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  A century of great railroaders
  Railroads in the 20th Century
  Passenger rail in the 20th Century

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A century of great railroaders

The 19th Century was known as the "robber baron era," but the 20th Century will be known as the era of outstanding railroaders. Here are some of the century's most respected and admired figures.

D. William Brosnan (1903-1985), a blunt, domineering, unforgiving professional engineer, "changed the economy of the South and led the lethargic railroad industry in adopting modern methods," said Newsweek. As Southern Railway CEO (1962-1967) he invested in the first lightweight, mostly aluminum 100-ton coal hoppers, 100-ton Big John covered grain hoppers, centralized computing, radio-controlled helper locomotives, and microwave communications. Brosnan was Railway Age's Railroader of the Year in 1964.

Edward G. Budd (1870-1946) founded the Budd Co. in 1912 in Philadelphia to produce steel automobile bodies. When railroads moved to modernize passenger trains, Budd in 1934 designed and built the three-car stainless steel Pioneer Zephyr, which ushered in streamliners. Budd Co. later built the first Metroliners.

Ralph Budd (1879-1962) was president of Great Northern (1919-1931) and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (1932-1949). He superintended construction of the 7.79-mile Cascade Tunnel that eliminated 1,000 feet of rise and fall in elevation, the 40-mile Dotsero cutoff that created a third competitive transcontinental route, and the inland route between San Francisco and Oregon. His diesel-powered Pioneer Zephyr ushered out steam-powered passenger trains.

Edward A. Burkhardt (1938- ), chairman, president, and CEO of Wisconsin Central Transportation Co. from 1987-1999, had a leadership role in the short line and regional railroad renaissance in the U.S., and exported U.S. practices and technology to railways around the globe by privatizing railroads in Britain, New Zealand, and Tasmania. "Ed Burkhardt represents the best of what we offer the global railway market," Railway Age wrote in January 1999, when Burkhardt was selected as Railway Age's Railroader of the Year.

Alexander J. Cassatt (1839-1906), president of the Pennsylvania Railroad (1899-1906), supported the Elkins Act (1903) and Hepburn Act (1906), four-tracked the PRR main line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, constructed the first all-steel passenger and freight car fleets, and began construction of twin tunnels beneath the Hudson River to reach Manhattan.

William Graham Claytor, Jr. (1912-1994), held a relentless affection for well-run railroads. He healed a labor rift at Southern Railway after succeeding William Brosnan as CEO (1967-1976). Duns Review hailed Southern (1976) as among the nation's five best managed companies. His stewardship of Amtrak (1982-1993) made financial failures of two competing New York-Washington air shuttles. Claytor was Railway Age's Railroader of the Year in 1989.

Leo Stanley Crane (1915-) led the design of Southern Railway's Silversides 100-ton coal and Big John 100-ton grain hoppers that revolutionized coal and grain hauling. As Southern CEO (1976-1980) he spent aggressively on track improvements. He initiated merger talks with Norfolk & Western creating Norfolk Southern (1982). As Conrail chairman (1981-1988) he achieved profitability and presided over its privatization (1987). Crane was Railway Age's Railroader of the Year in 1974 and 1983.

William H. Dempsey (1930-) was Association of American Railroads president (1977-1989), crafting the lobbying effort producing the Staggers Rail Act (1980) and a $2.5 billion cash infusion from the Economic Recovery Tax Act (1981). A senior Senate staffer told a colleague, "If Dempsey said it, you can believe it." From 1972-1977 he was the industry's chief labor negotiator. Dempsey was Railway Age's Railroader of the Year in 1992.

Carl Raymond Gray (1867-1939) was president of Great Northern (1912-1914), Western Maryland (1914-1919), a director of the U.S. Railroad Administration during World War I, and president and vice chairman of Union Pacific (1920-1939). He helped organize the Association of American Railroads, placed in service the long-distance diesel, encouraged rail-truck partnerships, and helped draft rail sections of the Transportation Act of 1940.

Lowell S. "Jake" Jacobson (1940- ), vice president and general manager of the Copper Basin Railway (1987- ), "runs a railroad where people will go a long ways to get things done because they see him out front, leading by example and doing things that a caring leader does," wrote Gus Welty, Railway Age's late Senior Editor, in 1994, when Jacobson was selected as Railroader of the Year. A long-time Union Pacific employee (1958-1987), Jacobson created the "Jake Awards" to honor short lines-which are not eligible for Harriman awards-with exemplary safety records.

Leonor Fresnel Loree (1858-1940) was president of the B&O (1901-1904), the Rock Island (1904), chairman of Missouri-Kansas-Texas (1926-1928), and president of the Delaware & Hudson (1907-1938). He installed the first Mallet-designed articulated locomotives and the first roller bearings in drive wheels, invented the upper-quadrant semaphore signal, organized the first railroad police force, and wrote a 1922 manual on railroad management.

Robert Abercrombie Lovett (1895-1986) was Undersecretary of State (1947-1949) and Secretary of Defense (1951-1953), and interspersed public service with directorships at Union Pacific (1926-1940; 1953-1986). Most of his professional life he was a partner with UP's largest single stockholder, Brown Brothers Harriman. He voted to spend for diesels, computers, and CTC, and was architect of UP's asset diversification.

Louis Wilson Menk (1918-1999), president of St. Louis-San Francisco, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and Northern Pacific, encouraged innovative ideas, preparing each for inclusion into Burlington Northern (1970). As BN's first president and later chairman (1970-1981), Menk invested heavily into Wyoming's Powder River Basin, where BN coal originations soared from three million tons in 1970 to 100 million in 1981. Menk was Railway Age's Railroader of the Year in 1967.

Jolene M. Molitoris (1941-), the ninth federal railroad administrator, adopted a zero-tolerance policy for the removal of safety hazards. As train-miles increased 11%, rail-employee injuries declined 45%, employee fatalities fell 43%, and accidents dropped 33%. Her Railroad Safety Advisory Council and Safety Assurance Compliance Program bring labor, management, and government together to design practical programs each may buy into.

Alfred Edward Perlman (1902-1983) restored bankrupt Denver & Rio Grande to profitability, held a technically insolvent New York Central together until merger with Penn Central, spent aggressively on modernizing PC-building for a future realized by Conrail-and positioned Western Pacific for merger into the UP. He was a pioneer in installing CTC and investing in intermodal.

Daniel Willard (1861-1942), CEO of the Baltimore & Ohio (1910-1942), double-tracked the main line linking Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington with Pittsburgh and Chicago. He canceled outside contracting, returning locomotive repair to B&O shops. "He has a conscience in dealing with labor," said Time magazine. AFL-CIO President William Green called Willard "deserving of honor and tribute."



Copyright © 1999. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp.