Thursday, May 26, 2005

Interesting Interview

Maybe there are others like me, others who like to read interviews with powerful, influential people who are now far removed from their positions that changed lives and corporations. Usually, these people are looser with their observations and more profound with their insights. I recently discovered such an interview during a websearch for something entirely different.

The interview was with Mr. John Ingram, who was President and CEO of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad, just before the property's last days, and was also in a very high position in the Federal Railroad Administration. I had heard that Mr. Ingram was a little bitter immediately after he failed to raise "The Rock" from the depths of ruin. He had every reason to be bitter. I have always felt that had the events that led to the liquidation of "The Rock" occurred in the Reagan Administration rather than the Carter Administration, the property would have had a greater chance of survival. The fact that a lot of the trackage of the old "Rock Island Railroad" remains to this day supports my view.

At any rate, if you enjoy looking back from the viewpoint of someone who once held great power, check out this interview. I think you will find it fascinating.


At 2:13 AM, May 28, 2005, Anonymous The Country Pundit said...

That's an interesting interview you've found there, Rip. He's brief, but interesting.

Why do you think that the Reagan Administration would've been more friendly towards the Rock than the Carter administration? If I understand things correctly, the Rock's physical plant was in pretty bad shape by the late 1970s; would there have been an available merger partner that wasn't already in talks with the UP at that point?

At 10:21 AM, May 30, 2005, Blogger Rip said...

The Rock's physical plant was in pretty bad shape, indeed. However, much rehab had already been done on several mainline routes. You are correct that the list of potential merger partners was small. However, at that time, end-to-end mergers were not as common as they were to become. So it is interesting to think what would have happened had a "Rock plus Norfolk Southern", or "Rock plus CSX", or even "Rock plus Canadian National" been possible.

There was a feeling at the time that the Carter Administration was friendlier toward Labor than it was toward The Rock's Owners, and that the Administration felt that by using a designated operator, the Kansas City Terminal RR in this case, more jobs could be saved. When Reagan was elected, shortly after the designated operator was determined, comments were heard that no designated operator would have been named, that the current owner would sink or swim accordingly. By then, there was no going back. This was conventional wisdom, perhaps wishful thinking by loyal Rock employees and friends.

At 1:01 AM, June 01, 2005, Blogger The Country Pundit said...

Huh. I had thought that the Rock was too broke to do intensive MoW, but then again I've never delved deeply into it. I had figured it as surpassing even the Penn Central's western end in deterioration. I stand happily corrected.

Is it true that the predominant merger theory back in the 1960s focused on the elimination of parallel lines? If that's the case, then I can't imagine who they'd fit with, at least from looking at a map. Would the KCS have been plausible?

I suppose it's inevitable to chalk the Rock up as the last casualty of the pre-Staggers era; y'think maybe having a couple of years under the Act might've helped?

Thanks for your response, and thanks for publishing these kinds of articles.

At 11:32 PM, June 02, 2005, Blogger Rip said...

Thanks, Country, for your kind comments. I would hate to make a judgement on whose property was in poorer shape, The Rock or PCRR. The Rock had a lot less mileage to rebuild, and they did leverage much of that rebuilding with other peoples' money. Don't forget, The Rock also arranged to lease all those brand new Baby Blue GP-38's, too!

There is no doubt the predominant merger theory in the sixties, and even into the seventies, was to eliminate parallel lines and facilities. The Erie and the Lackawanna, B&O and C&O, Seaboard and Atlantic Coast Line, Norfolk and Western plus the Nickel Plate plus the Wabash, the four properties that became the BN, and of course, the New York Central and the Pennsylvania all speak to this.

Recently, the Canadian National's control of the Illinois Central shows that end-to-end mergers are now more likely to be considered.

Kansas City Southern plus CRI&P? I honestly had never thought or heard of this. Might have helped. Would have given The Rock access to a Gulf Port for all of their grain from Iowa. Might have helped them in Kansas City, too. And unlike the MKT, the KCS was fairly healthy.

I'll have to think a bit on whatever positive impact the Staggers might have had on The Rock's survival. Maybe that will evolve into another posting!


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