• 1976 Route Possibilities

  • Discussion related to the operations and equipment of Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) from 1976 to its present operations as Conrail Shared Assets. Official web site can be found here: CONRAIL.COM.
Discussion related to the operations and equipment of Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) from 1976 to its present operations as Conrail Shared Assets. Official web site can be found here: CONRAIL.COM.

Moderators: TAMR213, keeper1616

  by Noel Weaver
pablo wrote:It's a bit too simplistic to lay blame scattershot around the industry. After all, CSX, in one example from the not too distant past (and UP and BNSF, too, I believe) raised rates on some traffic simply because it either didn't have the capacity, or wanted operating room. Raising rates wouldn't have been the panacea that so many people, here and elsewhere, have suggested. The situation required a major change in thinking, and Conrail was that. I don't think we need to argue that Conrail could have been better, etc., or that MARC-EL could have worked...we'll never know. It truly would have been interesting to see what could have come, but remember we are viewing things through 2006 eyes in many cases, where intermodal and long-haul are the primary focuses. I don't pretend to know what railroads were looking at doing in the 60's and 70's, other than staying alive, but aside from perhaps EL, intermodal likely wasn't thought of as the driving force. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

As for the unions, I am certan that the unions were horrifed at what was on the way, and looked to delay the inevitable as long as they could. If you know layoffs are coming, perhaps you delay it to help allow members to pay off their personal debts, or look for alternative employment while they can. I don't know for sure, as this is all just a guess, but we aren't too far away from a similar reduction in other places. Think airline pilots. Think autoworkers. Think teachers. Unions, right or wrong, aren't staffed by stupid people, even though their actions may appear to be so (or be just plain stupid regardless of perspective...) Railroad unions were a part of the problem, no doubt, but don't be so hard on them; for every lazy old hand that hurt the bottom line, there was at least one more that cared about their job, and their railroad.

Dave Becker
The unions had an involvement with the situation from early on. There
were provisions system wide for the protection of employees in train and
engine service. We had our rights to a portion of the work through one
method or another. Yes some people had to either relocate or commute
(drive) to a work location much farther from home but nearly everybody
who wanted to work was able to work and in some cases a far better job
than they were working in their home territory.
As for non-operating employees, they had different situations all over the
place and I don't know as much about them as I did about the T & E jobs.
Noel Weaver
  by lvrr325
amtrakhogger wrote:I remember reading that the Lackawanna was eyeing a merger
with the Nickel Plate back in the '50's as a way to get to Chicago.
But the idea failed and the DL&W merged with Erie instead.
That might be because the PRR owned a minority interest close to half of the NKP and Wabash, or purchased it during, the 1950s. I haven't researched just when they did that, but seems as though both roads were owned about half each by PRR and N&W. Because of the planned PC merger, PRR had to sell their shares, which went to N&W who took over both roads.

No matter how you try to pick apart Conrail, you really have to go to the choices made by PRR and NYC camps, as well as C&O and N&W, in the 1950s. The NYC tried to merge with the C&O or N&W about 1958 before getting hitched to the Pennsy - mergers that would have made more sense, and in the case of the C&O, come close to what actually exists today. Seems like there was some talk that PRR + N&W would have made more sense, too, although that would have pretty much been the end of the NKP and most of the Wabash. In the midwest the PRR and NYC had duplicate routes to almost every set of major cities, and the NKP and Wabash, B&O and C&O added usually at least one more duplicate to every one of those pairs.

And a big reason PC failed is because they could not abandon all the redundancy. (issues with the NH also contributed). It's easy to look back and say this was a mistake, but the prevailing mentality of the day was to merge and consolidate and try to stop losses that way. I don't think anyone expected the ICC to deny them at every turn. It took the creation of Conrail to eliminate a lot of the redundancy by simply not including it, and even then took government reform of the ICC to allow the rest of the changes that let Conrail become profitable. This led to an "abandon ourselves to profitability" mentality that exists to this day in some cases. Conrail pulled up a lot of lower density, but profitable, routes - even if you discount the high taxes, NY lost a lot of industrial jobs simply because factories lost rail service and at the time there were not trucks or roads that could support the same freight.

The government would have been better off to create one company to control the main lines and concentrate on high profits, and a second company (or several small companies) to control the branch lines, interchange with the second company, and run the routes Conrail would not run or railbank them when they are losing too much money. Sort of like a Rail America or G&W Industries. But no one thought of those things at that time.

Even without that, had someone been available with money enough to lose for a few more years until the reforms that came about because of Conrail were passed into law, a second system seperate from Conrail, would very likely have worked - either an EL(+D&H) or LV+RDG(+CNJ) or some other combination of those roads. At a minimum, a Buffalo to NY route with some kind of connections to the south to reach Chessie & N&W (at the time). The fact that it took until 1988 for D&H to become bankrupt and ruined points it out - trackage rights for hundreds of miles does not make a competitor, especially on the rails of a company who went so far as to break the law to abandon and pull up tracks to prevent possible future competition. NYS&W's successes in the 1980s also show there was room for more than one company. There may even still be room for another company.

Something interesting to do might be to take the traffic density maps published in a recent Trains magazine and see if you can recombine them into the routes that might have been created had a more logical set of mergers taken place in the 50s-60s:

NYC + C&O/B&O (which would likely eventually have included RDG/CNJ)
Erie + D&H (+ B&M?) - and how about as conditions of PRR/N&W, getting the Wabash, or at least parts of it?

Lehigh Valley goes into one of the first two groups, likely the PRR/N&W combo. Portions offer benefits to either system but as a whole it gives both redundancies also. On the bright side, the main would probably stay intact all the way to Geneva as long as Seneca Depot was open.

New Haven would get dumped on someone's doorstep - if you're going for the most logical combo, perhaps to the PRR. None of the other combos really need it.

  by JimBoylan
EL was a later addition to the MARC idea, the planning started before everyone was bankrupt. There was also a "Firewall" idea for PennCentral: abandon everything East of Harrisburg or Pittsburgh and Albany or Buffalo, get rid of the terminal expenses, and just keep the low cost overhead traffic!

  by scharnhorst
What about a merger dumping the the NH with the P&W? could that have saved Penn Central or Conrail if such a merger had taken place?
  by NellieBly
I don't often post here, but I was with USRA during the "alternatives to Conrail" period, and so I know something about MARC-EL and other permutations.

First, USRA was mandated to try to preserve rail competition in the Northeast. The Final System Plan envisioned sale of the east end of the E-L to N&W from about Youngstown east to north Jersey. Most of the Reading was to go to CSX, and the Delmarva line to Southern. N&W decided they really didn't want the east end of E-L, and the unions vetoed the other two purchases. So D&H was given trackage rights, and some capital funding to buy some locos, and tried to provide competitive service to Conrail.

That didn't work very well. By 1978, CR was falling way behind its traffic forecasts, so USRA began looking for alternatives, including the so-called "firewall" that would have created a publicly owned railroad (MARC) east of Buffalo and Harrisburg. However, the economics of that really didn't work very well.

What really saved Conrail was railroad deregulation in 1981.

As to routes, there was no place for an E-L in the USRA planning. There were already too many routes east of Chicago, and E-L was the obvious place to cut. East of Buffalo, when N&W pulled out of purchasing E-L, Conrail ended up with three routes (ex-LV, ex-Erie, ex-Lackawanna) and never needed more than two.

So again, as mentioned in an earlier post, while it's nice to have a favorite railroad, in fact there were way too many main lines in the Northeast in the late 1970s.