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3. The Developing Years: 1908–1913

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

If the Lake Shore Electric system was within a few hairs of its full physical growth in 1908, its peak years of long-distance services and high-capacity operations were just ahead. Within three years it would be innovating again with two long-distance interline services, as well as helping sponsor a new line to make one of these operations possible.

It was a time when the Midwestern interurban industry was reaching full flower, too. As it expanded and matured, the industry was now more conscious of itself as an interconnected system instead of a collection of separate localized entities. Back in 1906 it formed the Central Electric Railway Association as a trade association, and in 1908 the Central Electric Traffic Association was created as a CERA adjunct to develop interline rate tariffs and mileage books.

The Lake Shore Electric’s location was one of the most strategic in the developing interurban network, linking lines in Michigan, Indiana, and southwestern Ohio with Cleveland and other such northern Ohio population centers as Akron and Canton. It also connected the Midwestern lines with a somewhat tenuous route along the Lake Erie’s eastern shore to Buffalo and upstate New York. That plus its pioneering of long-distance limited-stop services made the company a natural industry leader. Symbolic of both his company’s stature and his own within the industry, the CERA invited Fred Coen to be the featured speaker at its 1908 annual meeting in Dayton.

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Medium 9780253011817

7 What Might Have Happened

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub



Suggesting what might have happened if something did not occur or occurred only partially – that is counterfactual or virtual history – is a risky business. Yet the question “What if?” can lead to insights. The case might be made that Charleston, which once enjoyed an envied status as a dominant Atlantic port, might have retained its position for decades, even permanently, had the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road (LC&C) been completed. “There is every reason to believe, that CHARLESTON possesses some peculiar advantages, which will entitle her to command a larger share of this [Western] trade, than rightfully belongs, to any other city in the union” (italics in original), stated the 1835 pamphlet on The Proposed Rail-Road from Cincinnati to Charleston.SHE STANDS IN THE FRONT RANK, and [with the transmontane railroad] she will enter the list when she finds the course clear for Southern competition. AND SHE WILL WIN” (capitalization in original). Even in distant Boston, observers perceived that the LC&C was destined to make Charleston the American seaboard port. “To this end was Charleston to be forthwith converted into the great commercial rival of New York, and that the importing and exporting for the South and West was to be done no longer by the Northern cities.” Yet a consensus existed that Charleston would never again regain its once enormous wealth. In the late eighteenth century it was said that nine of America’s ten wealthiest men lived in the greater Charleston area. Still, Charlestonians expected to benefit from the LC&C, perhaps regaining for their hometown the status of the “Commercial Emporium of the South.” The feeling went that “the more prosperous my beloved city, the more prosperous the beloved I.”1

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Medium 9780253005922

7 Coming of Age

J. Parker Lamb Indiana University Press ePub

Beginning at this point in the Meridian story, the narrative will digress to include the senior author’s personal recollections from his early years around the city’s constantly changing rail scene. However, to start the record at its beginning, I was born in a white frame house surrounded by fields of cotton and corn outside the tiny crossroads village of Boligee (Greene County), Alabama, founded in 1926. The house sat on a dirt road and was only a quarter-mile from the home of my father’s parents, giving me constant access to their busy family life, which included my youngest uncles and aunts, who were still living at home.

It was four years after the crash of 1929, and the nation, especially the South, was still in the depths of the Great Depression. Fortunately, my father and grandfather were able to work steadily at their blacksmith shop, J. A. Lamb & Son. Even as a three-year-old, I was fascinated by machines, and it was always a treat for me to go inside the dingy, dirt-floored shop to explore the many tools used to make all manner of metal parts, from shoes for horses and mules to components of wagons, buggies, and an occasional auto. Indeed, my father had been one of the first young mechanics in Greene County to learn about auto repair as soon as Henry Ford’s pioneering Model T had migrated to the area’s roads. Moreover, their small shop was the only place for general repair in the tiny village, which was 10 miles from the county seat, Eutaw.

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9 The Biggest Railroad Story of Them All

RushJr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub


The Biggest Railroad Story of Them All


I HAD BEEN AT FORTUNE A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AND, although still fascinated by railroads, had not written a single word about the subject. My latest story was about one of the darlings of Wall Street, a young company called National Student Marketing. NSM had been one of the hot stocks of 1969, and my piece had been an exposé of one of the greatest accounting scams Wall Street had seen in recent years.

Even before beginning my research, I could smell possible fraud. The magazine’s Futures Department, which searched for potential stories, had invited NSM’s president and some of his vice presidents to lunch so that some of us could hear their spin on how their company was so successful. During their presentation they passed around copies of the company’s quarterly and annual financial statements, and while they were talking I glanced at the numbers. I saw that the figures in the quarterly statements and the annual report were not comparable. Also, in the year-end balance sheet there was a most unusual item, called “Unbilled Receivables.” Immediately I sensed a grand exposé.

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20 “They Nod Off Regularly on the Job”

RushJr. Loving Indiana University Press ePub


“They Nod Off Regularly on the Job”


WITH HOPE OF ACQUIRING THE SANTA FE DEAD, REBENSDORF went to Davidson, urging him to reopen the discussions with the Southern Pacific. Worrying that the SP’s plant and equipment had deteriorated too far, Davidson resisted, but Rebensdorf argued that this was their only choice. Both men were right, especially Rebensdorf, because if UP wanted to avoid becoming a poor second to Burlington Northern Santa Fe, it needed the Southern Pacific. Several weeks after Lewis dropped his bid, Davidson and Rebensdorf went to Bethlehem and urged him to consider meeting again with the Anschutz. Wary, Lewis finally agreed and resumed the talks not long afterward, but the discussions soon fizzled out.

Meanwhile, Union Pacific bought its partner in the Powder River coal market and best connection to the Windy City, the Chicago & North Western. It was an end-to-end merger and should have gone through with few ripples, but flawless it was not. Problems had been made worse because weeks after the two roads were put together Davidson moved to the corporate headquarters in Bethlehem and Lewis replaced him in Omaha with a man who knew nothing about railroads and was totally out of touch with their culture—Ronald J. Burns, who had been president of an oil company. Burns lasted only 463 days.

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