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How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
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   Author  Topic: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?  (Read 1430 times)
HwyHaulier
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #20 on: Jun 24th, 2007, 9:47am »
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on Jun 23rd, 2007, 6:03pm, atlpete wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...Preserving the northeast rail industry and competition wouldn't have been  mutually exclusive in the sixties if ICC regulation hadn't been so totally un-visionary and politically blinkered in the forties and fifties....    

Pete -
 
Somewhere around here (I've flagged for follow up), one of our colleagues linked to a learned paper that runs from a proposition that the only reasoned, national trasport policy we have ever had is a complete lack of such a policy. The record tells us the ICC was up to its mischief and downright malfeasance long, long before the era you noted. An obituary from 1934, on death of Gen. W. W. Atterbury, P R R reported he had very serious misgivings about the thinking of legislation of what became the Motor Carrier Act of 1935. He correctly predicted enormous damages to the railroad...
 
Given, the problems with the railroads were highly taxed, wherever a collector could figure a connection to a line of railroad. Nevertheless, had the I C C dligently implemented its legislated charge to foster and assure overall financial health of the rail industry, much of the subsequent (claimed to be unintended) mess most likely would not have happened, IMHO....
 
It didn't happen that way, of course. Not every drama has a happy ending. The many forces, all in play at the same time, dealt devastating consequences particularly in the Northeast.....
 
........................Vern..............  


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atlpete
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #21 on: Jun 24th, 2007, 6:30pm »
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You're right as rain Vern, the legacy of abuse of power and incompetance was longstanding, I only singled out the forties and fifties as that period's ICC decisions seemed to cast the die as it were for the fiasco of the sixties and early seventies, other forces already mentioned proportionally having their detrimental impact as well.

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HwyHaulier
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Posts: 3448
Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #22 on: Jun 24th, 2007, 7:53pm »
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Pete -
 
Oh, I'm not faulting your choice of time window. It is just there are so many of them, and all with a variety of stories...
 
Turning back the old clock to 1887, the politicos had the makings of a wonderful scam. The farmers, in a time when agriculture thoroughly dominated the economy, were not at all happy with many perceived injustices by the railroads. Many rabble rousing, populist pols, hangers on, and wannabes, did the arithmetic. So many votes in slick pandering to the farmers. How many railroaders could there possibly be to defend their own positions?
 
So, "Let's kick around the rich, greedy, evil railroads" was a standard game plan for ages. From the first day the ICC opened its doors, it had to be loaded with a culture of antagonism toward its regulated companies. It may not have explicitly stated so, of course. Besides, there was all the flowery rhetoric, in print, that it was all for a higher purpose. Why, no way they could have been fibbing in all that printed law....
 
.....................Vern..............
 
 


« Last Edit: Jun 24th, 2007, 7:56pm by HwyHaulier » Logged

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Eddie M.
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #23 on: Jun 25th, 2007, 9:52am »
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  The fate of the "Fallen Flags" had a whole lot to do with the Interstate Commerce Commission".    
   Had the agency had wiser appointed people running it during the 1940's-1970, many of the railroads would not have failed as they did.
   One only has to read many of their decisions against railroad commerce to understand that these roads were doomed.
   So that's would I would do is go back to the 1940's-1970 to straighten things out.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #24 on: Jun 25th, 2007, 10:15am »
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on Jun 25th, 2007, 9:52am, Eddie M. wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...The fate of the "Fallen Flags" had a whole lot to do with the Interstate Commerce Commission"....      

Eddie -
 
Everything! It was always an abomination since inception. How can a company run a business, where they had promised, reliable rates of return, and then the agency in control abrogates its statutory obligations? Bah!
 
Rather jokingly passed along to a friend: Perhaps to take the old, standard text on transport regulation, and re-write the whole thing with view to what really happened. Cynic? Agnostic? Maybe it would sell, say, twenty (20) copies! <G>
 
......................Vern................


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Andy_S
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #25 on: Jun 27th, 2007, 9:40am »
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I would have to add the USRA during WWI doing little to maintain the equipment and infrastructure of the railroads.  After that, strict regulatory measures were imposed against the railroads.  Then the grade crossing removal program in the Depression years, followed by the heavy traffic of WWII, during which the RR's paid almost $4 million a day in taxes.  All this might have been OK for the bigger roads, but it had to have been brutal on the short lines.  In the end, even PRR and NYC suffered from this financial burden.  
 
I agree with with pretty much everything everyone else had to say.  I don't think that I could have done much to change anything, coulda shoulda woulda.  Government meddling and ineptitude always seems to be a culprit.


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Matthew_L
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #26 on: Jun 28th, 2007, 1:27pm »
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Another issue that usually gets forgotten is: highway subsidies. Our taxes help pay for the ROW used by tractor trailers. Granted, some shortlines are owned by local govts (e.g. OMID, ONCT, B&H) and theire are some fderal grants for improvement projects like bridges, but RRs largley carry the ball for MOW themselves. Alot of RR traffic was lost in the '50s and '60s because the US funded multi-lane expressways that siphoned traffic off the rails. I'd love to go back and change that policy, because we would have had a much healthier rail system (read: more track and higher traffic levels) as a result.

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HwyHaulier
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #27 on: Jun 28th, 2007, 1:45pm »
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Matthew -
 
Kindly see the thinking and rationale of the Federal Fuel Tax mechanisms provided for in the circa 1956 legislation for the Federal Defense and Interstate Highway System. The taxing plan promoted as a pay as you go by users concept. It continued earlier, comparable fuel tax plans used on the earlier U S Highways system.
 
The 1956 plan has changed over the years, so that it not only is used for highway funding, but substantial amounts are also paid out to other projects.
 
(I prefer not to discuss it much beyond that. The topic is quite arcane, and has  little appeal, if any, to a majority of readers. Some responses do not account for basic, it's in the Constitution, local obligations of communities, each to maintain its own local roads. Some States identify the levels of funding by their own route numbering. High prefix number routes can usually be assumed to be entirely local obligations. Note, for example, how Commonwealth of Virginia does it.)
 
..........................Vern.................


« Last Edit: Jun 28th, 2007, 1:55pm by HwyHaulier » Logged

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Charlie_O
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #28 on: Jun 28th, 2007, 4:46pm »
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1. If we're talking about an "anything's possible" situation...I'd say prevent the Poughkeepsie Bridge fire that spelled the end of the LHR.
 
2. Have the Reading RR unions agree to become part of Chessie rather than CR.
 
3. Have the PRR start thinking "import economy" in 1946 and begin reversing traffic flow patterns, building transloading facilities, increasing piggyback traffic, etc.,  well before the economic disaster of the 60s.


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atlpete
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #29 on: Jul 22nd, 2007, 1:29pm »
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That's some thought provoking ones there, Charlie
1)That mysterious "debtors lightening" that destroyed Poughkeepsie Bridge could have been avoided had NH not been lumped into the PC. So maybe aligning the NH with the EL, or an LV/NKP type road would've balanced the route advantage the NYC or it's successor had through the B&A. Likewise a B&M/D&H hook-up with the same non-PC road(s) to the midwest.
2) Given the relative success the CSX has had with the old Royal Blue line, the early inclusion of RDG with the Chessie would've certainly broken up  CR's virtual monopoly into NYC. Of course, debt and labor contract relief would have been a must before either N&W or Chessie would've  considered taking on sick anthracite roads.
3) How conservatively locked in PRR was to it's own legacy, in contrast NYC in the post-war seemed almost visionary in retrospect, though we know now even the Central didn't move fast enough. Perhaps if the PRR had turned off it's phoney dividend stream and re-invested in it's true assets as you suggest  things would indeed have looked very different over the past 30 years. The over-all system rot of the PRR property at the time of the PC merger is hard to believe or overstate.


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2-8-8-0
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #30 on: Jul 8th, 2008, 10:56pm »
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I would like to think, if i were president of any major railroad that depended heavily on coal traffic in say, 1940, that i would have realized that the coming of the diesel meant the end of much of that traffic (over half the coal moved on the B&O was consumed by railroads for their locomotives!)
 
Failing any way to create or attract business to replace the revenue that would inevitably be lost, the much hated "cost cutting" would have to take place much sooner on many roads than it did. When costs overwhelm revenue, the physical plant suffers (think Penn Central) and revenue slides even more as customers are lost.
 
A railroad with Penn Central's traffic, but half its costs, would have fared just fine (or B&Os costs, etc etc). Mergers may still have happened, but they would have been more carefully considered as a way to maximize profits, not to save one another from extinction.
 
Tim


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electro soundwave
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #31 on: Jul 9th, 2008, 3:07am »
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rdc_jay and I have been discussing a potential Reading/EL merger. That seems like it would have worked out.

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VaPennsyFan
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #32 on: Jul 9th, 2008, 12:04pm »
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Oddly enough, the mergers that have finally happened here in the east are what should have happened in the first place.  As I recall, there was a government study sometime during the 50s or 60s that recommended certain mergers/pairings.  The recommendations included PRR/N&W, B&O/C&O/NYC, etc.  So of course instead of those we got the Penn Central.
 
Another interesting possibility would have been some sort of transcontinental merger, such as PRR/ATSF.  They ran through sleepers from New York to LA . . . might have made for an interesting combination if it had taken place before the Pennsy became too stodgy . . .
 
Jon


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bluecapriethan
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #33 on: Aug 23rd, 2008, 9:26am »
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In the mid-60's when the profits of the Wellsville Addison & Galeton started to wane, I would have liked to see the WAG start tourist train operations to supplement their income. They ran through some really scenic area. And they had the cool looking F7's to pull the trains. If the WAG would have lasted 10 more years they could have had a shot at taking over Conrail's Corning Secondary from Ansonia up to Corning, NY. That would have generated more freight traffic for them.

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JohnPatrick
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #34 on: Aug 31st, 2008, 5:38pm »
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Better long term judgment by some roads in the '50's and '60's might be a place to start.
 
If the DL&W hadn't sold it's holdings in the NKP because it needed cash to support NJ commuter operations, the DL&W would have been stronger at the time of the Erie - DL&W merger, and so that merger could have included the D&H -- and the combined E-L & D&H would have avoided Conrail.  
 
And if the PRR hadn't been so fixated on merging with the NYC that it agreed to sell it's interest in the N&W (and others) in order to get ICC approval to merge with the NYC -- but instead kept the the N&W and forgotten the NYC, perhaps Penn Central (PRR + NYC + NH) and then Conrail would not have happened.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #35 on: Sep 1st, 2008, 8:23am »
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on Aug 31st, 2008, 5:38pm, JohnPatrick wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...Better long term judgment by some roads in the '50's and '60's might be a place to start...

JohnPatrick -
 
IMHO, this: Endless accounts of the era are instructive. So many of the lines were in no position to make plans for anything in the future, as  
they found their houses on fire, and there wasn't much help of any fire companies responding! It was bad.
 
In the Northeast, the NY/NJ commuter issues were never solved. The riders wanted to continue the lovely free lunch program on ticket prices.  
No one could implement plans to return the roads to profitable operation. That massive and vexing chronic disease, in time, took down nearly  
all the Northeast Railroads...
 
Triage actions to fix it would have been most harsh. Regulatory agencies, demonstrably, had no useful help. It would have been up to the  
railroads to step up to the plate, announce they would embargo riders and traffic on deeply unprofitable business units, and proceed to  
shut them down. The actions mandated even absent any regulatory permissions, of sorts. (Yes, this may have prompted the lines going into  
temporary control of the National Guard. A point needed to be made about how bad it all was.)
 
The Central - PRR was a bad idea, more of a visceral reaction to escape various torments. Elaborate schemes of how to make it appear  
rational sold the deal. Packaged, polished and explained however long and hard, it was stll a bad idea. (Central - B&O much better? Let PRR  
deal with its own mess?)  
 
...........................Vern...................
 
 


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atlpete
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #36 on: Sep 3rd, 2008, 9:51pm »
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I think John Patrick makes a compelling point re. the commuter burden of the DL&W eating away there finanacial leverage with the NKP though truly the NKP had most every advantage the DL&W lacked (as did their partner in merger emolation Wabash) The fact that the DL&W was such a finely built property now largely lost makes this an even nastier pill. Re PRR having to divest it's interest in N&W- I contend the PRR had so rotted away from deferred maintenance by the mid sixties that even a merger with the N&W wouldn't have done enough, if not indeed infecting the N&W with the same operating capital issues.    
Really good point by Jon though on how closely today's systems resemble that mid fifties ICC or AAR consolidation recomendation, though you wonder if we'd still have the same lost capacity issues today if it had gone down like that.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #37 on: Sep 4th, 2008, 8:13am »
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on Sep 3rd, 2008, 9:51pm, atlpete wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...I think John Patrick makes a compelling point re. the commuter burden of the DL&W eating away there finanacial leverage...  

atlpete -
 
Exactly! The diagnosis of the wasting Northeast disease. Years back, shares of the New Haven Railroad deemed worthy of promotion as  
"...widows and orphans..." investments. Why not? It long paid reliable and steady dividends, and interest payments, equalling very solid  
utility companies.
 
Much of the ensuing disaster, however, effects of widespread changes and declines in coal traffic. The regulators somehow wanted to  
continue cheap rates on commute traffic, regardless of the vastly changed circumstances in distributions of each line's cost burdens. Or,  
the regulators simply did not live up to their legal charges to foster and promote the financial health of the carriers. Bluntly, they didn't  
have the collected spine to act adult, and make the tough decisions.
 
A part of the damage to the lines, too, was the mischievous legislation in the Motor Carrier Act of 1935. With it, railroads banned from  
ownership and control of long haul passenger and cargo motor carriers. So, with the flawed new law, the railroads could only stand idly  
by, and watch diversion of massive volumes of LCL (less carload) and carload traffic. Much likely would have gone to highway, anyway.  
 
Without the Act of 1935, the cargo would have moved on railroad owned trucks. DL&W, as an example, would have been free to protect  
a move via highway, for an established customer, between (say) Matawan, NJ and Erie, PA (points otherwise not direct on its line). It  
makes one wonder, in fact, if absent the Act of 1935 the entire character of TOFC may have been much, much different...
 
........................Vern.....................


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atlpete
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #38 on: Sep 7th, 2008, 9:57pm »
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The restriction from motor carrier/control if not the whole ICC screw job is an excellent example of why so many guys my age still snap to the starting gate when they hear the phrase "less government regulation"  
 
Given the importance of improving rail capacity these days one would hope that some forward thinking pols could give a substantial tax break to the industry specifically for reinvestment in r.o.w. but isn't that really just corporate socialism?
 
On the flip side and not to go too OT but I think rather than more or "less government" we really just need smarter government; lead paint in toys, failing bridges and levees, deadly meat, killer pet food....yeah tell me what part of that gets cured with government regulatory agenices run by industry lobbyists or political hacks (as in the case of the thankfully defunct ICC)


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George_Harris
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Re: How would you have changed the fate of the fallen?
 
« Reply #39 on: Sep 8th, 2008, 6:52pm »
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on Jul 8th, 2008, 10:56pm, 2-8-8-0 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
A railroad with Penn Central's traffic, but half its costs, would have fared just fine (or B&Os costs, etc etc). Mergers may still have happened, but they would have been more carefully considered as a way to maximize profits, not to save one another from extinction.

One classic comparison that occured at some time during the Penn Central era:
 
Penn Central said in effect, "We can't make a profit because of the short haul nature of our businees.  Our average length of haul is only 104 miles.  
 
Southern Railway at the time reported an average length of haul of 103 miles.  Yet, they were the most profitable railroad in the country.  
 
I had heard from a former long time Southern Railway man that in the mid 1950's they reallized that if the contiued status quo they were on the way to bankruptcy in short order.  At that point they began a serious program of mechanisation of maintenance, installation of welded rail, removal of 2nd mains on many lines with installation of CTC, other signal modernisations, operational changes, modernisation of freight yards, etc. because they realised that if they did not get their operating and maintenance costs down they were sinking.  I recall the first time I saw the Pennsylvania Railroad territory in the late 1960's.  Manned interlocking towers every few miles, welded rail, what's that, etc.  Other than diesels, it was like a time warp to 1925 railroading.  Knowing some ex Penn Central employees, they operated way too much like a government buraucracy.  We can't let the states and localities off the hook, though.  In the South most of the govenment entities actively encouraged industrial development while it seemed that many locales in the northeast that had industrial developmemt already actively discouraged its growth and modernisation.  
 
Southern also was willing to take on the ICC.  Think of the court actions on the "Big John" hoppers for one.  
 
Yes, the ICC was a big problem, but some of the companies were their own worst enemies also.


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