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2 Stations

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

STATIONS

2

BUILDINGS

It would be during the “Demonstration Period,” roughly the 1830s and 1840s, that the railroad station evolved. At the dawn of intercity railroads, officials did not fret much about depot design or construction, instead concentrating on tracks, bridges, and other physical aspects of their new lines. Recruiting reliable workers and making plans for operations and expansion also consumed time. An upstart carrier might use or modify an existing structure convenient to its tracks to serve as a depot. When in 1830 the gestating Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) reached Ellicott’s Mills (now Ellicott City), Maryland, 13 miles west of its starting point on Pratt Street in Baltimore, the company decided that passengers should wait in the nearby Patapsco Hotel. When the B&O a year later extended its original stem in Baltimore the short distance to the Inner Harbor, the Three Tuns Tavern served as the depot. Railroad officials believed that travelers could fend for themselves. This had been the experience of stagecoach riders, as operators infrequently owned station facilities; rather, proprietors of hotels, stores, and taverns provided shelter and services. Yet eventually the B&O felt the need to build a structure at Ellicott’s Mills to accommodate and protect shipments of freight. Later the railroad erected a depot designed for passengers, and Baltimore likewise received enhanced passenger facilities.

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9 The Rail Use Case: Ours and the Government’s

Howard H. Lewis Indiana University Press ePub

9

The Rail Use Case: Ours and the Government’s

It was essentially the transferors’ burden to demonstrate the value of their properties in continued rail service. The government’s primary contention, by contrast, was that absent Congressional action expressed in the Rail Act, the railroads in the Northeast would simply have disappeared, replaced by trucks on a much expanded highway system, ships on an enhanced intercoastal waterway, increased air freight, and I guess snowshoes. The government believed its role was counterpunching, that is, demonstrating that our contention would not have worked and that our properties would be largely ignored by profitable roads, or at best bought for a pittance no greater than what they would have yielded in liquidation for nonrail use.

My approach of beginning at the end of the case by imagining oral argument had the advantage of focusing my mind and the work product it developed, so that I didn’t range over a mass of fact and speculation trying to find the compelling argument emerging from the jumble like weeds sprouting in a yard. Admittedly, it had the disadvantage of limiting inquiry, so that I might well overlook a big piece of evidence which a less structured, more open investigation might have revealed. The truth is, however, I really had no choice, since the timetable set by the court effectively precluded any kind of full-range inquiry given the limited resources available to me and my own physical capacity.

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• Epilogue

Howard H. Lewis Indiana University Press ePub

Epilogue

They’re all dead now, mostly. The three judges of the Special Court; Joe Castle, after typically ignoring his doctor’s order not to visit his daughter in Denver because of the altitude; Lock Fogg and Bill Hesse in the fullness of their years, fully vindicated as to the value of their railroad. Grant and Tom—Grant from too much alcohol over a long period of time, Tom from a surplus of cigarettes. Bill Dimeling and Jim Sox, way too young. Of the list of the fallen, two deaths affected me the most.

The first was Henry Friendly’s. When I read of his suicide in March of 1986, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, which was totally inexplicable since I never really knew him at all, not even to exchange as little as a civil greeting: “Good morning, Mr. Lewis.” “Good morning, Your Honor.” Our “relationship” consisted of my attempts to answer his unending stream of highly intelligent and provocative questions and make as clear and convincing as possible our arguments for the valuation of what I now felt to be my railroad, in view of my contribution to a legal proceeding he created, structured, and managed in order to solve one of the most complicated and novel legal problems ever to exist in American jurisprudence. In the course of the five years we were together (longer than many marriages), I became persuaded that he epitomized the best of my profession: extraordinary intelligence; a determination to work harder than anyone should; a willingness, indeed eagerness, to explore all the issues in the case; an ability to control the litigation so that it moved at an extraordinary pace without giving anyone cause to complain that they had not been heard; and of course, total honesty and integrity. The most vivid memory I have of him now is posthumous. Several years after Friendly’s death and several years before his own, I entertained John Wisdom following a talk he gave at my request at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, when he told me the following story in private: On the night he took the suicidal overdose of pills, Friendly wrote a number of letters. The one he wrote to Wisdom went something like this:

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16 Postwar Challenges

Cordery, Simon Indiana University Press ePub

World War II was the last golden age of railroading in the United States. Between 1935 and 1945 in Illinois, freight revenues more than doubled, passenger income increased by over 300 percent, and the network operated as smoothly as could be expected given the emergency conditions prevailing. Things would deteriorate after 1945, but that could not be known at the time and railroad executives exuded optimism following V-J Day. A bright postwar future appeared to beckon as new technological and safety developments promised to retain customers and grow traffic. To capture the festive postwar mood and commemorate a century of Chicago railroading, the Windy City hosted a lakefront Railroad Fair in 1948.

As joyful as the event proved, celebrating could not solve looming problems. Increased competition from other modes, deteriorating labor relations, and falling revenue posed massive challenges. Unlike the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which generated new traffic for and excitement about railroads, the majority of Railroad Fair attendees arrived by car. Passenger numbers declined as people drove locally and, increasingly, flew long-distance. The automobile returned with a vengeance after World War II, when gas and rubber rationing ended and creeping prosperity released pent-up demand. Factories shifted from producing tanks to making cars, suburban living encouraged auto ownership, and optimism in the future was reflected in a desire to take to the open road.1 In the meantime, Illinois railroad passenger revenue plummeted by 36.7 percent in the ten years between 1945 and 1955, pointing to a grim future.

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11 “They Are Going to Run Out of Cash”

Rush, Jr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub

When he arrived at the Treasury, Stuart Saunders confided to Secretary David Kennedy that commercial paper was being redeemed faster than it was being sold, and he described the tightening bind on Penn Central’s cash supply. The debenture offering appeared doomed, he said, and if he could not obtain government guarantees for further loans, the railroad subsidiary, Penn Central Transportation Co., would have to consider filing for bankruptcy within the next few days.

Kennedy was stunned, all the more so because he was former chairman of Continental Illinois Bank & Trust Co., which held $15 million of Penn Central’s debt. He also was alarmed because the stock market already was in a serious slump and news of the bankruptcy of a company as large and venerable as Penn Central could trigger a chain reaction, if not an outright panic. Most of the nation’s largest banks were its creditors. Penn Central’s collapse would bring heavy losses as well to many of the country’s large mutual funds.

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