February 14, 1897 Railroad reformer Robert R. Young is born. Chairman of the Board of Chesapeake & Ohio, Erie, Missouri Pacific, Nickel Plate, Pere Marquette, Wheeling & Lake Erie and finally New York Central, he is perhaps best known for his advertising campaign: “A hog can cross the country without changing trains but you can’t”.
Some of the most fascinating railroad literature of the 1940’s are transcripts of Robert R. Young‘s testimony before the Interstate Commerce Commission (I. C. C.) on his petition for permission to accept a seat on the New York Central board of directors.
His Chesapeake & Ohio owned 6% of the Central and the stock was “impounded” in a voting trust which prevented C&O from voting on director’s appointments.
While railroad barons of old like Vanderbilt or Gould worked behind the scenes, Young had to carry out his plans in the glare of public hearings. He enjoyed the publicity and used it as a forum to express his views on railroading. He felt a C&O – NYC merger would be good for railroading and the country. Seeing the New York Central as undervalued yet a great railroad property, he had bought 400,000 shares at $18/share.
Ironically, between 1889 and 1906 the New York Central owned a substantial interest in the C&O. When the Pennsylvania sold its interest, the Central had followed suit.
His biggest achievement was saving the New York Central. His major contributions were keeping it from defaulting on its huge debt and hiring Al Perlman from the Rio Grande. He then kept his nose out of the New York Central. When Central stock was selling at 23 1/2, he predicted it would break 100. By 1966 it reached 89 1/4 while paying $3.15 in dividends.
In 1948 he hatched a plan to affiliate his Chesapeake & Ohio with the New York Central. After he was denied a seat on the Central’s board by the ICC, he tried to get approval for a C&O, NYC and Virginian merger. He had been denied the seat because of the adverse competitive effect it might have on the Virginian. The Virginian’s only friendly western connection was with the New York Central by means of a bridge over the Kanawha River. The C&O was a competitor of the Virginian (as was the Norfolk & Western which eventually gobbled up the Virginian).
Young felt the only way for railroads to keep rates down was to eliminate some of the 131 railroad presidents and create regional systems. He was chairman of the Federation for Railway Progress. The Federation’s monthly magazine contained articles on the controversial issues of the times. Some of the more interesting ones were: dieselization vs. electrification; new “reefer” techniques being explored for the frozen food industry; A. E. Perlman’s progress on the Rio Grande; and a preview of train “X”.
Young was a severe critic of the Association of American Railroads. The railroads he controlled withdrew from it yet used all its services except advertising and public relations. His railroads continued to use the little-publicized A.A.R. activities such as car service, accounting, and the mechanical and control arrangements necessary for equipment exchange.
Train “X” was a product of C&O’s research department. Cars were about one-third as long as standard cars, much lower, and had two wheels each. They hooked together like semi-trailers. They were supposedly less likely to derail. Air conditioning and other auxiliary equipment were in the headend power car instead of under car floors. The locomotive turned out to be a “bummer”, but the concept re-emerged several years later as the United Aircraft Turbotrain. His point was that conventional equipment was too expensive.
Young always pushed for a “breakthrough” in the technology of passenger trains. His feeling was that a ton of coal could only be hauled one way and once you haul it, you can’t haul it again; but if you give passengers good service, you can haul them back and forth two or three times a month. He bought a deluxe train to run between Cincinnati and Washington with sections to Louisville and Newport News. Unfortunately the steam turbine-electrics didn’t work and the domes wouldn’t fit in Washington’s Union Station. Young identified himself with the passenger because he knew that public support would blow his way if he attacked what bothered the passenger. He criticized long ticket-window lines, upper berths and dining-car tipping.
Since Robert R. Young began writing memos to the New York Central in 1948, the writing of memos to Mr. Young took on all the aspects of a national sport. The Louisville newspaper wrote him one (and published it as an ad in several other newspapers). In the memo they complimented him on the courtesy of his employees and some of the ideas he had introduced, but then ribbed him on the lateness of C&O trains into Louisville and the quality of the equipment on these trains. They summarized by telling him not to focus so hard on becoming a New York Central director and forget all about running the C&O.
Robert Ralph Young was a proponent of high-class freight travel at high speed. He saw no reason why fruits and vegetables from Florida and California couldn’t move to New York and Chicago when they were ripe. He published several ads questioning why a hog can cross America but a passenger must change trains. Young criticized what he called “Rip Van Winkle” rail management. Robert Young’s ideas were way ahead of his time. He ordered 1000 hoppers with roller-bearings when there were less than 100 freight cars in the country so equipped. He advocated mechanical refrigerator cars. He had criticized railroads for “iceboxes and hotboxes”. Some of his ideas were credit cards, on-train movies and coast-to-coast sleepers.
He argued that freight car shortages could be eliminated by running freight trains 10 to 15 mph faster. He constantly pushed for faster cross-country freight schedules. Sometimes he was not factually precise and he was inseparably linked with the C&O. His opposition observed that C&O coal trains rolled slower than western freights that he criticized. While other roads were dieselizing, C&O stuck with steam. Young responded that burning oil at a rapid rate was not in the public interest.
His main idea for the future was that fast trains would rush freight to the outskirts of the population centers where trucks would take over. Trucks would keep out of long-haul and trains would stay away from inner-city switching. New York Central’s Flexi-Van was an attempt at this end.
Young moved into railroading from General Motors where he had became treasurer at the age of 31. Lucking out of the 1929 stock market crash by selling short, he obtained a New York Stock Exchange seat in 1931. For an extremely low price, he obtained control of the Alleghany Co.
At year-end 1943, New York Central closed at 18 ¾, which meant D&H had an investment of $ 5,711,250.
On July 8, 1889, the first issue of The Wall Street Journal was published. The Dow Jones Average included on that day Delaware & Hudson Canal opened at $145. New York Central was $105. Rooting through my publications collection, I found a mimeographed newsletter dated April 1944 called The Shrieking Journal. It was published by the Hub Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in Boston. In their “railroad briefs” section, they reported that “All of the Delaware & Hudson’s non-affiliated companies’ securities were sold during 1943, with the exception of 304,600 shares of New York Central”. At year-end 1943, New York Central closed at 18 ¾, which meant D&H had an investment of $ 5,711,250.
What would have happened if the Delaware & Hudson had remained an independent entity and continued to hold this stock until today?
In 1954, Robert Young grabbed 15% of New York Central stock and won a dramatic proxy fight for control of the railroad. Young financed this purchase through an investment company which he controlled called the Alleghany Corporation. This company had been founded in 1929 by the Van Sweringen brothers as a holding company for their railroad investments. Young brought in Alfred Perlman as president to help modernize and automate operations. Between 1954 and 1957, they fired 25,000 employees and sold $9 million in real estate. Despite his efforts, stock declined to its 1946 price of $15. The prosperity of the Eisenhower administration brought the New York Central stock up to 21 ¾ at the end of 1958. The D&H investment had only climbed to $ 6,625,050. But we should remember that railroads regarded dividend payments as a necessity and the money received should not be dismissed as “small change” during these years.
Cautious merger talks between the Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad began in 1958. In the meantime, the Pennsylvania began to diversify by developing real estate such as Madison Square Garden and purchasing the Buckeye Pipe Line Company (eighth largest producer of crude oil in the United States). In 1966, the Pennsylvania had purchased an amusement park business originally called Six Flags Over Texas. With the new owners came a more abundant supply of capital for geographic expansion and park additions. In 1982, Penn Central sold this corporation to Bally Corporation.
The Interstate Commerce Commission approved the merger in March 1965 but it took a 1968 Supreme Court decision before being formalized in February of that year. The new company operated one-third of America’s passenger trains and three-fourths of all long-haul services, totaling over 20,000 route miles in 16 states, two Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia. The “market” liked what was going on: New York Central climbed from 59 ¼ in October 1965 to 77 in February 1967 and to 80 ½ in July 1967. Wow! The D&H investment would now be $ 24,520,300!
On the merger date of February 1, 1968, New York Central closed at 71 3/8. New York Central stockholders received 1.3 shares of Penn Central for each of their shares. On that date, D&H would have turned in their certificates that bore a likeness of Commodore Vanderbilt for 395,980 Penn Central certificates worth $28,263,073. Pennsylvania stockholders didn’t have to turn in their shares because it was one-for-one. New Penn Central certificates really looked like a conglomerate was forming: pictures of planes, ships, trucks, pipelines and buildings.
With a staff of 94,000 consuming 59% of the company’s revenues, Penn Central had huge losses and by the first quarter of 1970, $200 million of long-term loan payments were due. Lots of big shareowners dumped the stock; some at under $10/share. Thus the D&H investment could have dropped to $3,959,800. All this in 871 days! The company attempted to obtain a Department of Defense loan guarantee, but Congress did not approve. In June 1970, the Penn Central filed for reorganization under Section 77 of the Bankruptcy Act. The government tried to bolster Penn Central because of the importance of the rail system. It created Amtrak in 1971 to take over passenger operations. Penn Central and six other northeastern railroads suffered a recession, a destructive hurricane, and finally an oil crisis before 1976 when a new federally funded entity, Conrail, was created to assume their rail operations.
Penn Central began a new life with non-rail assets such as the gas pipeline company, coal leases, and real estate such as New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and Park Avenue. It should be noted that one corporation that still remains as an asset of the successor company (American Premier Underwriters) is the New York & Harlem Railroad Co. This company, founded in 1831, is responsible for $12 million in (redeemable in gold) 3 ½ bonds due in the year 2000 and $7.8 million of 3 ½’s due in 2043. These bonds are legally secured by the 127-mile right-of-way from New York City to Chatham AND by GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL! Currently, these borrowings are rated “Baa1” by Moody’s (not too bad since Penn Central seems to have sold off some of this property).
In 1981, Penn Central received $2.1 billion in compensation for its rail properties plus tax loss carry forwards of $2.2 billion. It then purchased Marathon Manufacturing, which made oil rigs; G.K. Technologies, an electronic company; Buckeye Gas Products, which dealt in propane gas; and Sprague Electric, a manufacturer of capacitors. Many of these were unprofitable. By 1982, American Financial Corporation’s Carl Lindner obtained enough stock to be elected chairman in 1983. Now the company began to sell certain operating assets such as Buckeye Pipeline and Buckeye Gas. In 1989, the company acquired its first insurance operation, Republic Indemnity Co. of America. In 1990, three non-standard auto insurance companies were acquired. General Cable Corp. was formed to control Penn Central’s primary manufacturing businesses and then was spun off to shareholders in 1992. It’s not entirely clear what percent of equity was spun off. Later that year, the company put its defense and industrial products units, including Vitro Corp. (a provider of systems and software engineering for the military) up for sale. Nine non-insurance business units and major assets were sold over an 18-month period beginning in 1992. Penn Central’s 1993 revenues totaled $1.76 billion.
In 1981 Penn Central made an unsuccessful bid to buy Colt Industries. Penn, which had just emerged from a large reorganization as a strong, diversified company, offered $1.4 billion. But a group of Penn’s large stockholders owning 22% of the firm’s stock balked at the deal, believing it was $400 million too high. The deal was sunk by a small margin.
In 1982, The Williams Companies, a large petroleum, gas and pipeline company, sold its Williams Energy subsidiary, which consisted of what used to be The Suburban Companies, to Penn Central for $57 million. They had purchased The Suburban Companies, a liquid-propane gas retailer, in 1971. Ironically, Suburban Propane was one of the last rail freight customers served on the upper Harlem Division.
American Premier Underwriters, Inc. is now the direct descendant of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which was founded in 1846. In 1872, The Pennsylvania Company was created as a holding company to manage the system. It merged in 1968 with the New York Central to form the Penn Central Transportation Company and developed into a highly diversified conglomerate. In March, 1994 it dropped its well known rail-related name in favor of a title that more accurately described its business activities – property and casualty insurance. Today it employs 5,400 people, has sales of $1.8 billion and is publicly traded on five stock exchanges.
The stock at the time of sale had made a reverse-split of 25 to 1 and since then has made a more positive split of 1 to 3. The stock is currently worth 3 shares of American Premiere for approximately every 25 shares of the old Penn Central stock. The current price per share of American Premier is around $35 per share.
Summary of New York Central Stock
|Date||# of shares||Per Share||Company||Value|
|12/31/1943||304,600||18 ¾||New York Central||$5,711,250|
|12/31/1958||304,600||21 ¾||New York Central||$6,625,050|
|10/31/1965||304,600||59 ¼||New York Central||$18,199,850|
|2/28/1967||304,600||77||New York Central||$23,454,200|
|7/31/1967||304,600||80 ½||New York Central||$24,520,300|
|2/1/1968||304,600||71 3/8||New York Central||$21,740,825|
|2/2/1968||395,980||59 ½||Penn Central||$23,560,810|
|6/19/1970||395,980||11 1/8||Penn Central||$4,405,278|
|6/22/1970||395,980||Didn’t open||Penn Central||????????|
|6/23/1970||395,980||6 1/2||Penn Central||$2,573,870|
|6/1/1976||395,980||1 3/8||Penn Central||$544,473|
|12/31/1997||47,518||35||American Premier Underwriters/General Cable||$1,663,130|
If you have old Penn Central stock and wish to sell, the company to contact is: American Premier Underwriters One East Fourth Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 (513) 579-6643 Contact person for exchange stock certificates: Jay P. Gohman
About the General Cable stock that would have been received; I couldn’t find anything in Moody’s and fear it might have gone to stock “la la land”.
New York Central and Santa Fe where coast-to-coast railroad passenger partners in 1946.
Pictures are from New York’s Grand Central Terminal and Chicago’s Dearborn Station.
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Cross Country Pullmans
Chicago, St Louis, New Orleans and Memphis were the places where you could change to ride coast-to-coast by only two trains. Chicago and St Louis had the most choices of route, east and west.
In a 1950 Official Guide, there were five western routes that had one or more through cars to the east, all via Chicago:
San Francisco Overland (Chicago & North Western / Union Pacific /Southern Pacific) had a 10-roomette,6-double-bedroom car via New York Central and another via Pennsylvania.
California Zephyr (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy / Denver & Rio Grande Western / Western Pacific) had one 10-roomette,6-double-bedroom car going alternate days by New York Central or Pennsylvania.
The Chief (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe) had four cars. A 4-compartment, 6-double-bedroom, 2-drawing-room car and a 10-roomette,6-double-bedroom car both went via New York Central. A 4-compartment,4-double-bedroom,2-drawing-room car went via Pennsylvania, and lastly a 6-section,6-roomette,4-double-bedroom car went to Washington DC via Baltimore & Ohio.
Los Angeles Limited (Chicago & North Western / Union Pacific) had a 10-roomette,6-double-bedroom car via New York Central and another via Pennsylvania.
Golden State (Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific / Southern Pacific) had one 4-compartment,4-double-bedroom,2-drawing-room car that went alternate days via New York Central or Pennsylvania.
Railroads with through sleeping cars with the NY Central (post WW2 only) included DL&W, C&O, CP, D&H, SOU, MILW, C&NW, UP, CB&Q, D&RGW, WP, SP, RI, ATSF, MP and SLSF (not sure of the last two). Prewar you could add PRR and B&M
Let’s consider the situation at Chicago:
|San Francisco Overland||Oakland 16th St||Chicago C&NW||CNW UP SP|
|California Zephyr||Oakland 2d St||Chicago Union||CBQ DRGW WP|
|The Chief||Los Angeles Union||Chicago Dearborn||SF|
|Los Angeles Limited||Los Angeles Union||Chicago C&NW||CNW UP|
|Golden State||Los Angeles Union||Chicago LaSalle St||RI SP|
|New York Central trains||New York Grand Central||Chicago LaSalle St||NYC|
|Pennsylvania trains||New York Penn||Chicago Union||PRR|
|Baltimore & Ohio trains||Washington DC Union||Chicago Grand Central||B&O|
Yes, almost all the connections required odd movements between terminals in Chicago, using track otherwise used only for freight. Railfans’ delight! The time allowed at Chicago runs from 2 to 6 hours, typically about 4 hours, so travelers could probably do better time by changing trains.
Runs east of Chicago took at least 16 hours, and west of Chicago took over 48, so it looks like they needed 8 cars to run each one of the “through car” services– that’s 2 east of Chicago and 6 west of.
As the California Zephyr was the example we started with, here’s the 1950 schedule westbound, as a sample (showing alternate days)–
|New York Grand Central||1815 (1815 ET Mon)|
|Chicago LaSalle St||1215 (1315 ET Tue)|
|New York Penn||1845 (1845 ET Tue)|
|Chicago Union||1025 (1125 ET Wed)|
|Chicago Union||1530 (1630 ET Tue)||1530 (1630 ET Wed)|
|Oakland 2d St||1600 (1900 ET Thu)||1600 (1900 ET Fri)|
Why both New York Central and Pennsylvania? Possibly to avoid a war between the two rivals! But also, the two had quite different routes in between New York and Chicago, so they served more cities by offering both eastern routes.
Trivia: OK, we’ve mentioned changing trains, and through cars, now what’s the third possibility? Changing cars within a train. You could have gone from New York via the B&O route shown above, which had New York–Chicago cars, and changed cars, but not trains, anywhere between Washington and Chicago. I wonder how many people tried that.
In the mid-to-late-40’s, there was also briefly a Washington sleeper from the Overland Route (LA or SF) to the PRR.
The St Louis-oriented thru-car service was interesting, too. Like the Chicago cars, it centered around the NYC/PRR, although the B&O was involved, too–indeed, kept it later than anyone else. Central, on the other hand, bailed out of the thru-car service to the Southwest fairly early, maybe even earlier than 1950–of course, it had a major distance/time disadvantage NY-St Louis as compared to either Pennsy or B&O.
1) to the Texas Special (Frisco-Katy beyond St Louis):
from NY via PRR to San Antonio via Dallas
from NY via NYC to San Antonio via Dallas
from NY via NYC to Waco via Fort Worth
2) to Tulsa and/or Oklahoma City via Frisco:
from NY via PRR
from NY via NYC
from Washington via B&O
3) to the Texas Eagle (MP-T&P beyond St Louis):
from NY via PRR to El Paso, later only to Ft Worth
from NY via PRR to Houston
from NY via PRR to San Antonio (originally to Mexico City)
from NY via NYC to San Antonio (originally to Mexico City)
from NY via B&O to Ft Worth (coach!)
Washington via B&O to Ft Worth
Washington via B&O to San Antonio (later became a Slumbercoach and ran into the mid-60’s, in the last few years sometimes from Baltimore, when thru trains were made up there)
Washington via C&O Cincinnati-NYC to Mexico City (no doubt the most exotic route of all, and the ONLY thru-service “coast-to-coast” type route Robert R Young’s C&O, which started all the hoopla, ever got involved in).
There were a couple of exotic things in there, too. For example, at first the Overland Route cars all went west from Chicago on one train, the TRANSCON, which carried the LA cars all the way (the train ran thru Chicago-LA), dropping the SF cars at Ogden for the SP. And there was briefly a thru New York-Mexico City section of the SUNSHINE SPECIAL (this was before the TEXAS EAGLE was inaugurated) via PRR-MP-T&P-MP-NdeM.
The other thru coast-to-coast route, strangely enough, didn’t really operate in the post-WWII time frame, though it ran both earlier and later than that, including into the Amtrak years: thru New Orleans. Mostly Washington-LA on the CRESCENT route and the SP, though, particularly in later years, it sometimes ran through to/from New York. Right after the war, the closest thing to it was a service on the PIEDMONT LIMITED and the SP which used the same Pullman line number all the way from Washington to LA, but was actually two separate cars on either side of New Orleans–passengers had to change stations there, too, as this was before the Union Passenger Terminal was built.
Robert Young brought Alfred Perlman to the New York Central as president. Perlman went on to the Penn Central.
In December, 1954, Chairman Young and President Alfred Perlman called reporters into the railroad’s luxurious board room in Manhattan to give the answer. With his usual hyperbole, Young summed up: “Al Perlman has performed a miracle. It will go down as one of the great executive accomplishments in history. “When Young took over after the bitter proxy war, the road was running some $6,000,000 in the red. Last week he announced that the November profit was $5,400,000.
In 1958 I believe , AEP spoke B4 the Fifth Avenue Assn re the commuter service…he predicted everything that came to pass..at this time NYC was the largest single tax payer in the city…and while their properties were heavily financed , the income far exceeded their payments…the tax alone on the Harlem River bridge was crazy…I think he was a genius and the best thing that happened to NYC….Lew Catone
Robert Young followed Harold Vanderbilt as chairman of the New York Central.
Click on his picture to read more about Harold Vanderbilt.
Robert R. Young’s Quest to Control the New York Central
The Proxy War of 1954 and its aftermath
By Daniel A. Masters
To me, and to anyone following Mr. Young or the New York Central, this massive effort by Mr. Masters is a “must read”.
Most interesting to me from a future research standpoint, was the 160,000 shares of Central owned by Union Pacific. I also was very interested in the composition of the 1954 Central’s Board of Directors.
George Whitney, chairman of J. P. Morgan & Co., 100 shares
William White, president of NYC, 700 shares
Alexander C. Nagle, president of the First National Bank, New York, 150 shares
Lawrence N. Murray, president of the Mellon National Bank, Pittsburgh, 100 shares
Percy J. Ebbott, president of the Chase National Bank, New York, 100 shares
Robert F. Loree, Madison, N.J., president of Afton Dairies, Inc., 100 shares (see D&H connection)
Malcolm P. Aldrich, New York, president of the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, 100 shares
James A. Farley, chairman of Coca-Cola Export Corp., 100 shares
William E. Levis, Toledo, Owens-Illinois Glass Co. director, 1,000 shares
Carl P. Dennett, Boston, president of Capital Managers, Inc., 100 shares
Elton Hoyt II, Cleveland, of Pickands, Mather & Co., 250 shares
Harold S. Vanderbilt, great-grandson of the Central’s Commodore Vanderbilt, 10,000 shares
William H. Vanderbilt, a great-great-grandson, 1,000 shares
Albert B. Dick Jr., Chicago, chairman of A. B. Dick Co., 100 shares
Earle J. Machold, Syracuse, president of Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., 100 shares
Al Perlman Kills Steam
AL PERLMAN: He had, to be kind, a difficult personality, but he knew railroading, knew what had to be done, and did it. When he arrived, NYC had vastly excess physical plant, an archaic management structure, and, among other things, was handling a lot of unprofitable types of business. Perlman streamlined the physical plant and operations, created new research and marketing functions, and brought in a bunch of bright young guys, most of whom went on to become industry leaders in the 1970s and ’80s. It can be argued that by the time Penn Central came on the horizon, NYC was slipping back into trouble, but this was mostly for reasons that Perlman couldn’t control. When PC finally did appear, though, NYC had a far better physical plant and management than its shotgun partner, the PRR.
By replacing steam with diesel power (even replacing NYC 6000-class engines with 1500-hp diesels). Just a few improvements:
Elimination of steam shops, servicing facilites, the taxes paid on them, and the thousands of employees that staffed them.
Elimination of water stops (not all NYC lines had track pans), water tanks and treatment plants.
Faster times over the road, better availablity of road power meant a reduction in the number of crews needed– a savings of money.
Not having to haul “company coal”which was effectively not only “non-revenue” loaded car miles, but was a COST to the railroad.
Let’s recall that there were only 30 4-8-4s, only about 150 modern 4-8-2s (the rest were 1916-1929 vintage), the Hudsons were about useless as freight power as passenger train miles went into free-fall— the rest of the NYC steam roster was old and tired and ready to be replaced anyway.
In the overly-regulated environment of railroading during the late 40s into the late 50s, the diesel (along with CTC and improvements/mechanization of track maintenance) quite simply saved the railroads, NYCS included.
In spite of much wishful thinking, the presidency of A. E. Perlman had nothing to do with the decision to replace NYC steam power with diesel. The die had been cast in the late 1940’s, and by the time A.E.P. became president it was only a question of how and when the job would be completed. It is unfair to the memory of a brilliant, though abrasive, engineer to “blame” him for the decision to eliminate steam power long after its epitaph had been written.
The NYC was in its death throes when Perlman took over and he was focused on saving the railroad. That he didn’t take the time or the energy to save steam locomotives is lamentable, but understandable in the environment he faced. As an example of how deperate things got, in late fifties and early sixties, the NYC could not afford new rail or new crossties for its tracks. Perlman’s record, including taking the Rio Grande from a derelict to a railroad that made money with one of the most hostile routes, on a per-mile basis, in the country is unimpeachable. His students and their accomplishments are testimony to his ability to identify and motivate his employees. I think most people who have worked a large part of their careers at the railroads realize how close we came to losing the entire industry from the private enterprise sector of the US economy. It could be argued that without Perlman, it would not have made it. I don’t know anyone who spent time in the operating departments in Perlman’s era who did not work extraordinarily long hours to keep things glued together. I’m sure that included the leader. The idiots that are now seeking reregulation to protect their pet interests may yet undo all that has been done to perserving it. They’re the same ones who want to expropriate railroad track and rights-of-way for passenger service when they have spent their careers appropriating our tax money to buy property in the free market place to build highways. Maybe instead of questioning Perlman’s motives, we should lament that not one of those folks who witnessed the long lines of white-lined steamers stepped forward to pay the relatively small amount they generated in scrap. I’m glad the folks who stepped forward to buy the derelict Hickory Creek had more foresight and I support them with my patronage when I get the chance.
Of course, steam had to go as dieselization was the smart business decision that it was, I am not sure that, potentially, the situation could not have been the opposite. Based on my engineering education (2 degrees), I still feel that the underminement of steam was due to the fact that U.S. railroads (and U.S. locomotive builders) failed to make possible technological improvements to steam locomtove design across the board as time advanced. In the rest of the world, steam locomotives continued to be developed and stayed in use for a far longer period of time, until either all-electric motive power became possible or pressure to pony up to the U.S. in terms of using diesels took over. I cite British Isles, France, South Africa, and China. The United States has always, in its transportation modalities, held fast, until the last 5-10 years, of “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) mentality. One can see this not only in rail technology, but also in ships, cars, and aircraft developed in the U.S. We don’t set the technology stage for the most part, and we never really did, except for a very few items such as air brakes, knuckle couplers, automatic transmissions, and very large diesel engines. Independent suspension (rail and automobile), disc brakes, electromagnetic regenerative braking, jet engine development, AC traction motors, rectifier electric locomotive systems, steerable bogies, distributed ship propulsion, 3-cylinder and multi-cycle steam locomotives, fully automatic couplers, and high-speed trains were all developed overseas. There is no technology that was used on steam locomotives responsible for high maintenance or environmental effects which could not have been revised. The railroads chose to adopt KISS over improved technology. Granted, today government puts more pressure (environmental standards, fuel economy, safety) on transportation systems; and perhaps if they had done that in the past, things would have improved for steam locomotive development. Presently, we have surrendered passenger car devopment and building to foreign companies, and I think this another symptom of the same disease. (Why is it that foreign companies found enough passenger car business to stay alive, but our companies like ACF, St. Louis Car, Budd, and Pullman went out of business?) It used to be that every American company was represented in the NY subway system and other metro systems. Now, they buy cars from Kinki Sharyo, Hawker-Siddley, Siemens, Daewoo, Ryobi, Honda, Alstom, Bombardier, and Kawasaki. Our Amtrak electric locomotive designs came not from Westinghouse, GE and EMD, but from ASEA and Siemens. Something has gone wrong with the American intellect.
Much of the Perlman legend can be laid at the feet of David P. Morgan, the late editor of “Trains.” Mr. Morgan was apparently beguiled by Mr. Perlman early on, and wrote flatteringly of him for years. Interestingly, he did much the same thing for Stuart Saunders.
Railroads were very explicit that one of the reasons for operating a passenger service was to impress freight customers. There were far more individual customers of railroads in those days, and like everyone else they had fewer travel options than people today.
Likewise, vendors to the railroads rode them too. I remember Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. riding Penn Central from New York City to Schenectady for their annual audit of the General Electric Company.