258 Chapters
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13 The End

Jr., Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

So things stood as the twentieth century rolled around. Although inert, overgrown, and mostly forgotten, the South Pennsylvania Railroad still existed with its original charter intact, and thus still potentially dangerous to the Pennsylvania should some outsider manage to get his hands on it. While Jay Gould himself was no longer a threat, having died in 1892, his son George was proving to be a large piece of loose artillery, with grandiose dreams of expanding his father’s holdings into a coast-to-coast empire. By the early 1900s the junior Gould and his allies were building a railroad into Pittsburgh from the west, acquiring the Western Maryland as a future connection to the East Coast at Baltimore, and were also maneuvering to get into Philadelphia. Even forgetting Gould, the age of competitive railroad building was not quite over, and some other poacher might always show up for a try. (And in fact, the dream of a new trans-Pennsylvania railroad was still alive in 1925, when Delaware & Hudson Railroad president Leonor Loree proposed building a “super railroad” across the state, although on a different route from the South Penn’s.) Still, the Pennsylvania Railroad could do nothing on its own to put the company out of its misery. The best it could do legally was to claim ownership of the two segments just mentioned, but even that was not assured protection; the PRR’s subsidiaries had done nothing with the properties, and if a revived South Penn came back, it might be able to reassert its charter rights.

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10 Cooler Heads and Colder Feet Emerge

Jr., Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

As early as mid-1884 some of the original euphoria had begun to vanish, and at least some syndicate members, including Vanderbilt, were having second thoughts.

Vanderbilt was in poor health, suffering from his chronic high blood pressure and, later, from the effects of a mild stroke. Back in 1880 he had arranged with J. P. Morgan to sell half of his considerable New York Central stock holdings, and in May 1883 he had resigned the New York Central’s presidency, turning it over first to James H. Rutter and then, after Rutter died in 1885, to his trusted lawyer, Chauncey Depew. Two of his sons, William K. and Cornelius Vanderbilt II, took his place at the top in guiding the company’s fortunes. Furthermore, his company now had its hands full waging a rate war with both the Pennsylvania and the newly opened West Shore. The Central’s aggressive reaction had helped push the West Shore into bankruptcy in June 1884, only six months after its opening, which was a victory of sorts for Vanderbilt even though he was not yet able to control the new competitor.1

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Chapter 6 The Road to Ruin

Bill Marvel Indiana University Press ePub

By the late 1950s the signs were not good for the railroad business. The prosperity that had returned with World War II had largely dissipated. Jet airliners were scooping up the high-end passenger trade, and the growing interstate highway system would soon harvest what was left. Freight was going to trucks and barges. A railroad president in 1956 had to be on his toes, especially the president of a railroad with the systemic problems of Rock Island.

Most of what was wrong with the Rock went back to the beginning. Everywhere it went, some other railroad got there first and went there more directly. And when Rock Island did get there, it was over somebody else’s tracks.

The wheat harvest has been gathered, and on August 17, 1958, No. 9011 rests under the cottonwoods at Phillipsburg, Kansas. Not a doodlebug, but a boxcab freight engine, No. 9011 was one of seven turned out in 1929 by St. Louis Car Company. Tom Lee photo, Tom Klinger collection

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7 Along the Way: 1971–87

Don L. Hofsommer Indiana University Press ePub

BY THE 1970S, RAILROADS WERE AMATURE INDUStry.” It was not a term of endearment. Indeed, many observersX were ready to write off the industry, consigning it – soon, they said – to the dustbin of history. The naysayers got it wrong, happy to say, but the long decade of the 1970s proved wrenching in the extreme for those who held affection for the industry at large, for the individual companies, for the trains they ran, and for the employees who worked for them. It would be a grim ten years. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope, and a new era beckoned. It would be a hard slog getting there, but over the next several years, a very different industry would emerge – slimmed down, deregulated, and led by a talented and innovative management cadre. A new era, to be sure, one that resembled the past only at the margins.

IC for years was Iowa’s premier handler of packinghouse products, but reflecting a broad pattern, billings slipped in the 1970s as packers relocated their plants and as they increasingly turned to trucks for their transportation needs. Six days a week, however, IC in August 1976 still wheeled tonnage eastward from John Morell’s huge facility at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Train 776, shown here slipping through Matlock in northwest Iowa, would hand off most of its consist to train 676 from Sioux City at Cherokee.

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“Legends of the Trail”

Kenneth L. Untiedt, editor University of North Texas Press PDF

LEGENDS OF THE TRAIL by Francis E. Abernethy

[A legend is a traditional prose narrative that has a historical setting and real people as characters. It deals with extraordinary happenings, even supernatural events, in a realistic way. Legends are folk history which document heroic or dramatic events of a culture’s life.—Abernethy]

The following happened in August of 1886 on the Camino

Real de los Tejas, where the Trail crosses Onion Creek southwest of Austin.

1886 was the drouthiest year in over a generation, and the wells had dried up, and the black land on Tobe Pickett’s farm had cracks in it wide enough to swallow a jackrabbit. María, who with her husband Pablo were Tobe’s hired help, walked alongside a great wide crack on her way to cut prickly pear for the hogs. As she looked into the depths of the crack, thinking to see a trapped jackrabbit, her eyes caught the gleam of old metal. A closer look revealed a crack’s-width view of a large chest with an iron chain around it.

María had found the chest of gold the Spaniards had buried on the Camino Real when they were attacked by bandits a hundred years earlier—before Spaniards became Mexicans. María marked the spot and told her husband, and they waited and planned how they would get the chest out when nobody could see them.

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