What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Discussion relating to the Penn Central, up until its 1976 inclusion in Conrail. Visit the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society for more information.

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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby gawlikfj » Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:58 pm

The Penn Central was doomed from the start. It inherited bad track that needed alot of work, Bad freight cars and bad engines. If the money was there like it is now ,maybe it would have worked.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:36 am

gawlikfj wrote:The Penn Central was doomed from the start. It inherited bad track that needed alot of work, Bad freight cars and bad engines. If the money was there like it is now ,maybe it would have worked.


ADD one more thing to this, it also inherited bad management from the Pennsylvania Railroad, people who believed that it
was better to sink dollars into crap than to spend on the railroad in order to make money in their railroad operations. This
was a merger that could have worked and should have worked IF available funds were spent on the physical plant. In 1968,
the year of this merger, the New York Central had a modern physical plant, one of the most modern in the industry but the
Pennsylvania still functioned on a 1920's technology and PRR management did not believe in good maintenance practices.
Both railroads had a pretty decent fleet of locomotives but again they did not maintain them as well as they should have.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby BobLI » Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:21 am

I thought the Pennsy had top rate maintenance and allways had the tracks in great condition?.. When did that change?
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby XBNSFer » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:48 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:
gawlikfj wrote:The Penn Central was doomed from the start. It inherited bad track that needed alot of work, Bad freight cars and bad engines. If the money was there like it is now ,maybe it would have worked.


ADD one more thing to this, it also inherited bad management from the Pennsylvania Railroad, people who believed that it
was better to sink dollars into crap than to spend on the railroad in order to make money in their railroad operations. This
was a merger that could have worked and should have worked IF available funds were spent on the physical plant. In 1968,
the year of this merger, the New York Central had a modern physical plant, one of the most modern in the industry but the
Pennsylvania still functioned on a 1920's technology and PRR management did not believe in good maintenance practices.
Both railroads had a pretty decent fleet of locomotives but again they did not maintain them as well as they should have.
Noel Weaver


While I'd agree that the PRR had awful management (Stuart Saunders gets my vote for the Man Who Should Never Have Been In Charge of ANY Railroad), the fact is that given the operating and regulatory environment of the time, no amount of "spending on physical plant" was going to make the P-C merger "work." There was no way for railroads in the northeast to be profitable enterprises given the ICC regulations, the ridiculous feather bedding of organized labor, the loss of high-value (and profitable) traffic to government subsidized highways, waterways and aviation, and the untenable levels of property taxes. Even with its modernized physical plant and excellent management team, the NYC was in financial trouble well before the P-C merger, and wasn't going to be a viable business (any more than any railroad in the northeast) until, and unless, the ultimate result of their collapse occurred (i.e, Staggers deregulation, movement of unprofitable passenger and commuter trains to government/state operation, reduction of crew sizes and modification of antiquated work rules, and the abandonment of light density lines that couldn't earn a nickel).

The support for this assertion is the early profitability (more to the point the lack thereof) of Conrail. Despite BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars "spent on physical plant," the existing regulatory, labor, subsidized competition and tax issues made Conrail little more than a big blue Penn Central with its hand in the taxpayer's pocket. Conrail continued to lose money and go to Washington with hat in hand for more, and the losses did not end until after Staggers was passed, the commuter operations were shed, the railroad was allowed to get rid of unprofitable branches, and "labor protection" payments ended/work rules were improved. Absent these essential changes, railroading in the northeast was not going to be a profitable enterprise, irrespective of how high the quality of track, motive power, terminals or signal systems. The government simply would not release the railroads from these "shackles" until it was abundantly clear that the "cash cow" that the government assumed the railroads were and always would be was about to drop dead. Sadly more railroad infrastructure was lost in this process than should have been, but that's a whole other discussion.
GE, not EMD, makes the best locomotives now; has for over 20 years. Get over it.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby Noel Weaver » Sun Aug 19, 2012 11:20 pm

XBNSFer wrote:
Noel Weaver wrote:
gawlikfj wrote:The Penn Central was doomed from the start. It inherited bad track that needed alot of work, Bad freight cars and bad engines. If the money was there like it is now ,maybe it would have worked.


ADD one more thing to this, it also inherited bad management from the Pennsylvania Railroad, people who believed that it
was better to sink dollars into crap than to spend on the railroad in order to make money in their railroad operations. This
was a merger that could have worked and should have worked IF available funds were spent on the physical plant. In 1968,
the year of this merger, the New York Central had a modern physical plant, one of the most modern in the industry but the
Pennsylvania still functioned on a 1920's technology and PRR management did not believe in good maintenance practices.
Both railroads had a pretty decent fleet of locomotives but again they did not maintain them as well as they should have.
Noel Weaver


." There was no way for railroads in the northeast to be profitable enterprises given the ICC regulations, the ridiculous feather bedding of organized labor.

The support for this assertion is the early profitability (more to the point the lack thereof) of Conrail. Despite BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars "spent on physical plant," the existing regulatory, labor, subsidized competition and tax issues made Conrail little more than a big blue Penn Central with its hand in the taxpayer's pocket. Conrail continued to lose money and go to Washington with hat in hand for more, and the losses did not end until after Staggers was passed, the commuter operations were shed, the railroad was allowed to get rid of unprofitable branches, and "labor protection" payments ended/work rules were improved. Absent these essential changes, railroading in the northeast was not going to be a profitable enterprise, irrespective of how high the quality of track, motive power, terminals or signal systems. The government simply would not release the railroads from these "shackles" until it was abundantly clear that the "cash cow" that the government assumed the railroads were and always would be was about to drop dead. Sadly more railroad infrastructure was lost in this process than should have been, but that's a whole other discussion.


I do not appreciate your remark about featherbedding, I never experienced any featherbedding in my years with Penn Central. As for crew consist issues, Saunders was so desparate for this merger that he agreed with the unions on un-real manning agreements. I never collected a dime in gurantees or for work not performed. Penn Central's problems were at least partially of their own making. I saw it on a daily basis at all levels. I agree that they needed relief from the passenger problems and they got that but they wasted tons of money in overtime, outlawed crews, delayed freight, missed connections and poor service because they would not put money back in to the physical plant. Invest it in other things some of which did not work out and waste it in high operating costs due to their own in-effiency. In closing I will simply say that your attitude is just like a lot of others who have or had little knowledge of railroading or railroad history, it is easy to blame the workers for the problems but for the most part this is nonsense. i could say more but this is enough.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby charlie6017 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:02 pm

Stuart Saunders and David Bevan were essentially a two-man wrecking crew, and any amount of
assistance by the government prior to Penn Central wouldn't have done a whole lot of good. It's as
simple as that.

I have never worked for any railroad, but I can't agree with the "featherbedding" comment. The railroads
hired employees as necessary and the BLE and UTU are there for a reason. Firemen and Flagmen as far as
I know are no longer necessary positions, but were previously.

Charlie
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby XBNSFer » Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:35 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:
XBNSFer wrote:
I do not appreciate your remark about featherbedding, I never experienced any featherbedding in my years with Penn Central. As for crew consist issues, Saunders was so desparate for this merger that he agreed with the unions on un-real manning agreements. I never collected a dime in gurantees or for work not performed. Penn Central's problems were at least partially of their own making. I saw it on a daily basis at all levels. I agree that they needed relief from the passenger problems and they got that but they wasted tons of money in overtime, outlawed crews, delayed freight, missed connections and poor service because they would not put money back in to the physical plant. Invest it in other things some of which did not work out and waste it in high operating costs due to their own in-effiency. In closing I will simply say that your attitude is just like a lot of others who have or had little knowledge of railroading or railroad history, it is easy to blame the workers for the problems but for the most part this is nonsense. i could say more but this is enough.
Noel Weaver


You may not appreciate the remark, Noel, but the reality is that excessive labor costs were a definite issue for the industry in those days. The fact that the position of Fireman, whose job it was to fire the boiler of steam locomotives, wasn't eliminated until the mid 1980s, damn near three DECADES after the last railroad in the US dropped the fires on its last steam power, is a monument to featherbedding. Railroads were still running with 4-man crews on road freights with no online switching until the mid 1980s too. Perhaps you didn't perceive this as featherbedding, but that's exactly what it was. FYI, I worked in train service, and did so in the era of two-man crews, which are perfectly adequate for road trains. I recall one "old head" who described to me his former job on a pool assignment as a (head end) brakeman, thusly: He would climb aboard the second unit, and go to sleep, and get up and climb off when he reached his destination terminal. He called it "The best job I ever had." There were plenty of railroaders whose "work" consisted of something similar to that in the days of 4 and 5 man crews on road trains that did no switching en-route, and that is what I refer to as "featherbedding." I could go on about 100-mile "days," and such, but I think I've made my point.

I understand that Saunders did a lot of stupid things in his attempt to placate everyone, including organized labor, so that the P-C merger would get approved. That doesn't mean that crews twice (or more) as big as needed were not a part of the reason (not the only reason, but definitely ONE of the reasons) that railroading had become a marginal business in the best of territories, and an untenable business in the northeast, from the 1960s through a decade after the formation of Conrail.
GE, not EMD, makes the best locomotives now; has for over 20 years. Get over it.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:38 pm

XBNSFer wrote:
Noel Weaver wrote:
XBNSFer wrote:
I do not appreciate your remark about featherbedding, I never experienced any featherbedding in my years with Penn Central. As for crew consist issues, Saunders was so desparate for this merger that he agreed with the unions on un-real manning agreements. I never collected a dime in gurantees or for work not performed. Penn Central's problems were at least partially of their own making. I saw it on a daily basis at all levels. I agree that they needed relief from the passenger problems and they got that but they wasted tons of money in overtime, outlawed crews, delayed freight, missed connections and poor service because they would not put money back in to the physical plant. Invest it in other things some of which did not work out and waste it in high operating costs due to their own in-effiency. In closing I will simply say that your attitude is just like a lot of others who have or had little knowledge of railroading or railroad history, it is easy to blame the workers for the problems but for the most part this is nonsense. i could say more but this is enough.
Noel Weaver


You may not appreciate the remark, Noel, but the reality is that excessive labor costs were a definite issue for the industry in those days. The fact that the position of Fireman, whose job it was to fire the boiler of steam locomotives, wasn't eliminated until the mid 1980s, damn near three DECADES after the last railroad in the US dropped the fires on its last steam power, is a monument to featherbedding. Railroads were still running with 4-man crews on road freights with no online switching until the mid 1980s too. Perhaps you didn't perceive this as featherbedding, but that's exactly what it was. FYI, I worked in train service, and did so in the era of two-man crews, which are perfectly adequate for road trains. I recall one "old head" who described to me his former job on a pool assignment as a (head end) brakeman, thusly: He would climb aboard the second unit, and go to sleep, and get up and climb off when he reached his destination terminal. He called it "The best job I ever had." There were plenty of railroaders whose "work" consisted of something similar to that in the days of 4 and 5 man crews on road trains that did no switching en-route, and that is what I refer to as "featherbedding." I could go on about 100-mile "days," and such, but I think I've made my point.

I understand that Saunders did a lot of stupid things in his attempt to placate everyone, including organized labor, so that the P-C merger would get approved. That doesn't mean that crews twice (or more) as big as needed were not a part of the reason (not the only reason, but definitely ONE of the reasons) that railroading had become a marginal business in the best of territories, and an untenable business in the northeast, from the 1960s through a decade after the formation of Conrail.


I do not really know your identity although I have a suspicion as to who you are. I see no use in continuing to argue with what is probably a "know it all railfan" on issues that I experienced first hand day after day after day so this will do it on here for me so far as YOU are concerned.
Noel Weaver
PS I am not hiding behind a handle and I am not afraid to sign my name.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby XBNSFer » Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:23 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:
XBNSFer wrote:
Noel Weaver wrote:
XBNSFer wrote:
I do not really know your identity although I have a suspicion as to who you are. I see no use in continuing to argue with what is probably a "know it all railfan" on issues that I experienced first hand day after day after day so this will do it on here for me so far as YOU are concerned.
Noel Weaver
PS I am not hiding behind a handle and I am not afraid to sign my name.


I don't know you, Noel, and you don't know me either, so I'm sure your "suspicions" are misplaced, and I don't see why you should care. For some reason you seem to be taking this personally, which is a bit ridiculous; it's not as if I'm blaming you personally for the failure of the PC. Labor costs were a definite industry issue at the time, and as I said were ONE factor (among several) that contributed to the industry's problems, in particular in the northeast, during that period of time. You have now stooped to name calling and taking a dismissive attitude with me simply because I have expressed a different opinion. If you'd like to provide some support for the argument that there was no featherbedding in the railroad industry in PC days feel free to present it. Or perhaps you have no support for such a position, and that's why you don't wish to continue the discussion.

You might find this report from the Transportation Law Journal educational:

http://law.du.edu/documents/transportat ... edding.pdf

Based on the report, a "job security agreement" won by the unions (probably one of the very things Saunders agreed to do in order to placate the unions so the merger would be approved) by itself cost PC $35.5 million dollars from 1968-1970. The supposed cost of it when agreed was to be $78.5 million over an EIGHT year period - at the rate actually experienced in TWO years, the total cost would be more like $142 million, or about TWICE as much as anticipated when PC agreed to it. The cost of featherbedding to the industry as a whole was estimated to be $592 million dollars a year in 1963, a sum almost as big as the entire industry's profits ($681 million that year). That cost converted into 2012 dollars would be on the order of $6.5 - $7.1 BILLION dollars a year. I doubt very much that the revitalization of the railroad industry we have witnessed in recent years would have occurred with a burden like that to carry. Perhaps you feel differently.
GE, not EMD, makes the best locomotives now; has for over 20 years. Get over it.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby Jersey Jeff » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:12 am

If the Staggers Act was passed 15 years earlier, perhaps the PC would have lingered a bit longer.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:24 pm

Jersey Jeff wrote:If the Staggers Act was passed 15 years earlier, perhaps the PC would have lingered a bit longer.

The regulatory climate of 15 years earlier would not have permitted consideration of the Staggers Act, or any deregulatory measure of that scope; it was the collapse of the Penn Central that forced Congress to realize that deregulation was essential to the survival of the railroads. In a very real sense the collapse of PC was the proverbial two-by-four across the frontal bone of the Congressional mule -- it got their attention. L. Stanley Crane, Conrail's chairman, had the necessary credibility with Congress to convince them that it had to be done. So in other words, the collapse of PC had to happen first. That's not to say that PC might not have been able to hang on a little longer given the removal of regulatory constraints brought about by Staggers -- it's just that Staggers couldn't have been enacted without something dramatic like PC's collapse happening first.
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Re: What if Goverment Assistance happened earlier

Postby Engineer Spike » Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:47 pm

I don't appreciate the remarks about featherbedding either. First, I think that the fireman was a good apprentice program toward becoming a successful engineer, much better that the 6 month choo choo U programs now. I have had my share of warn out power, which needed someone there to keep the units running. I'm sure that this problem was more acute with the early diesels which were still prevalent at that time.

The de-industrialization of the era made just too much redundant trackage and terminals. N&W sure did not want the EL (nor the D&H). PC had too many problems already to deal with the LV. Who would have wanted the CNJ, RDG, LV, EL, L&HR? Without them, there would have been large gaps between the trunks of the PRR and NYC, in places like northeastern PA, and the Southern Tier of NY.

The MARC-EL and a restructured PC would have been better for competition than CR and D&H, but then there would have been two weak systems in the east. Chessie didn't want the RDG and CNJ anymore either. It's too bad that it took almost 25 years to have two strong systems in the northeast.
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