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Title: Our Railroads To-Morrow
Author: Hungerford, Edward
Language: English
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OUR RAILROADS TO-MORROW



  OUR RAILROADS TO-MORROW


  BY EDWARD HUNGERFORD


  NEW YORK
  THE CENTURY CO.
  1922



  COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
  THE CENTURY CO.

  COPYRIGHT, 1920, 1921, 1922, BY
  CURTIS PUBLISHING CO.

  PRINTED IN U. S. A.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE

     I IN INTRODUCTION                                             3

    II THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION                  25

   III THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION (continued)      47

    IV THE RETURN OF PRIVATE OPERATION                            65

     V THE PRESENT-DAY SITUATION                                  79

    VI THE MAN FACTOR OF THE PROBLEM                              91

   VII SOLVING THE RAILROADS' HUMAN PROBLEM                      115

  VIII THE POSSIBILITIES OF ELECTRIFICATION                      135

    IX MORE ABOUT ELECTRIC MOTIVE-POWER                          159

     X A CASE FOR THE STEAM LOCOMOTIVE                           172

    XI THE GASOLINE-MOTOR UNIT AND ITS POSSIBILITIES             191

   XII SPEEDING UP THE FREIGHT TERMINALS                         213

  XIII THE TWILIGHT OF COMPETITION                               238

   XIV THE REGIONAL RAILROAD OVERSEAS                            272

    XV THE REGIONAL RAILROAD AT HOME                             293

   XVI THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD                                317



OUR RAILROADS TO-MORROW



CHAPTER I

IN INTRODUCTION


Do you chance to recall the story of Frankenstein, of the man-made
monster, who, having been created, arose to slay the man who had created
him? The railroad to-day is in much the position of the man who created
the Frankenstein. Having in no small sense created the modern world,
having riveted its very sinews of commerce together, it now stands in
apparent danger of collapse. The world over, it is at least in peril of
bankruptcy. Everywhere it is in trouble. One of the greatest if not indeed
the greatest of factors in our social and commercial structure to-day is
flying the signals of distress. Its perplexities are upon all tongues.
Their solution seemingly has become the problem of all men. The railroad
is almost the single great unsolved economic problem of the entire world
to-day.

The sweep of a great war, the débris of men and of human understanding
that followed in its wake, the new and independent position of labor
everywhere, the vast increases in fuel and in raw material costs--all have
contributed to the serious embarrassment of our railroads. But never to
their breakdown. Please remember this. It is a common phrase these days to
allude to "the breakdown of the railroads." But it is an incorrect phrase,
decidedly incorrect.

Even in Russia, where transport conditions to-day are the worst anywhere
in the world, there has not been a complete railroad breakdown. The
Russian railroads after nearly a decade of overburden are to-day
functioning--after a miserable fashion, to be sure, but functioning none
the less.

For, truth to tell, a necessary railroad structure may never break down
completely. It may descend into the valley of deep woes, it may crawl on
its stomach in the despair of seemingly hopeless disease, but it may never
quite die. That is out of the possibilities of the thing. Dying, a
railroad dying? It must never die. A factory, a merchandising
establishment, even a whole town may struggle along fitfully for a number
of years and then decide to quit, leaving but a forlorn group of ruins as
a memento of vanished enterprise. But a necessary railroad may never quit.
When a rail highway of any real importance ceases to operate, civilization
itself, begins to crumble. For a railroad is a not alone life but also a
life-giver. Upon it depends virtually all the life of the community it
serves, not merely commercial life but political and social as well. Which
means that the mere suggestion that the railroad structure should cease to
function is unthinkable. And here thrusts to the front the vexing problem
of how not only to enable it merely to live but to enable it to live in
the fullest strength, to grow apace withal, to more than keep pace with
the growth of the community that it is designed to serve.

       *       *       *       *       *

For nearly a hundred years now we have been upbuilding the railroad
structure of the world. America pioneered in its creation. Our fathers and
our fathers' fathers cannot now remember the day when the call of the iron
horse was not heard across the land. The railroad train has become part
and parcel of our lives. And even though in these days with our motor cars
at the curb we may have come to scorn the railroad train for our own short
travels, we know full well that it brings the milk to our doorstep, the
coal to our bins, the provender to our larders. It helps weave the fabric
upon our backs, build the shoes upon our feet, form the hats upon our
heads. At every corner, every turn, we are dependent upon the railroad.
Therefore there is not a man or a woman in the entire United States to
whom its present plight should not be of the keenest interest and
importance.

       *       *       *       *       *

We were promised a complete solution of our transport troubles with the
hurried passage two years ago of the Esch-Cummins Bill, now known
officially as the Transportation Act. Have we reached that solution, or
anything like unto a solution?

You do not have to ask the average man twice for an answer to that
question. He knows. If he is a business man he knows doubly well. He knows
that for the last ten years our American railroad system has been in
something of a decline. A decade ago it was at the zenith of its
efficiency. For eighty years it had been climbing upward; for the last ten
it has been slipping backward. Oh, yes, I do know its war record. It _was_
a fine record and one of which every American should be duly proud. There
is hardly a physician, however, who has not seen a patient, terribly sick,
under the stress of great emergency rise magnificently to a definite
situation of supreme importance. So four years ago rose our sick man of
American business. And now he has gone to bed more ill than ever before
while many doctors quarrel about his case.

And still he functions. The sick-abed man of our American business still
renders the all-necessary service that none but him really can render.
Fortunately perhaps American business itself at this moment is not in the
very best of health. One shudders to think what would happen if industry
all the way across the land were again in its top notches of production.
It is not the least of the perplexing phases of this all-perplexing
railroad problem of ours--the question, when traffic shall again rise (as
it certainly will) to normal volume, to say nothing of any abnormal
volume, of how our weakened railroad structure will meet it.

That it recently withstood severe tests is of course no indication that it
could again withstand such strains. All the way across the land our
railroad functioned in the recent ordeals through which it has
passed--which of course is not saying that it could do this again. It
quite naturally worked at its best in the western sections of the land,
where there are both less congestion and comparatively larger rail
transport facilities. Yet as one came east he found the American railroad
still meeting its responsibilities bravely and with a real degree of
efficiency. One crossed the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Maumee, and
still found the railroad functioning--the stout, pliable rod of its energy
bending but never breaking. He came further east still, crossed the
Susquehanna and then the Delaware, and still the rail carrier functioned.
He came to the Hudson and found the battered and overburdened railroad
machine still meeting its obligations, after a fashion at least.

Our railroad machine did not break even in New England, where conditions
are and for a long time past have been almost at their worst; where for
nearly two decades a high-grade community has been forced to pay penalty,
and pay generously, for a grave accumulation of railroad errors. It was in
New England that American railroading really began, with the construction
in 1808 of a crude wooden railed line at Quincy, Massachusetts, whose
horse-drawn cars brought granite from the quarries down to the water's
edge, whence it might go by sloop to Charlestown, where the tall shaft of
the Bunker Hill monument was beginning to arise. It was in New England too
that the first real railroad enterprise and development were shown; by the
middle of the forties a group of energetic and profitable small companies
rapidly expanded and offered genuine transport to six of the busiest and
most rapidly growing States of the Union.

It is in that same New England that when one comes to-day he finds the
picture of our national railroad machine almost at its very darkest--the
stations dirty, unpainted, neglected; the passenger-cars and the
locomotives in similar or even worse condition; the morale of the rank and
file of railroad labor low in many different ways. Remember that it is not
like this everywhere else within the land. It is particularly different
out in the West. Take California; out there the stations almost invariably
are clean and brightly painted, the broad lawns that surround them are in
the pink of perfection, while the trains that enter and leave the stations
are in full keeping with them. Engines, and the passenger-cars behind, are
alike clean, fresh-painted, efficient in every detail of their appearance.
Paint certainly does wonders. The cherry-red electric trains of the
Southern Pacific never seemed brighter or more immaculate. I rode a little
more than a year ago on a huge steam locomotive of the El Paso and
Southwestern railroad. The brightness of her appearance, the efficiency of
her performance, seemed to belie the fact that it was eleven years since
she had left the big shop in Philadelphia where she had been born.

Always it is as one comes further east that the American railroad machine
grows more and more shabby, until in New England we see it at its worst.
Our entire railroad structure, speaking nationally and subject only to a
few exceptions, is worn down a bit. It is a shoe outgrown. It pinches. It
pinches hard. Yet nowhere does it pinch harder than in New England. I
hinted but a moment ago of the transportation machine there, twisted and
bended and torn and all but completely broken. I spoke of the desolate
appearance of many of the trains and of the stations. The Boston and
Albany, it is true, has been something of an exception to this rule. The
present condition of the Springfield station does not prove the exception
however. Always a wealthy road, the B. & A. is compelled by its State
charter to return to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts all of its earnings
in excess of an annual 8 per cent. It is hardly necessary to add that
even in its most prosperous years the excess earnings went into the
property. And in consequence the patrons of the road benefited. But that
was yesterday.

It was yesterday too that Boston possessed a suburban service in which she
could at least display some slight evidences of satisfaction. That
yesterday is now quite gone. To-day the service is unquestionably the very
worst in all this land. It is doubtful if any other large American city
would tolerate for a month the sort of suburban service which to-day is
doled out to the Boston metropolitan district. Ancient and dilapidated
cars, pulled by equally ancient and dilapidated locomotives, are the sad
lot of the Boston commuter. The records of the railroad companies
themselves show that some of these ancient coaches date from as far back
as the early eighties; many of them go back into the nineties. Nightly the
trains are crowded, not only to the extent of their seating capacities,
but well beyond them. Nightly the abominable overcrowdings of the New York
subways are repeated throughout the Boston suburban zone, and with far
less excuse.

In its appropriate time I shall discuss the large possibilities of
electrification as it applies in particular to the Boston suburban zone.
For the moment consider this New England corner as the darkest corner of a
transportation picture which to-day has but few patches of brilliancy. As
one goes from east to west however the picture brightens perceptibly. Do
not forget that it is at its very worst in New England and perhaps at its
best in California.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the moment the freight service, nationally speaking at least, is not
subject to the same criticisms as the passenger. (To the depleted
passenger service we shall come in good time.) This for the simple reason
that the traffic is not being produced across the land. A sadly depleted
transportation structure easily can take good care of a sadly lessened
freight traffic. But let our wheels of industry begin really to hum again
and contemplating the present condition of our carriers, I shall fear a
reversion to the conditions of the winter months of the early part of
1920, when one box-car took forty days to go from Boston to Chicago, a
trip that easily should have been made in a fortnight, while another car
but a few days later took fifty days for the same journey!

Yet, to be entirely fair, these runs were made in a winter which, by the
official records of the weather bureau, was the worst that the country had
known in thirty-six years.

All right. Let us be fair. We shall go back three years to 1917 before
government control and the really big labor problems had been wished upon
the railroads. The New England roads even then were already having a
fearful time of it. The Boston Chamber of Commerce sent out questionnaires
to the big shippers of the district asking for specific reports on _all_
of the car-load shipments that they were making. When the questionnaires
came back to it, all filled in neatly on the dotted lines and in the blank
spaces, they showed the definite record of 2625 cars, quite enough to be
fully representative of the entire situation. One New England land shipper
reported that the fifty-nine cars which he had had in Chicago movement had
ranged from thirteen to eighty-seven days in transit. (Remember, if you
will, that a fair average for that journey is fourteen days.) One hundred
and sixty cars bound to his siding from various Western points had
together consumed 6709 days in transit. A reasonable time for their
journeys would have totaled 2550 days. Detentions due solely to railroad
delays had in his one case come to the considerable figure of 4159 days.

For the entire 2625 cars--in almost every case from the primary
grain-markets of the West--the total transit time came to 109,569
car-days. Again the law of fair average time comes into play. Let me
explain briefly how it is made. To the shortest time in transit between
two given points an arbitrary of 50 per cent. is added. This makes the
fair average. In practice it results that the average time to Boston from
points east of a line drawn through Buffalo and Pittsburg is fixed at
seven days. Two weeks are allowed from points west of that line and east
of the Mississippi, three weeks from those east of the Missouri and thirty
days from places as far distant as Montana. With this rule as a measure
and taking the individual routings of each of these 2625 box-cars, the
fair average time of all of them came to a total of 40,753 car-days.
Subtracting this time from the total transit time as you have just had it,
we get in a few months at the beginning of 1917 a railroad detention of
68,996 car-days, or an average waste of 26.2 days for each car. If this
waste could have been avoided there would have been an additional use of
9856 cars for one week each, or 3285 cars for a three weeks' period. The
hard-headed railroad executives who continue to argue against a too
elaborate car-building program must understand these figures and their
full import. Nor can their brethren in the field be entirely blind to the
success of the Car Service Commission of the American Railway Association
in making an extensive and vastly bettered use of the freight equipment
immediately at hand at that time and available all the way across the
country. It takes a lot of time and money to build any considerable
quantity of new freight-cars. It does not take much of either to make a
better use of the cars already in operation. And this is the very thing
that had been done to a certain extent, up to the beginning of the present
business slump.

It would not be just or fair to assert or even to imply that all of the
car delays which we have just seen occurred within the boundaries of New
England. It is just as fair to assume that many of them came to pass in
Montreal, or in Toronto, or West Albany, or East Buffalo, or Altoona, or
Brunswick, as in West Springfield, or Cedar Hill, or Mechanicville. But
when this point has been stated the fact still remains that the New
England roads to-day are and have been for a number of years past fairly
typical--certainly not exceptional--of the condition that prevails in
certain other sections of the land, particularly upon the so-called
"weaker lines." The great trouble is that in New England there are
virtually no strong roads. They are all down in the doldrums. Even the
last series of rate advances by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which
gradually are proving very profitable to many of the already strong
railroads in the southwestern corner of the United States, have failed to
bring relief to the already weakened properties in its northeastern
corner.

In the course of this book I shall refer more than once to the deplorable
New England situation. I have referred just now to the fearful delays to
freight originating there in the last fairly normal period of private
operation, giving full heed to the fact that many if not most of these
delays occurred outside of the actual New England territory, in order to
emphasize the absolute unpreparedness to-day of our national railroad
structure should great freight traffic demands be made upon it once again.
In a merely introductory chapter I cannot expatiate at length upon the
reasons that have led to this bad condition nor attempt to give the
methods by which it may possibly be corrected. I merely am trying to paint
in brief a picture that has all too few high lights. In the course of this
book I shall attempt gradually to fill in some of the details.

All these things, and many others too, are upon the face of our present
railroad situation in this country. When one goes beneath the surface
matters are even worse. If one is a security-holder in rails he does not
have to study Wall Street reports to see the saddening decline in dividend
payments--either average or cumulative. It is he who long ago began to
smell the rat. And the news that in the railroad the employer and the
employee have been slipping further and further apart until a seemingly
unbridgeable gulf has come to exist between them, that the executive
personnel of our railroads of to-day is growing on in years with little
or none to replace it, that no steps whatsoever are being taken to bring
our railroad structure up to the necessities of to-day--to say nothing of
to-morrow--is not news to him.

Perhaps the most pathetic of all these declines is that of the fine
tradition of American railroading--the thing which in war days we learned
to call morale. It was that tradition that used to make the farmer's boy,
as he stood in the field and watched the express sweep by, yearn to become
a railroad president. In a less romantic and far more concrete form it
enabled the old-time railroaders to fight against fearful conditions at
times--against the blizzards of midwinter in the north, the blazing
midsummer of southern deserts, flood, pestilence--come what might, that
old-time railroader was ready for it.

It was the survival of that tradition, the fine fiber of its long-created
morale, that enabled our railroads to make such a fine war-time
performance. And it is its lessening, the gradual passing of the old-time
railroader with none of his caliber to replace him, that is one of the
tragedies of our railroad situation of to-day.

To Americans these things still will come as more or less of a surprise.
They may have felt themselves fairly remote from actual railroad
responsibility. They may have been depositors in the saving-banks downtown
or holders of policies in the insurance companies, and yet have quite
forgotten the millions of dollars of railroad securities in the
strong-boxes of these great fiscal institutions. The financial
ramifications of the railroad as well as its social and commercial ones
are far-reaching indeed.

Once again, it is because of this intertwining of the railroad with the
every-day life of the American community in its every phase and relation
that the growing seriousness of its present predicament becomes a matter
of so large national import. Our transport problem is no academic matter.
It is very real, very human, very close to every one of us. I did not
overstate when I said that the railroad to-day was life itself to us. And
because it is life, our life if you please, its present serious problem is
very much our business.

If we should go back and begin at the beginning we should find our
American railroads in their beginnings small individual units, in many
cases personal properties, like a store or a bank or a factory, and seldom
correlated. Even the gages of our pioneer roads did not always agree, and
in at least one case purposely so. The early builders of the Erie felt
that by laying down a six-foot gage for their enterprise they would
succeed in keeping their freight-cars and other equipment on their own
property and under their own eyes. In this purpose they succeeded
admirably. They also succeeded in keeping the freight-cars of other
railroads, bringing valuable interchange merchandise, off their rails,
with the eventual result that that railroad, twenty years after it was
first laid down, was forced at great trouble and expense to bring its
track to the standard width.

There was much that was crude and experimental about those early roads--a
condition that was of course bound to exist. The traveler who went abroad
upon them quickly became aware of all this. In the beginning he would
change cars four or five times between Albany and Buffalo; and when
fifteen or sixteen years later the railroad had extended itself all the
way out to Chicago there were three or four more changes to be made.
To-day a solid train from New York or Boston to Chicago or St. Louis is so
much a part of our regular order of things as to cause no comment
whatever. Yet even to-day one cannot ride across the North American
continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific without a change of
cars--that is, not in the United States. In Canada he can do it quickly,
easily, comfortably. Of which much more in good time.

The lack of convenience in the handling of freight was equal to if not
greater than that in the handling of passengers. Of through routes there
were none. Freight bound from five hundred to a thousand miles or more was
repeatedly transferred and retransferred. The fact that until the late
seventies two such important links of the important New York-Chicago
routes as the former Lake Shore and the New York Central and Hudson River
railroads had gages varying a little more than an inch, and so
necessitating an elaborate mechanism at Buffalo for the transfer of the
trucks beneath the freight-car bodies, shows the fearful lack of rail
correlation everywhere across the land. Indeed it was hardly a decade
before, that a state of near civil war had been precipitated at Erie,
Pennsylvania, by the efforts of the Lake Shore railroad to standardize its
gage through that town. The townsfolk, urged and led forward by local
hotel-keepers and bus-drivers, had stoutly resisted the change.

In railroad rate-making and accounting of every sort conditions were even
more chaotic. There were no standards. You could hardly expect a group of
several hundred widely separated and highly individualistic railroads to
have uniform bookkeeping practices when in many instances there were not
enough standards in the building of their cars to enable them to be
coupled together into a single train.

And yet with all of this wretched system, or lack of any system
whatsoever, those little railroads of yesterday had many, many things in
their favor. Their very individuality was an asset. The fact that they
were owned and operated by men who lived upon their lines or very close to
them was a still greater asset. The railroad executive of those days
understood from first-hand knowledge and intimate personal contact the
problems as well as the opportunities of the communities that he was
trying to serve. And a third and still greater asset was the close
personal relationship that he might enjoy with his employees. On a
railroad owning from twelve to twenty locomotives he might know, and
almost invariably did know, not only each of those engines individually
but the men who ran them. In fact in those days it was customary for a
locomotive to be named and to be assigned to a permanent crew of engineer
and fireman, who immediately began to take a surpassing pride in the
upkeep of their craft--in keeping her boiler black and shiny and her
brasses and her nickel-work gleaming like new.

In these days the brass and the nickel and all the rest of the former gay
trimmings have departed from the locomotive. Its boiler is no longer
shiny. On the average American railroad, locomotive upkeep has become an
all but forgotten art. The names and the individuality have gone from its
engines. They are assigned to crews out of the roundhouses in a very
systematic and utterly unsentimental way. Yet something very definite has
been lost.

You could scarce expect a modern railroad president whose system may own
three or four thousand locomotives to know any considerable number of the
men who operate them. Yet here is the loss. On that little road of
yester-year the president not only knew his engine crews by
name--generally calling them by their first names--but his conductors, his
station-agents, his telegraphers too. And knowing them, understanding
them, working with them in almost every case, there was no labor-union
problem to confront him. There were no unions then for the simple reason
that there was no necessity for them. The labor-union upon the railroad
with all of its problems for the management came definitely as an effect
of its super-consolidation. And the railroad tradition began to fall.

Even after the first steps in the inevitable consolidation of our various
lines had begun, when for instance the six railroads in the
three-hundred-mile stretch between Albany and Buffalo had been merged into
the first New York Central, this intimate sense of personal relationship
remained for a long time.

The statue of William Bliss, president of the Boston and Albany railroad,
which stood for many years in the lobby of the old Kneeland Street Station
in Boston, typified it. When the Boston and Albany was the Boston and
Albany it was the pride not only of its employees but of all New England.
But when, in accordance with the general railroad practice of the moment,
the Vanderbilts took it over upon a long lease and painted out the old
name, placing "New York Central" upon the cars and locomotives, New
England rose in its anger, and it was not appeased until a shrewd
executive, going to Boston from New York, reversed the new order of things
and painted the beloved old name back again upon the equipment. After
which serenity ruled once again along the lines of the "Albany," as the
Boston people to this day love to call it.

What's in a name? More than you can imagine. I asked a shrewd brotherhood
man once what the New York Central had sacrificed in operating efficiency
when it had chosen to paint the names "Lake Shore," "Michigan Central,"
and "Big Four" from its western constituent lines, and he said that he
guessed--it really is anybody's guess--that 50 per cent. would be about
right. The Pennsylvania system, with a great deal of real wisdom and long
vision, not many months ago decided to divide itself into four large
regional operating divisions, all to be known however under the general
title of Pennsylvania System. Yet an old passenger conductor with whom I
have ridden these great many years between New York and Philadelphia
confessed to me his great personal regret at the passing of the fine old
name, "Pennsylvania Railroad."

"I feel as if I had buried an old friend," said he. So felt others, and a
little later the Pennsylvania dropped the "system" from its official name
and came back as the good old Pennsylvania Railroad once again.

A few miles further south the people are still grieving over the loss of
the "Cumberland Valley," one of the earliest railroads of the
land--incidentally a Pennsylvania constituency and one which until the
recent change had held its name and its individuality. Across the land the
thing repeats itself again and again. Away up in the northwestern corner
you will find people to-day lamenting the renaming of their chief railroad
system into the Union Pacific.

"We were proud of the name 'Oregon-Washington Railway,'" said one of the
really big men of that community not long ago. "It was a good railroad and
we felt that in no small sense its goodness reflected that of this
particular corner of the U. S. A."

If this feeling comes to the patrons of these railroads how much more
distinctly must it come to their workers? In subsequent chapters in a
pleading for a division of our national railroad structure into shorter
operating units, despite the ponderous suggestions of the Transportation
Act, I am going to refer to the fact that in this country a half-dozen or
so of the small railroads ("small" at least in a comparative sense) are
the best operated and hence the most profitable lines in the land. And
incidentally, despite the great tangle of red tape that the government
system of railroad control has spun about them, they still enjoy
comparatively friendly relations with their labor.

With the fundamental idea of railroad consolidation one can have no
quarrel whatsoever. It was inevitable. It came logically and
sequentially--in some ways before many folk were really aware of it. When
a very few years after the close of the Civil War the merger of the Grand
Trunk railroad was accomplished--a single system of nearly four thousand
miles, stretching all the way from Portland, Maine, by way of Montreal and
Toronto to Detroit (a little later, on to Chicago)--America stood aghast.
And yet what were four thousand miles to be compared with a single system
of twelve thousand miles of main-line track--nearly one-twentieth of the
total mileage in the United States, upon which moves one-seventh of the
traffic of the nation? And yet here is but one of three or four big
twelve-thousand-mile systems that our land holds.

In our Yankee version of the English language we dearly love that word
"big." Yet is it not now a fair time to ask what that bigness has really
cost us? Granted that with a certain amount of real aid from the state it
has given us through rail and through car routes of an amazing
multiplicity--even though one cannot cross the United States from the
Atlantic to the Pacific in a through car, unless it be a freight-car--that
it has simplified vastly our tariffs, our ticketing and our way-bill
systems, it certainly is failing to-day in many, many instances to give us
the high degree of service which our railroads themselves have educated us
to expect. As I said at the beginning our transport service to-day is
appreciably poorer and the rates a great deal higher than they were a
decade ago, while the personnel problem of our railroads, in their
executive ranks as well as in the ranks of the great mass of their labor,
has become a matter of real alarm.

In this book I am going to give scant attention, if any, either to the
scandals or to the triumphs of railroad finance for a half-century past in
this country. Neither am I going to hark back to the evils of multiple and
ofttimes conflicting regulation of our carriers by the Federal and the
forty-eight State governments. Both have been pretty thoroughly treated
over and over again. And so we shall assume, first that the railroads must
be properly financed in order to function at all, and second that the
principle of regulation by the state is so thoroughly established by this
time as to be removed from the field of controversial argument; while the
perplexing factor of many and ofttimes annoying conflicts between the
State regulatory bodies, or between them and the Federal Interstate
Commerce Commission, is being solved automatically by the steadily
increasing usurpation of the individual rights of the various States by
the centralized government at Washington.

The problems upon which I shall prefer to linger in this book are those
that concern the physical side of our national railroad structure, future
as well as present, its operating problems as well as its purely human
ones, in these last including not merely the very human problem of the men
and women who work upon the railroad but those who ride upon it or
otherwise become its patrons. Granting the great importance of its
questions of finance and of state regulation, I still feel that these last
are of still greater portent to its future. With these properly solved,
finance and regulation, to a large extent at least, will solve themselves.
A national railroad structure well operated, with efficiency, with
economy, with vision, with a broad human relationship, will not have to
worry very much about the sale of its securities or about interference
from fussy regulatory bodies. I think that this may be fairly set down as
a fundamental fact in our argument.

As to what constitutes good operation, efficiency, economy, vision, broad
human relationship, there will of course come more than one opportunity
for an honest difference of opinion. It is in the sincere effort to gain
the real current of forward-looking opinion upon these great questions of
our national transportation problem that the writer for the last sixteen
years has traveled many thousands of miles across the United States and
Canada and has interviewed hundreds of people in railroad circles and out.
For more than a dozen years past he has foreseen the present crisis. The
coming of the World War hastened it a bit perhaps but the crisis was
inevitable. A drifting policy, which ofttimes was no policy at all,
followed by both the railroad and the various groups of persons that
assumed to control it, has brought us almost to the edge of supreme
catastrophe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Go back with me once again to the beginning. Remember if you will that the
railroad in the United States to-day is a little more than ninety years
old. For eighty of those years it was in a state of steady and healthy
development and progress. For the last ten or twelve of them it has not
only been in a state of arrested development but narrowly approaching
entrance into a state of decadence.

For eighty years the American railroad grew, and grew heartily. It
financed its own growth and, consisting very largely of independent units,
financed itself quite readily and as a rule locally. It kept its physical
facilities, track and rolling-stock and all the rest of it, abreast if not
ahead of actual traffic requirements. About the beginning of the present
century, as presently we shall see, it began to feel the burden of greatly
increased material costs, and of taxation also. It met these added costs,
without any very visible addition to its revenues, by holding rather
tightly down on its pay-roll and by adopting large operating efficiencies
and economies. For a while these sufficed. They had to suffice. Appeals to
the State and Federal regulatory commissions for increased rates were
generally vetoed pretty promptly. Since the establishment of the
Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 these regulatory boards had
increased steadily in strength and in prestige. They felt their oats. And
many did not hesitate to deny the applications of the roads for rate
increases.

In 1906 something happened which in later years was to loom large in
American railroad history. Congress, under a considerable pressure from
President Theodore Roosevelt, passed the so-called Hepburn Bill, radically
amending the Interstate Commerce Act and giving the I. C. C. an almost
unbridled authority over railroad rates. The Interstate Commerce
Commission could not itself authorize changes in the tariffs of the
carriers but it could, and frequently did, veto any changes that the roads
themselves saw fit to make.

Parenthetically it may be stated that even though this increase of power
granted to the big Federal commission stirred up something of a
competitive energy on the part of the State regulatory commissions to
supervise more carefully than ever before the operation of the railroads
through their respective bailiwicks, it also marked the long beginning of
the end for the State boards; as far at least as our steam railroads are
concerned. As I have said already, it is still another of our difficult
national question-marks in which the old, old problem of States' rights
again shows its disagreeable face. Eventually it probably will be ended by
shearing these State boards of virtually if not absolutely all of their
supervision over interstate railroads; and the I. C. C. long since has
shown marvelous ways in which this phrase may be extended to cover even
the tiniest of apparent intra-state lines.

The passage of the Hepburn Bill put the first quietus upon the development
of the carriers. Soon after, they began to cease large additions to their
plants, even though the nation that they served went steadily ahead in its
development, by leaps and by bounds. Yet for full ten years after 1906 the
net earnings of the carriers continued to increase, in pace with the great
growth of the nation and its industries in those selfsame years, until
under the war stress of 1916 and 1917 they had come to the astounding
total of almost a billion dollars a year "net operating income," which
under the rigorous accounting systems of the Interstate Commerce
Commission signifies the amounts available for paying interest and
dividends and making permanent improvements. In other words the
deterioration of the national railroad structure had begun well before the
maximum of net earnings had been reached, and by the end of 1917 had
reached so serious a stage as to threaten a possible breakdown--I am
using this last word advisedly--or at best a fearsome congestion and
uselessness, in the face of one of the gravest national crises that the
United States has ever had to meet.

Confronted with such a possibility President Wilson did not hesitate. He
took no chances. With the supreme powers which were his as the war leader
of the nation he reached out and took over the railroads and made them a
direct agency of the national conduct of the war, under the name of the
United States Railroad Administration, placing them under the direct and
autocratic control of William G. McAdoo, secretary of the treasury and a
man with not only a large knowledge of railroad finance but with a degree
of success as an actual railroad operator--of the short but busy Hudson
and Manhattan rapid transit lines connecting New York, Jersey City,
Hoboken, and Newark.

There has perhaps been no single activity of the Wilson administration and
its conduct of the war more seriously discussed and criticized than its
control of the railroads. Even the gigantic expenditures and manifest
blunders of the Shipping Board have been passed quickly by, to linger upon
those of Mr. McAdoo and his fellows in the Railroad Administration. Yet
when all has been fairly considered the Railroad Administration in its
brief twenty-six months of life accomplished some very creditable things,
and some not so creditable--some of these obvious, some others most
unexpected and strangely outré. It was obvious for instance that a highly
centralized, automatic, and supreme control could obtain large operating
economies by completely obliterating competition and could by appealing to
the traveler and the shipper in the role of a sadly harassed government,
obtain a coöperation that no private agency might ever obtain.

Because the brief history of the Railroad Administration enters so very
vitally into any consideration of the railroad situation in the United
States both to-day and to-morrow, I shall come to it for the next chapter
of this book. For the final paragraphs of this, consider once again the
present lowered efficiency of our rail transport in this country. That it
has been bettered in some of its phases since its relinquishment by the
government I shall not deny; that it has been bettered in some of the most
vital of them I shall dispute until the end. The proofs are too easily at
hand. And so the reading of them may lead us into a really intelligent
understanding of the situation.

       *       *       *       *       *

What's the matter with our railroads?

That question is being asked hundreds of times each day by business men
all the way across the land--from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon,
from north to south and back again. These men, keen in their perception of
many of the great and perplexing problems assailing the United States at
this moment, frankly admit their lack of an understanding of the railroad
one. They are torn by a vast conflict of statements and of opinions.
Skilled propagandists succeed only in adding to the confusion. Apparently
nowhere is an independent voice raised in the interest of the common
citizen of America, the man who perhaps is not a wholesale user of our
overland transport but who realizes from personal contact each time he
makes a shipment of his goods or goes himself abroad into the land that
our national railroad has suffered a vast deterioration within the last
decade, that it no longer functions with anything like the high efficiency
that it had attained say twelve or fifteen years ago.

What's the matter with our railroads?

It is a fair question, and one that demands a fair answer. Why should not
our railroad structure in the United States to-day be rendering service at
least as good as that which it rendered but ten or twelve years ago? Is it
man failure, either in the lists of the rank and file or in those of the
executives? Is it, as has been charged frequently, interference by the
Federal and State governments or, to put it in a gentler fashion,
over-regulation by these same agencies? Is there lack of intelligence or
vision or human understanding? If so, just where are these lacks?

It is to the answering of these questions that the writer puts his sixteen
years of intimate and personal study of the American railroad and, as he
has just promised, takes up that problem on April 5, 1917, the day that
the United States of America officially entered the World War overseas.



CHAPTER II

THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION


Long before the clear Washington morning had broken which succeeded that
stormy April evening of 1917 when the United States first entered the
World War, the railroad executives themselves had been feeling that there
would need to be correlated and coöperative effort to make the rail
transport system of the country adequate to meet the new and added burden
to be laid upon its already sadly bended back. Not many weeks after that
terrible August, 1914, the United States was feeling the reflection of the
world disturbance, although feeling it in some unexpected ways. In August,
1914, few people in this country if any dreamed of the tidal wave of
industrial production that was soon to all but overwhelm us, when
Bridgeport turned (almost overnight, it seemed) from a sleepy Connecticut
manufacturing town into an overcrowded metropolis wherein people by the
hundreds slept nightly in the railroad station, and the new county
almshouse was transformed into an overflow hotel; when Akron, Ohio, ran
wild with prosperity, growth, and overcrowding; when drowsy old Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania, became a bedlam of industry and Chester, Pennsylvania, the
same; when Detroit, well used to rapid growth, now leaped ahead toward the
million mark; and when so also in a large degree did Wilmington, Delaware,
and Youngstown, Ohio, and Trenton, New Jersey, and Rochester and
Schenectady, New York--dozens of other communities like them.
Manufacturing plants worked night and day and doubled and trebled and
quadrupled themselves in a matter of mere months; half-abandoned
shipyards sprang into life and extension; mines were dug with a furious
speed into the rich subsurfaces of mother earth--production everywhere.
And everywhere the chief burden of all this was coming upon the back of
the American railroad, and coming at a time when it could ill afford any
overload.

As even a casual student of the situation easily understands, for the six
or eight years before the advent of 1914 most if not all of the railroads
of the United States had been in a period of serious retrenchment. Soon
afterwards the beginning of the present and national increases in the cost
of living had become an appreciable burden to them, not so much (as we
shall see before we are done with this book) in their wages as in their
cost of coal and other materials. They had endeavored to meet this
increase in one expense in the conduct of their business by cutting down
in other expenses. "Economy" and "efficiency" had become real catchwords
to them. In both of these they accomplished much. At least so it seemed in
1914. Their economies up to that time, compared with the ones that have
been achieved since then, were almost as nothing.

So the railroads were none too well equipped to meet the strain of greatly
increased business that the war overseas thrust upon them. Their supply of
locomotives and cars was inadequate. The track equipment upon which they
ran their terminals and yards and their shop facilities were, if in good
repair, at any rate in most cases no longer generous. And that prized
possession of the American railroad of yesterday, the morale of its men,
the thing that I shall call "the fine tradition of our American
railroading" again and again and again before I am done with this book,
was already on the wane.

So to an economic agent already sadly overburdened if not actually
crippled was to be given also the serious and the urgent business of
transporting soldiers and sailors and their munitions, a United States
army of a size never before conceived, supplies in a vastness heretofore
deemed incredible. Long before Woodrow Wilson's signature was dry upon the
dreaded declaration of war the War Department experts were making detailed
plans for the enlistment, the training, the supply, and the transport of
the new army that was to go overseas. They involved many things, most
important among them the creation of thirty or forty great concentration
and training camps and huge ports of embarkation.

To meet these needs the already swollen manufacturing industry of the land
was spurred into fresh efforts of production. More factory buildings went
up, more shipyards were established--we were talking about the "bridge of
ships across the Atlantic" those days--more abandoned mines were put into
activity once again.

All these things were a fearful burden upon a national railroad structure
that was from the beginning inadequately equipped for a proper handling of
them. Yet how did the national railroad structure meet this added burden
set upon its badly bended shoulders? The answer is--like a good American
citizen. Up to that April night, without a really efficient or concrete
central body, it already had sought to create one. It took the ancient and
somewhat archaic American Railway Association, shook new life into it, and
on April 11, 1917--six days after the war declaration--established at
Washington what was known as the Railroad War Board. For the personnel of
this board the national railroad structure sought out some of the very
best of its executives: Fairfax Harrison of the Southern railway, Hale
Holden of the Burlington, Julius Kruttschnitt of the Southern Pacific,
Howard Elliott of the Northern Pacific, Samuel Rea of the Pennsylvania,
and Daniel Willard of the Baltimore and Ohio. The first five of these men
were made into the active war board and immediately moved themselves to
Washington where they set up a permanent headquarters. Mr. Willard already
was prominently identified with the business of the organization of this
country's part in the World War as chairman of the Council of National
Defense, which was then doing a very great work of hurried preparation for
the conflict, but which President Wilson afterward saw fit to relieve of
most of its power and responsibility.

At the request of the American Railway Association Mr. Willard became an
ex officio member of the Railroad War Board and was in constant
consultation with it. So did Edgar E. Clark, a valued member of the
all-powerful Interstate Commerce Commission at that time and a veteran
railroader of wide experience, having risen to the rank of conductor and
in time become the head of the great brotherhood of that branch of
railroading.

The Railroad War Board came into being committed to the idea of a single
continental railroad in the United States as a war-time measure; please
mark this fact for future reference. Indeed that efficient and economical
idea had been in the heads of some of our practical railroaders for a good
many years before the coming of the World War. But any steps that they
might take toward it then seemed to bring them afoul of the Federal
statutes--particularly the so-called Sherman Law--and in imminent danger
of the penitentiary. Now, however, there seemed to be the faint ghost of
an opportunity to gain some of the obvious practical advantages that
naturally would inure from a centralized control of our national railroad
structure.

Three great things, however, the War Board lacked. The first was the
financial backing of the Government. No matter what broad plans for
efficiency it might and did adopt--and that they were effective plans the
statistics of their results most clearly show--the railroads lacked the
financial resources to go into a market where rising labor and raw
material costs were being reflected directly in tremendously increased
prices for locomotives and cars and rails and every other what-not that
goes to the making and maintaining of a railroad. On the contrary they
watched the value of their securities drop as they listened to the demands
of their employees for higher wages.

Beyond the War Board's local authority, it had no real centralized
control, no genuine supreme power. After all, it was but a group of
men--big men, powerful individualists, each of them. They had been reared
in powerful roads, roads of great traditions. They had been competitors,
powerful competitors. Coöperation, at the best, was no easy pathway for
them.

Remember always that the Railroad War Board lacked authority. It could not
even compel its own member roads to fall in line and stay in line toward
the formation of the single national railroad system. And as for the
shipper, it could only go to him on bended knee and beg his coöperation.
And of all the shippers the Government was perhaps the worst of all. It is
our own beloved Uncle Samuel who is a most obdurate and unreasonable old
fellow when he takes it into his head to become a patron of the railroad.
If he is a passenger and in gold lace and khaki he may come into the train
and demand that it be stopped and started to suit his own convenience.
That frequently is done. And as a shipper he was forever letting his
boys--Food and Fuel and Ships and a lot of others too--place priority
orders upon their shipments, to the immense complication of the entire
railroad situation.

The Railroad War Board began slipping in November, 1917. The hard early
winter of that year finished the job. The inspectors of the Interstate
Commerce Commission at various terminals and division points (themselves
none too friendly to the War Board) began filing by telegraph their
reports of delayed cars and trains, and the members of that commission, at
the suggestion of the President, began framing a bill supplementing the
measure of August, 1916, which had permitted him to take over the lines in
case of a national emergency, and outlining the plans for the step as well
as for the protection of the security-holders of the properties. The plan
was in Mr. Wilson's hands early in December and he decided that
McAdoo--who seemed to stand in an impartial and aloof position from all
the properties and who had not only a rapid transit electric railroad
experience at least, but remarkable acumen in financial matters--ought to
have the job. McAdoo sought to decline it. I honestly believe that he
never wanted it. The President insisted. The weather grew more inclement,
the railroad rod bent further than ever before. Then on the eve of
Christmas something happened. A great American railroad stood in the
shadow of bankruptcy. Other receiverships were to follow upon its heels.
Such a calamity was unthinkable. The die was cast. The White House moved,
and moved quickly. McAdoo accepted his new responsibility and on December
28, 1917, became director-general of more miles of railroad than any one
man--even the late E. H. Harriman--had ever even dreamed of controlling.

William Gibbs McAdoo took hold of his new job with a pretty firm grasp. He
said that he was going to "do things" and apparently he meant to keep his
word. With one stroke of the pen he abolished the abominable priority
orders and with another he doubled the demurrage charges upon
freight-cars--two vastly important executive steps toward a bettering of
the entire railroad situation. The rapidly retiring Railroad War Board,
confronted by the increasing conditions of congestion upon the roads, at
the eleventh hour sent an urgent request to the various lines that they at
once reduce their passenger services at least (it had been suggested that
their entire public service be suspended for several days)--suggestion
which in some cases was acted upon with more enthusiasm than judgment.
There was many a division superintendent who saw a chance to take a
death-crack at that unprofitable, unhealthy, money-eating 11:08--or was it
the 5:15? In other days a stern State commission probably had stood to
forbid him, in the public interest, removing a train which might have had
an average of seventeen passengers a day. Now the authority of the State
commissions, even to a large extent of the all-powerful Interstate
Commerce Commission, had largely been superseded.

The Pennsylvania, which for many years past has had the major share of
traffic between New York and Washington, had asked a little time before to
have its fastest express between the two cities, the almost
internationally famous Congressional Limited, made an excess-fare train,
like the Merchants' Limited from New York to Boston or the Twentieth
Century from New York to Chicago. The commission, on the very eve of
McAdoo's accession, refused. The road withdrew the world-famous train
despite the fact that it was running to capacity and announced that
thereafter all trains between New York and Washington would carry but one
parlor-car each.

Now it happens that this route was and still is of tremendous commercial
importance, not alone for the movement of freight but for the movement of
men, big and little, in government service as well as in essential private
business, back and forth between Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and
New York, and the great territory that lies behind all of these cities.
McAdoo's quick judgment saw the need of clean, comfortable, quick transit
for these men and ordered the famous train back again, even though it did
not then regain its historic name nor quite all of its parlor-cars, nor
run at quite as brisk a pace as heretofore.

McAdoo is no fool. Even his bitterest enemies--and he has plenty of
them--will admit that. His moves from the very beginning of his
overlordship of the railroads were generally marked with extreme
shrewdness. And although he does not coöperate well he showed himself
possessed of a genius for organization as well as for coördination. Yet
almost as soon as he stepped into the office on the ninth floor of the new
Interstate Commerce Commission building that had been hurriedly set aside
for the use of the director-general of the railroads, he impressed into
service the various working subcommittees of the Railroad War Board, but
courteously and promptly dismissed that Board itself.

With the Railroad War Board out of the way the director-general moved
quickly toward finding a substitute for it. At the beginning he said that
he was going to try to surround himself with the ablest and most
experienced railroaders in the land--an advisory board, which would be in
effect a railroad cabinet, divided so as to include a man from each of the
great interests already concerned in national rail transport, one
representing operation, another maintenance and equipment, another
finance, another traffic, another public service and accounts, another
law, still another labor.

Yes, labor. Labor at last was to sit in the high council of railroad
transportation. That had a new sound in the game. Yet McAdoo was quick to
include it in his plans. And at that time he added:

"I am putting in men of no partisan views--partisan neither to capital nor
to labor. In every case I have tried to select men who will inspire
confidence. I want men of broad vision."

The man who dug the great tunnels under the Hudson River when every one
else had pronounced the project as chimerical could hardly stand accused
himself of any lack of vision. Moreover McAdoo's selections in nearly
every case justified his words. He began by choosing as his right-hand
assistant and general adviser Walker D. Hines, an extremely able New York
lawyer, who in the forty-seventh year of his life was chairman of the
board of the Santa Fé. On the average road the chairmanship of the board
of directors is likely to be a sort of sanitarium for retired executives.
Not so with the Santa Fé. Its late president, E. P. Ripley, the man who
was instrumental in bringing it out of bankruptcy and up to its place as
one of the greatest single systems in the United States, ten or twelve
years ago was seeking a young man who could represent the road in New
York, and represent it with the proper authority. He found such a man in
Hines, then barely turned forty, and he never regretted his choice.
Moreover Hines, in a brilliant legal connection with the Louisville and
Nashville before going to the Santa Fé, had begun to acquire his
remarkable knowledge of railroad conditions in virtually every section of
the land.

The Santa Fé has always had much good motive-power, human and mechanical.
McAdoo chose two of this first class, Hines and Edward Chambers, its
former vice-president in charge of traffic. These men formed the beginning
of his advisory cabinet. To them he added gradually several others--Henry
Walters of Baltimore, chairman of the board of the extremely sound and
conservative Atlantic Coast Line; John Skelton Williams, controller of the
currency, who had been not only the president but really the creator of
the Seaboard Air Line; Carl R. Gray, at that time president of the Western
Maryland railroad and now occupying a similar post upon the Union Pacific;
and Judge John Barton Payne, who also had served as chairman of the
Shipping Board and as secretary of the interior.

Offhand these looked like good appointments; in reality too they _were_
good appointments--able men in every instance; men of the broadest
experience. But the men on the inside--those who have a thorough
understanding of the wheels within wheels in the working of the big
national railroad machine--saw more in these appointments than a mere
search for transport ability.

"Walters and Williams," they said, "Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air
Line. It's a hard dig at Fairfax Harrison."

They were referring of course to the brilliant young president of the
Southern railway, who was the chairman of the Railroad War Board,
constituted, you will remember, as a war measure by the railroads
themselves. In that job, and against no small odds, Harrison had won a
fair measure of success. He felt keenly the slap at him in the McAdoo
selections; he felt another when he was virtually deposed from the control
of the railroad which had been his great pride and ambition, and young Mr.
Markham brought down from Chicago to be the McAdoo generalissimo of all
the roads in the southeastern corner of the land at Atlanta. Yet that last
thrust was hardly greater than the first, when the ranking heads of the
two railroads which had been the hottest enemies of the Southern in that
which it regarded peculiarly as its own territory were lifted to eminence,
while the president of the Southern was permitted to retire to Richmond as
merely its corporate head, without one atom of authority over the
operation of his road.

Those who know Fairfax Harrison know how these two blows must have cut. He
is a man of intense pride as well as patriotism, a railroader who almost
plays the lone hand but plays it very well indeed. A gentleman to the
core, born of the gentlest of Virginia blood and lineage--his father
private secretary to Jefferson Davis, his mother a gifted American
novelist, his brother one-time governor-general of the Philippines--his
pride in his family has for years past been exceeded by his pride in the
railroad which, as a logical successor to the late Samuel Spencer, he had
been upbuilding. Fairfax Harrison himself is a _literateur_ of no small
merit. He has made translations of the classics, while to him has long
been ascribed the composition of an essay in Latin on the proper carving
of Virginia ham. Yet I dare say that in none of his literary excursions
has he ever reached greater charm than in the booklet which he wrote eight
or nine years ago on the tragic sacrifices made by the men of the Southern
who strove to keep their road open and in operation during the terrific
floods of 1913.

Yet Harrison was not the only man to be reduced menially as well as
physically by the director-general of railroads. Carl R. Gray, himself one
of the most lovable men in the business, was then president of the Western
Maryland. He came to it from a high office with the 'Frisco. That
railroad, originally a small local affair largely financed by the city of
Baltimore and for many years terminating at Hagerstown in the Cumberland
valley, had been built, largely by Rockefeller capital, through to
Cumberland and Connellsville (by connection to Pittsburg), paralleling the
main stem of the Baltimore and Ohio for virtually the entire distance. It
was a real thorn in the side of the B. & O. Mr Gray was quickly elevated
to a high post in the Railroad Administration. This was a distinct thrust
at Daniel Willard.

It will be recalled that the distinguished figure of Daniel Willard,
president of the Baltimore and Ohio, loomed large in the Railroad War
Board. Mr. Willard was doomed to feel the displeasure of official
Washington. Just why, I never have been able to understand. He went to the
service at the very outbreak of the war and gave himself unreservedly to
Mr. Wilson and his associates. And at the very hour of the Armistice he
was in army khaki, prepared to sail overseas to undertake the operation of
the entire system of French railways, which were beginning to go down
under their terrific burden of more than four years.

Yet Mr. Willard's reward for all of this was removal from the actual
operation of his road. Samuel Rea, the president of the Pennsylvania,
suffered a similar fate. Yet this was not all. An official order was sent
out from Washington to the effect that these presidents were to be
deprived of the use of their official cars--the phrase "private-car" long
since has come into disrepute; it smacks too much of junketing. A fairly
circumlocutious method was offered by which these gentlemen could
occasionally avail themselves of their cars. They declined to avail
themselves of so patronizing an offer. Mr. Rea's car finally was assigned
to an operating officer of the Railroad Administration; Mr. Willard's
gathered dust for two long years in a corner of the train-shed of Camden
Station, Baltimore.

Mr. McAdoo's answer to the quiet but strenuous protests that went to the
supreme authority at Washington against his treatment of Mr. Willard and
Mr. Rea was extremely disingenuous. He disclaimed personal feeling and
said that his act was the following out of an established policy.
Officially that policy was thus stated in his own words:

    Inasmuch as "no man can serve two masters," and the efficient
    operation of the railroads for winning the war and the service to the
    public is the purpose of Federal control, it was manifestly wise to
    release the presidents and other officers of the railroad companies,
    with whose corporate interest they are properly concerned, from all
    responsibility for the operation of their properties.... All ambiguity
    of obligation is thus avoided. Officers of the corporation are left
    free to protect the interests of their owners, stockholders, and
    creditors, and the regional and operating managers have a direct and
    undivided responsibility and allegiance to the United States Railroad
    Administration.

He then went ahead in accordance with this announced policy and appointed
Federal managers for the larger roads, incorporating into their direction
smaller lines, closely affiliated or connected with them. But in almost
every case the president of the railroad became its Federal manager,
invariably at a lower salary than the private corporations had paid. Mr.
Harrison, Mr. Willard, Mr. Rea, Mr. Kruttschnitt, and Mr. Underwood (of
the Erie) were extremely conspicuous exceptions to this rule.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am setting down these intensely personal episodes in the conduct of the
Railroad Administration under its first director-general solely for one
purpose--they have had a very large bearing on the present-day plight of
our railroads of the United States. The bitternesses that were then
engendered have not ceased. I do not feel that Mr. Harrison or Mr. Willard
or Mr. Rea, to-day restored to their old positions and influence, now
harbors a single grievance against Mr. McAdoo because of them. The damage
that he did has all been done, in the thrust against the morale of the
rank and file of our American railroad organization. McAdoo talking to the
men from the rear end of his own private-car at Pueblo and at El Paso and
telling them that at last they were come into their own rights did not
begin to do the damage that the whispered rumors, running here and there
and everywhere, of what the director-general was doing to the former big
bosses of great railways did to our old-time traditions of railroad
respect and discipline.

In giving labor a seat in his cabinet McAdoo did a big thing. In making
speeches such as those at Pueblo and at El Paso he did a far smaller
thing, to put the matter very lightly indeed. In the innuendo of his
attitude toward a group of important railroad presidents a very great
wrong was done unquestionably.

The functions of the director-general's cabinet were national. In addition
to its members the steersman of the craft chose regional directors, at
first (and with but a few changes thereafter) as follows: for the
extremely congested lines north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi,
A. H. Smith, president of the New York Central; for the lines of the
Southeast, as we have just seen, C. H. Markham, president of the Illinois
Central; and for those of the rest of the country, R. H. Aishton,
president of the Chicago and Northwestern. Later Mr. Aishton's huge
territory was subdivided and three sub-regions made of it. In a similar
fashion New England also was made a sub-region, and James H. Hustis, the
very popular president of the Boston and Maine, placed in charge of it,
after him came Percy R. Todd of the Bangor and Aroostook, an executive
equally experienced in New England railroading.

Mr. Smith was the very first of these men to be chosen. He received a
telephone request to come to Washington one day late in December, 1917.
Boarding a midnight train, he was in McAdoo's office the next day. The
director-general of the railroads notified him that he had been drafted to
work out the fearfully congested situation in the Northeast. Without a
word of comment Smith turned on his heel, walked to a desk in the corner
of the room, and, picking up a block of paper, began inditing detailed
telegraphic instructions to the presidents of the roads in his new
jurisdiction as to their part in the great drama of national control whose
opening scene was so close at hand. A little later he returned to New
York. And at noon on December 28, 1917, the exact time set by President
Wilson for the curtain to rise on government operation of the continental
railroad system, Mr. Smith stood in his window on an upper floor of the
Grand Central Terminal, and, looking down at the maze of tracks below him,
trains coming, trains going, began the dictation of a short statement as
to the history, the size, and the strength of the property he headed.

"I want it to go into the record," said Smith. "The opportunity might not
come again."

He turned immediately to the work in hand. There was plenty of it to be
done. The great city around about the terminal was on the edge of panic.
There was a fuel famine and no promise of relief. New York at last was
paying the penalty of her medieval, not to say archaic, system of
distribution. At last the war was very real and very close at hand. They
were saying that many of the schools would have to close, that there was a
possibility the theaters would have to shut down each Monday night. Poor
New York! She did not then know that the worst was yet to come!

All this occurred with 300,000 tons of coal upon the Jersey side of the
Hudson River opposite the city, while in the midst of a winter of almost
unprecedented bitterness an ancient lighterage system struggled with ice
hardly less thick than that which once sufficed for a footpath for Henry
Ward Beecher from New York to Brooklyn, and could bring less than 30,000
tons of coal a day across the river. Nor was this all--no, not even a
reference now to the freight upon the Jersey meadows. Know now that the
greater part of that accumulated 300,000 tons of coal was in cars and that
production at the mines actually was being slowed down by the delay in the
return of these cars.

"Open the Pennsylvania tubes to the coal trains!" shrieked the radicals of
Manhattan. "Give us fuel trains and food trains instead of Florida
Limiteds! Put them through at the rate of fifty, one hundred, one hundred
and fifty a day, if needful!"

Some of these lost their heads. Smith did not lose his. Neither did he
impose any more humiliation upon the head of his great competitor. He
does not do business that way. Instead he gave careful heed to the
terminal possibilities of the Pennsylvania, the traditional and very real
rival of the road he himself headed.

"We may possibly make a freight use of the tubes," he said quietly, "but
it will be a moderate use. I shall limit the length of the trains to
thirty-six or thirty-seven cars, which really is no train at all. For I do
not want to see one of those fifty-ton battle-ship coal gondolas jumping
the track in a tube which was not designed for it, and so completely
blocking the line. I am going to be in a position to hand the terminal
back to the Pennsylvania in quite as good condition as I found it."

Then he made further explanations. After all the Pennsylvania tubes,
thrusting themselves across the island of Manhattan, are even in an
emergency of little or no freight use to it. They are too deep to be of
freight service to the heart of metropolitan New York. To Brooklyn, with a
population almost equal to that of Manhattan, to Queens, and to the Bronx
they eventually were made of some slight service.

This was not the big part of Smith's job, however. He made a quick survey
of the entire situation in his big district; trains and cars cluttered
here and there and everywhere. For the final thirty days of private
operation the situation steadily had been growing worse. In the districts
roundabout Pittsburg and Philadelphia and New York it had become
intolerable. Take, if you will, the industries in those vast manufacturing
districts and consider them multiplied tenfold, their influx of fuel and
of raw material increased in like proportion, and so with their output.
Add these industries one to another and see them in units of tens of
dozens of trains, of hundreds and thousands of coal-cars and flat-cars and
box-cars. And on the other hand, see all of these poured upon railroads
that had been steadily growing weaker for eight or ten years--more rapidly
weakened, however, in the last four months than in the entire three years
that preceded them. Bear in mind their tremendous loss of man-power
through the draft, consider the gradual wearing down of engines and cars
and tracks and terminals toward the breaking point, and wonder not then
that we had congestion and much worse east of the Mississippi and north of
the Ohio.

Throughout that autumn of 1917 we watched the bending of the rod of the
railroad just as we had watched it bend and then recover again through the
two hard winter seasons that have preceded this one. It bent further this
winter than ever before--the traffic was so much greater, and the
facilities with which to meet it so much weaker. No wonder that freight
moved slowly, more slowly, most slowly, and in many cases finally ceased
to move at all; that upon the Jersey meadows outside of New York were
30,000 car-loads of merchandise that could not be moved up to that port
and to the ships waiting to carry it overseas. At one time 150 ships stood
waiting for coal alone in New York Harbor. And overseas was a great war in
its critical stages. No wonder, though, that coal began coming in
dribblings to hearthstones that were whining for tons of it, that finally
it ceased coming at all for whole days, while great and ordinarily
comfortable American cities shivered and watched their death rates mount
higher than they had mounted in many a year.

It was a man-sized job that confronted A. H. Smith. Like a real railroad
man he handled it. He went in at once upon it. He began to do things. He
issued immediate embargoes against shipment into the New York district of
anything save food, news-print paper, live stock, perishable freight, and
freight consigned to the Government. He did more. With a great map of
metropolitan New York and its railroad terminals spread before him he
began ordering freight concentrated west of Buffalo and Pittsburg and
south of Washington into the trunk-lines which variously best serve the
great group of cities that constitute the metropolitan district of New
York. The Baltimore and Ohio for instance has exclusive terminal
facilities upon Staten Island, which with its many shipyards and wharves
is an important freight consignment point. In ordinary times, when the
situation was dominated by competitive conditions, a car-load of freight
offered the New York Central at Toledo or Detroit would be carried on its
lines to New York and then floated to Staten Island by car-ferry. In this
non-competitive war situation, in this hour when the temporary continental
railroad system of the United States was being born, such a car would be
taken by the New York Central from Toledo or Detroit to the Baltimore and
Ohio at some point west of Pittsburg, and then over it to Staten Island by
the shortest possible route.

What Smith was doing in New York his fellow regional directors in Atlanta
and in Chicago also were doing. Order was being worked out of chaos. The
great railroads of the United States, even temporarily and very hastily
welded into a single national system, showed good results of efficiency
and economy, just as some of their far-sighted private operators had
predicted more than two decades ago. Released from the shackles of the
Sherman Anti-Trust Law--Congress had refused such a release to the
Railroad War Board but quickly granted it to McAdoo--and from the
conflicting regulatory commissions all the way across the land, they were
able to simplify and unify their facilities--even though many times at
public cost and inconvenience--in a way that enabled them not only to
handle the pressure of war traffic and in an admirable fashion but also to
show great economies upon their cost-sheets.

To come to actual cases: It was good railroading when the centralized
Washington administration began assembling various sections of various
lines so as to gain not only more direct routes between important traffic
centers but lines of lowest possible gradients as well. In the West
particularly, great progress was made in this direction. For instance in
the old days of competitive railroading the Southern Pacific quite
naturally operated its through route from Dallas or Fort Worth to Los
Angeles and San Francisco over its own tracks through San Antonio or El
Paso. Of course the old-time and somewhat unfortunate Texas and Pacific
had a far shorter route from Dallas and Fort Worth direct to El Paso, but
the competitive situation, the fact that it was the Texas and Pacific and
not the Southern Pacific, prevented it from getting much volume of traffic
for its short line. Under government unification the T. & P. line came
into its own, with the result that 500 miles were taken off the through
route between the important North Texas cities and southern
California--with great resultant time and operating economies.

Similarly, there arose a war-time assembled through line from the
oil-fields at Casper, Wyoming, to Montana and Puget Sound points, 880
miles shorter than the route which the competitive situation formerly
forced. Freight from southern California to Ogden was hauled 201 miles
less than by the pathway formerly used; while the Railroad Administration
route between Chicago and Sioux City was 110 miles shorter than the old,
and 289 miles were saved in the through traffic between Kansas City and
Galveston and Houston. Multiply these examples and it is easy to see how
in a period of sixty days in the summer of 1918 nine thousand freight-cars
were so rerouted as to effect a saving in mileage traveled by each car of
about 195 miles, or a total saving of about 1,754,805 car-miles.

To be ranked with this sort of operating economy was the work undertaken
by Regional Director R. H. Aishton at Chicago when early in the spring of
1918 he began consolidating train movements so that instead of the several
competing trunk-lines coming down from out of the Northwest, each
operating competing through freight-trains each day into the great
terminal and interchange yards at St. Paul, and there shifting and
resorting their cars incredibly for distribution between the six
trunk-lines leading for another five hundred miles down into Chicago,
through trains were operated solidly from the Puget Sound points through
to Lake Michigan. For through freight the great railroad yards upon the
line between St. Paul and Minneapolis represented no more of a stop than
was necessary for changing engines, cabooses, and crews. Moreover these
through trains were distributed in alternation between the Northern
Pacific and Great Northern lines from the Pacific coast down to the Twin
Cities, but because of its superior mileage and gradient conditions they
were handled on to Chicago almost exclusively by the Northwestern.

Nor was Chicago--with almost inevitable traffic congestion, despite the
fact that it now bears upon its western rim the largest interchange and
clearing-house yard for freight-cars in the entire world--a railroad point
big enough to break this simple scheme of through service. Take the export
corn specials out of the Missouri valley. One of these trains, let us say,
consisted of thirty-one cars from Omaha and five cars from Sioux City, all
moving under special government permits, and was routed intact from Omaha
to Philadelphia. It came east over the Northwestern to a point well
outside of the Chicago congested district. There it was turned to the
tracks of the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern, one of the outermost of the
belt-line railroads which encircle Chicago. The Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern
in turn delivered the train--intact and unchanged, you will remember--to
the Nickel Plate, which at Buffalo handed it to the Lackawanna, which in
turn carried it as far as Scranton, giving it there to the Central
Railroad of New Jersey and the connecting Philadelphia and Reading for
prompt handling through to tide-water and a waiting ship at Philadelphia.
There was no switching and but little delay en route, and the train
generally went through from the Missouri to the Delaware in considerably
less than a week. Such a prompt through movement, with its saving of time
and money, was quite unheard of in the days of competitive railroad
management.

All the reroutings and consolidations of this sort by no means had been
confined to the western portions of the land. In the East many others were
made, particularly in the congested sections of war-munitions manufacture,
where, in addition to great numbers of war brides and shipyards and camps
and cantonments, requiring not merely outbound shipping facilities but
large quantities of raw materials and fuel, there had been a vast movement
of coal for both domestic use and export. In the handling of this coal
ingenious savings were made, both in the routings and in the details of
train operation. Roads and portions of roads, formerly in bitter
competition, were joined together in a way only possible under absolutely
unified and autocratic control. And in some cases the routings were so
made as to divert the great streams of through freight traffic, in order
to avoid areas already badly congested. Thus Atlantic-bound freight coming
up into St. Louis from the Southwest was sent far to the north and even
through Canada before it reached the seaboard. A glance at the map and a
fair understanding of the present traffic situation will show the
necessity of this. The lines that reach into the coal-fields of eastern
Kentucky and West Virginia and western Pennsylvania were much burdened
these months. It hardly was fair to ask them to carry much through freight
upon their already heavily laden shoulders. And the Pittsburg district,
with its various narrow _impasses_ made by broad rivers and sharp-sided
mountains, is a railroad abomination--a fearfully congested traffic
gateway which, by reason of those selfsame rivers and mountains, is hardly
capable of radical enlargement, even at great cost.

The railroads that run along the south shore of Lake Erie, ample as are
their facilities, already had a full load of traffic from Chicago, the
West, and the Northwest. So the traffic from St. Louis and the rich
country back of it must needs cross the Chicago currents and go to the
north of Lake Erie. The Wabash--one of the least understood and most
abused railroads in America--in those days first began really to justify
the fine strategy of its position. It became the main factor in bringing
St. Louis freight up to Detroit, where it no longer crossed into Canada by
ferry but through the great tunnel which the Michigan Central completed
about twelve or fourteen years ago; and by sweeping easily along through
the gradeless tangents of the Province of Ontario that freight re-entered
the United States at the Niagara frontier, and so on to New York or Boston
by any one of a half a dozen uncongested traffic routes.

These things apparently could not have been done under private management;
at any rate they were not done under private management, although it is
but fair to say that some of the far-sighted railroaders who sat at the
table of the former Railroad War Board--which had attempted at the
eleventh hour to consolidate the lines and so save the obvious perils of
government operation, even as a temporary war measure--had the vision of
these very consolidation economies. They had the vision but not the power.
Too many powerful considerations bore in upon them and bore them down.
Regulation, which was not fair regulation, the inability to finance the
lines with rates fixed and expenses increasing by leaps and by bounds,
competition refusing to bury itself even in emergency, even traditional
jealousy--all these things prevented the Railroad War Board, constituted
by the roads themselves to have a sort of supreme authority, from
accomplishing its real purpose. These things were accomplished by the
United States Railroad Administration and William G. McAdoo, as
director-general of railroads, almost at the very beginning.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have set down these operating details of the United States Railroad
Administration under its first director-general at some length, not
because of any desire to glorify Mr. McAdoo but because I may want to
refer to them again in the final chapters of this book when I am
endeavoring to show the folly and the waste of many of the phases of our
competitive system of railroading in the United States. Failure as it was
in many ways, the McAdoo episode was perhaps valuable after all as a
laboratory experiment in rail transport. I am not sure but that as such it
was worth every cent that it cost; and its cost was not small. For some
years past, before the coming of the war, a certain proportion of our
railroaders had been getting into something of a rut, to put it lightly.
McAdoo came along and, if he did nothing else, succeeded in shaking them
well out of that rut. Yet it is but fair to recall again that the Railroad
War Board might have done the same thing had it possessed two great powers
that the United States Railroad Administration possessed--absolute
authority and virtually unlimited financial resources. McAdoo, on the one
hand, might order new locomotives by the hundreds and box-cars by the
thousands--no matter what the price, we were at war--and upon the other,
he could--and did--raise the railroad tariffs, both freight and passenger,
to a point hitherto deemed virtually prohibitive. He raised the rates all
the way from 25 to 35 per cent., and the railroads but two or three years
before had found the Interstate Commerce Commission deaf to their appeals
for mere 5 and 10 per cent. advances.



CHAPTER III

THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION (CONTINUED)


I bear no brief for Mr. McAdoo. On the contrary I have been one of his
most persistent, although, I trust, consistent, critics. In the columns of
the "Saturday Evening Post" and other widely circulated publications I
have tried to set down fairly, impartially, and thoroughly both the
accomplishment and the shortcomings of that remarkable organization, the
United States Railroad Administration. And with this final chapter written
I shall close for myself, I hope forever, the recital of its history.

It is but fair to say that even though McAdoo's great economies of
operation through radical consolidation and reroutings were obvious, it
took courage, none the less, to put many of them into effect. Tradition,
the sentiment built up through long years of hot competitive practice,
local pride and local spirit here and there and everywhere, had to be met
and overcome successfully, even though the war-time issue was to come into
the reckoning. McAdoo has never been known for lack of courage. He reached
out here and he reached out there and generally he attained his desires.

"You talk about Fairfax Harrison. Of all the men in authority in
Washington, it was McAdoo who really played the lone hand." So speaks a
man who from the very beginning of the war overseas made a careful study
of the Administration and its human components. He speaks the truth--and
does not.

"The trouble with McAdoo," says a radical who is immensely interested in
the entire railroad situation, "was that he was in the hands of the old
railroad gang and controlled body and soul by them."

He also speaks the truth, and does not. I presume that we may translate
the "old railroad gang" into the group of experienced and very able and
honest railroad executives that the first director-general gathered about
him, and who without exception rendered him efficient service. Mr. McAdoo
himself says this. And he ought to know.

In the preceding chapter we saw some of the sweeping changes and economies
that were wrought in the freight operation of the railroads under
governmental control; the passenger ones were even more dramatic. We have
already seen how at a fell swoop the excellent service between New York
and Washington was smashed almost into smithereens, and how the good
horse-sense of the first director-general came to the rescue then and
there and restored a service that would enable men to travel back and
forth between these cities on their war-time errands in a degree of
comfort sufficient at least to render them best able to carry on their
press of unusual duties. Other services were not so restored. The Broadway
Limited, the crack twenty-hour train of Mr. Rea's Pennsylvania railroad,
was an early sacrifice. In May, 1918, Mr. McAdoo approved of a sweeping
economy in the western portion of the country, the territory west of
Chicago and St. Louis. In this great slash alone estimated yearly savings
of 11,728,000 passenger train-miles were made. These savings were
accomplished chiefly by abandoning duplicate and expensive fast train
services (please also note this for future reference) between Chicago and
the Pacific coast cities and assigning, supposedly to the shortest and
most direct route in each case, the fastest through service. Under this
scheme the Santa Fé became the preferred route between Chicago and Los
Angeles; the quite logical grouping of Chicago and Northwestern, Union
Pacific, and the former Central Pacific division of the Southern Pacific,
from Chicago to San Francisco; the Burlington and the Northern Pacific to
Portland, and the Milwaukee to Seattle.

These selections were made arbitrarily. They cost many heartaches,
however. The Rock Island--the shortest route between Chicago and the
important railroad gateway of El Paso, and but thirty-five miles longer
between Chicago and Los Angeles--watched the decapitation of the Golden
State Limited, which it had worked so hard to upbuild, with feelings of
great bitterness and regret. It felt down in the bottom of its heart that
it had been discriminated against. When peace came again--if ever it
should come again--and the railroads were restored to their private
operators--if they ever were to be restored again--the Golden State
Limited would have to start once again at the very bottom of the ladder.

The most notable consolidations of passenger service under the government
administration came, however, in the central portions of the land. In the
district about Chicago under private and competitive control there was
(and to-day is once again) a great waste of through passenger-train
service. With six competing railroads from Chicago to the Twin Cities, six
to Omaha, six to Kansas City, four to St. Louis, and three to Cincinnati,
and with almost every one of these roads trying to maintain a service as
good as its competitors, if not better, there was and is a vast
preponderance of through passenger-trains, many times to the cost of
weaker or branch lines, even of well-to-do-systems. It is not at all
uncommon for a branch line, particularly if it passes through a
non-competitive district, to be paying with its all-too-few and
overcrowded local trains for the extravagances of the underfilled through
ones upon the main line. The little wheezy locomotive and the two
forty-year-old battered day-coaches of the down local to Willettsburg or
Sand Corners was and still is the upkeep of the lordly limited all-Pullman
and aristocratic from the point of its crack new locomotive to the far tip
of its brass-railed observation-platform. Do not forget that. And also do
not forget that a good proportion of the voting population of any State
lives upon the branch lines, which may have accounted in the past for some
pretty radical railroad legislation and regulation. Here is a point that
the average railroad operator, with his nose close down to freight
ton-miles, may overlook. He may have and frankly express a contempt for
the passenger service but it is at all times the chief point of actual
contact between the railroad and its patrons.

       *       *       *       *       *

Moreover from Chicago to the group of cities a night's ride distant from
it in several directions the plethora of superb trains moved in
competitive squadrons. By that I mean, even though there were on four
railroads between that city and St. Louis before the coming of the war
fifteen fast through trains in each direction, there were to all practical
purposes but three or four. For competition so bunched the trains that
there was an important group of through expresses leaving Chicago at noon
and another important group at midnight, with two or three less important
slower expresses at nine in the morning and again at nine in the evening.
An intelligent centralized management would seemingly have found it
possible so to distribute fifteen through trains that there would have
been a through train from Chicago to St. Louis--or the reverse--almost
each workaday hour. The through service between New York and Washington
and between New York and Boston is so distributed.

Even under centralized control, however, such an even distribution of
passenger-trains between midland cities of the United States is not
entirely possible. For even in the case which we have before us, there are
important connections to be reckoned with, both at Chicago and at St.
Louis. These trains must be met, and if the best through passenger-trains
for the Southwest leave the St. Louis Union Station at about nine o'clock
in the evening, the resident of Decatur, which is on the main line of the
Wabash, and of Springfield, which is on the main line of the Chicago and
Alton, should in all fairness have an equal chance at them.

Yet, despite this hindering factor, the McAdoo centralized authority
succeeded in cutting the fifteen through trains in each direction down to
nine and in slightly spreading the leaving times. The result apparently
worked little hardship to the through traveler of war-time days between
Chicago and St. Louis. The train on which he rode might be a little longer
and a little better filled than usual, but its running-time and its
equipment, save for the probable elimination of the observation-car, were
virtually unchanged. And 15,706 train-miles and 9,538 tons of coal were
being saved in Chicago-St. Louis passenger service each month.

But how about Monticello?

Monticello, Illinois, is not a big town, as big towns go. Yet it is an
enterprising county-seat of some 2,000 people situated on the Chicago-St.
Louis main line of the Wabash just a few miles north of Decatur. And it
has definite rights. Do not forget that. In the old days of ante-bellum
private control--sin-filled and really wasteful competitive control--there
were four through trains and two locals through Monticello in each
direction each day. And the Monticello banker or merchant who wanted to
run down to St. Louis and come back at night had an easy affair of it. But
with the government train consolidation he could get up in the middle of
the night and catch the 2:30 train south or else wait for the next express
at 4:05 in the afternoon. The Government was not particularly worried
about him.

Let me repeat. Monticello has definite rights to adequate railroad
transportation. And this holds true whether that transportation comes from
the Government or the individual. Monticello--ten thousand Monticellos, if
you please--has a considerable voting population. And once the real war
emergency was passed and the Armistice safely signed, ten thousand
Monticellos began asking if government operation was going to offer them
no better relief from the ills of private operation. It was as nothing to
them that there had been a saving of trains and of train mileage between
Chicago and St. Louis with no apparent diminution of the service between
those two metropolitan cities; they simply knew that there had been a
great lessening of their own service. And while they were willing to
accept such a lessening as a part of their war sacrifice they did not
intend to accept it as a permanent transportation condition, either from
the Government or from private capital.

This general plan held, however. There are some pretty big and powerful
Monticellos between Chicago and the coast. Denver is one of them, Omaha is
another, Kansas City a third. And because, to make a single instance, any
one of these cities demands a fairly quick and efficient service to
Portland and the Puget Sound points, it was necessary after a time to
modify to some extent the simplified route plan and to give these
intermediate points through train service, or at least through Pullman
service.

These changes and others like them have brought great savings in passenger
mileage. That cannot be denied, even though one is tempted to add a
doubting corollary as to the shattering of the finest passenger service
that any land ever has received. The war crisis demanded curtailments. The
railroads themselves had recognized that, even before the coming of the
McAdoo administration. From May 1, 1917, up to the end of that year their
War Board succeeded in reducing the passenger service by 28,656,983
train-miles. Yet this was not a circumstance to the slashing done by the
Federal Administration. In September, 1918, McAdoo reported to President
Wilson that he had succeeded in eliminating passenger-trains to the extent
of 47,420,000 additional miles a year, a really astounding total.

But in all probability the most popular economy of this sort that McAdoo
succeeded in bringing about was in the consolidation of passenger
terminals across the land, all the way from the biggest towns down to the
very smallest. He began at the top in the city of New York. The
Pennsylvania railroad since the opening of its wonderful new station in
Seventh Avenue in that city in November, 1910, quite naturally had held it
exclusively for itself and for its subsidiary, the Long Island railroad.
In that tight stand it was right from every competitive point of view. It
had taken the great engineering problem and its financial risk entirely
upon its own shoulders; shrewd railroaders had shaken their heads
dubiously as they contemplated the daring move; and there was no reason
why it should share the fruits of its enterprise with its competitors.

But the competitive situation had been eliminated. Therefore McAdoo did
not hesitate in personally ordering that the highly competitive Baltimore
and Ohio, as well as the non-competitive Lehigh Valley (which up to that
time had been using the old Pennsylvania station in Jersey City), should
bring its through trains into the Pennsylvania terminal on Manhattan
Island. (Incidentally, at the eleventh hour of the existence of the
Railroad War Board the Pennsylvania had proffered the use of its station
for this purpose.) The tickets of the B. & O. and the Pennsylvania between
New York and Washington and intermediate points were moreover made
completely interchangeable.

The Pennsylvania people did not enjoy these orders, even though they had
proffered the station at New York. But they were good soldiers. The
country was at war, and they complied readily with war-time orders, no
matter how unreasonable they may have seemed to them.

In a similar fashion the Southern Pacific people made wry faces over the
order that admitted the Santa Fé into their ancient train-shed and "mole"
at Oakland, opposite San Francisco. Their position was not so well taken
however. Even in the competitive era the fast ferry-boats of the Santa Fé,
coming from its rail terminal at Richmond, had entered the same terminal
with the S. P. at San Francisco--the great union ferry-house at the foot
of Market Street. And had not the Santa Fé, as the longer route, been
compelled as a war measure to sacrifice its two pet trains between San
Francisco and Los Angeles and San Diego, the precious Saint and the Angel?

These consolidations--there were many similar ones in the freight
terminals as well--went on all the way across the land. Where there were
two or more engine-houses in a place fairly close together, and it was
humanly possible so to do, they were consolidated. Trackage at terminals
was simplified; for instance at Chicago the trains of the Baltimore and
Ohio and Pere Marquette systems, which formerly had entered their
passenger stations by a rather circuitous route, were now sent in to them
over the tracks of the Pennsylvania, and a saving of approximately seven
miles and forty minutes of running time made.

Certain captious critics of Mr. McAdoo's constructive policies have seen
in these terminal and other physical consolidations of the several
carriers a deep-laid plot to "scramble the railroad eggs," which means so
to weld the properties together that they could not be easily separated
again. Despite the fact that the "unscrambling" has indeed been no
particularly easy task, I do not see in McAdoo the deep-dyed villain that
so many others perceive. I think that he consolidated these terminals and
other operating devices in the interest of real war-time efficiency and
economy, and for no other reason. That would seem at this time to be an
impartial verdict upon his actions.

I am also setting these things down in some detail because they too are
essential to a proper understanding of the final results of the nation's
first sweeping experiment in centralized and governmental railroad
control. The most of these operating economies were the accomplishments of
the Railroad Administration of the sort which some time ago I
characterized as obvious. Now consider a few of them that were
strange--marvelously strange, you may prefer to put it:

The Railroad Administration sought as one of the first of its economies
the consolidation of the various city ticket-offices that competition long
ago had set out in the larger cities of the land, as well as the complete
abolition of the so-called "off the line" offices--agencies in cities more
or less remote from the actual territory of any given railroad. So far, so
good. So far was obvious and sensible economy. If an office here and an
office there had been retained for the essential travel needs of the
roads and their office forces and furniture had been brought together
wherever it was necessary, the others being either abandoned or
temporarily closed, there would have been no complaint. But the "winning
of the war" took the strange effect in most of the large cities of the
land that the Railroad Administration hired new office space--in Chicago
it took virtually the entire ground-floor of a huge new sky-scraper on a
ten-year lease at $65,000 a year--and installed elaborate and expensive
new mahogany office equipment. In New York alone four of these great new
offices were fitted out, and many of the smaller and cheaper offices,
abandoned, stood idle for months, while the rent went merrily forward.

These things were inexcusable. So were many others. Apparently the
ordinarily astute first director-general made a great mistake at the
outset. He did not realize perhaps that he was attempting to do two things
at once--trying to solve an acute war problem as well as a great economic
one that had been gathering urgency for nearly a decade before the coming
of the World War. That at least is a kind construction to place upon his
policy. And if it was indeed his policy it was not so very different from
that which was followed those days by many other large activities down at
Washington. Apparently we have not yet learned that almost any war problem
is separate and distinct from those of our great social economic questions
that are forever showing themselves in one form or another. For instance a
good many of us confused the problems of the capitalization and labor of
the railroads with that of taking them over as an emergency war measure,
just as we repeatedly mixed up all sorts of social and economic problems
with the making of an emergency war revenue tax.

Such apparently is also a fair construction to place upon Mr. McAdoo's
remarkable activities in setting great forces of designers and draftsmen
at work to create new "standardized" locomotives and cars for our
temporarily nationalized railroad system. He made a widely circulated
statement that he had found "2303 different styles of freight-cars and
almost as many different descriptions of locomotives" and that these
presently would be reduced by his experts to twelve standard types of
freight-cars, and to six standard types of locomotives of two weights
each. Unquestionably our railroad freight equipment has stood and still
stands greatly in need of much standardization, although the roads
themselves long ago established enough of this to permit common operation
of their cars. But I doubt if such a standardization program had any real
part in an emergency war plan. I never have been able to reason that out
to my own satisfaction.

Nevertheless McAdoo was satisfied with his own idea and in 1918 alone
ordered 1430 of his standard locomotives and about 100,000 of the
freight-cars, at prices enormously above those of peace days. The engines
and the cars eventually were delivered. That they were good engines and
good cars I do not doubt. But they have never enjoyed any marked
popularity with the railroad operating people. They are a conservative
lot, these old hard-shell railroad executives who still hang on to a
remarkable degree all the way across the land. You cannot lead them easily
to new ways of thought.

All these fine frills, introduced in the midst of one of the most acute
national crises ever visited upon this country, cost the Railroad
Administration much time and much money--much useless time and much money
that might have been used to better advantage in other directions. Digress
for a moment with me and compare the great and bulky operations of the
Railroad Administration with those of its prototype across the Atlantic,
the war-created Railway Executive Committee of England.

The war wreaked no ravages elsewhere in England more striking than those
that were wreaked upon her railways. She was quick to realize the supreme
importance of her rail carriers to her in her crisis. And so she reached
out within a fortnight after the outrage of Louvain and, with the
authority that had been given her long years before by Parliament, took
over the rail lines and began operating them for the national weal. There
was no policy of vacillation on her part. It was a situation that she had
anticipated and solved several years before the coming of the war.

Even before 1912 there was in existence an English body known as the War
Council of the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps. This council consisted of
the general managers (in England the post of general manager compares with
that of the president of an American railroad) of the railways that in the
event of war with a Continental power would have the most to do with
military traffic. The council made elaborate and definite war plans. The
possible invasion of the east coast was anticipated and detailed
plans--even to the working out of actual train and engine schedules--were
made for the evacuation if necessary of the population of east coast towns
and cities and the movement of troops and heavy guns up to them. This
council by 1912 had developed into the Railway Executive Committee, which
was composed of the general managers of the twelve most important railway
systems of Great Britain. It in turn formed an integral part of a Board of
Communications, which included representatives of the War Office, the
Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Home Office. Among these
representatives was Sir Eric Geddes, then first lord of the Admiralty, a
young Englishman of great promise and energy and to-day the British
minister of transport.

The Railway Executive Committee went to its job quickly and without
ostentation. While it sought to unify the operation of John Bull's
railways so that he might help win the war most efficiently and most
promptly, it had no false or grandiloquent ideas of creating a single
national rail system overnight. It did not seek to tear down in a day what
had taken the patient labor of years to upbuild. It sought not to
standardize either baggage-cars or locomotives or dining-car meals. It
even escaped having a director-general. Its printed forms were few and
modest. It had no press-agent, no propaganda. Few people outside of
railway and army circles even knew of its existence. At the height of its
endeavors it employed in its joint efforts a total force of not more than
eighteen officers and clerks, who occupied two floors of a very small
office-building directly across the way from the Houses of Parliament. It
was an extremely simple enterprise. But it functioned and functioned
extremely well.

Eighteen employees, as against more than twelve hundred at the very
beginning of the United States Railroad Administration. Even to-day, two
years after it has ceased to function, there are still several hundred
retainers faithfully hanging on to their official jobs.

Mr. McAdoo might find some shrewd lawyer's way of proving his
"standardized" locomotives and freight-cars a necessity for the winning of
the war, even though the elaborate consolidated ticket-offices would not
be so easy to explain. But just why orders should have emanated from his
offices to place his name as well as his title upon every piece of printed
matter issued by the United States Railroad Administration--even to the
dining-car menus and even to each third mile upon the scrip-books issued
for passenger travel--is particularly difficult to understand.
Particularly so, as a war measure in a war for democracy, at any rate. The
hub of the troubles with Mr. McAdoo seems to have been that he regarded a
war crisis as a fit moment for an experiment in the details of a
centralized railroad operation for the United States.

       *       *       *       *       *

The chief criticism launched against the first director-general of the
Railroad Administration is in regard to his handling of railroad labor.
The more conservative the mind that you scratch upon this extremely
delicate topic the more violent the immediate reaction. "Barron's Weekly,"
published by the "Wall Street Journal," regards Mr. McAdoo's attitude
toward railroad labor as that of an arch-tyrant. But that is merely
typical Wall Street attitude and to be dismissed as such. I had, as I have
already said, very little sympathy with the director-general's addresses
to the men at Pueblo and at El Paso, where he assured them that at last
they had come into the rights which had been denied them and that
hereafter they were to receive the square deal. That was unnecessary. More
than unnecessary, it was unfair. And more than that, it was an extremely
dangerous doctrine to be preaching, particularly at that time. I cannot
see how it possibly could do one single thing toward upbuilding railroad
morale, the thing needed at that moment more than anything else. It could
scarcely do else than lower that shattered morale still further. And it is
possible that Mr. McAdoo regrets at this moment that he ever gave
utterance to those two speeches, patting railroad labor on the back when
railroad labor should have been congratulating itself that it was not
conscripted and sent into the trenches. This is said with all deference
and with a high regard for railroad labor in the United States.

On the other hand McAdoo did a most commendable and forward-looking thing
when he gave labor a fair place in his official cabinet. Then and there he
played a trump card that private ownership and operation of our railroads
forever and a day had failed to play. He played another when at the very
beginning of his term of office he put the entire question of wages in the
hands of a competent commission headed by the late Franklin K. Lane, of
whose fairness and ability there could be no question whatsoever. Mr. Lane
knew men; he also knew railroads. He was perhaps the one man in the United
States who might have taken the Railroad Administration and made an
unqualified success of it. The ablest member of the Wilson cabinet, he was
compelled to take a back seat in the big war drama. His capabilities and
his experience were virtually ignored.

The Lane Commission went more carefully into the question of railroad
wages than any one had ever before gone. It did what no individual
railroad or group of railroads ever had the intelligence or the courage or
the fairness to do--attempted to make some sort of impartial analysis of
living costs to the railroader, and to use these as a basis for the fixing
of his wage. The question of compensation never has been placed upon a
scientific basis.

The whole question was so big and so vital that even despite war-time
pressure the Lane Commission took until May, 1918, to render its decision
in favor of considerable increases to almost every type and rank of
railroad worker. It unquestionably was a fair decision. Some that followed
may not have been so fair; McAdoo unquestionably was led far afield
himself by some of his advisers in elaborate and almost absurd attempts at
standardized wage and working agreements. Yet at the time he took over the
railroads for the Government the rank and file of railroaders
unquestionably were underpaid--in certain cases grossly underpaid, and
with their living costs rising by leaps and by bounds.

This entire question of railroad labor, its rights and its wage, is so
involved and so complicated in detail that I am going to leave it for
another portion of this book. It is enough to say here in review of the
McAdoo administration that on December 15, 1917, thirteen days before he
assumed control, the total number of employees upon the Class I roads of
the land (87 per cent. of the railroad mileage of the country; all save
the lines with gross revenues of less than a million dollars a year) was
1,703,685; on January 15, 1919, four days after he had relinquished
control, it had grown to 1,843,530--an increase of 139,846, or 8.2 per
cent. Yet the pay-roll expense, which had been 61.48 per cent. of all
operating costs in 1917, had only risen to 65.62 per cent. It was not
until the following year that an average increase of nearly 50 per cent.
in railroad wages was granted, in the face of a still generally increasing
cost of living.

But by the next year McAdoo was out of the job. The Armistice had been
signed on November 11, 1918, and immediately thereafter Mr. Wilson gave
heed to Mr. McAdoo's protestations that, the war-time emergency having
passed, he was no longer needed and that he must go out into the world to
recoup his shattered personal fortune. Accordingly he ceased to be
director-general of the United States Railroad Administration on January
11, 1919, and was immediately succeeded by his right-hand assistant,
Walker D. Hines, whom we have seen already as the one-time chairman of the
board of the immensely important Santa Fé railway system.

Hines is in many ways the very antithesis of McAdoo. There is nothing
dramatic or spectacular about him whatever. On the contrary he is what he
began to be, a typical corporation lawyer, cool-headed, judicial, shrewd,
and honest. He probably would tell you himself that he broadened a good
deal down in the offices of the Railroad Administration. I could see the
changes. He became vastly more human; his Washington experience seemed to
quicken his sympathies and to broaden his understanding of men.

His job was vastly different from that of McAdoo. The job, like the man,
now lacked fireworks. There were no longer troops and their munitions to
be moved double-quick to the seaboard; instead there was the rather
leisurely return of the boys in khaki to their homes. Industrial
production across the land was slackening, not quickly but appreciably.
Oddly enough, however, railroad revenues still were increasing; they were
not to reach their peak until near the end of 1920. Total operating
revenues of the Class I roads, which were $4,014,142,743 in 1917, and
which had increased to $4,880,953,480 in 1918, came to $5,144,795,154 in
1919. In 1920 they reached, under the stimulus of tariff increases ranging
from 20 to 50 per cent., the enormous summit total of $6,171,493,301. In
the first ten months of 1921, the most recent figures at hand, they were
but $4,672,651,346, as compared with $5,082,819,687 for the same ten
months of 1920.

It was under the Hines administration that most of the national working
agreements were made, to which the private railroad operators were to take
such extreme exception after the return of the properties to their
control. But again I must ask you to defer comment or criticism until we
have taken up the entire question of railroad labor as a sizable problem
by itself. It is enough to say here that Hines encountered a very
considerable opposition when he raised wages generously, and raised rates
not at all.

The fact remains, nevertheless, that Mr. Hines had in his stewardship a
very thankless job at the best; it is always hard to follow a prima donna
upon the stage. And McAdoo was some prima donna! Yet in loyalty and in
energy Hines gave place to no one. He took the thankless job and made the
best of it. He undermined his health by his devotion to it and received no
praise from any quarter. His best reward must come in his own knowledge
that, all in all, he did a good job, with difficult timber--the best of
the subordinates of the Railroad Administration already were leaving it
for future peace-time jobs of permanency--and with no encouragement
whatsoever. And when the United States Railroad Administration ceased its
active career upon March 1, 1920, and handed the railroads back to their
owners for operation, I fancy that none was more rejoiced than Walker D.
Hines.

What then was the net result of our first--and possibly our last--national
experiment in the government operation of our huge railroad plant?

Even to-day, fully twenty-four months removed from the experiment itself,
that is a difficult question to answer quickly and fairly. It is even
difficult to say that, regarded merely as an experiment, it was a fair
test. Certainly no laboratory expert deliberately would choose the
critical final hours of a great war as an ideal time for dispassionate
experimentation. It was in such hours that McAdoo, who was the head and
front of the entire experiment, worked. When his successor came to high
office the entire country was in the "let-down" that swept across the land
as the very natural sequence of great national tension and endeavor.

The distinguished writer upon railroad economies, William J. Cunningham,
James J. Hill professor of transportation at Harvard and himself for a
time a subordinate executive of the Railroad Administration, does not
believe that the experiment was a success. In a recent issue of the
"Quarterly Journal of Economics" he says:

    Finally we ask ourselves whether our recent experiment in Federal
    control affords an adequate test of the desirability of a permanent
    policy of public ownership and management. The answer is plainly in
    the negative. The results in 1918 were favorable. In 1919 they were
    unfavorable. They were favorable in 1918 because at that time we were
    actively engaged in war, every influence of patriotism supported the
    Railroad Administration, and the organization was held at concert
    pitch by the critical military needs. The unfavorable results in 1919
    may be attributed in greater part to the pronounced reaction from
    war-time strain, to the serious decline in traffic, and to the
    disintegration of the organization in a too prolonged closing period.
    No one should question the expediency of the Government's action in
    taking the railroads in the emergency. The centralization of power and
    the more effective coördination with other branches of the Government
    in the crisis made possible effective results in the utilization of
    equipment and facilities, which would have been much more difficult
    under private management. But it is not proper to treat that period as
    the test of what might be expected under normal conditions. As regards
    the unfavorable year, 1919, it would be as unfair to make that a test
    of government operation as it would be to take the present period of
    subnormal traffic and disturbed economic conditions as the final test
    of private management.

    Those who advocate nationalization and look upon the results of both
    years as favorable to government operation must concede that they are
    to be credited to railroad men who rose to the emergency. The
    proponents of nationalization who are disappointed in the results of
    the two years attribute the failures to the fact that the real
    management during the greater part of Federal control was in the hands
    of men who were brought up under private management and who therefore
    could not or would not avail themselves of the advantages of
    unification.

    It is plain therefore that nothing definite can be proved from the
    results of 1918-19. A real test of government operation is possible
    only if carried on over a longer period--one in which business
    conditions are normal and in which political expediency would have
    normal play. The period under review was so abnormal that the results
    are valueless as guides to what might be expected from similar control
    or complete government ownership when normal conditions return.

I do not agree entirely with Professor Cunningham. I am not a "government
ownership (or operation) man," but I feel that the experiment of the
United States Railroad Administration, despite the tremendously difficult
conditions under which it was operated, and also despite the fact that it
was made at a very inopportune and inappropriate time, did have much real
value. Unquestionably the time set for the experiment was far too short.
Both Mr. McAdoo and Mr. Hines went on public record as saying that there
be at least five years of peace to show their plan at its full worth.

But even in twenty-six brief and hectic months many things were developed
that should be, that must be eventually, of great value to the present
private operators of our railroads. Of many of these things as well as the
possibilities for their development, this book will have to tell. The
Railroad Administration at least pointed the way to them. In view of that,
shall we not be broad enough to overlook its errors and its mistakes, and
yet call it a real advance toward the solution of a national problem that
advances sluggishly to that end?



CHAPTER IV

THE RETURN OF PRIVATE OPERATION


Before the roads could be actually handed back to their owners for
operation once more, it was highly necessary of course that a definite
plan be formulated, not only for the method of transfer but for the
protection of the roads against the deficit that was piling up steadily
against them. Congress, which hates to be definite about anything,
wrestled with the problem through dreary and seemingly endless weeks, and
then in the last few days--nay, even hours--before the date set for the
return of the properties--March 1, 1920--passed the hastily constructed
and far from satisfactory Transportation Act, which speedily went to
President Wilson at the White House and there was signed by him.

There has been so much discussion, so much argument pro and con, about
this measure that I am going to present a carefully made resumé of it,
originally prepared for a group of business men who sought to make a most
impartial study of the measure. The act itself provides that the railroads
of the United States shall be operated by private corporations under a
comprehensive system of government regulation. One of the very best things
about the act is that in its very essence it represents a fair
interpretation of the feeling of the majority of the American people after
two years of government operation. That that majority did not take into
account the great difficulties under which both McAdoo and Hines worked is
not germane to the present point. It saw their mistakes--the waste as well
as the many efficiencies of the Railroad Administration--and it demanded a
prompt return to private operation. Under the pressure of this public
opinion--some of it very skilfully aided, to be sure, by inspired
propagandists--the members of Congress who framed the Transportation Act
were almost unanimous in their honest belief that in the hands of private
corporations the railroads could be operated more economically and more
efficiently and would give better service than would be possible under
government operation. The Transportation Act came as a very natural
sequence to such a belief.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most important provisions of the act are:

    (1) That on March 1, 1920, Federal operation shall cease and the
    railroads shall be returned to private operation.

    (2) That under a new rule of rate-making the railroads shall be
    assured adequate revenues; and adequacy shall be defined in the first
    two years as a net return of 5-1/2 or 6 per cent. on the fair value of
    the property as determined by governmental authority.

    (3) That during the transition period the Government shall aid in
    restoring the financial stability and the credit of the railroads:

      (a) by continuing the government guaranty of a standard return for
      six months after the roads are returned to their owners;

      (b) by creating a revolving fund of $300,000,000 from which the
      roads may obtain under certain conditions short-term loans to meet
      their most pressing needs;

      (c) by extending the carrier indebtedness for capital expenditures
      made by the government during Federal control for a period of ten
      years with interest at 6 per cent.; and

      (d) by the creation of a reserve fund containing one-half of the
      excess earnings of those railroads whose net earnings exceed the 6
      per cent. specified in the rule of rate-making.

    (4) That the rates and services of interstate carriers shall continue
    to be regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission; that the
    commission shall be enlarged by the addition of two new members,
    making eleven in all; and that the commission shall have authority:

      (a) to make inquiry continuously concerning the transportation
      facilities and services of the whole country, and when and how they
      should be improved; the state of the credit of all common carriers;
      and the new capital which the public interest may require any
      carrier to secure;

      (b) to permit the consolidation of two or more carriers provided
      that such consolidation is in harmony with a comprehensive plan
      (previously adopted by the commission) for consolidating all of the
      railroads of the country in a limited number of strong competing
      systems, and also provided that, in the opinion of the commission,
      the proposed consolidation is in the public interest;

      (c) to fix interstate rates that shall be just, reasonable, and
      adequate;

      (d) to determine the valuation of railroad property;

      (e) to prescribe a uniform accounting system for all carriers;

      (f) to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over capital expenditures and
      the issuance of securities by carriers;

      (g) to prohibit the extension of present lines or the construction
      or acquisition of new lines by any carrier until it has obtained
      from the commission a certificate of public necessity and
      convenience;

      (h) to require the construction of docks and rail connections
      between rail and water carriers;

      (i) to provide when necessary for the redistribution of traffic and
      for joint use of terminals;

      (j) to exercise jurisdiction over the use, control, and supply as
      well as the movement, distribution, and interchange of locomotives
      and cars and also over the supply, movement, and operation of
      trains; and

      (k) to order a carrier to install automatic train-stop or
      train-control devices.

    (5) That the wages and working conditions of railroad employees shall
    be regulated by a Railroad Labor Board composed of three
    representatives of the carriers, three representatives of the
    employees, and three representatives of the public; and that disputes
    between the carriers and their employees in regard to rules or working
    conditions may be referred to railroad boards of labor
    adjustment--local, regional, or national--voluntarily organized
    between the roads and their employees, or if such boards are not
    voluntarily formed, such disputes shall be decided by the Railroad
    Labor Board.

Like almost all hastily constructed and compromise measures the
Transportation Act falls considerably short of being an entirely
satisfactory solution of a difficult problem. Perhaps the best that can be
said of it is that it is probably the best that could be expected out of
Congress. It is not fair as yet to assume that it is a failure. But on the
other hand how can it be to-day accounted a real success? It has not
returned to the carriers its promised 6 per cent. upon their capital.
Please notice that I say "promised," not "guaranteed." The last word is
incorrectly used in too many instances. The Transportation Act endeavors
to fix rates that will bring in 5-1/2 or 6 per cent. to the railroads; at
no time does it _guarantee_ them. And even this set figure of 5-1/2 to 6
per cent. expired March 1, 1922, two years after the enactment of the
statute. Thereafter the adequacy of the return is left to the judgment of
the Interstate Commerce Commission. Quite a difference from a 6 per cent.
guarantee!

To-day railroad stocks lie virtually inert within the market. Gun-shy
investors in Wall Street, and elsewhere too, will have nothing of them.
They know the facts. Despite the radical advances made in both passenger
and freight-rates since the adoption of the much-heralded Transportation
Act, earnings have not measurably increased. The slight net return earned
in the last ten months of 1920--but 3.3 per cent., as against the expected
6 per cent.--was wiped out by the poor business of the first two months of
1921; with the result that the net result of the first twelvemonth of
private operation was an actual slight deficit. As a year, 1921 was
absolutely the worst in the history of American railroading. The total net
return for the twelve months ending November 1, 1921, was less than 2.75
per cent.--considerably less than the promised 6, or even 5-1/2.

The situation to-day is hardly improved, despite desperate efforts on the
part of the roads to reduce their operating expenses. What they have
accomplished along these lines, aside from a further lowering of the
reduced service that they are rendering these days, is shown in the fact
that by June, 1921, they had brought their wages and transportation costs
to eighty-two cents out of each dollar that they earn, and by October it
was seventy-four cents. Less than a year before this was slightly over
ninety-five cents. By the present time it is just above seventy. The roads
themselves are now inclined to attribute much of their financial
depression to two things; to the vast industrial slump with its obvious
effect upon their revenues, and to their huge pay-rolls. Ingeniously they
argued this last point before the Railroad Labor Board out at Chicago in
the early summer of 1921 and succeeded in getting a cut of some
$500,000,000 in their huge annual wage-bill. But the average railroader of
the rank and file still is paid considerably over 100 per cent. more than
in 1913. (In exact figures his average pay to-day--on an eight-hour day
basis--is $1700 for the twelvemonth, as compared with $761 nine years
ago.) This is the figure, along with the figures representing his
increased fuel and tax and material costs, that he uses when he justifies
the increase of his carrying charges.

Yet the potent fact remains that the high rates are not only not
attracting business but actually are driving it away. The long-haul use of
the motor-truck, to which I shall refer in more detail in due time, is not
due in these days of industrial depression to a lack of box-cars or to
yard congestion, but is a protest against the existing rates. And that the
railroads themselves are not deaf to these protests is shown by the fact
that under the guise of "revising" their freight charges they are actually
beginning to lower them. I am inclined to the belief that the partial
failure at least of the Transportation Act must have taught all the wise
men at Washington, and also a goodly number of our fairly wise
railroaders, one distinct thing: You can lead a horse to water but you
cannot make him drink. Which, being freely translated, means that you can
raise railroad rates to a point where traffic begins to fade away, to find
other pathways for itself, or to cease altogether. This is particularly
true of passenger rates. A nation-wide rate of more than three and
one-half cents a mile, with a heavy increase in the Pullman rates to keep
pace, is not a particular inducement to travelers. Moreover the persistent
refusal of our railroads to create a lower class of fares than the
standard, with a slightly lowered quality of service, give the would-be
traveler of modest means no alternative whatever, except possibly to ride
in a small motor-car, or to stay at home. A good many of them are riding
in motor-cars these days; and a good many more are staying at home. The
passenger revenue of our railroads in 1921 was 23 per cent. less than in
the preceding year. Which is commended to the attention of official
Washington.

Consider now the railroads handed back on March 1, 1920, to their old-time
owners--Fairfax Harrison returning from his temporary habitat at Richmond
to his familiar offices in the Southern Railway building in the city of
Washington, Mr. Rea, Mr. Willard, Mr. Underwood, and others who were
temporarily deposed from power triumphantly returning to it. Triumph is
the word. The Southern signalized its return to its own by having its new
time-tables, fashioned with their familiar yellow covers and with the
odious words, "United States Railroad Administration," glaringly missing,
ready upon that memorable first day of March. It did more. Upon its lines
it terminated instanter the use of the Railroad's Administration passes
which had been given rather freely to the henchmen of that branch of
Federal service. Other roads quickly ended the life of those passes; but
generally gave their holders time to get home with them. Not so with the
Southern. For it the U. S. R. A. cardboards ended their value at midnight
on February 29, 1920. After that they were good as souvenirs, and as
nothing else. The unlucky wight who chanced to hold one, and no other
pass, paid his fare from midnight on.

Personal feelings again came into play. One Federal manager of an Eastern
railroad, who had had the audacity to move his former chief, the
corporation's president, out of an office that the old man loved, lost his
job for his temerity. He was not the only executive who lost his job. R.
H. Aishton, who had been president of the Chicago and Northwestern railway
at the time of the creation of the United States Railroad Administration,
and whose rare ability as an operating executive had been recognized by
McAdoo in his appointment to the post of the regional director at Chicago,
did not return to his old position. It is understood that he incurred the
disfavor of Marvin Hughitt.

Mr. Hughitt is the last of the old guard of American railroad executives.
He was born near Auburn, New York, in 1837, has lived in Illinois since
1854, and at eighty-five years of age is still the active controlling
influence in the great Northwestern property. He has, to my knowledge, but
one senior in the whole business, Chauncey M. Depew, chairman of the board
of the New York Central railroad, who is eighty-nine years old; but Mr.
Depew long since was very glad to relinquish the reins of operating detail
of that great Vanderbilt property to younger and more energetic men.

Not so with Mr. Hughitt. His grip upon the Northwestern has been a firm
one indeed. He has held his road to many old-time traditions. The
lemon-yellow color of its passenger-coaches; the English fashion that it
has of running its trains to the left upon double-track and not to the
right, as is the ordinary American fashion; its generous, not to say
profuse, local and suburban service--all of these are Hughitt. Since the
death of the late Henry Clay Frick of Pittsburg and New York some years
ago, there has been no one to oppose him. Frick could and frequently did.
It is hard to conceive of any one successfully opposing Mr. Frick.

With Mr. Hughitt absolute dictator of Chicago and Northwestern there was
none to oppose his arbitrary dictum in regard to Mr. Aishton. The fact
that Aishton had been reared upon the property, that his record upon it
was not only good but great, apparently counted for nothing. He was
dropped. He had offended "the old man." That was a heinous offense for
which there was no possible excuse. Aishton's powerful friends in the
railroad world rallied to his defense. They elected him president of the
American Railway Association at a salary reputed to be equal to that paid
him by the Northwestern.

Apparently it is not only McAdoo who can afford to indulge his whim in
personalities.

Before the Railroad Administration ceased its actual operation of the
roads it began the restoration of much of the pre-war service,
particularly of the passenger service. Soon after the signing of the
Armistice and the removal of military pressure upon the carriers the
important through trains that had been removed--the Broadway Limited and
the Congressional chief among them--were returned to their former
schedules, although not in every case with the same high degree of service
as before. It was not, for instance, until the return of private control
that the fastest trains between Chicago and the Pacific coast brought to
their pre-war standard of approximately sixty-nine hours. The McAdoo
administration as a war measure had lengthened this schedule to
seventy-two hours.

Yet it was McAdoo who, once the war emergency was passed, removed the
half-cent-a-mile extra charge that he had established against people who
rode in Pullmans or other forms of sleeping and parlor-cars and left the
fare at a flat three cents a mile--where it should have been suffered to
remain in the interest of the railroads themselves.

The Interstate Commerce Commission raised it to 3.6 cents a mile, upon
hints from the private operators of the roads. It is but fair to add,
however, that there are certain members of the commission who long ago had
conceived the idea that the passenger-rates were not bearing their proper
burden of the costs of railroad operation. It is these men who have to-day
steeled their hearts against any lowering of passenger-rates to a point
where the service might at least have some competitive attraction against
that of the automobile, publicly or privately owned or operated. In all
this discussion at the moment of the possible lowering of freight-rates
nothing whatever is being breathed of a readjustment of passenger-fares,
with the single exception of a recent bill passed in the United States
Senate for the enactment of a Federal statute compelling the roads to sell
mileage-books at a low wholesale rate. This neglect of itself is, I think,
a most unhealthy sign. While the 23 per cent. lowering of passenger
revenues in 1921 as against 1920 is a fairly definite expression of that
unhealthiness.

To my mind this is not entirely a question of the proper equalization of
operating costs to revenues; the question of setting the tariffs of
charges to a point where business shall again be attracted to the
railroads, to my way of thought, is the real kernel of the problem. That
is the way that the average merchant or manufacturer would look at the
similar problems that confront him. To get the business the rates must be
made attractive. If it then becomes necessary to reduce operating costs so
as to exist at the lowered revenues, then the business man will move
heaven and earth to reduce his costs.

Apparently the Interstate Commerce Commission does not see the question in
this light. One understanding the complexion of its membership would
hardly expect it so to see it. The commission is absolutely honest and, to
a large extent, able; but it is generally dull. It has no traffic sense;
no sense of salesmanship. It has no vision. It always looks backward,
rarely forward. Being composed almost exclusively of lawyers,--long ago it
was recognized apparently that it would be a fearful thing to place an
honest, far-sighted, energetic railroad executive in its personnel,--it
spends a great deal of time seeking for precedent. Therefore it hardly can
be expected to look forward.

"What _is_ the precedent?" it keeps asking. "How has it always been done
in the past?"

This is one of the very great reasons why our railroads to-day are not
marching forward in step with the progress of the other great businesses
of America, why so often they are called, and with such a deadly truth,
"the sick man of American business," why they have lost so much of public
confidence and of public support, why the morale not only of the rank and
file but of many of the executives as well has come to so low a pass.

The railroads of the United States to-day, deprived of so much of their
initiative by the Government, should at least be able to look to that
Government for some real qualities of inspiration and of leadership. Such
qualities they need. Such qualities are not being given to them. The sick
man needs medicine, physical and mental, not abuse. The Interstate
Commerce Commission should be made into a doctor who can cure as most good
doctors do cure these days, not by nostrums alone, but by good cheer and
inspiration.

       *       *       *       *       *

One or two things more, if you please, before we are done with this
chapter.

The railroads generally wormed themselves out of the joint terminal
arrangements which McAdoo had made for them, and made in almost every
instance to the great comfort of the traveling public. The Southern
Pacific expelled the offensive big Santa Fé and the almost equally
offensive little Western Pacific from its ancient station and "mole" at
Oakland opposite San Francisco. The Pennsylvania prepared to do the same
thing with the Baltimore and Ohio and the Lehigh Valley at its station in
New York. This last move was not carried out. I had something to do myself
with preventing it.

The question arose in my mind at the termination of Federal operation:
What will the Pennsylvania do with its chief competitor there in its fine
station upon Manhattan Island? Will it do the obviously competitive thing
and thrust the Baltimore and Ohio out, along with the Lehigh Valley into
the bargain? A little questioning developed the fact that that was its
precise plan. The question of rental charges did not enter into the
situation. The Pennsylvania was not direct in its explanation; it did not
say, as it might honestly have said: "We built this big, expensive station
as a competitive move, and we do not purpose to share the fruits of our
enterprise with a competitor who did not share the great risk of the
undertaking." It merely said that there was not room in the station for
the fourteen daily trains of the Baltimore and Ohio and the eight of the
little Lehigh Valley. It was handling 175 of its own trains there, and
about 275 of the Long Island in addition, but it could not find room for
twenty-two other trains.

Here was railroad competition showing its most disagreeable side to the
public weal. The man who lived at Martinsburg, West Virginia, or
Cumberland, Maryland, or virtually any of the other non-competitive points
of the Baltimore and Ohio was to be penalized henceforth in the name of
competition. Having enjoyed great comfort and facility under the
non-competitive plan of the United States Railroad Administration in the
use of the Pennsylvania Station in the heart of Manhattan, he was now to
be shoved back into the old station at Communipaw, just below Jersey City,
with its slow and cumbersome ferry connections across the Hudson River. It
was not likely that he would henceforth become an enthusiast over the
competitive system of railroading.

The whole thing seemed so absurd that I took it upon myself to mention it
in the public prints. That apparently did the trick. Publicity ofttimes
does. The Pennsylvania changed its position; in a big and graceful and
generous way it waived what apparently were its obvious competitive rights
in the situation, and invited both the Baltimore and Ohio and the Lehigh
Valley to remain at least for some years to come in its great New York
passenger terminal. The invitation was accepted with alacrity.

Most of the consolidated ticket-offices still remain, although there is a
constant disposition among the more independent of our separate railroads
to break away from them. Theoretically offering far better facilities to
the traveler than the separate city offices, practically they rarely do
this. For one thing, despite their brave show of mahogany and other fine
forms of office fittings, they frequently are under-manned, particularly
in seasons of heavy travel. And a man in a hurry going to one of them
frequently is compelled to wait an outrageously long time. The fact also
remains that the so-called weaker lines that use them seem so submerged as
hardly to have a fair chance at the competitive traffic. A small railroad
can make a large showing with an attractive office in the heart of a big
city. Relatively it outshadows its neighbor.

Where the individual roads have remained in the consolidated offices up to
the present time, it has been largely the result of a laudable desire to
stand by their fellows. The Railroad Administration forced some one line
in each large city to assume the rental of the consolidated offices. In
Chicago, for instance, the ten-year lease (at $65,000 a year) of the
consolidated ticket-office fell upon the broad shoulders of the
Burlington. With the exception of the Northwestern system, which showed a
particular antipathy to the late Railroad Administration, virtually all
the large roads have remained with the Burlington.

There is moreover an economy argument in the consolidated office that is
not without its appeal to the railroad executive. The only question in the
mind of his traffic expert is whether the economy argument is not
completely overcome by the additional business to be gained by a red-hot
competitive little separate office. Of course if all the lines coming into
any large city should maintain red-hot competitive little separate offices
the gain would be theoretical rather than real. There might be some
passenger traffic actually created by the brave showing of the separate
offices, but I think that it would be negligible.

The convenient universally interchangeable mileage-book that McAdoo
installed (with his name printed upon each third tiny coupon) has been
retained with all of its universal privileges, up to the present time at
least. But no longer with the name of McAdoo brightly displayed. It still
represents no saving to the purchaser over the price of individual
separate tickets, though offering a certain convenience in the checking of
through baggage, in making Pullman reservations and the like. Yet the
putting through of the Senate bill authorizing the Interstate Commerce
Commission to reduce its price bids fair at last to lead toward a
correction of this precise phase of the situation. Gradually a pretty
well-defined feeling is being developed that railroad passenger-fares in
the United States to-day are entirely too high. "Not more fares but more
riders" is a slogan which a young man who is developing traffic for street
railways is using, with telling results. His slogan is quite as applicable
to the steam railroads. They apparently have brought their passenger-rates
to a point where the riding, always a variable and uncertain quantity, no
longer is attracted to their trains. And this is an hour when the
motor-car is steadily gaining strength as a competitor of the railroad.

The flat abolition of the stop-over privilege which some enthusiastic
railroad traffic expert urged upon McAdoo is now being slowly worn down
again, at least to the point where most of the stop-over privileges that
were in existence in pre-war days have now been restored. The traffic
departments of our various railroads all the way across the land at last
are beginning to unbend. The traveler is beginning to regain his old-time
privileges.

We do progress.



CHAPTER V

THE PRESENT-DAY SITUATION


Yet our progress is by no means rapid; it easily may be described in the
one word "halting."

In the opening chapter of this book I directed attention to the ravages in
the service of our national railroad structure that any man can readily
find for himself. To discover, specifically, how the passenger train
service across much of the land has been depleted he has but to turn over
the pages of that ponderous tome, the "Official Guide of the Railways of
the United States." The many, many trains of yesterday that are missing
to-day even after the partial reparations to this important branch of the
railroad's social obligation to the nation that the Railroad
Administration made after the war crisis show the deletions that have been
made. There too he might find how the speed of most of the trains that
remain is slackened.

I have no argument to present for the excessively fast train in the United
States; it is a risk and an extravagance that we can well afford to do
without. One of the shrewdest moves that the New York Central and the
Pennsylvania systems made was, some seven or eight years ago, when they
lengthened the running time of their fastest New York-Chicago trains from
eighteen to twenty hours. There is little doubt that the New York Central,
at least, could operate a train between these two cities in sixteen hours
or in a very few minutes in excess of that time by the use of the long
straight tangents of its Michigan Central subsidiary across the southerly
portions of Ontario and Michigan. But at what strain upon the men back of
the enormously efficient machine, at what great risk to life and property!

Despite the proverbial reputation of the American for great haste in
everything, we have had but little desire in this country for extreme
high-speed trains such as our friends overseas take such keen delight in
boasting about. A few years ago the world was running riot on train speed.
We had our two rival eighteen-hour expresses between New York and Chicago,
to say nothing of the once famous Empire State doing the 440 miles between
New York and Buffalo in exactly eight hours. It was that train which a
short distance west of Rochester once reached the unofficial speed of
112-1/2 miles an hour, and held it for several minutes. There were a dozen
mile-a-minute expresses between Camden, opposite Philadelphia, and
Atlantic City, divided between the Pennsylvania and Reading systems. The
latter road, in connection with the Central Railroad of New Jersey, ran
fast expresses each hour of the day between Jersey City, Communipaw
Station, and the Market Street terminal in Philadelphia, a distance of
ninety miles, in an hour and fifty minutes. And the management of the New
Haven was purposing to establish a four-hour train between New York and
Boston--229 miles.

In those days our British cousins were maintaining our pace, or possibly
going it a little better. Competing roads on each side of Great Britain
all the way from London up to Aberdeen, its northernmost large city, were
at each other's throats. The London and Northwestern and the Caledonian
railways, working together, operated a train from London to Perth which on
the greater part of its run was scheduled for actual operation at 49-1/2
miles an hour and which was given but two hours and five minutes for the
117-3/4 miles between Carlisle and Stirling. Finally the competition
reached a point where these roads--the so-called "West Coast route"--had a
regularly scheduled train from London to Aberdeen, 540 miles, in eight
hours and thirty-two minutes. This was considerably better than the East
Coast route--chiefly the Great Northern, the Northeastern, and the North
British railways--ever succeeded in doing. Their best regular schedule,
even though their route was seventeen miles shorter, was eight hours and
forty-two minutes.

The best regular trains on the crack Chicago and Alton, the shortest route
between Chicago and St. Louis, take to-day seven hours and forty-five
minutes to traverse the 284 miles intervening between those two important
cities. It is 451 miles across level country from Chicago to Kansas City
by the double-tracked Santa Fé--a distance ninety miles less than by the
West Coast route from London to Aberdeen--yet the Santa Fé's best train
between Chicago to Kansas City takes eleven hours and twenty-five minutes
for the run. And even then it is not permitted to carry passengers; the
best passenger time is five or ten minutes longer. I do not think that we
Americans can be called speed crazy.

Great Britain also has now slowed her trains down. She progressed that way
before the beginning of the war. A nasty accident or two close to the
beginning of the century was responsible for the change; while the war
itself, as in this country, slowed the fast train schedules to a vast
extent. Now her service is back to its old general standard of reasonable
(but no longer excessive) high speeds in almost every direction out of
London. There are abundant service expresses running in an even four hours
between that city and both Manchester, 184 miles, and Liverpool, 193
miles. Competition is supposed to have forced this service. Competition is
forever supposed to be forcing service. Yet on the non-competitive Great
Western railway I rode, but a few months ago, from London to Bath, 104
miles, in an even two hours, while across the Channel, I had ridden, but a
few weeks before that, over the war-struck Eastern railway of France
ninety miles from Paris to Rheims in just sixty seconds less than an even
two hours.

We have slackened our running time appreciably in the United States these
days; very wisely, I think, in the case of the twenty-hour trains between
New York and Chicago. As a matter of fact the Twentieth Century Limited,
doing the 979 miles of the longer high-speed route between those two
cities, from 2:45 o'clock one afternoon (Eastern time) to 9:45 o'clock the
next morning (Central time), still makes a remarkable train performance.
The Pennsylvania still has two or three of the mile-a-minute flyers in
service between Camden and Atlantic City--59.7 miles in fifty-seven or
fifty-eight minutes. The Reading has one or two of its flyers left, not
only between those points, but between Philadelphia and Jersey City.

Yet this is about all of the mile-a-minute work. From here the slackening
in time is appreciable until we come to the comparatively slow
performances of the high-grades between Chicago and the cities that lie
back of it. The New Haven no longer talks about a four-hour train from New
York to Boston; it has lengthened its schedule between those cities. There
also has been a slight lengthening of the one-time high-speed schedules
between New York and Washington. There has been a let-down. The once proud
Empire State Express now takes nine hours instead of eight to go from New
York to Buffalo, while out upon the Pacific coast the tremendously
high-speed expresses of the Santa Fé between San Francisco and Los
Angeles, the Saint and the Angel, which we saw but a little time ago being
summarily dropped by the McAdoo administration, have never been restored.
They are not likely to be restored.

The Southern Pacific takes thirteen hours and one-half for its best
express between San Francisco and Los Angeles, a run of 475 miles. But a
moment ago we saw the West Coast system of England doing 540 miles in
eight hours and thirty-two minutes, and keeping it up month in and month
out. Similarly the S. P. takes twenty-nine hours and ten minutes for its
best train between Portland and San Francisco, a distance of 773 miles. It
is 517 miles from Paris to Marseilles; the best regular express train
between those two cities makes the run in twelve hours and thirty-three
minutes. It is 652 miles from Paris to Nice; a regularly scheduled
passenger train does it to-day in seventeen hours. And yet the French
railway executives promise that they will do much better.

In these things we are not progressing. Take once again the worst of our
national transport picture, the vexed New England situation. I have just
referred to the slight lengthening of the time of the fast trains between
New York and Boston, rather than any expected possible shortening of their
schedules. The New York-Boston services of both the New Haven and the
Boston and Albany roads are not typical, however, of the service that is
being given New England these days; if it were there would be no large
cause for complaint. It represents in fact the very top notch of the
passenger service of the six most congested States in the Union, the very
States which by all right and sense should to-day be enjoying the best
passenger service, not the worst.

We have seen already the deplorable state into which the suburban service
in and out of Boston has long since fallen. Boston is not all of New
England, even though some Bostonians may so believe. Take the case of the
Fitchburg. The Fitchburg started off as a railroad with good prospects.
For it was bored the spectacular Hoosac tunnel (4-3/4 miles in length),
upon the completion of which the Fitchburg became the short-line between
Boston and both Troy and Albany. The lordly Boston and Albany meanders
magnificently through the high hills of the Berkshires, and takes much
longer for the process.

Unfortunately the little Fitchburg road never had much of a chance for its
money. The close traffic alliances between the Boston and Albany and the
New York Central, which preceded the actual leasing of the one road by the
other, gave it little or no chance for through freight between New England
and the West. Its short mileage and well-built line availed it nothing.
Eventually it fell into the hand of the Boston and Maine and became, in
large part at least, a local line, taking from the New York Central and
the Delaware and Hudson such freight as the Boston and Albany would not
or could not take. Yet for years it kept up a brave show. It ran between
Boston and Buffalo and Chicago and Detroit and St. Louis sleeping-cars
a-plenty. It had an excellent dining-car service too.

The dining-cars are gone from the Fitchburg these days. It has become
indeed a very secondary stem of the Boston and Maine. Two parlor-cars ply
their way daily on slow trains between Boston and Troy; recently a
Boston-Buffalo sleeper was added to the service. The road has lost not
only its name but its personality and its service too.

What is true of the Fitchburg is equally true of the erstwhile Housatonic.
Equally true also is the fact that twenty-five years ago the best train
between Pittsfield and New York made the run in an hour's time less than
the best train on that line consumes to-day. There were more trains too,
just as there were more trains then on the New Haven and Northampton line,
the Connecticut River, the New England, the Boston and Providence, and a
dozen other little individual roads that long since lost their name, their
prestige, their individuality, and, what is far more important, their
intimate personal touch with their patrons and their employees.

The main line express trains of the New Haven between Boston and New York,
either by the way of Springfield or by Providence, have not lost their
excellence to-day, neither have the main line express trains of the Boston
and Albany nor the Boston and Maine's trains to Portland and points far
beyond, although there are none too many of them and they are none too
generous in their accommodations. It is in the branch line trains, just as
in the branch line stations, that the New England passenger service has
not progressed but has distinctly retrograded.

Descend beneath the obvious. Ignore even the sickening decline in railroad
dividends, whether average or cumulative--the records of Wall Street will
give you all that you want of these--and come to the deterioration of the
roads as shown in hard and unsentimental figures. The condition of the
locomotives and cars of almost all of our railroads had begun to decline
seriously even before the days of the Railroad Administration. When that
supreme governmental organization came into being it pledged itself to
return to the carriers their properties at least as well and as fully
equipped as upon the day it took them over. It did not quite succeed in
doing this. The extent to which it failed, by the statistics referring to
freight-cars alone, was as follows: In 1917, the year of private railroad
operation immediately preceding those of government control, our national
transport structure had 2,479,472 freight-cars, which was much less than
it should have had. The roads had failed to build enough equipment to keep
pace with the overwhelming increase of traffic, which almost at the very
beginning of the World War had been thrust upon them. Under almost all
circumstances they found it necessary to "scrap" or otherwise remove from
service approximately 100,000 worn-out cars each year. For several years
before 1914 their construction of new cars had barely more than kept pace
with this annual loss.

Yet under governmental operation things went from bad to worse; despite
its orders for 100,000 box-cars the Railroad Administration did not buy
enough cars to keep pace with those that were being scrapped. In 1918 the
total freight-car equipment of our carriers had declined to 2,397,943, in
1919 to 2,361,102, in 1920 to 2,352,911--in other words a total decline
since 1917 of 125,561--while the normal increase of our transport plant
called for an increase of at least twice this number of cars and certainly
admitted no decrease whatever.

In this connection, I think that it is at least worth a paragraph in
passing to notice that in the seven years ending with 1913 our railroads
increased their freight traffic 39 per cent. In those same years they
added 315,000 freight-cars and 8,100 freight locomotives to their existing
equipment. In the seven years that ended with 1920 the traffic increased
again--virtually in the same ratio, 38 per cent.--but only 143,000
freight-cars and 4200 freight-locomotives were added to the total
rolling-stock. In 1921 but 20,000 new freight-cars were purchased and but
250 locomotives of all types. It is no wonder that many of our railroaders
now view with real apprehension any return of heavy traffic.

Moreover not only the number but the condition of the individual cars has
declined. A small Eastern city which I know very well indeed is a brisk
point in interchange freight. It is also a water port of fair importance,
to which a large number of coal-cars come in the average summer and
autumn. Last autumn I noticed that many of these cars were in a pathetic
state of disrepair. The yardmaster explained it to me.

"The first time they come through from the mines," he said, "they will
have their hoppers braced with a bit of timber so as to keep all the coal
from spilling out upon the tracks before they even reach here. Somehow
that timber will get lost before the car gets back to the mines again. The
mine-bosses will put in a flooring this time. Fine business, that! The
hoppers won't work at all then, and thirty tons of coal have to be
shoveled out by hand--at the present price of labor!"

Think of this single all-too-typical instance many times multiplied;
combine this fact with that of the great decrease of freight-cars of any
sort upon our rails to-day and you begin to get the measure of the true
condition of our sick man of American business. To-day approximately
354,000 of the freight-cars of the United States are reported as being in
bad order. And while a "bad-order" car may be, and frequently is, used for
some forms of rail traffic (as for instance a leaky grain-car utilized for
the shipment of automobiles) the fact remains that nearly 15 per cent. of
our total freight-car equipment stands in great need of large repairs or
of replacement, while 19 per cent. of our locomotives are so far gone that
they have been thrust upon the sidings virtually abandoned. In another
chapter we shall see how these locomotives might be rejuvenated and put to
work again, more efficient than ever before. For this one however
consider them nil and valueless to the American railroad.

It was partly to remedy conditions such as these as well as to provide for
the return of the roads to private operation that the Transportation Act
was passed. For there is not only a great rolling-stock shortage but
virtually little or no extension of our railroad structure. As recently as
in the decade from 1901 to 1911, 52,000 miles of brand-new line--a larger
route mileage than that of almost any other nation in the world--were laid
down. Since 1911 there have been virtually no new railroads in the United
States. The comparatively small San Diego and Arizona railroad was
completed but a year ago, but this was more than offset by the abandonment
and removal of such lines as the Buffalo and Susquehanna and the Colorado
Midland, to take two instances out of several. In 1920 only 314 miles of
new railroad line were built in the United States, while 536 miles were
abandoned. In 1921 service was discontinued on 1626 more miles of
railroad. For six years past our total rail mileage has been going
backwards, not rapidly but steadily and perceptibly; the small amount
being constructed each year is being rapidly overbalanced by that which is
being torn up. Our sick man of American business is a very sick man
indeed.

Up to a decade ago our railroads were still busy increasing and enlarging
their terminals, double-tracking their single-track lines, and
three-tracking and four-tracking their double-track ones. The Union
Pacific was achieving the distinction of being the first long-distance
double-track line in the great West; in the East the Erie, the Lackawanna,
and the Baltimore and Ohio were completing their remarkable series of
cut-offs. All this has ceased, even though the necessity for its
continuation has not ceased. For if the country does not absolutely stand
in need of new trunk-lines to-day there still is a vast and unanswered
demand for feeder branches in many, many corners of it, for duplication of
tracks upon existing and badly overcrowded single-track and double-track
lines. New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburg--other
important cities as well--fairly cry aloud for a revision and extension of
their terminal facilities, and cry in vain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rates have been increased, comparatively recently, to a point, as we have
seen, not only higher than the most imaginative of our rail traffic
experts might have dreamed five years ago but, as I have remarked already,
to one where the traffic instead of being attracted to our carriers is
actually being driven away from them; and some of the wiser executives
have come to the point of asking the Interstate Commerce Commission for a
modification of rates. From a niggardly policy of former years toward the
railroads in regard to rates, this body, in professed obedience to the
Transportation Act, raised them to the prohibitive point. Now it is
beginning to see the error of its ways and, as we have seen at the behest
of actual railroaders, is lowering certain of the freight charges,
although not in any general or particularly scientific fashion. Recently
the commission responded to a large public pressure by permitting the
roads to reduce their freight rates on farm products 10 per cent. for a
test period of six months, with the possibility that further freight rate
reductions will be made.

And finally, as we all know, wages are now being reduced. Already they
have been brought down half a billion dollars a year, and in all
likelihood they will be even further lowered. As to the justice or wisdom
of all this we shall talk presently. The fact remains here and now that a
generous step has been taken in bringing down the greatest single item of
the cost of conducting railroad transportation, while some of the other
costs, chiefly materials, to-day are being reduced automatically by the
steady fall in market quotations of supplies of every sort. The situation
slowly but surely is working itself through.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the other hand, what does the public demand in this railroad situation?
What is the opinion of the Man on the Station Platform? Surely he has a
voice in the matter. He rides on the train, if not daily as a commuter,
then perhaps as often as every week or every fortnight. He talks. He
observes. He forms conclusions. And some of these last might be accepted
as fairly indicative of his needs as a constant patron of the railroad in
both its freight and its passenger services.

The Man on the Station Platform believes first and foremost that
transportation in this country, as well as in all others, is not merely
railroads or motor-trucks or canal barges--not even aëroplanes, if you
please--but a scientific correlation of all of these agents of transport.
He believes that each must have its own field in which it reigns supreme
because in that field it is the cheapest and the most efficient form of
transport. And therefore in that field should be recognized as supreme and
so developed.

I share these beliefs of my friend who stands on the shady platform
awaiting his up-local. I cannot see these agencies in the long run and in
the fullest understanding as competitors but as correlators, if such a
word may safely be coined. Each should supplement the other. In the full
understanding of modern business competition has little real value; in the
conduct of public utilities it has none whatsoever. We learned long ago
that in gas-works or in water-works, in telephone service, even in the
traction facilities of our largest metropolitan cities, it was no lasting
help in the long run but merely an added expense burden upon the
community, and so should be eliminated or at least brought down to its
lowest possible level.

Here then is perhaps the greatest of the burdens that the man outside of
the railroad can wish to see removed from it. There are others: the
neglect of the fine intensive salesmanship of transportation, which should
have been brought to the fore years and years ago; the opportunity for the
development of electric traction, of the container system of handling
goods, which oddly enough brings us back again to the correlation of the
several agents of American transport and the elimination of our absurd
competitive plan.

All of these things will have had our attention before I am done. The
question is one that demands a great deal of attention. The condition of
our rails, instead of growing stronger each day, daily grows more
precarious. It is obvious that this condition cannot long continue--the
service greatly reduced and impaired, the men sullen and ofttimes working
at direct cross-purposes to the management, the rates raised to the point
where traffic begins to refuse to come to the stations, the financial
condition so depressed that railroad securities will not sell under the
absurdly uneconomic prevailing conditions, no thought whatsoever being
given to the morrow.

Out of this miserable mass we must raise a program, definite and distinct
and statesmanlike, as sound as the program under which we changed our
money situation from periodic chaos to vast and proved stability. It must
be a program of progress, not a continuation of the absurd artifice of
competition years after every other business has found that its economic
strength comes in correlation and not in competition, but a genuine
progress--progress in the physical fiber of our railroad structure, using
the electric motor, the gasolene motor, the industrial terminal, the
package container, a dozen other steps as well; progress in the really
fine science of selling transportation; progress in human relationship. In
such progress there is nothing chimerical, nothing even remotely
approaching the fantastic. And in such progress, and nowhere else, can one
hope to find a solution of our railroad problem of to-day that even
approaches permanency.



CHAPTER VI

THE MAN FACTOR OF THE PROBLEM


Progress in human relationship may be, I think, safely permitted at least
the consideration of priority in any understanding of our surpassing
railroad problem. For it may also be set down as fairly axiomatic that
unless we progress in this phase of transport we cannot expect to go ahead
in any other department of it. In its tense importance to the larger
question this very human problem can be regarded as foundation-like. Upon
it the railroad structure may yet build. Without it, it certainly must
fall.

For more than two decades past, imagination, virility, foresight have been
upon the wane in our railroads of the United States until to-day with
these qualities quite gone upon many of them, the debacle of our national
transport machine becomes a doubly depressing picture. The man with an
idea may be needed upon our carriers but, as we shall see gradually, he is
not often wanted there. They are ruled by conservatism; conservatism
carried to the last degree. Yet only yesterday the man with an idea was at
a premium in our railroading; our roads themselves were known for their
daring, their strength, their progress. To-day too many of the men who
operate them are the abject slaves of a system; the only ideas that they
safely may advance are those leading to immediate economies. Immediate
expenses, even with great and far-reaching economies as their ultimate
result, are quite taboo. The railroader no longer may think. Apparently he
may only execute.

What is the reason for this--for the human debacle of our carriers
following so closely upon the physical, and in many cases responsible for
it? Has the American railroader lost his ability to think and to act upon
original lines? Has he sunk, with the debris of much of his once proud
transport system, almost to the limits of degradation?

A hundred answers will be made to these questions. Some of them will come
from banking interests--shrewd men, in banking. These will bear upon the
degree of regulation to which our rail carriers are subjected to-day.

"These government sharks have killed railroad initiative," it will be said
time and time again. There is some truth in that answer, yet I think
myself there is greater truth in the statement that absentee ownership of
the carriers--if I may be permitted to speak frankly, long-distance banker
control--has done far more than regulation, either State or Federal, to
kill initiative and progress in our transport machine. Wall Street is
likely to think too exclusively in terms of dividends; Wall Street does
not think enough in terms of men.

People in Wall Street, and a good many others outside of that famous
thoroughfare as well, think of the difficulties of our railroad problem as
things merely of dollars and cents. They feel that the questions of rates
and wages, of income and outgo, are the sole factors to decide the future
weal or woe of the railroads. If the rates are put high enough and the
wages and other items of expenditure are kept low enough the roads will
prosper again. These people feel that the problem is solely an economic
one.

I believe that they are wrong. Granted that dollars and cents _do_ enter
largely into the problem and its solution, that unless our national system
of railroads becomes a real "going concern" it can hope for no continued
success, I still feel that the prime point of the entire question is
contained in three words, the human factor. This factor comes first, not
last. That Wall Street and other cocksure people have in the past placed
it behind the problem of finance, is one of the very large reasons why our
American railroads are having such extremely hard sledding at the present
moment.

The human problem of the railroad may be fairly said to be divided into
two classes, that of the patron and that of the employee. Before I am done
the necessities of the first of these classes will have had attention; for
the moment those of the second claim our full interest. There is always
that meaningful phrase, "the fine tradition of our American railroading,"
that we are using again and again because it stands for something very
definite, the thing which was largely responsible for the first upgrowth
and strength of our railroads and whose loss within recent years has been
chiefly responsible for their downfall. It was that tradition, that
old-fashioned affection for railroading and loyalty to it, that made men
work, not eight hours, but ten or twelve at a single stretch, and under
the stress of a great emergency, such as a flood or a blizzard, sometimes
sixteen or twenty-four or even forty-eight hours at a stretch. To-day they
will not do this.

Why?

It is not a story quickly told. To understand why the railroader of to-day
will not work long hours, even in reasonable emergencies, save under the
spur of fearfully high overtime pay, why he goes about with indifference
in his manner and a lurking grudge in his heart, one must dive beneath the
surface of the situation. There he may find the solution of the loss of
our railroad tradition.

The beginnings of that tradition are in the beginnings of the American
railroad itself. They root back to the days when the overland carriers
were in that same flash stage of development that in our day we have seen
come to the motor-car and the motor-truck--the days when romance rode the
steel highway, when it was thrusting its stout tendrils here and there and
everywhere, when earnings and enterprise and initiative were all alike
unlimited, when, in a word, the railroad called in an all but irresistible
way to the rich man's son and the poor man's too, when the banker's clerk
a president would be and the farmer's boy had as his supreme ambition the
driving of a fast passenger-locomotive.

What has become of that farmer's boy who used to stand in a field for a
single idle moment to watch the fast express go sweeping by and dream
wistfully of future possibilities, or who stood for a fascinated minute
beside the iron horse as it paused at the country depot, studying the
intricacies of thrust and gear and bearing? Alas, he no longer covets
railroading. It has ceased to enthrall or even interest him, despite the
fact that the swing of the pendulum is to-day all in favor of the rank and
file of men who work with their hands upon the railroad. Yesterday, in
those same golden days of which I have just spoken, the swing was at the
other end of the arc. The railroad employee was down; his employer was up.
Two years ago this giant pendulum had completed its course. The employer
was down, the employee up; and something approaching a social revolution
in our railroading had been accomplished.

The railroad employee--succinctly the two million and a half of the rank
and file of railroad workers--had become a political asset. Two million
and a half direct votes are a bait that few shrewd politicians can ignore.
That it was not ignored has in recent years been shown repeatedly, in the
passage, by this State legislature and that, of various protective
statutes for the railroaders, some of them good and some of them absurd;
in the thrusting through Congress of the Adamson Eight-Hour Law; and in
the extreme deference shown by the first Federal director-general of
railroads to the big brotherhoods and other unions of transport employees,
with the final result that those groups of railroad labor which had
remained unorganized up to the period of Federal control proceeded to
organize themselves. The stake was too good.

Incidentally it may be stated that in past years the average railroad
executive was himself the largest single force toward the propagation of
trade-unionism within his industry. While decrying its steady growth he
placed a premium upon its advantages. Let me explain. A few years ago, say
ten or fifteen, at the most, there were but four important unions of
railroad employees--the four great brotherhoods of train workers:
engineers, firemen, conductors, and trainmen. These were and still are
high-grade organizations, extremely independent, refusing for many years
even to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. The men who
conducted them were high-grade men of great principle and considerable
vision. They fought for the rights of their fellows and fought well, with
the result that there were few times when train employees were not
adequately paid.

At that time the rest of railroad labor, with the very few exceptions, had
no national organization; its individual loyalty was given instead to the
properties for which it worked. With what result? Here is one glowing
instance.

Conductors, then and now, belonged almost without exception to their
strong trade organization, the Brotherhood of Railroad Conductors. It took
good care of its own. A conductor on a fairly good run might easily earn
from $175 to $200 a month, even in those prosaic days of butter at
twenty-five cents a pound. It was a good pay, yet one could hardly say
that the average conductor was overpaid. For he was far more than a mere
train employee, particularly if he had a passenger run. He was a great
point of personal contact between a railroad and its patrons. Upon his
tact and diplomacy and understanding, or lack of these qualities, his road
might rise or fall. True at all times, this was intensified in hotly
competitive territory. A good conductor might easily bring or hold patrons
for his road, a poor one drive them away to the other line.

Yet I think you will agree with me that at least an equal point of contact
between the railroad and its patron is the man with whom he comes in
contact before he boards the train--the station-agent. _His_ tact and
diplomacy and understanding have a good deal to do with attracting
patronage to the road. Yet it was not more than a decade ago that I found
in a certain small brisk Eastern city of some twenty-five thousand people
the chief representative of an important railroad working seven days a
week, twelve or fourteen hours a day, and paid $85 a month. He knew what
the conductors who ran the trains past his station were receiving and it
rankled.

This was not an unusual case, this high-grade man, working long hours in
his office at the passenger station and between trains scurrying out
through the town to sell tickets to possible travelers over his line--it
was in a genuinely competitive territory. It was all too typical. More
than one railroad in past years paid its dividends out of the exploitation
of its labor, and to-day is reaping the benefit of its short-sightedness.
One can imagine the ease with which the former United States Railroad
Administration was able to help bring about a strong union organization of
railroad station-agents and employees!

Mr. McAdoo was not asleep to the possibilities of this situation. We
already have seen how from the outset he extended to labor a place in his
cabinet and placed the entire vexed wage situation in the hands of a
special commission headed by the late Franklin K. Lane. Now in all
fairness and in simple justice to the Railroad Administration it should be
set down that no matter what its motive it did seek to place railroad
labor on a more scientific and more human basis with relation to its
employer than any private corporation had ever succeeded in giving it. It
tried to place the railroad wage on a basis more directly in accord with
living costs, and less with mere supply and demand. Similarly it
endeavored to better the working conditions of the rank and file of the
railroaders. That in some of these last cases, particularly those of
certain of the so-called national agreements, eventually it went entirely
too far, is not to be denied. That is now proved by the willingness of the
new Federal tribunal, the Railroad Labor Board out at Chicago, to abrogate
these agreements as soon as the individual carriers shall have succeeded
in making new ones with their workers.

This last, however, seems to be much easier planned than actually
accomplished. Months are slipping by and some of the outrageous and
expensive agreements still stand, along with some others which are
neither outrageous nor expensive. The very worst of the lot, the
meticulous arrangements under which a small job on a locomotive headlight
(to make a single possible but rather typical instance) required six or
eight men because each was a specialist and no man could infringe upon
another's specialty, are going now and going rather rapidly. There is an
apocryphal story around one Eastern railroad town to the effect that the
changing of an air-hose connection on a Pullman sleeping-car one day more
than a year ago cost the railroad forty dollars--a small job which two
ordinary capable mechanics would have been glad to perform for but two or
three at the most. Instances such as these have been multiplied. A
farmer's boy who lived close to a railroad in the Middle West and who
received five dollars a month and an occasional trip-pass to Chicago and
back for oiling and watching an automatic electric pump at an obscure
siding saw himself rated as an electrician and in receipt of $185 a month
(standardized wage) without having lifted one finger toward the bonanza.
It was heyday for the rank and file. The Lane Commission, which really did
much scientific work on this wage question despite the exceedingly great
time pressure and the war crisis under which it worked, started the ball
rolling, yet in what seemingly was a very fair and reasonable fashion. It
was after that, even after Mr. McAdoo's actual term of office as
director-general, that the real damage was done. The pendulum swung then,
and swung far. From a point where the wage-scale was unfair to the
railroad employee it came toward a point where it was unfair to the
railroad investor.

This was particularly true in the case of the shop-craft men. They seem to
have been the real offenders in the situation. With the position of the
men in the train service, the members of the brotherhoods, I can have
little else than great sympathy. Their plight at this moment is
deplorable. At the best, they catch the hard end of railroading, the long,
unconscionable hours, the stress of bad weather, the nights away from
home, all the other difficult conditions of life upon the road. I do not
believe that there have been many times when these men have been seriously
overpaid. The score is far more apt to lie upon the other side of the
table.

True it is that even in these branches of railroad service the unreasoning
form of national agreement has crept in. I can remember not so many years
ago up in northern New York when if a switch-crew was sent down to one of
the paper-mills to get a box-car it was paid two hours' pay for two hours'
work. That was fair pay--and it was not. A switch-crew even in dull times
could hardly exist on the prospect of getting no more than two hours' pay
out of twenty-four. Gradually the pay for such a job--any job at all--was
set at a minimum of half a day. That seemed fair. A little later this
minimum, no matter how small the job, was set at a full day's pay. Even
that might have been fair were it never abused. Let me illustrate.

Here is a yard-crew kicking around in Watertown yard. The first thing that
happens in a brisk day is that an engine derails somewhere south of the
junction. It is not a serious mishap, and the yard-crew, acting as a
wrecker, cleans it up in ninety minutes or thereabouts and gets a full
day's pay. An hour later that same crew has to take a box-car two miles
down the Cape Branch to a paper-mill, another ninety minutes perhaps, and
another full day's pay for every man Jack of the crew. They sit around for
three hours in the yardmaster's cabin and settle all the affairs of the
New York Central railroad. In two or three more hours a careless switcher
sends two flat-cars off the end of the siding up at Sewall's Island. Our
little crew is again a wrecker. It goes up to the Island, puts the
derailed cars on the track again,--another ninety minutes of actual
work,--and draws a third full day's pay. Three days' pay in eight or nine
hours is not bad. I should like to be able myself to turn the trick.

This is an exceptional case, of course--and it is not. Some strange things
are possible in the national agreements which were foisted upon the
Railroad Administration during the control of Walker D. Hines. I do not
believe that Hines himself ever realized how strange they might
become--his own large railroad experience would have guarded him against
them.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the versatile Henry Ford embarked not so many months ago on the
difficult and time-honored business of running a railroad he was not
greeted with any warm-hearted reception dinner by the American Railway
Association. He probably was not even asked to join the association. Its
members had heard of Mr. Ford as a shatterer of traditions. And
traditions, as you already know, to the heart of the old-time railroader
are like unto the ten commandments themselves. I have no brief for Mr.
Ford, any more than for Mr. McAdoo. He is not an economist, although he
would like to think himself one. He is a mechanic, a super-mechanic if you
please. And he has a glorious knowledge of men, their strength and their
weaknesses. Yet this is not criticism. These last qualities are much
needed in our American railroad situation to-day. By this time there is
almost a superfluity of economists in it.

Mr. Ford at the outset sought to solve the railroad labor question by
straddling it--by tearing up all the cumbersome and complicated
standardized national agreements between the men of the small railroad
that he now owns and substituting for them a generous minimum wage and the
right of the road to utilize a man at whatever work it pleases, within his
established eight hours of labor. On Mr. Ford's railroad an employee may
possibly drive a locomotive for ninety minutes and then spend five hours
and a half washing car windows, or trucking cases upon a freight-house
platform. And the astonishing thing is that in this one instance at least
the plan apparently is working.

It may be that Mr. Ford has reached the solution of the problem. I am not
at all sure that he has not. But I feel that if he has, a large number of
railroad executives and sub-executives will forget their annoyances at
the Detroit gentleman's publicity methods in connection with his personal
railroad and begin to call him blessed. They have had little good fortune
as yet in handling the standardized national agreements with their men,
which were their unwilling inheritance from Uncle Sam, railroader sublime.
The agreements still stand despite the professed entire willingness of the
Railroad Labor Board to abrogate them, for the simple reason that no
acceptable substitute for them has yet been brought forward. The Labor
Board has made some rather sweeping rulings in cutting down overtime
payments and the like, however--all to the cost of the rank and file of
the railroaders. Their position steadily becomes less and less enviable.

In October last they took the 12 per cent. cut in their wages--roughly
speaking, half a billion dollars. They did not want to take that; the
hot-heads in the organization talked "strike" and a national tie-up of our
rail transport machine. If it could have been achieved it would have been
a real national calamity. As it was, the country had a very bad state of
nerves over the mere possibility of the thing. The strike was an
impossibility. Many of the railroad executives in their hearts wanted it.
With labor conditions as they were across the country, with the
unwillingness (to put it mildly) of the average man to have his comfort
and necessities interfered with no matter how much right or justice might
be involved in the situation, the executives held all the cards. The
leaders of the men knew that. Therefore there was no strike. Strikes are
rarely popular when times are dull.

Perhaps it is knowing this that a certain group of railroad
executives--there is no great unanimity in the matter--is steadily
pressing toward a further wage reduction of another 10 per cent. I shall
refrain from comment upon the wisdom or unwisdom of such a further step at
this time. That the very executives who are urging it are, I think, none
too sure of their position is indicated by the fact that they are coupling
the proposed reduction with vague suggestions that if it is granted they
will reduce their freight-rates, at least, correspondingly. The idea of
reducing rates to build up traffic apparently does not even come into the
reckoning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Would you understand this situation better? Then come back with me for a
moment to those humming summer days of 1920 when the railroads of the
United States were still in record-breaking traffic. It is June, 1920; a
sluggish hot evening in the city of Chicago. Eight railroad engineers,
members in good standing of their brotherhood, are set upon by a gang of
organized thugs--in the picturesque phraseology of the railroaders, a
"wrecking crew"--in the shadows of the great Northwestern Terminal, and so
badly beaten up that they have to be sent to the nearest hospitals for
treatment. Yet the Chicago newspapers of the very next morning announced
with a sort of smug optimism that "satisfactory progress" was being made
with the switchmen's strike. They predicted an early break-up of the
entire "outlaw" walk-out (which had been in progress since the preceding
April), and apparently without a definite knowledge that each ensuing
twenty-four hours were seeing the whole outrageous business gain in its
vicious strength.

Up to that time we had had almost every thing difficult and disagreeable
in our railroad debacle except physical violence. It then seemed to have
embarked upon this final phase of badly disordered industrialism. The
Chicago imbroglio was not particularly exceptional. Brotherhood men all
over the country, members of the most powerful unions that this land has
ever known, literally went to their work nightly in fear and in trembling.
In few of our big cities is police protection to-day at its highest point
of efficiency--for a variety of reasons, which need no particular
explanation here and now. This means, in turn, that rowdyism and thugism
are at high-water marks. When these are organized by brains and financed
with plenty of real money they seem to go all unchecked. And loyal
railroaders of every sort suffer the penalty, in the first instance at
least, with the dear old public as usual in the rôle of the greatest
sufferer and the final judge.

Outrageous as it really was, the outlaw strike was one of the most human
that this country has ever seen. It came as the logical result of official
stupidity and procrastination. In January, 1919, the various groups of
railroad employees, appalled, as was every other form of worker, by not
only the steady but the extremely rapid increase in living costs, made
applications for wage raises beyond those that the labor commission
originally had granted--the so-called billion-dollar increase. So did
other forms of labor ask for wage raises--and got them. The applications
of the railroad workers remained under consideration after eighteen
months. The Railroad Administration, even though it continued in full
control of our carriers for fourteen months after the wage applications
had been filed, passed the buck--and permitted the national agreements.
That was politics. The recently created Railroad Labor Board sitting out
at Chicago was going over all the testimony again, making solemn and
voluminous proceedings of a business that might be decided, tentatively at
least, in a week of real work. That was politics again.

In the meantime, in those slowly moving eighteen months, what came to
pass? In San Francisco, in Portland, in Seattle, in half a dozen other
west coast cities where the wages of unskilled labor had reached an
abnormally high figure, the railroad switching-crews had the exquisite
pleasure of shunting cars at $4.50 for an eight-hour day into shipyards
and other industries where the commonest and most unskilled forms of labor
were receiving six and seven and eight dollars a day for the same amount
of labor. I do not maintain that shifting box-cars is a particularly
expert form of labor. Yet at the least it is a fairly hazardous one. The
actuaries of the insurance companies will assure you as to that. And it is
a fairly responsible one too. The claim agents of the railroads themselves
will bear full witness as to that. They know to their own great sorrow
that a box-car filled with breakables cannot be batted back and forth
like a gondola of coal or a flat filled with steel angle-iron.

"Responsible, did you say?" snorted the brotherhood engineer of a switcher
to me one day, a year or two ago out in the Mid-West. He shouted across
his cab as he poked into a siding and pulled out one of John Ringling's
long circus trains. "You'd think it was responsible if you'd see the
amount of signing off I have to do for this trick before I can cart her
out of the roundhouse. They're right too. She may be eleven years old--you
can see by the maker's plate there over the steam-chest--but she's still
worth a good fifteen thousand dollars in the open market to-day. And I'm
responsible for her. For five dollars. While the fat-heads that are up on
the main streets of this town manicuring the cobblestones for the city
fathers are getting six dollars--and no responsibility whatsoever."

Here are two of the reasons why I have just called the walk-out of the
railroad switchmen one of the simplest and the most logical of all the
strikes in the country. The eighteen months of inexcusable procrastination
in coming to a decision in this railroad wage matter was a third and a far
greater one.

Yet remember that the switchmen were not the only aggrieved parties to
this situation--this seemingly impossible situation that has quickly
become an actuality. Other forms of railroad labor suffered quite as much
if not more from official procrastination and official indifference. A
passenger trainman rode with me a year or two ago across northern Idaho.

"Don't you go putting any pieces in your paper," said he, "saying that all
of the train-crews are making the big money. A few are. But they are
mighty few."

He swung quickly to his own case. He was on his run, across three States
from Spokane, Washington, to Paradise, Montana, seven days a week, 365
days out of the year. For this he was pulling down $150 a month--$120 for
his straight time and the other $30 as overtime. Around him in Spokane
carpenters were getting $1.25 an hour and plumbers $1.50--and working five
and one half days a week or, at the most six. They all owned cars, and
Saturday afternoons and Sundays they went fishing. The brakeman had not
been fishing in more than two years. He told me so and I believed him. If
you interview enough men in the course of a twelvemonth you will come
quite quickly to know the kind that you can believe. It is written in
their faces.

"Seven days a week and with two gardens, one at each end of the run; and I
make out--nothing more," he continued. "Last night my wife and I went down
to the market and we bought pork-chops. There were six of them--none too
many for the three mouths to be fed at home--and the measly things cost me
sixty cents, at the rate of forty-five cents a pound. We allow ourselves
meat three times a week, not oftener."

Somehow even though it might have the fervent approval of some of our
really high-brow hygienists, I do not like that idea of an American
workingman being able to have meat but three times a week. It doesn't seem
quite American. It doesn't seem quite fair. I do not believe that the
average executive, or even the average stockholder of the American
railroad, wants such a condition. He assuredly would not want it for any
member of his household, or for himself. If he did want such a condition,
I should like then to contrast his attitude with a British one that came
to me not long ago.

"We of Great Britain feel that every British workman is entitled first to
a minimum wage that will insure him decent conditions of living--housing,
food, clothing, education for his children, insurance against death and
old age--and to a maximum wage that will include these things plus a
little share in the profits of the railway business. Otherwise we can
never be sure of the coming generation. And a decent coming generation is
our one national assurance of continued national strength and security."

So spake the general manager of a British railway to me one day last year.
He sounded a real truth. In their prosperous days our American railroads
were decidedly loath to share their profits; some of their more captious
critics were not slow to say that they had capitalized their underpaid
helpers and were paying dividends on the remainder. A few roads, notably
the prosperous Santa Fé and the Southern Pacific, in the golden days
before the war had made a beginning toward bonus and profit-sharing
systems but these were in the vast minority. I should like to see those
extremely prosperous railroads, the Burlington and the Lackawanna,
resurrect the experiment. It should not be left to Henry Ford to
accomplish all the railroad experimentation in this country.

Offhand the job of a passenger trainman, such as my friend up on the
Northern Pacific, may not seem to be a particularly strenuous one even
though it is long-houred. Here is a harder one. On a test running across
Wyoming not long ago the husky boy with the shovel in the engine-cab
tossed six thousand pounds of coal an hour from the tender into the
fire-box. The run was six hours long. If you do not even yet get the
measure of his job, go down into your cellar, find that there are eighteen
tons of coal there and then shovel it from one side of the cellar to the
other--in six hours. Repeat the entire process three or four times in the
course of a week and then write and tell me which you had rather fire
on--a coal-burner without a mechanical stoker, an oil-burner, or one of
those big electric locomotives up on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul,
where the fireman's chief job is to keep awake against the lazy droning of
the motors to be prepared in the always-possible emergency that he may
have to take control of the craft.

Here is a final instance or two of what I mean.

From one point in California to another 170 miles distant is a typical
operating division of one of the biggest roads in our Southwest--a little
longer than typical Eastern operating divisions in fact. It is provided
that freights moving from the one to the other shall do so at the average
rate of twelve and one-half miles an hour; which means thirteen hours and
thirty-six minutes for the division. That therefore becomes its official
running-time. Anything beyond that fairly good lapse of continuous labor
was paid for as overtime "pro-rata." In other words, the train-crew was
paid the same figure for its sixteenth hour of continuous service as for
its first one, and the incentive for the railroad to cut down its overtime
is gone. That is why the rank and file of railroaders were fighting so
strenuously three years ago to gain time-and-one-half pay for their
overtime, beyond a basic eight-hour day. It is the only way that they
could see for bettering their actual conditions of labor--for getting in
that occasional fishing-trip or the journey with the wife over the hills
in the long-distance jitney.

Let us translate this more definitely and more intimately, and come to the
exact testimony of a Great Northern fireman operating out of Havre up in
northern Montana. He speaks, under the promise of no revelation whatever
as to his identity, with great frankness. It is not easy for a railroader
to speak frankly, particularly to a stranger. It is not encouraged in
railroad circles, to put it frankly. But this man--he is a keen,
upstanding American of the best type--speaks to you through me with
absolute frankness. He begins with one or two observations as to the rank
and file of railroaders in general to-day.

"When I started in this game," he says, "the men I worked with were mostly
single and had neither dependents nor home ties. Their conversation
consisted mainly in stories of the road, whose location wanders from
Portland, Maine, to Seattle or to Winnipeg--'the Peg'--to Pocatello, to
New Orleans, or to San Francisco. Conductors in charge of a train were
very rarely men who had been 'made' upon that road; seniority did not mean
much; men went from job to job as their fancy dictated. They tell a story
up this country about a conductor and an engineer that will illustrate my
point.

"You will begin by understanding that the rules of this road, as well as
of all the others, provide for a standard watch--a watch that has been
passed upon by a qualified and registered watch-inspector. There is also a
rule that the conductor compare time with the engineer before starting
out upon any trip. In each division-office there is a 'watch register,'
and every watch must be compared with the 'standard clock' and any
difference between them noted upon the register. The rule states
specifically that no watch can be called correct that is even thirty
seconds away from the 'standard clock.' Now then.

"This freight conductor over in the eastern end of the State came to the
engineer with his orders and handed them up into the cab. After the
engineman had finished reading them, the conductor asked: 'What time have
you got?' The engineer grinned and replied: 'What time have _you_ got?'
This time the conductor grinned. He reached down into his overcoat pocket
and pulled out one of the small tin watches that are advertised across the
land as having made the dollar famous. 'Seven forty-five,' said he, with
great gravity. His friend, the engineer, also assumed solemnity, then
pulled a nickel-plated alarm-clock out from under his seat. 'You're right,
Tim,' said he, 'right to the minute.'

"Those days are passed. It takes longer to-day to get a regular run on
most roads than it takes for a lawyer or a doctor to complete his college
course. Seven years is about the quickest time to a run that amounts to
anything. The railroader of to-day takes his work seriously, settles down
and tries to be a good citizen instead of the old-time 'boomer' [the slang
phrase for the former itinerants] that once filled up the business, and
not in any way to its credit. But it's pretty hard being a good citizen
under the sixteen-hour law and the Adamson Law which was supposed to
provide a real eight-hour day and really never did anything of the sort.
If we get in at four o'clock in the afternoon we don't know whether we are
going out again at eight o'clock the next morning or eight o'clock the
same evening. The one thing is just as likely to happen as the other. And
how can friend-wife count upon her evenings with us at the movies?

"Let me be still more specific.

"Let's stretch that sixteen-hour day of which I was just speaking into a
good practical work-day. Let us say that we will call you on the first day
of the month for First No. 401 bound west out of Havre here. We will slip
you 2450 tons and Mallet articulated compound No. 1801, and make the start
at sharp four in the afternoon. Our lad at the fire-box gets sick over at
Gilford and we tie you up there, 'on credit.' In other words you were four
hours and thirty minutes getting to Gilford and yet your time didn't count
after getting your 'tie-up' message; not until you are called once again.
If by that time you are hungry or sleepy it is not the Great Northern's
fault. It is following the rules of the game, just as every other road
across the land is following them.

"Five hours later a train comes along and a relief fireman gets off. You
make a fresh start at your trip. You still have eleven hours and thirty
minutes to go, out of your sixteen hours of actual on-duty trick. Now see
how you go it. While doing some switching at Chester you get a car off the
track. After that your engine bursts a flue and dies. They release you
once more, again on credit, and until four o'clock in the morning. At nine
along comes another engine and you are called once again. You still have
eight hours to work. Everything goes all right until you get to Shelby.
You get a message there at two in the afternoon to do some switching. The
conductor tells the despatcher that if he stops to do this work the
sixteen-hour law will get him before he gets in. The division
superintendent butts in and says: 'We will give you credit for being off
the track two hours at Chester, and that will give you plenty of time.'

"You cannot beat out the old D. S. He was born to the game. You arrive at
Cut Bank at seven o'clock on the evening of the second, having complied
with the law, technically at least, and are ordered to deadhead back to
Havre on No. 2 leaving in fifteen minutes. You probably have a chance to
get just a bite to eat before slipping on No. 2. It is snowing hard, in
the dead of the Northern winter in fact, and Two has a time of getting to
Havre. It is six hours at least before you swing down in front of the
depot there. Before you ever have a chance to get into the depot the
call-boy meets you and as you have had your Federal rest--eight hours
curled up on a seat in a day-coach--he wants you for First No. 403 to go
right back to Cut Bank again. If you don't want to go you are a
bolshevist. Exaggeration? Not one bit of it. I have been myself four days
making the trip that I have just described to you, so you see that I could
have made my illustration both longer and broader and thicker. If you
think that I have exaggerated, stay in your office some day sixteen hours
at a stretch, then get on the day-coach of a local train, ride eight
hours, and cut in for another sixteen hours of office work
again--preferably at writing a railroad book."

I have let this man close the case for the train service men. He puts it
in its full strength and I think that he puts it well. No fair-minded
American wants American labor poorly paid, and American railroad
labor--upon which so much of our life and property is absolutely
dependent--least of all. It has been a sort of tradition in this country
that railroad labor should be paid less than similar labor in other
industry--just why I never could quite understand, unless it be for the
fact that railroad labor until a comparatively recent time has been a
little more loyal to its calling than the labor of some other industries
that might easily be mentioned specifically. The variety of the business,
the opportunities for travel and experience that it gave, have been real
factors in holding its wages very slightly yet very perceptibly under
normal levels. And in the same way they have been factors in holding it
back against normal industrial progress.

When one comes to the question of the shop-craft unions (I shall speak of
still other branches of railroad endeavor before I am done) the problem
becomes infinitely more perplexing. It is indeed with these newer union
affiliations that the railroads are to-day having their greatest
difficulties. For the old-time brotherhoods, in which there is a fine
flavor of reasonable conservatism, the average working railroad executive
has a deal of real respect. Perhaps he realizes how much worse off he and
his fellows would be if he had to substitute for them in train operation
unions of the sort that are driving him mad in his shop-work. But the
shops represent a real perplexity. Some of the roads, beginning with the
Erie, have gone so far as to rent their repair-shops at division points
for operation by privately organized corporations. In fact the Erie has
gone so far as to follow this practice for its track maintenance in
certain instances. A private corporation is bound neither by the national
agreements of the Railroad Administration or by the rulings of the
Railroad Labor Board out at Chicago. It can buy its labor in the open
market and at the prevailing market prices--and at the present moment at
obvious savings. But the effect upon the morale of a railroad of this
remarkable practice of "farming out" inherent parts of its operation I
shall leave to your imagination.

That the outside shop can and does work cheaply is shown by the experience
of a plant in Buffalo which upon an actual invested capital of $80,000
cleaned up more than $100,000 actual profits in 1920 and expected to
double this figure in 1921. Yet it was able to repair freight-cars for the
railroads entering that important railroad point for about $600 each,
which was about $200 less than the roads could do it for themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a railroad executives' side to this situation, and it is a big
side indeed. A certain large road in the central portion of the country
decided to put the matter squarely up to its shop forces before proceeding
toward the leasing of its repair facilities to outside companies, as we
have just seen. It called in the heads of its shop-crafts unions and put
the cards squarely on the table before them. It wanted to go back to
piece-work, the method by which each and every man was paid for what he
actually accomplished, a good old-fashioned American way of running a
shop or any other sort of business. The McAdoo administration abolished
piece-work in the railroad shops across the land, and the output fell off
greatly both in quality and in quantity. The railroads to-day are having a
fearful time getting it installed again.

The general manager of this road of which I am speaking--he is himself a
real red-blooded little man who came up through every phase of railroading
through his ability and his sheer energy--told the shop-crafts unions just
what he would do and what he would not do and when he would do it. If they
would accept piece-work on a schedule 25 per cent. higher than that of
1917 and turn out the same good volume of work that they turned out in
1917, they would be making considerably more than the per-hour basis gave
them in 1921. If they would not accept piece-work by a certain specified
day he would then proceed to lease these facilities to outside
corporations, much as it would hurt the road's pride to do so.

The men did not accept the piece-work system. And the general manager of
the big road went from one end to the other of it leasing its shops just
as he said he would do. When he came to the last of them he hesitated. It
was the road's oldest shop. In it there had been made no little railroad
history. Sentiment halted him. He thought of tradition. Remember, if you
will, that there are as many times in railroading where tradition is a
good thing as where it is an exceedingly bad thing.

While he halted a request came to his ear from a personal friend, one of
the oldest mechanics in that ancient shop. His old friend wanted to see
the big boss--he still called him "Billy." He came and brought a friend or
two with him. He wanted to know why the big shop, with its six thousand
workers, had been shut down for so long. The G. M. answered promptly. He
told of his proffered plan for piece-work. The old mechanic made him
repeat his statement.

"We never heard one word of it, Billy," he said.

"Billy" stayed two more days in that town. On the second afternoon he
called a mass-meeting of the shop-workers in the biggest hall in the city.
They came, enough of them at least to fill the place to its very rafters.
He put the piece-work proposition to those men. They ratified it
overwhelmingly. The next day the shop reopened and from that day to this
has been a humming center of revivified railroad industry.

       *       *       *       *       *

There also is still another side to this vexed shop situation, and it too
is a big side. I should not be fair if I did not give it at least passing
attention.

With their insistence that their shops return to the piece-work
system--and it seems to be a perfectly fair demand--the railroads are
using every endeavor to bring back their shopmen to the high quality of
workmanship that they attained before the days of the World War, and which
has not come back since then--not until very recently at least and under
the spur of widespread unemployment across the land. Yet, our railroads as
a rule--there are a very few exceptions--have been most lax in employing
modern or scientific methods of spurring up the production of their
shopmen, in quality as well as in quantity. A year and a half ago I made
an extensive tour of some of the most forward-looking manufacturing plants
in America and found there for myself many ingenious plans for stimulating
the interest, the enthusiasm, and the productive ability of the men. Shop
committees, education, bonus systems--all these and many other well-tried
devices at work, and successfully at work. I was appalled when mentally I
compared these factory plans with those of the average railroad shop,
which rarely has any at all.

One other thing of even greater importance. In these days no more than
those, there still is no assurance to the shop-worker of continued
employment. The great haunting fear of being "laid off" forever is just
ahead of him.

I recognize clearly the difficulties that would await any systematic
attempt to insure continuous employment to the worker in the railroad or
any other sort of shop. Yet the fact remains that the railroad shops have
not always been as fair as those in outside industries in keeping a
well-filled pay-roll, even in seasons of great depression and stress. That
such a neglect of human obligation reacted against them in the war-time
days is not to be doubted. No really permanent solution of the railroad
shop problem--it would be pathetic to regard the process of leasing out
the shops to outside corporations as any long-time solution--can afford to
ignore this factor.

I have known a railroad under orders from the men away up at the top--the
president or the board of directors--to make sweeping and senseless
reductions in shop and maintenance forces in order to make a quick showing
of apparent savings in operating costs, for financial purposes known best
to those same men, higher up. The futility of such moves needs no
discussion; what is saved to-day on necessary maintenance of rolling-stock
or other physical plant of the railroad must be expended to-morrow, and
generally in larger measure. They would be laughable were it not for one
thing, the human misery that almost invariably follows in their trail. How
very much greater the wisdom that now and then and again tempts a railroad
to use a dull season for the repair or even the reconstruction of its
equipment, for the rebuilding of lines or even the construction of new
trackage!

Therefore I am repeating--and adding--that no permanent solution of our
railroad problem can be reached that ignores the right of the faithful and
loyal employee to continuous service. It may be necessary to cut his wage.
That is a situation that may confront any man in any business or
profession. But save for fair cause he has an inherent right to continuous
employment. This should be put down as a real fundamental of the railroad
industry.

Railroad industry! Railroad tradition! Railroad morale!

Give them a chance. Let us have a scientific way of developing them once
again; let us have a scientific yet a simple and humane way of studying
out these surpassingly great problems of the human factor in our railroad
operation; in the hours and conditions of his working, the cost of his
living, the reckoning of his compensation. To such a problem--a problem
within a problem--we now have arrived. And we shall begin its
consideration.



CHAPTER VII

SOLVING THE RAILROADS' HUMAN PROBLEM


In some of the real wisdom that wrote certain portions of the present
Transportation Act it was decided that the newly created Railroad Labor
Board should be kept entirely separate and distinct from the Interstate
Commerce Commission. The one had neither authority nor jurisdiction over
the other. They were even apart geographically; the one at Chicago, the
other at the national capital. There was a definite and convincing reason
advanced for this segregation. It was argued, with genuine good sense,
that the business of wage-making should be kept entirely separate and
apart from that of rate-making. In other words, wage-making was to be
based upon living-costs--the sort of thing that the Lane Commission tried
to do, even though hurriedly, and that the railroads themselves had failed
to do.

That the Railroad Labor Board, once appointed, took its new task
seriously, I do not for a moment doubt. I think that it tried and still is
trying to solve the entire question in a really scientific and human
fashion. It is a political board, to be sure. It could hardly escape being
a political board. But I believe that it is rather better than the
majority of its kind. It is a common experience here in America that these
newly created boards are likely to rank higher in their personnel at their
outset than after they have become old stories and pliable in the hands of
the professional politicians.

Yet I am not at all sure that the Railroad Labor Board was a necessity,
not at any rate as a permanent organization. We Americans are all too
prone to create boards and commissions for almost every sort of
conceivable situation. We dote upon chairmen and upon directors. We adore
secretaries and under-secretaries and under-secretaries to
under-secretaries and all the rest of it. It is a national weakness, and
an organization like our Railroad Labor Board is after all but a single
expression of that weakness.

Contrast that cumbersome method of ours with one which was adopted in
Great Britain but a year or two ago and which so far has apparently given
absolute satisfaction to both the rail workers and their employers over
there.

Under the wage agreements between the railway workers of the United
Kingdom and their executives the wage-scales have been fixed upon a basis
which permits them to rise or fall as the cost of living rises or falls.
These agreements were signed more than a year ago. The official charts
issued by the British Board of Trade, and held by all save a few of the
most radical of labor leaders to be both accurate and impartial, are taken
as the basis of the railway wage. The charts come as the result of
repeated and regular investigations by the Board of Trade agents into
house-rentals, clothing, foodstuffs, and all the other essential factors
that enter into living costs. Upon them an arbitrary reckoning of 125
points was fixed as the maximum that these should reach after the period
of after-the-war readjustment was fixed.

But despite this fixing of a purely arbitrary figure the cost of living
refused to stay put. It steadily rose until two years after the signing of
the Armistice the Board of Trade figures had reached 169 points. And
British railway wages had risen even more than ours. A station-porter, who
in the pleasant English days before the coming of Armageddon had been
content to receive fifteen shillings a week, found himself in January,
1921, receiving sixty-six, an increase of considerably more than 300 per
cent. To-day he is getting a little less pay. At the time that these
paragraphs were being written the Board of Trade's entirely arbitrary but
very scientific reckoning of living-costs had already dropped to 141
points and was going down further yet. The station-porter's weekly wage
had dropped three shillings, and Sir Eric Geddes, the British minister of
transport, was beginning to predict that a continuation of this lowering
of wage-costs would be reflected in the not distant future in lowered
passenger-fares and freight-rates.

For definitely it is fixed that for each five points that the Board of
Trade's cost of living report drops or rises the railway employees' wages
shall drop or rise a shilling a week. But they shall never drop to the
depths of the former pay-envelope; minima have been fixed ranging all the
way from 200 per cent. of the pre-war wages upward. In the case of our
station-porter the minimum of the future is to be forty shillings a week,
which is considerably better than fifteen. Yet fifteen was in truth an
outrageously low figure, even eight or ten years ago. British railway
wages were then decidedly too low. Now they are nearer a fair figure, and
so are likely to remain.

Why the American railroad wage could not have been fixed upon some basis
as this is difficult to understand. The fairest, the broadest-minded, the
most human of our railroad executives across the land say that 90 per
cent. of their difficulties with their men would be wiped out entirely if
only they could have direct dealings with them. Witness the example which
I showed in the preceding chapter; the big and representative road which
sought to install a piece-work scheme and, working through the leaders of
the shop-crafts unions, found that its actual shopmen had not been
consulted at all in the entire transaction.

The Pennsylvania railroad has fought desperately for the privilege of
direct dealings with its employees. Three years ago its operating
vice-president, General W. W. Atterbury, upon his return from France where
he had had charge of the movement of our American troops and munitions,
went on record as saying that the time had come for the rank and file of
our railroaders to have a distinct voice in the operation of the
properties. This does not mean in this instance that the Pennsylvania
would become enthusiastic over the admission of direct labor
representatives to its board of directors; such a genuinely progressive
step still is quite beyond its imagination. But it has sought--and, I
believe, honestly sought--to establish some sort of direct relationship
between the great body of its workers and its executive officers.

In accordance with such a plan the Pennsylvania started more than a year
ago toward the election of employee representatives from its various
shops. It turned its back upon the national officers of the shop-crafts
union and said frankly that it preferred to deal separately with its
various shops and their men as distinct and separate entities. One of the
sharpest quarrels that the railroad managements have had with the national
agreements has arisen from the fact that these contracts take no pay-roll
cognizance of whether a worker is living in a big city, such as
Philadelphia, or a very small one, such as Bradford--either Pennsylvania
or Ohio. Under the national agreements the Southern Pacific would have to
give the same pay to a station-agent at Orange, California (which is
almost heaven), as to the agent at Winnemucca, in the Nevada desert (which
is something less than heaven). In other days the Winnemucca man was given
what corresponded to a bonus salary, in order to compensate him in part
for the bleakness of his surroundings. Under the national agreements it
was a little difficult to get a good man to go to Winnemucca--to put the
matter mildly.

The Pennsylvania in accordance with its expressed home-rule principle held
that the employees elected as shop-craft representatives must be bona fide
workers upon the pay-rolls of the Pennsylvania railroad. The shop-crafts
union leaders claimed the right to have the names of the local
organization officers appear upon the ballots. The national headquarters
of the shop-crafts union also made loud protest. It appealed to the
Railroad Labor Board, which deliberated ponderously upon the crisis and
then ordered the Pennsylvania to proceed toward a new election, this time
along national and not along individual shop lines.

The Pennsylvania protested against the Labor Board's ruling. Its protest
was not heeded. The board after a rehearsing stood by its decision. Then
the Pennsylvania appealed to the courts, where the entire matter is at
present ensnarled. The railroad is loud in its protestations that it is
not attacking the Railroad Labor Board as an organization; that it merely
is seeking to keep it within the bounds laid down by the intent and
purpose of the remarkable Transportation Act, which, in the long run, may
come merely to a fine use of words.

The other railroads have not as a rule joined with the Pennsylvania in
this protest. On the contrary they have proceeded rather rapidly in
conforming to the Labor Board scheme, by joining in groups to set up local
courts of arbitration with their men in various large centers of the land.
Is this because they have loved the Labor Board idea? I hardly think so. I
think that the real reason is because they have realized that in the
difficult hour of transition from governmental to private operation--and,
consequently the almost inevitable lowering of wages--the Railroad Labor
Board, and the Railroad Labor Board almost alone, stood between the nation
and a general and calamitous strike of transportation workers. This of
course was before the coming of the industrial slump and the release of
several million workers into the labor market. It was a real factor in
helping to prevent the strike in October, 1921, which so many of the
railroad executives really wanted and which the railroad workers, knowing
from the outset that they would be beaten, did not want.

For these things alone the Railroad Labor Board probably has been worth
all this cost--and the cost has not been small. Yet that there could not
be a more direct pathway to them than the creation of a brand-new
expensive political commission I shall always deny. I have shown the
direct short cut that Great Britain took in railway wage adjustment. Is
it inconceivable that the United States might not occasionally take a
short cut of her own in these labor situations? Was the creation of
another political board an absolute necessity?

These are political questions, not primarily those of transport, and
therefore I shall not answer them here further than to suggest that if the
Railroad Labor Board makes at least one thorough, scientific, and
impartial study of living-costs in this country--in big towns as well as
in small, in North, in South, in East, in West--it may perhaps justify its
existence and pave the way toward the adoption of some such simple method
as we saw adopted overseas more than a year ago.

It is however a transportation question to know what the railroads
themselves purpose to do about bettering the situation between the workers
and themselves. We have hinted at the expressed intentions of a high
officer of the Pennsylvania. So far so good; but not very far. If the
foolish national agreements are to be completely abrogated--and apparently
they are to be--what improvement in the relationship between the carrier
and its employees is to be substituted for them? We have seen the move
toward the establishment of local boards of arbitration by individual
groups of the carriers. So far so good again; but again, not so very far.
The per-hour wage has frequently been set down as the gold standard of
railroad pay. Yet to-day in the eyes of the operating heads, at least, it
is no standard whatsoever, save in shop-work where they reckon it as but a
very base alloy and where they would regard piece-work as platinum--set
with diamonds, at that. All of which of course is from the point of view
of the executives, and not at all from that of their workers.

But what are the railroads going to do about the recognition of real merit
and real industry in the individual worker? I do not mean the brilliant
fellow who forces his way to the top. Frequently it is the plodder, the
man unseen, unknown, who is the most valuable human cog of the transport
machine. Will the railroad, huge machine that it is, find him out and
give his loyalty, his industry, his energy--in many cases, his initiative
too--the recognition that they demand? Can it do this even if it will? I
have known many a railroad manager to complain to me that the reason he
could not gain a greater efficiency out of his workers was because of the
very scattered and attenuated location of his job. Real supervision, like
that of a factory or a large office, was out of the question. Men might
and did loaf on their jobs. Conversely it is of course equally difficult
to discover real merit along the line, particularly the modest and
conservative type of merit.

What too is the railroad going to do about adjusting hours of labor for
its workers so that, whenever it is possible, the worker shall sleep at
home? We have seen already in the pages of this book how often this is not
possible for the employees engaged in the operation of the trains. In a
little while we shall come to the vast possibilities of the use of the
gasolene-motor unit in local passenger transportation upon our standard
railroads, and I shall be urging as a corollary to its introduction a much
increased service as well. It ought, by a little skillful planning, to be
possible to use the eight hours of a railroader's time to extremely good
advantage, both to himself and to his employer, by an ingenious
dovetailing of runs. Up this line, across that, back on a third--the
possibilities are as infinite and as fascinating as those of a game of
chess, and all giving the maximum of eight hours' service to the railroad,
as well as the square deal to its worker. Could more be asked?

And then, for a final question, what is our American railroad going to do
about the assurance of continuous employment to its workers? We have
touched upon this question already. It is a particularly serious one, not
alone in shop-work but in every other department of the railroad. The fear
of losing one's job becomes at all times a decided factor both in the
statistics of labor turnover and in the individual morale of the worker.
In a single instance of a typical large trunk-line railroad a total force
of 80,895 workers in June, 1920, had been reduced by June, 1921, to but
56,091 and has been dropping ever since, which means quite naturally that
the men who remain are spurred to the best of endeavors. The road tested
this the other day. It asked all of its employees to go out in their spare
hours and see if they could solicit some freight for it. In ninety days
these men, entirely apart from the regular solicitation forces of the
line, had brought in more than 1400 car-loads of freight which otherwise
would have gone to its competitors. A good percentage showing was made by
the mechanics and other workers of one of its smaller shops. Yet in the
early part of 1920 the men at this shop had all gone out on strike because
a train accident had delayed the arrival of their pay-envelopes for two
brief hours!

Here then is morale brought back in a perfectly human fashion, yet I doubt
if in a good one. In the long run fear cannot make loyalty or initiative
or ambition. The day will come when abounding prosperity will return to
the carriers, when the labor markets across the land will be empty of
possible material. Then labor may remember. Memory is quite as human a
trait as fear. And the pendulum will be set high again at the workers' end
of its arc.

I feel that we shall be compelled to find far better ways of bringing
loyalty and initiative and ambition into the hearts of our workers of
to-morrow--the other qualities that go into the making of that highly
modern term "morale"--and so bring back a genuine revival of our American
railroad tradition. We shall start of course with a good wage. We already
have that. The average annual wage of the American railroader is now $1700
for eight hours of daily work. In 1913 he worked ten hours a day and
received but $761 on an average. His hourly wage is now about 150 per
cent. more than it was eight years ago.

Remember all the while, if you will, that I am not urging that the
railroader is overpaid to-day. I do not believe that upon the average he
is any more than well paid--in all cases not even that. And I do believe
that these entire pay arrangements are still far from being upon an
entirely just and equitable basis; the conditions of his working
arrangements, so very vital to the return of our American railroad morale
and tradition, are still in the infancy of a really scientific and human
adjustment. Here again the situation is open to further explanation.

There are, roughly speaking, three classes of railroad employees. The
railroad president and the small group of high-priced executives closely
about him constitute the first of these classes. This is small in number.
It contrasts with the two millions and a half of the rank and file of
railroad employees in the United States.

Here then are the right and the left wings of our railroading. Between
them is a third class, not often in the public eye, but in many ways the
keystone of the arch of operation. This third class, not large in numbers,
consists of the minor officers of the various active departments of the
railroad. It is an immensely valuable factor in successful operation; in
fact the great driving force behind it. Yet its position is not a happy
one. At all times it is a buffer; it is caught between the upper and the
lower stones of a mill which attempts to grind finely. From below comes
the natural and unending pressure to increase expenses; from the high
executive offices above comes another, to hold down expenditure. From
somewhere between these grindings the division superintendent or engineer
or mechanical superintendent must produce results. Of necessity, his is a
driving job.

Ofttimes it has been a thankless job as well. For there has been little
outside protection for this valuable central class of railroad labor.
Numerically it is not large enough nor important enough to command the
favor of influential politicians. As we have just seen, the rank and file
does. This is at least well paid. And as the railroad man at the bottom
has received attention, so has the railroader at the top. The executives
have always succeeded in taking good care of themselves. They know that
the large financiers and banks and other institutions which to-day are the
heavy stockholders of our railroads are utterly dependent upon them.
Without them their securities would fall even flatter than already they
have fallen, which means that the railroad president and his important
vice-presidents can command salaries that are at least commensurate with
those paid in other industries. Their worries are those that come from
their responsibilities, not from their pocketbooks.

But the middle class of the railroad personnel--like the middle class of
the world outside--is caught to-day, not only with responsibility for its
job, but with a deal of worry too for its wallet. Salaries between the
upper and lowest classes of railroad workers take a fearful fall. In
theory they should form a gentle curve, a sloping sort of descent. In
practice, too, they should curve. In truth they do not. They drop. I have
known of repeated cases where the superintendents of railroad divisions--a
railroad superintendent is supposedly the prince of a transportation
principality--have actually received less than some of the
locomotive-engineers who are working for them. In any such scheme of
affairs the incentive or desire for promotion cannot be very great.

As a matter of fact very much of that desire or opportunity for promotion
passed away long ago, which is one of the significant reasons for the sad
decline of our American railroad tradition, and which is also one of the
most alarming symptoms of the serious illness of our sick man of American
business. He is making no provision for the future--in this serious
necessity of providing good new railroading blood for oncoming years.
There should be fresh generations of material for future railroad
executives tramping forward, and there are none.

"Over-regulation," says one transportation executive at once, and leaves
us in the belief that here is the sole cause of this sad deficiency.

He is right--partly right. For more than twenty years the railroad
business in the United States has been under constant attack--rightly or
wrongly, and generally both. A business under constant attack is not one
that makes a large appeal to a young man just seeking about for a future
career. One of the very ablest of our railroaders, Daniel Willard,
president of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, recently went on record as
saying that at the present time he could not recommend the business in
which he has spent a lifetime as a proper opening for his son.

Add to these things the fact that the business itself has taken very
little thought as to the morrow in this vital question of renewing
personnel--has not only failed to establish courses in various phases of
railroading in the technical schools across the land, or made any
concerted effort to bring the best of their graduates to their ranks, but
for years has ridiculed and humiliated these highly trained young men when
they have sought to enter its doors--and one may easily perceive why the
best of our young men in recent years have not gone into railroading. The
automobile industry, mining, electrical work, manufacturing of nearly
every sort, the professions, even retailing, have called to them, and not
in vain. Each has received its fair proportion of them. But railroading
has been left aside.

Here is a most serious phase of our railroad debacle. It is not one that
can be quickly mended. Take the nearest "Who's Who" and note the birth
dates of the railroad men that you find there. With a few exceptions they
are not young men. They are getting on in years, while those who know them
personally know that their tremendously increased anxieties and
responsibilities have grayed them even beyond their years.

A young man whose heart and soul alike thirsted for a better knowledge of
the rail transport business recently asked a veteran railroader of my
acquaintance how he could get into it. He had been offered a job in the
local interchange yard, firing a switch-engine. That job had a good deal
of appeal to him. He was perfectly willing to don overalls and get down
to hard manual work with a shovel. But the old railroader shook his head.

"No, no, Harry, that is not the way that it is being done nowadays," said
he. "Let me advise you."

Then he explained. Harry might and probably would develop into a good
fireman, like President W----. Eventually he would probably have a fine
passenger run and get as much money perhaps as his division
superintendent, probably more than his trainmaster or his road foreman of
engines. But that would end it. He would be a working man, albeit a
well-paid working man, but nothing else--never an officer. The new caste
in our railroading would hold him tightly down. Far better that he should
pocket his pride as a graduate of a pretty good Eastern university and
become an office-boy in some railroad office and study all the phases of
the business at every opportunity that presented itself. There was chance
there of his getting ahead in railroading, perhaps to the very head of it.
The taint or stigma of unionism would not be upon his shoulder to draw him
down in the estimation of the big men who won and control our carriers.

That was frank talk, but accurate. At last we _have_ achieved an
industrial caste. The barrier is there. The railroads suffer from it
greatly, but the men who to-day control them are not going to remove it.
Here and there across the face of the land you will find a few minute
exceptions, a trainmaster here, a master mechanic there, perhaps all the
way across the land as many as ten or a dozen superintendents who have
risen from the brotherhoods. But in our big national organization these
few are as nothing. The barrier is being well maintained. And as long as
our railroads are owned and operated as at present, it is likely to stay
put.

Granted then that this great wall is to be kept, and assuming that the
railroads can tide over their present personal deficiencies, how can this
distressing situation be avoided in the future? Easily enough. It comes
down in final analysis to a wage question. Our railroads can and should
establish courses in the various phases of their business in many of the
large colleges and training-schools across the land; they should have
methods of systematically scanning the output of these schools and of
securing for themselves at least their fair share of it for proper
training toward executive possibilities. Other industries in America long
since have shown the possibilities of such methods. Yet even such a
program will fail if the salary inducement is not made both fair and
attractive. I spoke but a moment ago of the lack of curvature, the
tendency toward right-angledness of the salary line between the top class
of railroad personnel and the bottom. It too has arisen in other
businesses, and they have had to solve it. Here is one case in particular.

It is a nation-wide utility company, not transportation, but in a large
sense akin to it. It divides itself between the Atlantic and Pacific into
various subsidiary companies, each fairly autonomous. These companies,
working in coöperation, have evolved a salary plan that is attractive to
their personnel. The company heads each receive as an average from $35,000
to $40,000 a year. Immediately beneath them are their vice-presidents,
three or four at from $20,000 to $25,000; beneath these in turn a group of
ten to a dozen sub-executives at $15,000 to $18,000, and then a large
group (thirty-five or forty men) at from $10,000 to $12,500 annually. The
curve irons out to a comfortable rotundity. The salary appeal stands
strongly; the opportunity of getting into that third sizable executive
group of good wage standard is large enough to bring young men out of
college to these companies in a larger number than they can accept, which
gives them a most excellent opportunity to pick and choose.

A plan such as this would be easily applicable to almost any one of our
American railroads of to-day, which almost invariably are under-staffed
rather than over-staffed. And the first objection to it, the cost, is
discounted by the fact that even to a comparatively small line it would
not add more than 5 or 6 per cent, to the pay-roll--perhaps not more than
a fraction of 1 per cent, to the total operating cost. The utility company
which I have just quoted boasts that it could cut its entire pay-roll down
to a maximum of $5000 a year for all of its officers and still reduce its
total pay-roll cost less than a mere 1 per cent., which speaks volumes for
the even distribution of its official salaries.

Given a broad-minded fairly planned salary scheme such as this--and having
provided always that the scheme was well advertised--and the average
railroad ought to begin to pull itself through on this difficult question
of supplying a fresh quantity of proper officer personnel for itself. To
this might well be added, as has already been suggested, a systematic plan
for teaching the various phases of transport in many of our schools and
colleges and then closely scanning the output of these classes for future
executive material. That such a plan would work and would be worth far
more than its comparatively modest cost, is the opinion of far-seeing men
within the railroad industry as well as outside of it. That more attention
is needed to this vital phase of our transport problem is clearly
indicated by the action of the Pennsylvania railroad immediately after
coming out from government control, in appointing a high personnel officer
with a title and prestige none the less than vice-president.

The problem of personnel and its continuous and permanent supply, long
since recognized by other of our industries than that of railroading by
the appointment of well-paid specialists with staffs trained to handle it
at best efficiency, is not in itself a particularly perplexing one. A fair
degree of study and thought will solve it almost invariably. One reason
perhaps that so many of our railroads have not met it properly up to the
present moment is because only yesterday it became apparent as a really
vital matter, not merely to their success, but to their very continuance.
It was but yesterday that trades-unionism became a dominating and fairly
autocratic force in their operation, that the traditional stairways of
progress from the engine-cab or the caboose or the little yellow depot
became so firmly closed and abandoned, and that the railroads were really
forced to look out into the broad world beyond for future personnel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our railroaders as a rule have not lacked technical ability. They have not
lacked honesty. They are not lacking in these qualities to-day. Taken man
for man I doubt if their high average for both of them could be exceeded
by any other American industry or profession, or even equaled throughout
the rest of the civilized world. That many of them have lacked both vision
and imagination, I am going to contend at other times. For the present it
is enough to say that theirs is indeed a difficult job, that, leaving
aside the question of securing future executives, the task of the existing
ones is very far from a sinecure. The relationship of the human factors in
the operating phases alone of our railroads, from the top executives down
through the mid-executives to the rank and file, is this very day and
minute one of the vastly serious phases of our whole railroad muddle. For
just as the problem of new personnel is to an extent a future one, so is
the deplorable loss of the old tradition to an extent a past one. There is
not much use in crying over spilled milk. The thing to do is to find just
what can be saved from the spilling.

Jinks who reads this, and in his more serious moments conducts a
cotton-factory, and Blinks, who has the biggest retailing business in his
town, may both laugh at the thought that their railroading may be a
supremely difficult business. Each of them _knows_ that _his_ is the most
difficult business in all the world and has a thousand convincing ways of
proving it. But Jinks may summon all his operatives into a hall at five
minutes' notice--he has them all at work inside of a brick wall--and put
the fear of the Lord (and of their boss) into their hearts in another
five. While Blinks, as a matter of principle, reads the riot act to his
clerks every morning as soon as he has unlocked the doors of the store.

A railroad's employees may be outstretched a thousand miles or more.
Remember again that the railroad itself is in truth a narrow ribbon,
ofttimes no wider than the right-of-way of a single track, far-reaching
and tremendously attenuated. A thousand employees here, and then twenty,
thirty, forty miles to the next group of more than a dozen! What a small
opportunity for any sort of close superintendency or inspection! How hard
the problem of attaining a real morale! With the irregular demands of
energy that a railroad makes upon a man's time--two trains perhaps within
the hour, and then perhaps not another for three or four--it can rarely
utilize a man's eight hours at best advantage. While if an employee is at
all inclined to idle upon the job how rare the opportunities for
loafing--or if not for actual loafing, the failure to work in his allotted
hour to the top notch of his ability! These opportunities exist, and
unless Mr. Ford's plan should become a howling success, must continue to
exist, in a tremendous variety.

Our station-agent no longer has to work twelve hours a day. Under
government control his hours began to approach those of an easy-going
banker. He ceased to worry about the prospective passenger who may be
thinking of going to California and who by proper persuasion may be
induced to go by the S. A.'s line. All of which is another of the many
evidences of the decline of our fine old-time railroad tradition.

Not that any fair-minded man would wish a return to the outrageously long
hours, low pay, and difficult working conditions of say twenty years ago
that it tolerated and condoned. But there ought to have been a happy
medium between those conditions and the ones of to-day. It should not have
been so very difficult after all to figure out a fair compensation and
fair hours and keep a reasonable amount of affection and loyalty in the
heart and mind of the employee for the property that he serves. Without
these perfectly human qualities working for it within its personnel no
railroad, limited as we have just seen by overwhelmingly difficult
conditions of superintendency and inspection, can operate at anything
like efficiency. It suffers and suffers greatly. And its patrons suffer in
consequence.

For here again, Blinks and Jinks, does the railroad business differ from
yours. If you cannot inspire your workers to affection and loyalty, and
through these to efficiency, you fail. Your factory or your store closes.
But the community that you served may not suffer greatly--not for any
length of time. It readjusts itself; it buys its cotton at another mill,
its dress-shirts at the store across the street.

But if your railroad should shut down, unless it should happen to be a
sort of fifth wheel in an unusually competitive territory, the whole
community would suffer tremendously, immediately and permanently, while
any perceptible lowering of the quality of its railroad service brings
instant trouble and discomfort to it. When, as a war measure, the old-time
station-agent, reared in loyalty and tradition to render a real service to
his public, became even for a time the government bureaucrat, the
traveling public quickly realized the difference. And no other one thing
perhaps has done more to render the phrase "government railroad" more
obnoxious to the average American to-day than the conduct toward them of
many railroad employees during the twenty-six months of Federal control.
That the men in control of the Railroad Administration took steps,
well-planned but fairly impotent, to bring about better politeness and
courtesy among the railroad servants is not to be denied. But the problem
was quite beyond them, the distances between the administration offices at
Washington and the men themselves much too far to be efficiently
traversed. Letters and bulletins urging courtesy were puerile. The
railroad rank and file laughed at them. Why courtesy? They were autocrats.
Did not the first director-general himself proclaim that in the earliest
days of his regency at Pueblo and again at El Paso? After such
proclamation these courtesy bulletins were to be regarded as just so much
waste paper.

Blinks and Jinks both know that in their business courtesy comes through
contact. Blinks in his big retail store knows that courtesy is one of the
invaluable and irreplaceable assets of his business. So he not only
preaches it but inspires it through contact, through knowing his
sales-people as well as the rest of his working force personally, and
through trying to help them work out the many little problems that perplex
their lives. Comparatively few--a mere nothing--of Jinks's employees ever
come in personal contact with his customers. Yet he too has found long
since that courtesy pays dividends, plain dollars-and-cents dividends. And
so he too is preaching it, has well-salaried experts, under the title of
social workers, who give their days toward bettering the lot of his
factory family, with the courtesy idea well in the forefront of their
endeavors. Through personal contact the thing is accomplished, and with it
enthusiasm and efficiency--all together the sort of thing that we have
learned to call morale.

That this morale, the old-fashioned tradition of American railroading, can
be returned to us I do not doubt. It cannot be easily accomplished. It
will require a deal of study, and the exercise of great tact and
diplomacy. It will have to be preceded by an end of union-baiting and of
the more subtle but nevertheless bitter attacks upon government regulatory
bodies. That there will have to be less governmental regulation or else
the private operation of our railroads will collapse, is the handwriting
that already is written upon the wall. That a lessening of such regulation
will of itself bring the best blood of the land once again to American
railroading or a better spirit of loyalty and energy and initiative to the
present personnel, I do not for one minute believe. If that were so, the
solution of our vexing problem would be easy. We simply would have to put
the hands of the clock backward again, return to 1887 or thereabouts, and,
presto! our troubles would be over.

Unfortunately no such quick cure awaits the sick man of American business.
The restoration of his health, putting him soundly upon his feet once
again, requires a great deal of study and of thought. Already I have
hinted at two possible embrocations in this very sore spot of his labor
relationships--the readjustment of wages (it is hardly going to be
possible to lower them far again unless possibly under some adaptation of
the very sane British method which we have just seen) and the beginning of
an organized movement to recruit and direct the best of our young men into
a business which normally should have great fascination for them. There is
another ointment which I have saved for the last.

Coöperation beats regulation. It always has and it always will. Already we
have quoted Vice-President Atterbury of the Pennsylvania as saying that in
the future the employees should have direct representation in the
management of the carriers. That is one of the few 100-per-cent.-right
statements. Carried to the final degree of actuality it would mean
employee representation upon a railroad's directorate. That such a
representation would be a benefit to labor I shall not deny. But I am
thinking of quite another thing, of the vast benefit that it would be to
the railroad itself. There is the real kernel of the nut.

Some day we shall progress to the point where the directorates of our
railroads will be very real directorates indeed, not groups of busy and
harried bankers dropping in once a week for an hour or two for their
twenty-dollar gold-pieces. The farce that such a representation is
necessary to a proper protection of the underwritings will then be
completely exploded. Possibly the most successful single private business
in America, Standard Oil, is to-day operated upon the continuous
directorate principle. Its directors give their entire time to the company
upon whose board they sit. They are paid generous salaries for their
entire time. They are experts in the refining and the selling of oil. And
the board which sits each business day at eleven fritters away no time
whatsoever in listening to the fads and whimsicalities of inexpert
representation.

Some day some one of our railroads may have the vision and the enterprise
to adapt that plan to itself. If so it does it will at one time have
solved many of the most vexatious present-time problems of its operation.
The curse of absentee landlordism will then disappear almost
automatically. And if that railroad has the future vision and enterprise,
and the courage, to place at least one or two genuine labor
representatives upon its board, 99 per cent. of its labor troubles will
also disappear, also automatically. Already it has been suggested that
future railroad legislation insist that such representation be made. I
should hate to see such a step taken, by law. It would be worthless. It
would be merely multiplying the evil of over-regulation from which our
roads already are suffering. But I should dearly love to see the step
taken in the only way it should be taken--from the heart of an American
railroad itself, as a matter of good sentiment, good tradition, good
business sense. Then and then only would it bring its great reward--a
revival of loyalty, energy, ambition--the reincarnation of the spirit of
our fine American railroader of yesterday.



CHAPTER VIII

THE POSSIBILITIES OF ELECTRIFICATION


The immediate needs of our railroads of the United States divide
themselves into three great classes: human, physical, financial. I shall
not assume to say which of these three classes is most vital or most
important. In my own mind I frankly do not know. Already we have dipped
into the human phases. Now for mere convenience in the telling, we shall
give consideration to their physical needs.

Here again there is further division. A railroad in its physical aspect
consists of the track that things run upon and the things that run upon
the track. The track, in the broad sense in which we are now considering
it, consists of far more than two steel rails set upon wooden ties or
sleepers which, in turn, are set in a graded roadway. It means bridges,
tunnels, switches, signals, terminal and intermediate stations, buildings,
passenger and freight-houses, engine-houses, shops, and all the rest of
it. And upon track, in this and every other sense the things that run, are
to be translated as locomotives, of a variety of forms, and cars, of an
infinite number.

And because cars are, as a rule, quite helpless without locomotives to
push or to pull them here and there, let us begin with the locomotive. For
the moment, we are going to pass by the steam locomotive, and the large
possibilities of its development far beyond the present point, and come
direct to the form of tractive power which has at least the most popular
appeal to the modern imagination--electricity.

The use of electricity as a motive-power upon this country's so-called
standard railroads (the electrical engineers like to call these heavy
traction railroads) is no novelty. It began nearly thirty years ago when
the Baltimore and Ohio railroad completed the electrification of its then
new tunnels under the City of Baltimore. The move was made primarily to
remove offensive smoke conditions, particularly in the main tunnel
connecting Mount Royal and Camden stations, nearly two miles apart. In
fact to-day trains going from Mount Royal toward Camden, a steady
down-grade, are operated without the trouble of attaching electric
locomotives to them; it is an easy gravity run for the two miles. For the
up-trip the electric locomotive is attached at Camden Station in front of
the through steam locomotive of the train and finally detached about two
miles east of Mount Royal, by the simple process of running ahead and upon
a facing-point switch--an adaptation of the old-time "flying switch."

The obvious success of this early installation slowly led to its imitation
elsewhere among the railroads of the land--a third-rail suburban plan on
the New Haven from Bristol through New Britain to Hartford, Connecticut,
and a branch of the same system down to Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts.
Yet the process was slow indeed. Your typical railroader is particularly
averse to novelties. It was not until about fifteen years ago that
electric installation of any considerable size came into being: the large
suburban services that were created by the New York Central, the New
Haven, and the Pennsylvania, coincident with the similar suburban services
in Oakland, California, and in Portland, Oregon, and in some of the longer
tunnels of the land; the Hoosac tunnel of the old Fitchburg, the tunnel of
the Michigan Central under the Detroit River, and that of the Great
Northern through the Cascades in Washington being notable instances of
this last sort of installation. After these came the large installations
of the Norfolk and Western through the Alleghanies and of the Chicago,
Milwaukee, and St. Paul--of which much more in a moment. And after this a
great hiatus, the huge rise in material and construction costs of every
sort, the war, and the present paralysis of our railroad development.

Recently there has come a demand, from the laity of the railroad world at
least, that there be a revival of progress in this extension of electrical
power upon our standard railroads. McAdoo sensed this well before he left
his high office and said that at least one-fifth of the railroad mileage
should be operated electrically at the earliest possible opportunity. And
more recently there has come a larger realization to the land of its
wholesale waste in potential water-power, as well as a gradual closing and
increasing expense of its coal-supply.

The big builders and designers of our steam locomotives have not been
asleep to this movement. They have met it in very recent years by a real
improvement in the quality of that machine. For many years the steam
locomotive grew in quantity--in mere size and bulk, if you please--rather
than in quality. Once again we were captivated by the use of the word
"big." When we read not many years ago of the coming of the first 200-ton
locomotive we drew in our breath a little. Four hundred thousand pounds!
And without its great load of coal and water at that. What a monster!
Here, indeed, was Frankenstein. But what old Frank could do in smashing
down bridges and rail levels we wotted not of. Yet what was the 200-ton
locomotive compared with the 300-ton and the 400-ton monsters that the
Santa Fé and the Delaware and Hudson began installing about a dozen years
ago? It seemed as if no limit could be reached.

Yet the fact that a size limit could be reached and apparently was
reached, was still no sign that the limits of steam locomotive efficiency
had even been approached. Because the methods by which these limits may be
extended, apparently almost indefinitely, are so complex and withal so
fascinating, I am taking them up in a separate chapter of this book. This
chapter and the one that follows it are the record of the achievements and
the possibilities of the electric locomotive, whether as a separate unit
or merely as a compact bundle of energy stowed away in the trucks of a
passenger or freight-car. That locomotive shall receive our first
consideration.

Now despite all the improvements that we shall see have been made upon
him, the American steam locomotive of to-day seemingly remains a laggard.
In the days when his fuel was both plentiful and comparatively cheap one
might merely say that he was extravagant and let it go at that. But now
when coal if not scarcer is far more expensive his extravagance has become
totally unwarranted.

In 1918, the most recent year for which the figures are available, our
steam locomotive consumed 163,000,000 tons of coal in addition to
45,700,000 barrels of oil. Reducing these last to their coal equivalent,
we have a total fuel consumption expressed in terms of coal of
176,000,000. And when we measure that consumption alongside the freight
carried--1918 was one of the record years of our American railroads--it
will be seen that for every thousand tons of freight that they moved one
mile they burned 290 pounds of coal. Through any modern steam-generating
electric station--the figures taken from the modern power-houses of the
few steam railroads that already have been progressive enough to install
electric motive-power--an even hundred pounds of coal may easily move more
than 1600 tons of freight one mile--in the accurate phrasing of the
railroaders themselves, 1600 ton-miles.

In other words the same freight traffic moved by electricity through steam
power houses would have required but a little over fifty million tons of
coal. From 120,000,000 to 130,000,000 tons of coal would have been
saved--a saving roughly expressed in money at between three-quarters of a
billion and a billion dollars, which of itself would be a 4 or 5 per cent.
dividend upon the total capitalization of our American railroads.

In the saving that we have just shown we have presupposed an absolutely
universal substitution of electric for steam power all the way across the
land. This however is not practical to-day; nor is it likely to be
practical in any day to come, for every mile of our 275,000 miles of
American railroad system. On the other hand this huge estimate of national
saving is based entirely upon the coal-consumption basis. The most
impressive savings that you shall see before you are finished with this
chapter are those accomplished by our lines which have bended water-power,
hitherto wasted, to the movement of their trains. I have stood upon the
brink of Niagara Falls and there seen train after train arrive and depart,
each hauled by a steam locomotive. And all the while I knew that the force
and power of that mighty cataract was lighting the homes and driving the
street-cars of Toronto and of Syracuse--by land, respectively one hundred
and 150 miles distant. What a travesty upon efficiency!

For the moment however we are seeing the question, not in fine, but in
large. It is terribly large, terribly wasteful, if you please. For not
only is our steam locomotive a laggard in his over-greed for food but he
is lazy into the bargain. A fearful proportion of his time he spends in
resting or in being refitted for his work. For each hour that he spends
out upon the line he spends another hour in the roundhouse--and this of
course quite outside of the yearly visit to the shops for complete
overhauling and repair. The traffic of Fifth Avenue, New York, or Michigan
Avenue, Chicago, would never move if motor-cars were permitted to park
alongside their busy curbs. One reason why the traffic upon our railroads
has not moved better in times of stress is because there has been too much
parking both of locomotives and of cars, particularly of the first.

An Eastern trunk-line railroad which a dozen years ago was having a
fearful time moving its freight brought in a consulting engineer for an
opinion as to the increase of its facilities. Like most engineers the
outside expert saw the problem as a field-day possibility for contracting
concerns--and engineers. A new classification-yard here, great additions
and rearrangements to others there, at other places a long stretch of
additional main-line trackage--the trick might be done anywhere from sixty
to one hundred millions of dollars there in yester-year.

These figures staggered the president of the road. He was not satisfied
and so turned again for outside consultation, this time with the
hard-headed general manager of a Western line.

"Tell me what you can make of it?" he asked.

The Westerner took a hurried trip over the line and had his report ready
within sixty minutes thereafter; it was short, concise, verbal.

"Give me a couple of million dollars' worth of more locomotives and in a
week I'll have your problem solved. You don't want more yards, to be
clogged up in turn. You want yard shortage--and line movement. If you have
a sufficiency of motive-power you won't need many yards, not as many as
you have to-day. Your stuff will keep moving, not hanging around on
side-tracks."

       *       *       *       *       *

The problem of that Eastern road of a dozen years ago is to-day that of
virtually every trunk-line of the Northeast. Remember, if you will, that
for more than a decade there has been no main line trackage laid down east
of Pittsburg or Cleveland. Previous to that time a considerable amount of
relief work had been done by a half-dozen or so of the larger roads in
that territory. But the relief that these changes gave has long since been
swallowed up until to-day it is hardly apparent. And the steadily growing
traffic demands fresh relief.

How it can be given is not as easy a problem to the big engineers. The
Pennsylvania can and has planned still more low-grade relief-lines across
and through the Alleghany Mountains, but Pittsburg still remains its
bottle-neck--in there between the high hills and all but defying the
railroad engineers. The New York Central needs more main-line trackage,
but far more does it need relief of its own bottle-necks--at Albany and
again at Buffalo. It is the problem of the cities that counts--not merely
Albany or Buffalo or Pittsburg, but New York and Boston and Philadelphia
and Baltimore and Cleveland and Cincinnati and St. Louis and Chicago.
There is no use in laying down additional main tracks when the terminals
in the hearts of these great cities are so sadly congested as to take a
freight-car as long to move through a single one of them as from three
hundred to five hundred miles on open line.

The smooth and shiny steel rails that slip through each of these congested
traffic-hubs are their Fifth Avenues and their Michigan Avenues too. We do
not permit the gasolene locomotive to park and obstruct these highways of
asphaltum. But the laggard steam locomotive is permitted to loaf in great
roundhouses along the steel highway. He is to-day not merely a laggard but
an actual obstructionist. I hinted but a moment ago at the time he must
spend between runs resting and being more or less overhauled--fires
cleaned, machinery overhauled, flues calked and the like, twelve hours out
of each twenty-four. Moreover he requires water each seventy-five miles
and a fresh supply of coal each 150.

On the other hand, take the electric locomotive. Not only does he save
weight by carrying no coal or water and so put that weight into motive
machinery--his strength to-day is 7000 horse-power as against but about
3000 of our largest steam locomotives--but he actually goes 5000 miles
without having to receive the inspection attention that his old-fashioned
steam brother apparently has to have at the end of 150. Which means that
for days at a time--and even a week or a fortnight, if the necessity
arises--he can remain in steady service, going from one train to another,
and only changing crews. The locomotive is always ready.

And what is true in this comparison of the "front shop" light repairs and
overhauling, which the steam locomotive must undergo at the end of each
division, is still more true of that fortnight in the "back shop"--the
heavier repairs and more thorough overhauling that it must have each
twelvemonth, if it is to be kept in anything like a decent condition of
efficiency. The steam locomotive must go to the "back shop" at the end of
75,000 miles. Barring accidents the electric locomotive need never go
there. Its only ordinary repairs are the removing of worn bearings or the
occasional rewinding of an armature, which can be easily accomplished in
any small shop of a division-point. The elaborate plants of roundhouses,
coal and water stations, turntables, cinder-pits, and sizable shops
required every hundred or hundred and fifty miles along the lines of a
steam railroad disappear, while with the facility of the electric
locomotive for long-continued running the division-points themselves may
well disappear.

The New York Central railroad in its 440 miles between New York and
Buffalo, using steam locomotives for 410 miles of this distance, for many
years made three engine-changes upon the one-way run; recently it has done
somewhat better than this. The Erie and the Lackawanna between these same
cities make the same number of engine-changes. So do the Baltimore and
Ohio and the Pennsylvania between New York and Pittsburg, only a slightly
longer distance. This is standard steam railroad practice. It is only
recently being changed. If these lines used electric locomotives the
engines could easily make this entire stretch--with a possible change or
two of engine-crews but not of locomotives--and at a vast saving of time,
trouble, and money.

These statements are not made idly. This particular one is made upon the
authority of the president of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul
railway, which has successfully undertaken the longest and most scientific
electrification yet introduced in the United States. His name is H. E.
Byram, and the main line of his road is to-day completely equipped for
electric operation for 649 miles--from Harlowton, Montana, to Avery,
Idaho, 438 miles (or about the same mileage as the New York Central's
between New York and Buffalo or the Pennsylvania's between New York and
Pittsburg) and again from Othello to Tacoma, Washington, 211 miles.

"We regularly run our electric locomotive the entire 438 miles between
Harlowton and Avery on the same passenger-train," says Mr. Byram, "and if
the track were electrified for that distance could just as well run it
four thousand miles. In fact, counting in attendance, wear and tear, shop
capacity, and the like, we figure that one of our electric locomotives is
equal to three of the heaviest steam type."

The forty-five electric locomotives now in service on the Harlowton-Avery
section--the first to be installed--actually have replaced the 120 steam
locomotives that formerly were needed for it. The power for this section,
crossing the high ranges of the Rockies, as well as for the newer section
further to the west, which crosses the Cascades, is supplied entirely by
water. The fuel saving in 650 miles of just an ordinary busy
single-tracked main-line railroad in a twelvemonth--259,000 tons of coal
and 31,700,000 gallons of fuel-oil, according to its careful estimates for
a single typical year--is considerable. When you come to project these to
the busy double-tracked and triple-tracked and four-tracked railroads of
our Eastern territory you begin to have the great savings which I outlined
toward the beginning of this chapter. And these were only predicated upon
the use of coal in the power-houses which becomes quite naturally part and
parcel of any scheme of electrification.

Consider the Milwaukee's important experiment in somewhat greater detail.
It has been loath to give out exact figures as to its savings in dollars
and cents by its electric installation until a number of years of
operation should determine these beyond a point of quibbling or of
argument. Some of its economies are quite obvious however. I am not going
into the remarkable system of "regenerative braking" under which in the
course of a year some 60 per cent. of the current taken from the overhead
trolley-wire by the road's electric locomotives is returned to that thread
of copper by the seemingly simple expedient of turning the locomotive's
motor into a dynamo momentarily and so utilizing the ancient force of
gravity upon a descending mountain grade as to actually turn out electric
current and return it to the unseen treasury through that connecting
medium of a copper wire. It is enough to say that a 60 per cent. return of
current is an appreciable amount. If you do not believe this, ask the
next trolleyman that you meet what it would mean to his road if 60 per
cent. of the coal which his power-houses have reduced to ashes could be
returned to good coal again--and an infinite saving made upon brake-shoes
into the bargain.

These things have been told. But there has not been told publicly before
this time a comparison of operating costs between the Missoula
division--half of the Harlowton-Avery electrified section of the
Milwaukee--and an adjacent mountain division which in 1918 and 1919 was
not electrified, and which moreover is not subjected to the extremely hard
winters of the Missoula range. The cost of locomotive repairs for 1918 and
1919 on this steam division was two and one-third times as great as upon
the electric, owing in no small degree to the fact that the electric
locomotive handles heavier trains and at higher speed than the steam, yet,
notwithstanding this increased capacity, has a much lower maintenance cost
per mile run. The cost of train crews was nearly two and one-half times
greater on the steam division than upon the electric--this also because of
the greater train tonnage and speed under electric operation. The expense
for enginemen for similar reasons was 55 to 60 per cent. greater on the
steam operation.

It is easy enough to talk in generalities, much harder sometimes to come
to the brass tacks of a situation. It is a sort of brass tack, isn't it,
when on this steam division of the Milwaukee, the engine-house expense was
two and one-half times greater than upon the electric--and for reasons
that we have already seen? We do not need the exact dollars and cents of
saving, when these comparisons are placed before us.

Neither do we need exact dollars and cents when we come east to the
important electrification of the coal-carrying Norfolk and Western through
the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia--a tremendously busy thirty-mile
stretch of line over which there constantly moves a vast tonnage of
bituminous coal. Conditions here are considerably different from those
upon the Milwaukee yet the results that are being attained are largely the
same. Upon the N. & W. huge trains of one-hundred-ton steel cars (3250
tons to the train), which formerly required three big steam Mallets, are
now being hauled by two articulated electric locomotives, and at twice the
speed. Focus your attention upon this last statement and then remember
what we were saying about the necessity of keeping the motor-cars moving
constantly and uniformly through the busiest streets of our metropolitan
cities. It is not any more necessary to the understanding of the real
economics of railroad electrification to know that the Norfolk and Western
has made twelve double electric locomotives do the work of thirty-three
steam Mallets than it is to know that those great mountain-climbing trains
are moving at the rate of fourteen miles an hour instead of but seven as
formerly. Here is speed; but speed expressed in a double dimension--speed
compounded if you choose to put it that way.

While there also arises the interesting further proposition that in any
railroad of high traffic density it is intensely important that its trains
be kept moving at a uniform speed. In other days the freight movement at
seven miles an hour through the thirty-mile heavy grade mountain section
of the Norfolk and Western tended to "drag the line" and hold back the
trains behind it, despite the fact that upon these more level sections
their steam power could easily draw them at fourteen miles an hour. But
never without a free clearance. That thirty-mile summit section was indeed
a clog to the efficient operation of the line. Electricity removed the
clog. And, quite incidentally, the soft-coal smoke in a very dirty tunnel
through the crest of the Blue Ridge.

Take such speed, such even traffic flow, and apply it to our overburdened
trunk-lines of the Northeast; to make the most definite instance and the
greatest necessity. Suppose that no more main-line tracks need be laid
upon the railroads east from Chicago and St. Louis, north from Washington
and Cincinnati, no more expensive notchings in the mountains that hem in
Pittsburg or fresh expenditures in Buffalo, if but a far quickened
movement of freight can be obtained over existing rails. Here then is a
double economy effected not alone in the use of fuel (still leaving the
water-power solution in abeyance) but in a greatly bettered use of
existing terminals and trackage. If our railroads can save three quarters
of a billion dollars a year by burning their coal and oil in central
power-stations instead of in locomotive fire-boxes, it may be fair to say
that the terminal economies that might be effected by increasing the
existing facilities from 40 to 50 per cent. without physical enlargement
would equal the first saving. When the shoe begins to pinch there is many
and many a way of relieving the foot.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are railroaders, and shrewd railroaders too, who will not chime in
rapidly. Here is one of them--in the Far West, a mighty operating
executive schooled years ago by one of the half-dozen of the real captains
of the industry. He feels the need of great relief to the traffic pressure
upon his own great system--the greater need of a smoother movement of the
traffic upon its rails.

"The game," he says, "is simplicity itself. It is to take the friction out
of the pipe and at the same time increase the pressure."

Which in his case means a combination of more freight-cars--or better
loading of the existing equipment--and more second or double tracks across
the long reaches of the West. Yet when I suggest electrification as a
method for the removal of pipe friction, he shakes his head sadly.

"My old chief," he begins, his loyalty showing in his very phrasing, "once
thought as you now think. He was anxious to install electric motive-power
upon the stiff grades of our mountain division. He had reports made upon
the possibility of the thing from three separate sources, the two big
electrical equipment companies and our own fairly expert corp of
engineers. There was little variance between the reports of these
different interests. Almost uniformly they figured the cost of the job at
a little more than ten million dollars, or at that time about $550,000
annual interest. A fuel bill on the volume of traffic that we then had of
about $300,000 would be saved. That sort of saving did not appeal to me. I
told the chief so."

I asked this big railroader how about that mountain division of his
to-day, with its traffic greatly increased and its fuel bill more than
doubled. He replied by saying that not only had the cost of electrical
equipment--locomotives, dynamos, copper wire, all the rest of it--doubled
or more than doubled, but the interest cost of getting money has increased
all the way from 25 to 33 per cent. And so the wide margin of more than a
decade ago has not narrowed perceptibly.

I have introduced this point here because it is most fair and most
germane. Unquestionably that paper saving of all the way from a billion
and a half to two billion dollars a year that we have just seen would be
greatly cut down by the increase in the cost of electrical equipment and
of the interest on the money that would go to buy it, but to-day the
margin upon the electrification side of the argument is growing wider day
by day, while as we go east and the congestion problem upon our railroads
increases the margin in favor of electrical operation also increases.
Granted that the costs of electrification are indeed vast, with dynamo
units running all the way from one million to five million dollars, with
locomotives at $175,000 and upwards apiece, all the other accessories in
proportion, the game _is_ indeed worth the candle.

Nor is it always necessary to buy locomotives at the rate of four or even
five for a million dollars, with interest rates at 8 per cent. or
thereabouts, when a railroad can borrow at all. There is many and many a
short cut toward electrification. Take New England, for instance.

Up in that extreme northeastern corner of this land, as we have seen
already at some length, the railroad shoe already has begun to pinch very
hard indeed. With a few exceptions the railroads there are bankrupt, or
virtually so. And yet their economic need and opportunity in electrical
installation was never greater than it is at this very moment. If you
don't believe this bald statement, imagine yourself the president of that
formerly prosperous little railroad down in Maine and your
purchasing-agent coming in and telling you that he just paid twenty-seven
dollars a ton for tender coal for your locomotives--with Maine richer in
undeveloped water-power than almost any other State in the Union!

New England needs electrification of her steam railroads, and needs it at
once. It is no new story to her. She began her experimentation with this
sort of development more than two decades ago, when the New Haven laid
that third rail alongside its busy Bristol-New Britain-Hartford line and
installed a frequent electric suburban service. It was a beginning; a
beginning that led slowly but surely to overhead wire installations upon
several other branch lines of the New Haven system and eventually to the
elaborate work in connection with the New York Central's electrification
of the Grand Central Station in New York. This last embraced the entire
main line from Forty-second Street through to New Haven. It now ends
there. And when you talk electrification to one of the high officers of
the road he will point to this particularly elaborate installation and
say:

"Not on your life. We had your vision fifteen years ago, and we put in
this pretty job. Where did it get us? Into debt. It is one of the finest
installations in the world, and one of the most expensive. While the
increased capacity of the Grand Central Station from the operation of a
two-level plan--a scheme utterly impossible under the use of steam as a
motive-power--undoubtedly justified the expenditure, the fact remains
that, considered independently, our electric zone to-day does not return
interest on its investment. Of two locomotives of equal capacity, the
steam one will cost $45,000, the electric $150,000. In addition to all of
this investment in overhead there is also the cost of its maintenance, and
that is not small. Wire-trains for immediate repairs as well as for
maintenance must be in readiness day and night with a variety of expert,
and expensive, workers. It all costs."

I know that it costs, Mr. New Haven. But I also know that it takes but one
half the amount of coal to pull a train with an electric locomotive as
compared with a steam locomotive of the same capacity. Remember that the
steam locomotive's voracious appetite for coal apparently is unceasing. He
may stand idle and upon sidings for half or a third of a working day, yet
the fireman's task at the fire-box door is steady. While if that fireman
be lacking in every-day efficiency, the coal waste is increased, not
lessened. The president of a large Eastern railroad has estimated that
even a little better handling of the coal-shovels by his firemen would
save the road 500,000 tons of coal annually. For even if coal must drive a
railroad, if that railroad is driven from a central power-station there is
almost no inefficiency in firing there; the central station operates on
hourly coal-record sheets and waste is quickly detected.

I have not had in mind, however, for immediate use in New England the sort
of elaborate installation which the New Haven has upon the western end of
its main stem. What I meant for that road, as well as for sections of
other lines up there, was the same sort of comparatively simple electric
construction that the New Haven itself has operated for years on some of
its isolated suburban lines in Connecticut and Massachusetts. I mean,
instead of heavy steel passenger-coaches of main-line standards of size
and weight and propelled by expensive electric locomotives, electric
motor-cars of comparatively small size and weight, self-propelled and
self-contained and operated in trains of from one to twelve cars in
accordance with the immediate necessities of the traffic at hand. The New
Haven's field south of Boston, where its suburban service is at its very
worst to-day, is particularly ripe for installation of that sort. There
the once competitive interurban tradition has come to its final slough of
despond.

The traction systems throughout all New England have not been immune from
the difficulties that have beset their brethren in other sections of the
land. In fact I should not hesitate to say that their troubles have been
greater rather than less than their brethren's. More traction mileage has
probably been abandoned in New England than in any other distinctive
single locality. From Plymouth to Sagamore, Massachusetts, there stretch
twenty miles of track and trolley-wire which, like the Hampden railroad
(once built by one Charles S. Mellen for a dozen miles east of
Springfield), never has been used and probably never will be. Two years
ago the Bay State's lines in and around Gloucester and the Cape Ann
district were all abandoned, while the Connecticut Co. (a New Haven
property) constantly threatened to do the same thing in some of its larger
cities if jitney competition were not withdrawn. A prompt compliance by
the local authorities with this mandate saved these towns their trolley
service, temporarily at least. It is a grave question whether fifteen
years hence we shall have any trolley service in most of our American
towns of less than 100,000 population. But the most important abandonment
of long-distance trolley service which has come to my attention has been
that of the Shore Line Electric, along the north shore of Long Island
Sound, for sixty miles between New Haven and New London.

There have been serious deletions in the passenger transportation machine
of New England. The causes that have led to them are many and too involved
to be discussed here. The main fact is that virtually none of this trolley
mileage, outside of the city systems, is ever likely to come back into use
again. A good deal of it should not have been built but, having been
built, has become both a convenience and a necessity to the territory
which it served and its abandonment a distinct social and commercial blow
to that territory.

It so happens too that there is a vast amount of surplus mileage in the
form of branch lines and even of some of the secondary main lines upon the
steam railroads of New England. And some of this in turn became
unprofitable only when it was paralleled by a trolley-line, which quickly
changed the situation from one wherein a territory sustained a single
thriftily operated line to one where two hotly competing lines could
hardly fail both to lose. Now the opportunity is beginning to show itself
for a change toward old conditions.

It ought to be and is possible for the New Haven, the Boston and Maine,
and some of the other railroads of New England to transform some of their
secondary lines into inexpensive combined freight and passenger roads,
using steam, if need be, for their freight service and electricity for
their passenger.

What I meant for the New Haven, as well as the other New England roads,
was the same sort of simple installation that was operated for many years,
and apparently operated successfully, on some of the suburban lines east
of Hartford, between Middletown and Berlin Junction, Connecticut, between
Providence, Warren, and Fall River, and in the summer months out to
Nantasket Beach beyond Boston. I meant cars of comparatively small size
and weight and self-propelled, depending upon no locomotive whatever. This
field south of Boston, where the New Haven's suburban service is at its
very worst, is ripe for installation of that sort, through as far as
Plymouth at least, and possibly to New Bedford, Newport, and Providence as
well.

To the Boston and Maine the zone of suburban lines of the one-time Eastern
railroad from North Station out to Salem, Gloucester, and up to
Newburyport and Portsmouth offers similar immediate opportunity. Here are
lines on which a minimum of through traffic is being routed to-day and
most of that could, if necessary, be taken off and placed on the more
direct main lines of the original Boston and Maine, just to the west, and
leading direct through to Portland and the north. They thread the
territory where the interurban lines are dying most rapidly and being
totally abandoned, and where a great public inconvenience is arising as a
result.

A further result, and one not to be underestimated, would be the vast
saving in the capacity of the North Station, just as the New Haven and the
Boston and Albany can make a similar vast saving in South Station. A
regular interval service, increased during rush-hours, of multiple-unit
cars means no switching service whatsoever. An incoming train discharges
its passengers upon one side and receives others for the outgoing run on
the other side, while it stands upon a single pair of rails and without an
unnecessary movement of any sort, which means, in effect, the virtual
doubling of a station's capacity.

The New England lines are this very day short--wofully short--of steam
locomotives. Yet the immediate installation of electric overhead wires
upon some of their congested branches would within a short space of time
release dozens of locomotives which, if not efficient for the movement of
long or heavy freights, could move shorter ones; after which could come
the heavier installations.

"All right say for Berkshire County, Massachusetts," you interrupt, "but
how about the southeastern corner of New England? Haven't the rivers down
there in Rhode Island all the load they can carry?"

Granted. I indulge in no such wild day-dreams as that of all the railroad
trackage of southern New England being operated by water-generated
electric power. There is a better plan in view. Before me lies the rough
prospectus of the super-power plan of the Northeast Atlantic seaboard, for
the surveys of which Congress has already made generous appropriations. In
a word this plan provides that in a great congested industrial area
consisting of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, southeastern New
York, eastern Pennsylvania, and portions of New Jersey and of Maryland a
present consumption of 17,000,000 horse-power--divided into 10,000,000 for
industrial purposes and 7,000,000 for railroad--shall be fully met by the
consolidation and connection, through high-voltage transmission lines, of
existing steam-electric stations as well as by the establishment of
central power-plants at the mine-heads of Pennsylvania and West Virginia,
these last with a capacity of but 5,500,000 horse-power and yet helping to
meet the present need for 17,000,000.

These are but the coal sources of electrical energy; and I have just
stressed the importance of the steadily decreasing coal supply and a
consequent steady increase in the price of coal itself. Even the vast and
sweeping economies to be gained by the consolidation of steam
power-stations as well as by the burning of coal at the mine-head are
almost as nothing compared with those to be gained by a scientific
grouping and use of the available and little used water-powers of the
territory. It is upon this very phase of the situation that the
super-power plan gains its greatest value. Do you recall how but a moment
ago we saw that the operating economies of the Milwaukee out in the Rocky
Mountains were based largely upon the use of water-power rather than upon
the consumption of coal in its electric power-houses?

The hydro-electric resources of the super-power territory that have not
been developed to their full capacity, if at all, comprise power-sites in
the Adirondacks; along the Hudson, the Raquette, and the Black rivers;
along the upper reaches of the Delaware and the lower ones of the
Susquehanna and last--and greatest--that of the St. Lawrence River itself,
taken just below Ogdensburg, New York. This last part of the project ties
up very closely with the St. Lawrence Ship Canal project, an international
scheme in which the United States and Canada shall share the cost and the
benefits, both in power and in enlarged water traffic possibilities. It is
estimated that more than 1,400,000 horse-power can be generated in this
plan, of which one-half would be available for the use of this country. At
present the whole St. Lawrence River canal scheme is under bitter
political attack, which renders it unlikely that it will come quickly into
effect. That it will not come eventually is hard to believe.

When all is said and done, however, this super-power plan, so sweeping as
to be all but staggering to the imagination, and yet sponsored by the
shrewdest and most far-seeing of American engineers, is based primarily
upon the consumption of coal at the mines rather than in distant factory
engine-rooms, central power-stations, or locomotive boilers. It is
estimated that it can be operated at a saving of at least 30,000,000 tons
of coal each year to the industries and railroads of the district which it
embraces, or, at a modest average of eight dollars a ton of coal,
$240,000,000 a year to commercial America. Shimmery copper wires will
carry silently and continuously what will amount to at least one half of
the coal tonnage not carried by the railroads for power and lighting
purposes. A copper wire knows neither snow, blockade, nor traffic
congestion. And railroad experts estimate the super-power plan as a saving
of another $150,000,000 annually in coal freights. A total of more than a
million dollars a day saved in just one corner of American industry is not
to be sneezed at, even in these days when we talk so easily and carelessly
in billions.

In this great single super-economy the railroads of eastern New York,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, southern New England, and northern New Jersey may
easily share. In fact it is definitely planned that they shall share in
it. The list of feasible users of this concentrated power includes the
Fitchburg division of the Boston and Maine, all the way from Boston to
Rotterdam Junction, New York (oddly enough the western half of this
division, from Greenfield to Rotterdam, through the Hoosac tunnel, 104
miles, has for some time since been marked for electrification by the
road's own engineers); the connecting Delaware and Hudson from
Mechanicsville, New York, to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; the New York, New
Haven, and Hartford from the present terminal of the electric zone at New
Haven through to Boston, both by the Shore line and the Springfield line
(this predicates of course the electrical operation of the Boston and
Albany all the way east of Springfield--and why not west of that point
also is not easily discovered); the main line of the Erie, from Jersey
City to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania; the Lackawanna, from Hoboken to Elmira;
the Lehigh Valley from New York to Wilkes-Barre; the Central Railroad of
New Jersey-Reading-Baltimore and Ohio group to Washington, to Hagerstown,
Maryland, and to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania, from New York
to a point just beyond Harrisburg--all of these main lines and a host of
their branches. Such is the railroad portion of this embracing scheme. The
only important road in its territory that is omitted from the electric
program is the New York Central, which has such low grades and hence such
economical use of power that the economy of electricity is least necessary
to it. If ever it should desire to coöperate in the plan, it probably can
gain the power for its main line--west of Albany, at least--from Niagara
Falls, and for its network of busy lines in northern New York from the
abundant water-powers of the Adirondack preserve or the huge St. Lawrence
River international power project.

This all seems most logical. In the case of New England it so happens that
the super-power plan--which is now seemingly certain of eventual
execution--embraces just that section of the territory where there is the
least surplus of water-power. The rough, wild rivers of the north of
Maine, of New Hampshire, and of Vermont can and yet will operate almost
all of the mileage of the railroads of those States; the distant mines in
the Pennsylvania and the West Virginia hills will run the lines in the
rest of New England. Power--power to move railroads--will cease to move
across the most congested strip of North Atlantic seaboard in noisy and
overcrowded and inefficient car-loads of coal. Power will come on the
copper wire and will move the silent trains around Boston, New York, and
Philadelphia--and many of them--some of them with big and efficient
locomotives and others by sturdy small individual motors set within the
car-trucks. The steam locomotive in this northeastern territory is nearly
doomed. I think that eventually it will be doomed everywhere within the
United States (our disappearing coal supply will be the chief factor in
this), but first and foremost of all in the great congested areas which,
having no coal of their own, live in constant and deadly fear that an
overworked and overgrown railroad structure may yet fail to bring to them
all that they need for their imminent necessities.

That such a step will bring eventual economies, vast economies, one can
have no doubt. The New Haven for the nonce may be failing to make a profit
on its elaborately electrified main line between New York and New Haven,
to the power-station of which it must haul coal a long way and over
congested rail routes. But with that unseen power stretched further and
further upon its lines I have no doubt that adequate transportation
service, freight and passenger, can again be given to the communities
which it serves. What is true of the New Haven is equally true of the
Albany, the Boston and Maine, and the other railroads of the New England
area--after all, railroads of real inherent strength despite the great
abuses which they have suffered. And what is true of all these railroads
of New England is of course true of the railroads elsewhere within the
nation, and true even if the economy be but the one of coal or oil
consumption in a central power-station; far more true of course if
water-developed electricity be found available. For notwithstanding the
great developments of our water-powers that have been made in the last
fifteen or twenty years, the experts of the geological survey down at
Washington say that the undeveloped water-power of the United States is
still approximately 54,000,000 horse-power. Much of this is of course in
the West and the Far West where there is as yet but little traffic
congestion upon the railroads. In such cases the gasolene-unit cars are
ofttimes the best solution of the problem of the local passenger service.

There are instances too in the Northeast where single units are still the
best solution of this most perplexing transport problem. And in the
Northeast there is a considerable proportion of undeveloped water-power
still remaining. But whether this be drawn upon chiefly, or the coal at
the mine-head, the engineers of the super-power zone plan eventually will
decide; the fact remains that here in a strip beginning at Washington and
ending at Portland, Maine, and stretching from one hundred to one hundred
and fifty miles inland, is the scene of our greatest railroad congestion,
and the scene where in any traffic crisis the possibility of breakdown
becomes most imminent. Yet across this strip and through it the laggard
steam locomotive still continues to draw long trains of coal--with 20 per
cent. of it destined for his fire-box and the fire-boxes of his fellows.
And this in an era which we have been pleased to call the age of
electricity!

No matter from what angle one may view them, the possibilities of a far
wider extension of electric motive-power on our railroads are fascinating
indeed. Nor are they in this day and age to be regarded as particularly
radical or revolutionary, or new and untried. Remember all the while, if
you will, that the first important electrification of a section of
standard steam railroad in this country--the Mount Royal tunnel section of
the Baltimore and Ohio railroad through the heart of Baltimore--was nearly
thirty years ago. Since that day a good many other like experiments, large
and small, have followed in its wake. Other lands have both followed and
preceded us. These other lands are not asleep to-day. Despite the terribly
crippled condition of Europe to-day, elaborate plans are being made over
there--particularly in France, in Switzerland, and in Great Britain, and
even in Spain and in Italy. The British plans are still quite vague. The
French are more definite. It is now planned to electrify at least 6000
miles of the 26,500 miles of French railway; a single system, the
Paris-Orleans, has made definite preparations for bringing this power,
the most of it water-generated, to more than half of its mileage, about
3250 miles all-told. In Switzerland work is already rapidly under way for
transforming the entire Federal system of railways, approximately 1900
miles, from steam to electric power. It is to be a huge job, the cost of
which is roughly estimated at $200,000,000. Little Switzerland shows great
pluck in even tackling it. But when you ask the managers of their railways
why they are undertaking it they shrug their shoulders and smile and
reply:

"Think of the economies that it will bring us."

Think of the economies it will bring us, us Americans. If a thing is good
for a little republic overseas with but 3300 miles of rail trackage all
told, how much better must it be for the big republic with 265,000 miles
of line? Have the French or the Swiss railroaders more vision than we
Americans have? I should hate to say that, particularly in the face of
such a development as that of the Milwaukee, to say nothing of our great
terminals in New York, in Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Have they more
funds with which to tinker and to experiment? Of course not.

We have the vision. We have the money. We simply need the correlating
force that shall join the two in the immediate relief of our sadly
wobbling railroad situation. Such a force would be big business in the
truest and the finest sense of the word. It would be something more; it
would be statesmanship, railroad statesmanship if you please, railroad
statesmanship of the sort that we stand so sorely in need of to-day.



CHAPTER IX

MORE ABOUT ELECTRIC MOTIVE-POWER


We have the courage. We have the money. And we have the opportunity. And
lest any reader of this book should begin to fancy that I have studied the
problem of the Northeast alone and neglected the equally fascinating ones
of the rest of the land, the many, many places where electric power can
and should be brought to the aid of the heavy-traction railroad, permit me
in turn to direct attention to the possibilities of several typically
congested American communities, in other portions of the land. Yet before
we come to these to tarry a moment in metropolitan New York, where the
largest installation of electric traction for suburban services in the
world has been in use for so many years now that New Yorkers have long
since ceased even to comment upon it. It is now considerably more than a
decade since the huge Grand Central and Pennsylvania terminals were
virtually completed and the steam locomotives absolutely abolished from
their stately apartments. Upon the near-by lines of the four chief
railroads running into these two stations, the New York Central, the New
York, New Haven, and Hartford, the Pennsylvania, and the Long Island,
electric traction for passenger trains has been universally installed for
a radius of about thirty miles outside of the heart of Manhattan Island.
Freight trains of these roads hauled by steam locomotives still penetrate
into New York City, but never into these two passenger terminals; while
the through passenger-trains of these four roads, as well as of the
Baltimore and Ohio and the Lehigh Valley, which use the Pennsylvania
Station, interchange their steam locomotives at the edge of the electric
zone with electric motive-power. The suburban trains are, of course, made
up of multiple-unit cars, like those of the subways or the elevated
railroads, and dispense altogether with locomotives of any sort.

To the terminals of the Erie and the Lackawanna railroads, which are
situated upon the west bank of the Hudson River directly across from the
lower portions of Manhattan Island, the Hudson and Manhattan tubes, built
by the vision and daring of one William G. McAdoo, whom already we have
encountered in these pages, give access. The tubes also reach the old
passenger-station of the Pennsylvania in Jersey City, which is still used
to a moderate extent, and continue west to the main line of the
Pennsylvania at Manhattan Transfer and into the heart of Newark, eight
miles distant. Already they are overcrowded, particularly in rush hours;
and it does not take a very great deal of vision to perceive that
eventually they will have to be extended at least two miles as a subway
under Broad Street, Newark, from the present rather unsatisfactory
terminal at the Military Park, in that city.

The facilities are not good for reaching the trains of the Erie and the
Lackawanna from those of the tubes; particularly is this true in the case
of the ancient Erie terminal, where there is a long and, at times,
overcrowded passageway to be traversed afoot between the platforms of the
two railroads. In the concluding chapters of this book I am to indicate
the regrouping of the railroads that eventually must come about, in one
form or another. I may anticipate by saying that in almost any regrouping
the financially strong Lackawanna will be linked to the financially weak
Erie. Therefore I may be permitted to assume that the lines of these two
systems, with an elaborate network of suburban branches in northeastern
New Jersey, may yet be joined together somewhere just west of the Bergen
tunnels in Hoboken where they now cross at an acute angle. This being
done, the rest is easy. One set of tunnels would be assigned for
east-bound movement, the other for west-bound; which arrangement gives
four tracks in _each_ direction--enough for a really vast passenger
traffic movement. Somewhere close to their eastern portals these tunnels
would be depressed and continued under the Hudson River to Manhattan
Island. Here they would be far apart, perhaps as much as a mile apart.
Between them and running north and south upon Manhattan would be a
connecting tunnel link ten or twelve or fourteen tracks in width and with
long continuous platforms between these tracks. It is easy to surmise that
two or three trains could easily lie back of one another at any one of
these tenuous underground platforms in the Manhattan terminal. This great
sub-service passenger-station would lie somewhere just west of the Seventh
Avenue extension and barely north of Canal Street, in Manhattan. It is a
district that has not gone ahead with the rest of New York. A huge
passenger terminal within it would be of tremendous help in raising its
depressed realty values, while the proximity of the station to the main
trunk of the West Side subway of the Interborough and the extended Canal
Street line of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit would render it wonderfully
accessible to every portion of the incorporated City of New York.

One would hardly have expected the virtually bankrupt Erie to accomplish
much with the electrification of its lines. As a matter of actual fact,
some years ago it accomplished a very successful feat of this sort from
Rochester to Mount Morris, New York, a distance of thirty-four miles. The
enormously wealthy Lackawanna has done absolutely nothing at all. It has
spent money lavishly--and with extreme good sense, as well--in the
improvement of its property, nowhere more so than in the New Jersey
suburban section close to New York. It has raised or lowered its lines, it
has doubled and tripled its main-line trackage, it has built superb
passenger and freight-stations at every corner. But it has not tinkered
with electric motive-power. Very recently it has moved so far as to plan
an electrification of its main line through a mountainous district for
about forty miles east and west of Scranton, Pennsylvania. But apparently
it has made no plans whatever for its New York suburban territory. It is
hardly likely, with the present management of the road, to say nothing of
its interests, direct or indirect, in the large anthracite coal mining
properties in northwestern Pennsylvania, to act in anticipation of the
coming of the super-power plan and its probable compulsory mandates upon
the railroads of its territory.

       *       *       *       *       *

The super-power plan as we have seen also embraces Baltimore. And
Washington, as well. Between these two cities, as well as between
Baltimore and Philadelphia, there are two parallel double-tracked
railroads. One would serve all real needs, with the possible addition of
some stretches of third or even fourth tracks. The other road is quite
superfluous.

Years ago there was but one railroad from Philadelphia to Washington--a
combination of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore and the
Baltimore and Ohio which the Civil War made historic. These two roads
connected at Baltimore. The only track connection between them was through
Light Street in the commercial heart of that city. Trains arriving at
Baltimore on the P. W. & B. had their locomotives detached at Canton
Station at the east side of the city, while their cars were drawn one by
one by horses across the town to Camden Station upon the west side, where
they were reassembled into trains drawn by B. & O. locomotives, and went
scurrying off to Washington, the West, and the South generally.

Such a clumsy arrangement could not last forever. About fifty years ago it
ended in a first-class row between the two chief parties to it. The P. W.
& B. had passed into the hands of the Pennsylvania, which also acquired
control of the Northern Central, leading from Baltimore straight north
through York and Harrisburg and Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to Elmira,
New York, and so on to the south shore of Lake Ontario. The Northern
Central and the P. W. & B. began picking quarrels with the Baltimore &
Ohio, which had some very obdurate habits of its own. Things went from bad
to worse. For a time the trains of the former connecting roads took a keen
delight in missing their connections at Baltimore City (to use the old
name of the town), and it all finally came to pass that the roads ceased
issuing through tickets over each other's rails--a method of reprisal
wherein the traveler paid the bill.

Out of this mêlée there grew a phase of competition which developed
rapidly into the construction of parallel railroads. The Pennsylvania cut
an enormously expensive series of tunnels under Baltimore and built the
Union Station out on Charles Street in the newer portion of the
town--recently superseded by the present station of that name. From that
station it built the Baltimore and Potomac on to its own new terminal in
Washington City (also old-style) where it enjoyed valuable exclusive
connections with the important railroads leading south from the Potomac.
After which it was free and independent of the Baltimore and Ohio for its
all-important New York-Philadelphia-Washington business, while the link of
the Northern Central between Baltimore and its main line at Harrisburg
gave it a chance to get competitive business between both Washington and
Baltimore and the West.

To this sharp blow the Baltimore and Ohio retaliated, though slowly. It
never was able to finance itself quite as readily as its larger adversary.
Gradually it too tunneled under Baltimore--went far ahead of the
Pennsylvania, in fact, in that premier electric installation to which I
already have referred--and opened its handsome Mount Royal Station within
a few blocks of the Union Station. It extended its line on from Mount
Royal for ninety-five miles to Philadelphia, paralleling and in sharp
competition with the P. W. & B. property of the Pennsylvania. It obtained
an advantageous terminal site in Philadelphia and would have put down its
own rails all the way to Jersey City had it not been for a most tragic
incident--which has no place in this book. It is enough here to say that
eventually it obtained trackage rights from Philadelphia to Jersey City
over a combination of certain lines of the Reading and the Central
Railroad of New Jersey. Recently, as we have seen, these were so extended
as to bring it into the Pennsylvania Station. Railroad competition to-day
in a good many parts of the land is not a very serious thing--save,
possibly, for publicity purposes.

I have broken my rule and delved into railroad history in this instance
for a single purpose, to show how admirably a certain portion of this
parallel and largely superfluous railroad construction could be brought to
a rapid transit electric installation. For some years past there has been
a plan to rid Baltimore of the pressure of through freight traffic through
her heart by the construction of a freight cut-off just north of the city,
to be used jointly by both the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore and Ohio.
Oddly enough the city itself has opposed this plan. Baltimore has a
particularly delightful suburban section extending for many miles north of
her actual civic limits. It would be quite impossible to build the
proposed freight cut-off without intersecting this section. Baltimore is a
conservative town. That a bit of her comfort or beauty should be
sacrificed to commercial necessity is, in her eyes, unthinkable.

Yet some day that cut-off will be built, if for no other reason than
simply because it is a commercial necessity, and the traffic upon the twin
sets of tunnels in her heart will be lessened very appreciably.

Now consider those tunnels consolidated--conducted in coöperation and not
in rivalry. If the Baltimore and Ohio can use the Pennsylvania
passenger-station in New York there is no moral reason why it cannot use
the Pennsylvania passenger-station in Baltimore and make a real operating
saving. Baltimore, far more than New York, presents opportunities for the
physical connection of the railroads at each side of the city. As a matter
of fact there is a connection already at the eastern edge, and none is
needed at the western edge. For the scheme that I contemplate would
continue the Baltimore and Ohio's through trains over the Pennsylvania
tracks to the Union Station in Washington, which already they use jointly.

Now we have a first-class pair of rails left nearly free all the way from
Mount Royal Station, Baltimore, to the Union Station, Washington, forty
miles distant. The third-rail electric installation of this line which
to-day extends for three or four miles of its length through Baltimore
could easily be extended to Washington--not only into the Union Station
but well beyond it. It would take a lower level of the station, on the
side opposite from that occupied by the depressed tracks of the railroads
that lead out from and under the station toward the south, and continue as
a subway through the heart of Washington to Georgetown and Chevy Chase.
Similarly in Baltimore it probably would continue north from Mount Royal,
through to Roland Park or even beyond, while between the two cities there
has been for many years upon the line of the Baltimore and Ohio an almost
unbroken succession of villages, suburban and semi-suburban.

Here then is an ideal opportunity for a dual-city rapid transit
development--and, aside from the suggested subway under Washington, to be
built at a minimum of cost. An installation such as this awaits only the
abandonment of the rather silly show of competition between the railroads,
which as we shall see in our own good time in this book is no competition
at all, while the opportunities offered for the development of both
Washington and Baltimore are too multifold to be set down within many
pages.

       *       *       *       *       *

A similar opportunity is offered through and between the bustling Great
Lake cities of Toledo and Detroit, where the passenger service of the
steam railroads that connect them has not been changed or improved in more
than forty years. Forty years ago these were small cities; their total
population hardly exceeded 166,000 persons. To-day Toledo alone has
250,000 people and Detroit very close to a million. To a population of
1,250,000 people the same steam railroad passenger service is given as was
given to but 166,000. True it is that since then the country has passed
through the age of the interurban trolley as well as that of the
automobile. The traffic by both of these agents of transport between
Toledo and Detroit is vast. Yet each is subject to great delays in the
streets of these huge and steadily growing cities.

The railroads that render the most direct passenger service between Toledo
and Detroit--sixty miles apart--are the single-tracked branches of the
Michigan Central and the New York Central running for the most of the way
almost side by side. Yet until a very few years ago, no one came along
with the sagacity to operate these two single-tracked roads as one
double-tracked one, by the simple process of using one line in one
direction and the other in the reverse one. The Michigan Central was
always a conservative property, and so was the Lake Shore, which preceded
the New York Central in this territory.

Yet conservatism, valuable as it is in many ways, should never be
permitted to impede progress. And real progress long ago would have
dictated the electrification of this intensive stretch of railroad;
particularly so in view of the fact that the Michigan Central, a New York
Central property, was going ahead with a rather extensive electric
installation in connection with the new tunnel that it was boring under
the Detroit River and with its elaborate new passenger terminal in that
city. For many years the Michigan Central, like the other railroads that
essayed to cross into Canada at Detroit, was compelled to ferry its cars
and trains across a swift and rather narrow river. At the best this was a
tedious time-taking process. At the worst it was a battle against floating
ice and zero weather and all that follows in their trails.

The tunnel obviated this. That much was in its favor. It also obviated the
Michigan Central's long-established passenger-station at the river-front
in downtown Detroit and--in order to avoid a reverse movement of fast
through trains--made it necessary to build the handsome new station in a
rather inaccessible part of the town. That much was against the new
tunnel.

Yet if the Michigan Central had been possessed of a real vision it might
easily have made a complete triumph of the change. Let me show you how it
could have been done.

Suppose, if you will, a loop created by the taking over of the Brush
Street passenger terminal and approach tracks of the Grand Trunk--so long
used by the Detroit branch of the New York Central--and then the Grand
Trunk, along with the Canadian Pacific and the Wabash, invited and urged
to use the Michigan Central tunnel and passenger-station, at a fair
compensation, of course. Then suppose a short length of rapid transit
railroad--it probably would be an elevated structure--built along the
water-front from the old Michigan Station to the Brush Street Station.
Ergo! A complete standard railroad loop has been created threading upon
its way the new passenger-station, now transformed into a real union
station for all the standard railroads entering Detroit.

Now turn your atlas quickly to the map of Toledo. A similar possibility
exists there. The parallel railroads of the Vanderbilts coming in from
Detroit sweep around two sides of the town. There is abundant trackage
upon the other two sides. A loop has been created, a double-tracked loop,
if you please, with an excellent double-tracked link (easily capable of
further multiple-tracking) connecting them. The old New York Central
Station at Toledo is nearly as badly located in reference to the town as
the new Michigan Central one in Detroit. Yet with this double loop that I
have so roughly indicated there could be a constant and high-speed
operation of electric multiple-unit rapid transit trains, free from all
street traffic interruptions. A man coming into the main passenger
terminal of either town from New York or Chicago or any other outlying
city, by a swift and easy platform change of cars, could be set down in a
few more minutes in virtually any section that he wished to reach.

       *       *       *       *       *

Electrification! Intensive passenger operation! We have not as yet even
scratched the surface of their possibilities. All the way across the
country lie development opportunities such as these. There is a rare one
in St. Louis--the transformation of the ancient and dirty Eads Bridge over
the Mississippi, with the far more dirty tunnel that threads the very
heart of the city on the way to the huge Union Station, by changing from
the steam locomotive to the electric one, or the multiple-unit train. This
done, a rapid transit railroad is established automatically, into two
States, from the easternmost part of East St. Louis, across the Eads
Bridge, as we have just seen, and through the heart of the town in the
tunnel that has threaded it for more than fifty years--what a splendid
chance for a big downtown station at Broadway and another under the old
post-office!--then out from the tunnel again transversely through the
train-shed of the Union Station, out Mill Creek valley along the Wabash
right-of-way to the smart West End of St. Louis, through Forest Park and
Delmar and branching perhaps off to University City and even far St.
Charles. It all is almost as easy and as simple as the nose on your face.
While the result on the street traffic of congested downtown St. Louis
would be appreciable from the beginning.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rapid multiplication of the motor-car in the large American city
seemingly has brought no larger problem in its wake than this very one of
street traffic. In truth the streets of New Yorks, our St. Louises, our
Chicagos, our Philadelphias, and our Bostons were never designed for the
operations of fleets of vehicles, each bringing but one or two or three or
four persons through them. Two or three years ago I rode through the
streets of Detroit with a motor-car manufacturer of international
reputation. We were speaking of the grave difficulties, political and
economic, with which the local traction company was then laboring.

"We won't see these yellow cars in our Detroit streets eighteen or twenty
years hence," he proclaimed quite grandly, with a wave of his hand at
them.

I disagreed with him.

"In no city that two decades hence proclaims itself as truly
metropolitan," I argued, "can people come to and go from their work in its
business heart in their own automobiles--none save the comparative few who
can afford the luxury of a chauffeur. Adequate downtown garage facilities
for an American city of a million people or more are almost out of the
question. For these cities transportation must continue in mass rather
than singly. It is not only possible but probable that in many of them the
building of subways or the extension of existing ones will yet render
possible the cleaning of the surfaces of downtown streets for motor-car
traffic exclusively. In which case the trolley merely becomes a
sub-surface unit, and continues purely as a civic necessity."

If there were no other argument at all for the development of electric
rapid transit installation in the metropolitan areas of our largest
cities, this alone would be one well worthy of the considerate ear. The
huge interurban trolley-car, so very valuable at one stage of our national
progress and development, to-day is an interloper in the streets of even
our good-sized towns. Nowhere has this been recognized more keenly than in
two important up-state cities of New York--Rochester and Syracuse--where
the completion of the new Barge Canal has left the pathway of the
abandoned Erie Canal a desolate streak of muck and mud through their very
hearts. Each of these York State towns is to-day a real hub of interurban
trolley traffic, to an extent that adds greatly to their existing street
congestion. It is now proposed that the old bed of the Erie be adapted and
used as a sub-surface terminal and approaches for these heavy interurban
cars--a suggestion that now seems quite certain of being put into effect.
Both Rochester and Syracuse for a considerable time past have been fretted
and perplexed by the amount of room these cars have taken in their
streets. Their problem is one that is shared by many and many another
ambitious city across the land.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a phase of American railroad operation that already I have
touched upon and to which I shall again refer--the problem of the small
branch line. In a following chapter when we shall discuss at some length
the possibilities of the gasolene motor-car as applied to this small but
always intensive transport problem, we shall go into the possibilities of
this arm of the railroad--to-day its most neglected arm and, in
consequence, shriveling terribly. There are many places where the withered
arm can be made healthy and strong once more by electric treatment. Let me
illustrate.

Here in one of our Northeastern States (yet out of the super-power area)
is a line that runs from S---- through W----, a small city of considerable
importance as a local metropolis, on to C----, a railroad center, and then
up to B----, in the heart of the mountainous forest. For the first
twenty-eight miles of its distance, from S---- to C----, this road runs
through a fairly closely built industrial territory, where the
intermediate towns all but touch one another. Forty years ago this line
had four passenger-trains a day in each direction; to-day it has but four
once again. There was a little time when it had five or six. The
motor-car, privately operated, and the motor-bus, publicly operated,
brought it back to four. And even these four are not well filled.

The people in its territory do not particularly like the motor-bus. They
use it chiefly because of its frequency of service and the fact that it
makes frequent intermediate stops along the line. Both of these factors
are possible to that railroad with the installation of a light unit,
traveling at frequent intervals. From one end to the other of this
sixty-mile line there is abundant water-power. A good engineer of my
acquaintance tells me that the whole route could easily be operated on
5,000 horse-power. Ergo, once again. The big and generally well-operated
railroad system that owns and operates that little half-hidden branch is
missing a good bet--for one reason for being so far removed in real
headquarters from the line itself, of which much more in good time. The
point is, here and now, the bet is being missed and a fair income
opportunity lost. An aggregate of these small fair income opportunities
would make a considerable dividend upon the stock even of a 12,000-mile
railroad.

Across the land there are hundreds of lines such as this, hundreds of such
fair income opportunities. We are coming presently to the possibilities of
the gasolene motor-car unit in regard to them; yet here and now may I not
suggest that if ever we as a nation should come to a serious shortage of
our crude-oil supply, upon which such super-demands are being made these
days, we shall retain our water-power? This is a point in favor of the
electric unit, as opposed to the gasolene or kerosene one, that we hardly
can afford to overlook.



CHAPTER X

A CASE FOR THE STEAM LOCOMOTIVE


But a moment ago we were calling the steam locomotive upon the American
railroad a "laggard." Yet we were reserving a rebuttal to place his case
upon the minutes of this record. In all this wild to-do about the
possibilities of electricity in heavy rail transport he is forgotten. Such
ever must be the fate of a laggard. Yet truth to tell, the steam
locomotive does have a case. He can make a real rebuttal. He may be a
laggard to-day; but to-morrow--Did you ever chance to know of a boy or a
girl in school who was a laggard, and a brilliant success in after life? I
myself have known of several.

Moreover it is hardly conceivable even now that all of the mileage of all
our railroads ever will be run by electricity. Even the remarkable vision
of McAdoo, which viewed the thing with marked friendliness, only
predicated its use upon about one fifth of the railroad mileage in the
United States. The great inland sections of the country, the plains and
the prairies and the broad valleys of the Mississippi and the Missouri and
the most of their tributaries, are comparatively limited in available
water-power facilities. And this despite such great works as the Keokuk
dam and others of the same sort, while the huge distances there militate
against the economies of central steam-power stations for the generation
of electric current.

So let us temper the wildest fancies with the thought that we probably
shall have the steam locomotive with us for some time yet, say for one or
two hundred years more. We shall have to put up with him. And having to
put up with him, what shall we do with him? How shall we make him most
effective for the future necessities of our American railroad structure?
There are more than 67,000 of him upon our railroads to-day. He is a
factor in their progress that cannot be ignored. They can ill afford to
have him remain a laggard, no matter how brisk may be the inroads of his
competitor, the electric locomotive.

       *       *       *       *       *

The steam railroad of the United States seemingly came to the pinnacle of
its efficiency about twelve years ago. The steam locomotive about twelve
years ago also reached its apparent ultimate size for any sort of
practical operation--120 feet in length and a little over 800,000 pounds
in weight. The width and height for many years past have been held by
tunnel and other clearances pretty rigidly at ten and fifteen feet
respectively. Finally at about 120 feet the practical limit of length also
was reached; even then there had been created an engine that not only
could not be handled upon the longest of turntables at the terminals, but
even upon curves of fairly easy radius. Also the limit of the human
fireman, the shoveling of from fifteen to eighteen tons of coal in from
four to six continuous hours, had been reached.

These 120-foot locomotives were available only for long and almost
straight stretches of track and for use without being turned, while a
weight of 400 tons not only represented a real strain upon the bridges but
a constant and a fearful pounding upon the very best of track. So here
then in 1910 was the seeming height of the development of the American
locomotive; a pinnacle scaled in a long endeavor to cut down operating
costs to the utmost.

A seeming height it was. Was it in fact the real height of efficiency?

I doubt it.

The 400-ton locomotive was in the main the same locomotive that George
Stephenson had first built and operated away back in 1827; it was but an
enlargement of the _Stourbridge Lion_ that first had dug his heels into
the iron at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, in 1829, and so proclaimed a new era
in American civilization. A few things had been added, but they were very
few. An engineer out in Sandusky, Ohio, put a bell upon the boiler, George
Westinghouse came along about half a century ago with the air-brake, some
one else devised the injector, there were some other very minor
improvements--and that was all. Aside from these and a few very slight
rearrangements of its working parts the American locomotive of 1910 was
very much the same, even in appearance, as its ancestor, let us say, of
about 1840. Eighty years is a long time. It ought to afford a large
opportunity for development. Apparently it has not.

About thirty years ago some clever German engineers first devised a plan
for bringing steam from the boiler into the cylinders at such an intense
heat that its full energy would not be immediately dissipated upon
entering them and the steam partly turned into water. Technically this
last is known as "saturated steam." The superheated steam idea was a good
scheme and an apparent economy. Yet it was ten or a dozen years before it
penetrated to this side of the Atlantic--to be exact, it was just twenty
years ago. I sometimes wonder that it got across even so quickly as that.
Our American railroad executives are not as a rule particularly alert to
what is being done in transport in other lands. Europe has 14,000
applications of another locomotive improvement which is just coming to be
used in our dear old U. S. A. So it goes. If a successful monorail
installation were to be made in Patagonia, for instance, your average
Yankee railroader would read of it in the columns of his beloved "Railway
Age" and then smile patronizingly as he said:

"Very interesting, that. But of course it wouldn't do for us."

Our railroads, which long ago failed to work out any scientific scheme for
the compensation of their employees, also failed to make an intelligent or
organized study of the mechanical or scientific progress in their field.
The United States army has long possessed its "staff"--the extremely
competent group of men who, detached from the grind and drill of daily
operation or detail, make constant and exhaustive study of every sort of
military possibility from the complex mechanism of the newest guns from
Krupp or Schneider or Armstrong overseas to the right kind of shoe for the
marching soldier. The railroads of this country should have such a
"staff." Very few of them have ever even attempted such a forward-looking
device. They have been utterly hidebound by their traditions, and in
consequence they have suffered.

Contrast this attitude with that of the automobile manufacturers of the
country. In a situation that is nothing if not competitive, they have
coöperated, almost from the beginning, and almost universally for the
betterment of the machine itself. This plant or that, devising and
perfecting a new kink for the improvement of the internal combustion or
gasolene-engine, has thrown it into the common pot for the benefit of its
competitors. I have known an automobile manufacturer to spend months on
the perfection of a cylinder-block and then to drive it in mad haste over
the Indianapolis Speedway, hour after hour, at more than a hundred miles
an hour.

"Why was that necessary?" was the inquiry made of him. "You do not expect
your cars to be put through any such grueling test as that?"

He laughed, as he replied:

"No, but some user of this car some day is going to get all but stuck in
second speed on some stiff, muddy hill and if the valves act gummy he is
going to have it in for this car."

Eventually this manufacturer had the valve working to his taste. When he
had perfected it, in keeping with his agreement, he threw the new
cylinder-block open for the use of his fellows. There was no secret about
it, no patent; they were quite welcome to use it. And some of them did use
it.

More than this, the automotive industry, as it now likes to call itself,
is not content to let the individual manufacturer do all the work upon the
development of the machine. It has centralized bureaus, technical experts,
and engineers who are working all the time for the interests of the
industry in general. The development of the marvelous Liberty motor of war
days would not have been possible without such a centralized organization.

Such a plan never has been attempted in the history of steam locomotive
development. There the individual manufacturers have gone it alone. And
they are quite frank when they tell you that there is not the slightest
financial inducement for them to carry forward a scientific work of
development. Their output is sold generally in quantity lots--like
potatoes, by the peck. And in the present-day poverty of many of their
customers--comparative poverty at least--they assert that the margin of
profit is held to a figure that permits of little or no "staff" work upon
their part.

Now remember, if you will, that for eighty years the steam locomotive of
the United States grew in size alone. Aside from the air-brake (which, in
reality, was not a distinctly _locomotive_ improvement) hardly a single
fundamental improvement had been made since the days of Stephenson to make
a pound of iron and a pound of coal and a pound of water do more work. Yet
with our super-sized locomotive reached, the operating geniuses of our
American railroads demanded more power, and still more power. The longer
train-load, and the heavier, apparently was their only way out of the
demands that came down upon them from "higher up" for still more operating
economics.

Then slowly and after a very great delay the railroad executives began
casting about through their mechanical departments to inquire what, if
any, progress was being made in intensive locomotive improvements, either
overseas or else right here in America. The mechanical departments
reported quickly. There really were several possibilities. Listed, these
ran about as follows:

The superheater: That German device that we have just seen for bringing
the steam into the cylinders at such an intense heat as not to permit it
quickly to waste itself in water vaporization; a purpose accomplished
chiefly by the use of special flues in the boiler through the entire
length of which steam is twice passed. That done, it comes into the
cylinders superheated, and not saturated as in the old-time engine.

The brick arch in the fire-box: A sort of second cousin to the
superheater. Its name to a large degree indicates its nature. An arch
thrown across the forward end of the fire-box has a very marked tendency
to insure complete combustion of the fuel before the heat reaches the
flue-tubes of the boiler and hence achieves a great economy in coal or oil
consumption. Its use came with the development of the maximum width of the
fire-box in the newest types of American locomotives, which in turn was
accomplished when the locomotive had been lengthened and a pair of
trailing-wheels placed just back of its drivers.

The feed-water heater: An allied device for quickening the production of
boiler steam and so effecting a further economy in coal consumption.
Perhaps the least tried and so the least established of all these devices.

The booster: In reality a miniature locomotive, attached to those two
trailer-wheels just back of the drivers and giving to the biggest
locomotive at its starting-point or other points of real stress the
accelerating power equal to that which 50,000 more pounds of additional
locomotive would be able to give. Yet the booster is as ingeniously geared
from its cylinders to its driving power as the engine of a high-grade
automobile and weighs but 3500 pounds all told--a mere nothing in
comparison with the energy that it gives off. Its application and
disconnection are almost automatic. The engineer, when he is in need of
its assistance either at starting or upon a steep grade, puts its
additional power into play by a quick twist of a tiny lever at his side.

"Humph," interrupted my friend the old railroader out in the West, "I
suppose you think that we are going to get engineers of the caliber to
handle all these fancy claptraps that you would put upon the engines?"

No, Old Railroader. Not for a minute. We have those engineers already in
America; nine out of ten of the men who are handling our locomotives in
the United States are quite capable of handling all these devices, and a
considerable number in addition. Even overseas where, broadly speaking,
the type of individual railroad employee is not supposed to be as high as
in this country, the enginemen are to-day used to all these modern
devices, the hall-marks of the really modern steam locomotive. A
keen-minded American who has known and loved locomotives all his life went
over to France not many months ago and rode in the cab of one of those
high-speed engines that haul the heavy expresses of the Northern railway
from Paris to Calais, 180 miles in three hours and thirty-five minutes--a
remarkable daily performance,--and he had his eyes opened. In the first
place the cab was immaculate. I might almost add "of course." I rode
myself in the cabs of British locomotives after the Armistice. Had there
been a war just ended over there across the narrow English Channel? The
rolling-stock of the British railways certainly belied that fact. Their
locomotives were clean, bright, freshly painted; they were not rusty,
dirty, or leaky. They had upkeep, continuous upkeep even through the
fifty-one heart-breaking, man-shortage months of the World War. That
showed for itself.

The cab of the engine in which my friend rode from the Gare du Nord to the
Calais pier was more than immaculate; it was intricate. There were levers
here and levers there, gages high and gages low. It looked more like the
control-board of a fair-sized steamship than that of a locomotive. There
was a variable exhaust nozzle, a control here, a control there; the
locomotive was itself a four-cylinder compound engine with all the
improvements that we have just seen (and then some more)--and with 180
miles to be made in 215 minutes, which is faster than almost any American
train goes to-day--faster by twenty-five minutes than the fastest train
between New York and Baltimore (185 miles); faster by thirty-one minutes
than the fastest express between New York and Providence (also 185 miles).

Somewhere between Paris and Amiens the fireman was taken slightly ill.
With hardly a word between the two railroaders in the cab they changed
places. The fireman stood his intelligent trick at the throttle; for more
than an hour the engineer fed the fire-box partly coal and partly
briquettes. There was 15 per cent. of briquettes in the tender and a bonus
to the engine-crew for any fuel saving that they made upon the run.
Moreover the names of the engineer and the fireman, printed upon neat,
small, brass plates, were inserted in an especially showy place on each
side of the engine-cab--a good deal as Mr. Underwood of the Erie once
began naming his best engines after the men who habitually ran them,
painting their names in large, conspicuous letters upon the engine-cabs,
where in other days locomotives bore the names of presidents, governors,
railroad directors, and others who sought a brief temporal glory. The
French plan is best in that it permits flexibility in the assignment of
the locomotives; the American plan best in that it confers an even greater
and more permanent distinction upon the engine-driver. I wish you could
see old Harvey Springstead as I saw him about ten years ago on the first
day he drove the _Harvey Springstead_ into the battered old Erie terminal
in Jersey City. Warren G. Harding accepting a lovely sprig of flowers from
the prettiest ten-year-old girl in Marion, Ohio, could not have been a
prouder man.

When that fleet engine of the Chemin de Fer du Nord (French for the
Northern railway) came to its first and final stop out of Paris upon the
Calais pier, sixteen men attacked her with brushes and cloths and hammers
and wrenches and what else I know not. Yes, sixteen. My friend counted
them. And he later found that before the war-times there had been
thirty-two. The fleet locomotive had a real inspection, while the little
engineer and his fireman repaired to the near-by Café de la Gare and
enjoyed their _dejeuner_ and their small bottle of wine.

Sixteen men went to that engine! Four would have been a goodly force for
the average American roundhouse or terminal shed; and the engine probably
would have waited two or three hours for its inspection. One of the crimes
against the American locomotive is the lack of care and attention that is
given it. Think, if you will, of an engine on one of our first-class
railroads being discovered so badly out of order in regard to the setting
of its valves that a very few hours of repair work upon them brought an
immediate saving of 25 per cent. in its fuel consumption! Is not that
being penny-wise and pound-foolish?

       *       *       *       *       *

I have digressed. And without apology. We were recounting the actual
devices for the improvement of the steam locomotive: the superheater, the
brick arch, the feed-water heater, the booster. None of these--in their
essentials, at least--are patented devices. Any good locomotive builder
can use them freely. He only waits the word of the purchaser of the
locomotive. Neither is there any patented monopoly in the mechanical
stoker. Two or three very good types already are on the market and if you
wonder at their efficacy may I again suggest that some good warm summer's
day you go down into your own cellar and shovel seventeen tons of coal
across it--from one side to the other--in four or five hours. Sleep
overnight--if you wish to complete the illusion, preferably on a rough,
hard bed--and the next day shovel all the coal back again, in four or
five hours. Then ask yourself, if you were a locomotive fireman would you
feel that there was any real need for a mechanical stoker.

There is no monopoly, either, in the plans for substituting more and more
light reciprocating locomotive parts of alloy-steel in place of the
old-fashioned heavy cumbersome ones that hold their places, almost through
tradition alone. Our American locomotive to-day is far too heavy. The
automotive industry--the group of men who in real coöperation have
perfected almost every detail of the American motor-car--again has pointed
the way. If a balanced crank-shaft is valuable to a rubber-tired
locomotive upon a concrete highway, should a device of similar ingenuity
and value be accounted an impossibility upon the flange-wheeled one of the
steel highway? The possibilities of intensive development of the steam
locomotive upon these lines alone seemingly are almost infinite. If Henry
Ford, with not only the skill and experience of his own marvelously
ingenious mechanical mind, but the expert staff that he has always at his
elbow, can succeed in bettering the American steam locomotive radically, I
think that the American public will be tempted to call him blessed indeed.
If Mr. Ford can only succeed in putting better bearings under our
railroad-cars his name should be accounted as blessed in our railroad
tradition. The axle-bearing of the average railroad-car in this
country--particularly the freight rolling-stock--has neither been improved
nor changed in more than half a century. It is virtually the same now as
it was in 1860--a swabbing of cotton-waste and grease set in a box upon
the axle-end, a device forever becoming dry and hot and blazing forth into
flame. Contrast such an archaic thing with the axle-bearing of the modern
motor-car or motor-truck. Ball-bearings, or, in the case of heavier
vehicles, roller-bearings. A Detroit specialty concern installed these on
a big Michigan Central box-car not many months ago, and two men pushed the
car down a siding with no vast effort.

If these things can be done and have been done, why are they not being
done to-day?

The answer is simple: tradition--hide-bound tradition--and cost. If I were
to let my friend, the old railroad operator out there in the West,
interrupt he would tell me that this last alone renders them quite out of
the question. To which I should reply:

"If you were buying an automobile, would you rather have an automobile or
a wheelbarrow?"

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes ago we were discussing the electric locomotive in these
pages. Without going into detail into its mechanical niceties we said that
the average cost of one of these big units to-day is $150,000 to say
nothing of proportionate cost of power-house and wires, without which, of
course, it is quite useless. The average cost of the largest-sized steam
locomotives to-day is anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000, which represents a
real drop since the peak prices of the days of the war.

But this is not the point. The point is that the average railroad
executive buys the electric locomotive upon the "say-so" of the
manufacturer. If it cost $250,000 and he was convinced in his own mind
that it was a necessity to him he would not stagger at the price or
attempt petty economies by trying to buy it stripped of every efficiency
device.

The average railroad executive does not buy steam locomotives that way.
Oh, no. He says:

"Give us ten million dollars' worth of new engines. I want them good
engines, the best engines that you have ever built." And then adds: "How
many do we get to the peck, anyway?"

Quantity, not quality. It is one of our besetting American sins. How much?
Not how good. How much? How big a number to be added to the next annual
report in order to impress the stockholders? Nothing about refinements.
Nothing about quality.

The builder takes down his blue-prints--the same old engine that he has
been building for ten, twenty, thirty years past. No staff has worked to
perfect that old-fashioned machine. He figures rapidly. His opponents are
figuring against him. And finally he shoots in his bid. The railroad can
buy a lot of locomotives for ten million dollars; a goodly quantity for
one tenth of that figure if it is not too fussy about the details.

After which will you wonder when I say that no steam locomotive in the
United States to-day represents anything like the ultimate possibilities
of the machine itself? That is not true of the electric locomotive, where
the last unit turned out from the shops is almost sure to be the best ever
built. Let me illustrate.

It is now a good ten years since a most efficient passenger-locomotive was
finished in this country--to turn out one cylinder-horse-power per hour
from 16.5 pounds of water and 2.12 pounds of coal and weighing but 121
pounds per cylinder-horse-power. A few years later an equally efficient
freight-puller was made, creating one cylinder-horse-power per hour from
15.4 pounds of water and 2.00 pounds of coal and yet weighing but 88.9
pounds per cylinder-horse-power. This was several years ago, please
remember. Since then many, many locomotives have been built that were not
nearly so good. Some of these have been retired to light service already.
Why?

Why are not these engines of 1910 not only being equaled but bettered by
the engines of 1922? Why does it ever become necessary to scrap
locomotives, within half a century of their construction at any rate?
There is not one of their bearing parts that is not capable of infinite
replacements, after which, it is a question of mere lubrication.

I saw not many months ago under the train-shed of the passenger-station at
Tours, France, a copper-boilered locomotive of the Paris-Orleans railway
which bore the date of her construction, 1857, proudly upon her neat
sides. She still was an efficient little locomotive, handling a small job
fit for her small size and handling it very well indeed. The oldest
locomotive that I personally have known to be in constant service in the
United States was an engine belonging to a paper company near Potsdam, New
York, which had been built by the Taunton Locomotive Works for the Union
Pacific railroad in 1860, and sold to the Central Vermont in the following
year. Rebuilt several times, it still was in service in 1919. This engine
is very much of an exception. A twenty-year-old engine in this country
to-day is a veteran. The famous "999" of the New York Central, which in
1893 was exhibited at the Chicago Fair as the fastest locomotive in the
world, in 1903 was handling a "plug" milk-train up in northern New York.
It now has been retired as a sort of museum-piece.

Why are our steam locomotives scrapped in this way? Why are they not built
universally for their highest possibilities of development? Why are they
not given the mechanical refinements that experience has shown well worth
while?

Once again: tradition and cost.

The first of these some day is to be eliminated. And as for the second;
listen to my friend, the dear old practical railroader out there in the
West. I much doubt if he will ever be able to finish reading the preceding
paragraphs. But should he succeed in completing them, I anticipate
receiving a telegram--a letter never would be prompt or emphatic
enough--which will read something after this fashion:

"Now, what are you doing again? Don't you know that to put in all these
darn phool [softened to calm the feelings of the telegraph operators]
contraptions in our railroading would cost a national debt or two--of the
old days? How can the railroads, strapped, without money to-day, go into
these things?"

I shall not respond by telegraph. I have no Western Union frank. But I
shall sit down and write my good old tempestuous friend that in my own
humble and uneconomic opinion the best way to economize is to introduce
methods that lead toward economy. When the Lackawanna system spent about
$14,000,000 a few years ago in rebuilding and perfecting about forty miles
of its main line between Scranton and Binghamton, it was said by some
clever people that only a road as extremely wealthy as it was could go
into such frills. Well, last year the operating economies effected to that
company by this improvement, and by this improvement alone, came to about
12 per cent. of the expenditure, while the money itself, was obtained at 4
per cent. I should like to ask Mr. Underwood, of the always
almost-bankrupt Erie, if that carefully managed property would not have
been in receivership and helpless a full decade ago, if it had not been
for his great grade revisions on his main line east of Youngstown, Ohio?
And Mr. Daniel Willard, of the Baltimore and Ohio if it is not true that
the superheaters on but 1000 of that railroad's 1600 locomotives are not
already saving it more than 750,000 tons of coal a year?

To save money upon our American railroads it frequently becomes necessary
to spend it, and to spend it generously, but always wisely of course.

We measure expenditures properly by the results. An improvement to a
locomotive costing as much as $10,000 to buy and even as much as that to
maintain each year is a good investment, is it not, if it saves $50,000 a
year? The superheater, the arch, the booster, and the feed-water heater
together vastly increase the power of the steam locomotive. To gain their
equivalent in the locomotive itself, the average Mikado-type
freight-puller of eight big drivers and with extra length
boiler-tubes--nineteen or twenty feet--would have to have not less than
fourteen driving-wheels and boiler-tubes of the almost incredible and
impracticable length of thirty-six feet. Is that graphic enough for the
layman to understand? Can you understand this about the booster alone?
Take a reasonable stretch of level railroad division, say 125 to 175
miles. It is good low-grade line and an engine of even moderate capacity
ought to handle a 3000-ton freight-train over it easily, if it were not
for that nasty little hill half-way down the line. A chain is no better
than its weakest link. A railroad division is no easier than its stiffest
hill. This particular one means that the maximum train-load on that
division may never exceed 2700 tons.

Now we put the booster on--that little miniature locomotive for the
trailing-wheels that we saw a few minutes ago, built like an automobile
engine and having the same gritty driving power. When the engineer comes
to that nasty hill, in goes the booster and up goes the 3000-ton train
over the hill, just as easily apparently as if it were coasting on a
down-grade.

The most famous passenger-train to-day in America, if not indeed in the
whole world, is the Twentieth Century Limited, running between New York
and Chicago, 969 miles in a flat twenty hours. It began twenty years ago
as a single train of moderate length--about seven or eight Pullman cars
and a diner. To-day it almost always consists of at least two sections,
each of ten to twelve heavy steel diners and Pullman sleepers. In figures,
the weight increase is close to 216 per cent. The train easily might make
the run through to Chicago in eighteen hours as it did at the outset if
safety and other conditions permitted. The energy of the locomotive is not
the limiting factor.

Now how has this been done? How has the typical locomotive of the
Twentieth Century been so improved as to keep the train that it hauls up
in the top notch of American passenger carriers? The answer is easy: by
the constant application of every proved device for the improvement of
that machine. The New York Central, which operates this train, does not
often stand convicted of a lack of mechanical progress. Come to figures,
once again: A certain well-known railroad, which is thoroughly sold on the
idea of the improved locomotive, in the last twenty-five years has
steadily increased its average tonnage per train by from 400 to 1700 tons
over the old-time figures. Its maximum is now close to 3200 revenue tons.
In this same quarter of a century this railroad shows 233 per cent.
increase in the weight of the train and 66 per cent. increase in the
average speed. To-day it thinks nothing of hauling a 5000-ton train at a
steady rate, uphill and down dale, of twenty-five miles an hour.

Our steam locomotive is a laggard? Only when you do not give it a fair
opportunity to show its real worth.

       *       *       *       *       *

If all our other railroads were as progressive in this as the two that I
have just instanced, there would be no reason for this detailed attention
to the problem. Unfortunately they are not.

A moment ago I said that two things had held back the development of our
steam locomotive--tradition and cost. Have I not now settled the question
of cost, as far at least as it may be settled in these pages, by showing
the great economies to be effected in the use of an efficient
engine--economies, roughly speaking, averaging 25 per cent. in the
operation of the locomotive? Now come to the problem of tradition.

The extreme easterly forty-five miles of the main New York-Boston line of
the New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroad was, up to thirty-four
years ago, a separate railroad, the Boston and Providence, extending
between those two cities. From the old Park Station in Boston down to the
station in Providence and back again--ninety miles--was a day's work for
one of its locomotives. On some of its suburban runs the engines did even
less. They were pampered bits of mechanism.

       *       *       *       *       *

Last year I rode from New York to Cherbourg in the giant steamer _Olympic_
and spent many hours in what is the finest engine-room upon all the seven
seas. The tireless engines, the racing shafts, never ceased their
impetuous speed for six days and for six nights. If necessary, and if the
fuel had been available, they might just as easily run on for twenty-six
days and twenty-six nights or even longer. It all comes to proper
lubrication and attention, and nothing else.

A twenty-four hour continuous test of an automobile is as nothing; a five
hundred or a thousand-mile test of its engine without resting, these days,
a mere child's sport. You do not think after you have driven your own car
ninety miles that you must rest it before you set it in service once more.
If you could not drive it upon necessity twice or three times that
distance without resting it you probably would feel like selling it.

Yet there are many ninety-mile engine-runs left in the United States to
this day; some of them, like those between New York and Philadelphia, are
matters of operating convenience that cannot easily be changed. Tradition
holds others. One hundred and fifty miles still remains a typical division
in the minds of many conservative railroaders. And a real boast upon the
part of the progressive manufacturers of the electric locomotive is that
their machines can easily cover two such typical divisions without either
rest or inspection. But it should be borne in mind that when the
inspection finally is made it must be like that at Calais, of the most
thorough sort.

Very recently the New York Central instituted the experiment of combining
as a single engine-run the former two runs between Albany and Buffalo, 300
miles. The Santa Fé has cut its separate runs from Chicago to the Pacific
coast from twelve to six. There seems to be no very good reason why the
New York Central should not run the locomotive from Harmon, at the outer
limit of the New York electric zone, right through to Chicago, 946
miles--or two engine-runs on the Santa Fé between Chicago and Los Angeles,
2246 miles. Down in the Southwest the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railway
already has a 700-mile run, and is preparing to install a 1000-mile one.
It is simply a question of proper rewatering and refueling facilities.
Obviously the crews could not make runs such as this. I have known an
engineer to take a special through from New York to Buffalo on the
Lackawanna or the Erie--a little more than 400 miles in either case--and
not relinquish the throttle for the entire distance. But that was a stunt.
I am talking of regular performance day in and day out.

It is easy enough to change the crews however at distances of
approximately 150 to 175 miles. But there is no reason why the engine
should be changed. If an 11,000-horse-power ship racing two 250-foot
shafts can keep it up continuously for six days and 3000 miles there is no
reason on earth why a well-equipped locomotive should falter at the same
performance.

The steam locomotive a laggard?

There is no inherent reason whatever why he should be a laggard unless men
themselves so desire. The paths for his possible development have not been
followed to their ends. Men this very day are engaged in plans for the
placing of a third cylinder in his mechanism; the possibilities of the
brick arch, the superheater, and the hot-water feed now have brought his
steam production up ahead of the mechanism that consumes it. The
opportunity is rife for the further perfection of this mechanism.

In England, right up to the present time, and for many of his earlier
years in this country, the steam locomotive in builders' phrasing was
"inside-connected," the cylinders and driving-rods being placed within the
frame and under the boiler. Gradually this type of engine was abandoned
upon this continent. Despite the trimness of its appearance--your
foreigner always lays great stress upon the appearance of his
locomotive--the important driving mechanism was so hidden as to render it
comparatively inaccessible for repairs. And so we came here to placing
the entire driving mechanism upon the outside of the locomotive, where it
could be easily reached and taken down.

There is a movement to-day toward the creation of a locomotive which shall
be both inside and outside-connected. There is hardly room for two
cylinders within the frame. There certainly is room for one. And with the
retention of the two outer cylinders there presently will be created a
locomotive which, with all its improved steam-creating powers to boot,
will quickly take highest place both in speed and energy. More operating
economies will be effected, new records established.

The steam locomotive a laggard?

Is not the question now fairly answered?



CHAPTER XI

THE GASOLENE-MOTOR UNIT AND ITS POSSIBILITIES


In the twelve months of 1921 service was abandoned upon 1626 miles of
standard steam railroad in the United States--much of it permanently
abandoned. Of this, 217 miles, or very slightly less than that of 1920,
was not only abandoned, but the track was taken up and the equipment sold.
In addition to all of this the various regulatory commissions had
authorized the abandonment of 191 more miles of line, and applications
were pending for the scrapping of still another 575 miles. Once fairly
important roads, such as the Colorado Midland and the Colorado Springs and
Cripple Creek (one fourth of the abandoned mileage was within the State of
Colorado) and the Missouri and North Arkansas, are included within these
totals, while to them are added a host of small railroads, lines
twenty-five to forty miles in length or less. Unimportant? Yes, to you and
me, when we go hurrying across the country in the Limited, but not
infrequently of very large importance to the communities that they aim to
serve.

The position of the short-line railroad in our rail transport debacle is
even worse than that of his bigger brothers. Even in the prosperous days
before our entrance into the World War he was constantly involved in
difficulties. Even then the motor-truck was beginning to make serious
inroads into his earnings. So wonder not that he hailed the advent of
McAdoo and government control as a possibility of real salvation. Yet how
false a hope that was was quickly shown when the director-general of the
United States Railroad Administration refused bluntly to bother with
these roads--there are close to a thousand of them--in his unified rail
transport structure. He said that they were not necessary to the
successful prosecution of the war. And that settled it. Nor was this all.
The last blow came when, with the reroutings of freight that came as an
inevitable result of Federal control, the small railroads across the land
began to lose the little hauls that frequently were given them by friendly
freight traffic officers. At that many of them quit. More and more of them
have been quitting ever since. In a few cases local pride has served to
keep them alive; I can think of the Kanona and Prattsburg, a little
eleven-mile line up in western New York which to-day is being operated by
a group of farmers and village people who already are wondering if it
would not be wiser to sell their locomotive and scrap the thin iron link
that holds them to the outer world.

Where these little roads are alive they are breathing heavily. The little
locomotive, purchased second-hand from the big railroad, which had used it
almost up to the point of worthlessness, the battered cars, the bridges
and trestles so long suffering from a lack of proper maintenance as to
render it positively unsafe to run heavy cars over them, all are gasping
for their very breath. In truth the short-line railroad is sinking into a
state of coma.

And so is the rather typical branch line of its bigger brothers. In the
abandoned mileage reports of the Interstate Commerce Commission for the
last few years are included the feelers and the feeders of some pretty
important railroad systems across this land. In these cases the track and
the equipment have been maintained, to a fair degree of safety at least.
And a fair degree of traffic also has been doled out to them. Yet they are
as vulnerable to the short-haul competition of the motor-truck upon the
highroad as the separate and highly individual short-line roads.

It is but fair to add that it probably is well that many of these
short-line roads and little branches of the bigger roads should be
abandoned. A considerable number of them never should have been built in
the first place. But others that have gone and are going are essential to
their communities. And these should be saved.

They can be saved. They can be made profitable, even against the inroads
of the motor-truck.

There grew up in the later days of the World War--when, as we have seen,
traffic congestion upon our railroads came close to the breaking point--a
demand that the motor-truck, still an infant toy, come into the breach. It
came and, I think, saved the day--gloriously, as the novelists always like
to put it. We saw the day when the much-advertised Lincoln highway, not
only from New York to Philadelphia but for several hundred miles further
west, was crowded with emergency freight traffic, some of it fairly
long-haul traffic. So were the other important highways not only of New
Jersey and Pennsylvania, but of New York and Connecticut and Massachusetts
and a half-dozen other States as well--as the pleasure motorist of to-day,
picking his way around and past the holes and ruts made by the war-time
motor-traffic, very well knows. In the flush of that traffic problem many
wondrous new motor-freight routes were established. Some of them were
planned elaborately. A tire-maker in Akron, finding it next to impossible
to get any prompt service to his branches and his patrons in New England,
instituted a motor-truck service for the 900-odd miles over to Boston,
laid down a schedule for the six-day trip, and then lived up to it, summer
and winter, with a precision that few American freight or passenger-trains
had made for many and many a month before. Some enthusiasts, with this
practical example as a text, let their fancies fly to the fullest extent.
They shouted for the long-distance hauls. In fact it was said not more
than two or three years ago that four or five years would see regular
motor-truck fast freights established from New York or Boston to points
as far distant as Chicago or St. Louis or Kansas City.

To-day we know that these were flights of fancy. Out of a dozen through
motor-truck routes established for the ninety-mile run between New York
and Philadelphia, only a very few have survived until to-day. The same
proportion holds true elsewhere in the more congested sections of the
land, particularly those sections subject to the ravages of a hard
wintertime. Yet upon the other hand a very considerable portion of the
business community still seems to be at the rather definite conclusion
that the motor-truck is to replace the railroad for freight hauls up to a
hundred miles or less, while old-time railroaders for years past have been
frank in saying that a freight-car did not even begin to make money until
it had hauled its goods at least forty miles, and to-day the modern
generation of operators will put this figure at eighty miles. Up to a
distance somewhere between these figures--and undoubtedly far nearer
eighty than forty--the vast city terminal charges of the American railroad
nullify the profit of the haul itself. In due time I shall come to a
detailed consideration of these questions of freight terminals in our
large cities. Consider now that the motor-truck, to a very large extent at
least, is freed from this terminal problem. That is a long point in its
favor.

At the present time approximately 2,000,000 ton-miles of freight are being
transported in this country each year by motor-truck; and five years hence
it is estimated that this figure will have risen to 60,000,000 ton-miles.
It is understood, of course, that the arbitrary and comparative figure of
the ton-mile is reached by multiplying the number of tons actually handled
by the number of miles that each shipment actually goes.

These figures are taken from an admirable article in a recent issue of the
"Atlantic Monthly," by Philip Cabot of Boston. Referring to the overuse
of the highways of New England by the motor-truck, Mr. Cabot says:

    Every abuse carries its penalty. The penalty for this abuse of our
    roads will be a heavy one, which the taxpayer must pay. The
    Commonwealth of Massachusetts has spent more than $25,000,000 of the
    taxpayers' money in road construction, much of which has already been
    ground to powder under the wheels of the five-ton truck; and the
    damage must to-day be repaired at perhaps double the former cost. Our
    State tax has mounted in recent years by leaps and bounds; the
    contribution of the truck-owner to road construction is so trivial
    that most of the burden will fall upon the taxpayer, on whose now
    overloaded back a huge additional levy is about to fall at the very
    moment when he is expecting relief. And make no mistake as to who must
    bear the burden. The old notion that a tax could be pinned upon one
    class has vanished into thin air. We now realize that it is not the
    capitalist who pays the tax, or the manufacturer. It is the man in the
    street who pays the tax, in the increased cost of everything he buys.
    He pays the bill for every waste of public money.

This same situation is being repeated to-day in the State of New York,
where more than $100,000,000 already is being expended in the creation of
some eight thousand miles of highway, which already is being ground to
pieces under the heavy wheels of the motor-truck. Against this highway
improvement are issued bonds with an average life of fifty years. The
road, used as a freight line, goes to pieces in seven or eight years. The
result is a financial _impasse_ that even a schoolboy should be able to
fathom.

What is true of Massachusetts and of New York is equally true of
California or Ohio or Pennsylvania or New Jersey or any other State that
has gone to great trouble and expense to upbuild an elaborate system of
improved highroads for itself. And the roads are not alone too lightly
built, but in a majority of cases they are entirely too narrow for heavy
motor-truck traffic. To this last almost any motorist can testify. He can
contribute almost numberless personal experiences of trying to pass these
bulky box-cars of the highway-box--cars which, in about nine cases out of
ten, really have no business there.

For do not forget that one of these biggest motor-trucks does not carry,
or should not be permitted to carry, more than five tons of freight upon
the public highroad, while a really good freight-train upon the railroad
will carry all the way from three thousand tons upwards, and with a
working crew of, at the most, six or seven men. To carry this minimum bulk
of merchandise in five-ton trucks would entail the services of six hundred
trucks and at least six hundred men. To this statement one of my friends,
who is a real enthusiast in regard to motor-trucks, takes vigorous
exception:

"That isn't a fair comparison," he sputters. "How about the other men who
work the railroad--the despatchers, the shop-forces, the gangs of
trackmen--all of them?"

To which I reply: "How about the gangs that keep up the highway?" The fact
that the motor-truck operator does not directly pay the wages of these men
does not mean that he, or some one else, does not pay them indirectly,
through taxes. And garage and shop-costs are quite as much a part of the
cost of upkeep of the motor-truck as of the locomotive.

It seems to me, however, that we are beginning to miss the real point and
pith of the thing. Let us grant the motor-truck some of the obvious things
that are in its favor: the vastly increased proportionate energy of the
internal combustion engine over that of the steam locomotive, no matter
what may be its fuel; the flexibility and economy of the unit over that of
the electric motor in districts and upon lines of comparatively light
volume of traffic. These advantages the motor-truck has already shown
where it is given the opportunity of a well-paved highroad. Upon a bad
road there is little economy in its use. It thrives best upon the roads
which were built, primarily at least, for the comfort of the passenger
automobile.

But suppose we improve upon that well-paved highroad. There is not a
concrete nor an asphalt highway in the world that is comparable with the
polished surface of the smooth steel rail. The tractive power of any unit
increases vastly when it is used--often as high as twenty-five times.

In other words, and to drop simile, we take off the expensive rubber tires
of the motor-truck and substitute for them the steel, flanged wheels of
the railroad-car or locomotive. Presto! We have a completely
self-contained locomotive far lighter than the lightest practicable steam
locomotive and running at about a 35 per cent. power economy, while with
that locomotive we combine the freight-car or the passenger-car, or both.

"If it were not for the gasolene-motor unit I should not be able to
operate this little road to-day," says the general manager,
superintendent, and all-around Pooh-Bah of a short-line up in the hills of
northwestern Pennsylvania.

I know precisely what he means. His oil comes from near-by wells. He buys
it at a great economy. His good-sized truck--it will carry seven or eight
tons of freight or passengers--is enabled to make six round-trips a day
over twelve miles of line at far less cost than a small locomotive and
train would involve for but two round-trips a day. In other words he has
tripled his service, with inevitable beneficial results to the
passenger-traffic of the little road, and has made real savings in his
operating costs. A road which otherwise would have been added to that
appalling total of abandoned railroad mileage for 1921 has been saved, to
the great benefit of the communities that it serves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not long ago I rode from Kane to Mount Jewett, twelve miles across the
hills of that same northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. I wanted to catch
the northbound flyer of the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburg railroad out
of the latter town. Between Kane and Mount Jewett there stretches a
rather remote branch of one of America's largest and best operated
railroads. It was in the dead of winter and I should have preferred to
ride upon a railroad train. But one train a day and missing the important
connections gave me no opportunity whatsoever. I was forced to ride in a
motor-bus upon a slippery ice-coated highway. Twenty-three other persons,
the most of them also trying to catch the northbound flyer of the B. R. &
P., were doing the same thing. The bus made four trips a day in each
direction and the driver said that it was not only good business but
steady. He charged seventy-five cents for the ride in each direction,
which was something more than six cents a mile. A good many people
complain at paying more than 3.6 cents a mile upon the rail, but they are
not usually short-haul riders.

Here was a steam railroad losing its traffic by default. Obviously it
might not be able to put a steam train on that little run--in all
probability a worn-out engine with two worn-out and dirty cars--and make a
successful opposition to the motor-bus, but I think that with its own
well-planned motor-unit operated on frequent headway and in connection
with the trains at its terminals it would regain for the railroad a large
portion of the lost traffic. Unfortunately, as I have said, this was a
remote branch line. Yet the president of the railroad of which it is a
branch has much pride in the thought that he loses nothing in the
efficiency of the operation of his property because it is merely
widespread. He honestly and sincerely is trying to build up its service,
to repair the inroads made into it during the period of Federal
administration. He has done wonders in a few short months. But, largely
because he is but a man and not a super-man, he cannot know everything
about his remote branches of this sort. He cannot even build up an
organization that will know it. No president of a 4,000-mile railroad ever
can. Which is one of the large evils to be charged forever against the
absentee landlordism method of operating our railroads.

In a certain Eastern State there is a small railroad of about 130 miles in
length which narrowly escapes being known as a real short-line railroad.
The fact that the road's annual earnings barely exceed a million dollars
just bring it within the Interstate Commerce Commission's classification
of Class I railroads. It traverses a rough mountain region. Its business
is largely seasonal. In the summer it hardly can secure enough
passenger-cars and locomotives to handle its tourist business. In the
winter it can hardly find enough passengers to justify the operation of
two small trains over the line, while at all times its freight traffic is
inconsequential.

When first I came to know this property a dozen years or more ago it
operated three passenger-trains a day the year round over the entire
system--the main line and two branches. But that was before the day of the
competitive motor-buses and the improved highways that now parallel almost
every mile of its trackage and for which, as a heavy taxpayer, it has
contributed rather liberally. Its local fare at that time was fixed at
three cents a mile, although a State law compelled it to sell mileage
books at the rate of two cents a mile.

Both the competitive motor-buses and the competitive privately owned and
operated automobile have gradually decreased its passenger earnings,
although the resort locality that it serves has grown steadily in prestige
and patronage during this last dozen years. It met the competition of the
gasolene locomotive upon the highroad, how? By cutting its all-the-year
train service to two trains a day and gradually raising its fare to five
cents a mile. People who have to go from one end of its main line to the
other, about 110 miles, are still likely to patronize it. The motor-bus is
hardly more effective in the long haul than is the motor-truck. And in the
really bleak days of winter its snug little passenger-cars, well lighted
and warmed, have more appeal than the poorly lighted and heated
motor-buses that traverse the State highway.

Yet that is about all. At all other times it is the motor-bus that has
the prestige and the popularity. It reaches into the heart of the towns it
serves; the little railroad's passenger-stations are not well located--not
in every instance, at any rate. It stops to receive or discharge its
passengers at virtually any point along its route. It is clean. And in
summer it is not only cleaner but cooler than the steam train.

But suppose that this little railroad should devise or find a good
gasolene-unit passenger-bus and, fitting it with flanged wheels, operate
it five or six times a day, over its main line at least. It might be
compelled to retain one steam train a day in each direction because of the
milk, the mail, and the express business along the route. The other four
trips could easily be made with the gasolene-motor units.

At the outset there would be real frequency of service, a very great point
in attracting any volume of passenger business. A commercial traveler who
goes up its main line to-day and who sought to do any business even in the
fairly large towns along the route could hardly make the trip in one
direction in less than a week. The result is that most of the drummers
to-day have their own automobiles and make the round-trip in three or four
days. With the two-trains-a-day service they frequently found that they
could complete their business in a village within the hour, after which
they would have to wait perhaps five or six hours before the train came
along which would carry them to the next town. Now they can clean up their
business in a village, whether it takes fifteen minutes or an hour and
fifteen, and be off to the next town as soon as they are done with all of
it, while a real volume of traffic is lost to the railroad.

A service of five or six trains a day, such as I have just suggested,
would bring a great part of it back. The inconvenient location of this
small railroad's passenger-station in its chief town easily could be
overcome by having its gasolene-unit train stop at the principal street
crossings through the community and a real flexibility of service
rendered. The fact that the railroad's gasolene-car was a little heavier,
a little warmer, a little better lighted than its competitor of the paved
highway would be a talking point in its favor. Added to that the facts
that the gasolene motor-car of the steel highway is protected at all times
by the flange of the rail--skidding is not an infrequent accident upon the
paved road--and by the telegraphic order--collisions are not unheard-of
things upon the State highways--and operated by a skilled and trained
employee are other talking points that would have quick appeal to any man
of advertising sense. We shall talk of these last possibilities again when
we come to discuss those of selling transportation. In the meantime bear
them in mind as strong arguments in favor of the possibilities of the
individual small railroad or small branch of the big railroad. If these
feelers wither and die to-day, it can only be the fault, in most
instances, of the men who control them--at least of their lack of
far-sighted vision.

It could be put down fairly as a lack of far-sighted vision of our steam
railroaders, who at last are beginning to see the economic possibilities
of the gasolene-unit passenger-car these days, if only to supplement the
present extravagant steam trains upon their local lines and turn no point
nor part of their economy toward the benefit of their patrons. In other
words the point that I have just made of the mountain railroad, which
could bring back its traffic by using its gasolene-units to make six trips
a day instead of the present widely-spaced two trips of the steam trains,
applies with equal force elsewhere across the well-built portions of the
country. Such a method at first sight will not appeal to the average
steam-railroad operating man, schooled as he is to bow deep before those
twin gods of the train-mile and the car-mile. Increased train-miles?
Impossible. Not impossible. I will go further and say that it will be
quite impossible for the average steam road to make any headway whatsoever
against motor-bus competition until it increases its train-miles, at
least, radically. Frequency of trains is, as we have seen, the real test
of passenger service. The gasolene-unit has made it possible to meet this
test and still achieve real operating economies. It will be a vast pity if
it is not installed generally, with this high service purpose in view.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the moment we have been concerning ourselves with the passenger
opportunities of the motor-truck mounted upon the steel rail. Its freight
opportunities are not less impressive. When with the inevitable
correlation of the container (the huge steel packing-box for the prompt
handling of package and other freight) the flange-wheeled motor-truck upon
the branch-line is made a perfect supplement to the box-car upon the main
line, we shall have something that begins to approach really efficient
modern transport upon our American railroad.

Mr. Cabot in his "Atlantic" article upon the New England situation, from
which I have already quoted, draws attention to the obvious and striking
analogy between New England and Old England, both in the congestion of
population and in the character of industry and of traffic, and then asks
why it is that New England should not be served with the same form of
railroad transportation with which Old England has been served these many
years, and with great success. He draws attention to the futility of using
huge box-cars, such as those that are used in the long-haul business of
the central and western parts of the country, and criticizes sharply the
employment of Western railroad executives in the New England
territory--men who have been schooled particularly in the movement of
long-distance freight.

Certain it is that Old England--every part of Great Britain--knows well
the efficient handling of short-haul freight-traffic. The ten-ton
goods-wagon (at the most, fifteen) of the British railway is a small unit,
easily handled, if necessity arises, by a horse or two at a country
station. It is an inexpensive unit too; and being inexpensive England is
able to have over a million freight-cars for her 25,000 miles of line as
against but a little more than two million for 265,000 miles of railroad
in the United States, which makes much for the flexibility of her railway
freight service.

Moreover the freight-traffic of Great Britain is virtually an overnight
service. Ordinary package-freight over there moves with much of the
celerity and ease of the express in this country. Goods despatched from
London terminals in the late afternoon are at Bristol or Manchester or
Liverpool or even Glasgow and Edinburgh the next morning. While it is
obvious that if the high-speed gasolene passenger-unit is introduced to
any large extent in this country, we also shall have to speed up the
freights that are interlarded between them, which will naturally mean the
larger use of a high-speed and improved steam locomotive of comparatively
moderate weight, and the use of comparatively small swift freight-trains,
we shall have to abandon, for this sort of service at least, our American
fetish of the excessively long and the excessively heavy freight-train.

For the moment we have permitted ourselves to drift away from the
gasolene-motor unit upon the railroad track. Up to this point I have
stressed the stripping of the rubber-tired wheels of the ordinary heavy
motor-truck and the substitution of flanged steel wheels in their place.
There is a compromise to this plan which is at least worth a passing
paragraph of attention.

Down in the Imperial valley of southern California there was built a dozen
years or more ago a small steam railroad, eleven miles in length,
connecting the somewhat isolated village of Holtville with the Southern
Pacific at El Centro. It eked out a fair sort of existence until the
coming of the automobile truck and the improved highway began to cut sadly
into its earnings. Its little passenger-train then found that it could not
compete with the motor-bus. Its earnings fell to nothing. The situation
was most discouraging. It looked as if the little railroad, into which a
considerable amount of capital had been poured, would have to be
abandoned.

It was not abandoned. Some inventive genius over in Los Angeles devised a
motor-truck with a different sort of wheel than had ever been seen before.
Inside there were the flanged wheels for the contact upon the steel rail,
and, just outside of these, heavy rubber-tired wheels for use upon the
highway. The problem of that little road, both for freight and passenger
traffic was solved. No longer must it await the passengers and goods who
found their way to its station at thriving and growing El Centro. Its
combination trucks took the city streets very easily; they could go to any
hotel or merchant's door, receive passengers or freight, and then, making
their way to the railroad terminal, by a simple mechanical device mount
the rail and go hurrying off to Holtville, with the tractive advantage of
the steel rails over even the well-paved dirt road that already I have
shown you. Moreover it became no longer necessary for the road to go to
the expense of train-despatching. If two of its "trains" met midway on the
line, by the use of this same ingenious mechanical device, one of them
could remain on the rails and the other go to the earth surface alongside
of it. This then became the ordinary operation of the line, that trains
going east upon the track had the right to the rails, while those going
west would take to the dirt. What could be simpler?

The flexibility of the gasolene-motor unit is indeed astounding. It is not
inconceivable that a device such as I have indicated should be so extended
as to permit a motor-truck or passenger-car unit to go far beyond the
limits of the rail terminals. In other words, why should Holtville be the
terminal of the Holtville interurban? If there is a load of freight eight
miles to the east of it, why not send the "train" on the highway for that
eight miles to let it pick up the freight.

The correlation of the highway with the steam railroad is a topic of
almost unending fascinations. By it the branch lines of our big roads and
the main stems of our small ones may be continued almost indefinitely.
There undoubtedly are many cases where it would be both more practical and
more profitable for the railroad to abandon the branch line entirely and
use in its stead the nearest parallel highway. Into this possibility there
enters, of course, the question of the congestion of that parallel
highway. One of the arguments that I have just used for the placing of the
motor-truck upon the railroad track is to give a much needed relief to the
highroad. Yet here, as in so many other places, one cuts the cloth to meet
the situation. In one instance it might be most advisable to use the
highroad as a supplement to the railroad track; in another it would be a
great mistake.

This entire prospect has vast ramifications. In Great Britain the railways
already are moving toward a use of the highroads in direct competition
with the trucks and steam lorries of the independent traders. Their moves
are not being made without opposition. At this moment it is difficult to
tell whether or not they are to be given permission to go to the highroads
themselves and there fight it out with their newest competitors. But
whether they gain this point or lose it, the fact will remain that they
show a real vision in the very suggestion. To an impartial observer it
seems as if a railroad which almost always, if not absolutely always, is
the largest taxpayer in any community would have certain inherent rights
in the public highway which it is taxed so heavily to support.

But whether or not ideas such as these are practical things or merely the
fancies of a dreamer, the fact remains that our American railroads,
obsessed by the possibilities of through or long-haul freight traffic,
have as a rule ignored the vast extensive possibilities of the short-haul,
which may be set down as one of the damnable heritages of our competitive
railroad system. They do this intensive cultivation of traffic far better
in France, which long ago discarded the competitive principle as both
foolish and extravagant. Let me illustrate.

Not many months ago I found myself in the little, obsolete Atlantic
fishing-port of Les Sables d'Olonne, in the Vendée country almost half-way
between St. Nazaire and La Rochelle. Up to the stout stone quays of that
picturesque enclosed harbor there ran three types of railway, each of them
rather typically French. The first was the standard-gage (four feet, eight
and one half inches) branch of the State Railway system which connected
Les Sables d'Olonne with a main line, and so, with all the rail lines of
the rest of France and of Europe. There was a sixty-centimeter
(twenty-four inches) narrow-gage also at the railway terminal and the
quays; as well as a third at the harbor-side of but forty-centimeter gage.
This last interested me tremendously. Its tiny rails, spaced a bare
eighteen inches apart, seemed so inefficient; and yet they told me that it
had been in successful existence for many years past.

"It is the _poisson_ line," they explained.

"The what?" I asked.

"The road that reaches out along the beaches and brings the fish into the
big ten-ton cars that await it here at the railway terminal," was the
further explanation. I understood. That was correlated rail transport--the
tiny engine (it was hardly larger than those that are operated for the
delectation of children at country fairs) and its little cars were an
active and efficient feeder for the big main railroad system of the
republic. Intensified transport, in its largest sense.

Later that day, as we drove from Les Sables d'Olonne, we rode for a long
distance alongside the sixty-centimeter line. Its rails were placed
inconspicuously in the greensward beside the national highway. It followed
that highway for many miles, dipped and rose when the highroad dipped and
rose, and when the highway came to a culvert or a narrow bridge the little
railroad, without hesitation, curved its way and shared the narrow
bridge. At one town we met the train--there was only one upon the line,
going up in the morning and back again at night--but it had a stout and
immaculate twenty-five-ton locomotive which hauled three or four light
passenger-cars and six or seven cars filled with local freight.

Do not laugh. I know myself what this idea would be in the United
States--a copper wire above the center of the track, separate bridges at
the little creeks and rivulets, rock-ballast perhaps, standard-gage, even
private right-of-way and _big_ trolley cars--how we Yanks do love the
sound of that word "big"!--running every hour up and down the line.
Economy? Nonsense. Why speak of the thing? We are rather proud of our
interurban trolleys in many parts of this land. But the average interurban
stockholder is not very proud of his holdings in them. We have seen the
disaster that has come to some of them in New England. Few of them to-day
are earning any money; in fact the greater part of them to-day are
fighting bankruptcy, despite heavily increased rates and forced operating
economies of a sizable nature. Many of these roads should never have been
built, particularly where they paralleled existing steam railroads. That
was a grave economic mistake for which we are now paying. The lines that
led out from the steam roads should have been correlated years ago. That
they were not was due generally to a very stupid pride that veiled itself
as conservatism.

Yet these little French narrow-gage lines, if they have not made "big"
money, certainly have not lost. In the years before the coming of the
World War they would generally average about 2 per cent. annually upon the
investment. But this was not the point. Locally owned and managed they
were not built primarily for profit but as a convenience to the
communities that they served. Please remember this. In Paris I once found
a man who had built many miles of these small railroads.

"Cheap?" said he, in reply to one of my questions. "Of course they are
cheap. That is the point of it. They rise and fall with the contour of the
highroad because that saves expensive grading work. But you will notice
that the highroads that they follow almost invariably are in the fairly
level portions of France, and so the grades are not such that a
well-designed locomotive, even if a fairly small one, cannot traverse them
without difficulty. The lines curve sharply to make the highway
bridges--but separate bridges would cost money and our narrow-gages
primarily are cheap railroads. And our little locomotives are not bothered
with the curves. They are extremely well-designed for their own purposes,
and so when our line makes a right angle from one highroad to another,
because a long easy curve would mean a separate right-of-way, possibly
tearing down houses into the bargain, our well-designed locomotive brings
ten or twelve or even thirteen loaded cars around that sharp turn in the
highroad with little or no difficulty."

The Frenchman rose and came around his office table, pointing his finger
in my face.

"Don't you see? Can't you understand?" he went on. "We have saved that
immensely costly thing that you Americans call 'overhead.' The owners of
one of these little roads of ours have not tied up a small fortune for
every mile of them in grading and bridge-work and copper wire and
power-houses. Our locomotives are small--always well-designed, mind you,
and so not so very expensive, yet only one or two or three are required
for the entire service of our average narrow-gage. The best of these cost
far less than the smallest dynamos, to say nothing of car-motors, while
the poorest of them will haul our little cars."

There is a big lesson for America in these little roads. All of our
highways are not improved highways; only a very small proportion of them
are, in fact. It will be many, many years before any large proportion of
them are completed. One shrinks at the very contemplation of so vast a
task, while, as I have said, there is a growing disinclination against
the use of our new paved roads as railroad tracks, particularly for heavy
freight service. The most of them are too narrow; and even the wider roads
are gradually pounded to pieces by the all-year use of ponderous
motor-trucks. Remember that the average life of the best of the highways
in the State of New York, where the manufacture of these roads has reached
a high degree of perfection, is but seven or eight years at the most.

Suppose that we were to begin the business of laying down light
narrow-gage lines along many of the important highroads of the United
States--not parallel to our standard railroads but in every case feeding
in or out of them. They would not have to be more than twenty-four or
thirty inches in gage and they could be built in the same efficient and
economical way as those in France.

For passenger traffic roads these baby railroads would be as nothing. But
for the handling of goods, particularly of farm produce, they would offer
a rare opportunity. It is not every farmer that can afford to own a
motor-truck; in fact if he were to do really sharp bookkeeping in regard
to such a mechanism he would find that it is only the large farmer who
really can afford its use, not alone from the point of view of the cost of
its upkeep but also because of its "overhead." Understand that for such
farmers a small narrow-gage railroad as this--the feeder to a branch or
main line of some standard steam railroad, running all the way from ten to
twenty miles in length, inexpensively laid down alongside the highway and
equipped with a single small locomotive (with perhaps one held in reserve
against emergencies) and from one hundred to two hundred small
four-wheeled flat-cars--would be a boon, and the capital outlay would be
comparatively slight. It ought to be built and operated by the farmers
that it would serve. With never more than a single train upon the line at
one time, there would be no danger of collision, no necessity of a
despatching system, while the method of operation would be simplicity
itself.

The train--the small locomotive and from ten to fifteen of the little
cars--would start down the line from the main terminal, where it connected
with the standard steam railroad. At each farm-house there would be a
simple switch or siding. At each of these, one at least of the little cars
would be set. Such would be the early morning process of operation. Toward
night the train would come back, in as many trips as were found necessary,
and gather up the little cars, now filled with the farmer's produce. They
would be taken to the steam railroad and there unloaded into the
railroad's big box-cars for shipment down into the cities.

It would, of course, be possible to vary this plan by making the little
railroad double-track, at a considerably increased expense--and using upon
it gasolene motor-trucks, whose flanged wheels for track service could
quickly be slipped into place. This strikes me, however, as being
unnecessary costliness. Under such a plan, for fifteen car-loads of
merchandise there would be in reality fifteen locomotives, each requiring
a separate engineer. How much better to have one locomotive with one
engineer--and possibly a fireman, too--haul these fifteen car-loads of
merchandise! The locomotive easily might be a gasolene or kerosene
internal-combustion unit or it might be a steam locomotive burning either
coal or oil. That is a matter for experimentation and careful decision.
And that is not the point.

The point is that the average little farmer cannot well afford to tie up
money in a motor-truck which probably will stand idle all too many hours
out of the twenty-four, or else tear itself to pieces upon the rough roads
of his fields. Even the tractor used in slow hauls to town and back is a
doubtful economic benefit. But the type of car such as is suggested could
have its flange wheels exchanged for regular iron-tired wheels in five
minutes--probably the smart farmer's son could do the job in three--while
either the tractor or the team of horses or mules could draw it down into
the fields where it would receive its produce.

Such a railroad--how I should like to hear it called the Bates County
Farmers' Railroad or something of that sort!--would carry coal and
merchandise out from the standard railroad to the farm-houses. Its chief
utility, however, would be the inward movement of produce. The relief to
the highroad, in case the highroad happens to be the typical narrow, light
pavement so often used in this country, would be obvious, while in the
cases of the all but unspeakable dirt and sand roads the relief to the
farmer's horses or trucks, to say nothing of his nerves, would be vast
indeed.

Sometimes when I contemplate the vastness of the possibilities of rail
transport in these United States I am staggered with their enormity. We
sometimes say that we now have developed a complete railroad system in
this country. Such a statement is a joke. We have not even scotched the
surface of transport possibilities here. We have tackled the obvious and
neglected the possibilities not so obvious. But they do exist nevertheless
and await the coming of the right intelligence and imagination to make the
proper use of them. This brings us at once to the possibilities of the
freight-container for the American railroad--not only for the railroad but
for all those other forms of transport which we have said should be allied
with it and which eventually, I believe, will be correlated and allied
with it--the motor-truck, the canal-barge, the outbound steamship. For all
of these forms of transportation the container is the veritable keystone
of the arch. It is more. It links them together. It is not merely the
keystone but the binding mortar itself of the transport arch.

I spoke but a moment ago of the transfer of freight from this imaginary
farmers' railroad--based upon the French models--to the steam railroad at
the point of connection between the two. Transfer, at the best, is
expensive. At the worst, it is both cumbersome and filled with delay. The
container reduces freight transfer to an absolute minimum.

Yet because it has so many varied and fascinating phases I shall not enter
upon its discussion within the pages of this chapter but shall give it a
chapter of its own. It really deserves a book.



CHAPTER XII

SPEEDING UP THE FREIGHT TERMINALS


For years past, old-time railroaders have emphasized the point that the
ordinary freight-car did not make money until it had hauled its goods at
least forty miles; the newer generation places this figure at nearer
eighty miles. And when you ask the whys and the wherefores of this, the
answer comes in but two words: "terminal expense." To reduce drastically
this expense, particularly in freight haulage, is to accomplish to-day one
of the largest single economies in the operation of the American railroad,
while as we have seen, and as we shall again see, further operating
economies are apparently its one salvation, no matter who may assume the
difficult task of their direction.

I have said already that the maximum profitable haul of the motor-truck
upon the highway is from fifty to eighty miles. Now put this figure
against the minimum profitable haul of the freight-car and see if we are
not driving toward a solution of the freight terminal problem. I think
that we are. And a single practical and concrete illustration ought to
show the reason for making this statement.

Here is Jones, out near Passaic, New Jersey, tanning leather, and Smith,
who has a shoe-factory of modest size at Lynn, Massachusetts, using it. In
other days the leather used to go through from New Jersey to the Bay State
in car-load lots. But in the last few years this method has proved
entirely too slow, even with the slowly returning strength and freight
efficiency of our railroads. It takes at least three roads to accomplish
the distance between Passaic and Lynn, with both New York and Boston,
through which the cars will probably pass, in any brisk season transfer
points of fearful and constant congestion--and with both Jones and Smith
then swearing and recriminating at one another.

To-day the leather is leaving Jones's tannery each afternoon at just 3:15
and is rolling up to the Smith factory in Lynn well before noon the next
day with an almost clock-like precision. Even in the days that the freight
was moving in heavy volume this precision was steadily maintained.
Motor-haul all the way? Oh, bless you, no! Two hundred and fifty miles to
be covered, and--as this is being written, in the dead of winter--not only
to be covered promptly but at a cost considerably less than express, and
not so far in advance of first-class freight charges. That eliminates the
possibility of the motor-truck doing the job--all the way through at
least. But it does not eliminate the fact that it is the motor-truck that
has made the transformation possible. Now see what really is done.

Each evening at a quarter after seven a fast-freight train of the New
York, New Haven, and Hartford railroad leaves the Mott Haven terminal of
that system, in the upper section of New York, for Boston. With selected
equipment, it makes good time on the 229-mile run to Boston and pulls in
there shortly before six o'clock in the morning. A hard-headed and
long-visioned motor-truck concern in New York fills three to a dozen
box-cars in that train each night. Into that Mott Haven terminal it
operates its own fleet of motor-trucks, not only from all freight-giving
points in the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queensborough, and Bronx districts of
greater New York, but from the many industrial towns in the vicinage
roundabout, up to a radius of from thirty to forty miles. Out of the
Boston terminal of the New Haven it operates a similar fleet, and so makes
the journey of a package of hides from Passaic to Lynn but a single
rail-haul, in addition to the pick-up and the delivery motor-run.
Simplicity and efficiency. And efficiency and economy.

In theory there would seemingly be nothing to prevent the single big
express company (into which all of the old-time companies were combined,
as a war-time measure) from doing this same thing. In practice, however,
their contracts with the railroads forbid this very simple and efficient
method of working. Those contracts compel the express company to load its
freight into railroad baggage-cars, for no matter how short the haul. If
the American Railway Express takes two rolls of carpet from Fifth Avenue
and Forty-seventh Street, New York, to Yonkers, on the very edge of the
big town and hardly a dozen miles distant from the carpet-store, it must
lug them to its big terminal on the west side of Manhattan Island and
there put them in a baggage-car of the New York Central for the haul to
its station in Yonkers, from which, of course, there is the second
delivery run. There is nothing in the theory--or in its simple
practice--to keep the express company's truck which picked up the rolls of
carpets at the Fifth Avenue shop continuing north to the very door of the
house in Park Hill or any other section of Yonkers to which they are
consigned. In a similar way express freight that is destined from
Manhattan Island to a point as near as Newark--seven or eight miles of
rail-haul--must all go by baggage-car, which, in its way, is quite as
absurd as sending stuff all the way from New York to Chicago by
motor-truck.

       *       *       *       *       *

The big railroaders have not been quick to see the practical possibilities
of the motor-truck. Gradually however these are being forced upon their
attention. Take Cincinnati. Perhaps you are not a shipper and so are not
familiar with the freight situation there. If so, let me tell you that in
the days before Uncle Sam attempted consolidation of all his railroads and
the old-time competing systems used points of individual attractiveness to
gain traffic, the bright young men who sought out preference-freight for
their individual lines used, as the strongest of their talking points, to
promise the elimination of Cincinnati for any shipment bound north or
south or east or west through its vicinage. The late J. J. Hill used to
say that it took as long and cost as much for a box-car to go through the
Chicago terminals--about twenty-two miles--as from Chicago to the Twin
Cities--nearly five hundred miles. Applying a similar test to the
Cincinnati terminals one might say that a journey on from the Queen City
by the Ohio through to El Paso would be an equally fair comparison.

For while Chicago lies upon a broad flat plain and presents no
topographical problems whatsoever to the railroad engineer, Cincinnati,
crouched under fearful hills there along the river, has always been his
despair. When Collis P. Huntington first conceived the idea of a real
transcontinental railroad system forty or more years ago and sought to
bring his Chesapeake and Ohio, as an integral unit of that plan, into
Cincinnati, he found the roads already there most hostile to his entrance.
They held the town impregnable. Yet Huntington outwitted them by a superb
coup d' état of engineering in which he thrust a marvelous great bridge
over the Ohio into the heart of the city and the upper levels of its
Central Union Station.

To-day Cincinnati stands as it stood then--seemingly impregnable. Its
railroad terminals forever are clotted and congested. And seemingly they
are incapable of expansion, short of the expenditure of many millions of
dollars. From one of these, the Panhandle freight-house at the east end of
the heart of the city, along the river edge to three or four others close
together, the downtown stations of the Big Four, the Baltimore and Ohio,
the Chesapeake and Ohio, and the Queen and Crescent, it is hardly more
than a mile. A direct track along the levee connects all of them, yet the
records show that the average time for a freight car to go from the first
of these freight-houses to any one of the last four for years past has
been two days and fourteen hours. It was because of practical conditions
such as these that a great deal of the transfer work of less-than-car-load
freight from one railroad to another through Cincinnati was performed by a
transfer company through the city streets. The huge wagons of this
concern, each drawn by horses or mules, the driver seated athwart of the
southwest horse or mule, used to be familiar sights in the narrow streets
of the town close to the river. I say "used to be" advisedly. For these
quaint and ancient vehicles have to-day disappeared from the downtown
heart of Cincinnati. In their place the motor-truck has shown its
ubiquitous self. And in place of the 115 horse-drawn open trucks--our
English cousins would call them "lorries"--have come fifteen efficient,
modern, five-ton gasolene trucks. The mules and the horses have been
turned out to pasture. Nor is this all. A good many of the little
switching engines that used to haul the local transfer or "trap-cars" from
one main freight-house to another, or from the sub-stations in various
outlying industrial sections of the Cincinnati district, have been
released for service elsewhere, and a vast saving effected in men and in
money.

Before we came to the detailed method in which these fifteen motor-truck
chasses are being operated, consider for a longer moment the peculiar
topographical layout of Cincinnati: On that narrow shelf of flats or
bottoms between the high hills and the river in which the older portion of
the city is tightly built are situated the greater portion of its
industries. There it is that its business life centers. There it is then
that its railroad terminals have also been centered since first the
locomotive poked his way down to the banks of the Ohio. And since they
have expanded to almost every square inch of available territory. To the
east end of this long and narrow strip come the Panhandle lines of the
Pennsylvania system, the Louisville and Nashville's main-stem and the
Norfolk and Western railroad. At its western end are grouped the Kentucky
Central division of the Louisville and Nashville, the Queen and Crescent
lines of the Southern system, the Baltimore and Ohio reaching east, north,
and west on four important stems, the Chesapeake and Ohio, and the Big
Four lines of the New York Central.

The volume of traffic which these lines bring into Cincinnati and take out
of her crowded heart is vast indeed, and growing rapidly year by year. Not
only is the local traffic a thing to reckoned in many thousands of tons,
but the fact that there are three railroad bridges there across the Ohio,
each carrying at least one important through route to the South, means a
vast amount of through freight to go through that gateway--and much of it
there to be transferred, which further complicates the situation.

And more than all these things the steady growth of the city has meant a
constant demand for addition to her railroad facilities--addition that
because of the recent difficulties in railroad finance, as well as the
terrible topographical difficulties of the Cincinnati situation, have not
kept pace with the industrial growth of the city. Fortunately a good deal
of this recent growth has been away from her civic heart rather than close
to it. New factories have sprung up in new industrial districts, well to
the north and the northwest of the older portions of the town. And in
order to accommodate the smaller concerns of these sections--Brighton,
Ivorydale, and Norwood chief amongst them--the competing railroads which
threaded them opened up sub-station freight-houses in each of them. These
served concerns not large enough to have their own private sidings, while
in order to give these industries the benefits of the same through-car
service for L. C. L. (less-than-car-load) business that downtown business
houses enjoyed they were served by the downtown freight-houses. The
distances from these sub-stations--three or four to eight or ten
miles--were of course quite out of the question for the horse-drawn
lorries. So it became the practice there, as in other widespread
metropolitan cities, to load package-freight in local box-cars--in the
parlance of the business, "trap-cars"--and send these in the convoy of a
switch-engine to the downtown station where space was required for their
spotting and unloading. And a confounded situation was thus doubly
confounded.

In regular practice these trap-cars with their outbound freight would
leave the outlying sub-station each afternoon soon after their closing
hour--4:30--but they would not reach the downtown stations until early
evening, some hours after the L. C. L. or through package-freight cars
for that day had all been closed and sealed and sent merrily on their way
toward their destinations. At the best the stuff they carried would make
the through outbound cars of the second day. At the worst they might make
the cars the fourth or fifth day, while impatient shippers began to burn
the telegraph wires with all their woes.

To-day the freight from those outlying sub-stations at Brighton,
Ivorydale, Norwood, Oakley, and Sixth Street, Storrs, Covington, and
Newport is leaving them at their closing hours and going out from the main
downtown freight-stations that same evening--almost without a miss. The
shipper smiles. And, as in the case of the L. C. L. freight to be
transferred from one railroad to another at Cincinnati, great time, money,
and temper are saved and efficiency gained. The reason why? Let me hasten
to answer.

The motor-truck has come into railroad terminal service and has there
found a field peculiarly if not exclusively its own.

And because the Cincinnati experiment has passed the stage of mere
experimental trials and doubtings, because there in that fine old town at
the double bend of the Ohio a real progress step in transportation has
been taken that is not only of actual value to it to-day but of potential
value to every other big town in America to-morrow, let us go a little
more closely into its workings. Let us begin by calling to the
witness-chair J. J. Schultz, president and general manager of the
Cincinnati Motor Terminals and himself a railroad operating man of long
experience.

Mr. Schultz tells us quickly how a little more than four and a half years
ago the experiment began in the badly overcrowded downtown freight-station
of the Big Four, just south of and adjoining the equally badly crowded
Central Union (passenger) Station. It was a simple enough plant then--two
motor-truck chasses, bought on credit from a Cleveland concern, and twelve
cage-bodies worked out through the ingenuity of a local blacksmith. These
were placed in service between the main freight-house of the Big Four and
one or two of the outlying sub-stations. The success of the plan was
almost immediate. The two trucks went scurrying back and forth all day
long, picking up and depositing the loaded bodies until the other railroad
men of Cincinnati began to realize that their Vanderbilt competitors had
scored a sort of a beat on them. Then they began to look into the
motor-truck proposition on their own, with the direct result that to-day
every freight-house in Cincinnati except one is equipped for handling
standardized motor-truck bodies on and off standardized motor-trucks.

In transfer freight the scheme, briefly stated, is this. A box-car, filled
with less-than-car-load stuff, all bound for different roads south of the
Ohio, comes rolling down from Pittsburg into the Panhandle freight-house,
there at the east end of the Cincinnati congested district. The
freight-house crews make quick work of unloading it. The package stuff
which it held goes rolling across the deck of the "in-house" and without
rehandling into one of two or three of a row of huge packing-boxes that
stand awaiting it. These look like the small goods-wagons of the French or
the English railways and are in reality the new type of standardized red
and gray motor-bodies of the Motor Terminals Co. One is destined for the
freight-house of the main division of the L. & N., another for the
Kentucky Central division of the same system, a third for the Queen and
Crescent. An average of four and a half tons is stowed away in each of
them, the way-bills are placed in an envelope for the driver, and the box
is then fastened and sealed like the door of a regular box-car in service.
The freight-house boss moves toward his telephone. Presto! A motor-chassis
pulls alongside the Panhandle freight house.

"Ready for the Queen & Crescent," the driver shouts cheerily in.

But before he receives his loaded box and the way-bills there is one to be
delivered. An overhead crane running upon a track grabs the box, swings it
clear of the chassis, and places it upon one side of the freight-house
deck. From the other it picks up the loaded box for the Queen & Crescent
and--almost as quickly as it can be told here--deposits it upon the
emptied chassis. The driver yells a good-by and the truck is off, to be
replaced almost instantly with another, with a transfer load to be
delivered and one to be taken on for one of the other freight-houses.

"Our despatcher allows five minutes to unload a body and to load on
another," says Mr. Schultz. "It's a lot more than sufficient time."

"What despatcher?" we ask Mr. Schultz.

He explains in some detail. The railroads, who keep a careful supervising
oversight of the workings of the plan, have installed at their own expense
a skilled train-despatcher who, at a desk and telephone switchboard in a
quiet downtown corner, directs the exact operations of each of the
terminal company's trucks. Through his direct telephone lines to each
freight-house and sub-station he keeps tab upon the comings and the goings
of the drivers, as well as a complete and permanent record of their work
and can quickly meet emergencies of every sort, instantly adjusting the
service to the needs that are thrust upon it. Time is money. And time
counts.

"We are handling this stuff across town to the Queen and Crescent in just
fourteen minutes to the average," explains Mr. Schultz. "And here is where
the average was two days and fourteen hours--the actual practice often
from eight to ten days. Some percentage of gain."

A seemingly incredible percentage, Mr. Schultz. Yet here are the records
before our eyes that prove the statement. He seems to know exactly what he
is talking about:

"Take that run from the Brighton sub-station down to the main
freight-house of the Big Four in the old days," he adds. "Second night out
from the main station in a through L. C. L. car--in theory only. Do you
know what it took them in average practice with that trap-car? An average
of thirty-six hours; that's according to the records. And our motor-trucks
make that run in thirty minutes. But because they haul an average load of
but 4.37 tons, as against an average load of nine tons in the trap-car,
we must, in order to be entirely fair, take that into consideration in a
comparative reckoning and say that our average haul is one hour and four
minutes, which still compares pretty well with thirty-six hours. Or, to
bring it still further, the average time to haul one ton of
package-freight by motor-truck is seven minutes, as compared with three
hours and fifty-four minutes by trap-car. Our drivers are scheduled to
make ten miles an hour through the city streets, and they make it easily
and without danger or annoyance to any one.

"There is another factor of saving in this service that you must not
forget," continues Mr. Schultz. "By our use of the motor-truck we have
saved the use of twenty-three trap-cars a day in this one freight-house
alone. That not only releases those cars to the Pennsylvania railroad for
line service but, by saving the platform trackage which these cars
demanded, increases in a really great measure the capacity and efficiency
of this freight-house. And you can readily understand the effect upon the
entire Cincinnati terminal situation when I tell you that the motor-truck
service which we already have in effect is releasing a total of 66,000
box-cars a year from Cincinnati terminal service for the line movements of
the various railroads that lead in here."

I think I can understand. A little time ago the wisest and most
conservative of the railroad operating executives who have Cincinnati
among their bailiwicks were wondering how in these days of abnormally low
railroad credit they were going to escape vast and almost immediate
extensions to their terminals there, both freight and passenger. Now they
know that these expenditures will not have to be made--for the freight
terminals at least--for a number of years to come. The trap-car
elimination has released anywhere from 30 to 40 per cent. of valuable
floor-space in each of the present local freight-houses and so of course
has added that much to their working capacity. Count that, if you please,
to the credit of the motor-truck in terminal service.

Nor is the service itself representative of any cost increase. The motor
terminals company is hauling all the transfer and secondary freight at an
average cost of eighty cents a ton, which certainly compares well with
$1.20 which the former transfer service was compelled to charge for its
haul by lorries, or the expense varying from $1.12 to $1.60 a ton which it
costs the railroads to haul their own trap-cars by switch-engines. A
saving this which goes well alongside of that of box-cars and
switch-engines and freight-house space relieved, to say nothing of
individual shipments, through and local, vastly expedited; all of which
can be translated annually into money savings of real dimensions.

Already the motor terminals company is hauling about one thousand tons of
freight through the streets of Cincinnati in nine hours of each business
day. Its trucks, with maximum outside dimensions of seventeen feet six
inches by eight feet, are both shorter and narrower than the lorries of
the old transfer company and infinitely less subject to delays under
conditions of inclement weather. Moreover understand, if you will, that
the transfer company, with all of its 115 lorries, hauled but 38 per cent.
of the through L. C. L. freight between the various terminals of
Cincinnati. To handle all of it would have taken at least 250 horse-drawn
trucks, while if it had attempted the problem of handling the sub-stations
another fleet of at least equal size would have been required.

Yet its motorized successor is now handling every pound of the thousand
tons or more of transfer freight at Cincinnati daily as well as all the
sub-station work, with the slight increase of twenty-four bodies to the
201 already in service and without the increase of a single chassis to its
present operating fleet of fifteen. To perfect and quicken its service the
overhead cranes for loading and unloading the box-bodies are being
equipped with motor-trolleys, in place of the man-power chain
arrangements, which in turn represents a speed of fifty feet a minute as
against but seven under the old order of things. And this of course is
still further efficiency.

So much then for the situation as it stands to-day in Cincinnati. It does
not take very much of a vision to see in the proved success of a terminal
plan, which already has ceased to be an experiment, a great enlargement of
the freight gathering and distributing scheme for the entire city. No
longer will it be necessary or even essential that a freight-house of a
railroad be located either at or near rails. It can come far closer to its
users. In other words railroad sub-stations for the collection and
delivery of package-freight can be established in every industrial section
of Cincinnati, thus shortening the haul for individual patrons and so in
turn perceptibly lessening the congestion in the city streets.

Do you see now where this is leading us? With sub-stations so established,
the principle of standardized interchangeable motor-truck bodies and
chasses working to so definite an end, there remains little or no use for
downtown freight terminals in a city like Cincinnati, save perhaps an
occasional team-track yard for heavy car-load shipments. In the flats at
the edge of the town the railroads can, and in my opinion eventually will,
establish new and generous-sized freight-houses and other terminal
appurtenances. The downtown stations, located in the heart of each
industrial district, will do the rest. The expense of building these last
will be as nothing. The value of their upper floors as lofts for light
manufacturing will far more than offset the cost and upkeep of the
ground-floor motor-freight terminal, while the facility of movement, with
its multitude of resultant economies, will make the expenditure on
outlying main terminals money well spent indeed.

As goes Cincinnati, so must go the land outside. It is from this point of
view that its radically new terminal plan assumes a nation-wide interest
and importance. As I lingered in its various railroad terminals beside the
neat wood and iron motor-body boxes upon the freight-house decks--the
original open cage design has long since been discarded in favor of the
stronger and more permanent form of carrier--I could not help but be
struck again with their resemblance to the small ten-ton goods-wagons of
the French and English railways. And I recalled the tremendous efficiency
of these same small wagons for the work for which they were best adapted,
the hauling of package freight, the sort of things we know in this country
as L. C. L. One of the great disagreeable sources of railroad outgo in
America, and one that has a constant tendency toward increase, is the list
of claims paid for freight damaged in transit. It makes a pretty big
annual bill, of which an astoundingly large proportion is gained through
breakage in the transfer-houses. Remember that right here is where our
French and English cousins can always show us a trick or two. With their
little ten-ton cars there is always enough package-freight to "make" a
full car even to the smallest communities, while once arrived at one of
these, a switching-crew composed of a man and a horse handles the car-load
shipment with great care and no little speed.

Then as I stood there upon the big and orderly decks of the Cincinnati
freight-houses--orderly upon the coming of the motor-truck into terminal
service, and for the first time in many years--it kept coming to me, why
could not these stoutly built boxes go through to Dayton or to Columbus or
Indianapolis, or for that matter anywhere within reach of the American
freight-car? Two of them would go quite easily upon the deck of a
flat-car; it ought not to be difficult to find "flats" to accommodate
three of the seventeen-foot motor-bodies upon their platforms. But even
with but two, there would be nine tons of package-freight, which is fully
as much if not more than the average package-freight box-car is carrying
to-day across the land. While thirteen tons--three well filled
motor-boxes-runs well ahead of that average.

Suppose that this long Big Four flat-car was to run up to Columbus--150
miles or more up the line--with three motor-boxes upon its deck. One might
have been filled at the main freight-house of the Big Four, down in the
shadow of the big passenger terminal, another at Brighton, the third, let
us say at Norwood. The exact stations are immaterial. The point is that
the freight would have but one transfer--at the in-house of the Columbus
terminals. There an overhead track-crane would pick the three boxes off
the "flat" and place them upon the freight-house deck, where they could be
quickly unloaded and their contents placed on trucks or lorries for
Columbus distribution. While in turn the motor-boxes would be reloaded for
shipment back direct to Cincinnati-Downtown, Cincinnati-Brighton, and
Cincinnati-Norwood.

There is nothing impracticable or impossible about such a plan. On the
contrary, it is most tremendously practical and tremendously efficient
withal. Its installation is neither difficult nor expensive, while the
savings are vast. A conservative estimate would place these already at
$1000 a day in the Cincinnati district. Carry that ratio all the way
across the country and you have a possibility of railroad operating
economy in the aggregate not to be sneezed at.

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole broad national field of railroad operation awaits the coming of
the motor-truck and its detachable body into terminal handling. It is to
be a great factor in the railroad of to-morrow. Come east, if you will,
from Cincinnati into New York. Now we have a teaser of a problem. Far
worse, even, than that of the city by the bend of the Ohio. The freight
terminal problem of the island of Manhattan alone is to-day the greatest
single problem of transport in all this land, if not, indeed, in all the
world. Into it constantly is being injected idealism, engineering,
politics, common-sense--all of these, apparently to but little avail. An
elaborate plan has been formulated lately for the correction and revision
of the entire terminal problem of the New York metropolitan district
(including not only all the outlying boroughs such as Brooklyn, Richmond,
and the Bronx, but Jersey City, Bayonne, Weehawken, Hoboken, Newark,
Paterson, Passaic, and many other closely allied communities). This plan
is being engineered by the newly created Port of New York Authority,
modeled closely upon a similar body for the port of London. As this is
being written, it is being resisted stoutly by the city administration of
New York. I shall not go into this phase of the problem however. There are
enough others to be considered, and this particular one sooner or later
will come to an automatic solution.

For no matter whether the city administration or the Port Authority
(created by the States of New York and New Jersey) comes atop, the island
of Manhattan will remain the crux and key of the whole problem. For its
relief it may be necessary, as has been suggested, to build relief
belt-line railroads no nearer than forty miles away from it. That is a
matter for the future. For the present consider that disregarding
political boundaries--traffic takes little or no thought of them--the
commercial center of metropolitan New York (in the sense which I now mean,
a well-grouped city of ten million people, even though in two separate
States) is and must remain upon Manhattan Island. There is the commerce
done. There the freight comes to a clearing-house. Manufacturing may
increase and probably will upon the outer rims of the district. But
distribution will remain close to its heart.

Consider for a moment, if you will, with me the antiquated freight
facilities of the heart of what long since became the second city of the
world, and which to-day, commercially, at least, is its first. Upon the
long, slender island of Manhattan but one steam railroad has direct rail
freight facilities. That road is the New York Central, which many years
ago pre-empted most of the western edge of the island for itself and so
gained a vast strategic advantage--also a choice assortment of political
quarrels. However, the one thing probably more than offsets the other.
There are nine other important freight railroads, however, entering the
New York metropolitan district (not counting the West Shore, which is a
subsidiary of the New York Central). These roads, together with the
Central and the West Shore, occupy thirty-five vastly valuable piers in
the congested sections of the island south of Forty-second Street and so
hold the piers from coastwise and from outbound steamship lines which
clamor constantly for them.

To these piers the freight-cars of these eleven railroads come on long
clumsy car-floats, each accommodating about ten cars. The floats are
loaded at the direct water terminals of the railroads across the Hudson
and elsewhere and are poked by stout tugs into position alongside the
freight-piers. In theory a single standard pier of Manhattan should empty
and load, even in this rather clumsy fashion, about eighty cars a day.
This is based upon having four floats at each of them at a single time. In
practice they do well if they clear forty cars a day. The berthings
between the piers are narrow, there is much congestion in them and in the
rivers about Manhattan Island, and delays are not only frequent but
constant.

Yet the delays upon the water sides of these piers are as nothing compared
with those upon their street sides. Any New York merchant, retail or
wholesale, will tell you of these--of trucks standing in line long, weary,
expensive hours outside the pier-doors and then wasting more time after
they once get inside, before they are loaded and out again. On an average
60 per cent. of a truck's time is so wasted. The average downtown pier is
but eighty feet wide, and after a thirty foot roadway has been left down
its center there is not much room for the freight. There must be a vast
amount of pulling and hauling over the accumulated merchandise. This all
takes time and money.

Concretely, it costs about two dollars a ton for package-freight (known
technically as the classified) to get itself unloaded upon a Manhattan
Island pier. Add to this fifty to sixty cents for the hand-work of
unloading upon the pier and a hauling cost through the streets of downtown
New York of from eight to ten cents a hundred; and you have a total
terminal cost well in excess of four dollars a ton, which is entirely too
much.

One of the chief tasks before the engineers of the Port of New York
Authority is to bring down this cost. They have proposed a fascinating and
elaborate plan by which the freight-cars upon the eight railroads coming
into New York from the south and west be unloaded well outside the rail
terminal congestion--the essence of the fully-developed Cincinnati plan
which we have just seen. Their freight would go into a form of container
which would ride into Manhattan upon a miniature underground electric
railroad, not dissimilar to that in successful use in Chicago for a number
of years past. This road, connecting with the outlying freight interchange
points, would dip under the Hudson River at the Battery and continue up
under West Street, at the extreme westerly rim of Manhattan Island, to
about Thirty-third Street, where it would again tunnel beneath the river
and return to New Jersey--a simple and efficient belt-line.

This scheme is most interesting, despite its weakness in ignoring the
uptown growth of Manhattan Island by quitting it south of Thirty-fourth
Street. Unfortunately it is most expensive, as well. Most such plans are.
Its estimated cost is $259,000,000. A keen and experienced railroader of
my acquaintance, taking this into consideration for his overhead and
making a sharp analysis of probable operating costs, has not hesitated to
give it as his opinion that this underground electric railroad would
impose a terminal cost of something over four dollars a ton for classified
freight entering Manhattan from the west bank of the Hudson River. Add to
this your street haul costs of from eight to ten cents a hundred and you
begin to get something too dangerously close to six dollars a ton to have
much joy in it for the New York merchants.

One of the most important of the eight railroads entering New York from
the west, from a freight traffic point of view, at least, is the Erie.
Despite a fearful heritage of financial obligations incurred during its
maladministration of half a century ago, it is a remarkably progressive
property in its operating methods. Poverty and the consequent need for
extreme economy have forced it into many ingenious and highly practical
operating kinks. The vast expenditures involved in the elaborate plan of
the Port of New York Authority can have little fascination for the
energetic F. D. Underwood and the rest of the Erie officers, who know how
very hard it is for them to meet their operating and their fixed
charges--dividends are not in their hopes.

With this in mind they have sought to meet the New York terminal
situation, not with large expenditures but with an adaptation of the tolls
close at hand. Already they have entered into a contract with a trucking
concern upon Manhattan Island to work out the details of a most ingenious
plan which goes after this fashion.

For many years past the Erie has operated two ferry-lines from its
historic terminal at Pavonia Avenue, Jersey City, to New York--Chambers
and Twenty-third streets respectively. To meet the large suburban
passenger necessities of the road it is necessary to operate these upon
fairly frequent headways. Yet Pavonia Avenue is not an accepted route for
through motoring, either freight or passenger which means that the Erie
ferry-boats have been more crowded in their cabins than upon their team
decks. Yet it is obvious that it costs little or no more to operate a well
filled ferry-boat than one that is but half-filled. Moreover in Pavonia
Avenue, Jersey City, the Erie possesses not only ample freight-house
facilities but room for a large future expansion of them.

Of course, it was quite out of the question to expect the average merchant
of Manhattan Island to go to Jersey City to get his freight, particularly
when the Erie's enterprising competitors were crying their willingness to
set it down in the West Street piers. Mohammed would not go to the
mountain, but in this instance the mountain would come to Mohammed. The
Erie made arrangements with a large trucking concern in the City of New
York to take classified freight in ten-ton units to the merchants' doors.
These truck-bodies are four-wheeled, their forward wheels being rather
light and rather small. There are three of these bodies to one tractor
unit, which means of course that while one body is in transit attached to
the tractor, the other two are at the respective termini being loaded and
unloaded. So is time saved; and so is saved the expensive overhead upon
the tractor-unit while the clock goes steadily ticking forward.

Eighteen of these truck and tractor combinations go upon a single
ferry-boat. The ferry-boat headway is seven and one-half minutes, which
means that working at full speed 1760 tons--a fair-sized train-load, for
classified freight--can be handled each hour. And if you wish more figures
still, please understand that the terminal cost of trucking to the
merchant of Manhattan has been lowered by this method from eight to ten
cents a hundred to but five or six.

Economies? Sometimes I think we of America do not know, even yet, the real
meaning of the word.

Yet this is but the beginning of the Erie's work at its New York
terminals. Its big job, upon which it is just now embarking, is bringing
into play the container in its most real sense not merely as a detachable
truck-body but as a steel-box which can be loaded and then handled in
almost any conceivable form of transport.

The idea is simplicity itself, nor is it a particularly new one. For many
years past the express companies have used it for the transport of their
comparatively small and valuable packages, placing these in large
iron-bound wooden trunks for safety in carriage. It is more than a dozen
years ago that a professor in one of the New England colleges--Amherst, I
think--wrote an article in which he advocated the scheme for all
package-freight and sent the article to a technical publication, which
promptly refused it, saying that it was entirely too visionary an idea.

Yet here we are, fairly come to it in these days. The Erie plan in its
last refinements proposes to unload the package-freight for New York at
its yards at Croxton, New Jersey, just west of the Bergen tunnels, and
then after reassortment to reload it into steel container-boxes,
seventeen and one-half feet by eight and one-half, and with a working
capacity of five tons. Two of these containers will fill the platform of
an average flat-car.

The reassortment or transfer work at Croxton will be not only into
containers for the Erie's various sole and joint freight-stations in
Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queensborough, but also to individual
business houses, where the volume of the freight justifies such a step.
Great retail stores, such as Macy's or Wanamaker's or Altman's, easily
would receive one or more of these containers each day. So would the
important wholesalers, and all other considerable distributing concerns of
the City of New York.

The containers placed upon the flat-cars at Croxton will quickly traverse
the three or four brief miles to the water-side of Weehawken, just across
from West Fortieth Street, Manhattan. Here they will go upon the huge
floats originally built for the terminal movement of loaded box-cars but
each easily adapted for the carrying of sixty of the five-ton containers.
All the elaborate plans that have been made for the extension and
development of the port of New York predicate the scrapping of this great
harbor fleet of car-floats--some eight million dollars' worth all told. In
this book I am aiming to show possible railroad economies, not
expenditures. It is easy enough to depict elaborate plans which involve
vast capital expenditure. We have had rather too many of these in this
country in recent years. It seems to me that by far the best plans are
those that give large operating economies with a minimum of actual
expense. These are the sort that I am trying to show within these pages.

If the Erie plans will bring to each of its water-side piers in lower
Manhattan some 7200 tons of assorted merchandise a day, against about 400
tons as at present accomplished by the old-fashioned and rather awkward
device of ferrying the loaded cars themselves across the Hudson River, it
would seem to be both a real efficiency, as well as a mere economy.
Carried out by other roads using the harbor-side of West Street,
Manhattan, it would quickly become a vast efficiency--the storage of
freight upon the crowded pier floors ended; motor-trucks coming in,
receiving in a time always to be measured in seconds, rather than in
minutes, the steel containers upon their stout chasses, and then departing
in a quick and orderly fashion. J. J. Mantell, the New York manager of the
Erie, who has created this new plan and now has its execution in charge,
estimates that carried out upon the lines of his competitors it would mean
that the railroads coming into New York from the west would need but seven
piers instead of the thirty-five that they now occupy. Twenty-eight piers
would be released for steamship service and the necessity of extensive,
and expensive, harbor improvements deferred, for a number of years at
least.

The container idea, having once come into the public eye here in the
United States, has steadily and rather rapidly gained in favor. A
gentleman in St. Louis has apparently gone the Cincinnati method one
better by devising a steel container which is interchangeable not only
between motor-trucks and railroad freight-cars, but from these chasses to
barge or flat-cars, or into the hold of a steamboat. His scheme already is
in actual use, although not in perfected form, in the Federal barge
service established three years ago upon the Warrior River. Twenty of the
big steel boxes were purchased for use there, and there they are still in
use.

It so happens that the Warrior River barges have no deck-houses, merely
open holds into which the coal from the Alabama hills can easily be poured
or unloaded. To make "return load"--always that valuable factor in
transportation, either water or rail-merchandise freight must be garnered
in New Orleans. And an open-hold barge is hardly comparable to a box-car;
not at least in the mind of a shipper, who has some lurking desire to have
his goods arrive in fair condition at the far end of the run.

So the steel container, which H. W. Kirchner of St. Louis has designed,
came into play. It carries merchandise not only from New Orleans to
Birmingport (just below Birmingham) but, atop of the coal, back to New
Orleans again. The inventor has had no joy whatever in this very informal
trial of his device. He would prefer to have his containers handled and
placed in a more orderly and systematic fashion. Yet the fact remains that
a beginning has been made in the actual use of the only practical binding
force yet brought forward which looks to a physical linking of the several
different arms of freight transport. Any firm believer not only in the
theory of correlated transportation but also in the high values to be
achieved by its practical application in this country cannot help having a
joy in this Warrior River experiment, an experiment which sooner or later
is to be extended to the similar barge service which the United States
Government has now succeeded in establishing upon the Mississippi. It
already has been shown on the Warrior River line that the container can,
and does, cut labor costs at terminals all the way from sixty-five cents
to four cents a ton--the time for unloading from twelve to twenty-four
hours down to but one or two, at the most.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is coming to-day in this country--slowly, but very surely--a
reversal of the old-time tradition that the inland waterway is _per se_ a
competitor of the railroad. Many years ago the railroads themselves showed
how small a figure a river or canal, always more or less subject to
seasonal or weather influences, was to the steel highway as a competitor,
while the attempts that have been made since then--and generally at large
capital expenditure--to bring about the resurrection of the inland
waterway as a competitor of the railroad have so far proved abortive.

But to regard the inland waterway as supplementary to the railroad, or the
railroad as supplementary to the inland waterway--it is merely a choice of
phrasings--is a very different story indeed. True it is that the statute
laws to-day pronounce sternly against such a sensible, economic solution
of a large phase of our American transport problem. True it is that a
good many other keen business men still can see the waterway in no other
light than as a club over the railroad. True it is that a good many
otherwise sagacious railroad executives can see the waterway as nothing
but an obsolete agent of transport or as a foolish dream of visionary
idealists. Yet the fact remains that the waterway does have its place in
transport. The railroad has a place, and in intelligent analysis these
places dovetail somehow, somewhere. They do not conflict. And the sooner
realization is made of this, the better--for all of us.

Some day we shall have to change our statute laws and then, instead of
barring our railroads from our waterways, we shall invite, urge, implore,
and if necessary compel them to use these great natural arteries of inland
transport, chiefly for the relief of their overcrowded rails, particularly
the rail terminals. And how overcrowded these are yet to be, it is hard to
realize in this present moment of industrial slump.

In that day the container is to be, as I have said already, the binding
agent between these different avenues of transport. Its flexibility, its
adaptability, its obvious economy are going to bring it into its own.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime great progress is being made in its development. A. H.
Smith, the big, energetic president of the New York Central, with his
usual verve and enthusiasm has taken hold of the idea and seems bound to
put it over. Already he has had built ten steel units of containers four
for passenger service and holding ten boxes each, and six for freight
service and holding but six boxes apiece. The passenger service units are
being tried out in the United States mail service; the freight-service
ones are in experimentation by the American Railway Express. Just what
will be the final development in operation of these units Smith himself
does not know. He believes that the possibilities are almost too great for
instant grasp. That is why he has his road and himself back of the new
idea. He has watched it carefully, almost apprehensively. Because of a
certain indefinite fear that one of the great steel boxes might some fine
day be hurtled from the platform of a car running at high speed and into
some group of waiting people by the side of the railroad, he has caused
extraordinary care to be taken to have them firmly fastened not merely
upon, but into, the platform-cars. A long steel girder-side of the car
does the trick, while in these days of bandits and rumors of bandits along
the line the fact that there is no possible process of opening the steel
door of the container-box once it is set into its place upon the car gives
an assurance of protection to the merchandise that no other form of
carrier can offer.

Here again the motor-truck correlates. In the first experimental trials by
the New York Central of this forward-looking device, they have come into
quick and easy terminal service; the big olive-green trucks of the United
States Mail service and the deep-blue ones of the American Railway
Express.

       *       *       *       *       *

I began this chapter with the motor-truck. With the motor-truck I shall
close it. It is the object of great dreams of transport. Yet these are
not, after all, mere dreams. They are, as we have seen just now, the
carefully developed plans of engineers long since become expert in
transportation. I could have carried you much further into these
plans--into their application for the relief of Philadelphia, whose great
water-front along the Delaware is only reached by the box-car after miles
of tedious switching through congested trackage, and where the motor-truck
offers an almost immediate and a comparatively inexpensive solution of the
freight terminal problem; into Chicago where the situation is nearly as
bad; and into Boston, where it is considerably worse, and where again the
motor-truck plus the container in terminal service is a veritable key to
the problem. Further still could I have carried you in this discursion--to
Baltimore, to Pittsburg, to Cleveland, to Detroit, elsewhere still. I have
hesitated to weary you with too much detail. You have had enough to prove
my points, while only space prevents the discussion of the financial
phases of this service, sometimes known as store-door delivery.

I shall admit that store-door delivery has no attractive sound to the
practical operating railroad executive. He is gun-shy, tremendously
gun-shy of it. And yet I do not wonder at that. Your railroader feels that
sooner or later--and probably much sooner than later--the charges for this
service would be tacked upon his shoulders flatly included within his
transportation rate. Aside from that I think that he would welcome it
distinctly. It would greatly simplify the traffic problems in and around
his freight-terminals to say nothing of making vast savings in the use of
his equipment.

Moreover the day is coming when he will be compelled to welcome it
willy-nilly. For, in my opinion, the motor-truck will occupy a place in
the railroads' necessities to-morrow only second to that of the locomotive
itself. It represents the railroad's newest field of development, by far
its largest field of possibilities. Remember that the pictures which you
have just seen in some detail of the Cincinnati and the New York terminal
situations are but two out of many of these possibilities. The others are
so vast and so many as to be termed limitless. They represent
progress--progress in the field of American transport as definite and as
distinct as that which marked the coming of the locomotive. The years pass
by. In them we do move. We do progress. And transport enterprise consists
in translating vision to practical operation, along lines such as we just
have seen. So shall our railroad of to-morrow be upbuilt.



CHAPTER XIII

THE TWILIGHT OF COMPETITION


The distinguished Boston jurist who not so many years ago astounded and
startled the entire nation by saying that he could save a million dollars
a day in the operation of its railroads was quite right, even though not
exactly along the lines that he then suggested. Mr. Justice Brandeis at
that time proposed to accomplish his great savings--then roughly estimated
at 2 per cent. a year upon the property valuation of the railroads of the
United States--by radical operating economies. That these might be
accomplished and in a large measure, I do not now doubt. In fact for
several chapters past I have been trying to show some of the larger
opportunities to be accomplished along these lines; economies that to-day
might be effected upon our carriers were they possessed at this moment
with the proper imagination and vision, aided by an Interstate Commerce
Commission possessed of the same qualities. We have seen how, in a test
long enough to be definite, the motorized terminals in the city of
Cincinnati have saved the railroads there something more than a thousand
dollars a day. This was just one typical congested American city. I have
tried also to show how that plan, in the main at least, could be extended
to other congested American cities. It would not take very many such
terminal savings to make a fair fraction of the national economy once
proposed by our distinguished jurist of the Supreme Court bench.

Similarly I have tried to show the economies to be accomplished in the
most neglected field of our rail transport system, the branch line and
local service: the electrification of lines, the introduction of the
gasolene-motor unit, both upon the rails and off, the steady refinement of
the locomotive, the development of the all-important container. Yet even
these by no means represent the limits of operating economies yet to be
attained upon the American railroad. There are many other operating
savings that might be made and that are not being made to-day. For
instance the field of a more scientific train movement through better
signaling is of itself a most fascinating one. The second important
function of a railroad signal--second only to its all-important one of
safety to human life and to property--is to keep trains moving. It is a
poor business man indeed who does not recognize the high value of keeping
all of his moving equipment as nearly as possible in constant motion and
in this way holding down the cost of his overhead.

There are two ways to direct the movement of trains. The first is the one
still most commonly in use upon the railroad of the United States, by the
written instructions of the train-order; the other is by the indications
of the fixed signal--upon the open line, generally the automatic block.
For train-order instructions the moving train must either slow down or
stop completely, but with signal indications it may keep moving ahead at a
good pace. In the one case time is lost, in the other it is gained.

This may seem in itself a small matter, but much multiplied it comes to a
real saving indeed. On a single important division of a single important
freight-carrying railroad--the Susquehanna division of the Erie railroad,
140 miles of double-track--a careful test was made of the savings
accomplished by the installation of electric block-signals within the
first calendar twelvemonth after they had been put in service, supplanting
old-fashioned manual block-signals. Over that division in a typical year
there move the huge traffic of 2,322,070,451 ton-miles.

Under the manual block the year before, the Erie's train-despatching was
by written train-orders sent by telegraph. The division was divided into
two despatchers' districts, two men for each district, four men for the
division, for each of the three eight-hour tricks, or twelve men for the
twenty-four hours, in addition to two chief train-despatchers. Moreover
the Susquehanna division had employed in the twelvemonth immediately
preceding the installation of its automatic electric blocks 136 signalmen
at forty-six intermediate stations who had been paid $94,752 on the
eight-hour day basis. Even then it had sought to economize by closing down
a number of its block stations at night to make a little saving on its
pay-roll, even though the net result was to make its blocks excessively
long in those hours and so slow up and greatly delay its train movement.

Contrast this with a despatchers' service of but six men--in addition, of
course, to the two chief despatchers--for the entire division with no
signalmen whatsoever (aside from the telegraph offices open at seventeen
intermediate points instead of forty-six as of old, where the retention of
an operator and the written train-order system was imperative), and we
begin to see real savings. The Erie people took that first year of their
automatic block operation and compared it with the twelve months
immediately preceding when they had moved 2,137,868,274 ton miles of
freight traffic over the Susquehanna division. With their new kink in
scientific railroad operation they were able not only greatly to reduce
their operating force but to increase their ton-miles per train from
254,054 to 274,217, a very considerable efficiency increase. In other
words they not alone made the valuable saving in time from having fewer
trains upon the line--the actual saving in that first year came to 697
trains--but an operating cost of $87,969. At the rate at which money was
then worth, this was the interest on a capital investment of $1,759,380.

Project this to the entire main line of that railroad, 999 miles from New
York to Chicago; remember that we have been considering but one 140-mile
division of that main line, and savings begin to multiply. If the
proportion of savings could be maintained the Erie would have been
$630,000 ahead on its main line alone; if it could be carried to its
branch lines too, the figure would run into a million dollars or more a
year. Yet the Erie is less than a hundredth part of the route mileage of
the railroads of the United States, of which a comparatively small part is
yet equipped with automatic block-signals. To say that our carriers might
save a hundred million dollars a year by the use of modern and scientific
signaling alone would probably be a conservative guess. A million dollars
a day, Mr. Justice Brandeis! It begins to look as if you had understated,
not overstated the savings to be accomplished by our national transport.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have by no means reached our limits in operating economies. That our
practical railroaders, under the fearful spur of a terrific demand for
great retrenchments, have done much is not to be denied. In some things,
notably the creation of the big car, the big locomotive, and the big
train, they not only have accomplished marvels but to-day they have
probably approached the extreme limits of efficiency, if indeed they have
not already actually passed them. Recently they have increased the loading
of the average freight-car and have speeded up its movement. On March 1,
1920, when the private operators took their roads back from the
Government, they announced that they were going to try to make a
"thirty-thirty" record--an average daily mileage of thirty miles (instead
of the 22.3 which the United States Railroad Administration was then
accomplishing) and an average loading of thirty tons (instead of the 28.3
tons which the Railroad Administration by almost superhuman efforts,
including appeals to the patriotism of the shippers, had finally succeeded
in reaching). Despite most unpropitious circumstances the railroad
executives had virtually reached the mark that they had fixed for
themselves when the industrial slump set in upon the land. And in a total
movement of a million car-loads of freight a week (a fair standard for
good business across the land) savings such as these are the equivalent
of many new cars, particularly so at the times when our railroads find
themselves short of freight rolling-stock. In an earlier chapter I showed
how rapidly our total freight-car equipment has declined--in three years
more than 125,000 cars. Yet the saving of but a mile a day in the
operation of each car of our existing equipment is equivalent to the
addition of 100,000 cars to it.

Our railroaders are expert already in the efficient use of the somewhat
antiquated tools which they already possess. I have said long ago that man
for man they are not excelled anywhere in the world in the small technical
details of rail transportation. Their expertness was won in a hard school.
Since that day, fifteen or twenty years ago, when the running expenses of
our carriers began their long uphill climb, these men have been forced to
great operating economies merely to make both ends meet. They have gone
the limit in these savings. Now they must have more tools, bigger tools,
finer tools. They must have electrification, better signaling, newer and
larger terminals. Remember all the while that if they do not have them,
and have them soon, it will not be the railroaders who will suffer
primarily. It will be the communities that they aim to serve. Bigger and
more modern tools will serve, it is true, to bring vast economies, but
they will also help bring the United States a better railroad service,
which is a point never to be forgotten.

To many of these suggestions your typical banker would reply that they
were fine on paper but that in reality they cost money, a commodity in
which the average American railroad is sadly deficient these days.

Yet what better way to obtain the money to pay for them than to announce
the decision to adopt them with the sweeping economies that would follow
in their wake? If A. is the village grocer and B. the local capitalist,
and A. wishes to borrow money of B., does he go to him and talk this way?

"I'm sorry, B. but I've been up against it a good deal lately; they've put
a lot of new and unjust rules upon me that tell me just how I must run
every detail of my business. And things are going to get worse. I don't
see just how I am going to pull through with my worn-out equipment and
all."

A. never talks that way, not if he has any real hope of getting money out
of the financier. He is more likely to argue after this fashion:

"Times have been pretty bad with me, to be sure, but I feel confident that
I see daylight ahead. I've got to get some equipment, expand my business
along lines that seem pretty sure to win, and turn some new tricks in my
trade. Here's one or two of them."

That is the sort of talk that generally brings confidence, and with
confidence, hard-cash loans. Our railroads might try a hand at it. If they
should come with some pretty definite plans for the extension of
electrification upon their properties, the modernization of their
terminals, a better correlation between their service and those of the
carriers upon the highways, the real development of the container system,
better signaling, and all the rest of it, they might command better
credit. Such things have happened. It is not unlikely that they would
happen again.

There is one economy, however, that requires little or no plant
expenditure--only vision for its introduction. All this while and I have
not even touched upon it, the supreme economy which our national transport
system may yet hope to accomplish.

For more than three quarters of a century we have had a great god in our
American railroad policy--when we have had an American railroad policy.
That god has been labeled "Competition." That he is a false god I should
not be rash enough to say, for he is a very popular one, whose dignity is
not rashly to be trifled with. But like some other forms of monarch, no
matter how popular they may seem to be, he is a very expensive piece of
property. Heresy? Not a bit of it! Listen to me.

On the outskirts of Vancouver, British Columbia, two great railroad
passenger-stations stand cheek by jowl. Each would easily serve a European
city of half a million population. Stated in railroad terms it would not
be difficult to operate from thirty to fifty passenger-trains each day in
and out of either of them. Yet neither of these is the main
passenger-station of Vancouver--that is the Canadian Pacific terminal down
on the water-front, at which arrive and depart more than half of the
trains that enter and leave Vancouver each weekday. At one of these two
outer stations, that of the Great Northern, three trains enter and three
leave each day: at its neighbor, that of the Canadian National, but two
are operated in each direction. One can only guess at the overhead and
operating coast for each passenger who uses these architectural
extravagances. At the Union Station, in Washington, where monumental
construction is a bit more justified, this cost for each through passenger
is now thirty-four cents. The railroads that run in and out of our Federal
capital must carry their passenger a considerable distance before they
equalize and overcome this high terminal charge and begin to make a profit
upon him.

It would be a matter of but slight cost and great economy to place a
connecting track between those two Vancouver passenger-stations,
consolidate the business in one, and abandon the other, as a passenger
terminal anyway. It would have been a far greater economy never to have
built either, but from the beginning to have operated the Great Northern
and Canadian National trains in and out of the commodious and centrally
located Canadian Pacific Station. A great capital outlay would have been
saved.

Why was not this done, you ask? The answer is easy. Competition.

But Vancouver is in Canada, you insist. Very well; we shall hark to the
vagaries of the Canadian railway situation at another time. For this come
back across the international boundary. Spokane is not in Canada. It is a
handsome, well-built city across whose civic heart there lies the
disagreeable barrier of three trunk-line railroads; parallel and from one
to two blocks apart. The right-of-way and station of any one of them could
easily have handled the business of the other two. And not only would a
large capital outlay have been saved, but Spokane would have been spared
the existence of two Chinese-wall embankments through her business center.

Competition--a great god, indeed! It is competition that keeps alive the
farce of separate passenger terminals upon the harbor "moles" of Oakland,
despite the fact that the trans-harbor ferry-boats that serve them use the
same common terminal at the foot of Market Street, San Francisco.
Competition makes two elaborate passenger terminals in Seattle do the work
of one; keeps three stations alive and eating up overhead and operation in
Los Angeles; runs to its nth degree of extravagance in the small city of
Tucson, Arizona, where a magnificent edifice in a park--at first glance
you would be sure to call it the town's Carnegie Library--serves as a
competing passenger terminal for a railroad which runs but two
passenger-trains a day in and out of it.

West, you say? All right, come East. Within the last two years there has
been opened in the outskirts of the city of Richmond, Virginia, a very
expensive and elaborate passenger-station development for which there was
no call whatsoever. It is the so-called Union Station of the Atlantic
Coast Line and the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroads and
replaces the badly located and inadequate Byrd Street Station which they
had used almost since the days of the Civil War. That Byrd Street Station
deserved to be abandoned does not come into the question. The point is
that there was no need whatsoever to build the elaborate new station away
out in the outskirts of the Virginia city. For Richmond also had upon her
Main Street a comparatively modern station already used by the Chesapeake
and Ohio, the Seaboard Air Line, and the Southern railroads which, with a
slight adaptation and enlargement, could easily have been brought to meet
the needs of the two other roads entering the town.

Why was this simple step not taken? Why not the large capital outlay
saved? Competition. The Atlantic Coast Line felt that it could not have
its trains entering and leaving the same station as its competitor in
Richmond, even though it is doing that selfsame thing in Charleston, in
Savannah, and in Jacksonville. Competition; competition and a little
foolish pride.

"Pride; but not foolish," says the big railroad executive, who stands at
my elbow and whose eyes fall upon these paragraphs. "It is this sort of
pride, the pride built up from competition, that long ago brought our
American railroads to their high standards of service perfection."

A pretty theory that, but will it last? What is the actual competition
to-day between, let us say, New York and Chicago? They are two first-grade
railroads of the highest type connecting these two chief cities of the
United States and four more, of a second grade, yet in themselves quite
excellent railroads. On each of the two first-grade roads there are five
or six fine express-trains in each direction each day. Long ago we have
seen in the pages of this book how each has one train making the journey
in precisely twenty hours, to the exact minute, and how formerly these
trains did the trip in eighteen hours, also to the precise minute. After
the wise step of the lengthening of the schedules, these two American
"super-trains"--I think that I may safely call them such--remained exactly
the same on the two supposedly competing roads, despite the fact that the
distance between New York and Chicago on the one is 911 miles and on the
other 979. Why does not the Pennsylvania with its shorter route beat the
New York Central on its schedules all the while? Is it because its
mountain ranges take so much longer to traverse than the much advertised
"water-level route" of the Vanderbilt system? Possibly, but I doubt it.

The real reason is that the schedules of all these so-called competing
trains are regulated by agreement between the so-called competing roads.
There is a multiplicity of these agreements. The Pennsylvania has its own
rails between New York and Buffalo, the two chief terminals of the
original New York Central road, but it may not advertise to carry through
passengers between these two cities, in exchange for which the New York
Central will not advertise to carry through passengers on its own rails
between New York and Pittsburg, the two chief terminals of the original
Pennsylvania.

Competition? It is a neat phrase.

Similar minimum passenger-schedule agreements rule the service between
Chicago and the Twin Cities (St. Paul Minneapolis), Chicago and St. Louis,
Chicago and Kansas City, St. Louis and Kansas City, Chicago and the
Pacific coast points--elsewhere across the land. When a few years ago the
Post-Office Department sought to establish a really fast mail-train
service between Chicago and St. Louis--a train that would make the 283
miles in six hours--it found no enthusiasm whatsoever for the project in
the four so-called competing railroads that connect those cities and who
long before had fixed their minimum running time between them at a rather
leisurely eight hours in order to suit the necessities of the slowest and
the most roundabout of the four. Eventually the Post-Office Department
carried its point and the Chicago and Alton to-day carries a through mail
train from Chicago to St. Louis in six hours and ten minutes. But the
regular passenger-trains still remain at the old slow running-time.

These instances might be multiplied. Have I shown enough now to make my
point? When you go between New York and Chicago on either of the two
highest-grade roads that connect those cities you ride on virtually the
same trains--the Pullman equipment that each carries is standardized down
to the finest details--at the same rates of fare, in the same running
time, and in and out of passenger terminals equally advantageously
located. The only deciding points between the two roads are such minor
ones as whether you prefer the excellent griddle-cakes of the
Pennsylvania's diners or the excellent ham and eggs of the New York
Central's; the scenery of the Alleghanies or that in the valley of the
Mohawk. Are these not rather fine distinctions to hold up as a real
competition?

Competition did not bring the excellence of these trains, any more than it
prevented the removal of their comfortable observation-cars a short time
since, through agreement. Competition did not force the Santa Fé into its
wonderful equipment of overland _de luxe_ expresses with their whole
fleets of solid compartment-cars. Competition has never given the United
States a through train from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We have to go up
north into our rather thinly populated neighbor's country, Canada, to find
such travel boons. Competition has never given a really creditable service
between New York and Montreal, the two metropolitan centers of the great
sister nations of North America.

The idea that competition is an essential to real railroad service is
gradually dissipating. People are coming slowly but very surely to realize
that no public utility is in its essentials competitive. And this despite
the fact that Congress through the expression of its Transportation Act
has given a formal approval to the idea that the only thing that can save
our sick man of America business is a retention if not an extension of our
competitive system of railroading, through the adoption of a "competitive
consolidation" plan. This is the scheme upon which the experts of the
Interstate Commerce Commission have been engaged these many months past
and of which the first outlines have recently been issued.

The very expression of this principle within the Transportation Statute
shows that a huge extension of the size of our individual railroad units
is now contemplated despite the fact, long since recognized, that many of
them have already gone beyond the limits of efficient operating
supervision and management. Upon this point alone a whole book might be
written. It is sufficient here and now to say that, with a few exceptions
that prove nothing whatsoever, the only railroads that are to-day being
successfully operated in the United States are the small railroads (small
in comparative sense at least), properties like the Boston and Albany,
the Lackawanna, the Bessemer and Lake Erie, the Buffalo, Rochester and
Pittsburg, the El Paso and Southwestern, to single out but a
few--railroads operated as individual units and by men who are not only on
their ground but in close and constant personal touch with every inch of
it. That genius of American railroading, Harriman, more than a decade ago
recognized this point when he began the decentralization of his railroad
properties, placing five presidents upon them west of the Mississippi
River, each with all but autonomous powers. The Pennsylvania has more
recently recognized it in the construction of four regional systems within
its giant property, each in many essentials a separate railroad and to a
large extent separately operated. It has made good beginning but has not
yet gone nearly far enough. The principle stands recognized, however, that
you can reach a point and pass it where your obvious economies and
strengths of centralization are offset by the disadvantages of having
created a top-heavy and almost unworkable machine. There comes a point in
the growth of any railroad system toward mere bigness where, like the
locomotive and the box-car, efficiency is passed and inefficiency comes in
again.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Middle West there is a manufacturing city which in recent years has
grown remarkably, both in population and in industry. In ten years the
first increased from 35,000 to 99,000 people. It is served by two
railroads, one a main line of an important Canadian property and the other
the main line of a small and fairly local railroad. The lines of a very
large American system are but fourteen miles away, cross level country.
The first of the two railroads that actually enter X. is operated from
Montreal, when it is not actually operated from London, England.
Apparently it has not yet heard of the rapid growth of X., for it has done
nothing whatever to increase its facilities to keep pace with that growth;
even its officers rarely pay X. the honor of a passing visit.

The second of these two roads gets the business. Its headquarters are but
sixty miles away. Its president, its general manager, its superintendent,
and its traffic manager are vigorous young men who are forever running up
to X, and dining or lunching with its Chamber of Commerce and its
manufacturers--they call half of them by their first names. They are alert
to the necessities of the town and of its people. But they operate a small
railroad. They are not burdened with the detail or the worry of five
thousand miles of line, or ten thousand or even twelve. It takes super-men
to run systems such as these last. And (unfortunately, perhaps) we have
not as yet bred super-men in the United States.

The road that is but fourteen miles away should have come into X. with its
rails a full dozen years ago; it should, that is, if the competitive
system is all that its friends proclaim it to be. But it, too, is managed
from a city nine hundred miles distant. Its president is as near a
super-man as I shall ever hope to know, but nine hundred miles is nine
hundred miles, and the line that runs so near to X. is but a minor branch
of a vast system that seemingly at least has hundreds that are more
important. And so it loses the freight.

The mere statement that the large railroad cannot be operated intensively
or otherwise successfully without personal contacts will be disputed
bitterly. I shall be asked: How about Napoleon? Did he not succeed in
inspiring a vast army with a morale that no other army before or since has
ever had? Personal contacts were almost out of the question for him. Yet
were there not men by the tens of thousands who had not even touched the
hem of his garments or laid sight upon his countenance who gladly would
have laid down their lives to save his?

To these questions the answer is that we have not as yet succeeded in
breeding Napoleons very generally. We work with the clay that is within
our hands. And our human clay works best at short range, and almost always
the shorter the better. The president of a little railroad does not have
to be a Napoleon to inspire confidence and affection and enthusiasm among
his workers. Almost any real man will do, if the road is not too big. And
he will merely need to know his men, to understand them, and to let them
understand him.

If this is true in the technical operation of a railroad it is even more
true in another great phase of its management--its salesmanship.
Long-range transportation salesmanship is to-day a real fundamental
weakness of our American railroad. Let me illustrate. Here is its
competitor in the form of a local truckman coming along and, if you
please, not keeping within his proper economic bounds, but soliciting
business up to a hundred-mile or a 150-mile haul. He probably is "Tom" to
his fellow townsman, a personality, a real human being, and not a mere
machine. A corporation is always at a handicap. And other things being
equal, or even a little against him, he gets the business.

In earlier chapters of this book I have set down what has seemed to be the
real opportunity for the redemption of the branch-line and local services
of our railroads, by the use either of small electric or of gasolene-motor
units, but in all cases with such a frequency of headway as to render
theirs a genuine service. Yet I would not give a fig for such a step if it
could not be handled for the railroad by a competent executive right on
the spot--no matter now how small his rank or title as long as he has real
authority to go ahead or act. A canny minor executive of my acquaintance
suggests that the average division superintendent should be given large
traffic salesmanship authority. There are some things against such a plan,
and many things in its favor.

But it seems to me that the installation of a motor-bus service on a
branch or group of branches of any railroad is a local salesmanship and an
advertising problem, as well as a merely operating one. The schedules
should be carefully thought out in advance, and with some regard to the
convenience of the people who are expected to make use of them. They
cannot be properly made from a hundred miles away. In fact it would be a
good idea to have a neighborhood referendum in regard to these schedules.
As an advertising device alone it would be well worth while, while the
trained soul of any good advertising man would suggest local "copy" for
the newspapers of the vicinage calling attention to the safety features of
the motor-bus upon the railroad as compared with that lack when the
selfsame vehicle travels upon the highroad. Without such intensified study
and promotion methods I cannot believe that the mere introduction of the
small passenger unit upon our standard railroads is going to meet with any
pronounced success, either for the roads or for their patrons.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now we are dipping into the edges of a fascinating topic indeed and one
that recently has sunk into a rut in the United States--transportation
salesmanship. In these late years the traffic managers of our railroads
have either become glorified rate-clerks or else trained special pleaders
before the Interstate Commerce Commission or the State regulatory bodies.
There is no department of railroading in which initiative seemingly has
died so dire a death as in the traffic department. There, too, precedent
rules, and seemingly with an iron hand. No man dares defy it.

The other day the British railways went back to their ingenious
before-the-war plan of making very low rates for week-ends, but always
upon trains that were not ordinarily crowded. If a man wanted to start out
on a Saturday and return say on a Sunday evening or even early Monday
morning, a most attractive rate lured him into the adventure. It was
obvious that the rate would not be taken advantage of by business men--to
the real disadvantage of the regular commercial rates--as little or no
regular business can be transacted over the week-end; while a certain
disinclination to ride at the high regular rates--high to-day in Britain,
as everywhere else in the world--is overcome by the bargain-counter
quality of the rate itself. And new riders are gained.

This is good business. It is real business. It is more; it is traffic
science upon a railroad. For it is the genuine creation of business.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few weeks ago (January, 1922) the New Haven announced another extensive
slash in its passenger-train service. Its service was already but a mere
shell of what it was twenty, or even a dozen years ago. It gave decreased
travel as a reason for the slash.

But what was the New Haven doing to gain new business? Was it advertising?
Was it improving the intensive details of its service? Was it trying to
induce people to go in odd hours upon its trains? Not a bit of any of
these. It was reducing trains. It controls the night boats upon the
Sound--and operates these upon the same schedules upon which they were
operated more than fifty years ago, save as they gradually are being
permitted to die of dry-rot and so are eliminated. For at least a quarter
of a century not one improvement has been made in the operation of the
Fall River Line. And even when the press of midsummer traffic forces a
double service in each direction each night no one in the management has
the initiative to suggest "staggering" the schedules so as to give any
diversity of service whatsoever.

I should be the last to suggest that the New Haven make a low rate from
New York or Boston for the Yale-Harvard or the Yale-Princeton games. It
would be the height of absurdity to lower the rates when the traffic at
full standard rates rises to a tidal wave which demands the full operating
resources of the property for its handling; and that it always is well
handled does credit to the New Haven's potential powers of operation. Yet
there are times when it might well afford to make an attractive
excursion-rate between New York and Boston. Some of its existing trains
between these two cities move at awkward hours and with an incredible
slowness. They naturally are not crowded trains. An occasional attractive
rate upon these trains alone might, and probably would, result in filling
them to their capacity, while the people that traveled upon them would
not in any large measure be those that ordinarily travel at the regular
rates. The success for many years past of the Pennsylvania and the
Baltimore and Ohio in operating week-end excursions between New York,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington ought to have been of some
educational value to the New Haven, but apparently it was not.

I have no grudge against the New Haven. On the contrary, I have naught but
sympathy for a railroad which earns upwards of $60,000,000 a year from its
passenger traffic alone and yet shows so little knowledge of fundamental
merchandising principles. Yet it is all too typical of many of its
fellows. In my boyhood days in northern New York the annual event of the
autumn was the big excursion to New York City. It ran at half-price and in
crowded passenger-cars--parlor-cars, sleeping-cars, and coaches by the
dozens. It attracted people who never went to the big city on the regular
trains and at regular prices.

It has been a number of years now since the last of these excursions was
operated. The people who used to ride on them do not go to New York any
more, unless perhaps by automobile once in four or five years. Their
traffic is lost to the railroad to-day. When they contemplate the regular
rates--twelve to fifteen dollars in each direction, in addition to $3.75
for a lower berth each way--and put them alongside of that famous old
round-rate trip of but $7, they decide that it is easier to stay at home
or wait until Uncle John buys his new flivver and then run down with him.

When the Interstate Commerce Commission, yielding to certain influences
both within and without it, put up the passenger-rates, it felt gleefully
that it had done a very clever thing. Never before had it shown so
pathetically its lack of real vision in the railroad question. Freight
traffic--not always, but to a large extent--must move, no matter what the
rate. But passenger traffic is a temperamental and a whimsical
thing--never more so than in this golden age of the automobile. You may
lead it to water but you cannot make it drink. You may put up the rates
but you cannot make people ride. For a correct answer ask the executives
of the New England roads who have been so steadily clamoring for
passenger-rate advances. Already I have referred to a 23 per cent. loss in
passenger traffic in 1921, as compared with 1920. It is impossible to
debit this entirely to prevailing hard times. It comes in large measure
from hard feelings.

The national feeling of resentment against the present passenger advances
recently has found expression in the measure introduced in the United
States Senate for the restoration of the mileage-book (also touched upon
in an earlier chapter) as a low-priced inducer of travel at wholesale--a
measure which at this writing seems certain of passage--with its rate to
be fixed at three cents a mile or a trifle less. For once the Interstate
Commerce Commission missed its usual astuteness in trying to gage the
public demand.

Why not sell the mileage-book at a little lower cost than the railroad
mile at retail? Can I not buy two dozen pairs of shoes for less than
twenty-four times the cost of a single pair? And is it not good business
anyway for a railroad to try to get its existing patrons to ride more
miles as well as to gain brand-new patrons, along lines which I have
already suggested?

In Belgium and in Switzerland one may buy the equivalent of a card-pass
upon an American railroad, good for a week or a fortnight or a month,
according to the price paid. During the extent of its life it is good for
unlimited travel by the person whose photograph it bears. The French have
an even better system. For a matter of five or six hundred francs one
purchases a similar card which for the ensuing twelvemonth gives the
right, not for unlimited travel, but for the purchase of an unlimited
number of tickets at one-half the regular prices; after which, for the
holder of the card, the game inevitably becomes one of buying enough
separate tickets to beat the first prices put down for the card.

Transportation salesmanship?

Properly played it is one of the most subtle games in the world, and one
of the most fascinating--and for the railroad, one of the most profitable.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have seen a good deal in the public prints in the last few years about
the prime necessity of nationalizing the railroad in the United States in
a far more thorough fashion than has ever before been even attempted. One
of the potential dangers which forever faces a land as physically great as
ours is the inherent possibility of its falling apart through its sheer
size and weight. Under certain circumstances it might not be particularly
difficult for us to disintegrate as a nation into groups of separate
States, in fact if not in name--groups of States not particularly
sympathetic or coöperative. We have had in our history already one very
tragic instance of this very sort.

In order that this ever-present potential tendency may be overcome it is
highly important that every possible measure be utilized toward binding
the country more and more closely together. Transportation--railroad
transportation in particular--forms an ideal binder. Utilized to its
fullest degree it means that New England will know California better, and
California New England. And each, knowing the other better, will
understand better, sympathize better, coöperate better. If Minnesota goes
to Louisiana and Georgia to Montana, each becomes more understanding, more
tolerant, more closely bound, in almost every conceivable fashion.

Passenger traffic, brought to a high degree of development, will make such
understanding possible. Little else can do it even half so well. Freight
traffic will not do it--not at least to any particularly large degree. A
better circulation of national periodicals will help; this ever-present
problem of encompassing our perplexing problem of nationalization, of
making a group of forty-eight separate States, separate in climate, in
soil, and even to a perceptible degree in racial and language
characteristics, into a more coherent and closely-knit state, was one of
the most potent arguments advanced against the introduction of the postal
zone system in this country.

But even the national circulation of publications will not accomplish
quite as much as travel. The Easterners who journey to the west coast each
winter are to-day full of understanding of the problems out there--what
the Japanese question really means to the Californians and the whys and
the wherefores of most of the lesser questions that perplex them. If there
were as attractive rates from Los Angeles to Boston and New York as there
used to be from Boston and New York to Los Angeles, the Californians might
in turn be a little more tolerant at times of the political situation in
Massachusetts or in New York. It is intimate knowledge that makes for real
understanding.

To make my point even clearer let me take you far overseas with me--to
Italy in the days before the coming of the World War. The Italian
Government even then saw a most imminent necessity for far better national
thought and understanding. How by practical planning could it best
accomplish such a thing? A little study quickly enough showed how: by not
only letting Italians see every corner of their land but by urging them to
do so.

So a most attractive ticket plan was developed. In practice it worked
somewhat after this fashion. A resident, let us say, of Milan, in the
great high plains of the north of Italy, might have business which called
him to Florence. When he went to Milan Union Station--or whatever it is
that passes for a union station in Milan--the ticket-agent, who was well
schooled in the active art of selling transportation, attempted to beguile
him into buying a little longer ticket--to Rome, perhaps. His bait, his
selling ammunition, if you will, was a rate per-mile from Florence to Rome
much lower than that prevailing between Milan and Florence.

Very well, suppose that our resident of Milan was prevailed upon to go
down and spend that long-promised week-end in the city by the Tiber.
Bargain-sales have always spelled attractiveness, to men as well as to
women.

"If only you would continue on to Naples," suggested the ticket-seller,
"you would find the supplemental fare so slight as to be a mere nothing to
your purse."

Very well again. Date the pasteboard up to Naples. Perhaps it would be a
little warmer, a bit more balmy down there anyway than in old Rome.

"From Naples to Messina, it is a mere nothing, and the climate is still
lovelier, and the supplemental fare much less per mile than even that from
Rome to Naples."

With the final result that the prospective traveler at Milan would
probably find the Italian state railways about ready to make him a present
of the island of Sicily if only he would have the graciousness, and the
very good sense, to extend his voyage to and around that fascinating
place.

Now turn that rule back. Henry Blank finds his way into the Grand Central
or the Pennsylvania Station in the City of New York. He has a business
errand which will carry him six hundred miles west of the Hudson
River--for the first time in his life. He plans to go to Cleveland, stay
two days there in which he will do the work of six, and then come right
back to Broadway once more. But the ticket-seller--the expert seller of
transportation--has studied the Italian school of railroading.

"Make it Toledo or Detroit," he hints, "and we will make the mileage rate
from Cleveland to either one of those towns a flat three cents a mile,
instead of the 3.6 cents which the Interstate Commerce Commission made the
law of the land in August of 1920."

Blank hesitates. The ticket-seller does not.

"While if you can be tempted to go on from Toledo or Detroit to that smart
young town, Chicago," he urges, "we will bill you at the intervening
distance between them at a mere 2.75 cents--a historic percentage, you
will remember. From Chicago to the Missouri River, two and one half cents
a mile. Two cents a mile flat on the next big lap, down to El Paso or
Albuquerque or over to Cheyenne or Denver; lower all the time you go
further west--until that New York-Cleveland ticket that you are buying of
me now, Mr. Blank, will carry you all through California at a cent and a
quarter a mile. You cannot afford to stay out of California at such a
rate."

And there is a strong probability that he will not.

My friend, the old railroader, snorts at this suggestion:

"What do you think that the California railroad commission is going to say
about some fellow from Boston riding all over their State at a cent and a
quarter a mile, simply because he bought a ticket from South Station down
to Providence, and had it extended once or twice?" he asks. Then adds: "I
don't _think_; I _know_. They will say, 'Very good, Mr. Southern Pacific,
if you can afford to carry him at a cent and a quarter a mile, you carry
the man in Stockton, who wants to go up to Sacramento or to Marysville, at
the same identical rate per mile. That's fair, and it's our business to
make you be fair!'"

At first glance it would seem as if the venerable traffic man is right; a
second and third one however will show the possibilities of his being
quite considerably wrong. If the railroad commission at Sacramento has one
half the advertising sense that the rest of the Californians possess it is
going to recognize that here is the way to popularize its States--in the
best and broadest sense of the word, to nationalize it. Moreover, it will
know that the man who buys a ticket from San Francisco or Stockton to
Sacramento or Marysville will have his own opportunity to extend it, in
just the same way and upon exactly the same basis. He can go riding all
over Cape Cod at a cent and a quarter a mile, while the people around
about him will be paying their 3.6 cents. _Quid pro quo_; turn about is
fair play, and all the rest of the fine copy-book maxims of our boyhood
days.

In front of me lies the hand-book of the Italian state railways in those
blessed days of before-the-war. From it I find that I could have started
from the Milan Union Station and made a circular trip through Bologna,
Florence, Rome, Pisa, Genoa, and Turin back to Milan again for 157.5 lire,
first-class or, at the then rate of exchange, a little more than
thirty-two dollars. As a matter of fact the ticket sold at exactly the
same rate from any other point upon this designated belt and from it was
good in exactly the same way. We are using Milan here merely as a
convenient point from which to study the system.

But suppose the ticket-agent in that brisk manufacturing city of the North
sold us Venice--a little side-trip off the main circular route, up the
line from Padua and back again to Padua before we were ready to go on to
Florence and to Rome. The inclusion of the side-trip added but 8.9 lire to
our original pasteboard, or less than two dollars. Suppose that we wanted
not only Venice but Naples--this last, considerably more of a side-trip.
We could retain Venice and do Naples as a side-trip from Rome, and still
have our first-class round-trip ticket, going one route to Rome and
returning by another and entirely different one, at 187.9 lire, or about
$37.50, as we were then wont to figure it; while the period of
availability of the ticket was lengthened from thirty to forty-five days.

Here is another point, seemingly unimportant, but really filled with a
good deal of importance, particularly when one comes to view it from the
standard of transportation salesmanship. In the days before the war the
various parlor-car services of our railroads, whether owned and operated
by the Pullman Co. or by the railroads themselves, had a minimum seat-rate
of twenty-five cents. War-time administration ended this and fixed the
minimum at fifty cents, to which presently was added a 50 per cent.
surcharge for the benefit of the railroads, with the result that if a
passenger is to ride but a mere fifteen or twenty miles in a parlor-car
he is charged the outrageous figure of seventy-five cents for the
privilege.

These short-haul riders of other days came to a considerable total. They
helped fill the parlor-cars and so not only to add an attractive revenue
but to maintain a service which, in many portions of the country at least,
is a necessity. Yet apparently no one either in the railroad field or in
the Interstate Commerce Commission has enough vision or salesmanship to
order the minimum rate reduced. It goes, like a good many other things in
the railroad situation to-day, by default, and just so far lowers the
service standard.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our railroads in recent years have faced a new and formidable competitor
in the rapid development in the United States of the automobile and, in
consequence, of the improved highroad upon which it is wont to travel. I
have called attention to this point before and wish again to emphasize it.
Whether the privately owned and operated motor-car or the motor-bus
operated for public patronage, it is a serious competitor to them. Yet how
have they faced its competition, its steadily increased lowering of their
passenger business? Have they met it with return competition? Alas, no.
The railroads either have railed against the new-comer in their pastures
or else have merely reduced their service, with the immediate result that
still more traffic is diverted from their trains. In some parts of the
country this loss of traffic has come to a serious pass. In certain
portions of the State of New York the local service of the railroads is
now reduced to a point lower than it has been for the last sixty years.

The British railways have also had to face the same sort of competition.
It grew particularly acute in the three months of the great coal strike of
1921, when they were compelled to reduce their services of every sort to
an absolute minimum, and the motor-bus or char-à-bancs burning an entirely
different sort of fuel jumped into the breach in every corner of the
United Kingdom and rapidly increased its services. But as soon as the
strike was broken and the railways were enabled to return to their normal
services they began to meet competition with competition. They underbid
the char-à-bancs for traffic, in both rates offered and service rendered,
and they have quite regained their own again.

Yet they did not wait for this crisis to calculate the passenger
possibilities of the motor-car, particularly in regard to their own
traffic. When the gasolene-propelled unit was still a strange new-comer
upon the highways the English railways were beginning to adapt it to their
uses and to correlate it with their services upon the steel highways, with
the result that to-day in almost every corner of the British Isles
gasolene motor-cars and char-à-bancs are being operated in connection with
and as feeders to steam lines. In a similar way two great French
railroads, the Paris-Orleans and the Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean, have
long since correlated the motor omnibus with their steam lines--in the one
case in the district of the Touraine and in the other in the Fontainbleau,
the Alps, and the Riviera territories.

The opportunities for such correlated services are just as great to-day in
the United States as in Europe, if not greater. The railroads that serve
the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the White and the Green mountains, the
Rockies, and the Sierras could well afford to develop motor-bus routes as
auxiliaries to their routes that already reach into these charming
fastnesses. The Santa Fé and the Southern Pacific complain of the
competition of the motor-bus along their lines that parallel the Pacific
coast, yet have done nothing to meet such competition or to correlate with
it. To-day the Northwestern Pacific terminates in the small city of
Eureka, in the beautiful Humboldt County section of California, two
hundred miles north of San Francisco. By the creation of a motor-bus route
almost due east to the line of the Southern Pacific near Dunsmuir, a
circular trip of unusual variety and beauty could readily be established.
The Southern Pacific has already made beginnings along this line by the
establishment of a highly successful rail and automobile route through
the Apache Cañon. The success of this route, even though its beginnings
are none too conveniently located, ought to encourage the establishment of
others. The opportunities are real--there and all the way east of there,
right to the Atlantic Ocean.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the most pathetic features about our American railroad situation is
the almost entire submersion of the traffic manager and the things for
which he is supposed to stand. Upon most of our roads the selling of
transportation rapidly is becoming a lost art. There are a few exceptions
of course, roads which, like the Santa Fé, still show a genuine belief in
passenger traffic and its possibilities by not only advanced advertising
methods but by a careful attention to the infinite details of the service.
But these roads are very greatly in the minority. The majority of the
lines are seemingly quite content to sit supinely and indifferently take
such traffic as may be forced upon them.

In a recent issue of the "Railway Age" a railroad officer comments quite
sharply upon this fact. He shows some of the difficulties that the average
passenger meets when he is forced to ride upon trains that may be
designated as "fairly second-class" in their accommodations, calls
attention to the apparent indifference of the employees, and then proceeds
to comment as follows:

    As a matter of choice, or because their work requires it, general
    officers, and even the more important division and subordinate
    officers on some roads, travel in business-cars isolated from contact
    with their roads' patrons, unable to learn, or indifferent to the
    opinion of the service their roads are rendering to the very people
    who furnish the revenue that makes the roads' operation possible.

    It should not be lost sight of that while the public judges the roads
    through its most intimate contact with them (as passengers), it is
    this same public that in the final analysis will determine whether
    the roads are to continue under the present form of management and
    control or whether some other method of operation shall be
    experimented with. It is also this same public which, as individuals,
    pays the country's freight bills as shippers, consignees, or
    consumers.

    Assuming that it is a fact that almost all competitive tonnage is
    secured through "good-will," is there any better way in which to
    impress a prospective shipper with the road's efficiency than when he
    is a passenger? The things that were observed on this 8,000-mile trip
    seem to indicate that at least some managers do not appreciate the
    value of comfortable, courteous passenger service as a feeder of
    freight tonnage, or that they are unfamiliar with the manner in which
    their passenger service is being handled.

This extremely fair-minded critic of the railroads then goes on to call
attention to the utter absurdity of the roads' attempting to operate on
trains made up of perhaps but two Pullman standard sleepers and the rest
very largely tourist-cars, day-coaches, and dining-cars that are
attempting in their service and prices to rival the best hotels across the
land. There is indeed much meat in what he says. The dining-car service is
in a great many cases absurd.

It is apt in many cases to convey an impression of innate snobbishness,
certainly not one of economy. It takes from ten to eleven men to operate
an American dining-car of equal or less seating capacity than its fellow
of Continental Europe, which rarely has more than four or five servants.
The prices, to the average man traveling across the land and accustomed to
stay in hotels of even a fair grade are not unreasonable. They merely are
unflexible to the man or woman of limited means who is forced to ride long
distances upon the cars and who is given little or no opportunity to
alight at refreshment stations upon the way for the purchase of
inexpensive foodstuffs. The _table d'hôte_, which is used so successfully
and so economically (both from the point of view of the railroad as well
as of its patrons) on the railways of France and other European
countries, has been given few fair trials in the United States. The New
Haven once had a famous "fixed price" dinner; so did, and I think still
has, the Milwaukee. The Baltimore and Ohio to-day offers what it calls a
"commercial traveler's club luncheon" for seventy-five cents, which I
honestly think is the best meal in the country for that price. But these
are the exceptions. The rule is a cumbersome dining-car arrangement, with
the itinerant eating-place attempting to rival a city restaurant in the
variety of its offerings, at a vast cost and annoyance to most of its
patrons as well as to itself.

I should be inclined to agree with the gentleman writing in the "Railway
Age" as to the complete neglect of the executive officers of our railroads
of a proper supervision of their train service had there not come to my
eyes recently a confidential report made to the president of a large road
from one of his secret agents. This secret agent was much different from
the average one--hired usually to assist in the detection of some employee
or employees suspected of pilfering or other malfeasance. She was a woman
of good station in life, a fairly experienced traveler, and by temperament
inclined to be both generous as well as honest. For weeks she rode up and
down the lines of that railroad and its competitors--not upon a pass, oh,
no--but with nothing whatsoever to distinguish her from other travelers.
Her comments upon the service, shrewdly feminine, went to her employer in
the form of the confidential report which was brought to my attention. The
mashed potatoes in Dining-Car 4809 were weak and watery. "... The chef
should have known enough to have prepared them in milk or cream, not in
water," her woman's judgment added. The head porter in the big new
hyphenated hotel in P. advised her to go to a competing point by the X.
line and not by the road that was employing her. There was a discourteous
ticket-agent in the office at G. And so it went.

Here was a railroad taking a primary but a genuine step toward selling
its transportation to its patrons. It is not enough that the railroads are
making better "on time" records with their trains--their press-agents are
putting out reams of propaganda these days to that effect: there is
something more to real service than this. Return once again to our friend
of the "Railway Age." He says:

    Do railroad managers expect their ticket-sellers to be salesmen in the
    generally accepted meaning of the term or do they reserve this
    function for passenger agents? A man who found that he must make a
    hurried trip to a destination several thousand miles distant called at
    a consolidated ticket-office to purchase his ticket. The purpose of
    his trip required that he visit certain cities en route but he found
    that the ticket seller was unable to tell him how to arrange his trip
    so as to include these cities. He consulted other ticket-sellers with
    no better success and then informed the writer of his predicament. The
    writer telephoned to the passenger agent of a road over which a
    portion of the trip must be made and a traveling agent was immediately
    despatched to the prospective passenger's office who furnished him
    with all the information he required.

    This prospective passenger was a man who had held important positions
    in the engineering department of railroads for years, but he did not
    know that railroads provided this service for prospective passengers.
    Subsequent investigation disclosed the fact that travelers are
    entirely ignorant of the services that city, district, and traveling
    passenger agents are prepared to render them.

The answer to most of these criticisms is again that some twenty years ago
the traffic men ceased to be a really vital figure in the organization of
most of our American railroads. For more than twenty years they have been
forced willy-nilly into policies of the most stringent economy, with the
very natural result that the operating man, the man who could be counted
upon to make the largest economies in the operation of the railroad, came
into his own. To-day there is hardly an important railroad in the United
States which is not headed by an operating man. Operating men do not as a
rule have much traffic sense. It is a faculty that is born in some men,
while others can never even understand it. It is a good railroad operating
man indeed who can manage to acquire a real respect for transportation
salesmanship and then give a real coöperation in attaining it. Yet that is
perhaps as vitally an important thing as our railroads need to-day.

For despite large measures of criticism that may be leveled against it,
the railroads of the United States are beginning more and more to tender a
real degree of service once again to their patrons; not of course to be
compared with that which they gave ten or twelve years ago. It may be many
years before they attain that standard again, if indeed ever they do. But
the service that they _are_ rendering they are failing utterly to sell to
their public, all for a lack of real salesmanship. The average man in the
street neither knows or believes that the roads have made large strides in
the restoration of many of their services, both freight and passenger. In
fact in his mind there has arisen a certain intangible but fairly fixed
idea that our railroad structure, both in its plant and operation, has
begun to become something dangerously near obsolete. The skillful
propaganda of the advocates of the motor-bus and the motor-truck, the
fanciful tales spread about the future commercial possibilities of the
aëroplane, have begun to make him inwardly question whether the steam
train is not about ready now to be classed with the stage-coach and the
canal-barge. The railroads of the United States in a supreme--and possibly
a final--opportunity for setting forth the many, many merits and strengths
of their present position, with a few conspicuous exceptions, are failing
to grasp that opportunity. They are neglecting transportation
salesmanship.

We have seen in this book, and we shall continue to see, how traffic has
been created upon the railroads overseas. In the past we have built
railroad traffic here in the United States. In our railroads of to-morrow
it will be done again. Something of the past can be repeated to-morrow.
Witness Atlantic City; originally a lightly-built summer resort which did
all of its business in about two months of the year and hibernated for the
other ten. It was the railroad--railroad coöperation, if you please--with
its advertising that made Easter upon the Boardwalk one of the great
stated functions of the American social calendar. Railroad advertising
made Glacier National Park; to an appreciable extent the other great
National Parks across the land. Railroad advertising made the Northwest,
the Southwest, California, Florida, the New Orleans Mardi Gras.

The most thoroughly advertised railroad upon the North American continent
is probably the Canadian Pacific. The next is the Santa Fé. And it is
estimated that of the round-trip tickets sold in an average year from
Chicago and points east to the Pacific coast more than 70 per cent. of
them read Santa Fé one way and Canadian Pacific the other. The best
advertised single train in the land is the Twentieth Century Limited. And
it is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best patronized one. Does
transportation salesmanship pay?

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us return to our muttons. We were talking of competition. It has been
said that it is competition--and competition alone--that has forced
transport salesmanship. Undoubtedly this is partly true. It is one of the
best arguments that can be made for the retention of our extravagant
competitive system of rail transport. But upon analysis it will be seen
that the advertising examples that I have just shown have been directed
almost exclusively to the promotion of through long-distance trains. I
have not seen the Santa Fé or the New York Central or the Canadian Pacific
often stressing the advantages of travel in their short-haul,
non-competitive territories. Last spring, and again this, the hoardings of
London Town were setting forth the glories of the immediate vicinage in
such color and beauty and appeal that one wished to close down one's desk
and hie himself off into the open country--a ride on the train, and a ride
on the train in again.

The French railways are non-competitive, yet bow to no one in the
thoroughness and the attractiveness of their advertising--the quality of
their transportation salesmanship. It is a part of their intensive railway
management. Is it not about time that we heard a little more of intensive
management of our railroads, both in their operation and in the
solicitation of their traffic? Here is a vital principle of transport in
the United States--speaking generally now and not specifically of the
railroads alone--that apparently has been considerably overlooked in
recent years. In a large sense it is an economy as well. I think that I
have shown by this time the economy and necessity of systematically
developed transport applied evenly to the entire land, and not, through
the efforts of that false god of competition, spread thick here and thin
there.

This vital principle was completely overlooked in the minds of the
politicians who as a tentative American railroad policy gave us a
"competitive consolidation" of our roads. Seemingly competition was indeed
their god.

"How can such fine industrial cities as Rochester or Akron or Dayton or
Grand Rapids thrive and continue to thrive without railroad competition?"
they asked, apparently forgetting that for many years such fine industrial
cities as Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, and Providence have not alone
lived but thriven and continued to grow greatly without railroad
competition. In the old days before it had entered upon its financial
skylarkings and was content to remain a well-ordered servant of its
community, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroad showed that it
could render in a non-competitive territory service quite as good as its
fellows of the competitive territories. Competition was not the thing that
made or broke the New Haven service; it was income, outgo, human morale,
even regulation, if you please, but not competition. The vision of Charles
S. Mellen that New England should one day become a great non-competitive
railroad territory was a very real and a very far-sighted one. It is only
with the method by which he sought to bring it into actual being that one
may beg to differ.

In no other land of the world is the competitive theory in transport being
pushed forward to-day. In fact the tendency is decidedly in the other
direction. It was to observe this tendency--the distinct effort to
eliminate competition and bring coöperation and harmony between European
railway properties--that I journeyed overseas not long since. And in the
next of these chapters I shall set forth some of my observations on the
regional railway situation in France (where it has long obtained) and in
Great Britain (where it is just now being established), particularly as
our future prospects here in the United States are affected.

In the meantime, our competitive system continues to remain one of our pet
railroad extravagances. Remember that the mistakes that Mr. McAdoo made in
his direction of the Federal Railroad Administration were quite
overbalanced by the obvious economies that he was able to make the moment
that he had eliminated the competitive factor in our national
transportation machine. As he was able more and more to overcome the long
established competitive feeling between the railroad executives--to no
small extent, perfectly natural and human personal jealousies--the more he
was able to effect and extend these economies. The Railroad War Board
which the railways had appointed early in 1917 and which was in many ways
an anticipation of the coming of Federal control, despite its good intents
and honest endeavors and real results, was constantly hampered by this
competitive feeling even between its members. Yet as we have seen it
lacked the autocratic power of the government director-general, and so it
failed and had to be replaced. And the obvious war-time economies--the
direct routing of traffic, the pooling and interchange of equipment, the
joint representations and the like--came into being.

To accomplish these things nationally and permanently, to lessen
competition rather than to increase it (no sane man imagines that we are
ever to succeed entirely in removing the competitive element), may yet
mean the complete reorganization of our national railroad system. Yet even
so radical a step need not be regarded as either fatal or impossible. It
is entirely within the possibilities to-day that our privately owned and
operated railroads, at least as they are at present constituted, may fall.
There is but little in the present situation to make one optimistic as to
their future success, along the present lines at least.

The sole alternatives to private ownership and operation are government
ownership and operation. To the majority of Americans the very idea of a
further governmental control is extremely distasteful, to put the matter
mildly. To them railroad nationalization is a very real menace. Yet the
menace cannot be avoided by merely singing a song of hate about it. It can
be overcome and finally prevented by some definite national plan or policy
in regard to our roads--a simple thing in which for a number of years past
we have been sadly lacking. If such a plan means their radical
reorganization we must begin. And the sooner the better.



CHAPTER XIV

THE REGIONAL RAILROAD OVERSEAS


The beginnings of the railroad across the Atlantic were so very slightly
in advance of our own that they may be regarded as contemporaneous. In
Great Britain, where the railroad as we know it to-day was born, the
conditions of its infancy were much the same as in the United States. In
Continental Europe they were considerably different. There military
necessity quite overbalanced immediate commercial needs. There the first
railroads were dictated by the international strategists. From that day to
this their expansion has been directed by the same necessity.

Yet granting at the outset that the needs and opportunities of the
European railways are in many ways different from those of ours, there
remains the fact that to-day there is much over there that our railroaders
of the United States might and should learn. There is also a good deal
that the European railroad men might and should learn from some of our big
operators and traffic experts--but that phase of the problem is not
germane to this book.

It was to study some of the features of European railway operation that
might be applicable directly to our railroads of the United States that I
journeyed not many months ago across the Atlantic and down the westerly
nations of Europe. Central and Eastern Europe still were in transport
chaos and so could be expected to give little or nothing to one who wished
to see their railways under anything even faintly approaching normal
conditions. But in Great Britain, in France, in Spain, and in Italy, the
railways were functioning well--extremely well, when one came to consider
the very great burden so recently put upon them. The last two of these
four nations may, however, be dismissed immediately from present
consideration. Neither the density of population nor the traffic
conditions of either Spain or Italy makes their transport problems of
great interest or value to the United States. But Great Britain or France
may hold the key to a real solution of our most vexing transportation
problem of the moment.

In area these two closely built and industrial nations are not far apart.
Ireland is not included in the comparison; in this chapter, however, we
are not going to give consideration to the Irish railways. They too are
not germane to the discussion, even if conditions in Ireland were even
approximately normal to-day, which decidedly they are not.

The area of France is roughly speaking about equal to that of our five
great industrial States reaching from New York to Chicago--New York,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. This section of the United
States contains but about thirty-five millions of people, as compared with
forty millions of French, yet it has approximately twice the railway
mileage. The French have buttered their area pretty evenly with their
railway transport. We have not. In these five industrial States of ours
there is not only in many cases gross duplication and excess of plant--in
most cases due to the effects of overstimulated competition--but in other
cases considerable territories even to-day inadequately provided with
railroad facilities. Our bread is by no means buttered evenly.

Neither is Great Britain's. Like ourselves she built her transport plans
to meet the exigencies of actual conditions from year to year. Add to this
her very irregularity of conformation; her chief city, and forever her
traffic hub, situated nowhere near the center of the congested island, but
almost in an extreme southeastern corner of it; her other great cities,
seaport and inland industrial centers, scattered here and there and
everywhere as the chance fortune of long centuries dictated and separated
by high ridges of mountainous hills. Take conditions such as these and you
have the beginnings of a transport problem that even at the outset would
bewilder the wisest of traffic experts, given the rare opportunity of
devising an entire new railway system for the United Kingdom.

Of course, no such wise or scientific scheme of planning her railways was
ever possible. They grew, as I have just said, out of necessity. From the
crude beginnings of the Stockton and Darlington and the Liverpool and
Manchester, almost an even century ago, they advanced clumsily until
nearly twenty years ago, when the last of the trunk-lines forced its way
into London and the competitive development of the British railway system
was virtually ended. The strategy of thrusting a new line here, of
building a connection there, of piercing into this town or that so as to
get the business away from the other road, then became history. Thereafter
the chief problem of the British railway manager, like that of his fellow
executive in the United States, became that of supplying proper transport
to a nation that refused to "stay put," but insisted upon growing, even to
an unthinkable size. In the years of its railway development the
population of Great Britain has increased from fifteen or sixteen millions
to well over forty-two. In a single one of her cities more than seven
million people are now resident.

Yet, as might have been expected the clumsy competitive system of building
railroads has not given her a really adequate rail transport plant. Her
bread also is extremely badly buttered. Great industrial sections as those
around London or Birmingham or Liverpool or Manchester or Sheffield, her
coal districts, are ofttimes much more than adequately provided with
railways. And there still are sections of the small island--to traverse
its extreme length one goes a distance roughly equal to that from New York
to Buffalo--which are not even to-day properly provided with rail
transport. These are, it is true, rather thin pickings. The competitive
system has wotted not of them. It never spreads the butter evenly. The
butter goes where it is worth the most, and nowhere else. Too much butter
goes in certain localities. England has begun to learn that lesson.

In France the development of the railroad proceeded far more slowly. Such
ever was the way of the French. From the beginning their Government took a
firm hand in the matter. It saw that French railways were planned,
primarily from the military necessities of the country but also from its
many peaceful ones. If all of this at first had the effect of retarding
railroad construction it also has resulted in giving France the best
national plan of rail transport in the entire world. In 1842, sixteen
years after the beginnings of railway development in Great Britain, it was
still possible in France to determine in what definite direction her
principal lines should be put down. In that year a statute was passed
settling this vital question in so comprehensive and generally
satisfactory a fashion that the uneconomical duplication of the rail
systems of both the United States and Great Britain was almost entirely
avoided; while within the next three or four years definite beginnings
were made in the regional allotment of the land to the several railway
systems, or _réseaux_, which have continued with but one or two important
changes down to the present day.

In contrast to England and Scotland, France presents an almost ideal field
to the primary planner of railroad lines. If Paris, forever her chief
commercial and social hub, is not in the precise center of the republic,
it is at least near enough to permit the devising of a railway plan in
which most of the chief lines form roughly the spokes of a great wheel
radiating out from Paris as a hub. Five of the regional systems of France,
her _réseaux_--the Nord, the Est, the Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean, the
Paris-Orleans, and the Etat--operate these great spokes. The Nord takes
the segment of the wheel which touches upon the English Channel, from Le
Tréport-Mers all the way east to Dunkirk and the Belgian line. To the east
of it lies the Est, touching the Nord at Soissons and Laon and after also
touching the newly-acquired lines of Alsace-Lorraine reaching as far into
the southeast as Belfort.

The Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean has but two spokes of the wheel into
the Paris hub but it is the largest of the privately owned French
railways, reaching from Belfort to Cette upon the Mediterranean shore and
serving between the Swiss and the Italian gateways to say nothing of the
Rhone valley and the Riviera. Immediately next to it in turn is the
Paris-Orleans, with Toulouse and Bordeaux as its chief southerly
terminals. At these cities it joins the southerly Midi system, which also
meets the P.-L.-M. at Cette.

The Etat or State railway with its lines from Paris to the west and the
southwest of France completes the great railway wheel. A little more than
a decade ago it absorbed the fairly important but always unprofitable
Ouest system. Up to that time the government railway had been the least
important of all the French properties. Its lines, reaching down chiefly
into the rather poor districts of the Vendée and the Charente, were
distinctly unprofitable. In 1908 a French gentleman by the name of Georges
Clémenceau succeeded in extending the beneficent influence of the state to
the almost equally unfortunate Ouest system. Since then the State railway
of France has become distinctly important, geographically and politically,
but not particularly so in any other way. Its annual deficit has never
been overcome. Matters have now come to a point where it is proposed that
system be leased to a private corporation for operation. The government
can no longer carry on with it. Its suburban service alone sustained a
deficit of 100,000,000 francs in 1921.

At the present moment, however, all the French railways are operating at a
loss variously figured at from a million francs a day upward. Since the
beginning of the World War, a total deficit of something considerably more
than a billion dollars has been achieved. Yet the roads themselves are
still paying their dividends--the privately owned and operated properties
of course. These are guaranteed by the Government under special
legislation that goes as far back as 1857. In the early days of the recent
war, when even the formerly profitable Nord, Est, and P.-L.-M. began to
run toward heavy deficits, special legislation was hurried through by the
Government to insure continued interest in the proper operation of the
essential lines of rail transport by the simple and entirely human process
of maintaining the dividends, even though the taxpayer paid the
difference. The difference steadily grew greater. Wages increased 327 per
cent. in six years, the staff--due chiefly to France's very literal
interpretation of her new eight-hour law--from 355,000 to nearly 500,000,
about 41 per cent. And despite an increase of 25 per cent. in freight and
passenger-rates--afterwards increased to a total of 70 or 80 per cent. for
passenger and 140 for freight--the operating ratio of her railways swung
from 57 per cent. in 1913 to the ridiculous and impossible figure of 125
per cent. in 1920.

       *       *       *       *       *

Important and vital as these things are, however, to the Frenchman, they
have no great concern with the phase of the international railroad
situation that is under our immediate scrutiny--competition, and with it
the inevitable and wasteful duplication of lines and other features of any
national transport plant. If the French railway system had been burdened
with these wastefulnesses, one shudders even to think of the consequences.
The French railways would not then be close to bankruptcy, they would be
entirely involved in it and so completely broken that all France would be
prostrated--the bitter tragedy of Russia repeated along the west coast of
Continental Europe.

In my opinion it is because of the simple and entirely economic placing of
her railways that they have been enabled to withstand at all the terrible
and multiplied burdens that have been placed upon them in the last seven
years. The judgment of the men who first planned their general locations
has been completely vindicated again and again in the really supurb way in
which they bore their all but overwhelming war burdens, and more latterly
in the way that they have handled the almost equally important and vexing
problems of the after-the-war period. Both speak volumes for the inherent
morale of the French railways, to say nothing of the grit and the
endurance of the Frenchman himself.

We started a moment ago to show how these regional and generally
non-competitive railways of France were laid down upon her map. We likened
the main lines of the Nord, the Est, the P.-L.-M., the Paris-Orleans, and
the Etat to the spokes of a great wheel with Paris as their hub. Outside
of these five greatest regions there lie the two others--the Midi and the
recently acquired lines in Alsace-Lorraine. The first of these, as we have
just seen, occupies important territory just north of the Pyrenees; the
second is indicated by its name. It has not yet been determined what shall
be the ultimate operating plan of the lines in Alsace and in Lorraine.
They may be parceled between the Est and the P.-L.-M., but it is more than
likely that they will continue to be operated as a separate system. France
long ago saw the viciousness of bringing too large a railway property
under a single operating direction.

The plan is almost perfectly regional. The only important exceptions are
where a long arm of the Paris-Orleans goes at right angles to the parent
stem and up into the heart of the Etat territory (to Nantes and to Brest),
and where the Etat in turn has a rather roundabout line from Paris to
Bordeaux, the chief external point of the Orleans system. (It is possible
that in the contemplated return of the Etat to private operation this line
may be handed over to the Paris-Orleans. It would be a logical step in the
French regional plan.) Still one almost always goes to Nantes upon the
P.-O. and rarely ever to Bordeaux upon the Etat, while to Marseilles or to
Lyons there is absolutely no alternative to the P.-L.-M. To go to Rheims
or to Strasbourg one must use the Est, to Boulogne or to Calais the Nord.
There is no choice other than the Etat for reaching Rouen or Le Havre from
Paris.

Here then is regional railway operation brought to almost perfect
operation, with competition all but eliminated. For remember, if you
please, that it never is completely eliminated. Even if one were to go to
the final degree of consolidation and centralization, competition would
not be entirely gone. In France, even if the Paris-Orleans no longer
reached Nantes or the Etat Bordeaux, even if every mile of rail were
brought under a single autocratic and absolute head, there would remain
the competition of her unified railway with those outside the republic,
and within it the natural competition, let us say, of towns north of Paris
with towns south for the traffic of that metropolis; east would forever be
pitted against west. You can no more entirely remove competition in
business than you can the risings and the settings of the great sun. But
you can remove the absurd phases, the obvious extravagances of
competition--particularly in transport. Remember always, if you will--I
purposely reiterate the point--that some fine day you can cease to regard
the motor-truck, the inland waterway barge, the interurban trolley, and
the steam railroad train as competitors, but rather in the proper sense,
each as agents of that great function of life, transportation, and so in
some time or place properly correlated. And you can begin by regarding the
railroads together as at least a single efficient one of these agents, and
not as a lot of quarreling small boys dissipating much of their energy
through their trivial disputes. This is the lesson that the railways of
France bring to the rest of the great world of transport.

Their division into seven great operating units--but always carefully
correlated units--is only for the purposes of proper supervision. We have
seen in a previous chapter how easily the efficiency of a single railroad
may be thwarted by permitting it to grow to an untoward size. And before I
am entirely done I shall hope to show you that even in a regional railway
scheme, which applied to the United States might contemplate as many as
forty different railroads--different in name and in operating
organization--there must be a distinct effort toward a strong
centralization of certain functions; notably financing, traffic
solicitation and control, and the staff study of advanced operating
methods of every sort. Along the first two of these lines the _réseaux_
of France have as yet accomplished but little. There has been up to the
present time but little centralization of their control, although steps
now are being taken toward that end. In the opinion of some of the wisest
of Frenchmen to-day, such steps are not only the next in their railway
development but certain to come to a successful head. Only the confusing
problem of a single state-owned and operated system has prevented their
being accomplished this long while.

But in the standardization of operating methods and practices much already
has been done in France. Four companies, the Etat, the Midi, the Paris,
Lyons, and Mediterranean, and the Alsace-Lorraine have formed an
organization with the rather formidable title of _L'Office Central
d'Etudes du Matériel de Chemins de Fer_ for this purpose. This extremely
active organization is divided into four departments, one in charge of
tests, one for locomotive design, a third for car design, and the fourth
to handle railway electrification.

Progress already has been made too in drawing up plans for various types
of standard locomotives. A study has also been made of standard designs
for freight-cars of special types, such as tank-cars, steel-cars, and the
like. Some very interesting tests have been made of refrigerator-cars for
the movement of fish and of fruits. Incidentally it may be said that
before the coming of the World War there was little or no refrigerator-car
movement in France or anywhere else in Europe, and this despite the
remarkable advances made in the United States in this form of traffic for
at least twelve or fifteen years before. To move safely certain low-test
materials for the manufacturer of explosives across tropical seas it was
necessary for two French manufacturers to produce ships equipped with
elaborate refrigerating devices. The technical knowledge which these men
so gained in the manufacture of ice-making machinery they are now prepared
to turn to good account in the production of refrigerator-cars, while the
rapid development of France's wonderful new territory south of the
Mediterranean promises a growing area sufficient to produce a plenty of
fresh fruit and vegetables not only for her cities, but for those of a
large part of the rest of western Europe as well.

Perhaps the most interesting work, however, done up to the present time by
the central study office of the French railways has been upon the
development of electricity as a practical working power for their lines.
(I made passing reference to this in an earlier chapter.) As yet they have
lagged in this work. The Etat operates a dozen miles of electric standard
railway between Paris and Versailles. The comparatively new Paris terminal
of the P.-O. has electric operation for perhaps another dozen miles
outside of the Gare d'Orsay. There are a very few isolated electric
high-speed lines here and there across the face of the land. In these
things the French do move slowly. But they generally move pretty
thoroughly, and to-day they have developed a very marvelous plan for the
electrification of at least one third of their entire railway mileage.

As a beginning a bill was passed in May, 1921, authorizing a company to
develop the vast potentialities of the Rhone water-power--so vast as to be
estimated to save France six millions of tons of coal a year, which is
quite a factor in a country that does not in the average year consume more
than sixty million tons.

This new scheme will mean the immediate construction of eighteen great
power-houses along the upper reaches of the river, with a total
development of 1,100,000 horse-power. The chief users of this huge supply
of clean and inexhaustible power will be the City of Paris, and the Paris,
Lyons, and Mediterranean railway. It is proposed that all the rail-lines
in the huge quadrilateral between Bellegrade, Lyons, Marseilles, and
Vintimille shall be completely electrified.

In the opinion of distinguished French engineers this single enterprise
will be far the greatest, from an economic point of view, ever undertaken
in France. Yet this is but the beginning. The Paris-Orleans has also
ambitious plans under which it expects to bring electric energy,
water-generated, to more than one-half of its 3250 miles of line. The
Midi, running for miles along the base of the Pyrenees, has abundant
opportunities for this cheap motive-power. Its management is unusually
progressive and it may be expected to take advantage of these in the not
distant future.

The net result of this great national economy will be the annual saving of
many millions of tons of coal in a land which has no fuel to spare, which
is indeed dependent upon coal importations for her very existence, let
alone the development of her industries.

Yet great as this huge economic step will yet prove itself for France, it
still will remain secondary to her wisdom of the long-ago in the
simplification of her entire operating system by means of the sensible and
logical regional railway plan, with its consequent huge basic economies.
France at the beginning started right. She is even to-day reaping the
benefit of them. To-morrow when her other economic conditions shall have
readjusted themselves she will reap a far greater benefit. The largest
achievements of her regional plan are still in the future.

       *       *       *       *       *

England has long since taken note of the situation in her neighbor just
across the Channel. She has seen her own salvation in the French solution
of the extravagant luxury of railway duplication. And even a traditional
British prejudice against borrowing an idea from another nation has
finally been broken down--in this particular instance very much broken
down. Yet it is entirely probable that, had it not been for the coming of
the World War, the Briton still would be enjoying the wasteful luxury of
the excess service which his extravagant competitive system--very much
like our own--had given him for many years. For it was extravagance,
nothing more, nothing less, that led each of the three railways binding
the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, about thirty miles apart, to run
an hourly service between those cities. The trains might run two thirds
or three quarters empty, and frequently did, but the pride of the London
and Northwestern, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Cheshire lines was
upheld. Competition is a great upholder of pride.

Along came the World War, and England from the beginning very much in it.
The burden placed upon her railways was huge. To meet it they were placed
under governmental control at the very outset and their services, aside
from the military ones, bared to the bone. Such luxuries as three trains
to the hour in each direction between Liverpool and Manchester were
immediately abolished. Under a coöperative plan the trains between those
two great English cities were, to use the phrase of the engineer,
"staggered"--placed in a triple alternation, which gave virtually the same
headway between them but with an operation of a little less than one third
the former number of trains. The passenger was merely asked to show enough
ordinary intelligence to study the time-tables and find from which of
three passenger terminals his train of a given hour would start.

The astonishing feature of the entire thing was the lack of complaint from
the traveling public which followed this wholesale reduction of train
service. Everywhere throughout Great Britain it was the same. Competing
trains between many of her busiest centers, arriving and departing at
virtually the same hours but traversing separate routes, were
consolidated, due regard being given to the necessities of intermediate
towns which might happen to be served by but a single one of the road; and
a war-time service was given for five years that was astonishingly good.
Not perfect, of course. The Englishman traveling was forced to sit a
little closer in his seat, sometimes compelled to wait in queues at the
wickets to buy his ticket, occasionally, in the absence of porters, to
handle at least some of his own luggage at the terminals. But there was
very little hardship about all of this, and a tremendous resultant
economy.

Great Britain will never go back to her old extravagances of the days of
unbridled transport competition. True it is that since the signing of the
Armistice her railway service, both passenger and freight, has been
radically increased, but to nowhere near the point that it had reached in
1913. Fine frills, like the running of fast non-stop expresses between
London and the ocean landing at Fishguard, in South Wales, to cite a
single instance out of many, have been abandoned; never to be taken up
again in your day or mine. The harsh necessities of vast economies born of
a great war, the huge increases in labor and fuel and raw material costs
that followed in its wake, do not encourage frills. Out of them came the
demand for permanent sweeping economies that resulted in the passage of
the important Railways Bill by Parliament in August, 1921, after many hard
weeks of exhaustive study.

To bring fifty-four almost entirely competitive railways into four almost
non-competitive ones and insure a governmental control of rates and other
charges sufficient to bring the constituent roads a rate of return equal
to that which they were receiving in 1913--here in brief is the chief
purpose of the extremely lengthy Railways Act, supplanting all transport
legislation that had gone before. It is the most drastic business move
that England has accomplished in many and many a day. Upon it are pinned
the hopes of a thinking people. And because, following in the steps of the
long-established regional systems of France it has become a high hope for
our extremely muddled rail transport situation in the United States, it is
well worth at least a little detailed study.

The south coast of England runs at a distance from London of from sixty
miles upward, as it extends both east and west of Brighton, the nearest
point to that great city. Three separate systems connect it with London:
to the extreme east the affiliated Southern and Chatham railways, made
familiar to thousands of Americans who have used them as an essential link
between Victoria Station and the beginning of the Channel crossing at
Dover; the London, Brighton, and South Coast; and the London and
Southwestern, this last line reaching as far west as Plymouth, down in
Cornwall. In a sense it may be said that these three railways are
regional railways within a region. Each has fairly definite and
non-competitive territory. Each serves its own principality, and serves it
admirably. To make a region out of these three railways is no problem at
all. It is solved, almost before it is begun.

Nor is the east coast of England to the north of London and right up to
and beyond the old Scottish border difficult to bring into a single
region. Three more or less parallel railways--the Great Central, the Great
Northern, and the Great Eastern--occupy the eastern counties all the way
up to York, 188 miles north of London, where the Northeastern has its real
beginning and occupies the extreme northeastern corner of England as an
absolute monopoly. This last line reaches within fifty-eight miles of
Edinburgh. As a matter of operating convenience, however, its locomotives
run all the way through to that ancient Scottish capital, traversing the
final fifty-eight miles upon the rails of the North British company.
Perhaps no better instance may be shown of the absurdly small typical
English railway of to-day than to realize that within the 392 miles that
lie between London and Edinburgh--no distance at all upon our American
railroad map--the through fast expresses run upon three separate railways.
The only condition we have that parallels and exceeds this is the
operation of the Baltimore and Ohio's through trains from New York to
Philadelphia, which traverse the rails of three roads--the Pennsylvania,
the Lehigh Valley, and the Philadelphia and Reading--in the short ninety
miles that intervene between Manhattan Island and the entrance to the B. &
O.'s own rails.

The British railroaders have long recognized the absurdity of the railway
that is too short just as they are able to point the finger of fine scorn
at our many railroads that are entirely too long. More than a decade ago
these four roads of the eastern counties of England sought to anticipate
the present grouping principle of the Railways Act by an amalgamation of
their properties into a single, succinct regional railway property. The
proposal was bitterly fought in Parliament and then defeated. Great
Britain had not then become convinced of the extravagance of the
competition principle in transportation. It was necessary to have a war to
teach her that important economic lesson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Almost as the northeastern corner of England is the undisputed
principality of a single system so does a single railway, the Great
Western, stretch alone directly west from London and almost completely
dominates its territory. To bring it into regional grouping with any of
the other important British railway systems has been well-nigh impossible.
After a number of futile attempts the professional and amateur railroaders
who have been attempting the solution of the regional plan for Great
Britain have given up the idea. They have found that they could only
combine the Great Western with the Cambrian and some other less important
Welsh roads, and now they have let it go at that--a single well-developed
region of some 3650 miles, well contained and, with the exception of a
single long arm thrust up into Liverpool, fairly compact.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the center of England rested the difficult part of the entire problem
of working out a rational and economic regional plan. In the succeeding
and final chapters of this book I shall show how in the two inner
industrial centers of America, the one just east and the other just west
of the Mississippi River, we shall come to two territories where the
working out of a pure regional plan is virtually impossible. So it is in
central England. Two great railways, possibly the two greatest in all
Britain, the London and Northwestern and the Midland--occupy that
industrial area with a perfect interlacing of lines, and at every corner
of it fight energetically for its traffic. Other railways enter slightly
upon it; as we have just seen, the Great Western with its line through
Birmingham up to Liverpool, the Great Central and, in its northerly
reaches, the cross-country Lancashire and Yorkshire. This last line has
however recently been absorbed by the London and Northwestern. It too
anticipated the decisions of the Railways Act and comes into any grouping
the largest single system in Great Britain, with considerably more than
four thousand miles of line, a system roughly comparable in size and
volume of traffic with our own Baltimore and Ohio, although in its
history, as well as in the traditions of its personnel, more closely
analogous to the Pennsylvania railroad.

To have attempted to separate the important London and Northwestern and
Midland systems would have been to break down completely the whole spirit
and plan of the British regional system. Therefore they have been brought
into a single grouping, and with them the Lancashire and Yorkshire of
course, the North Staffordshire, the Furness, the Caledonian, the Glasgow
and Southwestern, and the Highland companies--the last of these, as their
names indicate, Scottish lines.

Here then are four railways created out of fifty-four--some 24,500 miles
of line as compared with the 27,000 miles of French railway. The groupings
have followed the lines that I have just shown and take the names of the
Southern; the Northeastern, the Eastern, and the East Scottish; the
Western; and the Northwestern, Midland, and West Scottish groups
respectively. The smaller and comparatively unimportant lines of the
United Kingdom fall easily into some one of these four great regions. For
a time Scotland itself represented a rather perplexing problem. The
energetic young British minister of transport, Sir Eric Geddes, stood
stoutly for the retention of all the Scottish railways in a separate,
distinct, and strongly unified group. In this he was opposed. The old-time
competitive idea that there should be at least two separate and rival
routes from London up into Scotland--the one on the east coast and the
other on the west coast of Britain--would not down. Geddes gave up. Then
for a time he proposed a generous compromise in the form of two separate
Scotch groups, one upon each side of the island and connecting with the
Eastern (English) and the Northwestern and Midland groups at York and
Carlisle respectively. But even in this he was beaten. Scotland lost her
railway autonomy. Her lines will be merged and as entities forever lost in
the sweep of the two larger groups of the entire kingdom.

Geddes has stood in his position in regard to the Scottish railways for
the regional plan in its purest form. His theory was excellent. But it had
to give way to hard-headed practice. It often so happens. Remember always,
if you will, that railroad competition has been a great god in Britain as
well as in the United States. Yet competition is not to be too hardly
judged, even by the loftiest of idealists. It has its good points, and
they are many. Most of the fine excellences of our railroad service in
this country were built up in its hottest competitive period. That is
irrefutable. It is entirely probable that if we had not had that
competitive period we should not have had a service even comparable with
the high standard of excellence that we reached a decade ago. The point is
that within the last generation genuine competition has ceased to exist
between our railroads; the sham of it that remains is a fearful drag upon
any really economical operation of them to-day.

Only a few years ago Lord Monkswell, the distinguished British student of
railway problems, said:

    "At sight it would appear that it [competition] has possessed certain
    advantages. It is found that in Great Britain, the only European
    country where different routes between the same important centers
    exist to any great extent under separate management, the train service
    is more complete than anywhere else _except France_ [the italics are
    my own] and the passenger-fares are by no means particularly high. But
    when we remember that Great Britain was the first country to develop
    railways and so got a long start of the rest of the world, and that
    the population of Great Britain for each unit of area is much greater
    than that of any other big country--more than twice as great as that
    of France, and half as great again as that of Germany--we see that
    there are other causes to which these effects may be ascribed.

    "No conditions of this kind, however, tend in any way to show that
    competition, if attainable, is incapable of producing good results on
    railways at the present time. Far from it; railways present so many
    possibilities of improvement that if any really effective means could
    be discovered of inducing their managers to make bold experiments, it
    is more than likely that the best results would ensue. As has just
    been remarked the facilities offered to passengers are certainly on
    the whole greater in Great Britain than elsewhere, and in conjunction
    with--probably in consequence of--this, it is found that the passenger
    receipts per head of the population are approximately twice as large
    as they are in France or Germany.

    "On the face of it then there is a very good reason for supposing that
    the receipts increase with the facilities offered. Now the two things
    above all others that passengers may be expected to care for are
    reduced third-class fares and increased speeds. If railway managers,
    animated by some real spirit of competition, were to offer these
    advantages, it is possible and even probable that travel would
    increase so much that the railways, besides conferring a great boon on
    their customers, would themselves secure large benefits.

    "As regards the goods traffic, the definite elimination of all
    competition would be likely to have the result of doing away with
    several unsatisfactory features of this traffic. Even though there is
    ostensibly no competition in rates between the different companies
    serving the same points, there can be no doubt that the fear of losing
    traffic has frequently induced railways to make concessions of various
    kinds to traders, the results of which have been to give more or less
    secret rebates to the traders in whose favor the concessions were
    made."

I have quoted Lord Monkswell in some detail because his remarks, made upon
the British railway situation eight years ago, are so pertinent and
applicable to our American railroad situation of this moment. He has seen
the rise and the decline of competition upon his home island. And we too
have seen its rise and its decline, upon the North American continent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Return for a final moment to the British regional grouping plan as it has
finally been effected by Parliament; some of the many details are vital to
us because they are details that before long we shall be compelled to face
in the remaking of our own national railroad structure. The Railways Act
over there, after outlining rather precisely the geography of the regional
grouping, sets up an Amalgamation Tribunal, consisting of three
commissioners, who will approve and confirm the amalgamation schemes
submitted to them. This tribunal is to be a court of record and is to have
an official seal. Its decisions are subject to a review by the Court of
Appeal, whose decision is to be final, unless it gives leave to carry it
up to the House of Lords itself.

It is expected that the work of this tribunal will be finished early in
1923, so that the new groups may begin active operations upon July 1 of
that year. At one time it was suggested that the entire scheme be made
operative upon July 1, 1921; the whole thing was suggested by the minister
of transport as early as June, 1920. But that was obviously far too short
a time. The railway companies would have none of it. They wanted it to
begin not before January 1, 1924, and have nearly had their own way in the
matter.

For it need not be supposed that the bill was adopted without contentions.
These were many and some of them were bitter. The Scottish question was
but one of several vexing sub-problems. A good many of the British railway
men looked upon the rate return to come from the proper fixing of the
tariff charges in each of the groupings as quite too low. The fact that it
was the equal of 1913 has meant little or nothing to them. That year
returned but 3.64 per cent. to the average British railway share, and some
large holders of these securities felt that they should have a much
bigger return upon their investments.

Yet to go further into this vexing point would involve an intricate study
of British railway capitalization. It is enough for our point now to say
that it is large, extremely large, per mile as compared with our American
capitalization. Those people who have made it their particular business to
shout upon watered stock and bonds of our roads will have interesting food
for thought if they will study the capitalization of railways overseas;
particularly so if they will consider that the preliminary valuation
reports of the Interstate Commerce Commission show many of our carriers as
possessing an actual property value well in excess of the combined
securities issued against it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The entire field of British railway operation offers many valuable and
suggestive hints, even to a nation as supposedly expert in railroad
operation as this. It is not possible in the limits of a single chapter to
go into all of these. Among them is the development of electrification
upon the standard lines of Great Britain; despite a seemingly slow
progress in this great work (but 365 miles out of 24,500 being operated by
electricity at the moment) it is known that a group of distinguished
American electrical engineers has been engaged for some time past in
devising a scheme for the operation of every mile of British railway by
electric power. Others are the exquisite simplification and economy of her
terminal operation and the facility of her small goods-wagons for
short-haul traffic. These are all interesting. Yet, the single phase of
her regional development so far outranks even these as to demand an almost
exclusive attention.

France has led the way, has proved almost beyond doubt the value of the
regional system; Great Britain now falls in line. The United States will
be next in turn. Because the possibilities of the extension of this, the
greatest of immediate railway economies, are so vast in this land of huge
railroad development I shall leave their description until later. Then I
shall endeavor to show how as a nation we can all benefit--railroad
patron, railroad shareholder, railroad employee alike--by the extension to
our national transport machine of a plan which is so ingenious, so
genuinely economic, and yet withal so simple as to make it a bewildering
wonder that our biggest railroaders did not come to it long ago. That they
did not is rather a sad commentary upon their vision--or lack of it.



CHAPTER XV

THE REGIONAL RAILROAD AT HOME


Nearly six years ago I began a careful study of the possibilities of a
regional railroad development within the United States. At that time I had
not visited Europe. Yet a fairly thorough knowledge of the general plan of
her railway organization, acquired through a process of careful reading,
had made me cognizant of the regional plan as it exists there;
particularly of the French _réseaux_. It was then apparent--well before
our entrance into the World War--that the scheme of organization upon
which our roads had been upbuilt for eighty-five years was approaching the
end of its usefulness. Over-consolidation, the decline of real competition
between the separate carriers, the increasing unintelligent interference
of government with the minor details of railroad operation, the decline of
morale--each of these things separately, all of them together, bespoke the
slowly approaching end of our old order of railroad things.

What was to replace it? Government ownership? Some of the people who in
1916 had a stray thought or two that the state ownership and operation of
our railroads might not be such a bad thing after all, by the end of 1920
were pretty well disillusioned. At the beginning of this book I reviewed
in some slight detail the achievements and the failures of the United
States Railroad Administration. It proved that in the centralization of an
entire railroad structure of this land certain great operating economies
might be accomplished; it also proved quite as definitely the fact that
our 265,000 miles of railroad consolidated into a single structure was far
too clumsy and too unwieldy for any sort of efficient operation
whatsoever. A paradoxical statement in sound, but one in fact quite
accurate.

Three years ago I attempted the fabrication of alternative railroad
centralization and decentralization schemes. In the one I bowed abjectly
to our great American god of competition. To the limit of my ability and
knowledge I recognized banking control, natural traffic routes and
breaking points, and interlocking directorates and ownerships. On paper I
laid down a number of "competitively consolidated" railroads--not more
than twenty, or at the most twenty-five,--for the entire United States. I
linked widely separated roads because they already had linked themselves
by joint ownership; I split New England in twain, giving the New Haven to
the Pennsylvania and the rest of her railroads to the already overburdened
and somewhat unwieldy New York Central. Such moves followed the logic of
Wall Street. The comfort and convenience of Boston mattered not at all.
Did she not have competition? What mattered it that under such a plan the
Baltimore and Ohio, the Erie, the Lackawanna, the Lehigh Valley, or the
Canadian roads would have no entrance either to her or to the fine
industrial territory about her, save over the rails of competitors? That
was a mere detail!

And while Boston might have the competition of two roads, little of the
rest of New England would. As I have already said in this book, railroad
competition may be the industrial necessity, nay even the very breath of
commercial life, to such fine manufacturing towns as Rochester or Akron or
Dayton or Grand Rapids, but how about such fine manufacturing towns as
Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, and Providence? Are they not also
entitled to the breath of commercial life? Yet to give these four big
typical New England towns railroad competition would mean the complete
dismemberment of the compact New Haven system--an almost utter
impossibility. Southern New England is already pretty tightly set as a
simon-pure railroad region. It can be regarded as nothing else.

So I tore up my "competitive consolidation" plan and began work trying to
place the entire country on the simon-pure regional idea, beginning with
New England, which can easily be considered as a single region even though
Boston shudders at the mere thought of such a thing. And in fact from the
point of view of better operation New England would far better be divided
into two regional railroads, each with its headquarters in Boston. One of
these roads would embrace the Boston and Albany and the roads south of it,
the New York, New Haven, and Hartford and its controlled properties, the
Central New England, and the New York, Ontario, and Western. Incidentally
this last road is something of a teaser in any regional planning. From
Campbell Hall, New York, where it connects with the Central New England
and the New Haven (by way of the Poughkeepsie Bridge) down to Scranton and
the heart of the anthracite district, it is an essential part of New
England's railroad system. From Cadosia--where the Scranton branch
diverges from the present main line--north to Oswego it decidedly is _not_
New England. There its value is very questionable, even for local traffic.
From Oxford to Oswego, in any new order of things, it might either be
given to a combination of the Erie and Lackawanna or else to the New York
Central--neither road probably would be bidding for the opportunity.

Return to New England. Just as the present Boston and Albany would make a
good east and west main-stem from Boston through Massachusetts to Albany
for our newly created Southern New England Lines so would the erstwhile
Fitchburg perform a similar office for the Northern New England Lines,
which would include the Boston and Maine, Maine Central, Rutland, Central
Vermont--probably, as to-day, right through to New London--and the Bangor
and Aroostook. There would be left when this was done but two separate or
"foreign" roads in the New England territory. And these would be "foreign"
in the fullest sense of the word--the Grand Trunk (just now being absorbed
into the Canadian national railroad system) and the Canadian Pacific,
which reach across Maine toward Canada's winter ports upon the Atlantic;
Portland, St. Johns, and Halifax. It is not conceivable that these lines
would be disturbed, any more that we should wish Canada to disturb the
important links of the Michigan Central and the Wabash across the
southwest corner of the Province of Ontario.

A good many people attempting this very difficult problem of regionalizing
the railroads of New England have attempted to leave the Boston and Albany
out of their calculations, which not only spoils the picture but makes the
entire regional plan almost utterly senseless. Others doing the same thing
have attempted to balance matters by giving the New Haven to the
Pennsylvania, which is perhaps a little worse. That distinguished student
of American railroads, Professor E. Z. Ripley of Harvard, who undertook
recently a regionalization scheme at the behest of the Interstate Commerce
Commission, fell into no such error. He gave New Haven to the Baltimore
and Ohio, and I suspect did it knowing full well that the Pennsylvania,
having been offered the New Haven long ago and having refused it, would
probably not have a change of heart in the near future.

In its recent close new traffic alliance with the New Haven--an alliance
whose outward expression consists very largely of some new through trains
and sleeping-car services from New England by way of the Hell Gate Bridge
and the Pennsylvania Station in New York City--the Pennsylvania
undoubtedly has all of the New Haven that it can easily digest. Broad
Street cannot be anxious to undertake the management of the Litchfield
branch in Connecticut, or the Chatham one down Cape Cod way.

Yet I hear you asking Professor Ripley, if the Pennsylvania does not want
to buy the New Haven, how much more so would the Baltimore and Ohio, whose
terminals in New York are weak and whose finances generally are in a far
more precarious condition, want to attempt the thing? Can the keen-minded
Mr. Willard at Baltimore be more anxious than the keen-minded Mr. Rea at
Philadelphia to undertake the management of jerk-water branches in
Connecticut or in Rhode Island or down on Cape Cod? In answer to all of
which a Harvard eye of deep wisdom would be winked. Mr. Ripley knows well
that the New England railroad should be purely a regional railroad--or two
regional railroads--and yet I think that he would be quite willing to
embrace the suggestion of the Boston banker that its ownership--not an
enviable honor to-day or apparently for many days to come--should be
divided between the three or four or five trunk-lines that it serves.

This entire question of the probable ownership of the regional roads I
have left until the succeeding and final chapter of this book. I do not
agree in the opinion of many bankers that the regionalization of the roads
should be attempted in a supine bowing to their financial results of
recent years, and so should be based upon these showings. I believe that
it should be based fundamentally upon the service needs of the communities
that the regional roads of to-morrow will have to serve. The Southern Tier
of the state of New York for too many years suffered set-backs from the
fact that virtually its sole railroad servant was a historic line, which
wholesale fraud had doomed to a lifetime of perpetual near-paralysis.

       *       *       *       *       *

So much for New England. Such planning is typical of that which might be
expected of any non-competitive regional plan. Along the entire outer or
coastline rim of the United States the regional plan without compromise or
variation works out pretty well indeed, all the way from the proposed
Northern New England Lines that you have just seen out to the Californian
railroad, or the Puget Sound Lines, which would immediately adjoin the
Californian upon the north. Along the outer edges of the country it would
be easy to devise. It is a pretty plan, and in its simplicity most
beguiling. And yet when one comes to the center of the country this same
simple non-competitive regional plan becomes almost utterly impossible.
After all we are working with things as they are and not merely with
things as we should like to have them.

A careful study of the rival plans--non-competitive regional and highly
competitive regional--has led me to a firm belief that the real solution
of our problem of railroad organization in this country lies in a
compromise between them. Were we to start afresh to plan the railroads of
the United States, supposing that not a mile of track had been laid down
between the Atlantic ocean and the Pacific and that our vision was
sufficiently Aladdin-like to foresee the present growth of the land
(really built up upon that very railroad development), we might well have
adopted a purely regional plan, as did the French so long ago. But much as
we may admire such a theory we cannot entirely ignore hard facts--the
important properties already built and well developed, the recognized
making and breaking points of traffic, the individual morale and tradition
of the several roads--the sort of thing that we have shown, despite all of
its recent labor troubles, still so existent upon the Pennsylvania and
some other roads.

So in compromise we use the purely regional idea where the purely regional
idea best serves high theory and the broad pathways of hard fact and
established principle. We begin in New England and there we create an
autonomous regional railroad--probably two, for reasons which we have
already stated--each as we have seen with headquarters in New England's
traditional capital, Boston.

Next we cross the Hudson River and tackle the great congested railroad
district that lies between it and the thousand-distant cities of Chicago
and St. Louis as a bloc. Here begins our problem in dead earnest. Shall we
make two great regions of most if not all of it--the one to the north with
the dark-green cars and the traditional name of New York Central, and the
one to the south occupying all the rest of the territory down to the
Potomac and the Ohio River with the wine-red cars and the traditions of
the Pennsylvania? No, not unless we want to consider the operation of two
great railroads of between twenty-five and thirty thousand miles of line
each. If we are to have any sort of intensive or good operation this is
out of the question. With twelve thousand miles to be operated, each of
these roads at times already flounders.

No, I think that we can do better than that. We can easily make four long
narrow regions, stretching from New York about four and five hundred miles
to the west, and to these give auxiliary regions, or rather regional
railroads, further on, to Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. The
most northerly of these will be, of course, the New York Central, the unit
management of which will be terminated or broken at Buffalo--as of other
days--and to which will be handed the Delaware and Hudson, north of
Albany, possibly the northern portions of the Ontario and Western, and
some lesser properties. It might be possible to go even further and give
the generally efficient even though somewhat unwieldy New York Central the
Lehigh Valley, the Lackawanna, the Erie (east of Jamestown), the Buffalo,
Rochester, and Pittsburg, and the rest of the Delaware and Hudson. But I
hardly think that this would be practicable. We are trying, even in our
theories, to keep our feet on the ground.

It would be better by far to take this last group and make it the second
of our long, narrow northeastern regions--call it, if you will, the
Erie-Lackawanna and place its eastern terminals at Albany, at New York,
and, by means of the absorption of some sixty miles of the Reading, at
Philadelphia too. This would make a well-balanced and compact group,
fairly competitive and yet accomplishing great economies in the common use
of trackage and terminals. The wastage in these things alone is hardly
less than appalling, the opportunities for saving tremendous.

The third of this particular grouping of regions would be quite naturally
the Pennsylvania. It too would be terminated as of other days, at
Pittsburg, although, as we shall presently see, with its own auxiliary
regional railroad it would go into the chief cities east of Mississippi.

And finally the Baltimore and Ohio! In an earlier plan, and in an earnest
seeking for the simon-pure regional grouping of our railroads, I sought to
thrust this historic property--not only one of the very oldest of our
American railroads but the only one which has existed eighty years without
a change of name or important change in its organization--into the
melting-pot with its traditional rival, the Pennsylvania. But that would
not go. Tho two metals refuse to amalgamate.

But suppose one takes the Baltimore and Ohio, chops it off at Parkersburg,
at Wheeling, and at Pittsburg--as one did with the Pennsylvania--and adds
to it the greater part of the Reading, the Central Railroad of New Jersey,
the Western Maryland, and one or two much lesser properties. The result is
a fairly compact property, sufficiently competitive in its reach to the
larger terminal cities of its territory to appease those who must continue
to bow the knee before that particular god of business, and yet enough
unified to be easily handled from its traditional headquarters at
Baltimore. That would seem to be more generally satisfactory than the
obliteration of the Baltimore and Ohio, with its fine traditions, its good
morale, and its general record of excellent service.

       *       *       *       *       *

So much then for our four regional railroads to lie north of the Potomac,
west of the Hudson River and east of Buffalo, Pittsburg, and Wheeling. How
about the region that lies immediately west of these three last important
gateway cities? Shall we consider those great railroad States of Ohio,
Indiana, Michigan (the lower peninsula), and Illinois as a great single
non-competitive region, in full accord with the high theory of the
regional plan? No, not if we have any real regard for the feelings of the
residents of those four great States. A single railroad for those four
States might be workable, but I doubt it. I even doubt if you could
operate successfully either a single railroad for either Ohio or Indiana.
Illinois we shall leave out of consideration for the moment, while
Michigan would probably be pleased as Punch to have her beloved Michigan
Central returned to her as her own regional railroad, with its eastern
terminals, as of yore, at Buffalo and at Suspension Bridge and its chief
western one at Chicago--a single, independent, autonomous railroad
property with a genuine presidential headquarters at the very important
city of Detroit.

It is south of Michigan that the problem complicates. And here it is that
I can only see to-day, and for many many hundreds of days to come, the
retention of a pretty generally competitive transport plan. Regions, yes,
if we still like the sound of the word. But regions which interlace so
that in reality the word becomes a good deal of a misnomer. The New York
Central Lines West (formerly the Lake Shore, the Big Four, and the
Pittsburg and Lake Erie and the Lake Erie and Western), reaching from the
terminal of the parent property at Buffalo out to Detroit, Chicago, St.
Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburg, would have a president and real
headquarters at Cleveland; the Erie-Lackawanna West would consist of the
Wabash (east of the Mississippi River), the Nickel Plate, the Erie (west
of Jamestown), the Wheeling and Lake Erie, the Clover Leaf and the
Bessemer and Lake Erie. The Pennsylvania Lines West would be virtually as
they existed prior to the recent after-the-war reconsolidation, but with
the addition of a needed feeder into Detroit; and finally the Baltimore
and Ohio West would consist of its present property plus the Cincinnati,
Indianapolis, and Western, the Monon, and the Hocking Valley--all with
headquarters at Cincinnati. That interesting little cross-country road of
the interesting Henry Ford, the Detroit, Toledo, and Ironton, might easily
fit into the westerly region of the Pennsylvania, while the Baltimore and
Ohio would be given at least a trackage entrance into Detroit over the
Père Marquette, so as to keep it on par with its three regional
competitors. The rest of the Père Marquette would be merged into the
embracing Michigan Central.

Just as this region, almost immediately east of the Mississippi River,
bids fair to remain competitive for an indefinite time, so is the
territory immediately west of that great stream also bound to remain
competitive. Reserve the greater part of Illinois Central for future and
separate consideration, and now come to that Middle West territory. Are we
going to create simon-pure regions there and ignore the fine traditions of
properties such as the Burlington, the Rock Island, and the Santa Fé? No,
not if we have any real sort of wisdom. North of them the problem is far
easier of solution. The Milwaukee will merge quite easily into the
Northwestern; although to operate the combined properties through to the
Pacific coast would require at least three separate regional
organizations--the Northwestern, between Chicago and the Missouri River,
the Montana Lines from there to Spokane, and the Puget Sound Lines from
there to the actual shore of the Pacific. Into these almost purely
regional systems would also be merged the Great Northern and the Northern
Pacific. The Burlington's line into the Twin Cities (St. Paul and
Minneapolis) would cease to be. And in fairness to that road the
Milwaukee's lines to Omaha and Kansas City would be withdrawn from the new
Northwestern combination and parceled out between Santa Fé, Rock Island,
and Burlington. Into such parceling would also go the always perplexing
Chicago Great Western and the extraneous arm of the Illinois Central
between Chicago and Omaha, running at right angles to the main-stem of
that important system and to a larger extent disassociated from it.

It might be found more practicable to bring Union Pacific directly into
Chicago over the rails of one or the other of these last two properties
(Union Pacific's financial interest in Illinois Central already is a
powerful one), although the Union Pacific's operating heads would probably
prefer one of the routes between Chicago and Omaha discarded by the larger
Northwestern grouping; the present Milwaukee between those two cities is
better built and so more easily operated than Illinois Central or Chicago
Great Western. Union Pacific for a long time has felt that it has the same
right as its chief transcontinental competitor, the Santa Fé, to a direct
entrance into Chicago. In a way such as this it would be brought to a
parity with the direct, although longer, southern route.

"But," you interrupt, "how about Southern Pacific in such a case? It is
also a pretty warm competitor of the Santa Fé."

To bring both Santa Fé and Union Pacific into the Chicago gateway as
transcontinental competitors and bar out Southern Pacific would be indeed
grossly unfair. I have no intention of doing anything of the sort. Cross
quickly with me from the Middle West territory to the lovely Pacific
coast. Here again we think clearly in our own terms of purely regional
railroads. Two of them would occupy the extreme coastal district all the
way from the Mexican line to the Canadian. The most southernly of this
twain is the Californian railroad, a fine, dignified name for a fine,
dignified railroad extending well beyond the bounds of even the great
Golden State, north to Medford, Oregon, and east to El Paso, to
Albuquerque, to Salt Lake, and to Ogden. Within this huge and rather
sparse territory--sparse as compared in a rail traffic sense with the
territories west of the Mississippi River--we should have an absolutely
non-competitive railroad, but under strict regulation operated for the
greatest good of the greatest number. That has been done before in
California; it is being done to-day and most successfully. The Southern
Pacific is usually most responsive to its huge non-competitive territory.
It gives to it in most cases an adequate service.

New England lends itself to the non-competitive and highly economical
regional railroad. So does the west coast too, but because of its giant
sweep we give this last seaboard two regions, the one to the north of the
Californian railroad, the Puget Sound Lines, extending, as we have seen,
north from Medford, and west from Spokane as well as south from Vancouver,
British Columbia, and northwest from Ogden, Utah.

East of these two great railroads--and yet neither of them too intensive
for successful management by a single executive head--are the Colorado
Lines, embracing roughly the main mass of railroad trackage within the
State and extending north to Cheyenne and west to Salt Lake, by way of
the present lines of the Denver and Rio Grande as well as by the yet
uncompleted Denver and Salt Lake. It is a far smaller region than the two
we have just considered, yet a territory of a considerable traffic and,
because of its location, necessitating the most intensive sort of
operation.

Now we begin to get these roads running down into the immediate Southwest
from Chicago and into their proper relationship--the Rock Island, with its
lines from Chicago, St. Louis, and Memphis, coming together and reaching
to El Paso and out to the Colorado Lines near the eastern Colorado border;
the Santa Fé, taking the original Missouri Pacific between Kansas City and
St. Louis for a much-needed entrance into the latter city and touching the
Colorado Lines at La Junta and the Californian both at Albuquerque and at
El Paso; the Burlington shorn of its Twin Cities line, but given either
the Missouri Pacific west of Kansas City or the former Kansas Pacific
(to-day a detached but well-built branch of the Union Pacific) or both and
terminating both at the Colorado State line and, by the acquisition of the
Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient and the building of a few hundred miles of
railroad, with the Californian somewhere in the general neighborhood of
Albuquerque.

Here is balance. Here is a fair adjustment between logical competitors,
the retention of competition where it is not practicable to eliminate it,
and its abolishment where it is feasible to uproot it and establish great
operating economies in the wake of the change.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are not quite done. We have hardly considered the South. It is very
much entitled to consideration, with its great growth in the last few
years and its wonderful opportunities of the immediate future. But
because, like California, it still has its intensive growth in the future
rather than in the past, it is not too late to bend it into the economic
regional plan.

We left the Californian railroad with an important eastern terminal at El
Paso. El Paso is in Texas, even though it is barely in it, and so becomes
quite the logical western terminal of the Texas lines, which would
exclusively cover in our scheme virtually the entire State east from
Beaumont, Shreveport and Texarkana and south from Dallas and Fort Worth.
It might even be possible to give the Texas regional system a direct
entrance into Kansas City by acquisition of the entire Kansas City
Southern, but I would doubt the wisdom of this. It would have the effect
of throwing the delicate competitive shading remaining about that very
great railroad center considerably out of balance. For if Kansas City by
direct line, why not St. Louis or even Chicago?

No, that would hardly do. The Iron Mountain reaching in a splendid
strategic position from St. Louis to Texas, shorn of its wretched
mésalliance with the Missouri Pacific and given instead the Alton and
certain portions of the 'Frisco and Missouri, Kansas, and Texas systems,
would make an excellent feeder for the Texas Lines right through to Kansas
City, to St. Louis, and Chicago, and still avoid the operation of too many
miles or too attenuated a single system under one executive head.
Meanwhile the competitive factor in the competitive territory which we
have permitted to remain within the land would be appeased by the fact
that the Rock Island, the Santa Fé, and the Burlington would also bind the
Texas Lines to Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago. Our plan continues to
balance, and to balance extremely well.

The Texas Lines would have still another competitive entrance into
Chicago. We will take the Illinois Central--deleted, if you will recall,
of its rather superfluous line to Omaha--and make it the main-stem and
core of a far larger railroad which we may well give the more dignified
and embracing title of Mississippi Valley railroad. From New Orleans
straight north to Chicago, west to Beaumont, northwest to Shreveport and
to Little Rock, possibly east to Mobile, and northeast to Birmingham--here
is the making of a really dominating and yet very logical regional
railroad. It also might and probably would be both practicable and
possible to make it live more closely to its name and give to it the line
along the eastern bank of the upper Mississippi, between St. Louis and St.
Paul, now operated by the Burlington.

       *       *       *       *       *

There still remains the southeastern corner of the United States--and
right here our problem reaches its final and most perplexing phase.
Whether to rearrange it in two or three simon-pure regions or to have two
or three competing systems within a comparatively large regional district
is a question not easy of correct solution. I believe that the latter is
the solution most likely to come, however. The inter-ownership of the
Atlantic Coast Line and the Louisville and Nashville railroads is a factor
not easily to be ignored. Ranged against this combined system--which in
its final entity probably would include the Nashville, Chattanooga, and
St. Louis and the historic Georgia railroad--is the huge Southern railway,
upon which much thought and money has been expended within the last ten or
twelve years, and which would meet it at virtually every important
competitive point.

Only two other important railroads occupy this southeastern territory,
south of Virginia--the Central of Georgia and the Seaboard Air Line. The
first of these is the property of the Illinois Central and yet could not
logically be made a portion of the Mississippi Valley railroad which we
were outlining but a minute ago. The economic thing probably would be to
parcel out these two properties, and several smaller ones, between the new
Atlantic Coast Line and Southern railway combinations and finally retain
for each of these their present valuable entrances into the City of New
Orleans.

A great portion of the Seaboard Air Line lies in Florida, but Florida like
New England and Texas and California lends herself quite readily to the
absolute non-competitive regional plan. A Florida railroad would be
touched by the Atlantic Coast Line and the larger Southern railway at
Jacksonville, at Pensacola, and at intermediate points.

And finally, Virginia! She too lends herself to the regional plan, with
the sole exception of the north and south lines of the Southern and the
enlarged Atlantic Coast, the first coming north toward Washington through
Charlottesville and the second through Richmond. The rest of the rails in
both of the Virginias might very logically be grouped into a single great
efficient system which would stretch from tide-water in the neighborhood
of Norfolk back over the mountains to the Ohio River, and even beyond it
to Columbus, to Cincinnati, and to Lexington. That the chief business of
such a railroad would be the transport of coal goes without saying. With
its vast combined water terminals in the neighborhood of Hampton Roads, it
would be in a dominant position either for the export of its bituminous
fuel or for its further shipment, both north and south, by the highly
economical water lines along the coast.

       *       *       *       *       *

Economy is indeed a watchword for this plan. I shall not attempt to take
your time or dull your interest in its details by giving you too many of
them. A very few single but rather typical examples of the savings to be
made, were it ever to be placed in effect, will be illustrative. Here for
instance is that so-called Southern Tier of New York--the long row of
counties which lies for nearly two hundred miles against its Pennsylvania
line. Many years ago the historic Erie pushed its rails through the
Southern Tier. From its main line--originally built from
Piermont-on-Hudson to Dunkirk, New York--it gradually shot branches north
into the heart of the Empire State to Canandaigua, to Rochester, and to
Buffalo. Eventually it made an interlacing of these branches, and in those
days--when men hardly dared dream of the motor-car or the improved
highway--the branches generally were profitable.

The Rochester branch, about one hundred miles in length, was typical of
many of its fellows. It diverged from the main line at Painted Post, just
west of Corning, and for the next forty miles threaded a very rich and
prosperous valley situated between deep hills. It was a small railroad but
essential, and for many years it prospered, to a moderate degree at least.

Then in the early eighties there came a competitor through that narrow
valley. The rich Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western, ambitious for a line
of its own into the growing Buffalo gateway, in 1882 and 1883 laid down
its rails alongside the Erie--along the main line all the way from Great
Bend, Pennsylvania, just a few miles east of Binghamton, New York, to
Painted Post, and along the Rochester branch as far as Wayland. The new
railroad was a main-stem; double-tracked it gave frequent and swift
service. The little Rochester branch line of the Erie shriveled up and all
but died.

In the regional organization that you have just seen me outline, I have
brought together the rich Lackawanna and the poverty-stricken Erie, along
with the Lehigh Valley, the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburg, the
southerly divisions of the Delaware and Hudson, and the Ulster and
Delaware railroads. It takes no large amount of imagination to forsee that
such a combination--and most railroad executives and broad-visioned
bankers will agree that it is a logical one--can greatly simplify
operation in southern and western New York and abandon miles of railroad
that should have been abandoned many years since.

In effect, this Erie-Lackawanna system would have at least two separate
main lines from its combined terminals at New York (how effectively these
might be combined we discovered when we saw the possibilities of the
electrification applied to the suburban traffic of the New York
metropolitan district) all the way to Binghamton, a little more than two
hundred miles distant. From that point west to the brisk small city of
Corning the traffic could be consolidated upon one of these main lines,
possibly three-tracked or four-tracked, and the other abandoned--a quick
and easy solution of some perplexing grade-crossing problems in the
communities that it would thread. Similarly the old antiquated Rochester
branch of the Erie could be abandoned all the way from Painted Post to
Wayland. The parallel double-track would render it of no further use.

I could take the atlas maps of western New York and show you many, many
more miles of railroad which could be abandoned profitably to-day, not to
the hindrance but to the positive benefit of the communities which they
are supposed to serve yet no longer serve, efficiently at least. But let
us turn our attention from trackage to terminals and for the moment
consider the chief city of western New York--the chief in size at any
rate, Buffalo. Twelve steam railroads to-day enter Buffalo and share four
main passenger-stations there. The Lackawanna has a handsome new terminal
at the harbor-front, into which enter not only its trains but those of the
Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburg and the Nickel Plate lines. The Lehigh
Valley has an almost equally new and handsome station, which it shares
with the Grand Trunk. The Erie plays the lone hand in a very ancient
building, while the New York Central, the Pennsylvania, the Michigan
Central, and one or two other roads are housed in the Exchange Street
Station, which is fairly antediluvian in its antiquity and its
inefficiency.

For some years Buffalo dreamed her dreams of a real union station, which
would rise majestically from the lake-front in the neighborhood of the
historic court-house and jail where Czolgosz, the assassin of William
McKinley, met his trial and his just fate. Travelers who have had to pass
through Buffalo and who have been compelled to change from one railroad to
another there shared these dreams of a station into which all the trains
should pass. But the city authorities and those of the railroads came to
an absolute _impasse_ in the matter. The New York Central, for instance,
did not want to continue backing its through New York-Chicago passenger
trains into the Buffalo station. It proposed as a compromise a union
station somewhere east of Clinton Street. But "somewhere east of Clinton
Street" is _déclassé_ to Buffalo, and the big lake-front town would have
nothing of that.

So while mayors and general managers and high-priced engineers and all the
other bigwigs stormed and argued the Lackawanna people and the Lehigh
Valley people went right ahead and built their own passenger stations. It
is not conceivable that these large handsome stations would now be
abandoned. In the creation of the regional plan it is not necessary. It
becomes obvious from the beginning that the many trains of the
Erie-Lackawanna would easily fill the Lackawanna Station to repletion and
permit of the final abandonment of the ancient Erie passenger-house with
one of its most exasperating rail grade-crossing problems in the land as a
perplexity always attendant upon its operation.

The Lehigh Valley Station, but slightly enlarged in its head-house
accommodations, can easily be brought to meet the necessity of the other
regional systems entering Buffalo--those of the New York Central, the
Michigan Central, and the Pennsylvania. For it so happens that the present
train-shed of the new Lehigh Valley passenger terminal lies parallel with
and immediately adjacent to the tracks and platforms of the old Exchange
Street Station of the New York Central. To make the head-house (the
passenger, baggage, mail, and other facilities) of the Lehigh Valley
Station accommodate the trains that now enter Exchange Street would hardly
involve more than a rearrangement of these last groups of tracks and
platforms, at an astonishingly low cost and with an astounding degree of
operating saving--this last a factor which seemingly enters but little if
at all into the calculations of the men who design our dazzling new
American railroad stations.

       *       *       *       *       *

Economy enters into the operation of a passenger terminal as it does into
that of a freight terminal--and what can be accomplished in this last
direction we already have seen. The upkeep of the passenger, baggage, and
mail facilities of a railroad station--even one upon a comparatively
simple scale--will come to a large figure in the course of a twelvemonth.

Rochester is but seventy miles distant from Buffalo. It is entered by six
steam railroads, which occupy five separate and distinct passenger
stations. McAdoo brought this down to but four, yet recently the
Pennsylvania decided that it could no longer share the occupancy of the
handsome and commodious station of the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburg,
so it reopened its former individual passenger station, for three trains
in and three trains out each day. We do not have to go as far as Vancouver
to see the essential waste of the pride of the competitive system.

Rochester is a city of a little more than 300,000 persons. Two stations,
anyway--two of the existing stations--and possibly but one--the excellent
new station of the New York Central--would serve all the passenger needs
of both her steam and her interurban electric railroads, and with no more
than the slightest trackage rearrangement. And at an operating economy, as
well as an economy to the purse and time of the average traveler who must
cross the city from one road to another, that is not capable of quick
estimate.

Cleveland has just embarked upon an extravagant union station project
which, after all is said and done, is not to be a union station. For some
of the more sensible of the railroads who come to her have refused to be
beguiled by so obvious a real-estate scheme and one involving huge
expenditures at the very time when the average American railroad is
pleading poverty and reducing its expenditures because of that plea. The
huge capital expenditure of that proposed new Cleveland passenger-station
might be saved in a large part, and still that enterprising city be given
a fine passenger gateway that would express worthily her great pride and
her great wealth.

I have always had a feeling that with foresight--and _an abolition of
foolish competitive pride_--the huge capital expenditure already made and
yet to be made upon the new Union Station of Chicago could have been very
largely saved by an enlargement and an adaptation of the existing
passenger terminals of that city. The Northwestern for instance has a
head-house out of all proportion to the train-house. A second train-house
could easily have been built alongside of the present one without the real
necessity of adding to the main frontage of the station upon Madison
Street. Unquestionably new and much larger stations were and still are
needed both at Dearborn Street and upon the lake-front. But these new
stations will be needed even after the completion of the so-called Union
Station, at an expense now estimated at well in excess of $50,000,000.
These other stations could have been built to a larger size without the
expenditure of the $50,000,000, and the Chicago Union Station permitted to
become a matter of history.

It is useless, it seems to me, to stress too heavily the wage of the
American railroad employee when gross capital expenditures of this sort
have been made and are continuing to be made; or the rate of the traffic
return. Our railroads have been far too greatly burdened by these gewgaws.
Once in a while, of course, a station comes along, like the new Grand
Central Terminal in New York, which is the fruition of a positive genius.
If all of our passenger terminals had the economic strength of the new
Grand Central it would not have been necessary to write these paragraphs.
And I do not think either that it would have been necessary to raise the
passenger-fares far from their before-the-war levels. But when one
balances one Grand Central against a baker's dozen of Washington Terminals
(with that overhead and operating cost of thirty-four cents a passenger)
he sees at once the genuine value of that one Grand Central.

I can have no quarrel with the fine civic spirit that demands that the
railroad station of the modern American city shall be the full
architectural expression of its progress and its growth--in truth a city
gateway. The exquisite monumental concourses of the Pennsylvania Station,
the new Grand Central Terminal, and that at Washington have not been lost
upon me, while the somber but ecstatic beauty of the interior of the
Kansas City Station--to say nothing of the wonderful toys in Fred Harvey's
drug-store there--gives me a new thrill each time that I pass through it.
But it does seem that we might sometimes use a little more sense and
judgment in the planning of these stations. Monuments are quite all right
in their way, if they do not cost too much to build and to maintain. Again
let me illustrate.

When we were considering the electrification of the standard steam
railroad in the United States in general, and the Boston suburban zone in
particular, I called attention in a brief word to the fact that
electrification would vastly increase the passenger capacity of the two
great terminals of that city--South Station and North Station. I did not
stop then to tell in detail of what it might mean to both of those two
civic gateways, already badly crowded in the rush hours of the morning and
the evening; of how it might avoid for twenty-five years or more the
somewhat imminent present-day necessity of tearing them down and replacing
them with far larger stations, at a huge capital expenditure. In South
Station the fact that its builders of a quarter of a century ago had the
wisdom and the foresight to place underneath the train-shed and head-house
loop terminal tracks for future electric operation (tracks and platforms
which have never been used and whose very existence is not even suspected
by the majority of the people who use the station daily) might defer this
necessity. At North Station the time for imperative and radical
enlargement is close at hand, unless warded off by an electric
installation upon most if not all of the many suburban lines that now
enter that busy place.

Also in these chapters have I likened New England, in both its topography
and its traffic problems, to Old England. Now may I go further and see in
Boston fairly accurate replica of London, not alone in appearance--and
that it is, with its Christopher Wren churches, its medley of old-time
streets, its little parks and squares, and its general appearance of
staid sobriety--but in its own local problems of transport. Into London
come the tens of thousands each business day by surburban train, both
steam and electric. Yet London has no station in size comparing with the
North or the South Stations of Boston. Even Liverpool Street and Waterloo,
which come the nearest, fall far short in mere physical bulk, though not
in train operation. Yet I am thinking of Victoria--that marvel of
conciseness and terminal operation.

Victoria--both of the stations that rest side by side and share the name
in common--seemingly is no larger than the Broad Street or Market Street
Station in Philadelphia. The combined station certainly is not as large as
Broad Street, barely larger than Market Street. Yet in each business day
more trains arrive and depart from its train-sheds than either at Broad
Street or at Market Street.

How is this done? In the beginning the British railway man does not feel
that when he builds a railway terminal he has to provide a great
congregation place for the people. There is of course at great interchange
points in the heart of this country--such as Kansas City or Atlanta or
Cincinnati or Omaha or St. Paul--a real need for abundant waiting-room
capacity where through travelers may be properly housed between their
trains--for a number of hours, if need be. At more strictly terminal or
near-terminal points such as Philadelphia or New York or Boston this
necessity largely disappears, and the space that is taken by huge
waiting-rooms can better be used by more essential station facilities.

Victoria Station does not exceed ten platform-tracks in width. To handle
more than 300 trains a day within this limited capacity means the very
highest efficiency in train handling. Not only does it mean the maximum of
promptitude in loading and unloading the trains but an adaptation of their
schedules wherever possible so that an incoming train bringing passengers
into the station is used for a regular run taking other passengers out
again, and so the necessity of an "empty movement" into the storage-yards
and back again is avoided. Moreover the very arrangement of the tracks
and platforms themselves leads to efficiency in these things.

When but a few years ago it became necessary to enlarge radically the
capacity of the side of Victoria Station belonging to the London,
Brighton, and South Coast railway the engineers found that they would have
to think twice before they accomplished their purpose. The station was but
six tracks in width, divided into two groups of three tracks each--two of
these alongside the platforms, with a middle one reserved for the
switching of the locomotives backwards and forwards. It was not possible
to increase this limited width. Upon the one side stood an important
through street of London--Buckingham Palace Road--and upon the other the
equally immovable twin-station of the Southeastern and Chatham railway.
Therefore the engineers did the one thing possible, short of the
enormously expensive job of double-decking the station--they lengthened
it, and at a comparatively low cost doubled its capacity.

To-day two long trains, standing one behind the other upon the same track,
may load and unload their passengers at the same time, and without the
slightest confusion or difficulty. The high-level platform (the
station-platform at the same height as the floor of the train), which
Parliament forced upon the British railways many years ago, is a
tremendous help to quick entraining and detraining. Why it has not been
more universally adopted in this country it is hard to understand. It is
in successful use both in the Grand Central and the Pennsylvania Stations
in New York, but at very few other points. And this despite the fact that
in order to serve these two highly important stations virtually all the
Pullman equipment in the country now has been adapted to high-level
platform use. Yet only the Pennsylvania has had the courage and the vision
to adapt this very sensible form of platform to its intermediate stations.
It already has become a standard upon that great railroad.

That the adoption of a regional railroad system for this country would
bring this and a hundred other needed improvements--both greater as well
as smaller than these of the economical passenger terminal--I am not
attempting to argue. But I do believe that the regional railroad system,
with its setting of the competitive phase in its proper position in
relation to the conduct of our roads, would be a powerful factor in
bettering present conditions, and in a way that would bring wholesale
operating economies all the way across the land. This, in turn, should be
translated most promptly to the public in two ways--lowered rates and
bettered service. Here then is always the nub of the situation; railroad
efficiency accomplished through operating efficiency, not necessarily wage
reduction but reduction in other costs as well, as long as they may be
accomplished without detriment to the service. The service upon our
American railroads has long since been reduced to a point where their
actual efficiency and value as public servants have begun to be impaired.
From this time forward we must begin to puzzle out how their service may
be bettered, and there is no better way for this than that which lies
within a real correlation of their activities.



CHAPTER XVI

THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD


To assume infallibility or even great accuracy in sketching a regional
railroad plan for the United States would be of course ridiculous. We have
just had the mere suggestion of twenty-five or twenty-six railroads, some
of them non-competitive monopolies and others quite completely
competitive, in form at least, which is about all that our so-called
competitive railroads are to-day. Still the great transport god of our
transport world apparently must continue to be appeased. Form seems to
please him. We shall grant him that. But in a national transportation plan
which begins to assume any real form of high organization we shall not
permit the component parts of it to indulge in internecine struggle. It is
too expensive business.

So probably we shall begin the operation of our regional plan, which you
already have seen outlined geographically, by first taking our thousand or
more separate railroads--nearly 265,000 miles of line--and thrusting them
together into a great single organization. This we might easily call the
United States Railroad, even though it is to be in one sense not a
railroad, from an operating point of view at any rate. For once we have
centralized our great rail transport plant, we shall at once begin to
decentralize it. We shall make many railroads of it. We shall follow in
the main the scheme used by those vastly successful private organizations,
Standard Oil and the Bell Telephone, and the equally successful government
institution, the Federal Reserve Bank, and set up regional and highly
autonomous separate organizations. I began my planning of the regional
railroad for this country with the number of separate units fixed at
about the same as of these three organisms that I have just
mentioned--approximately an even dozen. Gradually I found, however, that
in as intricate or as extensive a business as railroading in the United
States twelve or fourteen or even sixteen regional companies would not be
enough. Perhaps twenty-six is not even enough. After all, that is but a
detail. What we really are seeking now is the proper method of
organization.

Our regional railroads, recentralized and each provided with a president
and other directing and operating officers extremely local and sensitive
to the territory which they would serve, would have left something behind
them in the central organization which was created primarily for the
business of rearrangement. For having transacted that immediate business
the United States Railroad still would continue to exist as a permanent
body, with its headquarters either in New York or in Washington. Its modus
operandi would be the virtually continuous sessions of vice-presidents
designated from its constituent railroads--one vice-president for each
road, especially chosen for this purpose--together with the occasional
meetings of the presidents and other executive officers. These men would
form a congress whose powers along almost all phases of our national
railroad would be virtually supreme.

Its greatest power--its greatest responsibility, if you please--would be
the proper financing of our railroad structure. That problem is far too
big to-day to be handled locally, even in the locality which we know as
Wall Street, New York. And Wall Street has shown itself capable of taking
care of some pretty large financing problems. Before we are done with our
railroad financing, it may be necessary for no less a hand than Uncle
Sam's to take hold of it, either by assuming the bonded indebtedness of
the roads and against this issuing his own bonds at a slightly higher rate
of interest, or else by direct and complete ownership of the carriers.

I am not going into this vexing and highly controversial phase of the
railroad question in America further than to say that I do not feel that
this country is ready yet to accept government ownership and
operation--particularly the latter. Please note that I have differentiated
between these two. It is not often done. And yet in that very shading of
difference may yet rest the solution of our entire railroad problem. At
the conclusion of this book I shall refer to this again.

According to a man who has made a critical inspection of the outstanding
securities of our American railroads and of whose ability and impartiality
there can be no doubt whatsoever, these are represented chiefly in about
ten billion dollars' worth of perfectly good bonds and about five billion
dollars' worth of good stock, at least normally returning dividends. About
$100,000,000 might be written off in poor bonds, that either are
fraudulent or else never should have been issued, while there are four or
five billion dollars par value of stock certificates which to-day may be
regarded as fairly hopeless. Out of all these securities three quarters
would assay, which after all does not compare so badly with the estimate
of value of from $18,000,000,000 to $20,000,000,000 which the railroads
themselves place upon their properties.

These "good securities" in normal time average a return of from
$750,000,000 to $800,000,000 each twelvemonth. Suppose that our Uncle
Samuel, heeding what seems to be a rather certain voice of his people at
this time to avoid both government ownership and government operation,
should arrange that the "good" stock of the present railroads be turned in
for that of the United States Railroad, which might either keep the stock
issue in its own name or else at the proper moment divide it pro rata
between its constituent regional roads? This certainly would not be either
government ownership or government operation.

Upon the stock portion of this trade our good Uncle Samuel would arrange
to guarantee a 4 per cent. dividend annually (possibly 4-1/2 per cent.)
and try to standardize and pay a 6 per cent. one. That sounds a little
different from the Transportation Act, does it not? As a matter of fact,
it is hardly conceivable that even a 4-1/2 per cent. guarantee would ever
become a serious drain upon the United States Treasury, while the fact
that the stock end of the capitalization of this railroad which is not a
railroad would never be permitted to exceed more than 35 or 40 per cent.
of the whole would be a real help in the situation.

If the roads that belonged to the United States Railroad found themselves
earning more than 6 per cent. upon the entire property a tripartite even
division could be arranged of the excess between their stockholders, their
employees, and the Government. It is hardly conceivable, however, that
such a condition would long continue without a demand arising for a
downward revision of the rates. It is a question that would settle itself
rather automatically most of the time.

       *       *       *       *       *

The stock distribution of the new centralized company of the holders of
the existing stock-certificates of the present companies would be in the
ration of the new standard dividend of 6 per cent. to be paid by the U. S.
R. R. to the dividends maintained by the present companies for an average
period of a certain number of years before the adoption of the scheme.
Thus the stockholders of the Santa Fé railroad who have been receiving 6
per cent. would probably have a chance to make an exchange upon even
terms; those of the Northern Pacific, who have been receiving 7 per cent.
would gain one and one sixth shares of the new stock for one share of the
present. New York Central stockholders would have five sixths as many
shares of the new stock as of the old.

"Do you think that many stockholders would be willing to exchange their
certificates upon this basis?" asks my querulous old railroad friend from
out of the West.

I do not _think_ anything of the sort. I believe that they would have to
form many lines to the right of the security-holders who could not get to
the places of transfer quickly enough. Uncle Sam holding the bag? Uncle
Sam's credit back of our transportation system? Let me ask you, Old
Railroader, if you have any fondness for Liberty bonds in your own
strong-box?

While the stock would be called in and reissued, the bonds of the American
railroads--between ten and eleven billion dollars' worth and returning an
average of 4.30 per cent. during the period of government control--would
be called in, principal and interest, by the United States Treasury, and,
as we have just seen, new government bonds issued against them--at just
enough lower interest to make the thing a profitable banking transaction
for our Uncle Sam.

The essentials of this plan are not my own. They are those of the Hon.
George W. Anderson of Massachusetts, a most hard-headed and far-seeing
jurist, who has had a remarkable experience in transportation law,
including some years as a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. I
am putting it forward here for just what it is worth--nothing more. It is
most interesting, and seemingly most workable. Judge Anderson and I
differ, however, in one large essential. Trained Federal officer that he
is, he sees centralization as the one panacea for the situation, which is
a characteristic attitude of the Federalist, from the days of Alexander
Hamilton until these.

I believe myself that the United States Railroad, should it be found
necessary to incorporate it, should be made a Federal corporation and
nothing else. The State charters of the present-day railroads would be
made virtually null and void once the roads ceased to operate as separate
concerns. It is possible, I will admit, that litigation might arise in
regard to this delicate point. But in the steady decline of States' rights
in all our political life I can have no great anxiety as to the final
outcome of such litigation. Apparently the Federal Government and not the
separate State has the power to-day.

I hold myself that once the centralized organization has been created--and
I shall refer to its opportunities again in a moment--prompt
decentralization is quite as essential to the situation. The Boston and
Albanys, the Lackawannas, the Bessemers, all the other successful small
railroads of our present-day situation arise to bid me go very easily
indeed when I suggest any national centralization of actual operation or
of the actual relationship between the carriers and their workers. And
Sentiment also crooks a warning finger. I know what she means by her
glance.

It would be pathetic, nay tragic, to remove an American railroad name like
the Pennsylvania or the Northwestern, to try to paint out the red cars of
the one line and the yellow ones of the other. New York Central is too
good a name to be scrapped. The same is true of Baltimore and Ohio. How
can we prate of morale and then dare to take from under it the things that
are its chief support? After all does sentiment count for nothing? And
tradition? Have we not possibly become a little too materialistic a
nation?

On the other hand Southern Pacific means but little to-day as the name of
a railroad which reaches as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as deeply
into the heart of the country as Ogden. The Californian railroad has a
sense of dignity that ought to appeal to every man of that great State.
Such a sense too has the Puget Sound Lines.

What's in a name?

Everything. Sentiment. Tradition. Morale. Progress. Dollars and cents, if
you will force me to be materialistic.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the far greater thing to be gained is the intimacy of contact
resulting by the location of a railroad president with large authority
within but a few hours reach of the people that he is endeavoring to
serve. Why should the man of Concord, New Hampshire, or he of Lewiston,
Maine, have to go farther than Boston for the adjudication of even his
most serious differences with the railroad? Or he of Madison or Racine
further than Chicago? And when it comes to the contacts with his
fellow-workers, how can a railroad president in our Federal capital city
of Washington be expected to know of living conditions in Great Falls,
Montana, or in Wichita Falls, Texas? Incidentally that is the chief issue
upon which the Pennsylvania is to-day fighting the Railroad Labor Board in
the courts. It wishes the right to meet its own workers, in its own way.
This is real regional thought. The people in control of the Standard Oil
and the Bell Telephone companies came long ago to bless the day when
legislation embarrassing to them at the time, forced the regional system
upon them. They now know its real advantages. The intimacy of labor
control alone is worth all the trouble and all the expense.

There is little or no dispute among those who really know the situation
that nine tenths of the solution of the railroad labor problem as it
exists in this country to-day rests in better contacts between the
employers and the employed. A predicament such as we saw but a little time
ago--the general manager of a great railroad unable to get his proposals
to his shop-workers--would hardly be possible in a road whose limits were
not too great. A certain high executive of my acquaintance is going to
take extreme exception to my suggestion that the regional trunk-lines in
the immediate district between New York and Chicago be broken at Buffalo,
at Pittsburg, and the Ohio River.

"I can sit in my office," he says, "and each morning within an hour talk
with each of my subordinate executives--in Pittsburg, in Cleveland, in
Detroit, in Chicago, in St. Louis, in Cincinnati."

Yet that is just the trouble. Too many railroads in this country have been
operated on the long-distance telephone principle. Ten minutes' talk over
a copper wire is hardly equivalent to a day of personal contact, once
every ten or twelve or fourteen days. That the men who are at the very
tops of our largest railroads have done wonders with the long-distance
telephone I shall not deny. But I do not think that they have accomplished
intensive railroad direction with it, or anything like intensive railroad
direction. And I have not noticed them accomplishing any remarkable
results in bettering their relationships with their workers, or with
raising the morale of their roads.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet just as regional operation and a pretty well divided regional
operation, is essential to the best operating results in our American
railroads, so on the other hand is centralization fairly vital to any
large traffic or financial results.

It will be argued always against any plan for the centralization of our
railroads that it makes an easy first step toward government ownership.
Such argument is foolish. Yet if it might be good business for the Federal
Government in some distant day to take such a step, why is it not good
business to undertake it to-day? Particularly when it is in a position to
command valuable governmental assistance in the taking of the step. Here
is the real nub of this question.

For few practical railroaders will deny certain vast advantages to be
gained by the complete centralization of our rail properties--not only in
financing and in rate-making, but also in traffic solicitation and
control, in expert staff study of mechanical and operating problems, and
in the production of proper personnel, particularly for the filling of
future executive positions. All of these functions and more too, the
United States Railroad could and would undertake. In contentions which
might arise from time to time between the regional roads, its word of
decision would be absolute, its authority supreme. And nowhere is this
more necessary to-day than in the vexed question of rates--particularly of
freight-rates.

The expert traffic executives of this super-railroad would settle these
rate questions, and be subject only to revisions, in the strict legal
points involved, by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which then would
become almost exclusively a high court of railroad law, in turn subject
only to revision in its decisions by the United States Supreme Court
itself. The traffic experts of the United States Railroad would control
absolutely the routings of through business where it passed over the lines
of two or more of the regional carriers. But as an immediate beginning the
best construction step that they possibly could make would be the creation
of a real scientific freight-rate structure for this country.

Up to the present time this has been deemed an impossibility, by traffic
experts outside of the ranks of the railroads as well as those within
them. But it has only been an impossibility because of the lack of proper
central organization or authority among our railroads as they exist
to-day. Such a plan in the main--called the block-and-zone system--has now
been in successful operation for a number of years in both our parcel-post
and express services. I was in the express business myself when it first
came into being there. Up to the very hour of its arrival the
tariff-sheets of the express companies were veritable Chinese puzzles;
they were nearly as complicated and as obsolete as the freight
tariff-sheets of our American railroads of to-day.

The extremely gifted and far-seeing mind of the late Franklin K. Lane
devised the block-and-zone tariff system for the express. Some of the
older men of the express companies then felt that the blackest day in
their history had come to hand. Within a twelvemonth the most reactionary
of these had been converted to the new scheme. They saw its simplicity,
its fairness, its utility, its economy.

What was done for the express nearly half a dozen years ago should be done
for the railroad freight situation here immediately. At the time of his
retirement from office Director-General McAdoo already had begun to plan a
national freight-rate structure. He had engaged to perfect its details
Edward Chambers, vice-president of the Santa Fé, and one of the ablest
traffic men that this country has ever known. The Chambers plan was worked
out quite fully but was never made public. It is known, however, that it
follows very closely the general scheme of both the parcel-post and the
express block-and-zone tariffs varying from them only in its intricacies
of detail due to the vast range of commodities that a railroad finds
itself obliged to carry upon its cars.

For a centralized traffic bureau of our railroads there is also a huge
international opportunity. The representation of our American roads
overseas is to-day a woeful thing indeed. The Southern Pacific has an
office of its own in Paris. Perhaps there are others. If so I have never
seen them. But in my long months of residence in that old city the
railways from all quarters of the world save the United States have called
to me appealingly from their shop-windows along the boulevards. So it is
in London; so in other great capitals of Europe. It is only America--only
that lovely great quarter of North America that we call the United
States--that is deaf and blind alike to the possibilities of the traveler
and the freight from overseas. In April, 1921, I picked up the time-table
of a prominent American railroad in the chief hotel in Madrid; in its
familiar colorings it seemed like an old friend, indeed. It was an _old_
friend. It was dated December, 1916--and so were all of its fellows from
the U. S. A. in the time-table rack of the man from Cook's.

The United States Railroad would represent adequately every mile of
railroad in the United States in every great city of the world. Its
offices would be the outposts of American commercial enterprise. They
would be filled with adequate and up-to-date information for the tourist
and shipper alike. It might be that they would sell through tickets and
through bills of lading to the most humble and sequestered of American
communities, while to-day the scarcity of information that the European
may readily acquire upon even important towns of our U. S. A. is
appalling. Contrast such service, or lack of it, with that rendered, let
us say, by the Swiss Federal Railroads in the City of New York, where one
may go and find the fullest and the most accurate information in regard to
the smallest of Swiss villages.

Already I have hinted upon the valuable work that this United States
Railroad might do in the technique of the business, both in studying of
constant new inventions as well as in working out better operating methods
from the tools already at hand. This last certainly would include the
constant study of a far better correlation between our steam railroads,
our highways, and our inland waterways. It probably would result in not
only the complete study of the most efficient and economical container but
the actual ownership of several millions of them. It might be well for the
title of all our freight-cars as well as our present Pullman sleepers to
be vested in it. The advantages of a pooled ownership of these fleets of
wheeled carriers, so extremely valuable in inter-railroad communication,
have long been realized by our hard-headed railroad executives. The United
States Railroad could accomplish such point ownership, and with a minimum
of fuss and feathers. In the long run it might even accomplish the
tremendous feat of establishing a through fast passenger-train between New
York and Seattle. Who knows?

In other words the work of this centralized railroad organization would
not only be analagous to the staff of any army but something considerably
beyond. Expert railroaders, removed for a season, short or long, from the
details and the vexations of everyday problems and working with skilled
technical experts and even recognized theorists, ought to and would
accomplish wonders. I have hinted also at the possibility of a strong
central organization in training and recruiting future executive
personnel. Those possibilities might be carried much further, in the
super-relationship between the American railroad and the rank and file of
its employees. With a proper scheme of representation upon our United
States Railroad--of which more in a moment--it might even be possible to
have it supersede the present rather hapless Railroad Labor Board out at
Chicago and so accomplish a real governmental economy.

Yet remember that the actual hiring and the immediate relationship and
authority between the railroad and its employee--no matter what his
rank--should always remain with the regional organization. For remember
also that it is largely for this purpose that we brought it into being--to
better the human relationship between the human officer of the railroad
and its human patron and its human employees. Contact alone does this. For
this we have gone through to decentralization. We have tried to keep
authority in these human relationships active and alert and acute upon the
immediate ground. If we can accomplish that one great thing, if we can
make our railroad of the United States as a huge mechanism of organization
quickly responsive to the human being and his rights, it will be well
worth the huge expense and trouble of decentralization. Remember all the
while, if you will, that the one very great sore spot of our railroad
problem is that we have thought too much of it always in terms of dollars
and not enough of it in terms of men.

I bear no particular grief for the organized bodies of shippers or for
those of the employees. They are all entitled to fair treatment--and
nothing more. The one group may easily become a pest, the other an
autocrat. Yet a just consideration for the patron and for the employee is
a rock upon which our railroads may stand secure, the lack of it a rock
upon which they may inevitably crash. This may be poor epigram, but it is
a solid fact.

In fact I may go much further and state quite bluntly that no plan for the
reorganization of our railroad system of the United States now has any
real prospect of success that does not recognize in its fundamentals the
need of a radically changed status for labor.

It matters not that there are now five or six millions of workers
temporarily out of employment, that the railroad strike of October, 1921,
was called off because organized labor saw naught but defeat in it; the
fact remains that in the future labor must be given just and proper
representation in the initial management and so must be forced to assume
its own proper share of the responsibility for the uninterrupted and
steady development of our rail transport facilities. That it must be given
a fair wage is now beyond the point of controversial discussion. There may
be, and probably will be, plenty of future discussion as to just what
constitutes the fair wage and the fair working condition for the
railroader, but the fact remains that if these both are not kept fair and
just there will not be sufficient railroaders coming forward to maintain
the human side of the machine. Here is a self-evident fact of which our
reformers sometimes quite lost all track.

With this principle in mind I believe that the directorate of the United
States Railroad, divided into three groups, should have one of these
composed of directors elected by the classified employees of the roads.
Assuming that fifteen or twenty-one would be the right size of
directorate--in order to avoid too clumsy and unwieldy a body--from five
to seven men would represent labor, a similar group the public (probably
being appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the
Senate), while the third group would be elected by the stockholders of the
company. It might be found more practicable to have a separate set of
fifteen directors for each of the regional railroads and, by making these
directorates almost exclusively local, so serve still further to keep the
management of these regional roads alert to the service of their
individual roads, right here and now.

The point is that whether there is one board of directors or twenty-five
or twenty-six for the future rail transport organization of the United
States, labor must have its representation there. This, in addition to the
possible sharing of one-third of the dividends over 6 per cent. which
already I have suggested, would form a generous gift to labor. For it
labor must in return make a generous offering. For despite sentiment, I
believe that is the usual economic principle in the making of gifts. The
gift that labor must make in return in this instance is its recognition
that any combination of employees in restraint of trade--no matter under
what name--is illegal and against the public weal. Strikes of any form
unquestionably are combinations in restraint of trade. To-day they are
legal. They must be made illegal, both in law and in universal public
opinion. This, of course, cannot affect the right of the individual
railroader to leave his job if he desires. That, of itself, also is
fundamental. Certain it is that no railroad should want a man who is
disgruntled and dissatisfied for very many hours in its employ.

Of late it has rather become the fashion among many otherwise thinking
people of a degree of mentality to ascribe the many troubles of our
railroads in this country either to the "high" wages that they are paying
their employees or to over-regulation on the part of various governmental
commissions, both State and Federal. Of the wage question I have said my
last words in this book. Nor is the highly controversial question of
regulation--or of so-called over-regulation--worth much discussion.

From time to time some gifted (but uninformed) soul bursts into the public
prints with the highly original suggestion that we should in some
mysterious and occult fashion return to the days before 1887 when
regulation of our rail carriers was an unknown art in these United States.
It all has a rather fascinating sound, particularly to such people who may
have been the witnesses or the victims, direct or indirect, of some of the
ridiculous rulings that these commissions--particularly the State
ones--occasionally hand down. Unquestionably there have been many foolish
decisions. Unquestionably many of them have contradicted and offset one
another. And the dabbling of the professional politician into the delicate
centers of a transportation machine, of which he really knows nothing at
all, has brought us a very great deal of trouble. But--

I do not believe that any thinking railroader or patron of the
railroads--no matter what his job or what his degree or station in
life--really would go back voluntarily to those uncouth, unregulated days
of 1886 if he could possibly avoid it. In thirty-five years many things
are forgotten. It once took our magazine muck-rakers nearly two decades
to set down the great business evils that arose in those very days that
now seem halcyon to us largely because thirty-five years have aided us so
largely in the business of forgetting.

Then there is the chap who cries for the return of a Hill or a Harriman--I
do it myself at times; I had and still have much admiration for each of
them--a Hill or a Harriman who with the wave of some mystic, magic wand
will make all transportation things right once again. We Americans fairly
worship a character of that sort, even though we may have largely created
him within our own imaginations. We love to fall prone at his feet.

Yet even as one of those who from time to time cry aloud for a Hill or a
Harriman, I am quite ready to admit that perhaps the slow but certain
progress of our American civilization has now brought us beyond the
necessity of bold, blunt captains of industry such as these two big and
picturesque figures of our recent history. It is possible, please
remember, that if either of them had been given the supreme control of all
our railroads they might not have made such an overwhelming success of it.
It is possible that even under their wizard hands there might have arisen
distrust and discontent, both upon the part of the patrons of the
railroads and of their workers. Remember that we do move. And 1922 cannot
be 1886. Or 1896. Or 1906. Or even 1916. And perhaps it is just as well
that it should never be any of these years. Why turn the clock backward
anyway? It is much better to be looking forward.

Looking forward may yet bring us government ownership and operation of our
railroads. Just now I do not see it. Yet sometimes we move pretty rapidly
here in the United States and charge about face, with an astounding
swiftness.

It is probable, however, that before we adopted both government ownership
and operation, as a permanent policy, at least, we should swallow but one
of the pills. It is not necessary in the present event to take both at
once. If it did become necessary it probably would be that of ownership,
and possibly somewhat along the lines that I have indicated for the
formation of the United States Railroad. In which case it would be
necessary to contrive some plan for the leasing of the regional railroads
to private corporations, for operation solely. This has been done already,
notably in India, but never with a pronounced success. It is also the
method used by the City of New York for the operation of its newer rapid
transit lines, and again without success. It has many complications, many
potential difficulties in its pathway. And it is hardly conceivable that
it will come into use ahead of a scheme for a centralized, privately-owned
and operated railroad.

Yet despite all these possible complications and difficulties, in the eyes
of the average man who thinks, it still is to be preferred to the
double-dose of government ownership plus government operation. That the
first of these offers large opportunities for the proper financing for the
steady growth and the future development of our rail transport I think
that I have shown you already. It is the stronger of the twins. Of the
second it is hard, as yet, to speak with much enthusiasm. To say that he
is untried is putting the thing both mildly and with extreme politeness.
To say that the American public of to-day even wants to try him, would be
making a large statement, a very large statement indeed. Without joining
in the shrieks for the coming of a second Hill or a second Harriman or the
wholesale murder of all the regulatory commissions, I honestly believe
that our American public to-day wishes a little safer, a little surer
panacea for its transportation ills, than government operation. It is not
the solution that it really desires for its railroads of to-morrow.





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