat dimpled cherubs. There are sunburst crystal chandeliers, a mantlepiece with carved lions heads, wall niches full of cockle shells, and windows with stained glass borders. There are elegant ormolue radiators, screens, two shiny brass cuspidors and a gas log.

Shaggy and elephantine, with quick, amused eyes and lumbering, soft footed walk of a bear, Loree easily dominates the cherubs and the nymphs. A friend has observed that Loree’s real place is in the museum of Natural History. He is a survivor from Wall Street’s Pleistocene Age, a reminder that there was a time when Jay Gould and Jubilee Jim Fisk ran the Erie from the Manthattan Opera house and John W. Gates drank the Steel Corporation into existence. Loree, too, has a late Victorian flair for the grand gesture. For example, he tried to buy the Diana from the old Madison Square Garden for his favorite institution, the New Jersey College for Women. Unsuccesful, he presented the stone lions from the old Waldorf instead. Visitors to Albany often mistake the D&H building for the state capital. Loree built it in the most elaborate Flemish style. The clasic Loree Gesture came at the outbreak of the war. Like thousands of other Americans, he found himself stranded in France. At once he chartered by cable the steamer Antilles and sailed back, bringing 252 fellow countrymen as paying guests.

On April 23, 1925, Loree celebrated his 67th birthday. Shortly afterwards he announced that he had embarked on a campaign to weld a dozen independent railroads into a system that would extend from New York to Kansas City and from Canada to Mexico. There is some doubt of his motives. His friends see nothing more that straighforward ambition. Observers more realisitcly minded have a subtler theory. They point out that some months before his announcement, the heads of the four Eastern Trunk Lines, the Pennsylvania, New York Central, the B&O, and the Van Swerigen roads-had met, without a word to Loree, and with pencil and paper, had divided among themselves the smaller lines of the East, including the D&H. If not inviting Loree to the conference is to be classed as a social error, it was one whose consequences were appaling. Loree immediately became belligerent.

He moved to counterattack. Once he gave three rules for success. The first two were commonplace. The third was simply “Be Audacious”. So Loree, the head of a railroad capitalized at $118,600,00, went out to do battle with four systems, the smallest of which was eight times as large. It was a campaign of endless marches and countermarches, the rape of the road, the battle for control of that, of appeals to the Interstate Commerce Commision, sitting enthroned above the conflict. For 2 years, Loree fought. In 1927 he admitted he was licked on the broad field of consolidating a new system. He narrowed down the fight to getting control of two roads which were essential to the projects of his opponents. These were the Lehigh Valley and Wabash. Throughout the summer and fall of 1927 he steadily bought into these roads.

When the next series of merger conferences took place, Loree, you may be sure, was invited to attend. The meeting were held in General Atterbury’s offices in Pennsylvania station. The veteran railroader didn’t seem at all interested in selling his Lehigh and Wabash holdings. The meetins dragged on, with everyone except Loree getting more and more worried. Along toward the spring the tension became unbearable, General Atterbury of the Pennsylvania called on Otto Kahn, Loeb & Co., bankers for both the D&H and Pennsylvania , and implored him to persuade Loree to sell out. During the next week the shaggy, ursine head of Loree and the sleek, well barbered head of Kahn bobbed in protracted conference. The upshot was that on April 27, 1928, Loree sold out to the Pennsylvania. The D&H recieved $63,000,000 for stocks which had cost $40,000,000.



D&H No. 500 was built by Pullman in 1917 for D&H president L.F. Loree.

The interior, of Cuban mahogany and West Indian satinwood, will accomodate 10 in two staterooms, one drawing room, dining room and observation end. During the winter of 1967 it was renovated at the Colonie, N.Y. shops, painted berry red and the interior redecorated in an early 19th Century motif with blue brocade drapes and gold fringe trim. March 1967.

Photo by Jim Shaughnessy
Post card published by Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, N.Y.


Barriger shows success in 1948 at the Monon

In the August, 1948 TRAINS Magazine, Barriger was showing profits with the Monon Railroad. When Barriger took over the Monon in 1946, he became aggressive! He announced fast freights that run on schedule no matter how much business was at hand. The “old” Monon had held freight until a maximum trainload was accumulated. The “new” Monon ran short, profitless freights for many months until shippers realized that good service was available.

Many railroad executives thought Barriger’s policies would bring disaster, but they did not realize the cautious operating ability that went along with his willingness to spend money to make money, and in his belief in the future of the Monon.


David Gunn, a new Railroad Hero?

David L. Gunn is a transportation system administrator who has headed several important railroads and transit systems in North America.

Gunn has the following work experience:

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway 1964 to 1967

New York Central Railroad 1967 to 1968

Assistant Vice-President, Illinois Central Gulf Railroad 1969 to 1974

Director of Commuter Rail, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) 1974 to 1975

Director of Operations, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) 1975 to 1979

General Manager and Chief Operations Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) 1979 to 1984

President, New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) 1984 to 1990

General Manager, Washington DC Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) 1991 to 1994

Chief General Manager, Toronto Transit Commission 1995 to 1999

President, Amtrak, 2002-2005.

David Gunn

More about David Gunn

Why did David Gunn get fired from Amtrak?


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