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Title: Letters from an Old Railway Official - Second Series: [To] His Son, a General Manager
Author: Hine, Charles DeLano
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      a General Manager".

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LETTERS FROM AN OLD RAILWAY OFFICIAL

Second Series

To His Son, a General Manager

by

CHARLES DELANO HINE



1912
Published by the
Simmons-Boardman Publishing Co.
New York

McGraw-Hill Book Company, Sole Selling Agents
239 West Thirty-ninth Street, New York

London, E.C., 6 Bouverie Street.  Berlin, N.W. 7, Unter den Linden 71

Copyright, 1912, by
Simmons-Boardman Publishing Co.
New York



FOREWORD.


The author of the letters composing this book, which appeared serially
in the _Railway Age Gazette_ in 1911, is a West Point graduate. He
served as a lieutenant in the 6th United States Infantry. He is a
civil engineer. He is a graduate of the Cincinnati Law School.
Leaving the Army to enter railway service, he worked as freight
brakeman, switchman, yardmaster, emergency conductor, chief clerk to
superintendent, and trainmaster. When the war with Spain began in 1898
he quit railway service and participated in the Santiago campaign as a
major of volunteers. After the war he re-entered railway work, and was
trainmaster and later general superintendent. Subsequently, he did
special railway work in various staff positions for both large and
small railways in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

He was for a time inspector of safety appliances for the Interstate
Commerce Commission. In 1907 he assisted in the revision of the
business methods of the Department of the Interior at Washington, D.C.
Then he was receiver of the Washington, Arlington & Falls Church
Electric Railway. In 1910, as temporary special representative of
President Taft, he outlined a scheme for improving the organization
and methods of the executive departments of the United States
government. Meantime, in July, 1908, he had become special
representative of Mr. Julius Kruttschnitt, director of maintenance and
operation of the Harriman Lines, and had entered on a study of the
needs of the operating organization of those railways and of the means
that should be adopted to meet those needs. The result of this work
was the adoption by most of the Harriman Lines of the unit system of
organization. On January 15, 1912, Major Hine became vice-president
and general manager of the Southern Pacific Lines in Mexico and the
Arizona Eastern, having about 1,600 miles of railway.

The foregoing details have not been given for biographical purposes.
They have been given to enable the reader to understand the author's
point of view. Or, rather, his points of view. For few men have had
opportunity to look at the railway business from so many angles, both
practical and theoretical. Given such an education, such a training,
such a varied experience, and a keen observer's eye to see, an active,
logical mind to generalize, and a graphic, witty, scintillant English
style to set down the results of observation, experience and thinking,
and, if their possessor turn to writing, the product is sure to be
literature of interest and value. The readers of Major Hine's first
series of letters, "Letters of an Old Railway Official to His Son, a
Division Superintendent," found them at once entertaining, suggestive
and instructive. They will find equally or more so the second series,
written after a wider experience, and now embodied in this volume.

One of the greatest problems of modern railway management is that of
organization. Little railways have been combined into big ones; and
big railways have been consolidated into big systems. To so organize
these extensive systems that each division and each railway shall
have enough individuality and autonomy to deal effectively and
satisfactorily with the conditions and needs local to it, and at the
same time bring about the correlation and unification of all parts of
the entire system essential to the most efficient operation--this is
one phase of the problem. To develop men able to administer skilfully
departments having many and varied branches--this is another phase. It
was as a means to solving this great problem that Major Hine worked
out the unit system of organization now in effect on most parts of the
Harriman system. In the letters composing this book he has described,
not with the cold, hard outlines of a blue print, but vividly, and
with fullness of practical illustration, the nature, purposes and
workings of the unit system. Whether the reader agrees with the
author's views or not, he cannot but be interested in them as the
views regarding a scheme of organization which is the subject of
widespread interest and discussion of the man who originated and
worked out that scheme of organization.

Besides organization the letters deal with many other questions of
practical interest both large and small--with the relations of the
railway with the public; its regulation by public bodies; the labor
situation on the railways, etc. Indeed, they touch on almost every
phase of contemporary railway conditions and operation. Full of human
touches, they clothe the skeleton of railway organization and
operation with flesh and blood; and will give the current reader and
the future historian a better picture of contemporary railway working
than many more stilted and pretentious books.

SAMUEL O. DUNN.



FILE NUMBERS.


LETTER I.
The New General Manager                                         1

LETTER II.
Building an Organization                                       10

LETTER III.
The General Manager on the Witness Stand                       20

LETTER IV.
Further Gruelling of the General Manager                       32

LETTER V.
Limitations of the Chief Clerk System                          43

LETTER VI.
Preventing, Instead of Paying, Claims                          52

LETTER VII.
The Chief of Staff Idea                                        63


LETTER VIII.
The Unit System                                                73

LETTER IX.
Standardizing Office Files                                     88

LETTER X.
The Line and the Staff                                        100

LETTER XI.
The Problem of the Get-Rich-Quick Conductor                   112

LETTER XII.
The Labor Nemesis and the Manager                             126

LETTER XIII.
A Department of Inspection, or Efficiency                     136

LETTER XIV.
Preserving Organization Integrity                             146

LETTER XV.
The Size of an Operating Division                             156

LETTER XVI.
Supplies and Purchases                                        168

LETTER XVII.
Correspondence and Explanations                               181

LETTER XVIII.
Organization of the Ideal Railroad                            192

LETTER XIX.
The Engineering of Men                                        205

LETTER XX.
The Fallacy of the Train-Mile Unit                            214

LETTER XXI.
The Man-Day as a Unit                                         224

Appendix                                                      228



Letters From A Railway Official



LETTER I.

THE NEW GENERAL MANAGER.


Chicago, April 8, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Once more a circular comes to gladden my heart and
gratify my pride. This circular announces your appointment as general
manager, a position of honor and importance, extensive in its
opportunities for good administration as well as for wasteful neglect.

Some seven years ago, when you were a division superintendent, I wrote
you a book of letters which caused us both to be taken more seriously
than perhaps we shall ever be again. Can T. R. come back? I don't know,
I am sure, but your old Dad can and will. For never before in our
splendid profession of railroading has there been greater need for the
wisdom of old age, the enthusiasm of youth, and the balanced execution
of middle life. We, the railways, we the most scattered and, ergo, the
most exposed of property rights, are the first of the outposts to
receive and to repel the assaults of anarchy and its smaller sister,
socialism. Subtle, sinister, and specious is the reasoning which
supports the claims of those who single out the arteries of inland
commerce as a thing apart, as something immune to the irresistible laws
of cause and effect. Shall we sit idly by, because we have had our
part? No, my son. In that inspiring painting, "The Spirit of '76," the
old man and the boy, equals in enthusiasm, typify the soul love of
liberty of an aroused people. Let you and I, therefore, do our little
part to call to arms our brethren of a nation-long village street.
Perhaps we are only hired hands of imaginary "interests." Perhaps,
nevertheless, we are liberty-loving, God-fearing, right-thinking
American citizens. Perhaps we do not need to be backed into the last
corner before we turn and stand for the God-given rights for which men
of all ages have been willing to fight and die. Perhaps the muck-rakers
have not procured all the patents pertaining to perfection, potential
or pronounced. But be that as it may, you and I can at least be heard,
can have our day in the forum of public opinion, which after all is the
court of last resort. In the language of Mr. Dooley, the decisions of
the Supreme Court follow the popular elections.

What shall we do to be saved? First, put our own house in order that
example may protect precept. It is a pretty good house after all. Only
eighty years old to be sure, short in epochs of experience, but
relatively long in æons of achievement. It already has some degenerate
offspring, but mighty few when you consider the rapidity of forced
breeding, the intensity of incubation. Transportation, acknowledged as
second only to agriculture in the world's great industries, has
advanced faster and further in eight decades than has agriculture in
eight centuries. That is something to be proud of. Therein is glory
enough for us all.

Unfortunately, pride goeth before destruction. In the bivouac of the
living, glory is a mighty unreliable sentinel. Let us hang up pride and
glory as our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Let us don consistent
practice and tenacious watchfulness for week-day wear. Let us cease to
temporize with principle when such unmanly action seems easy and
inexpensive. Nothing is so expensive ultimately as a violation of
principle. A platitude, you say. So it is. The aforesaid T. R. has
gained a great hold on the American people, at one time a strangle
hold, by repeating platitudes over and over again. Great is the man who
can measure the limitations of his fellows. Let us take a leaf from his
book and repeat, reiterate, and reverberate the Ten Commandments, and
the greatest of all commandments, the Golden Rule, alias the Square
Deal.

It takes an abnormally intelligent people to grasp at first blush the
truism that railways should charge "what the traffic will bear" for the
same good reason that the corner grocer makes all the profit the
business will survive. Therefore, put the soft pedal on _cost_ of
service and a fair _return_ on capital invested.

Get on the band wagon and follow the able lead of the good old _Railway
Age Gazette_ in playing the logical tune of _value_ of service
rendered, of charging all the admission fee the show will stand. The
people will not go to church to hear our preaching. We must reach them
in the highways and the byways, in the moving picture shows, and
through improvised Salvation Armies of self-interest. Do not expect the
people to espouse a cause in which we are half-hearted. Either we are
right or we are wrong. Either the government should own and run the
railways, or the stockholders should retain possession and we, the
intelligent _entrepreneur_ class, should continue our scientific
management--for scientific it has been.

In a world of complexities, filled with relative things, some truths
are so absolute that they are axiomatic, some positions so pronounced
that there is no middle ground. From Trafalgar there rings through the
ages Nelson's signal, "England expects every man to do his duty." Its
interpretation and its adaptation for us to-day mean that every
railroad man, every home lover, every believer in property rights must
defend the sound position of the railways, must anticipate the assaults
of pseudo-socialism. The individual is the indivisible unit of society.
The family is the consecrated unit of civilization. The home is the
prime requisite for the family whose very existence depends upon the
right of property, tangible or intangible.

You say that all railway men are doing something along this line. So
they are, but nearly every one can do more if intelligently and
persistently directed. We have taken too much for granted in believing
that the legal department would look out for legislation, and the press
agent for publicity. This phase, like many of our problems, is a
question of organization, which itself as a science is a branch of
sociology. On most railways some department--never, of course, our
own--has unconsciously tried to be bigger than the whole company, in
violation of the axiom that the whole is greater than any of its parts.
When, by proper organization, we balance these departments--especially
on the other fellow's road--we shall be in a better position to present
a more united front in forestalling the arrival of the common enemy,
prejudice and his principal ally, ignorance. "Men," says Marcus
Aurelius, "exist for one another. Teach them, then, or bear with them."
We, the railroads, have done our share of bearing. It is time to do
more teaching. Before we can impart knowledge we must know ourselves,
we must be sure of our own information.

Naturally, I want you to be the best general manager in the country.
Therefore, if I am a little too didactic at times, you must be patient
with me. Of course, you will have to work out your conclusions for
yourself. Remember that I am too old at this teaching game to try
always to think for other people. My job is so to state the
propositions that you will reach the answers in your own way.
Incidentally, the more you think you have discovered for yourself, the
greater the credit due your teacher. Men are only boys grown tall. As
grown-up children they seem to prefer the misfits of their own
manufacture to the hand-me-down assortment from the shelves of stored
experience. Too often the employing corporation pays the bill for
educating an official for his duties after his promotion and
appointment, for the cloth he wastes in selecting unwise patterns of
procedure.

Most of our large corporations are still in a stage of industrial
feudalism. In the middle ages the feudal baron and his methods were
absolutely essential to preserve civilization for society. Without him
and his forceful ways the relapse to barbarism would have been rapid.
In the earlier periods of the large corporation the industrial baron
and his ofttimes lawless audacity were essentials of corporate
existence. As these great types die off, their system dies with them.
Supply keeps close on the heels of demand. These feudal barons of
industry and commerce are breeding no successors because none are
needed. As a government of laws succeeds a government of men, so
administration by system displaces administration by personal caprice.
The scheme of progress now demands a higher type of corporation
official, and he is being rapidly developed. Altruism, adaptability,
consideration and courtesy are the more modern requirements. The
successful official of to-day is more of a sociologist than ever
before. He must study human nature from its broadest aspects. He must
know the public, its whims and caprices, its faults and foibles, its
intelligence and its strength. He must learn to know his men that he
may see how many things they can do, not how few. Human nature is
mighty good stuff. The more it is trusted the better it responds. The
feudal baron did not know this. He was jealous of his own authority,
because more or less conscious of his limitations, of the weakness of
his system. Those who take up his self-imposed responsibilities must be
better men. They must be so sure of themselves and of the science of
their methods that they can trust others, can delegate authority to the
man on the ground. The task of the general manager to-day is so to
decentralize authority that the company can obtain the best thought of
the humblest employe, that indivisible unit of society whom his feudal
superiors have trusted too little. The most important unit of
organization is the individual. Give him his due weight as a living,
thinking man, and you increase the mass efficiency of the corporation.

This run is too heavy for stringing on one schedule. I am now giving
you the first terminal figure, 12:01 a.m. at Problem. Next time if I
can push you to Principle you can perhaps flag over a station or two
toward the despatcher at Understanding, whose wires have been known to
go down in stormy weather.

With a father's blessing,

Your affectionate and rejuvenated,

D. A. D.



LETTER II.

BUILDING AN ORGANIZATION.


Chicago, April 15, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Nearly every man entrusted with authority over his
fellows flatters himself that he is a born organizer. Flattery is never
more deceptive than when applied to one's self.

For every good organizer there are a hundred good administrators or
managers. What often passes for good organization is first class
administration. Yes, many a mother's son who reads this will exclaim at
first blush, "That is just what I have been saying for a long time. It
beats all how weak some organizations are. I am glad that my
organization can stand the test of such criticism."

If elements of self-perpetuation are prime essentials of good
organization, the Pharisee family are certainly entitled to bid in the
preferred runs.

The corporation was evolved to supply a demand of society. Life,
property, material, moral and spiritual welfare could not be left to
depend upon the uncertain earthly existence of the leader or trustee.
So, both rationally and empirically, by reason and by costly
experiment, came the corporation to beat Death at his own game. Like
all progress the corporation was resisted, because in the divine scheme
of things the radicals never long outnumber the conservatives. Like all
real progress the corporation idea won because it was needed. The
corporation, whether governmental, religious, industrial or commercial,
marks a distinct advance from feudalism by protecting the rights of the
many against the caprice of the few. Because we have moved so fast
might has often seemed to be right. Because the line of least
resistance is the most attractive, we have sometimes backed down the
hill and doubled when a good run with plenty of sand would have carried
us over. Large corporations, including many railways, have often failed
to attain maximum efficiency. Much of this can be traced to a neglect
to carry out consistently in practice the sound working conception of
the corporation. The corporation has helped society to emerge from
political and financial feudalism. The interior organization and
administration of most corporations, including government itself, are
still too feudal in conception. The problem of to-day is so to
eradicate this feudalism that the corporation can have the benefit of a
free play of its constituent forces. Where feudalism exists the
effective working strength is limited to the personal equation of the
man at the head. The United States government is stronger than
Washington, or Lincoln, or Taft. The Great Northern Railway measures
its present acknowledged effectiveness by the man the Swedes call Yim
Hill. The United States government grows stronger with every
administration. The Great Northern Railway, too strong to be destroyed,
faces a period of relative distress with the next dynasty. The
Pennsylvania Railroad is stronger than such strong men as Scott,
Cassatt and McCrea. Both the United States government and the
Pennsylvania Railroad, although among the least feudal of large
corporations, can still eradicate feudalism from their interior
organization and administration. That, in good time, both will do so
cannot be doubted. Inconsistencies between comprehensive conceptions at
the top and narrow applications at the bottom are often overlooked.
When disclosed and appreciated these incongruities soon give way under
pressure of the broad policies above. We must build up from the bottom
but tear down our false work from the top.

Organization is a branch of a larger subject, sociology, the science of
human nature. Organization is not an exact science like mechanical
engineering, for example. The variables in the human equation defy
entire elimination. We check and recheck engineering conclusions. We
compute and recompute material strains and stresses. We run and double
back with the dynamometer car to try out our tractive power. We test
and retest materials. We weigh and measure our fuel and our lubricants.
We do all this for material things, which, because more or less
homogeneous, are the easiest to measure. When we come to the really
hard part, the judging of human nature, the co-ordination of the
heterogeneous human elements, our self-confidence denies the necessity
for preconceived practical tests. Because he is our man, because he
followed us from the sage brush or the mountains, he must be all right.
"Just look at our results." Right there, my boy, shut off and pinch 'em
down a little. What are results? Does any one know exactly? One year
they are operating ratio, another, train load, and later on, net
earnings. In no storehouse do material things deteriorate to scrap
value faster than does the intangible, indeterminate stock article,
results. No, I am not a pessimist; I still see the ring of the doughnut
on the lunch counter. But I do object to being fed on birds from year
before last's nests. I believe the railways hatch out better results
every year, but I also feel that improvement should and can be made
even faster. It is largely a breeding problem. How best can we blend
our numerous strains to produce a balanced output? Too often we try to
do this by cutting off the heads of all the old roosters, whose craws
really contain too much good sand to be wasted. A change of diet to a
balanced ration may be all-sufficient.

The wonderful Nineteenth Century in the name of a proper specialization
went too far. It over-specialized. The still more wonderful Twentieth
Century will swing back to a balanced specialization. The medical
colleges are learning that they can not turn out successful eye and ear
specialists, the law schools that the constitutional or interstate
commerce lawyer is the production of a later period. The successful
specialist must first have the foundation of an all-round training.
Broadly speaking, one applies everything of something only by
learning something of everything. We all believe in specialization.
Where we differ is as to the point where specialization stops and
overspecialization begins. We all believe in religion. Where we differ
is as to which is the main line and which the runaway track, as to
which derail deserves a distant banjo signal and which an upper
quadrant. Orthodoxy is usually my doxy. The great fear is always that
the other fellow, being less orthodox than we, will try to put over
some constructive mileage on us. Sometimes this causes us to make his
run so long and his train so heavy that he ties up under the
sixteen-hour law and we miss supper hour going out to tow him in. An
empty stomach discourages drowsiness, and we may then stay awake long
enough to realize that said other fellow was just as orthodox as
anybody about trying to make a good run.

The corollary of specialization is centralization. The undesirable
corollary of overspecialization is overcentralization. Get out your
detour map, approach this proposition by any route of reasoning you
please, and you will reach the same conclusion.

Railway administration to-day suffers most of all from
overcentralization. Trace this to its source and you will find
overspecialization of function, and its concomitant, an exaggerated
value of certain constituent elements of administration. When in doubt,
recall the ever applicable axiom that the whole is greater than any of
its parts. Some people confuse the terms and ideas, concentration and
centralization. Proper concentration in complete units by an earlier
convergence of authority permits decentralization in administration. A
lack of such early concentration makes centralization inevitable.
Again, concentration of financial control is not incompatible with
decentralization of administration among constituent controlled
properties. When the big bankers have time to think out these
propositions for themselves they will permit the railways to get closer
to the people and hostile legislation will diminish if not disappear.

Organization as a science seeks to develop and to support the strong
qualities of human nature. Organization likewise takes account of and
seeks to minimize the amiable failings of human nature. Constitutional
liberty insures the citizen protection against the caprice of the
public officer. Administrative liberty demands an analogous measure of
protection for the subordinate from the whim of his corporate superior.
An amiable failing of many a railway president is to be satisfied with
having everybody under his own authority, and to forget that the
official next below may be embarrassed by having only a partial
control. The general manager who insists the hardest that his
superintendents are best off under his departmental system will squirm
the quickest under the acid test of having the chief supply, the chief
maintenance or the chief mechanical official report to the president.
The superintendent who finds himself with a complete divisional
organization is oblivious to the troubles of a distant yardmaster with
car inspectors. When your old Dad was a ninety-dollar yardmaster some
of his most important work was at the mercy of a forty-five dollar car
inspector. The latter was under a master mechanic a hundred miles or
more away, who in turn could usually and properly count on the support
of the superintendent of motive power. The obvious inference was to
relieve the yardmaster of responsibility for mechanical matters. From
one viewpoint these mechanical questions are too highly technical for
the yardmaster. From another they are matters of common sense requiring
more good judgment than technical training. No, I would not put every
yardmaster over the roundhouse foreman and the car inspectors. What I
would do would be to make the position of yardmaster sufficiently
attractive to impose as a prerequisite for appointment a knowledge of
mechanical as well as transportation matters. Gradually I would work
away from the switchman or trainman specialist to the all-'round man in
whom I could concentrate authority as the head of an important sub-unit
of organization. Instead of leveling downward, as the labor unions do,
by assuming that the average man can learn only one branch of
operation, I would recognize individuality and gradually develop a
higher composite type. Because some car inspectors are not fitted to
become yardmasters is no good reason for practically excluding all car
inspectors from honorable competition for such advancement. When we
build a department wall to keep the other fellow out we sometimes find
it has kept us in. We blame the labor unions for these narrowing
restrictions of employment and advancement. Look once more for the
source, and you will find it among our predecessors in the official
class, a generation or more ago. These officials insisted upon planes
of department cleavage which the men below were quick to recognize.
Railway manhood has been more dwarfed by exaggerated official idea of
specialization with resulting departmental jealousies than by the labor
unions.

Therefore, my boy, let us get some of these inconsistencies out of our
own optics before we talk too much about the dust that seems to blind
the eyes of those who are exposed to the breezes of that world famous
thoroughfare which faces old Trinity Church in New York.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER III.

THE GENERAL MANAGER ON THE WITNESS STAND.


Chicago, April 22, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Did it ever occur to you how easily a bright lawyer could
tangle up many an able railway official on the witness stand? Nowadays
we have to spend more or less valuable time testifying about service,
rates, capitalization, valuation, practices, methods, and a score of
other things that become of public interest. Whether this is just or
unjust, necessary or unnecessary, is beside the question. It is a
condition, not a theory, that confronts us. The wise railway man,
therefore, so orders his official life that it may endure the scrutiny
of both the persecutor and the prosecutor, of both the inquisitor and
the investigator, of both the muckraker and the political economist. It
sometimes happens, since men are only boys grown tall, that public
hearings are accompanied by stage settings for dramatic effect; that
trifling inconsistencies are magnified into egregious errors. Let me
picture part of such a hearing with a general manager on the stand:

Question: You testified, Mr. General Manager, on the direct examination
that your road is well managed and has a highly efficient organization,
did you not?

Answer: Yes, sir, we think we have one of the best in the country.

Q. Would you mind telling the able members of this Honorable Commission
in just what your superiority consists?

A. Not at all, sir. In the first place, we have a great deal of harmony
and work very closely together.

Q. Did you ever know a railway official who did not claim the same
thing for that part of the organization over which he presided?

A. (Hesitating.) Well, now that you mention it, I can't say that I ever
did. (Sudden inspiration.) But you know there is a great deal of
bluffing in this world.

Q. (Drily.) What style of anti-bluffing device has your company
adopted?

A. Of course, you are speaking figuratively. Such a thing isn't
possible. We have a pretty good check in the fine class of men we have
developed.

Q. Then, it is a sort of breeding process?

A. Yes, sir, that's it.

Q. To go a little further, has your company any patents on improving
human nature?

A. No, sir, we don't claim that.

Q. Is it not a fact that your officials and employes are average
citizens recruited and developed about like those of other roads?

A. That is hardly a fair way to put it, but I suppose they are.

Q. Why isn't it fair?

A. Because it leaves out of account the acknowledged efficiency that
comes from having men well treated and contented, and better instructed
than others. Some farms make more money than others because the old man
gets more work out of the boys.

Q. Then your road has officials who can radiate more divine afflatus
than others?

A. I didn't say that. We do the best we know how.

Q. What is organization?

A. Why organization is--let me see--why, organization is the name we
use for the men--the people, the forces we hire to run our road. It is
hard to give a concise definition. I might ask you what law is.

Q. That's easy, law is a rule of conduct. Now, tell me, please, who
runs the road?

A. Why, the officers run the road, the men do the work.

Q. Did you not just say that you hire men to run the road?

A. I didn't mean that.

Q. Then in your business you are not very accurate. You say one thing
and mean another.

A. No, sir; we may have more sense than you think we have. We spend a
lifetime at this business and must learn something about it.

Q. Will you please tell this fair-minded commission just how you run
the road, just how you attempt to minister to the needs of the
intelligent people of this great commonwealth?

A. Now, sir, it is a pleasure to testify. You are getting away from
definitions and technicalities and down to practical facts, where I
feel more at home. I will be glad to tell you all about it. In the
first place a railway is such a big affair that we divide it into
departments.

Q. Excuse me, what is a department?

A. A department is--well--I can make it clearer by describing what it
does. As I was saying, we divided it into departments, and a department
is--well--a department is--why, something so different from everything
else that we put it off by itself and hold the head of the department
responsible for results. We are very particular not to interfere with
the details of the departments.

Q. Pardon me, but the present members of this exceptionally able
commission, inspired further I may say by the example of our patriotic
governor, are accustomed to give profound consideration to these great
questions. (Modest pricking up of ears of commission, with determined
composite expression bespeaking relentless performance of a dangerous
duty.) Please, therefore, tell us what your department does.

A. As I testified on the direct examination mine is the operating
department; as general manager I have charge of operation.

Q. What does that include?

A. It includes transportation, and maintenance and new construction. It
handles the business the other fellow gets.

Q. Who is the other fellow?

A. The traffic department.

Q. Of another company?

A. Why, no, of our own. It is just another department. It deals with
the public, it gets the business, it makes the rates; excuse me--it
recommends rates to honorable bodies like this commission.

Q. Then you in the operating department don't deal with the public?

A. Yes, sir, we do, more and more every year.

Q. Is the traveling freight agent in your department?

A. No, sir, he is in the traffic department.

Q. Then you have no control over him?

A. No, sir, no direct control, but as I said before, we all work very
closely together on our road.

Q. It is claimed that there has been discrimination in car distribution
in this state, because a traveling freight agent promised more cars to
some shippers than the latter were entitled to according to the supply
available. How about that?

A. I am unable to say.

Q. Getting back to your narrative, please resume the interesting
description of your department.

A. As I was saying, we have several departments, each under a
superintendent or other officer. We have a general superintendent, a
chief engineer, a superintendent of motive power, a superintendent of
transportation, a superintendent of telegraph, a signal engineer, a
superintendent of dining cars, and a general storekeeper, all of whom
we call general officers in charge of departments.

Q. I thought you said you are the head of the operating department.

A. Yes, sir; that's right.

Q. I don't quite understand. You say that there are eight departments
in your department?

A. Yes, sir; that is what we call them. It always has been so.

Q. Then when is a department a department?

A. You see these are really not departments; they are just parts of the
operating department which is really a department.

Q. Then, why not have definite designations?

A. I don't know. We have never thought it necessary. We are getting
good results and giving good service to the public.

Q. What are results?

A. I am not sure; the longer I live the less certain I am about these
things.

Q. I am glad to hear that. This impartial commission has been
constituted because some railway officers tried to dictate what was
best for this enlightened commonwealth. Now, tell us, please, what you
think of the plan the United States government has of making the
"bureau" the next unit of organization below the "department"?

A. I have never given government organization much attention. The part
of the government that concerns me most is the Interstate Commerce
Commission, which seems made up mainly of inspectors.

Q. Have you ever studied the organization of the federal courts, and of
the army and the navy?

A. I can hardly say that I have studied their organization, but I have
observed them some.

Q. Then you and your road do not give much attention to organization?

A. Perhaps not to theories. We are very practical. I never could see
where a railway is like the government. They are very different.

Q. Is not human nature the same in its basic characteristics, whether
employed by a railway or the government?

A. I suppose that it is, but many things about a corporation are
different.

Q. Is not the government the largest of employing corporations with its
citizens as the stockholders?

A. Perhaps so. I would rather go on and tell you something practical
about our work.

Q. Pray do so.

A. You see, I am the responsible head, so that I insist upon being
consulted about all important matters, and leave only routine affairs
to be acted on by my subordinates.

Q. What are important matters, and what are routine affairs?

A. Why, the important things are those that I handle personally, and
routine, well, routine is what comes along every day and is so well
understood that it does not require my personal attention.

Q. Do you think any three men could agree upon what should be
considered routine business?

A. I don't know. I had never thought of it that way. Many things have
to be left to discretion. That is where judgment comes in.

Q. Whose judgment?

A. The judgment of the man handling the matter; in this case, my own.

Q. You have been here all day. Who is handling matters in your absence?

A. My chief clerk.

Q. You did not mention him before. What officer is he?

A. He is not usually counted as an officer, but is considered the
personal representative of an officer.

Q. Does he sign your name?

A. Yes, sir; but puts his initials under my name.

Q. Suppose he forgets to put his initials. Could you swear to the
signature in court?

A. I don't know. You understand that is only for routine business.

Q. Does he sign your name to your personal bank check?

A. No, sir; he does not.

Q. Then the company's business with the citizens of this state receives
less careful attention than your own personal affairs?

A. No, sir; the company's business comes first with me. I am a poor man
to-day.

Q. When you are away your chief clerk has to sign instructions to the
general officers in your department?

A. Only routine matters.

Q. Does he receive a higher salary than they?

A. No, sir; a lower.

Q. What determines relative salaries?

A. Qualifications and experience.

Q. Then you have the less qualified and the less experienced man
instructing higher officers.

A. It might seem so, but in our case we are very fortunate. My chief
clerk is an unusual man, and is very considerate and diplomatic. He
knows that I do not stand for inconsiderate requirements of others.

Q. From whom do you receive your instructions?

A. From our president.

Q. Always personally?

A. Not always; his chief clerk is authorized to represent him.

Q. Is his chief clerk as considerate for you as your chief clerk is for
your subordinate officers?

A. That is a very delicate question. I would rather not answer unless
the commission insists.

(Hearing adjourned for day. General counsel sends cipher telegram to
president stating indelicacy of state officials is almost unbearable;
that bankers and business men should petition governor to stop
destroying credit of railways.)

All of which, my dear boy, is not as bad as it sounds, but, through
difficulty of explanation, points the way to desirable improvements in
railway administration.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER IV.

FURTHER GRUELLING OF THE GENERAL MANAGER.


Tucson, Arizona, April 29, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--After the commission kicked for rest, the general manager
tied up in his caboose. Nobody was allowed to run around him and he was
marked up first out the following morning. The commission not having
any agreement about initial overtime, the attorney acting as yardmaster
handed him a switch list and told him to dig out these loads:

Question: How many letters a day do you write?

Answer: I don't know, a great many.

Q. How many a day go out of your office?

A. I can't state exactly, probably a hundred or more.

Q. Then you do not see them all?

A. No, that would be impossible in such a large office.

Q. Does the chief clerk see them all?

A. I think he does.

Q. You are not sure then?

A. No, not entirely. I have had no complaints about that.

Q. Is the only way you know about how things are going to have a
complaint come in?

A. Not exactly. I try to keep ahead of the game.

Q. Are the offices of your subordinates run in this same haphazard
manner?

A. I do not admit that it is haphazard. The general method is the same.

Q. Who is in charge of the distribution of cars?

A. My superintendent of transportation.

Q. To whom are his instructions given?

A. To the division superintendents.

Q. Does he give his instructions personally?

A. The important instructions he gives personally. Of course, he cannot
do it all alone. You understand that his department deals with
individual cars and has an enormous amount of detail.

Q. How many men are authorized to sign his name and initials?

A. I don't know.

Q. Then you do not regard this as an important matter?

A. Not as important as some others. That is a matter for which the
superintendent of transportation is responsible. I look to him.

Q. Do you think every man charged with duties should be allowed to
select his own type of organization and decide as to his own methods?

A. As far as possible, yes.

Q. Then why not let each conductor make his own train rules, and each
station agent keep his own kind of accounts?

A. Because confusion would result.

Q. Is it not a fact that on most American railroads six or eight clerks
are signing the name or initials of the superintendent of
transportation?

A. I don't know; very likely.

Q. Does not a similar condition exist in a smaller degree in most
railway offices.

A. Yes, sir, that is the system.

Q. Then who are running the offices, the officials or the clerks?

A. I always supposed the officials. You see we could not afford so many
officials.

Q. Has it ever occurred to you that by having more officials you might
get along with fewer clerks?

A. No, sir.

Q. Who sign for the train orders on your road?

A. Our conductors.

Q. Have not conductors and operators been discharged for signing each
other's names?

A. Yes, sir. We must maintain discipline. If the train orders are not
respected, accidents will result.

Q. Then you have one policy for one class of employes, and allow your
officials and clerks to be a law unto themselves?

A. Not exactly. As I said before we cannot afford so many officials.

Q. Whose initials are signed to your train orders?

A. The superintendent's.

Q. Why?

A. Because it has always been that way on our road. It makes the order
stronger.

Q. If initials make an order stronger, why not sign yours, or the
president's, or God Almighty's?

A. That would be ridiculous.

Q. Then it is not ridiculous to sign the superintendent's initials when
he is at home in bed?

A. No, that is different. We wish to emphasize the fact that the
superintendent is in charge of the division.

Q. Then why not put the superintendent's photograph on all the orders?
Would that strengthen him with the men?

A. No, of course not.

Q. You have been talking about the superintendent; is he the same as
the superintendent of motive power?

A. No, you do not quite understand. The superintendent has charge of a
division and the superintendent of motive power, like the
superintendent of transportation, has charge of a department.

Q. Then the word superintendent doesn't always mean the same thing?

A. No, sir, but no confusion results. You see, the heads of departments
are general officers, while the superintendent is a division officer.

Q. Which superintendent?

A. The division superintendent.

Q. Is it not a fact that on some roads there is a question as to which
has authority in certain matters, the division superintendent or the
superintendent of motive power?

A. I believe so, but we do not have any such trouble.

Q. (Producing copies of letters furnished by discharged office
employe.) Does not this correspondence indicate a heated difference of
opinion between your superintendent of motive power and a division
superintendent which had to be settled by you?

A. Oh, yes; I recall, I had forgotten that. That will not happen again.

Q. What guaranty have you against similar friction?

A. I have that all straightened out. Everybody is lined up and
understands that I insist upon harmony with a big H.

Q. To prevent confusion and, therefore, to save money why not make
titles sufficiently distinctive in rank to prevent conflict of
authority?

A. We have not thought it necessary. I do not go as much on titles as
some people. The old-fashioned way is good enough for me. A rose by any
other name would smell as sweet.

Q. How, then, if you ordered roses for a funeral, would you guard
against the corpse being handed lemons?

A. By sending a note or a card.

Q. Signed by your chief clerk?

A. No, sir.

Q. Do you think it is honest to have your chief clerk signing your name
while you are away at this hearing?

A. There is no intent to deceive.

Q. Do you not unconsciously try to convey the idea that you are in one
place when you are really in another, or that you are acting when it is
really an entirely different man who is taking action?

A. Perhaps so. I had never looked at it in that way. It is a generally
recognized custom.

Q. You do not seem to regard the office part as very important, as you
permit a lot of clerks to take final action all day long.

A. The office is not as important as the road. I try to give the most
attention to the important matters on the road.

Q. You feel that by doing so the office will in a large measure take
care of itself?

A. That is it exactly.

Q. Do you not think that most railway administrative offices have grown
too large to take care of themselves?

A. You see, we keep in close touch with our offices on a railroad,
because when away we have a telegraph or telephone wire at our command.

Q. What good does a wire do you if you are tied up in a hearing or a
conference for two or three hours at a time?

A. I fear that I have not made clear to you just how valuable a man I
have trained into a chief clerk.

Q. I fear that you have not. You seem to believe the old system is all
right. Do you think the last word has been said or that your road has
hit upon the best system?

A. The last word on these important subjects will never be said, but we
have been getting along very well.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I shall not continue further in this letter the catechismal method,
lest you accuse me of forgetting that you long ago graduated from the
kindergarten. So you did; but when in doubt get back to early methods.
After reading recently an article on scientific management, I had to
recall my catechism to feel certain that handling pig iron is not the
chief end of man. We all, you and I included, sometimes show up smaller
than we really are, because we seem to think only in the narrow terms
of the things to which we are closest. It once fell to the lot of a
young official to escort over his road some of its directors, bankers
from New York. Being an enthusiast for his section of country, being an
operating man with an instinct for developing traffic, he talked of
progress, of the economic and social welfare of the people. When he
spoke of sugar planting, or of cotton growing, of blooded stock and
dairy yield, the bankers asked, "How much does it cost to raise an
acre?" or "What percentage of profit do they make?" He returned from
the trip feeling that money must be their god, that his directors could
think only in terms of dollars and cents. It dampened his ardor for a
time. Then he was so fortunate as to ride for a few days with some of
the really big modern bankers. He found himself listening with open
mouth to their expression of practical sociological truths. He marveled
at their recognition of the human element, and he understood better why
the board sometimes turned down his recommendations. His only lament
was that he could not see more of them. There, my boy, is the great
misfortune, there is a problem to be solved. There is too much Boston,
New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. The directors seem too far away. It
is a step forward that the overlords of transportation are bankers who
have won their way rather than hereditary descendants of once reigning
families. Some method must be evolved to make for more elastic control.
Annual inspection trips will not overcome that rigidity in
administration at which the public chafes and from which it seeks
relief in drastic laws. An interesting and hopeful phase of present
development is the election to directorates of trained railway
executives like L. F. Loree and H. I. Miller. The professionally
equipped railway director is a desirable evolution. Supply always
follows demand, and the broad solution will be a composite made up of
many elements of progress which perhaps have not yet unfolded
themselves to any of us.

It is a great game, this transportation business. The more you study
it, however, the more you discover that it is amenable to the same
underlying principles on which rest the great and small activities of
the human race. Like all professions, it has its distinct technique.
Like all professions, it suffers from the inborn tendency of human
nature to segregate itself behind an exaggerated class consciousness.
"We are a little different," or "You do not quite understand
our peculiar local conditions," are the arguments with which
ultra-conservatism has opposed progress in all ages, are the
obstacles which make so interesting all real contests for principle.

I make no apologies for taking you in this letter from the witness
stand of the west to the financial chancelleries of the east. When both
the banker director and the general manager learn that signatures on
letters and tram orders must be as sacred as when signed to bank
checks, we shall be winning back a little of that old-time sense of
personal responsibility which is so needed for improving composite
efficiency to-day. What better epitaph could any man desire than this,
"He helped to teach corporations to remember that lasting composite
strength comes only from intelligent recognition of individual
manhood?"

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER V.

LIMITATIONS OF THE CHIEF CLERK SYSTEM.


Tucson, Arizona, May 6, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--I have had a good deal to say to you at one time and
another about chief clerks and the chief clerk system. From actual
experience as a chief clerk I know that it is a trying position. It is
because the railway chief clerks of the country are as a class such a
splendid body of men that I am trying to do what I can to help them.
Too many times a chief clerk misses promotion because he is such a
valuable man that he has to stand still to break in all the new bosses
who come along and leave him in the side track.

The chief clerk system as we know it to-day cannot long survive because
it is too feudal in conception to reflect the spirit of a progressive
age. We need a chief clerk to be a head clerk, a senior clerk, a
foreman of the office forces, as it were. Much of the time on American
railroads the chief clerk is in effect an acting official, acting
trainmaster, acting superintendent, acting general manager, acting
vice-president, and even acting president. As such he signs the name of
his boss, the theory being that the latter, like a feudal baron or a
king, is omnipresent within his own dominions. Not only does this
outgrown conception violate the fundamental laws of matter; it often
borders upon a breach of honor, integrity and good faith. Legal
fictions are fast giving place to the law of common sense. Railway
officials should not risk arraignment before the bar of public opinion
for such indefensible practices.

When the chief clerk does business in the name of some one else the
effect is dwarfing to all concerned. We do not get the effect of either
one or two men, but that of a fraction of both. Again, the chief clerk
is handling important correspondence with officials below of higher
rank than himself, of greater compensation, and presumably of wider
experience. Human nature is such that sooner or later the chief clerk,
a junior, is telling an official, a senior, where to head in. Among the
hundreds of railroad officials with whom it is my proud privilege to
claim acquaintance, I have found nearly every one flattering himself,
"My chief clerk never makes such breaks." To avoid awkward and
embarrassing silences, I am learning to discontinue the acid test, "How
about your boss's chief clerk?" So widespread a belief indicates a
generic trait of human nature rather than a sporadic condition.
Organization as a science seeks by proper checks and balances to
minimize such amiable failings of human nature. Organized society
preserves the effectiveness and dignity of its courts by allowing only
a duly qualified judge to administer justice. The old clerk of the
court may really know more law than the young judge, but only the
latter can sit on the bench and decide causes. The lay reader must be
duly ordained before exercising the full functions of a minister. The
man who uses another's autograph signature in the banking business
becomes a malefactor. Are we so different in the large corporations
that we can with impunity ignore such safeguards?

The chief clerk system had its origin when railways were small and
officials were few. On a division, for example, the superintendent was
perhaps the only official and by common acceptance his clerk was really
the next in rank. When a small tradesman or a small farmer goes away
for a day his wife and boy may do the work without any one knowing the
difference. In a larger enterprise there has to be an understudy in
charge when the head is away.

You may have noticed that I use the word "rank" considerably. Rank
is a practical necessity for the proper enforcement of authority.
Rank makes its appearance as soon as society organizes for its own
protection. Rank may be local, limited, changing and temporary as
contra-distinguished from general, extensive, hereditary, or permanent,
but it is rank just the same. The purest democracies clothe their
chosen leaders with temporary rank. Before misconstruing the poetic
aphorism of Robert Burns, "rank is but the guinea's stamp," remember
that the guinea is only fluctuating bullion until the stamp of
authority of government can be invoked.

Let me now enunciate a principle, which is this: "In modern
organization the chief clerk as we now know him has no place. When
the stage is reached that such a chief clerk seems to be needed,
there should be another assistant this or that." Mind you, I do not
say assistant _to_, because that little word "to" may give a
sent-for-and-couldn't-come appearance. Nearly every week you notice the
announcement of the appointment of an old chief clerk to the position
of assistant _to_ somebody. This is encouraging, since it permits him
to do business in his own name. It also shows that railway officials
are waking up to the distinct limitations of the chief clerk system.
The discouraging feature is the failure to profit by centuries of
experience of such well-handled activities as the Navy and the merchant
marine. At sea the executive officer ranks next below the captain and
is in effect, though not in name, the latter's chief of staff. The
captain's clerk or the purser cannot hope to become executive officer
and then captain without getting outside and working up through the
deck. When railway executives and directors become better students of
organization, the science of human nature, their stockholders will pay
for fewer unnecessary experiments. One railway profits by the
discoveries and mistakes of another, as to bridges and equipment, but
rarely as to organization and methods.

The United States Army, copied largely from the English, has the
assistant _to_ system, calling such officer the adjutant. The rank
of the adjutant has been raised to captain, or rather the grade from
which the colonel can select his adjutant has been elevated to that of
captain. The adjutant has thus gained, and many military men hope that
he will eventually be the lieutenant-colonel, and as in the Navy, be
the executive officer, and, in effect, chief of staff for the colonel.
Since no officer of the Army or Navy permits another to sign his name
the adjutant uses his own autograph signature, but preceded by the
phrase, "By order of Colonel Blank"; objectionable because it is
sometimes a legal fiction. The adjutant system in the army works better
than the assistant _to_ system on the railroads, because the adjutant
is relatively better trained for his position. Not only does the
adjutant know office work, but he has learned practically to perform
every duty required of non-commissioned officers and private soldiers.
Very few assistants _to_ could run a train, switch cars, handle a
locomotive, or pick up a wreck. This is why soldiers and sailors have
more faith in the ability of their officers than railway employes have
in that of their officials. He who would be called Thor must first
wield Thor's battle axe. We should office from the railroad rather than
railroad from the office.

Since these things are so, as runs the old Latin phrase, I would
recruit my office assistant from the road, from the head of a so-called
department, from an official who has gained a face-to-face experience
in handling men. The old chief clerk is the first man I would consider
for appointment as one of my junior assistants. I would so assign him
that he would get outside experience. Sunburn and redness of blood
sometimes go together. For the pink tea contact of the telephone, for
the absent treatment of the typewriter, I would ask him for a while to
substitute the strong coffee of the caboose and the surprise test of
the through freight. Office railroading has its origin in the mistaken
theory of overspecialization, that office work is a highly-segregated
specialty beyond the ken of the average man. The world advances, and as
education becomes more general, as tenure is made more permanent, and
employment more attractive, we can impose increased requirements.
Suppose that it all could be so worked out that a generation hence no
man would expect to be a railroad clerk until he had served some such
outside apprenticeship as trackman, brakeman, switchman, or fireman,
etc. This would mean that in an organization like the post office
department every clerk in the department in Washington would have been
graduated from some such outside position as letter carrier, railway
mail clerk, country postmaster, rural free delivery carrier, etc. Every
clerk in the war department would be a soldier and every clerk in the
navy department a sailor. Then the papers that the clerk handled would
have a living meaning for him. His action would be more intelligent.
Pardon me a moment while I shake hands with the highly-conventional
gentleman who is approaching--Mr. Cant B. Dunn. No introduction is
necessary. We have met all over the United States, in Canada and in
Mexico. We usually differ, but never quarrel, because each is so
necessary to the other.

Sure, my boy, all these things can't be done right away quick, or
before the Interstate Commerce Commission again asks for increased
authority and larger appropriations. I do not expect to live to see the
consummation, but hope that you may. I do expect to survive long enough
to see a good start made along such rational lines of elasticity.
Because we cannot accomplish it all at once is no reason for not making
an intelligent beginning. If a compromise with principle is ever
advanced its advocates should be prepared to pay the ultimate cost.
Those questions on which the Federal Constitution compromised required
the expensive settlement of civil war. Otherwise the Constitution has
been elastic enough to cover nearly fifty states as fully as the
original thirteen. It is even strong enough to withstand the latest
political fallacy, the recall of the judiciary, as solemnly proposed
out here in fascinating Arizona.

Remember always, my boy, that although the good old days have completed
their runs, there are better days arriving and still on the road; that
from beyond the terminal at the vanishing point of the perspective the
best days are coming special because no railway time-table is big
enough to give them running rights.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER VI.

PREVENTING INSTEAD OF PAYING CLAIMS.


Phoenix, Arizona, May 13, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--You ask me to give you my views on the handling and
settling of freight claims.

I restrain my impatience and consequent desire to jump on you hard.
Allow me, therefore, with expressions of distinguished consideration,
to invite your esteemed attention to the fact that your valued request
contains no mention of an intelligent desire for possible enlightenment
on the most important feature of the problem, namely, the prevention of
claims, the eradication of causes.

A railroad is a complex proposition. Seldom can we discuss one of its
problems independently. So ramified are its activities that the
penumbra of one shadow coincides with the outline of the next. Studied
from the broadest view of railway administration, freight claims are
found too often doing duty as a shadow which hides the real substance,
poor operation. It was formerly the almost universal practice on
American railways for freight claims to be handled and settled by the
freight traffic department. It was felt that the man who secured the
business, who dealt with the shippers, was the man to placate the
claiming public. No, this did not always lead to rebating. It placed
before the man hungry for gross revenue a temptation which he often
resisted. Since the passage of the Hepburn act and the consequent
inspection of claim disbursements by the Interstate Commerce
Commission, the general trend of railroad practice has been to place
the so-called freight claim department under the accounting department.
Railroads are waking up to the fact that the new order of things means
more than an accounting proposition; that in government regulation and
supervision the whole matter of railway administration is involved.
What we technically term "operation" is the largest of the component
elements of administration.

The tendency of overspecialization has been to leave to the accounting
or the legal department the matter of relations with the various
branches of government, both state and federal. Since a part can never
equal the whole the results have been disappointing. Railroads are
learning by costly experience that traffic men and operating men must
have an active part in these vital relations. Government in the long
run reflects the spirit of its people. The American people as a nation
are positive and constructive. The training of railway lawyers and
railway accountants is often negative and resisting. The general
counsel and the general auditor are inclined to tell us what we can not
do. The traffic manager and the general manager, on the other hand,
tell us what we can do. Out of it all should come a well-balanced
administrative machine. We need the whole machine, not a specialized
part, the positive as well as the negative elements, when we move
alongside the reciprocating engine of government.

Again, putting a man in the accounting department does not make him any
more honest than the rest of us. There is more logic in taking freight
claims away from the traffic department than there is in placing them
under the accounting department. The traffic man, the accounting man,
or the legal man can settle or refuse a claim. None of these can
eradicate its cause. Only the operating man can do this. Many roads
cling to the belief that their wonderful interior combustion and hot
air harmony give the operating department sufficient information to
serve the practical purpose. My observation has been that this
information is not sufficiently fresh; that it trails along too far
behind the actual transaction. Some roads, like the Southern and the
'Frisco, have organized special bureaus in the operating department to
minimize the causes of freight claims and to follow up discrepancies
while the case is fresh; in other words, to investigate before the
claim is filed. Sometimes this duplicates the work of the freight claim
office and sometimes it does not.

So bad have been freight loss and damage conditions on most American
railroads that almost any kind of attention has resulted in
improvement. Nearly every road can cite figures in defense of its
particular treatment of the situation. There are many good ways. In the
absence of an absolute unit of comparison the best way must be largely
a matter of opinion. To me the logical and practical principle has been
discovered by two of the best managed railroads in the country, the
Chicago & North-Western and the Chesapeake & Ohio. These roads, among
others, place their freight claims under the operating department, thus
reserving the hair of the dog for treatment of its bite. With such a
system the general manager controls the disbursements to operating
expenses for which he is responsible. Under other systems the general
manager accepts charges which he does not directly control. Some roads
have endeavored to correct this last defect by requiring claim vouchers
to be signed by the general manager and the division superintendent.
This beautiful example of circumlocution is expensive. There are only
twenty-four hours in a day, and even claim papers can not be handled
for nothing. Furthermore, the claimant himself refuses to see the
beauty of delaying payment to carry out a theory. In some states he has
secured legislation penalizing railways for delay in settling
intrastate claims. Can you blame him? The claimant aforesaid may happen
to be a country merchant waiting for the way freight to come in. It
brings him six boxes of groceries. In his presence, and that of the
agent, the way freight brakeman drops and spoils a box. On many roads,
not only is the agent not allowed to pay for this spoiled box, but is
expected to require the indignant consignee to pay the freight on all
six boxes before removing the other five. The consignee is told to file
a claim, which then makes its weary round through the circumlocution
office where clerks are called investigators. Such companies say in
effect to the agent: "Yes, you are a good fellow; you get us a lot of
business; you handle thousands of dollars of our money; you represent
us in many things; you must understand, however, that a freight claim
is a specialty requiring expert advice; a bad precedent might involve
us in the future; you know, too, we might be criticised as opening the
way to grafting by some other agents if we let you pay out money
without authority from the accounting department; yes, we like your
work and expect to promote you in the sweet by-and-by," etc., _ad
nauseam_. Fortunately, these narrow views are giving place to more
enlightened practices. On several railways in Texas most station agents
are authorized to settle instanter certain classes of palpably just
claims up to $20 or $25.

Among the practical advantages of claim control by the operating
department are quicker recognition of lax methods causing claims,
better discipline and morals of train and station forces, prompter
settlement, and greater attention to seal records. The Chesapeake &
Ohio makes surprise tests by breaking a seal and resealing the car with
a different seal to see if the next man copies the last record, or
actually takes his seal record from the car. This road also appeals to
the human element. Claims settled are tentatively charged to the
conductor or agent apparently at fault, and he is given an opportunity
to explain. This is not real money, but a combination of Brown system,
Christian Science coin, and 1907 clearing house certificates. The
practical effect is very real, however. Each man learns to feel a
responsibility which is reflected in a desire for a clean record. The
general claim agent, who is under the general manager, sends monthly to
each division superintendent a list showing the name of every freight
conductor on the division, with number of claims, if any, charged to
him on account of pilferage from train, rough handling, etc. The local
divisions of the Order of Railway Conductors have been interested and
feel some responsibility in keeping the work of their members upon a
plane above the imputation of collusion with pilferage. Seek, my boy,
to develop the higher natures of your men and you will be astonished at
the response. Let them know that you know what they are doing, and it
becomes easier for them to withstand temptation.

Freight claims are a fine example of an exaggerated specialty resulting
in unnecessary centralization. The whole proposition can be
decentralized for the good of the service. Because the division
superintendent can not well settle interline claims of other divisions
is no reason why his forces should not settle such local claims as
concern his division.

A thorough study of freight claims will bring you early to a
consideration of personal injury, stock and fire claims. The fad has
been on many railroads to take these items of operating expenses away
from their former location in the operating department and give them to
the legal department. This exaggerated view of the laws of liability is
partly responsible for the growth of the damage suit industry. It is
another case of considering a part of the railway at the expense of the
whole. We need legal advice and expert knowledge. The true function of
the expert and the specialist is to see how much working knowledge he
can impart to the layman for everyday use and reserve himself for the
real complications which, if his tutelage has been sound, the layman
will quickly recognize and bring back for expert assistance.

Not long ago I happened near a freight wreck. One of the cars in the
ditch contained an emigrant outfit in charge of a man. This man was
bruised, but not seriously injured. With the superintendent and the
wreck train came a specialist, a claim adjuster for the legal
department. He could settle only the personal injury. The damage to
property was a freight claim and belonged to another department, the
accounting, not formally represented at the impromptu function, and
over which the superintendent as master of ceremonies had no
jurisdiction. The various items of operating expenses involved on this
occasion were in a decidedly diverged condition. What the spiritualist
medium calls the control was in this case the office of a busy
president some fifteen hundred miles away. Of course, the company
spirit and common sense guided the superintendent, and he made the best
of circumstances; perhaps risking criticism and censure for crossing
sacred departmental lines. What do you think of a system that breaks
down in emergencies? Is not an emergency a test of a system, a proof
of its elasticity? Can we develop the highest efficiency of
superintendents when we, the executive and general officers, place upon
them the burden of departing from a system that fails to meet their
practical problems? Is it not a species of unconscious administrative
cowardice for boards of directors to impose implied and practical
responsibility without conferring corresponding authority? Can such
questions be ignored as exceptional, trifling, and captious? Do they
not reach to the heart of railway organization and efficiency? Will the
railways correct such errors themselves, or will they await once more
the remedy by legislatures and commissions?

If a study of conditions does not convince you theoretically that one
claim bureau should handle freight, stock, fire, and personal injury
claims--in short all claims covering injuries to persons and damages to
property--go down on the Chesapeake & Ohio and watch them do it
practically. Instead of several specialists duplicating each other's
itineraries, you will find some all-round claim men doing a variety of
practical stunts. When they do strike a really different and highly
technical case, they utilize the services of their best specialist in
that particular line, not infrequently the general claim agent himself.
Overcharge claims are very properly handled under their traffic
auditor, being a matter of correction and not of operating
disbursement. Were it up to me, I would make the general claim agent an
assistant general manager, so that in claim matters he would have rank
and authority superior to the division superintendent's. The division
claim agent I would make an assistant superintendent, so that in claim
matters he would have rank and authority superior to all employes on
the division.

On this last division feature I once convinced my old friend, Cant B.
Dunn, by a long, practical test.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER VII.

THE CHIEF OF STAFF IDEA.


San Antonio, Texas, May 20, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Let me tell you something about a wonderfully effective
human machine, the Confederate Army. I sit facing a Confederate
monument which depicts a self-reliant son of the Southland, the type of
man real railway training helps to perpetuate. Hard by is a shrine to
valor, the Alamo, a reminder of the duty of altruism which an
individual owes to his fellows.

Fifty years ago two great armies were organized to fight to a
practical, working conclusion some of the indefinite compromises of the
Federal Constitution. Each army was supported by the intelligent spirit
of an aroused people. Each sought in its organization and operation to
give the most effective expression to that spirit. Jefferson Davis and
his advisers sought to profit by the experience of the old United
States Army and to avoid inherent weaknesses in its organization. So
the Confederate Congress created the grades of general and of
lieutenant general, in order that a general might command a separate
field army, a lieutenant general a corps, a major general a division,
and a brigadier general a brigade. By thus more exactly defining
official status, jealousies were minimized. Until Grant was made
lieutenant general in 1864, the Federal Army had only two grades of
general officers, major general and brigadier general. This led to
confusion, to bickerings, and to petty jealousies. Since a major
general might command such distinct and self-contained units of
organization as a division, a corps, or a separate field army, numerous
special assignments by the President became necessary.

The Confederate Army had another feature of organization that was
epoch-making. Samuel Cooper had been adjutant general of the United
States Army, with the rank of brigadier general, issuing orders over
his own signature from Washington "by command of" somebody else--Brevet
Lieutenant General Scott or the Secretary of War. Because of his
acknowledged efficiency in office work and administrative routine,
Samuel Cooper was made adjutant general and inspector general of the
Confederate Army. Did they give him the rank of brigadier general? No,
sir; they made him a full general, and number one on the list, senior
to Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston and G. T.
Beauregard, who, as generals at one time or another, commanded separate
field armies or territorial military departments. General Cooper at a
desk in Richmond was the ranking officer of the Confederate Army. This
detracted not one iota from the fame of Lee, the great soldier and the
first gentleman of the South. On the contrary, the increased efficiency
due to receiving instructions from a real superior, not under-strappers
or chief clerks, made greater the reputation of Lee. From one viewpoint
General Cooper was a high-class chief clerk for his President and the
Secretary of War. From a broader view he was their technically trained,
highly efficient chief of staff.

The Confederate Army gave in effect, but not in name, the chief of
staff idea to the world as a great object lesson in the applied science
of organization. Historians say that Jefferson Davis, himself a
graduate of West Point, a veteran of the Mexican war, and Secretary of
War in the cabinet of Pierce, meddled too much in military affairs when
as President he should have been attending also to civil affairs. Be
that as it may, the organization was elastic enough to meet just such
variations of personal equation. Whether the President, the Secretary
of War or the adjutant general (chief of staff) acted in a particular
case, the subordinate knew who took the responsibility and that the
action came from a real superior in rank.

The Confederacy fell. The passions of the time, the shortsightedness of
prejudice, precluded the adoption at that time by the United States of
any feature of the Confederate organization, however meritorious in
principle and practice. It remained for the Germans, already applying
the idea, to dazzle the world in 1870 and conquer France by the work of
their general staff and its able chief, von Moltke. Not until after the
costly lessons of the little war with Spain in 1898 did our Congress
wake up and give the United States Army a general staff and a chief of
staff. The new law includes several desirable features of elasticity.
Among these is a provision for the selection by each administration of
its own chief of staff. A permanent chief of staff might be an
obstructionist or might become too perfunctory in compliance. The law
wisely limits the selection of a chief of staff to about twenty general
officers. This prevents playing untrained favorites. It permits any
passenger conductor to be made superintendent, but forbids selecting an
extra brakeman or the call boy. Furthermore, if conditions change or a
new administration arrives, the chief of staff is not penalized for
efficiency by losing out entirely, but reverts to his permanent status;
the superintendent holds his rights as a conductor and bids in a good
run according to his permanent seniority. This feature of good
organization, the conferring of definite local superior rank, and the
protection of the incumbent from unnecessary degradation, was
discovered centuries ago by another effective institution, the Catholic
church.

Life is a composite. The Army, like several railways, has been waking
up to the fact that a lesson can be learned from the civil courts. A
large city may have several courts and judges. A judge may sit for one
term in the equity court, then in the criminal branch, and next in a
court _en banc_. All the time there is only one office of record,
one clerk of the court, with as many deputies as may be found
necessary. When one judge wishes to know what another judge has done,
the former does not write the latter a letter to inquire, but sends to
the clerk's office and gets the complete record up to date.

Are the railroads above copying sound working principles of efficiency
from such tried institutions as the Army, the Navy, the civil courts
and the churches? Certainly not, as some roads are showing in a highly
practical way. Such movements as these are but expressions of a cosmic
tendency, greater and more powerful than any one branch of human
activity. Such trends of progress are noted by observers who happen to
be favored with a view from the watch towers and who are able to make
suitable adaptations because they realize that ideas are greater than
men, that practical devices are greater than their inventors.

Sound ideas often depend for their development and permanency as
working practices upon some great exponent of acknowledged capacity for
leadership. In 1870 Bismarck had baited on the French and von Moltke
had planned their discomfiture. In 1870 General Robert E. Lee, entering
upon the last year of his life, was president of Washington and Lee
University at Lexington, Virginia, where Colonel Allan, of Stonewall
Jackson's staff, was a prominent professor. There came to sit at the
feet of these great teachers a mere boy in years, but an adult in
intellectual grasp. This callow youth was of German lineage, but born
and reared in New Orleans, a city stamped with the civilization of the
French. Perhaps this modest youngster dreamed that twenty years later
he would be a great railroad engineer--hardly, though, that in forty
years he would, as a great railway operating man, be called the von
Moltke of transportation. Strange, indeed, that this von Moltke, Julius
Kruttschnitt, should find his opportunity for highest development under
the Napoleon of our profession, Edward H. Harriman, himself among the
last of the feudal railway barons. Stranger still that as this Napoleon
was passing his von Moltke was starting the railways away from
feudalism in interior administration by introducing within the latter's
own sphere the chief of staff idea of the Confederate, the German, and
the American armies. For, my boy, the unit system of organization on
the Harriman Lines, of which you have read more or less, is primarily a
substitution of the modern chief of staff idea for the outgrown,
dwarfing, irrational government by chief clerks.[1]

          [1] See appendix for a description of the unit system of
          organization.

The unit system of organization requires that an official, whether the
head of the unit or an assistant, shall, when absent on the line, be
represented at headquarters by the senior or chief assistant of the
unit. Such senior or chief assistant is in effect, though not in name,
the chief of staff. Normally, this senior is number one on the list of
assistants, but whoever is so acting becomes, as above explained, the
senior for the time being, and when relieved reverts to his permanent
place on the list. Rotation for this chief of staff depends largely on
the personal equation of the head of the unit and of his various
assistants. In the last two years some divisions have not rotated the
chief of staff at all. One superintendent who credits the system with
increased supervision and notable decreases in expenses is now rotating
his assistants in the senior chair every two weeks.

There are diverse views on the subject of rotation in general. My own
opinion is that it may or may not be desirable. I incline rather to
rotation because it seems to be a biological concomitant of rational
evolution. Nature rotates her seasons and her types. Where, as in the
tropics, there is less rotation we find more stagnation and quicker
death. Many soils are impoverished by neglect of proper crop rotation.
The other day in a terminal, I found a superintendent lately rotated,
like a Methodist minister, from another division. Favored with a fresh
viewpoint, he was having switch engines give trains a start out of the
yard, and was taking off a helper engine which for years had seemed an
unavoidable expense. For what was in this particular instance a case of
over-specialization he was substituting engines which could more
economically perform the dual functions of switching and of pushing.

Speaking of yards, see if you have not some bright fellows on your
staff who can figure out a car record that can be taken by the
mechanical men, the car inspectors, that will answer all the purposes
of transportation, including claims. Instead of two sets of
specialists, car inspectors and yard clerks, partly duplicating each
other's work, see if you cannot develop one set of all 'round men with
some interchangeability of function. No, you cannot do it all at once.
Even if you have a workable scheme it will take a long time to
establish. The Brown system of discipline required nearly twenty years
for its complete extension to practically all American railroads,
although in successful operation for nearly a hundred years at the
United States Military Academy at West Point. The demerit system is
better handled at West Point than is the Brown system on railways. This
is because most of the officers are relatively better trained than
railroad officials, having all been through the mill themselves. Better
training cultivates the judicial quality. Too often the number of
Brownies does not depend upon a fixed scale for a like offense, but
rather upon how mad the superintendent is or on how hard he has been
pounded by the typewriter in the offices above.

Before you condemn any system be certain that its apparent shortcomings
are not the fault of your own interpretation and administration. We
used to speak of engine failures alone. Nowadays we distinguish as
between engine failures and man failures. Likewise there is a
difference between a system failure and a man failure.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER VIII.

THE UNIT SYSTEM.


Galveston, Texas, May 27, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--We were talking of the unit system of organization. There
is little that is new about the system. Like many useful things in this
world, it is mainly an adaptation of some very old principles and
practices. From one viewpoint it is a rational extension of the simple
principles of train dispatching. The standard code does not attempt to
supply the place of judgment in a train dispatcher. It does not tell
him when to put out a meet or a wait order. When his judgment dictates
the necessity for any particular action, the standard code comes into
play by prescribing forms, by imposing checks and safeguards, by
simplifying methods, and by unifying practices. This gives greater
opportunity for initiative and originality on the part of the
dispatcher by making routine the detailed portion of the process. He
has more time to think.

Because the unit system leaves so much to the thinking capacity of the
men below, some people have found it difficult to understand. Many
codes of organization attempt to cover in advance all the various cases
that may come up. The unit system enunciates principles and prescribes
methods, but leaves independence of action to the man on the ground. He
is for the time being the judge as to what principle to apply. When men
are carefully trained their first impulse is to do the right thing.
This impulse has been dwarfed and deadened on many railroads by
artificial restraints which make a man doubtful of his authority. The
unit system reverses some old presumptions and puts the burden of doubt
upon him who questions the official authority.

We have to take human nature as we find it, not as we think it should
be. The master mechanic or the division engineer is riding on the rear
of a train, at the company's expense, and tells a young flagman that
the latter did not go back far enough. If the flagman does not tell the
official to go to h----, the trainmaster probably will. The trainmaster
says, "This is _my_ department, you have interfered with _my_ man."
That is the old feudal conception. He is not _my_ man but the company's
for service, and his own for individuality and citizenship. Let the
master mechanic or the division engineer of many years' service report
the flagman whose tenure may have been very brief. Human nature is such
that the trainmaster, stung by an implied reflection, constitutes
himself attorney for the defense. The papers grind through the baskets
of the chief clerks. By and by, when everybody concerned has forgotten
the incident, the papers come back with assurances of distinguished
consideration and politely intimate that the case was not quite as bad
as represented. The old official, in a measure discredited, soon stops
concerning himself with flagmen. The management, the stockholders, and
the public lose just so much possible protection through increased
supervision. The salary and the expense account of the traveling
official go on just the same.

On the Harriman Lines the master mechanic, like the division engineer,
has the rank, title, and authority of assistant superintendent. Mind
you, it is not assistant superintendent in charge of thus and so, but
just assistant superintendent. An attempt to define duties in a
circular of appointment might imply that all the responsibilities not
enumerated would be necessarily excluded. So the assistant
superintendent quietly speaks to the young flagman, who profits by the
instruction, and the incident is closed without recourse to the
typewriter. For the technical brief to the Supreme Court there is
substituted the rough and ready but surer justice of the police
magistrate. The employe still has the right to appeal just as he had
before, but seldom or never does he exercise it. There are, of course,
intelligent limitations to all authority. The mechanical assistant, or
the maintenance assistant should not, for example, order the flagman to
buy a new uniform. Common sense and courtesy have proved effectual
safeguards against abuse of authority.

The underlying principle that responsibility breeds conservatism in
action has operated to prevent those unseemly clashes of authority
which many predicted. The good sense of the superintendents has served
as an effectual balance wheel to maintain smooth running. The unit
system does not deny or dispute the necessity for specialized talent
for technical activities. It insists, however, that increased
supervision of the countless phases of operation can be gained by
utilizing all the official talent available. In many cases such
increased supervision is a by-product. The maintenance assistant is
inspecting track. The train stops. He cannot resume track inspection
until the train starts. Meantime, he may be able to find time to see if
the conductor receives his orders promptly, if the dispatcher uses good
judgment, if the station forces are alert, if the public are being well
handled, if the news butcher has his wares over several needed seats in
the smoking car. He may even go to the head end and tell the eagle eye
how the black smoke indicates that the fire boy could save his own back
and the company's good money by less liberal use of the shovel.
Anything very technical requiring the presence of specialists for all
these things? Of course, if a special problem develops, such as a badly
adjusted draft, it may be necessary later to get the more expert
attention of a mechanical assistant. Often, however, before this stage
is reached there can be rendered much economical first aid to injured
operating expenses. This increased supervision, be it much or little,
is clear gain for the company. It means more effort for the official,
but that is what he is paid for. It is usually better in zero weather
to have the old master mechanic and the old traveling engineer as
assistant superintendents riding different trains on the road than to
have them sitting in a comfortable office writing letters to each other
about engines that failed last week or last month.

Once upon a time a traveling engineer talked through a telegraphone to
a dispatcher. The latter requested the former to have the freight train
pull into clear to let another train by. The conductor was not in
sight. He was probably in the caboose making out some of those
imaginary reports about which grievance committees tell us and which
are most in evidence during investigations of head-end collisions. So,
this member of the ancient and honorable order of attorneys for the
brotherhood told the brakemen where to head in. Whereupon with much
professional profanity the trainmen declined, saying that no traveling
engineer could tell them what to do. The superintendent took the
brakemen out of service. They got back only on request of the traveling
engineer to whom they apologized. While authority was vindicated, an
undesirable situation had been developed. No matter how emphatic the
vindication may be, it is as bad for discipline to have authority
questioned as for a woman to have her virtue impugned. Since then the
unit system on that division has made the traveling engineer an
assistant superintendent, and the question of authority does not arise.

Out in that part of the country a fast train was pulling out of a
terminal. The trainmaster was out on the road. His clerk signed the
trainmaster's name to a message, telling the old passenger conductor to
make a stop to deliver what to the clerk was an important letter, ran
down and handed both to the conductor. The latter demurred, saying that
under his running orders the stop would make him miss a meeting point.
The clerk insisted and when the conductor disregarded the message the
latter was taken out of service. This was done on the old feudal theory
that the trainmaster's name and position must be respected. By the same
reasoning a bank teller should honor a check on which he knows the
signature is forged. Since then the unit system on that division
requires everyone to do business in his own name. Employes obey the
instructions of men shown by name on the time card, and are not at the
mercy of clerks. The old trainmaster's name is more respected because
it is signed only by himself and is not cheapened by use by Tom, Dick
and Harry. (Anvil chorus: "Such things couldn't happen on our road."
Perhaps not, but they do just the same, in a greater or less degree.)

When a conductor reports for train orders he has a right to know that a
competent dispatcher is on duty. He cannot dictate, however, what
particular dispatcher shall work the trick and give him his orders. The
unit system carries this same principle to correspondence and reports.
It denies the right of the employe to dictate what official shall
handle a certain letter or report, under normal conditions. The report
is addressed impersonally "Assistant Superintendent," and the office
decides what official is most available. As a matter of common sense
the expert in that line will be utilized. In his absence, however, his
feudal representative, a clerk, will not act for him. The clerk may
prepare the papers, but final action can be taken only by an official.
Highly technical problems are sent to the absent official on the road
or await his return. Each assistant may issue instructions, in his own
name, to such subordinates on his own pay roll as roadmasters under the
maintenance assistant, foremen under the mechanical assistant,
yardmasters under the transportation assistant, etc., etc. Before
these instructions leave the office, they should pass, like all
correspondence, over the desk of the senior assistant (chief of staff)
for his information and for the prevention of possible conflict and
confusion. Here, again, is a principle of train dispatching. All orders
concerning the running of trains go over the dispatcher's table. Should
there not be a similar check imposed on official instructions and
information imparted to hundreds of delicate, sensitive, human
machines, made in the image of God?

Why are not communications and reports addressed "Superintendent?"
Because there would be an implied obligation for the superintendent to
act. This obligation cannot be admitted under normal conditions.
Therefore, to be honest and straightforward, the address is "Assistant
Superintendent." Under this system the employe knows that some
assistant will see his communication, not the clerk of somebody else.
If the employe desires a particular official to see his communication,
he makes it personal by prefixing that official's name.

Any employe can address the superintendent by name for the same good
reason that the humblest citizen can appear in his own behalf in any
court in the land. Though the court is open, neither the citizen nor
his attorney can normally dictate what judge shall hear his case.
Authority is abstract and impersonal. The court exists if the judge is
dead. The exercise of authority is concrete and highly personal. The
court is silent until the judge speaks. Conversely, the superintendent
as the head of the unit may address any employe direct without going
through the assistant on whose payroll the employe is carried. Common
sense and the personal equation of the officials concerned indicate how
far this elastic feature can be carried. Courtesy requires prompt
notification of the assistant concerned. Officials have superiors, and
to attempt to convey the idea that each is a feudal chief, when in
reality he is not, can result only in self-deception. The practice of
each division superintendent reissuing verbatim in his own name
instruction circulars from the office of the superintendent of
transportation is misleading and ridiculous.

All instructions from general officers, including the general manager,
should come to employes through the superintendent's office, not only
to respect the integrity of the organization unit, but to preserve a
history of the transaction in the authorized office of record--to get
all the runs, including the general manager's special, on the right
train sheet as it were. Whoever acts, whether the superintendent
himself or an assistant, has at hand in one office of record full
information for his guidance. You understand that the superintendent is
boss. He may see any or all communications from employes as he thinks
fit. Where previously he instructed his chief clerk what to bring to
him personally, such instruction he now gives to his chief of staff. An
employe who addressed "Assistant Superintendent" may receive a reply
signed by the superintendent himself. This is an honest record, not a
subterfuge. Some assistant, the chief of staff, has handled the paper
as well as the superintendent himself. To the subordinate the
superintendent is normally an incidental representative of authority
entitled to the greater respect to be given his higher rank. To the
general offices, and to co-ordinate units, the superintendent is an
essential head of a component unit who must not be ignored. Therefore,
since there is an implied obligation for the superintendent to answer
superior authority himself, all communications from superior and
co-ordinate authority are addressed impersonally, "Superintendent." A
railway is so extensive that the superintendent should spend at least
half the time out on his division. In his absence the chief of staff is
allowed to communicate with the general offices and other divisions in
his own name, but "for the superintendent." The superintendent may
answer from the road himself, but in any case the general offices know
who has really taken action. Going down on the division any assistant
may sign, subject to review by the chief of staff. Going up to higher
authority only the superintendent or his chief of staff may sign. The
rights of the individual assistants are preserved by permitting any one
to go on record to the general offices when he so desires. He writes
his letter, addresses it "Assistant Superintendent," and takes it to
either the superintendent or chief of staff and requests that it be
forwarded. In this exceptional case a letter of transmittal is written
setting forth the views of the superintendent. A cat may look at a
king. A meritorious idea should not be throttled because it does not
happen to appeal to the next superior.

When a division official on any road rides a train, he does not first
thing try to tell the conductor what meeting points should be made. He
usually says, "Let me see your orders," which is in effect asking the
conductor what the dispatcher has said must be done. Protected by this
vital information the official may then venture some suggestions. In
the preliminary lecture explaining the unwritten laws of the unit
system the new assistant superintendents are cautioned to apply the
same principle. They are not to see how much trouble they can make, but
how little. If the transportation assistant, for example, pulls up to a
water tank at 7:20 a.m. and sees the section men just going to work,
he does not jump on the foreman for being late, but quietly asks, "What
are your working hours? What time does the roadmaster tell you to begin
work?" The moral effect of the presence of an alert, observing
official, armed with sufficient authority, becomes an asset of value to
the stockholders. We have not enough officials to ride every train and
cover every point. The more open, intelligent supervision we can get
from each official the better should be the operation. Of course, if
the officials were not experienced railway men a condition of nagging
and rawhiding might result which would prove fatal. What the unit
system does is to try to make potential the latent knowledge and
ability which every official possesses in a greater or less degree. The
old over-specialized system denies that this stored-up reserve exists
to any practicable extent.

The fact that the title of assistant superintendent is uniform tends to
bring out the real individuality of the different assistants. Each has
to have his name on the door of his private office. As we hear less and
less of "my department" and more and more of "this division," the
references to "the trainmaster," "the master mechanic," etc., etc.,
give way to "Mr. A.," "Mr. B.," etc. The assistant superintendents have
definite seniority, and when two or more come together under
circumstances rendering it necessary, as at a wreck, the senior present
takes charge and becomes responsible. Remember that rank and authority
can be conferred by seniority in grade as well as by grade itself.

The scriptural warning that no man can serve two masters is still
applicable. In our case the master is the corporation, represented at
different times by various individuals clothed with authority. The
conductor runs his train under the laws of the land, the policy of the
president, the rules of the general manager, the bulletins of the
superintendent, the assignment of an assistant superintendent, the
orders of a dispatcher. He collects tickets and fares as directed by
the general passenger agent and reports on forms prescribed by the
auditor. The lower we go in the scale the fewer the superiors with
whose instructions the employe comes in direct contact. The trackman
knows authority only as its exercise is personified by his section
foreman until the paymaster tells him to wipe off his feet before
entering to receive his check. Therefore, put out a slow flag against
too fast running over such low joints as "one boss," "complete
responsibility," "divided authority," etc., etc., until you feel
certain just what speed they will stand.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER IX.

STANDARDIZING OFFICE FILES.


Chicago, June 3, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--It has doubtless occurred to you how worthless as
evidence are many of the office files. How can any one tell a year
afterward whether the general manager or the superintendent ever saw
the telegram on which his name is typewritten? On most roads any one
of a half dozen or a dozen people may have dictated the message. How
much better, as under the unit system, to have every man doing business
in his own name! He can then supplement the written record with much
more intelligent recollection of events related to the transaction. We
dictate the most important telegrams, which pass unquestioned, without
an autograph signature. This is common sense and just as it should be.
When an unimportant letter is written somebody has to get out a pen and
sign some name or other. How inconsistent! Why not, for certain kinds
of correspondence, let the stenographer typewrite the name of the
dictating or signing official, and then authenticate with the office
dating stamp or a private seal mark? The office dating stamp should be
kept under lock and key in official custody in order that it may be
used for authentication, like the seal of a notary public. To save the
labor of constant signing I predict that some time we may go back to
individual personal seals carried on a finger ring or a watch fob. That
is the way they authenticated documents at a time when the gentry felt
themselves above learning to read and write.

If you have occasion to dictate a message over the telephone from your
house at midnight, do not let the operator imitate your autograph
signature, but have him print your name with a pen, pencil or
typewriter. Also, take good care to have such messages sent to you
afterward for you to check. Your time is valuable, but it cannot be put
to better use for the company than in insuring the integrity of your
individual transactions. It may be that no record whatever is
necessary. With all our craze for accumulating files we do not record
many telephone conversations. You must be the judge as to whether a
record for your office is necessary, and in such exceptional cases
state your wishes at the time. The farther down the employe the more
zealous is he to escape possible censure by preserving unnecessary
information. What we need is one complete record of a transaction
rather than so many partial records. Many of the telegrams sent from a
superintendent's office should, after sending, go to the main file
room for consolidation with related papers under a subjective
classification. It is more logical to file certain classes of messages
by days in date order. For example, messages relating to train
movements should usually be filed in date order since they are
supplementary to the train sheets of that particular day, and the date
would be the determining factor in tracing the transaction afterward.
These two distinct classes of messages should be filed, the one under
a subjective classification, the other under a serial classification.
The good, old-fashioned way of rolling together all the messages of the
day and cording them in a pile on the top shelf was all right in the
day of wood-burners, but falls short in this day of higher pressures.
Remember, too, that the telegraph office is a part of the same
establishment. Wherefore, make a carbon copy of every telegram that is
going down the hall to be transmitted.

If you wish to get real busy and cultivate patience, try to introduce a
uniform filing system in all the offices on the road. Every fellow will
tell you that the system in his office is best. The acid test is: "Will
your system fit the president's office?" and the stereotyped reply is,
"You see we are very different. Our local conditions are peculiar." So
it falls out that when the agent writes his superintendent about office
furniture, for example, the agent, if it is a big station, gives the
subject a file number. The superintendent gives it a second number. If
perchance the general superintendent, the purchasing agent, the general
storekeeper, the general manager, and the president should happen to
get hold of the papers, each office would affix a different number. You
might have on the same railroad as many as seven different file numbers
for the same subject. Remember that all filing systems are arbitrary.
Whether you designate office furniture as seven, eleven, twenty-three,
or forty-four, it rests in the breast of somebody to say what that
designation shall be. It is like numbering trains, cars and
locomotives, we take some arbitrary basis from which we build up a
logical classification. Formerly, trains, cars and locomotives were
given serial numbers in the order of creation. So were letters in an
office. Now the proposition is too big and we assign series of numbers
for classifications which are more or less self-suggesting. Any number
of men have tried to work out a filing system based on the Interstate
Commerce Commission classification of accounts. Any number of men have
soon encountered limiting conditions which seem to preclude a
satisfactory solution.

If you had time, I do not doubt your ability to work out the best kind
of a filing system, but you have not the time. If you had lived before
George Stephenson you might have invented the locomotive, but George
beat us all to it. If you had time you could work out a table of
logarithms, or a table of trigonometric functions. Life is so short
that it is better to use the tables that other people have prepared. By
the same token, if I were you, I would save my company money by
adopting Williams' Railroad Classification. It is an expansive, but not
expensive, decimal system suitable for everybody from the station agent
to the president. Among the roads that have taken it seriously are the
Baltimore & Ohio, the Delaware & Hudson, the Pennsylvania, and the
Harriman Lines, not such a puny lot. Others say of it as of the unit
system of organization: "We are watching its development with much
interest." In either case, if the stockholders and directors are
complacent, you and I have no kick coming as to the number of years
over which this inactive watchfulness may extend.

The manifest advantages of a uniform filing classification are the time
saved in avoiding duplication of numbers, and the practical familiarity
possible to officials and employes of all grades and locations. When a
man is promoted or transferred, he does not have to learn a new filing
system. Instead of the whole burden of filing being upon a file clerk,
everybody can be helping to preserve the integrity and insure the
efficiency of the system. It is not necessary to sit up nights and
memorize filing numbers. Take the matter seriously, and in a short time
you will unconsciously absorb the most important numbers, just as you
get trains, cars, and locomotives in your head. Officials frequently
have a disproportionate and exaggerated sense of the value of their own
time. They are paid to think from their presumably wider understanding.
If the official by one minute's thought can dictate the file number and
later on save several hours of search in the file room, it is his duty
to do so. All over the country file clerks tell me their troubles. The
burden is, "If you will get the officials to respect the files as much
as we respect the officials, it will all be easy." You know, my boy,
that there are a whole lot of things that deserve to be taken just as
seriously as we take ourselves. Consider this standard code of train
rules again. With all its defects and shortcomings it is a vital force.
Because it is standard it gains a respect as a result of lifelong drill
and discipline of employes, regardless of changes in location or
assignment. Therefore, standardize your files, and interest your
officials. Rank imposes obligation, or _noblesse oblige_, as the
French say.

It is a much easier matter to start a new filing system than is
generally supposed. Just begin. It is not necessary to renumber the old
files. Give new numbers to all the old stuff that comes in, and in a
month or two you will probably absorb nearly all that is of current
interest. Then store the remainder of the old stuff as a dead file
under the old system. Most of the old you will never need, but if you
do, as occasion arises, locate under the old system and transfer to the
new.

If you are putting up a new office building or re-arranging an old one,
try and locate the main file room next to the telegraph office. Or put
one over the other so that quick communication can be made by some such
device as a chute, dumb waiter, or pneumatic tube. Telegrams received
can then be hurried to the file room and related papers attached, when
desirable, without taking the valuable time of an official to send to
the file room for them. Here is a place for a really rational
conservation of official time. The effect of effort should be in
proportion to its intelligence and intensity rather than to its amount.

Experts long ago established the fact by time studies, and otherwise,
that flat, vertical filing cases are the most efficient and economical.
There are a number of satisfactory makes on the market. Like selecting
a typewriter, it is largely a matter of personal preferment. The way to
beat another man at his own game is first to sit in, play and learn.
Gamblers would become extinct if all men lived up to this advice. Most
railway officials regard organization as an exception to this precept
because, as I said before, nearly every man flatters himself that he is
a born organizer. Before you raise the stakes too high in trying to
beat another man's game of organization, better first sit in and play
it his way.

Do not be afraid to trust outlying offices, like those of your
superintendents, to run their own files. Have them inspected as often
as may be necessary to insure uniformity and efficiency. Do not forbid
their adding numbers as emergencies arise. Assemble these new subjects
periodically, say once in six months, for standardization, and amplify
the working numbers if necessary. You must allow for differences in the
human equation. Some men are strict constructionists, and some are
broader. Some men classify under a few subjects, while others subdivide
to a greater degree. You know the old story of the man who was indexing
and feared that something might be overlooked. So under the caption,
"God," he put the cross reference, "See Almighty God." Without a
retrospective study of actual performance you cannot well say just how
many sub-numbers shall be used in a given office, any more than you can
determine in advance how many train orders a certain dispatcher should
put out under the standard code. Among the advantages of using a card
index for running a file is that by counting the live cards we know the
number of subjects in actual use. This is not inconsistent with book
numbers, the book then being used as a reference encyclopedia from
which subjects are entered on cards as fast as each necessity arises.

Remember that while immutable principles must eventually triumph over
local conditions, much depends upon considerate application. The local
condition didn't just happen, but had its origin in some reason, good
or bad, perhaps once convincing but now outgrown. Sometimes the reason
is so vital as to be a principle in itself. In our beloved Southland
there are local conditions of society which do not obtain elsewhere in
this country. True Southerners thank God that human slavery has been
abolished. They are striving earnestly and successfully to adjust
conditions created in the birth pangs of a social revolution. Well
managed railroads like the Louisville & Nashville adjust their working
policies to these basic conditions. Nearly a decade ago Samuel Spencer,
as president, felt that the Southern Railway needed an infusion of new
operating blood and a rotation of types, both excellent things in
themselves, but, as experience showed, easily overdone and carried to
an irrational degree. With native talent at hand for the developing he
imported to the proud old civilization of his birth some rough and
ready brethren of the western prairies. These earnest men and their
followers knew how better than they knew why. They were long on art,
but short on science. Demoralization and wrecks, attributed to
inadequate facilities, cost the road much public confidence, cost the
stockholders hundreds of thousands of dollars, and finally, in an awful
tragedy, cost the able president his useful and honored life. Fate
accorded to outraged sociology and her smaller sister, organization,
terrible and undeserved retribution. For, barring this one mistaken
policy, Samuel Spencer was an earnest patriot and a constructive
railway statesman. As a youth he served in the Confederate army.
Through life devotion to his flag was a passion. As a man and a
gentleman his character was unblemished, his integrity was stainless.
Peace to his ashes. Success to the Southern. Its great traffic
strength, actual and potential, rests on the broad foundations laid by
Samuel Spencer. Prosperity to the railroads. By constant search for the
lessons of human efficiency to be drawn from such experiences as these,
they prove their broad claim to scientific management.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER X.

THE LINE AND THE STAFF.


Chicago, June 10, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--You have asked me to tell you something about line and
staff. The term line is used to indicate the direct sequence toward the
active purpose of the organization. The line officer exercises a direct
authority over men and things. He is the incarnation of administrative
action. The staff is supplementary to the line as equity is
supplementary to law. The staff officer is the playwright. The line
officer is the actor. The actor is usually too much absorbed with the
technique of his art to write new plays. The line officer, as such,
seldom originates new methods, because he is too close to his everyday
problems of administration to cultivate perspective. The ideal staff
officer has had experience in the line.

The line with a railroad--its fighting force, so to speak--is the
operating department. Because they are staff departments the offices of
the other three, namely, accounting, traffic, and executive, legal and
financial, can close from Saturday noon until Monday morning. The
operating department, being the line, keeps the road open and the
trains moving. Because of the poverty of our language, we now encounter
some difficulties of expression in explaining all the various
ramifications of line and staff. A staff department, because of its
size, may exercise line functions within its own interior
administration. Thus, the auditor organizes his office forces under
appropriate chief and subordinate officers who, within the accounting
department itself, exercise the authority of line officers. When such
accounting officers get outside their legitimate sphere and endeavor to
act as line officers in the operating department, expensive friction
begins. This feature I shall discuss with you later. Suffice it to say
that at present the hardest of all problems is to keep line and staff
in economical balance. Staff departments then may within themselves
exercise line functions. This grows rather from necessities imposed by
size than from inherent nature of function. The first staff officer was
an adviser and exercised no authority, except that of polite inquiry,
because there was no one whom he could properly command. So the line,
the operating department, soon grows so big as to require staff
officers within itself, people who have time to think out improvements
because they are not burdened with administrative responsibilities.

Hold tightly to this thought, my boy. The plane of differentiation
between line and staff usually follows a cleavage based upon size
rather than upon relative importance of function. The first line
officer needed no staff, because he had time to think as well as act
for himself. The first superintendent looked after the repairmen
himself. The first master mechanic came into being not because he was
so different from everybody else, but because the superintendent had
become too busy to do it all himself. By and by the master mechanic
forgot this basic fact and, unconsciously exaggerating his own
specialty, began to feel that the railway is incident to shops and
equipment rather than shops and equipment incident to the railway. The
last five years have witnessed a decided improvement in this
undesirable condition. Just at present the store department Indians are
the tribe most in need of being rounded up on the operating department
reservation for eye wash and vaccination against distorted perspective.

The operating department of a railroad is, or should be, a real
department, complete and self-contained. It consists of such important
component elements or branches as maintenance of way and structures,
maintenance of equipment, transportation, telegraph, signals, stores,
purchases, dining cars, etc. Let us not waste any time discussing the
relative importance of these components. Æsop centuries ago did that
better than we can. His fable of the quarrel among the organs of the
human body teaches us that while all are important each is useless
without the others.

Individually the general superintendent, the chief engineers, the
superintendent of motive power, the superintendent of transportation,
the superintendent of telegraph, the general storekeeper, and the
superintendent of dining cars, are line officers exercising direct
authority in a defined sequence. Collectively they constitute, for
consultation, the general manager's staff. When all have the rank and
title of assistant general manager, this duality of function is the
more pronounced and valuable. For the feudal notion of unbalanced
components is substituted the cabinet idea of comprehensive
deliberation, unified administration and devotion to a common purpose.
(Anvil chorus: "It's that way on our road now.") Perhaps so, but if so,
what assurance have your stockholders and the public that the same
happy condition will obtain ten years hence? Each head of the nine
executive departments in Washington is a line officer running his own
department. At the President's cabinet table he becomes a staff officer
deliberating upon the problems of all. The attorney-general should be
called secretary of law, and the postmaster-general secretary of posts.
Then all nine would have the uniform title of secretary. The position
of secretary to the president, an assistant _to_ proposition, should
be abolished--usually I prefer the gentler expression, "title
discontinued." His duties should be performed by the secretary of
state, who is always the ranking member of the cabinet. In the first
cabinet, that of George Washington, the secretary of state, Thomas
Jefferson, was in effect, though not in name, prime minister and chief
of staff. Foreign affairs, then an incidental feature, are now so
extensive for a world power that we should have another department
under a secretary of foreign affairs, leaving the secretary of state as
senior to be the able righthand man of the president. Here again the
size of the proposition, the volume of business, is the proper
determining factor.

On a small railway the chief engineer as a line officer may be able to
do all the engineering himself. As the business grows he requires such
special staff advisers as an office engineer, a locating engineer, a
bridge engineer, a tunnel engineer, a signal engineer, etc. Some roads
make such engineers line officers by giving them extensive authority
over working forces. Usually I believe this is a mistake. It seems
better for these engineers to be real staff officers, thinking,
inspecting, warning, instructing (in the sense of lecturing),
improving, designing and perhaps sometimes installing, but never
directly operating or maintaining. The same general reasoning applies
to the mechanical bureau when the business of the chief mechanical
officer attains a volume necessitating the help of such valuable staff
officers as a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, a testing
engineer, etc.

When the telegraph came to supplement the railway, men stood in awe of
its invisible effects. Soon the telegraph man said in effect, "This is
a wonderful and mysterious specialty which you fellows cannot
understand. Let me, the expert, handle it for you." So he segregated
unto himself a so-called department on the plea that it is so
different. By and by the division superintendents woke up to find their
telegraph hands tied. Appeals to the general superintendent or general
manager proved fruitless. So the division linemen usually report
directly to the superintendent of telegraph. They often stay around
division headquarters until the chief dispatcher is able to jar them
loose and get them out on the road. Then they go to the scene of
trouble, look wise and get the section foreman to dig the hole and do
most of the work. Why not, therefore, hold the section foreman
responsible for ordinary wire repairs in the first place? Let every
section house have a pair of climbers, a wire cutter and pliers with
whatever simple outfit may be necessary. If unusual troubles develop or
a line is to be rebuilt send the most expert help available, but while
on the division let such help be under the authority of the
superintendent. We need an expert at the top as chief telegraph and
telephone officer to tell us all how to do it. The volume of business
will usually warrant making him a line officer with the rank and title
of assistant general manager. He should not deal directly with
operators and linemen any more than a general superintendent under
normal conditions should instruct an individual conductor or a chief
engineer communicate direct with a section foreman. The integrity of
the division as an operating unit should be respected.

By and by the signals followed the telegraph. Once more the management
allowed the specialist to put it over at the expense of the good old
wheel horses in the regular line organization. The embryo signal
engineer said, "This wonderful and mysterious development is really
something different this time. It is absurd to suppose these stupid old
section foremen can learn anything about electricity." So the signal
engineer was allowed to build up a new department. He went out on the
ranches or in the barber shops and hired signal maintainers. A new
department is liberally treated because its activities are a fad for
the time being. These signal maintainers in a few months absorb so much
magnetism from the field of the signal engineer that they are qualified
experts to whom the rest of us must not say anything. They have easier
work, if not better pay, than the faithful section foremen of perhaps
twenty years' service. The old section foreman has a "savvy" of the
railroad business, an intuitive knowledge of the requirements of train
movement that it will take the fresh young maintainer years to acquire.
Then we wonder why it is so difficult to secure loyal section foremen.
Sometimes a belated effort has been made to let in the section foremen
on the signal game. It is difficult, however, to get the signal people
to take an appreciative and sympathetic interest in men who are not in
"my department." Therefore, to prevent your track forces being thrown
out of balance it will be better for a few years to keep the signal
engineer on most railways as a staff officer without permitting him a
line organization for operation and maintenance. Say to your
roadmasters and section foremen that they will, at the company's
expense, be given instruction in signals. When the signal engineer,
the expert, pronounces them qualified by examination or otherwise, let
them understand that there is a small automatic increase in pay.
Transfer to branch lines the few who prove hopelessly deficient. The
track laborer who can qualify to look after a particular signal is
worth a few cents more a day to the company and should be so advised.
If you start with the presumption that the man below is too dumb to
learn you handicap him and probably doom him to failure. If you make
him believe that he can learn what men of the same class around him are
learning, that you, his elder brother, are in duty bound to help him,
you will be astonished at the response of his latent intelligence. The
great managers of the feudal period were forceful drivers. The great
managers of to-day and to-morrow are great teachers, the greatest of all
experts, because they show the man below how to do it. Lots of men know
how. A good many know why. Comparatively few have that rare and
valuable combination of knowing both how and why. It is not a happen
so, but a response to the law of supply and demand, that men of the
Woodrow Wilson type are coming to the front in our political life.

Getting back to signals. On a road of more than one or two tracks, it
may be advisable to segregate your signals from your track. Here again
the dividing line is volume of business rather than fancied importance
of function. Signals are important, but so is the track. Each is an
incidental component of railway operation, not the whole operation
itself. On most railways the section foreman should be the responsible
head of a complete sub-unit for everyday maintenance and inspection,
including track, bridges, fences, poles, wires and signals. This may
involve giving him more help or a shorter section.

One of the problems of line and staff is to determine what is
intelligent rotation between the two. The line officer, dealing with
men rather than ideas, may get into a rut of practice which prevents
his seeing the beauty of the rainbow which the untrammeled staff
officer may be tempted to chase too far. Some officers succeed
brilliantly at originating or developing ideas in the staff and fail
miserably at handling men in the line.

True individuality about which men prate the most is that which is
understood the least. Our Army and Navy are insisting that before being
staff officers, all officers, except surgeons and chaplains, must first
learn to handle men by serving in the line; that crystallization in the
staff must be prevented by periodic rotation to definite tours of duty
in the line. The railway of the future will probably carry extra
numbers of line officials in the various grades that some may be
available for detail to the staff, that we may better co-ordinate our
studying and our working activities.

People say that our good friend, Harrington Emerson, able and sincere,
will unconsciously give the staff the best of it; while your old dad,
on an even break, will be found on the side of the line. If they are
correct, it leaves plenty of room for the other fellows in between. One
of the delightful foibles that make human nature so interesting and so
lovable is the inborn conviction of the average man that, "though H be
a conservative and K a radical, I am always the happy medium."

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XI.

THE PROBLEM OF THE GET-RICH-QUICK CONDUCTOR.


Chicago, June 17, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Not so very long ago the wife of a passenger conductor,
running out of a large southern city, sought the assistance of her
pastor, a noted divine. She was worried by the fact that her husband
was stealing the company's money. With a good woman's intuition she
knew that the wages of sin is death; that sooner or later her husband
would lose his job and his family its legitimate income. To her good,
old-fashioned, unspecialized conscience stealing is stealing, whether
called "embezzlement," "holding out," or "trouble with the auditor."
The fearless evangelist shortly afterward preached a powerful sermon
against stealing, and included passenger conductors in his warnings. So
incensed was the conductor in question that he announced his intention
of disregarding the protection carried by the clerical cloth and of
knocking the minister down. When the two met his bluff was called. The
conductor, not the minister, came to his knees, not in fighting, but in
prayer.

Here, my boy, is a canker sore that must be cured. Do not tell me that
the Order of Railway Conductors is alone to blame. Do not tell me that
in the lodge room the order side-tracks the eighth commandment for the
working schedule. Do not tell me that the order will expel a member for
any other offense rather than for stealing. Do not tell me that our
problem is harder and our revenue less because Ed. Clark, the grand
chief of an order thus lawless, was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt to sit
in judgment on us from the high throne of the Interstate Commerce
Commission. Tell me, rather, that we, the official class, are to blame;
that we must cease to dodge responsibility. We, the educated and
_entrepreneur_ class; we, the elder brothers of society and industry,
cannot shift the burden.

Please do not misunderstand me. There are many honest passenger
conductors. I have known them on the road and in their homes. Some
there are who deserve the more credit for withstanding temptation
because of sickness or extravagance in the family. There are, however,
too many dishonest passenger conductors. It is not enough for a man to
be honest himself. The complexities of modern life make him more than
ever his brother's keeper. He must not only stand for the right but
condemn the wrong. The Order of Railway Conductors must make the
American people believe that it is a great moral force for honesty in
all things. We, the officials, must help the conductors to bring about
this happy result.

The clerk for the corner grocer will not steal from his employer as
quickly as he will from a large corporation. The existence of a
personal employer brings home the moral turpitude by visualizing the
individual wrong committed. Coupled with this higher moral incentive is
the fear of detection through close personal supervision and interest.
In a large corporation we have to approximate to this condition. The
corporation, an impersonal creation, is vitalized by the men charged
with responsibilities. The problem of organization is to give maximum
effectiveness to this vitalization, to utilize to the fullest degree
the personal equations of those entrusted with authority. Many
railroads have lost control of their passenger conductors because of a
fundamental misconception of the principles of true organization.

On the early railways the superintendent was the only officer the
conductor officially knew. The superintendent, close to the president,
was interested in the revenue as well as the disbursement side of the
company's ledger. If the conductor stole, if the returns were short on
a day of heavy travel, the superintendent was among the first to know
it, and to preserve his own reputation, and thereby hold his own job,
promptly discharged the conductor. By and by some conductors graduated
into superintendents. This new condition brought a new temptation. The
conductor, if allowed to keep on stealing, and if favored with a run
where the stealing was especially good, could well afford to whack up
secretly with the superintendent. A few, a very few, superintendents
yielded to this temptation. Along came the auditor with his mistaken
theory that human nature can be changed and men made more honest by
being put in "my department." He said, in effect, "Take this away from
the superintendent, who is dishonest and busy with other things; let
this mysterious specialty of conductors' collections be handled by the
only honest department." So the superintendent was relieved from
responsibility for making his conductors render honest returns. He soon
lost interest in that feature. The roads grew, and superimposed above
the superintendent came first the general superintendent, and then the
general manager, both also relieved from this responsibility to which
the auditor clung with jealous tenacity. The conductor probably could
not have told what principles of organization had been violated. He was
the first to see the easier mark the company had become, the first to
profit by the serious mistake that had been made. He found that his
reports were checked by office clerks hundreds of miles away and
entirely uninformed as to current conditions of local travel. The
superintendent and the other division officials who rode with him and
knew conditions were powerless to check him promptly and effectively
because his reports and returns were going to somebody else over the
hills and far away. These officials, because somebody else was
responsible, did not seem to care very much. So the conductor stole
under their very eyes and got away with it. Anything like this which
begets a wholesale contempt for duly constituted authority is
demoralizing to general discipline. The labor unions are not alone to
blame for the spread of insubordination.

All men are students of practical psychology, whether conscious of the
fact or not. The conductor found that to hold his job he must do well
those things for which the superintendent and the division officials
were responsible. So the bigger thief the conductor became the more
careful was he about other duties. He was a crank on train rules,
perhaps, or made courtesy to the public his watchword. All of this
stood him well in hand. Sooner or later the spotter caught him and the
auditor requested the general manager to order his discharge. When this
got down to the superintendent or the trainmaster the conductor was
called in. Instead of being berated for a thief, if he acknowledged the
corn, the conductor was discharged, half sympathetically, half
apologetically. The division official would have resented the
imputation of harboring or encouraging a thief. To him the conductor
was an efficient, faithful employe, meeting all requirements of
service. If the conductor failed to please somebody else it really must
be the fault of that somebody or the system. This feeling was not
unnatural, since the detection came through a discredited channel, the
spotter. Rare are the circumstances where secret service should be
necessary. There is something inherently wrong in any system which has
to gain routine information by indirect methods. The detective should
not be necessary for checking the good and the bad alike, but only for
following up those who become manifestly bad or notoriously corrupt.
The most efficient system is that where open checking and inspection
are so thorough that temptation is diminished by the ever-present
thought of prompt and sure detection. This desirable condition cannot
obtain where the system makes such important officers as the
superintendent and the trainmaster unconscious attorneys for the
defense, sometimes openly advocating reinstatement of a thief. On the
contrary, from its impersonal nature, a corporation must be so
administered as to gain the moral effect of every available force for
right, to secure the help, however small, of every person connected
with the administration. Views of composite efficiency must converge at
a point sufficiently near to be of practical value, not so remote as to
be of only theoretical interest. No system is perfect. Under any
conditions the very size of a railway necessitates a trifling allowance
for peculation which creeps in. This can, however, be reduced to a
negligible quantity.

So completely has the old system broken down on most railways--there
are a few exceptions--that it has become a farce. It is a sad
commentary on organization that many roads are giving the passenger
conductor up as a bad job and putting on expensive train auditors who
usually are really not auditors, but collectors. They are called
auditors probably because they are under the auditor. It is a principle
of organization that the staff as such should never command the line.
The staff reviews, inspects, audits, studies, advises, suggests and,
perhaps, promulgates, but should never execute, except as a
representative of the line, the latter being responsible for the
results of operation whatever the operation may happen to be. The
accounting department is a staff department. When it was given charge
of a line function, fare collection, a principle was violated. Ultimate
failure of the system was therefore certain and inevitable. The train
auditor proposition fails to recognize this underlying cause. It
further violates principle, intensifies the evil and wastes more money
by increasing the number of staff men doing line work. Its direct
effects are vicious and its indirect effects are demoralizing to
discipline. How can the young flagman have due respect for his
superintendent or other official when he sees the train auditor come to
the rear platform and demand to see the pass of the official? If he is
an old flagman it is a little hard for him to see why he himself or his
friend, the old station agent, might not have been given this new job
with its fine pay. Like his superintendent the flagman may have been in
the service twenty or thirty years. The train auditor, only last week a
country hotel clerk, mayhap, flashes on them both as a would-be
superior being from a better world. Neither of the two can become very
enthusiastic in helping the train auditor to protect the company's
revenue.

It is an awful reflection for the conductors to meet, that, although
the railroads of this country are now spending hundred of thousands of
dollars for train auditors, they are more than getting it back from
increased collections turned in. Is not this more of a condemnation of
the old system than a justification of the new? Whether or not the
train auditor enters into collusion with the conductor, the former soon
learns how easy it is to beat the system. When he does break loose he
will be more reckless than the conductor. The latter probably had to
work for years as a freight brakeman and a freight conductor to get
where he is, and if he loses out may be too old to begin all over
again. The train auditor gets his appointment too easily to value it
very highly. Offsetting this is the fact that the train auditor is more
amenable to some discipline because, as yet unorganized, he can not
rely on the support of a labor union to secure his reinstatement. The
auditor also has the advantage of examining character from a wider
range of selection in choosing his train auditors. The train and engine
services have been so badly over-specialized, as I shall show you some
other time, that our choice is restricted to men whom the trainmaster
happened to hire as extra brakeman years ago. These slight advantages
in favor of the train auditor system have been given undue weight. We
are all too much inclined to dodge responsibility, to take the course
of least resistance and to pass it up to the other fellow. The company
pays the bill.

The railways of this country are wasting hundreds of thousands of
dollars every year by failure to make the conductors do their honest
duty. I would like to have you immortalize yourself by saving your
company its pro-rata share of this economic waste. The American people
at heart are honest, and barring a few dishonest traveling men who
short-fare conductors and train auditors with cash, will in the mass
support you and the Order of Railway Conductors in any intelligent
movement for honesty. On the other hand, if the people at large get an
idea that you are omitting to use all the moral forces at your command
they will organize some more special commissions to handle another part
of your business for you. Do not let the people get the idea that where
passenger fare stealing flourishes, freight claims increase because
some freight crews are robbing box cars, and expenses increase because
some officials are grafting.

If I were your president I would ask authority of the board of
directors, a staff body, to say, as a line officer, to you, also of the
line, that as chief operating official you are the only passenger
conductor with whom the executive and staff departments will normally
deal; that your tenure of office depends quite as much upon your
ability to prevent stealing as to prevent accidents. To the auditor I
would say that he is responsible for certifying to the integrity of all
components of your operations by proper examinations _after the
fact_; that he has access to all your accounts and records; that he
has no direct authority over any operating men; that all his
instructions must be in general terms duly approved by the proper
executive. Then he would be a real auditor instead of a chief
accountant. We would not have to call in the public accountant to do
our real auditing. You would be a real general manager.

Assuming that the proposition is up to you, then say to each division
superintendent that he is the only conductor on the division in whom
normally you will be personally interested; that the conductor will
send either the original or a duplicate of every report made by him to
the superintendent's office, addressing it impersonally, "Assistant
Superintendent." Let the superintendent understand that he and his
assistant superintendents when riding over the road on duty at the
company's expense must openly check the train just as they check train
orders. Pitch it on the high plane of self-evident routine duty for
duty's sake, above any thought of underhanded spotting. Give the
superintendent as many assistant superintendents and clerks as he may
need. Do not let him employ specialists for this one simple component
of operation. Have him bulletin train earnings by conductors that the
dear women may help the cause by sewing society discussion. Let him
have the community understand that some explanation is expected from a
get-rich-quick conductor. By this time it will dawn on the
superintendent and his assistants that their jobs depend upon the
prevention of stealing. Their unconscious sympathy with the thief will
vanish. Because they are close enough to the proposition to give
practical attention they will prevent stealing.

I am aware that passenger conductors often run over more than one
division. This presents no serious practical difficulty, although for
many other good reasons also it is better, when practicable, for
conductors not to run off the division. Pullman conductors run from
their home district over the districts of several of their
superintendents.

You and the auditor will have to work out the details as to the
necessary bureau in your office, depositaries for money, interline
relations and numerous other propositions which usually become
self-suggesting when the broad working principles are established. You
may, perhaps, need another assistant general manager for this work. You
will not have the trouble a general manager in Mexico once did. His
assistant general manager sold out, it is said, to the conductors.
These conductors, mostly Americans, were an enterprising lot. They are
also said to have bought the detective agency that was employed to
check them up.

On some runs where the conductor is busy with numerous train orders you
may find it better to make the head brakeman a collector, but never let
him be a specialist independent of the conductor.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XII.

THE LABOR NEMESIS AND THE MANAGER.


Omaha, Neb., June 24, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--You tell me that you are conducting labor negotiations
these days. As I understand it, all the old grievances have been
merged; after eliminating all demands introduced for trading purposes
it is simply a question of more money. This simplifies the proposition.
The union gets all that it can and the general manager gives up only
what he must. Simple, but barbaric. Such innocent bystanders as the
public and the stockholders may get hurt in the process, but that is
part of the penalty for being innocent bystanders. We are in a
transition period. All the hot air fests that you are now holding are
probably necessary to blow the chaff away from the wheat. Sooner or
later the irrevocable law of supply and demand must operate to place
the whole matter of the compensation of labor upon a more scientific
basis. At present it is rather the strength of the particular union
than the relative justice of its demands.

Our predecessors of two generations ago did many fine things, but they
overlooked some basic propositions. Suppose that fifty or sixty years
ago when a brakeman expected to be promoted to a conductor they had
said: "Fine, my boy. You have the ear-marks of a conductor. You
understand, of course, that we have no conductors who cannot run an
engine. We will arrange, without money loss to you, for you to fire two
or three years. When you assure us of your ability to run an engine we
will begin to commence to talk about making you a conductor." Later on
a man with this splendid all-around training could have specialized
along the line of his greatest aptitude. We would not see freight tied
up in terminals waiting for firemen, with a board full of extra
brakemen. There would be an elasticity of assignment that would work
out for the good of all concerned. We would not have the fireman
straining his back to shovel fifteen or twenty tons of coal while a
different breed of cat, a brakeman, rides on the fireman's seat and
forgets to ring the bell when the train starts.

We blame the unions for expensive lack of interchangeability of
function. The fault lies at the door of the official class. The master
mechanic said: "This is _my man_." The superintendent, and later the
trainmaster, said: "This is _my man_." This pleasing tenacity for
so-called individuality left the company out of the reckoning. The
company got it where the chicken got the axe, sweet Marie. It did not
take the men long to respect the plane of cleavage which the officials
had projected. So we have a number of unions with conflicting demands
rather than the more enlightened self-interest of a larger body. I know
that it has been fashionable to play one union against another, but the
day of this is nearly passed. Just how it will all work out I do not
know; perhaps it is too late to expect amalgamation. Perhaps it will
come of itself when the Firemen and Enginemen absorb or replace the
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and when the Trainmen outlive the
Order of Railway Conductors. Whatever the cause and whatever the
existing conditions the result is plain. We have a number of forces
operating to restrict the output of capable men. The economic machinery
of society at large is therefore out of balance. You cannot blame the
artisan, skilled or unskilled, for guarding the entrance to his craft.
It is human nature, and it is right. The debatable ground, however, is
as to where the entrance of the public at large should be to prevent
the matter being over-done. No one labor organization can expect, in
the long run, to be given preferred consideration over another; neither
can the labor unions, comprising only a small percentage of the
country's population, expect indefinitely to dominate society at large.

It is useless to expect to accomplish much in the way of increased
elasticity of labor as long as railway officials, through so-called
departments, insist upon narrowing and specialized rigidity. Such
reforms to be effective must begin at the top. It will all come out in
the wash, but in the meantime the laundry bills are disproportionate
and may place cleanliness far beyond godliness.

General Sherman, one of the versatile geniuses developed by our great
Civil War, once said that most men consider the immediate at the
expense of the remote; that a few like himself were handicapped by
considering the remote rather than the immediate; that really great
men, like Grant, derived their title to greatness from an ability to
balance the immediate and the remote. All men are more or less a
product of conditions and environment. The railroad official of to-day
lives from hand to mouth--the hand of expediency to the mouth of
rapid-fire results. When more roads are like the Pennsylvania in having
the stability which admits of intelligent, far-seeing, actual control
by directors and executive officers, it will be easier. The banker,
from his condition and environment, dreads a war or a strike more than
the famine and the pestilence. The former two seem to him to be
avoidable, while the latter may be visitations of Providence.

A strike, like a war, is a terrible thing to contemplate. A surrender
to principle and violation of the broad laws of true altruism can be
even more terrible. Last year when the Pennsylvania, backed by its
directors, called the bluff of the Trainmen, there was hope in many a
breast that a lesson would be learned; that the rights of the community
at large would be vindicated as against the unreasonable demands of the
powerful few. How quickly did the Trainmen find an excuse to back down!
Their friend and adviser, the late Edward A. Moseley, shrewd and
scheming, once told them that their best weapon is a threat of a strike
and not the strike itself. By and by the bankers will learn these
lessons and bargaining will be scientific and altruistic as well as
collective and coercive.

Perhaps you are thinking that, like the minister who lectures the
members present for the non-churchgoing of the absentees, I am taking
too much of this out of you. We all know, as do the labor leaders, that
no general manager ever went through a long strike, successful or
unsuccessful, without ultimately losing his job. The directors start
out with the best intentions of supporting him. As the struggle grows
fiercer, the temporarily reduced earnings have a refrigerating effect
on their feet. This cold storage is reflected by a message to the brain
that the poor Mr. General Manager is so unfortunate; that he lacks
tact. "He is so rash. He jumps right in. We told him he might go out to
swim and hang his clothes on a hickory limb. We cautioned him, as all
prudent mothers should, not to go near the water." Everything in this
world costs something, and nothing is more expensive than an unjust
peace, a peace which leaves out of the reckoning the rights of the body
politic.

One of the hopeful signs of the times is the opposition that the labor
unions have offered to the exponents of so-called scientific
management. Already our critics are giving indications of becoming our
allies as against the hard-headed, selfish opposition of labor unions
to progress. This will serve to help show the public our problems in
their true light. All that we need ask is a fair hearing, and
ultimately the calm judgment of the American people will decide aright.

I have no quarrel with the labor union, as such. Were I in the ranks I
would belong to a union and give it my loyal support. Monopoly and
combination of capital beget as a corollary a labor trust. You and I
are powerless to eliminate the effect of such natural, economic forces.
We can, however, help control the effect of these forces, preferably by
reason. There are so many of the primal instincts and passions still
extant in human nature that at times diplomacy exhausts itself and
falls back upon the protection of forces offensive and defensive,
active and passive.

You see that it is merely a phase of a general problem that a
disproportionate amount of your time is taken up by affording an
opportunity for delegates to make their lodges believe they are earning
their per diem and expenses. What matters it to the locomotive
engineers if their importunities cause scant attention to the unspoken
rights of your clerks and trackmen? Why not figure out just what
proportion of your time the different organizations are entitled to,
shut off senatorial courtesy and limit debate accordingly?

Whatever you do, have your division superintendents present at your
negotiations. Do not flatter yourself that your own wonderful ability
will enable you to take a sound position on every question that may
arise. Such deliberations are staff work and, unlike line
administration, are not a one-man function. The final decision should
rest with you, but in the meantime get all the light you can. Under the
unit system the superintendent can be thus spared from his division to
help save the company money because there is always a competent man to
perform his duties, and a provision all along the line for automatic
successions to meet just such incidents of service. It should be as
easy for a chief assistant superintendent, familiar with the routine,
to assume the superintendent's regular duties any day as for the second
dispatcher to work the first trick. When your mechanical assistant
conducts his shop negotiations, by all means insist that he direct the
superintendent to send in each mechanical assistant superintendent to
assist in the conferences.

One reason that the labor situation has gotten away from us is because
the matter has been handled on too large a scale. The tendency has been
to consider the abstract possibilities rather than the concrete effort.
A superintendent of a 140-mile division once recommended approval of an
application for increase in wages of his milk train crew, because the
men on the next division were getting as much for running only 105
miles. Investigation showed that his men were on duty less than six
hours, of which the total time consumed in handling milk cans was a
trifle over an hour. Each general manager is inclined to believe that
his men will get the worst of it as compared with other roads. He has
been inclined to yield when he should have been firm. The further away
from the concrete local conditions the negotiations can be conducted
the more vulnerable are the officials. The labor leaders know this, and
the more divisions or the more roads they can bunch in a single
negotiation or arbitration the more unwieldy becomes the proposition
and the greater the gain for labor. This condition of things was partly
inevitable, is now partly avoidable. Uniformity may be deadly.
Standardization can be run in the ground, as was shown when a West
Virginia agent of the Chesapeake & Ohio painted his wooden-leg orange
color with maroon trimmings.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XIII.

A DEPARTMENT OF INSPECTION OR EFFICIENCY.


Chicago, July 1, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--One of the easiest things to measure, because definite in
terms and limited in quantity, is money. The things which money may
represent are hard to measure because often intangible and indefinite.
The money account may or may not reflect efficiency in performance.
Have we not been grasping at the shadow of money at the expense of the
substance, effect? Consider, if you please, the working of a bank,
perhaps the corporate institution in whose efficiency the public has
the greatest confidence. In a small country bank one man does all the
work. Later he requires a clerk or a bookkeeper. As the bank grows
there are self-suggesting divisions of labor along such well defined
positions as teller, paying or receiving, cashier, vice-president,
president, etc. In the first place, the same man handles the money and
its written representations, the accounts. When we reach the stage of
having both a teller and a bookkeeper, the one is a check on the other,
because of a difference in point of view. I do not understand that a
bank considers its bookkeepers more honest than its tellers or vice
versa. The bookkeeper came along to check the teller, not because of
such marked variations in humanity, but because of the volume of
business. There was more than one man could do.

The large corporations, including the railways, seem to have followed
governments into a fundamental fallacy in the matter of money and
accounting. Because, now and then, in spite of safeguards, a trust is
violated and money embezzled, a remedy is sought by segregating in
administration all activities having to do directly with fiscal
affairs. The ultimate effect is dwarfing to administration and fatal to
maximum composite efficiency. In a compact establishment like a
department store or a large manufacturing plant, the closer contact of
the departments concerned minimizes the evils of this segregation. The
operations of a government or of a railway extend over so much
territory that such close contact is impossible. The result is that our
bookkeeper is too far away from the paying teller. The bookkeeper then
arrogates to himself fancied qualities of a superior being blessed with
a rectitude born of the guardianship of money. Yes, we must have the
transactions of one man checked by another more or less disinterested.
This is not alone a question of integrity, but concerns the failings of
the human mind. The more conscientious and careful the engineer the
more does he desire a check on his own calculations by competent
persons. We accept the estimates of the engineer, swallow them whole
sometimes. We tell him to go ahead and blow in the company's money or
credit to accomplish a desired result. This is because we have
confidence in his professional ability. When it comes to one of the
components of his constructing work, the disbursement of real money, a
lay function, we balk. We say to him, this is so different that your
vouchers and checks are worthless until mulled over by a distant
circumlocution office. This office, it is true, has no first hand,
practical knowledge of what you are doing, but because this is money we
feel safer by imposing such a check. When the bookkeeper sat in the
same room, like a bank, and checked the engineer, this was a good
working hypothesis. Did we not outgrow it long ago? We trust the
engineer to hire a thousand men, to incur a legal obligation for us to
pay them. Why send the pay-rolls several hundred miles to be checked by
a lot of boys? Why not let the engineer disburse, subject to a real
check, after the fact, by a competent disinterested inspection of his
work?

The same general line of reasoning applies to all the activities of a
railroad. We endeavor to insure integrity by disbursing only through
the central offices of the auditor and the treasurer. By the same
reasoning a large bank would keep its customers waiting at one window
because only one teller would be allowed to pay out money. A bank can
count its cash at the end of a day, but it can never tell exactly what
remittances its correspondents have in the mail. A railway's money is
even more in a state of unstable equilibrium. All night long some of
its ticket offices and lunch counters are open. All night long cash
fares are being collected on trains. The exact amount of money on hand
at a given moment is only an approximation. This is natural from the
characteristics of a railway. It would be a hard matter to stop every
train and determine the exact location of every freight car, at home or
earning per diem, at any particular moment of time. We can, however,
approximate sufficiently closely to the conditions to serve all
practical purposes.

Tremble not at my coming, Clarice; I would not push the auditor off the
pier. Rather would I put him on the band wagon and let him blow a
bigger horn. Is not accounting one of several components of operation
of which collection and disbursement are yet others? Why not frankly
admit that a railway is too unlike a department store to put all the
cashiers and bookkeepers on a single floor? Why not interweave
accounting with operation? Why not make such operating units
self-contained, as experience may prove wise and practicable? Some of
the best roads in the country now have division accounting bureaus in
order that the superintendent may keep his operating expenses in hand.
The next step must be a division disbursing officer. A pay-roll and
certain kinds of vouchers, including some for claims, must become cash
without the worthless certification of the general office.

Returning once more to the bank for inspiration and for light, do
the bookkeepers of a chain of associated banks report to a head
bookkeeper in a central office in a distant city? No, each bank is
a self-contained unit under the president or a manager. The policy
is dictated, the methods are prescribed by a central authority.
Efficiency, integrity, and uniformity are insured by inspections and
audits by competent experts free from local affiliations.

What is going to become of the accounting department? Why, the
accounting department is going to be absorbed by the operating
department. From the ashes of the ruins there will arise a department
of inspection or efficiency which will do the things that the so-called
auditors are now helpless to accomplish. Some of the men in this new
department will be recruited from the earnest officials and clerks of
the accounting department of to-day. These men fail to attain the result
they so loyally desire, not from their own limitations, but from the
fallacy of the system under which they work. They deal with
accounts--mere symbols; with money, a representative. Their work, to be
effective, must deal with things, and above all with men. Audit is
extremely important, but not all-important. Audit is a component part
of a larger activity, inspection. The word inspection on railways is
unfortunately and improperly associated with the thought of secret
service and underhanded spotting. True inspection is as open as the day
and as welcome as the evening. The earlier station agents resented the
creation of the traveling auditor as a reflection upon their integrity.
The station agent of to-day--and as a class what splendid, honest men
they are!--welcomes the traveling auditor, because his visit means a
clearance. The public accountant had a long fight for recognition of
his legitimate function, first in England and later in this country.
To-day he is established and is desired by the general accounting
officers of railway corporations.

Following the public accountant comes the efficiency engineer. While
one inspects conditions, the other audits accounts. By an easy process
of evolution the two positions sooner or later merge into one. The
volume of business may warrant segregation, however, into component
activities. Sooner or later the final certificate must include
inspection of men and things as well as audit of accounts.

We, the railways, are big enough to have our own efficiency engineers.
This is a distinct function for the staff as contra-distinguished from
the line. Efforts, more or less crude, to introduce special staff work
have signally failed on a number of railways. The underlying cause has
been a violation of the principle that the staff can never as such
directly command the line. The temptation of the special staff men,
call them inspectors or efficiency engineers, if you please, is to
become meddlers. They are so enthusiastic for the cause that they
desire to save the country and reform the road all on the same day. The
men who succeed at special staff work are those who stick to the
principle enunciated. An inspector, because he is a staff officer,
should never give an order.

The coming new department of inspection or efficiency, like all
innovations, will have its troubles. One of the temptations will be to
build up an office full of clerks to check a lot of unnecessary
reports. The head of the department, whether he be called general
inspector or vice-president, will have to remember that untrained
persons do not necessarily become endowed with superior intelligence
and professional acumen by the privilege of personal contact with him
and assignment to his department. To be successful his department will
consist of a corps of highly trained inspectors of official rank and
experience, capable of first hand dealing with things and men. The
tendency of both inspection and audit is to become perfunctory. One
remedy, found efficacious by the Army, is definite and periodic
rotation from the line positions. The law of the survival of the
fittest will bring out those all-around men who can succeed in both
line and staff. The superintendent who has been detailed as an
inspector for a year or two will return to a division with a broader
view and will be a better superintendent. He will not resent the
inspection of his division by the other department, because conscious
of the fact that the inspectors are at least his equals, and perhaps
his superiors, in experience and rank. These inspectors will certify
not only that the money has been honestly and legally expended, but
wisely and efficiently as well. While an absolute essential, honesty is
not the only component requirement of good administration. The one road
on which good intentions are standard ballast is not as yet
telegraphing its accidents and its density of traffic to the Interstate
Commerce Commission.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XIV.

PRESERVING ORGANIZATION INTEGRITY.


Chicago, July 8, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--You write me that your work is heavy, that your territory
is extensive, that you wish to divide it into two districts each under
a general superintendent. If your president follows his usual practice
and asks my advice it will be summed up in four letters, "d-o-n-'t."
For years I have been seeking in vain for a general superintendent's
district with an entirely satisfactory administration. I know many
strong general superintendents. The trouble is not with them, but with
the system. Organization is a series of units. These units get out of
balance when they are defective or incomplete. There is usually
withheld from the general superintendent some such vital process as car
distribution, on the specious plea that such activity is so different
it can be more cheaply handled by some higher office. If the
organization unit is created it must have the same full chance for life
and development as the rest of the offspring. A principle in
organization cannot be violated with impunity any more than in other
branches of science.

The average general superintendent's office is a great clearing house
for correspondence. Few matters receive final action and many are
passed along to the general manager's office. The resulting delay
usually does more harm than good. On the other hand, since we all like
to feel that we are highly useful, the general superintendent, or his
chief clerk, is unconsciously dwarfing the initiative of
superintendents by requiring references to him of matters that should
receive final action at division headquarters. If you do not believe
it, check up a few general superintendents' offices and study the
processes. I am not referring to jurisdictions where a general
superintendent is required by charter or other legal requirements. I
have in mind districts which are arbitrarily created by ill-considered
executive mandate.

The general superintendent starts out with a brave determination to get
along with a small staff. Sooner, rather than later, human nature
asserts itself; he feels that _my man_ can be more useful if he is on
_my staff_. He builds up a larger staff with an inevitable retarding
bureau of correspondence. He perhaps has a $200 traveling engineer
finding fault with the division performance of the $300 superintendent.

Sometimes a general superintendent is located at a large city under the
theory that the importance of the metropolis demands an officer of
higher rank. There are various ways to skin a cat, and the method we
have seen is not necessarily the only solution. The Pennsylvania
handles successfully large cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland and
Chicago with a superintendent who has the authority of a general agent.

The unit system of organization, because based on sound fundamental
principles, solves several vexatious problems. Among these is this
matter of general superintendents' districts. Under the unit system
every assistant should have his office of record in the same building
with the head of the unit. For example, it is a violation of good
organization to give a district passenger agent the title of assistant
general passenger agent with an office of record at a city away from
the general offices. If such outlying office of record is necessary,
and it sometimes is, a complete unit should be segregated under a head
with some such distinct title as district or division passenger agent.
This does not, however, preclude having an assistant reside in the
outlying city and maintain his office of record at the general office
in the same file with the head of the unit.

If I were you I would appoint enough assistant general managers so that
you can have one reside at each point where you have dreamed district
headquarters are necessary. Give him a business car and a stenographer,
but let him understand that his office file is a part of yours. Let him
live on the road as a high class traveling inspector, superior in rank
to the people he is inspecting. He is your staff officer with line
authority available for action when in his judgment circumstances so
require. He can obtain all necessary information from the files at
division headquarters or by telegraphing your office. Your chief of
staff, the senior assistant general manager, will promulgate
instructions, while this traveling representative, like a trainmaster
on a division, will see that they are carried out. When he finds it
necessary to give instructions he should promptly notify your office,
that the record may be completed and confusion avoided. He can do all
this without becoming bureaucratic, without putting the company to the
expense of a great circumlocution office maintained under the feudal
notion of his royal importance. Railroad administration suffers from
too many offices and instructions, not from too few. The best
officials, and the best train dispatchers, give the fewest orders. It
is a qualitative rather than a quantitative proposition.

The moral effect of the presence of an official cannot be discounted.
We need more officials and fewer clerks. The railways are over-manned,
because they are under-officered. The great mistake of the past, due to
crude conceptions of organization, has been in creating offices rather
than officials.

The same line of reasoning applies to the handling of outlying
terminals on a division away from a dispatcher's office. The old idea
has been to locate a trainmaster with an office at such points. The
moral effect of his presence is unquestionably good. The objection is
that he must necessarily be on the road much of the time, and the train
crews are handled by a clerk. Duplication results because most of the
correspondence and records have to be referred to the superintendent's
office. The Union Pacific has found it better under the unit system to
have an assistant superintendent reside at such important terminals.
His office, however, is located with the superintendent, which
encourages travel back and forth, just what is desired, and discourages
sitting in an office and carrying on correspondence which can better be
looked after by the chief of staff in the superintendent's office. The
train crews are under the immediate direction of the yardmaster when in
the terminal, and of the train dispatcher when on the road.

The railroads of this country have suffered from rigidity in
administration. The unit system permits an elasticity of assignment to
take care of conditions as they come along. For example, your
non-resident assistant general manager can, if desirable, chaperon
three divisions when movement is heavy, and four or five, if you
please, during the dull season. You can on short notice throw all
assistants to the most exposed points. A non-resident assistant
superintendent can likewise be sent to an exposed district. A
permanently located trainmaster requires an official circular to have
his jurisdiction extended, and if suddenly ordered away can leave only
a clerk to represent the company. A railway has an ever-present firing
line. The more mobile the official force the more promptly can weak
portions be reinforced.

A striking violation of the unit principle in organization is to have
the master mechanic report to the division superintendent in
transportation matters and to the superintendent of motive power in
technical matters. This is a half-way attempt at divisional
organization which lacks the courage of conviction. Better have a
straight departmental organization with its divided authority and
expensive duplication than thus to straddle the question. If the
division is to be a real unit, it must be complete and self-contained.
The lack of balance in this attempt at divisional organization comes
from the fact that units are mixed. The superintendent of motive power,
a general officer with jurisdiction over the entire road, is a member
of the general manager's staff. He has a rank and value superior to
that of a divisional officer, the superintendent. The poor master
mechanic is often puzzled which superior to please. His natural
inclination will be toward the man higher up, the superintendent of
motive power. Again, it is difficult for any three men to agree upon
what are technical matters. The chief of staff method is not applicable
to this phase of the problem, because units have been mixed. The master
mechanic and the superintendent of motive power are not components of
the same integral unit. The unit system of organization requires a
superintendent of motive power to transact all business of record with
the office of the superintendent of the division, a component unit of
the general jurisdiction. The senior assistant general manager and the
senior assistant superintendent, each, as a chief of staff for the head
of his unit, decides promptly in the absence of the head of the unit,
what matters are sufficiently technical to demand the attention of a
particular official. Clear-cut, definite and prompt action is possible,
with proper checks and balances, because units are not mixed. The
governor can introduce a balance without throwing the administrative
machine out of gear to avoid stripping its cogs. The splendid personal
equation of railroad officials often serves to carry an illogical
organization in spite of its fundamental defects. Similar violations of
scientific principles in material things would cause bridges to
collapse and locomotives to break down. The showing made by the
railroads is a tribute to the administrative ability of their officials
rather than to their knowledge of organization. The Pennsylvania a half
century ago, and the Harriman Lines in more recent years, are said to
be the only roads that have made comprehensive studies of the science
of organization. Both of these great railways are prepared to stand the
test of time. Both will grow stronger as the years roll by. So feudal
is the conception of organization on most railways that the essential
elements of self-perpetuation are sadly lacking. Fortunately their
traffic strength is so great and our country develops so fast that
errors due to preconceived misconceptions and personal caprice are
covered up by increased earnings. One encouraging sign is that railway
officials have ceased to be quite so cocksure of themselves and are
seeking the underlying reason for the faith that is in them. True
science ever finds its vindication in impartial inquiry and intelligent
investigation. The world advances by definite steps rather than by
leaps and bounds. Do not lament the fact that some roads are groping
ahead only to occupy the abandoned organization camps of the Harriman
Lines. Be thankful rather that they have moved forward at all, that
though lacking in faith they are coming to a position admitting of
enlarged perspective.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XV.

THE SIZE OF AN OPERATING DIVISION.


Los Angeles, Cal., July 15, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--How many miles of road should one division superintendent
handle? Like the old lady's recipe for pie crust, it all depends. Some
superintendents in the east with two hundred miles handle as much
business as do their western brothers with a thousand. As a matter of
fact mileage has little to do with the question. On the ideal division
the superintendent is in the middle with territory extending one
freight district in each direction. If he happens to be at a hub he can
comfortably handle several freight district spokes, which will increase
his mileage accordingly. Under such a condition the advantages of a
seemingly large mileage are numerous. The superintendent can run his
power wherever most needed. He can hold back at the farther end of one
district cars that he knows the connecting district cannot possibly
load or unload for several days. He can preserve a balance which is
impossible when jurisdictions divide at the hub. In the latter case
each superintendent hurries freight to the end of the division to avoid
a paper record showing delay on his territory. The result is that the
next man has terminal indigestion because he has been fed too fast.
Therefore, divisional jurisdiction should, when possible, change at an
outlying district terminal away from a large city. This avoids the
added complication due to industrial switching, suburban trains,
restricted area, etc., etc. A congestion of cars is often caused by a
congestion of jurisdictions. You may avoid the one by diffusing the
other. Several roads in the country have saved heavy expenditures for
larger terminal facilities by more scientific organizations.

The amount of mileage a superintendent can economically handle depends,
then, for the most part upon the location of his headquarters. Such
location in turn admits of no hard and fast rule. Cities and towns
spring up and industries develop quite regardless of the limits of a
hundred-mile freight district and a speed of ten miles per hour on the
ruling grade. A railroad usually begins and ends at a large city which
is either a seaport or a gateway. It is normally better to locate a
division superintendent at such beginning and ending city. He can then
handle its terminals and the one or more diverging freight districts.
His division should include the terminal at the farther end of such
districts, to afford him opportunity both to hold back stuff whose
inopportune arrival might congest the more complicated terminals at
headquarters and to relieve such terminals promptly by movement
outward. In other words, owing to his important terminals this
superintendent should have less mileage than his country brother who
would be in the middle between the second and third districts.

Some roads try to solve the problem by giving the superintendent the
first and second districts with headquarters in the middle. If in such
case the general offices happen to be at the initial point they soon
ignore the superintendent and do business direct with his terminal
subordinates. When this condition becomes intolerable, one of two
things usually happens. Perhaps the superintendent's office is moved to
the first terminal where it really belongs. Thereupon he loses full
touch with his freight crews on the second district, which is left out
in the air. The other attempted remedy is to appoint a superintendent
of terminals reporting direct to the general offices. The difference in
viewpoint thus legalized may cost the stockholders much money. To the
terminal superintendent the trains are always made up on time and the
power and road crews are seldom ready. To the division superintendent
the trains are seldom made up on time and the power and road crews are
always ready. Much energy of both officials and their offices as well
as that of the general superintendent and his office is then directed
to holding useless post mortems and negotiating unnecessary treaties of
peace. Remember, my boy, that typewriters exert no tractive power and
explanations move no cars. Self-preservation is the first law of
nature. We must so organize that this law will operate to keep the
company into clear, not to put some other fellow in the hole. All of
these questions are largely matters of opinion. After working with
every kind of terminal organization all over the country, your old dad
believes that the best is to have a division superintendent at the big
terminal with an assistant superintendent in direct charge of and
responsible for such terminal, the superintendent controlling every
diverging freight district to include the next terminal.

It should always be remembered that a large terminal demands preferred
consideration, because owing to restricted area its problems are
intensive and expensive. A dispatcher has a hundred miles or more over
which to keep his trains apart, while a yardmaster finds his engines
bunched within a mile or two. Again, if the cost of terminal switching
does occasionally happen to be reflected in a freight rate, the genial
gentlemen of the traffic department are prone to recommend its
absorption. I believe as a broad proposition that the management of
railroads is more scientific than that of most modern industries. I
would not like, however, to file much of their terminal operation as an
exhibit. A majority of the switch engines in the United States have one
superfluous man in the crew. This is partly because so few operating
officials have sufficient practical knowledge of switching to go out
and intelligently handle a crew all day. If you don't believe this,
make some time and motion studies of switching. Compare the relative
performance of your yard conductors. The tasks of road conductors are
relatively so well defined that comparison of individual performance is
not so difficult. The intense conditions of a terminal complicate such
differentiation as among yard conductors.

Another factor of prime importance in determining the size of an
operating division is the location of train dispatchers. The
dispatcher's table should always be considered an integral part of the
superintendent's headquarters offices. The train sheet is perhaps the
best record on a railroad. It is never fudged by being made up in
advance. It is a history usually unimpeachable because it is so close
to the actual transactions which it records. It deals with the essence
of railway operation, train movement. Few are the important records on
a railway that do not derive their primary data from the train sheet.
The sheet may be graphic, like a daily time card chart, or may be cut
up into card strips, as under the A B C system. In any form, it is a
fundamental of operating history.

The number of dispatchers to which a division is limited is, like the
number of miles, variable. With headquarters at the hub, one
superintendent and one chief dispatcher may comfortably handle three or
four sets of dispatchers. An outlying division with thin traffic may
require only one set of dispatchers. When it becomes necessary to
locate a set of dispatchers away from division headquarters, it is time
to appoint another superintendent and create a new division, perhaps
with only a light staff of all 'round officials. So important is the
train sheet and so much of vital, human interest centers around a
dispatcher's office, that the far away superintendent must refer much
correspondence to this detached portion of his office. The result is
expensive circumlocution and a lack of human touch. The superintendent
has in effect become a general superintendent too far away from real
things. A trainmaster or a chief dispatcher is really carrying the
responsibility of a superintendent without the title and authority
necessary for smooth administration. I know several railways that are
fooling themselves into the belief that they are saving money by having
one superintendent for two dispatching offices. One of them has five
superintendents and ten dispatching offices, really ten divisions in
fact, if not in name. By a logical arrangement of territory these ten
dispatching offices could be consolidated into seven division
headquarters and the road operated in seven divisions. In these days of
overtime and complex working schedules, a timekeeper should check the
time slips against the original train sheet, not against a copy, a
transcript or an excerpt. A division accounting bureau handling all
that it should handle has also much other use for the train sheet.

Second only in importance to the train sheet as a record, and with
which it should be closely related, is the conductor's car and tonnage
report; what the men call the wheel report. This important report made
by a division man is sent to a remote general office in disregard of
the responsible head of such division, the superintendent. The result
is that a distant authority, the superintendent of transportation, is
telling the superintendent that certain cars are being delayed on the
latter's division. This profuse correspondence is often foolish,
because meantime the cars have actually gone. Some roads now have a
carbon copy of the wheel report made for the use of the accounting
department. Why not send this carbon to division headquarters and let
the division accounting bureau make up the ton miles and the car miles,
subject to proper check after the fact? Why not have the office of the
superintendent know so much about the cars on his division that he will
tell the general offices that certain cars are being delayed on his
division for lack of motive power, loading or disposition, conditions
which, perhaps, the general office, with its larger view, can remedy?
This would also permit, when desirable, the checking of the agents' car
reports against the conductors' reports. The more closely to actual
transactions we can do our checking the more intelligent should be the
process and the smaller its volume.

I wish that you would come out here and see the Southern Pacific run
its monthly supply, pay and inspection train. Before coming, re-read my
letter to you on the subject some seven years ago. I know of no place
where the idea has been better carried out. Ideas seldom originate with
any one man. They seem rather to float around in the air. They are
pulled down by those who happen to erect lightning rods or like
Benjamin Franklin to fly kites. To vary the metaphor, do not laugh at
people who ride hobbies. Sometimes they ride well enough and far enough
to demonstrate that the hobby is a real horse. Then it is the turn of
the horse to laugh.

Whenever I see an announcement that a division has adopted the
telephone for train dispatching, I always feel that there should be an
accompanying apology for being several years behind the times. For
years progressive young railway men advocated the telephone only to be
assured by old-time dispatcher officials of the unwisdom of such a
course. Time and practical tests have shown that not only is the
telephone practicable for dispatching, but it actually makes operation
safer because of the increased human touch. Whenever and wherever we
can replace a specialist with an all 'round man we are gaining.

The first train dispatching is said to have been done by Charles Minot
when a superintendent on the Erie in the early fifties. So seriously
was the matter taken that only the superintendent himself could issue a
train order, even though this involved calling him out of bed. Hence
the foolish feudal custom of signing the superintendent's initials to
all train orders. It soon developed that a regular dispatcher was
necessary. Accordingly, a conductor, a man who knew how trains were
practically handled, was taken off the road and brought to the
superintendent's office to dispatch trains. Stop off at Port Jervis,
N.Y., some time and in a local hotel see the portraits of some of
these old Erie dispatcher-conductors, their dignity being protected
by the tall beaver hats of the period. The dispatcher not being a
telegrapher, he wrote out his orders and handed them to a young
operator to send. This operator was a bright fellow, who, by and by,
graduated into a dispatcher, able to send his own orders and often to
do the work previously requiring both men. Too often it has happened
that the experience of the new dispatcher, a telegrapher specialist,
was limited to the office end, with no firsthand experience in train
service. The telephone, fulfilling the immutable laws of evolution,
will take us back to first principles. The dispatchers of the future
will graduate from the train, engine and yard service, through the
dispatcher's office to higher official positions. The man who gives the
order will be a man who has once carried out such an order himself. The
man below will obey the more cheerfully and the more intelligently
because of increased confidence in the man above.

When the record is made up by the future historian, with that
discriminating perspective which time alone can give, high will be the
place accorded the railroad officials and employes of America. The
military, the pioneers of civilization, the forerunners of stability,
have their periods of enervating peace. Transportation, the first
handmaiden of progress, is in active attendance every day of the year.
Those who worship at her shrine and follow her teachings must lead the
strenuous life and love the voice of duty. The splendid, virile
performance of the past, handicapped often by crude facilities and
forced expansion, must and will be eclipsed under the intense, trying
conditions of the present and the future. In no profession more than in
ours is there eternity of opportunity.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XVI.

SUPPLIES AND PURCHASES.


Salt Lake City, Utah, July 22, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Supplies and purchases are a feature of railroad
operation illustrating the tendency to overcentralization through
overspecialization. Please notice that I say supplies and purchases;
not as some roads do, purchases and supplies. Is not "supply" the
broader term, including "purchase" as a very important component? If we
happen to make some of our supplies from our own scrap, a question of
supply and accounts is involved, but not necessarily one of purchase.
The volume of work involved in purchasing for a large railway may be so
great as to warrant the segregation of the purchasing function.

Among the best purchasing bureaus in the United States are those of the
Harriman Lines. As I understand it, their able director of purchases
does not, as many people suppose, scrutinize all requisitions. Each of
the eight vice-presidents and general managers has his own purchasing
agent, who, under the broad policy of local autonomy, buys many
articles as best he can. Those large items which experience proves can
best be bought for all by the director of purchases, are so purchased
under blanket contracts. For those items the local purchasing agent
becomes an ordering agent. The point of it all is that no iron clad
rule is laid down. Because some items can best be purchased in bulk, it
does not follow that local administration should be hampered by
requiring all items to be so procured. Instead of a narrow, rigid rule,
there is a broad policy enunciated which permits the discriminating
judgment of experience, to decide questions on their individual merits
under the ever-changing conditions of service.

When railroads are older similar broad treatment will be accorded other
features of operation as well as supplies and purchases. Broad policies
and individual judgment will gradually supplant attempts to decide
questions in advance in accordance with preconceived notions of
probable conditions.

The evolution of the so-called store department on most railways has
been a striking instance of one-sided development. A railway exists to
manufacture and sell an intangible commodity, transportation, not
necessarily to carry either a large or small stock of material and
supplies. The purchasing agent tells us in good faith how much money he
has saved the company by time spent in driving good bargains. He is not
in a position to know how many men have been worked to poor advantage,
or have been idle, while waiting for proper tools, materials and
supplies. Such features of economic waste are not always the fault of
the purchasing agent. The general storekeeper and the local
storekeeper, ambitious for low stock records, may hold down their
requisitions. It is so easy to say that a telegram will bring a
cylinder head or other spare part to the desired point. If meantime a
big locomotive has been out of commission in a distant roundhouse for
two or three days and a light engine has been sent to protect the run,
there is nothing in the store accounts to reflect this needless
expense. The individual batting averages are high, but some way the
team is not winning games.

One of the fallacies introduced by the store people is that the user of
material cannot be trusted with its custody, because he will carry too
much stock, due to an exaggerated view of future necessities. This
mistaken theory is carried to the extent of denying to the division
superintendent the custody of fifty shovels to be used by the emergency
gang of fifty men which it is entirely within his province to order out
to clear the road. The men he can command. The shovels, without which
the men are useless, he must beseech from a storekeeper receiving,
perhaps, one-third as much salary as himself. Of course, in an
emergency, the superintendent takes the shovels, anyway. As I said
before, it is a pretty poor system that breaks down in an emergency.
The test of a system is an emergency. I confess my inability to see
that being a user of material necessarily makes a man more indifferent
to the company's interests. Perhaps it is the same habit of mind that
causes me to deny greater rectitude to the man in the accounting
department.

The user of material has undoubtedly been careless in many cases. Will
he not become more careless if relieved of responsibility and informed
that he cannot be trusted? When children err, the wise parent does not
disown them. From his fund of riper experience, he helps them by
impressive teaching to gain a proper viewpoint. Similarly, the general
storekeeper should control the superintendent and teach the latter the
most economical handling and use of material and supplies. Control is
comparatively valueless without authority. This authority can be most
effectively conveyed by rank. The general storekeeper should not be a
keeper of a general store. He should be a general officer, under the
general manager, superior in rank and pay to the division
superintendent. Instead of the superintendent being relieved from
responsibility, he should be held to a greater accountability. The
reformed and reconstructed bandit often makes a relentless police
chief. The despised user of material under proper organization becomes
the zealous conserver and protector.

The general storekeeper, like the chief mechanical officer, should be
located in the same building with the general manager. There is no more
reason for locating either one at a store or at a shop than there is
for locating a general superintendent in a switch shanty near a yard.
General officers must see the whole property and maintain a balance
among its component units, which are normally operating divisions. If I
were you, as between your purchasing agent and your general
storekeeper, I would appoint the most experienced an assistant general
manager, so that his office file can be logically and consistently
consolidated with your own. The other of these two men I would make
purchasing agent with a distinct title and a separate office file,
because of his large volume of business with outside persons. Such
assistant general manager would be in effect manager of supplies and
purchases, the trained expert seeing the whole problem of operation and
deciding normally what material and supplies the company needs. Under
such assistant general manager, would be the purchasing agent, a staff
officer, specializing on the technique and psychology of bargaining.
Such assistant general manager, as a line officer, would be his own
general storekeeper and would hold division superintendents responsible
for the stores on their respective divisions. His work would be
co-ordinated with that of the other assistant general managers by the
chief of staff, the senior assistant general manager.

The organization thus outlined would preclude the necessity for the
usual perfunctory approval of requisitions by the general manager. The
assistant general manager for supplies would normally put the final
approval on requisitions. Large or exceptional items the general
manager would approve. When differences of opinion developed among the
interested assistant general managers as to the relative ultimate
economy of different mechanical or structural devices, the general
manager would be invoked to give a decision that really would be worth
something, because made after considering different viewpoints. Under
the old order of things, the superintendent of motive power or the
chief engineer is tempted to seek the ear of the general manager on the
latter's best natured day to put over a requisition for some pet
device. So sporadic is the comprehensive consideration of requisitions,
so perfunctory is the usual approval, that the general manager
frequently tells his purchasing agent not to take the former's approval
too seriously, and to hold up approved requisitions about which the
latter is doubtful. This is another species of unconscious
administrative cowardice which attempts to put on the subordinate the
burden of responsibility for a departure from the normal. True
organization and administration demand normal procedure by
subordinates. At normal speed, the administrative machine should run
well balanced. When the speed becomes great enough, higher authority
should be a governor brought into action more or less automatically.
Telling a subordinate habitually to question the acts of his superior
has the same cheapening effect as unchecked disregard of block signals.
It puts higher authority in the undesirable attitude of exploiting a
fad, or an over-worked system, rather than of demanding reasonable
compliance with proper and logical requirements.

Have we not overdone the matter of low working stocks? Is it not more
expensive for a railroad to carry too small a working stock of material
and supplies than one too large? Is not the problem too extensive to
warrant very rigid comparisons as between different roads? Like the
average miles per car per day, does not the equation contain too many
variables to admit of a very exact solution? Can we compare effectively
the dissimilar conditions involved in climate, distances from producing
and distributing centers, character of predominating traffic, etc.? Are
not some records for seemingly low economical stocks based upon the
fallacy that it costs the company nothing to ship and reship its own
material? Where would these records land if company material carried a
freight charge of, say, 5 mills per ton per mile? Is it not more
economical to handle numerous items of supply in carload lots
regardless of average monthly consumption? Have we given due weight to
the concealed items of expense in arriving at conclusions as to the
cost of handling company material and supplies?

Two of the best-managed roads in the country, the Pennsylvania and the
Big Four, had no stores departments the last time I inquired. At the
other extreme, we find the Santa Fe and the Lake Shore carrying their
departmental system to their stores in an intensified form. In
between--that happy medium which I mentioned to you--stand the Harriman
Lines with division stores under the division superintendent, who in
turn as to supply matters is under the general storekeeper or other
chief supply official, the latter already having in some cases the
title and status of an assistant general manager. The man in direct
charge of the one general store which is allowed each general
jurisdiction is called a storekeeper. The underlying conception is that
railroad stores are maintained to help make the wheels go around, that
all supply activities should be concentrated upon the most economical
manufacture and sale of transportation.

This brings us to another phase of the problem. Frequently a railroad
as a plant is adequate to manufacture more transportation than it can
sell. The other fellow is getting too much of the competitive business.
Investigation often shows that railroad solicitors can sell a shipper
no freight or passenger transportation, because his salesman receives
no orders from the railroad's purchasing agent. The industrial bureau
of a traffic department works to create new business which is fostered
by discriminating freight rates. Yes, I stand up and use the word
"discriminating," because, when properly understood, it implies
intelligence and science, and is therefore one of the finest words in
the language. This good work of the traffic department in creating
wealth and developing industrial communities in territory local to a
particular road may be largely lost to that road because its purchasing
agent, consciously or unconsciously, fails to exercise proper and
legitimate discrimination in the performance of his important function.

At first blush, in these days of doubting insinuation and hysterical
aspersion, when a railway official is often denied the presumption of
possessing common honesty, when the burden of proof is to show him as
having average rectitude, such a statement may be construed by
distorted minds as a plea for subtle forms of rebating. Tenuous as may
seem the line here between right and wrong, it can in a given case be
readily determined. Too often apparent complexities are only the result
of an abstruse contemplation of abstract possibilities. Give honest,
fearless, practical treatment to each concrete case as it arises,
indulge more in inductive reasoning which predicates laws upon facts,
not facts upon laws, and complexity gives way to common sense.
Transportation is the most exacting, the most diversified, the most
far-reaching of commercial and industrial activities. It follows then,
under the law of the survival of the fittest, that those who can
survive in the art and science of transportation must be the fittest of
the fit. In their hands can safely be left the solution of these
difficult problems.

After three years of satisfactory experience with division accounting
bureaus, the Harriman Lines have extended such activities to include
the division stores. This is done by moving the division storekeeper,
his accounting and correspondence clerks, to the division
superintendent's office in order that division records may be
consolidated in one file and division accounts in one bureau. A
division material-on-hand account is included. The necessary issue
clerks, foremen, etc., are left at the storehouse, which is often a
mile or two from the superintendent's office. Another avowed object is
to get the division supply people closer to the train sheet, to give
propinquity a chance to develop love, and to counteract that
we-are-so-different feeling which comes on many railroads, not only in
the spring, but under all signs of the zodiac. The logical development
on divisions of considerable volume of supply business will be to make
the division storekeeper an assistant superintendent. This method of
store accounting is relatively closer to real transactions, especially
where the division supply train is used, than might be supposed. On the
Hill lines, the store accounting is done in the general auditor's
office, perhaps one or two thousand miles from the store itself, a
decidedly long range proposition. Which policy is better is of course a
question of opinion. A man's views on organization and methods are
largely a matter of temperament and association, just as his politics
and religion depend usually upon heredity and environment.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XVII.

CORRESPONDENCE AND EXPLANATIONS.


Portland, Ore., July 29, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--The man who is successful in the exercise of authority
soon learns to be something of a buffer between his superiors and his
subordinates. He learns to temper justice with mercy. In this little
railroad game of ours there has often been an unconscious departure
from this rule of conduct. The word "why" should ask for an increased
overtime rate in its next working schedule. Somebody at the top is
peeved because a train comes in late. He asks the next man below,
"Why?" Down goes the inquiry through the baskets of offices whose files
contain the desired information, because it is so much easier to write
another man a letter than to dig up one of our own. The final inquiry
is to a man who has already rendered one report or explanation. It
would be a pretty poor sort of recording angel that would register
against this underling the more or less justifiable profanity in which
he then indulges.

Up in this part of the country, where they do some mighty good
railroading, is a big hearted general officer, who once, during a
blizzard, directed his superintendents to order train and engine crews
to disregard block signals forced out of commission by the elements. A
section foreman went out to change a rail with the traditional one man
who could not flag both ways. So the section foreman, with the rail
out, relied upon the [automatic] block signal for protection. Along
came the train with orders to disregard the signal--and the engine
landed in the ditch. There was some official talk of discharging the
section foreman. The big general officer faced the music and said, in
effect, that if any enforced vacancies were to occur he himself must be
the man. "Furthermore," he added, "we have learned something; if we are
ever again tempted to disregard block signals, we will first notify
everybody on the railroad, including the section foremen." Such
manliness is the rule rather than the exception among railroad
officers. It is a practical kind of honesty which counts in the great
art of handling men.

The lesson to be drawn is that we should all be just as honest and
considerate for the man below in the conduct of our offices as in the
face to face contact of outside activities. The first thought of an
official and of his chief of staff should be to avoid humiliating a
subordinate. A letter demanding an explanation accumulates much
momentum of censure while traveling, perhaps from the general offices,
through the channels to an agent, a yardmaster, a conductor, or a
foreman. The tendency of each office is to unbottle a little more of a
never-failing supply of suppressed indignation. By the time the return
explanations and apologies have trekked back across the plains to the
starting point, the whole incident is often as much ancient history as
the days of '49.

Yes, we must have explanations for certain irregularities. The taste
for such office pabulum is more or less cultivated. It is a kind of
diet which demands vigilant restraint of appetite. It does not increase
the self-respect of a faithful old employe to write a schoolboy
explanation of something that looked badly on paper in a distant
office. Actual experience has demonstrated that discipline can be
maintained, efficiency increased, and loyalty engendered by greater
politeness and consideration in official correspondence. Instead of the
superintendent or trainmaster writing to a conductor, "Why did you
delay No. 1 at Utopia when you pulled out a draw-bar on the main track
on the 32nd?" why not say, "It is claimed that quicker work on your
part would have avoided delay to No. 1 when your train pulled out a
draw-bar, etc." This leaves it open to the man to explain or to let the
matter go by default. The employe who lets too much go by default is
soon well known to his officers and his cases will receive the special
treatment they deserve. Some officials devote more time to the
gnat-heel measure of explanations than to a broad analysis which will
prevent future irregularities.

To some officials, papers on the desk are a nightmare. For the sake of
a clean desk they will write unnecessary letters and pass the papers to
the men below. The road will not go to pieces if many papers are held
for a personal interview next trip. Because it is now and then
desirable to force some old buck to go on record is no reason for not
separating the sheep from the goats and avoiding the necessity for a
record in a majority of cases. This is another instance where L.C.L.
judgment is worth a whole trainload of rigid bumping posts.

Among the many advantages of the chief of staff should be his ability
to prepare explanations for higher authority from routine reports at
hand without making a special reference of papers to offices below.

Your old dad takes considerable pride in the fact that he never
consciously wrote a sharp letter to a subordinate. Once, when a
trainmaster, and sick in bed, he dictated in a letter to a conductor,
"Hereafter, please take _sufficient_ interest to see that switches are
properly locked." The stenographer improved the phraseology by writing,
"Please take _special_ interest, etc."--see the difference?--which
happy circumstances caused the conductor to come to the sickroom and
express his undying devotion to the cause of locked switches. A
personal interview with a conductor, however, is worth a dozen letters
by a trainmaster.

These same observations apply to the general manager as well as to the
trainmaster. The higher one goes, the more consideration must he
cultivate. If you have something disagreeable to get out of your system
and the typewriter is your only recourse, take it out on your superiors
rather than your subordinates. It is better for the company to have you
fired for insubordination than for you to demoralize the service by
rawhiding men below. You must carry out the policies and instructions
of your superiors. The success of your administration will depend upon
the manner in which you execute the wishes of your superiors and upon
the methods you pursue, as much as upon the inherent merits of the
policies themselves. Flattering yourself, as you probably do, at being
the happiest of the happy in the medium line, see how safe a middle
course you can steer. It will take another generation to eradicate
feudalism in railroad administration. Those whom Fate, opportunity, or
desire has landed in the railroad game must abide by the existing
rules. If out of accord with the policies of those above, be a good
sport and resign like a gentleman. Before doing so, however, be dead
sure that you have not mistaken some trifling inconsistencies of
methods for real incompatibility warranting voluntary separation.

A good friend and a good superintendent down south recently asked me to
preach a little on the necessity for a more dignified tone in railway
correspondence. He cited his correspondence with government offices as
an example of dignified expression. Instead of saying, "Please advise
me," or, "Kindly let me know," or "I wish to be informed," they use
some such impersonal expression as, "Please advise this office," or
"Kindly favor the department," or, "This bureau desires information
concerning, etc." Some people say they like to have an official or an
employe act as if he owned the property. I would not. A man will ride
his own horse to death. When acting as trustee, guardian, or fiduciary,
he will perhaps conserve the property entrusted to his charge more
carefully than if it were his own. Is not a careful trustee better than
a careless owner? Railway officials are trustees as well as hired
hands. Through long traditions of service, the government officer,
however hampered by certain limitations that are inherent in government
administration, forms a habit of mind which prompts first attention to
his employer rather than to himself. On railways we are equally loyal,
but are cruder in our manifestations. We have the feudal conception of
"_my_ railroad" rather than that of "the railroad on which I have the
honor to be employed."

Following the same reasoning, it is better for a man to sign, "John
Doe, for and in the absence of the General Manager," than "Richard Roe,
General Manager, per John Doe." When John Doe acts in the place of
Richard Roe, the former has become the representative of the company,
rather than a facsimile of Richard Roe. The act of John Doe binds the
company, and the papers should show on whom personal administrative
responsibility must be fixed. The phrase, "For and in the absence of,"
explains to the recipient the departure from normal procedure, and to
the company's future reviewer is John Doe's explanation or apology for
seeming usurpation of the functions of higher authority.

When you have signed a letter, no matter by whom suggested or prepared,
it becomes your act for which you are responsible. Do not have its
effect weakened by showing in the corner of the original the initials
of the persons dictating and typewriting. Whether or not such initials
shall be shown on your file carbon for the sake of future reference is
a matter of taste. Such carbon copy record can be made either by a
rubber stamp or by typewriter. With the latter method some
stenographers prefer to slip in a piece of heavy paper to blank the
original and to save the trouble of removing the outer sheet from the
machine. The point is that, however desirable such information may be
for your own office, it is no concern of the recipient of the letter.
It is much more important that the carbon copy should show by rubber
stamp or otherwise who actually signed the original and became
responsible for that completed stage of the transaction.

The impersonal form of address used in government correspondence
precludes the necessity for printing the names of officials on letter
heads. Illegible signatures are a pretty poor excuse for attempting to
issue an official directory in the form of a letter head. The working
conception of the self-perpetuating corporation falls short if we must
alter or reprint our stationery every time an official is changed.

We are wont to look upon government administration as typical of
conservatism and circumlocution. Some things we do much better than the
government. There are things the government does much better than we
do. For example, an officer of the corps of engineers in the Army does
his own disbursing. He controls all the component functions of his
particular activity, including supply and purchase. He is checked up
after the fact by an auditor in Washington. A railway cannot pay most
of its bills until six or seven persons sign a voucher. Number seven
signs perfunctorily because Number six did. Number six likewise is the
cat that killed the rat that ate the malt that caused the voucher in
the house that Jack built. It all comes down to some responsible man
who handled the matter in the first place. Why not trust him, and
perhaps one other, checking them both after the bill has been promptly
paid? A bank check is validated by only one genuine, creditable
indorsement. If drawn to bearer or to self, only one signature is
necessary. I am optimistic enough to believe that you will live long
enough to see railways follow the example of the banks and the
government and pay a legitimate bill with one, or at the most two
signatures. When this is done, however, I trust that due notice will be
given, so that the seismograph stations may have fair warning. If all
the old time auditors turn over in their graves at the same time, the
earth will tremble and the shock will be too great for delicate
instruments.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XVIII.

ORGANIZATION OF THE IDEAL RAILROAD.


Spokane, Wash., August 5, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Someone has asked me how far up and how far down the
principles of the unit system and the chief of staff idea can be
applied. It is too bad the answer is so easy. Otherwise we might
inaugurate a guessing contest and offer prizes. The unit system is
applicable to every phase of modern organization. When its principles
are better understood, you will see develop in the great financial
centers some such important title as vice-chairman, in order that rank
and authority may be conferred superior to that of the presidents of
the constituent properties. Both the chairman and the president need a
senior vice-chairman and a senior vice-president, respectively, to act
as chief of staff. The New York Central once had a senior
vice-president, W. C. Brown, and the St. Louis & San Francisco created
the same position for Carl Gray. When these two able men became
presidents, their former positions were discontinued. Puzzle: Find the
reason. Answers to be sent to the Puzzle Editor, Louis D. Brandeis,
Boston, Mass.

A prominent railway executive, who is also a distinguished bridge
engineer, said to me, "You must be patient until railway people can
measure this big idea in their own little half bushels. I did not see
it clearly until I thought it through in terms with which I am
familiar. I reverted to my graphic statics and measured organization as
a bridge truss. This showed the chief clerk as a short ordinate between
the longest, the head of the unit, and next longest, the official
second in rank. We would never design a bridge that way, for the short
ordinate in between would break under the strain. You interpose the
chief of staff and diminish your strains logically to suit the
decreased resisting power. Why don't you show the old telegraph men and
the electric people the same idea in terms of things with which they
are most familiar? They should see that you can not step down your
potential through an undersized transformer."

Railroad administration is usually said to be divided into four real
departments, namely: the executive, including legal and financial, the
traffic, the operating, including maintenance and construction, and the
accounting. Most railroads place each of these departments in charge of
a vice-president. I think that this is usually a mistake. Experience
has demonstrated the practicability of the same man being a division
master mechanic, for example, and at the same time performing some of
the broader duties of an assistant superintendent. Likewise an
assistant general manager can act as the head of the mechanical bureau
in the general office. When we reach so high as to go beyond the heads
of real departments we find our old friend, volume of business, and his
bastard brother, unbalanced administration, to demand more balance
wheels. The unit has become of too large a size for a single governor.
If you don't believe this, watch somebody try to transfer a bureau,
freight claims, for example, from the department under one
vice-president to that of another.

When I incorporate and organize that ideal railroad it will have a
president, a senior vice-president and as many other vice-presidents as
may be necessary. The vice-presidents will be real assistant
presidents, not heads of departments. Each will be an expert graduated
from some particular department. Such graduation will depend more upon
the man being big enough for a vice-president and possible president
than upon the department itself. Since volume of business warrants
separation of the financial and the corporate from the legal, and of
passenger from freight traffic, I shall have seven departments, under
seven general officers, namely, the general inspector (who will also be
the comptroller), the secretary, the general treasurer, the general
manager, the freight traffic manager, the passenger traffic manager,
and the general counsel. Each of the seven departments will have its
own office file. All of the vice-presidents will have one consolidated
office file in common with the president.

Trusting that these few lines will restrain you for a brief period,
which is Boston & Albany for hold you for a while, let us consider the
application of the unit system to a humbler sphere, that of roadmaster
or track supervisor, who is the head of a highly important sub-unit of
maintenance organization. The roadmaster's clerk is usually paid less
than a section foreman. As a result such clerk is either a callow youth
looking for speedy transfer or an old man married to the job. In the
latter case, after one change in roadmasters the clerk probably
dominates the office. He puts so much fear of paper work in the minds
of the section foreman that few aspire to be roadmasters. Instead of a
clerk, why not have an assistant roadmaster, a real understudy,
promoted from section foreman at a slight increase in pay and
allowances? Get the working atmosphere of the section into the
roadmaster's office. Perhaps some of the section foremen are not
relatively as stupid as certain superiors who take snap judgment on
possible qualifications. Some people deny the necessity for a
roadmaster's office. Is it not rather difficult to hold a man
responsible without giving him access to first hand records of
performance? An assistant superintendent or an assistant general
manager can and should come to his own headquarters where there are
clerks to furnish him necessary information. A roadmaster away from
division headquarters cannot gain such contact without deserting the
subdivision for which he is responsible night and day. He cannot well
take the section foreman from work to compile statistics.

When the word superintendent is eliminated from all higher titles so
that it means the head, and a real head, of an operating division,
there will be a bigger return for that item of operating expenses known
as "superintendence." If the notion still lingers that operation is
merely train movement, and that it is enough for a superintendent to be
a high class chief dispatcher, the idea of real management can be
driven in by calling the head of a division a "manager." In such case,
the title general manager would have a logical meaning. The title
district manager would fit the case where subdivision into such
territorial units became unavoidable.

When the telegraph, the telephone, and the phonograph were invented the
Greek language was consulted and new words were scientifically coined
to express a new necessity of linguistic expression. The automobile and
the aeroplane are founding whole families of new words. As society and
industry become more highly organized it may be necessary to coin new
words to convey the full idea of the rank and duties of the human
elements in a large organization. Critics of the unit system deplore
the uniformity of titles as tending to merge individual identity. This
is not the fault of the system but of the poverty of the English
language which lacks varying terminations of root words to express
different shades of meaning. If necessary to meet this view helps can
be sought from such highly inflected languages as Greek and Esperanto,
and new words coined. Thus the same word with a slightly different
ending would mean, "assistant superintendent in charge of maintenance
of way and structures as classified by the Interstate Commerce
Commission," or, "assistant superintendent in charge of maintenance of
equipment, including an allowance for depreciation at the legal and
constitutional ratio of sixteen to one, expiating the crime of 1873 and
glorifying the Hepburn Act of 1906."

Many practical things in this world escape attention because they are
so close as to be inside the focal distance. The persons most concerned
are often too close to a proposition to observe what should be
distinctly obvious. I uncover my headlight to the fellow down East who
recently showed us all that green flags can be replaced by the night
markers. For the over-specialization of perishable day indicators he
substituted the all-round day and night marker. The supply people
should not kick at the decreased demand for their product. They should
be thankful, rather, that railroad officials did not wake up sooner to
changed conditions. The new practice is worth the price of admission if
it only serves to do away with the delay and inconvenience of loading
and unloading the time-honored and cumbrous train box which still roams
wild in some regions covered by the Spokane rate decision.

Among the other simplifications which time will bring is a logical
method of designating extra trains. To-day we tell a man that an engine
number means little, because the train indicator says that it is train
so-and-so. The numbers on the engine and on the train indicator are
different and have no relation. To-morrow the engine runs extra and the
two numbers must be identical. When we adopt the train indicator,
should we not banish numbers from the outside of our engines and
tenders? Should not the number be inside the cab to be consulted for
reports and statistics, including the train sheet? This would mean that
extras would be numbered consecutively in a series higher than the
numbers on the regular trains. Extras, like regular trains, would lose
their running rights in twelve hours. In this connection, did you ever
figure that, except possibly in the case of extras, the distinctions
"A.M." and "P.M." are superfluous on train orders? Should P.M. come
before the order is fulfilled, the A.M. train is dead.

The proposed change would force regular trains to be numbered in lower
series, regardless of divisions and branch lines. This would make for
safety. The more figures in a number, the greater the possibilities of
error in reading a train order. A man is much more likely to confuse
2347 with 2345 than 47 with 45. If the motive power bureau must
recognize the high numbered union for classification purposes, let us
avoid having the blooming series federate with the train dispatcher's
order book.

The magnificent distances of this western country are reflected in
increased difficulties in railway operation. Perhaps no branch of the
railway service is more affected thereby than the dining car service.
American travelers, as the colored soldier said about the Cubans, are
the "eatin'est lot of people." The long haul for cars and supplies
renders supervision more difficult and deficits correspondingly
greater. The dining car man on most, if not all, western roads is
attached to a losing game. When poverty comes in at the door, love
flies out at the window. The dining car superintendent is kept busy
retaining the affections of the management in the face of red figures.

A dining car is about the most complex proposition in its operation
that we have on the railroad. It will be the hardest to bring under the
supervision of the division superintendent and his assistants. The
difficulties of so doing are many, but are not insurmountable. The
dining car, because it moves on wheels, is an incident to the
manufacture and sale of transportation. It is not, as a few dining car
people suppose, merely a traveling hotel to which the railway is an
incident. Originally the dining cars were under the passenger traffic
department. Later it was realized that they are logically a part of
operation. So they have been placed under the general manager and his
subordinate, the superintendent of dining cars. We say nonchalantly
that the superintendent and the train conductor can instruct the
so-called conductor of the dining car. Let a passenger conductor report
a dining car conductor. The former's superintendent will probably find
himself helpless to defend his man against the momentum of a
correspondence bureau located in the general offices. As a result, the
superintendent and the passenger conductor soon lose interest. They are
not looking for trouble and possible censure. The outcome is long-range
supervision of a centralized activity. The man in charge of the dining
car should be called steward, because he cannot conduct a car even to a
side track. He should be under the control of the train conductor, whom
the superintendent can hold responsible for the entire train performing
proper public service. A good, honest passenger conductor can secure
and retain more business for the company than two traveling passenger
agents. The conductor cannot do this if the dining car man is unwilling
to send promptly a pot of coffee to the shabby little sick woman in the
chair car whose daughters are going to buy tourist tickets next year.
In the days of simpler organization the good old passenger conductor
would unload on the prairie a short-sighted sleeping car or dining car
man and let the latter walk home. Because this cannot be done to-day is
one of the reasons for the lack of initiative on the part of the train
conductor. The lack of courtesy sometimes shown by employes is not
infrequently the fault of heads of would-be departments whose tenacity
for departmental lines leaves subordinates with an unbalanced notion of
the necessity for real courtesy and consideration. Bowing and scraping
do not alone constitute politeness.

One of the best dining car superintendents in the country is Tom
Clifford of the Erie, a graduated division superintendent and passenger
conductor. Because they are general officers, the dining car
superintendents of the future should be assistant general managers, and
should come up from the grade of division superintendent, in order to
acquire a more comprehensive knowledge of operation. Just how to work
out all the details is, I confess, perhaps the hardest operating
problem that I have yet tackled. Pullman employes have a home terminal
and a home district to whose superintendent certain reports are made
and complaints referred. This works well, although Pullman cars may run
over several of their superintendents' districts. The fact that dining
cars run over more than one division is not of itself a sufficient
reason for the employes being under the immediate direction of a
general officer. Volume of business, density of traffic, shortness of
runs, and other causes may warrant varying applications of the
underlying principle. Above all, we should avoid those hard and fast
rules which even the Medes and Persians never attempted to make
applicable to dining cars.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XIX.

THE ENGINEERING OF MEN.


Chicago, August 12, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--As the old order changeth, yielding place to new, the
last of the feudal barons among the chief engineers are passing. Bold
have been their conceptions, faithful their performances and great
their achievements. Their work has developed those splendid types of
manhood which are characteristic of the futile struggle of nature
against art, of the wilderness against civilization.

Partly because of better intellectual training, partly because of the
rush to complete additions and betterments and partly because of the
inborn tendency of human nature to over-specialize, the construction
men of most railways have frequently put it over on the so-called
operating men. Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war. As
civilization advances the struggles of a railroad are less against
physical nature and more against sociological and political conditions.
This advanced stage makes for altruism and comprehensive coöperation.
The problem of the construction engineer becomes harder when his work
is interwoven with the necessities of everyday operation. A
manufacturing plant can sometimes shut down during a period of new
construction. A railway, however, cannot store its product,
transportation. Some car wheels must be moving all the time. It
follows, then, that construction must yield to operation rather than
operation to construction. Again, from the nature of a railway,
construction is a component of operation, and the whole is greater than
any of its parts.

During the period of rapid expansion the construction men were kept "on
the front." Here is another bet that our predecessors overlooked.
Instead of amalgamating construction with operation and developing a
corps of all around men they sacrificed the future. The result is two
sets of specialists lacking sympathy with each other's difficulties.
The point of convergence is the company's treasury, which pays
unnecessary bills. Sometimes these are in the form of a duplication of
work train service; sometimes in idle equipment in which the
construction bureau retains a proprietary interest on days of idleness.
The construction people may be awaiting material or men. Meantime
_my_ work train cannot be used by the superintendent for maintenance
purposes. The chief dispatcher has so little sympathy with new
construction that the young assistant engineer dare not let go of _my_
engine lest _au revoir_ may mean good-by. Another delightful but
expensive duplication occurs frequently in the matter of stores. Look
around and see how many separate stores your construction bureau is
maintaining, some of them within a stone's throw of a well stocked
permanent store.

After defying a few times the official lightning our wise construction
Ajax learns to make his estimates large. Having beaten his own figures
he exclaims, "Behold how much money I have saved the company."

Comparisons of costs in construction work are much more difficult than
in operation. This inability to control disbursement through the
discipline of statistics should be met as far as possible by the most
careful organization. Extravagance and waste in maintenance and
operation are bad enough. In construction they are worse, because
capitalized and bearing an interest burden for innumerable years to
come.

All positions have their inherent temptations. The young engineer in
charge of construction is tempted to nurse the job because when it is
finished he may be laid off. Whether he yields or not, it is a poor
kind of organization that places the temptation before him. Too
frequently the construction engineer costs the company money because of
his unfamiliarity with maintenance conditions. Experience in
maintenance would help him in construction. Before being entrusted with
authority an engineer should have experience in both maintenance and
construction, regardless of the branch in which he may have happened to
start. Check up your new branch lines and see how much money being
charged to maintenance could have been saved if the construction people
had better appreciated operating conditions. See how many side tracks
and water tanks are on curves. Never investigate a collision without
considering faulty construction and location as factors.

One of the easiest ways to save your company money will be to
reorganize your construction activities. When you decide upon some new
line, be it a branch, a second track, or an extension, call a cabinet
meeting of all your assistants. Let the supply assistant of your grand
opera troupe know at which stand you are to play. Call in the
superintendent of the division concerned, with his maintenance
assistant. Tell the superintendent that he will be responsible for the
new work subject to the instructions of your construction assistant.
Let it be understood that the work will be under the direct charge of
his maintenance assistant, that the equipment will be looked after by
his mechanical assistant and the material and supplies furnished by his
supply assistant. Throw the whole official momentum of the division on
the side of the new work. Under the old order of things the division
people do what they are told in helping out the construction, but no
more. The proposed organization will beget that extra individual effort
which is relatively as profitable as the farmer's extra bushel per
acre. At this same cabinet meeting let your superintendent nominate a
junior assistant to act as understudy for maintenance while his leading
maintenance man is treading the construction boards. If, when the job
is over, any scrimping has to take place it will not be the
construction man who has to drop back. Two years hence the maintenance
assistant will not give you the old song and dance about poor
construction causing excessive maintenance, because he himself built
the line. There is, of course, a danger that this maintenance assistant
will be extravagant in construction for the sake of a future record in
maintenance. You have two checks against this, one through the
efficiency of your construction assistant and the other through the
division accounting bureau, which should handle additions and
betterments as separate accounts.

Once upon a time I ran across a contractor grading a new line. His
organization, the most efficient that I ever happened to see in any
line of activity, made that of the railway for which he was working
look like thirty cents. He made the grading camp the unit. Each of his
sixteen camps was in charge of a foreman who controlled his own
commissary, his own timekeeper, his own blacksmith and his own animals
and equipment. The first duty of the foreman was to supply his men with
grub and his animals with feed. Normally this took two wagons. If he
happened to be near the base of supplies he used only one team and put
the other on a plow or a scraper. If he happened to be clear at the
front he might have to borrow another wagon and use three teams for
supply. The point is that he kept all of his teams working all of the
time and never ran out of supplies. The railroad would organize a
department of wagons, a department of plows and a department of
scrapers, and the foreman who kicked the hardest would have the most
grub, even though somebody else was short. These foremen were jacked up
if they used poor judgment in accumulating supplies and had too much on
hand when the next move came. No clerk at the base was allowed to cut
the requisition of a foreman. The resident engineers of the railway in
charge of the several staking and inspection parties could not procure
railway commissary supplies without the O.K. of a clerk in the
so-called boarding house department.

Another noteworthy feature was the constant presence of officials and
sub-officials with authority to act for the contractor. A general
foreman and two assistant general foremen were riding the line and
giving instructions to meet changing conditions. For example, in the
afternoon an assistant general foreman countermanded an order given by
his general manager who had happened to be on the ground in the
morning. When a resident engineer in charge of a party desired such
authority he called up the tent of the division engineer and gained the
desired information from the latter's chief clerk, who was receiving a
smaller salary than the resident engineer. I spare your feelings a
description of the complex methods imposed by the railway accounting
department in marked contrast to the simple common sense practice of
the contractor. How much stockholders are paying for maintaining the
sacred system of railways I am unable to state. Many administrative
crimes are committed in the name of organization.

One of the fallacies sometimes introduced by the accounting department
in construction organization is to have all the timekeepers report to a
chief timekeeper, regardless of the engineer or other chief of party. A
bright young engineer once told me his troubles in this respect. He was
astonished at the difference when he followed the advice to make each
party a complete unit with its own timekeeper, the chief of the party
being held responsible for proper time keeping as well as for all other
duties. This efficient youngster deplored the fact that neither his
engineering school nor his official superiors had ever deemed it
necessary to give him lessons in the applied science of organization.
Never forget, my boy, the immortal words attributed to George
Stephenson that the greatest branch of engineering is the engineering
of men.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XX.

THE FALLACY OF THE TRAIN-MILE UNIT.


Tucson, Ariz., August 19, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--Do you think it logical and just to pay a train
(including engine) crew the same wages for going over the freight
district with a light caboose as with 50 or 75 cars? Be careful how you
answer.

As I understand it, the train-mile was adopted as a unit of
compensation for employes on the theory that piece work rewards the
deserving and promotes efficiency. Whatever the merits or demerits of
the piece work theory, I have never been able to reconcile its
applicability to train service. A man operating a machine in a shop can
stop or start his individual machine, can save steam power or electric
current without seriously inconveniencing his fellow workers or the
general operation of the plant. A railroad train cannot move regardless
of all other trains on the road. Such independence of function will
cause either a criminal collision or an expensive blockade. A train
must, therefore, move according to a time-table and orders. The space
occupied by a train, unlike a stationary machine, is so variable that
time becomes the essence of the proposition. The train crew cannot be
allowed that freedom of action which permits of piece work. Too many
arbitrary conditions are necessarily imposed to warrant a very extended
application of a practical bonus system. One delayed train will upset
the whole day's combination. On the other hand, the task imposed upon a
train crew is extremely definite and easy to measure, when the equation
can be solved for all the variables.

So fallacious a unit of compensation as the train-mile breeds numerous
illogical practices. We penalize ourselves every time we run a train
without full tonnage. Conditions of traffic may demand quick movement
regardless of tonnage. When business is heavy terminals are congested
and empty equipment is scarce. We all know that the way to relieve
congested terminals is to run light, fast trains. This serves a double
purpose, relieving the terminals and increasing the earning power of
the equipment. Unfortunately our fundamental conception is so distorted
that we mulct ourselves in money by doing that which is an obvious
necessity. Why not so arrange our methods that we can be rewarded for
quick judgment and prompt action?

A shop workman sups, sleeps and breakfasts at his own home. A train
crew must have increased expenses when away from the home terminal. A
train crew would really be ahead of the game as far as expenses are
concerned if a round trip could be made within the sixteen-hour limit
and the away-from-home terminal expenses avoided. We say that demurrage
is imposed primarily to hasten the release of equipment. We claim that
normally we would rather have the cars than the dollars of demurrage.
If cars are so valuable, how much should we charge ourselves for the
hire of the fifty cars which are twelve or fifteen hours getting over
the district?

We can work out by a mathematical formula the most economical scheme
for fuel consumption and maximum tractive effort. It is more difficult
to devise a formula to express the effect of drastic laws caused by
poor service. Attempting to club converging live stock runs in big
trains has caused, in some states, legislation covering the movement of
stock. Perhaps this is offset by the claims save for missing the market
with delayed stock. Is it not a sad commentary to think that
legislation is necessary to make us do what is for our own best
interests?

There can be no doubt that for a heavy and regular movement of low
grade commodities on two or four track roads the big train is logical
and economical. Most of the prairie roads are single track. Most of the
distances between the prairie cities are relatively long. Stock,
perishable freight and merchandise must have rapid movement. Is it wise
under such a disparity of conditions to make the train-mile rigid and
sacred? Why not pay men by the hour, with a monthly guarantee, and run
trains sometimes light and sometimes heavy, sometimes fast and
sometimes slow, to meet actual controlling conditions of traffic? When
business happened to be light, equipment plentiful, and terminals open
we would penalize ourselves in wages for slower movement, but would
save in fuel, in engine house expense, etc. Just where the economical
limit would be, just how it would all work out, I do not pretend to
say. I do say, however, that the old methods can be improved when we
start from proper basic conceptions. I do not believe that we yet
understand the relation between increased cost of maintenance of
equipment and decreased wages for train crews.

Perhaps because I had the honor of braking on a way freight I have
never outgrown the idea of the practical trainman that a local freight
is a traveling switch engine and a peddler of L.C.L. merchandise.
Whatever may be the showing as to percentage of tractive power utilized
I am unable to see the wisdom of a way freight dragging in and out of
passing tracks all day with a lot of through cars. The claim is often
made that a few big trains can be easily handled by the dispatcher,
because the number of meeting points is decreased. My own opinion is
that this seeming advantage is often more than offset by the
unwieldiness of the big train. Fear of censure for delaying some
important train makes the conductor "leery" about starting and the
dispatcher timid about directing a prompt movement. When we begin
wrong, how not-to-do-it methods always follow. The chief dispatcher
will let freight be delayed in a yard for a full train with power
needed at the other end, if he can start a light caboose without its
being included in the average train load showing. How much better, and
how much easier, to run two fractional trains in the direction of
unbalanced traffic than one light caboose and another dreary drag! The
shipper, only a hard-headed business man, takes the same view. He
becomes skeptical of all our statements, before commissions or
elsewhere, because of our frequent seeming lack of judgment.

Let us not spend too much time in discussion as to theoretical
possibilities. My assertions can be either proved or disproved by
actual demonstration. In the next labor agreements you make include a
stipulation for experiment on some division. My prediction is that if
you can convince the labor leaders of your fairness they will give the
scheme a trial for the sake of more possible time at home. With a full
trial the results will speak for themselves. Success in such matters is
made possible only by enlisting the most intelligent efforts of all
concerned. Let your officials and employes understand that you do not
claim to know it all, that you believe in their practical intelligence
as well as in your own, that ideas are greater than men, and that right
wrongs no man.

Railroads have grown so fast that our conceptions of working units have
sometimes outstripped practical possibilities in performance. Too
frequently we make the unit too large. There must be a practical limit
beyond which the train becomes too long for an economical unit of
movement. The fact that we should have elasticity rather than rigidity
in the size of our economical train emphasizes the necessity for
defining the elastic limit. Practical experience and sound judgment
must aid in interpreting and applying not only the laws of matter and
physical nature, but the laws of sociology and human nature as well.
After the lading for the trip is discharged, the car cannot be sold or
abandoned, as was the flat boat which Abraham Lincoln helped to float
down the Mississippi river to New Orleans. Have you not seen cars
pulled to pieces in big trains, have you not seen freight delayed in a
manner to suggest to an innocent bystander that the road was perhaps
running its last train and giving its cars their last load?

The inevitable tendency of the big train is to hold back and combine in
large lots cars destined to the same point and to the same consignee.
When a whole train can be unloaded at the ship's side at tidewater, or
at a large consuming plant, the system is ideal. The trouble begins
with the small consignee. Instead of giving him a regular, systematic
delivery of the five or ten cars which he can unload each day, our
tendency is to bring in twenty-five or fifty cars every five days or
so, and then express our horrified astonishment at his failure to
release promptly. No, we should not run special trains of five or ten
cars for each consignee. What we should do is to watch the matter so
carefully that we can feel certain we are considering all the factors
of expense as well as that of seeming light tonnage. It may, under
given conditions, be cheaper to run light trains than to put on
expensive switch engines, to relieve unnecessary congestion in
receiving terminals, than to increase overtime and demoralize the road
by pulling out drawbars when sawing by at short passing tracks.
Sometimes money can be saved by balancing motive power as between steep
and level territory.

As a good soldier and a faithful hired hand you must build up for
yourself and your superiors the best possible record for train load.
Carry out the policy consistently and loyally. At the same time study
the subject. Do not have to flag in, but be prepared to run as a
section of a better unit of comparison when the train mile loses its
first class running rights.

Speaking of running in sections, you have doubtless thought how
inconsistent and almost criminally dangerous is the method of
displaying signals. We drill our men to watch the rear of the train for
the presence of something, the markers, a positive indication. When the
markers are seen, the train is complete and the opposing train can
proceed in safety. If the train happens to be complete without
displaying markers, or the markers are overlooked, the opposing train
declines to proceed. An avoidable delay occurs, but the error is on the
side of safety and away from a collision. At the head end, however, we
tell our men to watch for the absence of something, the classification
signals, a negative condition. When classification signals are _not_
seen the train schedule is complete and the opposing train proceeds
in fancied safety. If the train happens to be _incomplete_ without
displaying signals or the signals are overlooked, the opposing train
proceeds just the same. No delay occurs, but probably a collision,
for the error is on the side of danger and toward a collision. The
practice should be reversed. The last or only section should display
classification signals. A positive indication should replace a
negative. Can the train rules committee of the ladylike American
Railway Association beat the Interstate Commerce Commission to this
unprotected draw? Cases of such avoidable collisions can be cited, even
though "we never had one on our road."

Some roads prefer special schedules and extra trains to movement in
sections. On the good old Big Four we handled everything possible in
sections. I think this latter method the better. Theoretically yardmen,
section men, tower men and all others should be always prepared for
extra trains. Practically, the more information that can be
disseminated among intelligent men the more effectively can they
coöperate in preventing disaster or delay. There are fewer unlocked
switches and fewer unspiked rails when information is not locked in the
dispatcher's office and not spiked down by too many train orders.

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



LETTER XXI.

THE MAN-DAY AS A UNIT.


Tucson, Ariz., August 26, 1911.

My Dear Boy:--If people's eyes were never too large for their stomachs
there would be less overeating. If human concepts were never too vast
for practical performance there would be fewer disappointments in
administration. Because the railroads have grown so fast and have
become so large, our imagination has sometimes run too far ahead of our
judgment. This is a big world full of big things and big men. The
biggest men are learning that big things can be handled and big men
developed only by complete treatment of little things and of the
so-called little men. This growing conviction is manifesting itself in
various ways. Railways, thank God, are building more division shops and
relatively fewer general shops. Division stores are becoming more and
more complete. Division accounting is gaining ground and is paving the
way for local disbursement.

The station agent, bless him, is being emancipated by the telephone
from specialized selection, and is gradually being accorded that
recognition which is his due as an all 'round man. In short, our big
corporate units are growing in strength only as the smaller units
become complete and self-contained. Official solicitude should be for
ton-miles, as well as for train-miles, for car-loads as well as for
train-loads. Take care of the mills and the millions will take care of
themselves. Above all, study an often neglected unit, the man-day. How
much work can each man reasonably be expected to perform in one day?
How many days in each year can a man reasonably expect to be employed?
Labor conditions on railways will never be satisfactory until
employment can be reasonably constant and continuous. This is a
difficult problem, but when enough big men give it attention it will be
solved. It probably means more elasticity, more interchangeability
between train service and the various kinds of maintenance, between the
locomotive and the shop, between the railway and allied contiguous
industries. The individual is the indivisible unit of society. We must
build from him as a unit. Since he is of such infinite variety it
follows that our sociological architecture must be varied accordingly.
Design is staff work. Execution is line work. I do not doubt the
ability of one man to direct the carrying out of a scheme practically
designed. When one man tells me that unassisted he can furnish a design
to meet all requirements I am from beyond Missouri and have to be shown
several times.

I have been writing you all these things because of interest in you and
pride in our profession. With four or five other professions and
occupations at command, I stick to the railroad game because it is the
greatest of ancient or modern times. If these letters, written
hurriedly in the midst of a strenuous life, with little opportunity for
revision and verification, have hurt anyone's feelings, I am sorry.
Many things in this world are taken too personally and too seriously
when intended as only Pickwickian.

If these letters have helped you or any friend of yours, by shattering
any false idol or otherwise, they have more than fulfilled their
purpose. Those to whom fortune has been kind in affording extended
opportunities owe to society the duty of imparting their conclusions to
their fellows. The recipients alone are qualified to judge as to how
well such duty is performed and as to how far such conclusions are
worth while. In this case the duty has been a pleasure as well.

To avoid the switch shanty garrulousness of an old brakeman I now give
up this preferred run and turn in at the office my lantern and keys.

With a father's blessing,

Affectionately, your own,

D. A. D.



APPENDIX

THE UNIT SYSTEM OF ORGANIZATION.


This system of organization, sometimes called "the Hine system," is
frequently mentioned in these "Letters." It was originated and
installed by their writer while serving as organization expert for
the Union Pacific System-Southern Pacific Company (Harriman Lines),
1908-1911, with the title of Special Representative on the staff of
the Director of Maintenance and Operation, Mr. Julius Kruttschnitt.

An idea of the system can be obtained from the two following standard
forms of official circulars for announcing its adoption:--

    .......... RAIL ...... COMPANY.

    OFFICE OF GENERAL MANAGER.

    CIRCULAR NO. ....

    .......... 191..

The following appointments of Assistant General Managers are announced,
effective ...... 191..

    1. Mr. ......
    2. Mr. ......
    3. Mr. ......
    4. Mr. ......
    5. Mr. ......
    6. Mr. ......
    7. Mr. ......
    8. Mr. ......

Each of the above named officials continues charged with the
responsibilities heretofore devolving upon him and in addition assumes
such other duties as may from time to time be assigned.

The titles, General Superintendent, Superintendent of Motive Power,
Chief Engineer, Superintendent of Transportation, General Storekeeper,
Superintendent of Telegraph, and Superintendent of Dining Cars, will be
retained by the present holders or their successors to such extent only
as may be necessary for a proper compliance with laws and existing
contracts.

All persons under the jurisdiction of this office will address reports
and communications, including replies, intended for the General Manager
or for any Assistant General Manager, simply: "Assistant General
Manager" (Company telegrams, "A.G.M."), no name being used in the
address unless intended as personal or confidential or to reach an
official away from his headquarters.

It is intended that an Assistant General Manager shall be in charge of
this office during office hours. Each official transacts business in
his own name and no person should sign the name or initials of another.

All persons outside the jurisdiction of this office are requested to
address communications, including replies, intended for the General
Manager or for any Assistant General Manager, simply: "General Manager
............ Co., .......... Bldg. .........." no name being used in
the address unless intended as personal or confidential or to reach an
official away from his headquarters.

    ..........
    _General Manager._

    Approved:

    ..........
    _Vice President._


    .......... RAIL .......... COMPANY.

    .......... DIVISION.

    OFFICE OF SUPERINTENDENT.

    CIRCULAR NO. ...

    .......... 191..

Effective this date this Division discontinues among its officials the
use of the titles Master Mechanic, Division Engineer, Trainmaster,
Traveling Engineer, Chief Dispatcher, Division Storekeeper, and
Division Agent.

The following named officials are designated:

    1. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    2. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    3. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    4. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    5. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    6. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    7. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.
    8. Mr. .................., Assistant Superintendent.

They will be obeyed and respected accordingly.

Each of the above named officials continues charged with the
responsibilities heretofore devolving upon him, and in addition assumes
such other duties as may from time to time be assigned.

All of the above will be located in the same building with one
consolidated office file in common with the Superintendent.

All reports and communications on the Company's business, including
replies, originating on this division, intended for the Superintendent
or for any Assistant Superintendent, will be addressed simply,
"Assistant Superintendent" (telegrams, "A. S."), no name being used in
the address unless intended to reach an official away from his
headquarters, or to be personal rather than official, in which latter
case it will be held unopened for the person addressed. It is intended
that an Assistant Superintendent shall be on duty in charge of the
division headquarters office during office hours. The designation of a
particular Assistant Superintendent to handle specified classes of
correspondence and telegrams is a matter concerning only this office.
Each official transacts business in his own name, and no person should
sign the name or initials of another. The principle to guide
subordinate officials and employes is to be governed by the latest
instructions issued and received.

Train orders will be given over the initials of the Train Dispatcher on
duty, as will messages originated by him.

The modifications of pre-existing organization and methods herein
ordered have been carefully worked out to expedite the Company's
business by the reduction and simplification of correspondence and
records. It is expected and believed that officials and employes will
insure a successful outcome by lending their usual intelligent
coöperation and hearty support.

Officials and other persons above and outside the jurisdiction of this
division are requested to address official communications intended for
the Superintendent or for any Assistant Superintendent, simply,
"Superintendent, .......... Division ..........," (telegrams, "Supt."),
no name being used in the address unless intended as personal or
confidential or to reach an official away from his headquarters.

    ..........
    _Superintendent._

Approved:

    ..........
    _General Manager._



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.

Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have been retained
as printed.





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