Southern Railway And Amtrak

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Southern Railway And Amtrak

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sun Aug 09, 2015 10:48 am

Over at General Class I Discussion: "Fascinating Article..." topic, Mr. Gadfly notes:

Gadfly wrote:Don't forget Southern Railway System who also declined to join Amtrak and continued on into 1979 with the "Southern Crescent' from New York to New Orleans.
Amtrak was used to dealing with marginally successful, even near-bankrupt Class I's, and thought they could dictate to Southern like all the rest. SR explored the possibility of joining Amtrak in '71, but discovered that Amtrak was going to clutter up Southern's most profitable routes with passenger trains, indeed, demanding to do so. I believe it was Claytor or L Stanley Crane ( I forget which), according to our internal "railroad rumor mill", that told Amtrak in no uncertain terms to go f*** themselves: He'd run the Crescent for FREE and lose the 2 million or so it was costing before they or any other sumb*tches would tell Southern what to do!!!!!! SR could AFFORD to absorb this cost, and continued to make good profits and pay nice dividends until 1979 and on into its merger with NW in 1982! :-D Amtrak didn't know how to deal with a very independent-minded and profitable road such as Southern whose previous president, one Dennis Brosnan, struck terror in the minds of railroad employees AND government officials alike! it was this hell-on-wheels approach of this former CEO and past presidents with aggressive and shrewd attitude that had made Southern Railway an envy of much larger railroads! :-D Yet it is one of the more "overlooked" railroads (by railfans and historians) when its achievements (such as standing up to ICC in the grain carload lawsuit against them and WINNING) are many and varied. Unfortunately, you don't see much about Southern in the railroad press. To read its history and achievements is truly enlightening! Its slogans, "Look Ahead, Look South", and "Southern Gives a Green Light to Innovations" were not invented, but EARNED--often to the consternation and puzzlement of rival roads.

I count it a privilege to have worked FOR Southern Railway System,then Norfolk Southern, and to have ridden the cabs of the Crescent many times! :-D

GF

Since that topic relates to a TRAINS article that addresses thirteen points, and of which only two are passenger related, I have chosen to submit additional discussion of Mr. Gadfly's SRY passenger related points over here. For ready reference, I have posted an X-ref there to this topic.

In addition to Mr. Gadfly's recollections, all of which I accept, we should also note that there were "$$ and ¢¢" reasons for SRY to stay out.

First, we must remember that the "entry fee" to Amtrak was measured upon Calendar Year 1969 passenger train losses. Roads had the choice of paying 200% of their avoidable (as determined by Amtrak consultants) or 100% of fully allocated costs as reported to the ICC. Naturally, under either method, if a road's passenger traffic had remained stable between that period and Enactment, that would provide far greater incentive for a road to sign up as distinct from a road that had been successful in "self help" in killing passenger trains subsequent to the 1969 measuring period.

I think SRY fell into that latter group, as did other holdouts such as DRGW and RI. Think of the trains that SRY whacked using their "nowhere to nowhere" strategy, Fort Mill-Warrenville", 'Council GA", York AL, that resulted in State regulatory jurisdiction of the trains - and SRY had good reason to hold they "owned" those State regulatory agencies. Therefore why pay an entry fee based on 1969 losses when we had whack a lot of those losses on our own? But the law was the law.

Further, with an operating HQ in Atlanta and a Corporate HQ in Wash, SRY had a fair amount of corporate travel between those points, the Southern Crescent's schedule could not be more convenient for overnight travel, and in a still regulated airline environment, anything that would be paid out to Delta Airlines and/or NetJets (depending upon where one stood on the pecking order), an offset to the losses incurred by 1 & 2.

Oh and finally, I know first hand how classy an operation SRY had both before and into the Amtrak era.
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Re: Southern Railway And Amtrak

Postby Gadfly » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:17 am

Not to sabotage the thread, but a simple memory of trips and deadheads I made on the Crescent...............I remember going to Washington, DC on pass with my wife. Leaving near Charlotte, an outlying "open" station, we left one Friday midnight-ish and rode up, paying only for a bedroom (an additional cost not part of employee perks). There were the silversides cars gleaming from a fresh washing (Atlanta?), and, likewise, green & white w/gold pinstripe E8's chanting their 567 song. They, too, were fresh from the wash, and fairly shone in the moonlit night. I was recognized by a trainmaster, with whom I was friendly, and went with him up to the head end, crossing thru the nose hatch doors, over the couplers, and thru the engine rooms. BOY! Were they LOUD! Thus arriving in the cab, I greeted George Ambrose, engineer, also a friend (I don't think George ever met a stranger!). We remained on the engine until Salisbury, when George got off at the end of the northbound run. Not wanting to neglect my dear wife, I returned thru the engines, baggage car, and to the coach. We then retired to the sleeping car for a few hours sleep. At 6 AM, we were back up, a bit bleary-eyed, but full of this adventure, it was time to go to the dining car. We were due in Washington around 8 AM(?)---and I forget the exact schedule--- and we had a little wait as the dining car was full of equally(?) bleary-eyed passengers. Greeting us were waiter/attendents with white towels draped over their arms. After a wait, shorter than expected, we were seated at a linen-draped table and fresh flowers in crystal vases. We ordered hot cakes, eggs, grits, toast and coffee for the sleepy ones like us. (That wasn't free, either, but, seeing my green Southern jacket and viewing my trip pass, the attendent gave some kind of "discount", what it was called, I also don't remember. As we ate breakfast in something of an elegant setting, the sun began to peek over the Virginia mountains. Rounding a long, sweeping curve, the sun reflected on those 6 shiny green E8's and the silversides coaches gleamed in the sunburst reflection while the engineer blew the unique Nathan(?) horn, so now familiar, and marking for those who knew, "This is the 'Crescent"! It make me proud, and I wished at the moment an artist could have captured that scene. A scene that would not much longer exist, and certainly not with the colors of the Southern Railway. Nonetheless, in that fleeting moment of rounding that curve, it was a very pretty scene. For a year or so, the Crescent continued, using the former Southern E8s, then it was Amtrak------"Amtrash" to us employees, for on subsequent trips it just wasn't the same. The "Southern Rwy" atmosphere was gone, and little by little the sleek, Southern coaches were gone, too, along with the chanting E8s with which I had grown so familiar and handed up orders to. Eventually, my so-called "pass" expired---it was only a 25% discount, a far cry from the 'free' I could get simply by having my supervisor write me a pass. I didn't even bother to renew it, since I only had 2 years service with the railroad, even retired non-railroaders could get as much--sometimes more than I. So I have never ridden "Am-TRAK". :-)

We all have our memories. Mine are of Southern Railway where I started as a track material laborer, then with Norfolk Southern where many of Southern's former practices still live. As to Southern and its dealings with Amtrak, I can also relate to the changeover from Southern's ticketing process and that of Amtrak. And, oh boy, was that ever a mess! I remember being called off the Extra Board during the change to work the ticket agent's job at Charlotte, They were changing over to something called, "ARTS"--Amtrak Reservation and Ticketing System, I think it was. Amtrak's fledgling computer system was famous for glitches. On this one occasion, the system was so messed up, and WE were so new at fooling with it, they called TWO of us off the Southern clerk's extra board to work the job. Being new, we really didn't know what we were doing, plus the system went down right in the middle of the busiest time for tickets--Friday evening/night. You talk about havoc....the computer was DOWN, we had people lined up out the door, we had no clue what we were doing, and we were now writing tickets longhand in ink!!!! :-D And we had to rely on a hand chart to find what to charge from where to where. HALP!!!!!!!!!!!! People were getting a bit "curt" with us, and we had to smile sweetly and take their abuse. "Ma'am", (thru gritted teeth and a 'smile', we had to say, "I'm sorry, but the computer is down, and I can't help the situation, but if you will just be patient-----)GRRRR-you little mealy-mouthed b****............ I'll knock you on yer ***" :( Now, now, Gadfly, be NICE to these people!!! :P :P You don't want to get ground time for sassing back!!!!!!!!! Was that ever a night to remember!

GF
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