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7 - River Steamers: White Swans on the Inland Rivers

John H.Jr. White Indiana University Press ePub

White Swans on the Inland Rivers

EUROPEAN SETTLEMENTS WERE WELL ESTABLISHED ALONG THE Atlantic Coast by the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Allegheny Mountains discouraged migration to the west, except for traders, military men, explorers, and the eccentric. A few forts and trading posts were established by the French, which led to territorial disputes with Britain. A war erupted in 1756 between these European powers. Britain won the conflict and established its claim to most of North America. The British Colonial Office prohibited settlement in these territories as a way to end conflicts with the Native Americans who inhabited these vast lands. The peace was kept only temporarily; however, American independence reopened the settlement issue, and by the late 1780s land-hungry settlers began moving into the Ohio country. The only easy route to get there was the Ohio River, so the pioneers gathered at Pittsburgh and were carried down the river in flatboats piled high with people and their sundry possessions. The Ohio River was the east-west branch of two other major inland rivers: the Mississippi and the Missouri. There were also about fifty tributaries large enough to allow navigation by smaller boats, in some cases for several hundred miles. Nature also provided an excellent regional waterway – the Great Lakes. By 1850 the center of the nation was filling up with people. There were a dozen new states and about ten million residents. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis were expanding. Most of this growth can be attributed to the rivers.

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20 “They Nod Off Regularly on the Job”

RushJr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub


“They Nod Off Regularly on the Job”


WITH HOPE OF ACQUIRING THE SANTA FE DEAD, REBENSDORF went to Davidson, urging him to reopen the discussions with the Southern Pacific. Worrying that the SP’s plant and equipment had deteriorated too far, Davidson resisted, but Rebensdorf argued that this was their only choice. Both men were right, especially Rebensdorf, because if UP wanted to avoid becoming a poor second to Burlington Northern Santa Fe, it needed the Southern Pacific. Several weeks after Lewis dropped his bid, Davidson and Rebensdorf went to Bethlehem and urged him to consider meeting again with the Anschutz. Wary, Lewis finally agreed and resumed the talks not long afterward, but the discussions soon fizzled out.

Meanwhile, Union Pacific bought its partner in the Powder River coal market and best connection to the Windy City, the Chicago & North Western. It was an end-to-end merger and should have gone through with few ripples, but flawless it was not. Problems had been made worse because weeks after the two roads were put together Davidson moved to the corporate headquarters in Bethlehem and Lewis replaced him in Omaha with a man who knew nothing about railroads and was totally out of touch with their culture—Ronald J. Burns, who had been president of an oil company. Burns lasted only 463 days.

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1 Rumbling up the Horseshoe

RushJr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub


Rumbling up the Horseshoe


THE TWO BIG BLACK LOCOMOTIVES, WHITE HORSES emblazoned on their noses, sat there growling as they idled. We were in the cab of the lead locomotive, NS9345, a 4,000-horsepower General Electric diesel.

Fred Putt, a road foreman who was riding with us, bent over a little as he opened the mike.

“Everybody cleared, Outbound 21,” he told Rutherford Tower.

“Roger,” came the response.

“Ready to depart,” said Fred.

“Have a good trip. Rutherford out,” said the man in the tower, and 9345 broke into a roar and began edging Norfolk Southern’s train number 21E ever so slowly toward the throat of Harrisburg’s Rutherford Yard. It was 9:40 on a cloudy October morning.

Steve Ostroha, a thin man of medium height who was the train’s conductor, was in his seat in front of the cabin’s front door, watching the track ahead, listening to the radio, and waiting for the dispatcher to clear us for the main line. “OK!” he suddenly announced. “We got railroad!”

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24 John Snow, CEO

RushJr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub

Norfolk Southern may have lost the round, but the war was by no means over, and while NS licked its wounds, McClellan assessed its mistakes. Quickly he concluded that in the next confrontation he and the others would concentrate on the media and geographical targets that were important and try not to spread themselves so thin. Furthermore, they would not let themselves be constrained by price. Norfolk had more money than CSX. It should be willing, if needed, to outspend its opponent.

In the meantime, Norfolk Southern expanded by acquiring a moving van company. Of much greater importance, the railroad bought the rights to a new kind of highway trailer that was designed so that railroad wheels could be attached to it, thereby enabling it to run both on the road and on the tracks, where it was pulled along on the back of a train. Since NS’s corporate symbol was a racehorse, the marketing department named the new enterprise Triple Crown Service. The innovative van would some day help boost Norfolk’s intermodal revenues to the point where they excelled income from every commodity the railroad carried, except coal.

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2 A New Start

J. Parker Lamb Indiana University Press ePub

During the period immediately after the war, rail planning and construction again became important to Meridian’s economy as well as throughout all the former Confederate states. Both of the troubled lines in western Alabama were finally completed. The Selma & Meridian Railroad’s ongoing financial problems led to another reorganization in 1871 as the Alabama Central Railroad. However, a new disagreement arose after the Northeast & Southwest Alabama, operator of the York–Meridian line, refused to give Alabama Central the trackage rights into Meridian it had granted to the Selma & Meridian prior to the war. To counteract this decision, the Alabama Central obtained court approval to construct a 12-mile line from York to Lauderdale, Mississippi, where it would be granted trackage rights over the M&O. This line began operating in July 1878, although later consolidations would render it unnecessary.

These difficulties were no doubt tied to the bankruptcy of the North & South Alabama line in October 1868. This allowed its return to the previous owners, the Wills Valley, which renamed it the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad. However, financial problems continued, and on January 1, 1871, the state of Alabama foreclosed on its bonds and became the legal owner. The state’s efforts to sell the road to another investor dragged out for nearly six years before a London banking firm, Emile Erlanger & Co., made a successful bid in June 1877. It renamed the line Alabama Great Southern Railway Co. Ltd. and began rebuilding it to contemporary standards (Harrison, First Supplement).

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