Hell Of Way To Run Railroad By Klein

Maury Kleinís "A Hell of a Way to Run a Railroad," gives a new perspective
of reliable transportation. During much of the 19th century railroads dominated
the American industrial landscape. The railroad enabled people to travel farther
and also more widely. The railroad was one of the greatest technological
advancements of the 19th century. Two hundred thousand miles of track were laid
by 1900. The railroad began to symbolize American prosperity. By the 1890s the
rail industry was near collapse. Expansion during the 1880s caused rate wars
that took the financial strengths of some of the strangest railroads. Regulation
of the railroads was controlled by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.

Railroads were the first industry to be watched under the federal government.

Between 1893 and 1897 one fourth of the nations mileage sank into receivership.

The railroads affected were the: Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, the Atchison,

Topeka and Santa Fe, Erie, and the Philadelphia and Reading. For two decades
rail managers had tried unsuccessfully for some form of regulation to take away
the criticism put upon them. In the phrase of Albro Martin the leading railroad
historian, "The final hour had struck for the Victorian Railroad

Corporation" (2). The growth of the nineteenth-century rail system had relied
on conditions unique to the era. As more railroads reached cities and towns
competitive wars erupted that drove rates down despite efforts to maintain them.

The railroads task was not to simply haul freight but to help create the towns,
factories, and farms that would help generate the freight. The railroad industry
had reached a turning point in its history. The question remained who would lead
the railroad into the new era? E. H. Harriman would be the leader who brought
the rail industry into the new era. Harriman was known as a skilled banker.

Harriman was a bantam rooster with a fierce competitive streak in everything he
did. During the 1880s Harriman had dabbed in smaller upstate New York railroads,
but his role had been largely financial. Stuyvesant Fish landed him on the board
of the Illinois Central when Fish needed allies to modernize the companyís
management and policies. Harriman became vice president. Tension between

Harriman and Fish caused Harriman to resign as vice president. Harriman landed a
seat on the executive committee of the Union Pacific Railroad in in 1897. By
proving his abilities he was elected chairman in 1898. Harriman toured the rails
of the Union Pacific. He traveled to the western part of the U.S. Harriman saw
growth and prosperity coming towards the West. He telegraphed New York and
requested 25 million dollars for equipment and improvements on the railroad.

Over the next decade Harriman spent a staggering 160 million dollars modernizing

Union Pacific at a time when the total expenditures by the federal government
averaged only 561 million dollars a year. In the process he created the most
efficient railroad in the West. Harriman faced the task of rebuilding older
lines with shaky financial pasts. Harriman had his top engineer John B. Berry
transform lines in Wyoming. Harriman invested large sums in automatic block
signals, still an expensive rarity on American roads, but an innovation that
made the handling and control of trains moving on the same tracks much more safe
and efficient. "By 1909 the Harriman system had already installed more than
five thousand miles of block signals; twelve years later only thirty-nine
thousand miles of the nations railroads had them"(6). Between 1899 and 1909
the fleet of locomotive increased only 11 percent, and that of rolling stock 20
percent, yet the tonnage carried triplet over a system that had grown in mileage
by 36 percent. In May of 1906 he went from San Fransico to New York in
seventy-one hours and twenty-seven minutes. Harriman was amazed at how smoothly
the track ran. Harriman was able to sell 208 million dollars worth of new bonds.

Fixed charges increased by 3 million a year while net income jumped 125 percent
and the surplus 188 percent. More a warrior than a diplomat, Harriman moved to
impose his own brand of order. Harriman, his rival George Gould said "Aims to
dominate, and if he donít like us heíll throw us out"(8). Harriman also
took control of the Southern Pacific and 247 million to make the Southern

Pacific equal to the Union Pacific. Harriman had led the rail industry into a
new era and had helped modernize the railroad system. Dividends from the Union

Pacific are still paying today. Harriman faced the criticism of himself as being
arrogant, yet no doubts were cast