tv Rise and Fall of the Railroad Industry CSPAN October 1, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm EDT
overtime in the nixon administration. >> watch the entire program sunday at 8:00 p.m. or midnight eastern. american history tv, only on c-span3. tv,ext on american history rush loving jr. talks about the rise and fall of the railroad industry. he is the offer of -- author of "the well-dressed hobo: the many wondrous adventures of a man who loves trains." he is the former editor of "fortune," and former business editor of the richmond times dispatch. he shares anecdotes from his experience covering american railroads since the 1960's. this is just under an hour. mr. rush loving jr.: thank you. it is a pleasure. i am not here to about the candidacy of gary johnson for president. i have been doing on the phone
nonstop since last sunday's endorsement. bookitle of our guest's is, of course, "the well-dressed hobo." himman -- those who knew new stewart brian was a well-dressed man. he was a devoted supporter of the vigilant -- virginia historical society. he was a colleague and my publisher -- i will hit my 40th year paper in the first week of december, and stewart was publisher and chairman of media general for most of that period. he would be delighted by the book. he appears in the book, and i would just like to say, rush and i agree that stewart is not with us in body -- he passed away a few months ago, but he is here in spirit, and he will always be here in spirit at the virginia historical society, and we member him fondly.
my personal relations with russia began a few years ago. i was at one of my neighborhood watering holes, and i was talking to the bartender, and the weekend before i had gone to new york on the train. i had a catastrophic experience coming back. the engine decoupled from the car somewhere near philadelphia at, like, 3:00 in the morning. a horrible noise. you saw this engine going away. [laughter] mr. culbertson: we were stuck. we were talking about that, and one of the other regulars was there -- a friendly fella, and he said it is interesting -- my father has written -- stepfather has written a book about the trains -- a lot about amtrak, csx, norfolk southern, richmond -- the virginia and richmond trains. says i will send you a copy.
i said that is great. by the way, my dad wrote "war and peace." a couple of days later i get a >> in the mail and i go what is this -- and it is a book called "the men who love trains," and it was a history of the railroads in that period of great convulsion in penn center, and went under. i had not realized at the time that penn central was the enron of its age. i read the book. it was like reading a spy novel. corporatecription of doings, or miss doings, in some cases. well, i did not realize my friend at the bar -- he had not mentioned this -- that the author of the book had been a business editor and writer at "the times dispatch," before
moving on to "fortune" magazine, so rush and i shared that over the years. when he would be visiting friends in richmond, we would run into each other at this neighborhood place, and we would stories,er, and trade and among the things we share is we believe that journalism is an honorable profession, and to me, it is always a pleasure to be around someone who is working in an honorable profession, and himself made that profession even more honorable. i recommend his book highly. people who love trains love the book. studyingo a memoir of in richmond, loving the history of virginia, and there is a lot dispatch" andes the newspaper business, and in
my world there is no finer business to be involved in. rush talk,e to hear so i would like to introduce rush loving. thank you. [applause] todd, that was very gracious of you. thank you very much. day, wejournalist in my were all trained rigorously to be fair, to be balanced in our reporting, to be accurate, and always to be sorrow, and that was great -- that last item proved to be very important because i got a lot of good stories just because i was thorough and asked the extra question, or looked into the extra fact. it is like these two women who
ran into each other, and both were quite surprised to see the other -- [laughter] saysoving jr.: one of them why are you here, and the other was has i froze to death. the first one says it sounds awful. she says it was not too bad. it was awfully cold for a while, but then i fell asleep and i died. but why are you here question my >> the first woman says well, i was sure my husband was cheating on me, so i went home early to catch him, and found him sitting in the den reading a paper. i knew there must be a woman in that house, so i started searching. i looked in the basement, the first floor, the second-floor, the attic, and the more i looked, the more worked up i became. i got so worked up i had a massive heart attack and died.
well, the second woman says it is too bad you did not look in the freezer. we would both be alive. [laughter] mr. loving jr.: the fellow who puts together these lectures is named graham, and he has a title that means a lot to me -- he is editor of the societies quarterly magazine. i was privileged to know virginia's death. i worked with him. is the temp -- contemporaries called him -- for the rest of us, it was mr. dabney. iwill never forget the things learned writing editorials on occasion for him, and just serving with him. the most notable was back in the
mid-60's i was a business editor. i wrote an editorial about the penn central merger, which was then pending. i referred to the chairman of the pennsylvania railroad, stewart saunders, as they form a -- former virginia and. -- virginia and. mr. dabney came into my office the next day and he said rush, there is a good editorial. i am going to run it, but you must understand one thing, when you were born a virginian, you are always a virginian, and coming here to the virginia historical society brings back many fond memories because when i was a senior at the university of richmond, history major, i researched my senior thesis here, and won a prize for it. when i was a young reporter at the times dispatch, i covered
the virginia historical society, as well as the virginia museum that store, and the civil war centennial, which was raising -- raging across the state then. journalists back in those days -- in the 1950's and the 1960's, were unique people. they were irreverent. they were incredible, bright people, and one of the young reporters i came to know and really admire, and have an affection for was stewart brian, who todd mentioned just now. was speaking a couple of years ago at the cosmos club in washington, and i introduced him. he was talking about the current state of the media, and he says when rush and i were young reporters. we all trained, we all caps --
we all drank, smoked, and we all chased other men's wives. i have to take one exception with him on that -- i did not smoke cigarettes. just a pipe. became an exceptional publisher, as he was an exceptional reporter, and i think all of us miss him terribly. those earthy,ugh, creative, young reporters were cynical, and they turned out top stories -- stories that really mattered and were balanced. time, ing all of that was enamored with railroads as a child, but i find myself even with them,ed intrigued by them, particularly
economics of railroads. when i was small, my grandfather to the on an overnight run. he was a conductor on the southern. he took me on an overnight run and that is when i really got hooked. then, as a business editor and an associate editor of "fortune" later, i was writing about railroads, among many other industries, and came to really, as i say, love them all the more. i came to know -- it was a great life because i was doing the two things i love -- writing and dealing with railroads. the railroads included a lot of fascinating people. people like hayes watts can -- watkins, who founded csx. people like -- who before he
joined the roosevelt administration, went to moscow. he was the chairman of the union pacific. in fact, he created the streamliner train in the mid-1930's, and he developed sun valley into a major resort area in the west to attract passengers. yearsd me in his letter that -- later years that all the things he achieved in his lifetime -- those were the two he was proudest of. --s was a railroad industry indeed it was the source of a lot of creative achievements. were railroaders other than herrmann and walk-ins, like alfred perlman, who turned alfred-- watkins, like
perlman, who turned around three railroads in his lifetime. ceo's the great railroad of his day. i came some other -- to meet some other non-railroaders who were on board's. baldwin.aldy as a young man, he used a railroad office car, or business and try aboutound enough business for his bank to turn a small baltimore bank into one of the most powerful financial institutions in the east coast. a true achievement. of -- found,two too, that the best people to run railroads were those that loved trains and love their work. many of those executives were operations people and marketing
people, but there were also some finance people like watkins, and some lawyers who were good. now, i like lawyers. it, because my family is infested with them. them, my brother-in-law, who is a corporate attorney in martinsville, thanks i should be a redneck at his friends, and for my 75th birthday he gave me a motorcycle helmet, and on it were details. 99% of allsaid lawyers give the rest a bad name. [laughter] but another one sex with a younger woman can be fatal, but if she
dies, she dies. [laughter] even my wife is a lawyer -- a trial lawyer, not a corporate lawyer, and the judges in baltimore tell me she is one of the best in the state. unlike her clients, corporate clients, she is like,ing for charges, kidnapping, murder. and she -- because of her work, she has to carry a side arm. now, when she got the permit to the state police sergeant that it hurt called me. -- who defended her called me. he finished everything, but had
one follow-up question. i answered it. he said i have one piece of advice for you -- do not monkey with her. i have seen her targets. [laughter] mr. loving jr.: now some of those lawyers in the railroad business, lawyers in my book, some of them, like bob claire, who created norfolk southern, his brother graham, were exceptional railroaders. i found that some lawyers that headed railroads were not up to the job, the, and by the mid-1960's, when i started covering the business, the railroad industry was in grievous trouble. the railroads had been a key element of culture and economy in virginia, and the
economies and cultures of many states other than virginia. it is interesting. most people now are not aware of it, but the railroads created america. steelld not have big without railroads. we would not have the big oil companies. it took trains to make those industries work. it was fascinating how the railroads developed the west. they brought passengers in, and actually recruited them from europe -- settlers. brought them out to the west, set up, and then the railroads hold their products -- produce and cattle to the east, to the markets. the railroads did very well over the years, although there were ups and downs.
they survived depressions, crashes, and all of that, but it was -- and at the time of world war ii, they were in their glory, really. the richmond, fredericksburg, and potomac railroad in 1942 was moving 33 passenger trains a day. plus, specials like troop trains, and extra sections. they were carrying -- it was carrying numerous freight trains. as a boy, i used to stand at the crossing and watch those trains go by. there were trains loaded with tanks, trucks, jeeps for the army. steel for the shipyards. trains of refrigerated cars full of food and meat, vegetables. it was a fascinating thing
to see, very stirring. the railroads then had a inner-city transportation in america. it was not until after the war fadethat monopoly began to , and the railroads began to feel the pension. the started merging in hopes of making savings, duplicating costs. sometimes, it worked. sometimes it did not. of aost notable case merger that did not work was penn central. chairmanunders was the the last day before the company went into bankruptcy. feel forcked a
railroad operations, but, ofnders had a unique sense public policy, and after his ouster from penn central, i met in great secrecy with saunders one morning at the berkeley hotel in new york, and he gave me his side of the bankruptcy story. problemme the biggest penn central and other ailing railroads had was over-regulation. dismissed the story as just an excuse for his own shortcomings. but two years later, i was having dinner in new york one evening with graham, who was then the chairman of the time in, and at that time -- point in time, there
were five major railroads in bankruptcy in the northeast -- penn central being one. there were railroads in the midwest that were failing, and graham and i began to debate what to do to solve the problem. now, graham was a disciple of -- protege of dean has since in. excuse me. and a true democrat. graham believed the government was the answer to problem. ofended to be more skeptical government, and i started searching for what is the answer, and of course, he was saying the government could fix it. i felt politicians would just make matters worse. so, afterwards, i began to think
about all of this. i began to research what could be done to solve this problem. as i began researching, i thought about what stuart saunders had said. saunders washat dead on right. since world war ii, the railroads had been struggling to compete -- airlines had stolen away their passengers and their lucrative mail business. trucks were hauling, now, some of their most profitable traffic. the interstate commerce commission was the undisputed dylan. -- villain. the icc bent to every pressure that came from congress from shippers, the unions, from
little communities along their rights-of-way. and the commission was tediously slow in granting rate increases to compensate for the increases in labor costs. ittook months to raise rates also took months to approve mergers, which were then very popular because of the state of the roads. the allen -- of chicago, and pacific was a good case to take a look at, because the rock was in serious trouble. it had proposed to the icc that mergerllowed a three-way with the southern pacific in the union pacific, and it had taken 11 years for the icc to approve
that merger, and even then, with conditions, and even then, about was time, the rock island bankrupt and going into liquidation soon after. i put the findings of all of that research into a "fortune" and a few months after the story came out. -- came out, congress began to act. his faith in the government turned out to be well-founded. and the white house provided a sound solution to the bankruptcy problem. they created a special off thetion that pruned
nonprofitable tracks, stations, services, and merged the remaining into conrail. dominant railroad in the northeast, of course, because of that. but, unfortunate, it failed to make money, and the government had to subsidize it, much to the chagrin of the office of management and budget, and the finance committees of the two houses. after my study came out -- after conrail was created, congress began to talk about deregulating all forms of transportation, starting with cargo, and this went, stirredt endingople to talk about
regulation of railroads. the conrail management, also want -- the conrail management also wanted railroads deregulated because they felt that would turn around conrail -- that without all of these onerous restrictions, they could finally make money. early 1979, congress was drafting a bill called the staggers act to give regular to railroad. work in the white house for a year that summer, and soon discovered that the draft of the bill that by then existed had a lot of new restrictions in it, a lot of new regulations that would have bankrupted the entire industry ,- some of these regulations
and it is funny. i discovered later that the problem was burlington northern. they had gone into the coal business about 10 years earlier, and the chairman had set extremely low rates. ony were not making money the moves. rates did not cover the deterioration of track, and all of that. of greatbeing a man ego, and a very brutal -- brittle ego, and i love lou, but that was his shortcoming, resisted the warnings of the eastern railroad ceo's hauled is notaul told him this a good idea -- you are not
taking money. you might think so. ofistant to the point getting pretty antagonistic to those who gave him what they thought was good advice. in one case, he wrote a scathing letter. guy -- that sort of thing -- sort of thing rolled off, but it proved a point to everybody, that lou was just daft to reality. well, finally, marketing people convinced him that they were indeed losing money, and indeed they needed to raise their rates and raise them pretty steeply. well, when they jacked up those rates, the utilities all over the midwest and the southwest, coal wentuying bn
into -- well, raised hell is what they did. these people led by a lady in n antonio who was the mayor. andwas short and rotund very grandmotherly with big glasses. she did not know anything about the icc but she knew a lot about the politics and about the congress. and so she proceeded to go to the halls of congress and start twisting arms and she got other utilities to do the same thing. and pretty soon, they were rewriting the bill.
and they were putting these amendments on that were going to choke the railroads. i worked for jimmy carter in the white house and i liked him come up i never thought he was very decisive. but this time he and his legislative staff really came through. came through big time. went to congress, worked with the leaders of congress and it got the bill redrafted and in early 1980, carter signed the thegers act freeing railroads. the last real major thing he did before he was defeated by november. regulation had been so pervasive it took another 10 years for the
railroads to add just to the new free market -- adjust to the new free market. and of the watershed came -- and the watershed came in 1979 when a trucker named johnny brian hunt took a ride on a santa fe train. the big potential moneymaker that we had all seen in the railroad industry was with the movement of containment -- containers and trailers. nobody seemed to know how to unlock the market and a frail -- fellow named mike thought that he knew. and his idea was instead of having all of these trailers and containers delivered to the railroads through a middleman, a freight follower that got most railroadofit, the
should form a partnership with the truckers. and thereby split the revenue and start making some money. well, the marketing department at santa fe was deaf to those ideas because he wasn't one of them. but then haverty became president of the santa fe. [laughter] had hisng: and he business car hooked to the train, put one of hunt's cars in the front of it and invited him to come along to kansas city from chicago. and they were riding and is staying in the business car, looking at the trailer on the flat car in front of them. hunt was a maze, because not
only were the -- amazed because not only were his trailers bouncing along the highway on those potholes, these things were sitting there at 60 miles per hour. he looked at the interstate parallel to the tracks and the trucks were creeping at best. traffic was thick. it happened to be morning rush-hour in chicago. just, he stood there for about 15 minutes and he turned around and put his hand out and said, we got a partnership. and that was the beginning. once the other railroads and truck lines saw how much money the santa fe and hunt were making out of the relationship, they all formed partnerships too. the result was a boom of
intermodal traffic, but the railroads never learned how to price their business. excuse me. priceever learned how to what they were selling. that took 15 more years and ,inally in 2004 or thereabouts part of me again -- pardon me again. the truckers and railroads started raising rates and made the money they should of been making all along. and if at the railroads in a -- and it put the railroads in a renaissance. in warren buffett -- and warren buffett actually bought the entire santa fe. by the way, later he also bought the times, i believe.
[laughter] boomeding: the business until a couple of years ago. the railroads began having problems. [cough] mr. loving: sorry. industry, uh, started hauling it a lot of crude oil out of north dakota's newfield -- new dfield. and they were not ready for it. and tracks around chicago were jammed. nobody planned adequately. then, traffic has fallen off because of the economy, here and in china. and intermodal traffic this year is down because of the softening
economy. isestically, coal traffic off because utilities are isning natural gas, which cheaper. and the obama administration has shut down many mines because of environmental regulations. all of this means of the industry, despite the fact it is healthy, despite the fact it is still in a golden age, the industry is going to face a lot of challenges in the coming years. the railroad industry has got to learn to plan ahead, to be on top of changes, not behind them. be in front, actually. , when the present
generation of ceos are starting to mature and there will be changes made in the coming years, already one of them last year. because of that, the boards of directors of the railroads have got to be very careful when they name a new ceo. boards of directors have a tendency in urban industry, that once a company is coming along -- humming along, they sometimes forget to appoint to the top job, the people that know how to create the profits, how to make the railroad, make the company efficient and strong. and they name somebody that is very good in some little part of their specialty, but not necessarily suitable as a ceo of a corporation.
and the boards of directors have to avoid that in the railroad industry. and for very good reason. they will need to appoint people that think beyond the norm, who plan, who listen to their subordinates. they need people who will put their own enrichment second and our loyal first to their employees, the company and the customers. and most of all, they will need executives who love their railroads and their industry, their jobs. if the directors fail to do this, the states -- stakes are awfully high. years, somet 10 shippers have cried for
reregulation. if service falls short, if equipment is not there when the tracks are jammed reregulationry for will become more strident than ever. congress is going to listen this time. when cockrelldid made her run to amend the stackers bill -- staggers bill. neither thee, railroads, north america -- nor america, nor the consumer can afford. i will be glad to take any
the high-speed train that runs on the core door. these will provide service every 30 minutes at 140 miles an hour. changeis going to be a on the core door -- corridor. may be as far down as richmond. i think he will see to it that service is improved. service right now is not great. he has the ability to get the money that is needed. my hopes are that amtrak will do well. what it needs to do most is to, one, get on the annual federal budget. it is not. every year it needs to go to congress, saying we do not have any more money and we need a subsidy. that is not the way to do it. rail passenger service does not
pay, it is not going to. the cost is high. airlines are subsidized, you have air traffic control and airports that are funded by some government. so you will have to have a better system, financially. and i think amtrak will have to persuade congress and the public that the way to cut highway congestion is to put people on trains, just as truckers put containers and trailers on trains. you have always been a trend enthusiast. -- i have always been a train in business. on a trip to europe, i was amazed by the long and a sleek passenger trains that were
moving along on good equipment. i realize that the japanese as well as the chinese and a big part of europe do have a streamlined real race system that railway -- railway system. how did we follow so far behind -- fall so far behind? and did deregulation cause it? mr. loving: it did not. we have a different situation. you have to have a market that is dense enough to support the trains. in europe, cities are close enough together. and you have an economy where i think the auto is not as prevalent, not as prevalent as here. haul trains.r
we do not have the same kind of market. we need those trains, but we cannot provide that kind of service in those routes. in addition, it takes billions railroad a high-speed line. you have to have dedicated track, you cannot share it with a freight train. you have to dedicate a track that is pretty well protected from crossings, people coming onto the property. because of the speed and the impact of an accident. accidents at high speed cause a lot of wreckage. so here is a little different. certainan do it in places. we are trying to in the northeast. not give up hope.
but we are not behind because of regulation or anything like that. we are behind in large part because it is a different situation. [indiscernible] >> do you think anybody is going to pony up the money to buy high-speed rail for washington? mr. loving: i do not know. i hope for your sake they do. [laughter] mr. loving: we have some curvature, some of has to be dealt with. extra ground for expanding. you have got to have another track, dedicated track. 2 questions.ns -- the referred to the ceos as the
well-dressed hobo, who is the well-dressed hobo? and what is your take on union pacific? as it is now currently and in the future. mr. loving: the well-dressed hobo, i needed a central character for the book. and my agent and my wife suggested i would have to be the character. [laughter] mr. loving: so when we came down to the hobo, i would ride on wouldbusiness cars and i find these hobos writing -- riding boxcars and all of that. and sitting by the campfires on the outside of the rail yards. and here i was running the business card -- riding in the pipe,ss car, smoking my
always dressed in a coat and tie. i am the well-dressed hobo. [laughter] pacificion oving: has gone through some problems. but they seem to do pretty well now. i am not sure. intermodal business is good, they are getting a run for their money from competitors, but that is pretty good. article in the paper the other day mentioned the inh-speed rail service ashland. what do you think would be the positive answer for both of the entities there? mr. loving: i'm sorry.
[cough] you cannot run a high-speed train through ashland unless you build a cyclone fence on each side and make it impossible to cross the tracks, unless you have an overpass or underpass. it is better if it is run around ashland. you cannot just run it down the main street. it is wonderful the way that they do it now. and when they had passenger trains, they slowed down and went through it at a reasonable rate. like the freight do today. if you want high-speed, you want to run it nonstop without slowing down from richmond to fredericksburg or washington. you have to do something else with the route. the railroadoes
museums in roanoke reflect the industry? mr. loving: it seems to reflect history pretty well. i have not been there in some years. i am more familiar with the museum in baltimore. but they are doing a great job. they are running steam excursions, which are very popular. over all, it is a great museum and they are doing very well. they are trafficking and a lot of people. i get their e-mails all the time. i have not heard -- --i've not heard he mention unions,u mention the what role do they play? mr. loving: they were a real problem for many years. they had a stranglehold on congress.
, they were out for themselves to the point where they were hurting the railroads. have very good working relationships with the railroads. they are contributing to the welfare of the industry and i think it is largely because modern leaders have recognized that they cannot just take, there has to be a partnership. and the railroads have woken up too. the labor relations are better than they used to be. >> how do you believe the industry is responding or should be responding to exploding cars and the derailing in populated areas? mr. loving: they have. the problem with that. the first big accident, the
usde oil cars -- none of believed it was crude oil. we thought it was propane, because crude is not generally volatile. then they found this particular crude is. so they are strengthening the cars, checking their tracks, trying to make sure it does not happen anymore. and a number of accidents have gone down. [cough] >> i just have a question about the high-speed rail. it seems there would have to be some sort of uniformed control over the tracks.
if virginia approves high-speed rail and virginia -- and maryland doesn't and pennsylvania does, there will be no continuity, so how will the industry come up with something that would guarantee uniform control of high speed rail? which politically, it could involve eminent domain and things like that. how do you see that in the future? mr. loving: you mean building new tracks? >> yes. mr. loving: you might run into a problem from local landowners, they are the ones that will say, "not on my property." i do not think you will run into a lot of political problems. of people been issues
in the industry trying to get on the high-speed trains. i think a lot of it will be maybe a public relations problem. there is always a not in my back yard kind of thing that goes on whenever there is an attempt to build an industry or a railroad or whatever. is what weow if that necessarily kill this. it would depend on the attitude of the local government. >> last question. predictu are going to or forecast what railroads would look like in 2030, what would be your description? mr. loving: ok. [laughter] mr. loving: that is hard to say. i have been surprised over the years over some things that have
happened, pleasantly sometimes and unpleasantly others. i think the railroad industry 15 years from now will possibly be, well if you get the right people running it, the railroad will continue on like it is today. but if you do not put the right jobs, you in the ceo could have serious problems. you could have bankruptcies, unknown problems, and it could be anything. so i think the future really depends on what these boards of think thedo and i market is going to be there. do at nafta could
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