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Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, May 09, 1909, GOLDEN SPIKE, Image 35

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How a Great Railway System Has
Been Built Up in a Few Years
By Frank H. Spearman
From The Outlook
MONG all the stories in American railroading and it has
teemed with the marvelous few chapterj are bo extraor
dinary as the building up of the Union Pacific railroad
system by Edward H. Harriman. The boldness of the
conception, the magnitude of the undertaking, and the
constructive genius shown in the working out of the plans are
all unusual features even In a day of undertakings that make for
us every year new records in industrial history. But a little more
than ten years ago the Union Pacific was a Cinderella among our
railways, sitting forlorn and in ashes, and all unconscious of the
presence of one ready to fit the slipper of efficiency to its foot and
lead it to the highest place In American railroading.
Mr. Harrlman's success has been so phenomenal that not every
one has been willing to give him undivided credit for it. We have
been reminded and with a measure of truth that in providing an
unparalleled prosperity for his entire railway territory an over
ruling Providence has done a great deal for him. But it Is not to bo
forgotten that the opportunity of acquiring the Union Pacific rail
road twelve years ago, and for a comparatively few millions of dol
lars, knocked at many doors before it reached the door of Mr.
Harriman. The golden chance was within the grasp of Jay Gould;
he never realized It. It lay very obviously before what railway men
then called the Boston party Mr. Charles Francis Adams and his
associates. It waited at the door of the Burlington people. It might
cattily have been seized by Mr. Hill and the railway map of the
United States changed for generations. But it was left for Mr. Har
riman to grasp. He Had faith in the mysterious, hopeless-looking,
wonder-working western empire that lies wrapped in its unending
dream of sunshine beyond the Missouri river; he had the keenness
of vision to map out within it a traffic confederation of unequaled
strength, the iron determination to supply it with railways the best
of their class in the world, and the tremendous personality necessary
to persuade careful men to risk unheard-of Bums of money to make
good his plans. Any estimate of Mr. Harriman and hia railway
work that includes less than this is manifestly incomplete; the re
sults are at hand and the facts may be reckoned with.
The Union Pacific railroad and the same may be said of the
Southern Pacific today is the peer physically of the standard rail
way lines of the east. Such a statement would be unwarranted if of
fered with a sanction less than that of the head of operation the
senior vice president of the New York Central lines themselves.
And this standard of efficiency, I take it, remains, in the face of
many remarkable achievements, the chlefest title to Mr. Harrlman's
strength as a railway man.
Building Up. the Property
He found In the Union Pacific a completely broken-down prop
erty. Our country was emerging from the industrial paralysis follow
ing the panic of 1893. There was absolutely but one thing he could
do to Insure the command that is his today in the American railway
world, and to do it required the couiage that all of us who are not
Harrlmans lack. That was, not to wait for things to happen, not
to look for a buyer for his property, but to do something that none of
our railway speculators had ever done before him; namely, to bor
row huge sums of money and build up his property physically; to cut
down granite grades, fill mountain valleys, provide the heaviest rails,
the best engines in a word, to buy for nls new line, even at enorm
ous cost, high efficiency. Efficiency has been the key-note of his rail
way policy. He, himself, has repeatedly said this, and it cannot be
gainsaid. It is this that has stamped Mr. Harriman as a man to be
reckoned with in any of his undertakings not the mere buying of
the railway Junk, but the tremendous wager he laid on the future of
his railway territory.
Ills buying of the Union Pacific road itself was followed so
rapidly by his acquisition of its branch lines and the far more mo
mentous purchase of the Huntington interest in the Southern Pa
cific as to seem at this distance almost one operation. But the rapid
moves of those days were very serious moves for Mr. Harriman,
and could hardly have been accomplished without the anxieties of an
ordinary lifetime. Lacking the Southern Pacific, the Union Pa
cific never had been and never could be a great railway. Ogden,
Utah, never had been and never could be a terminal, except In the
sense that the Union Pacific ended there. Successful railways con
sist of two essentials feeders and terminals. Something may be
done without feeders, but nothing is possible without terminals;
and in acquiring the Southern Pacific Mr. Harriman did what the
railway logic of the situation indicated aDsolutely. In the Union Pa
cific he had really got hold only of the tail of the transcontinental
tra..ic dog; in the Southern Pacific he got the traffic dog itself.
Unifying the Management
When he faced the final burden of bis united properties he had
18,000 miles of railway to handle. Everything had to be done in the
direction of unifying the management. In running a railway there
are, apart from the treasurer's functions, two divisions of work. One
is the traffic end of the business; the other the maintaining and
operating end. The operating man provides the transportation fa
cilities and the traffic man sells them. In moving to organize these
departments Mr. Harriman showed a second trait found only in able
executives that of surrounding himself wits strong men. From the
Southern Pacific he took J. C. Stubbs, the logical man for the posi
tion, and placed him at the head of his 18,000 miles as director of
traffic. It is perhaps worth while to note in passing that in choosing
his railway chiefs Mr. Harriman was not in the least disturbed by
the public clamor of that day for young men to fill high executive
offices. He chose in the end thoroughly tested and seasoned offi
cers who had learned their business on his newly acquired Hues from
the ground up who had years to show for their experience and had
very definitely made good. Mr. Stubbs. coming from San Francisco,
where he had been connected with the Southern Pacific almost
from the day the Ogden line was completed, and as vice president, in
sole charge of its traffic affairs for many years, took the reins for
Mr. Harriman at Chicago, and with them a high place among those
American traffic directors who hold a vital Industrial responsibility
in stimulating the growth of our country.
The satisfactory unifying of his traffic affairs in so extended a
territory led Mr. Harriman a step further in railway management.
With his lines made ready at so great cost for higher effective re
sults he now hazarded a very great success or failure in an attempt
to unify the operating of his huge system for it must be remem
bered that no railway organization in the country bad ever before
Combined, under one operating management, 18,000 miles of track.
Railway men, and able ones, looked with misgivings on the experi
ment. Many openly predicted the failure of a method that placed
the man in operating authority 1,500 to 2.000 miles from the execu
tion of his order. When Mr. Harriman brought Julius Kruttschnltt,
also a vice president of the Southern Pacific, from San Francisco to
Chicago, and endowed him, as director of maintenance and operation
, of the Harriman lines, with plenary operating authority, it was not
alone outside observers that weic guessing at the outcome; no more
Interested guesser on that point could be found than Mr. Krutt
schnltt himself. And, in a position in the railway world that af
forded nowhere any precedent, it was put up pretty seriously to him
to make good.
The Problem Considered
The problem that confronted him were, in part, wholly new.
On the other hand, wasteful conditions due to operating the various
systems separately could be done
away with at once and substantial
economies secured. It was not
that these lines were operated in
a less careful way than other
lines, but that they were operated
in the conventional way, and, ap
plied to the long mileage and
sparse-traffic routes of the west,
these methods entailed serious
w aste.
Roads may make money even
under these disadvantages pro
vided natural conditions favor
them and natural conditions cer
tainly do favor the Harriman
lines. They serve a traffic terri
tory exceptionally rich in natural
resources; far less developed than
the territory of the Pennsylvania,
yet enormously rich. The prob
lem in the case of the Harriman
lines, as it is in the affairs of
every railway, was to minimize
the cost of handling its traffic; and
each railway finds its success in
different particulars. In this in
stance it was only by bringing the
operating of the separate lines un
der a central authority that the
best results could be secured. For
example, the Union Pacific was re
turning empty Southern Pacific
freight cars to the Southern Pa
cific, while at the same time the
Southern Pacific was returning
empty Union Pacific cars to the
Union Pacific. This presented
the operating spectacle of each of
these roads hauling trainloads of
empty cars across the Rocky and
Sierra Nevada mountains in both
directions at the same time; the
very layman will perceive the
hopeless waste. The policy of pooling the car equipment
of all the Harriman lines was adopted, and it was enacted that a
Union Pacific freight car should be as much at home on a Southern
Pacific siding as a Southern Pacific freight car, and vice versa. This
stopped the hauling of empties both ways at once; the figures for
empty-car mileage on the Harriman HneB always the nightmare of
operating railway officers dropped with a tumble. It followed, in
working out the policy, that a Union Pacific car disabled in Portland,
Ore., or in Tucson, Ariz., should no longer be hauled 2,000 miles
empty to Omaha to be repaired, but should1 be repaired by the
Oregon Railway and Navigation company or the Southern Pacific,
respectively, at Portland or at Tucson. The expense of these repairs
was then distributed equitably between the various systems in pro
portion to the totals of their car equipment; and the saving to all of
them by this simple co-operation may be imagined. Only when a
freight car is to be rebuilt is that cur taken in hand by its own line
and rebuilt at Its proper cost.
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Vice President and General Manager,
Simplifying Control
The separate properties had been operated by six general man
agers, each of whom had been managing his own line, naturally to
make the best showing for it, regardless of the troubles of his neigh
bors. Each was bent on getting hold of all the equipment he could
and keeping all he could get, heedless of his fellow managers. It
can be seen how public Interests may suffer under these conditions.
The movement of freight traffic may be delayed or even blockaded.
But without a central responsibility each road in difficulties may
easily point to the other as the delinquent and the fixing of the blame
be lost in recrimination.
All of this was checked and the beauties of brethren dwelling
together In harmony were Insinuated and, if necessary, expounded
by the director of operation. It is not to be understood that he
courts opportunities to exercise his authority. He desires never to
interfere, except in the event of absolute necessity, with the auton
omy of the different operating systems as they exist; but every man
ager must regard the traffic predicaments of his fellow. No man
ager willingly surrenders car equipment thai he needs himself. But
the needs of one portion of a largo system may be more compelling
than those of any other. This is a question for a central authority
to decide, and when all sides of the emergency have been considered
he must assume the responsibility and issue his orders. If they are
that one manager shall deliver to another fifty empty cars daily for
thirty days the cars must be delivered. The order is peremptory and
admits of no discussion. Before it has been issued every means
have been considered to solve the vexing dilemma that calls for
1,000 cars when there are In all only 600 to go around. But the
Justification of a final order from the director's office Is expressed
only in the words, "For the good of the service."
To a lesser degree the locomotive equipment has been pooled.
Engines naturally stay at home; but if emergency in traffic move
ment requires the shifting of motive power it is unhesitatingly
' Bad Conditions Remedied
These are instances of the remedying of bad conditions. But
to merge six operating machines into one six times as big, and into
such efficiency that it shall run more smoothly than any one of the
original six, is a gigantic task. These six lines were found divided,
under standard railway practice, into twenty-six divisions varying in
length from 200 to 600 miles. Every such railway division has Its
superintendent, who for all practical purposes should be its general
manager. His division is a miniature, but complete, railway. He
has under him his motive power man, his engineer to maintain track,
his despatchers to move his trains. Over his division he has entire
charge. He is the man to whose office the public applies for cars,
and he meets the public as the visible railway head. The division
has been taken as the unit in operating the consolidated lines and
they begin with twenty-six units. Following railway practice, these
unit superintendents have been left grouped under their own general
managers as the operating director found them. ERch of these
general managers has in his turn his master of motive power, his
track and bridge engineers and his general superintendent to look
after, his general transportation. Preserving the identity of each of
these twenty-six units as completely as possible, the theory that the
director of operation has laid down for himself is that his position
is analytical, suggestive, advisory and mandatory.
Ono chief result that the public looks for in railway operating
efficiency is fast time in transpor
tation. Let us suppose that it is
deemed necessary to reduce a
train schedule between San Fran
cisco and Omaha from one hun
dred to eighty hours. The division
units are looked over and each
'general manager concerned is
asked to submit figures for the
run over his part of the system.
The general managers call for. fig
ures from their various superin
tendents, turn them in to Chicago,
and when the totals are compiled
It is found that If each man is
given the time he asks for the re
vised schedule will look more like
110 hours than eighty. The esti
mates are sent back for revision.
Each man holds fast to all he
dare, but a second effort reduces
the total to, let us say, ninety
hours. Back go the figures, and
they come in the third .time at
eighty-five hours. At this point
no one will willingly concede
more, and the hoped for schedule
is still five hours away. Here the
director of operation steps in. He
must know thoroughly his divi
sions and what each is capable of
doing. He makes a final revision
of the figures, and this time when
they leave his hands the knot Is
cut the total is eighty hours, and
the matter, having been carefully
consideerd and discussed during
the preliminary steps, is no longer
ont for argument; the divisions
that have been called upon to take
the additional Btrain must take it.
The matter, then, is one of as
sembling responsibilities, widely
spread, into the hands of a chief
executive. The matter of operating rules alone has given rise to
many difficulties in standardizing the operation of the Harriman
lines. American railways are operated under what are known as
standard rules, and the operating rules of a railway are its book
of statutes. But decided variations were found among the Harri
man books of statutes. One of the early and most imperative
things done by the general managers were to standardize these
It must be said that Mr. Harriman has spent money like water
to make his roads safe; he has never winced at huge estimates in
that direction. And the rapidity with which he has passed on the
enormous sums required for betterments has often taken away the
breath of his associates. It costs $1,000 a mile to block signal a
railway. More than 15,000,000 have gone into that work alone on
the Southern and Union Pacific. It is now possible to travel from
Chicago to Portland or to Los Angeles, and from there far out Into
the Colorado desert entirely under block signals. Block signals do
not greatly expedite train movement; they make train movement
safer. The $5,000,000 spent on them is only an item in the expen
ditures for betterment, additions and reconstruction on these two
railways Bince Mr. Harriman took control of them. The aggregate
for these purposes has reached in ten years 1118,000,000.
Shifting Industrial Center
There are published at intervals of some years interesting maps
marking the shifting of our national center of population. The
movement is slowly but unfailingly in one direction westwardly.
In a similar manner a second great national center is shifting un
mistakably toward the west the center of our manufacturing indus
tries. Twenty years ago the Union Pacific railroad carried boots and
shoes to the Pacific coast from New England; it carries them now
from Cincinnati and St. Louis. It brought stoves from Troy, N. Y.,
and Reading, Pa.; it brings them now from St. Louis. Within
three years an industrial yesterday a town to be devoted wholly
to the manufacture of steel has risen south of Chicago on the sand
dunes of Lake Michigan. Built by the largest of our steel manu
facturing corporations, it is named after their ablest man, Judge
Gary. It is to represent, when completed, an investment approach
ing $100,000,000, and is to be the most extensive plant devoted to
the manufacture of steel in the world. The iron ore will be brought
in boats from the bead of Lake Superior, the coal will be shipped in,
the coke made and the gas saved for fuel. But what is of especial
significance in this connection is that this new-made Indiana town
is destined before many years to shift the center of the greatest of
our manufacturing industries and to wrest from Pittsburg itself Its
long-time pre-eminence in steel. It is not alone several of these in
dustries, but many of them, that are working from the east to the
west of the Alleghanles and toward the Mississippi valley. Nor Is
it that there will ever be lacking a heavy volume of traffic moving
from tide-water on the Atlantic seaboard, but that Its significance
will not seriously be felt by transcontinental railways. The west is
always too far in the way of doing Its own manufacturing.
It Is not, however, the through continental routes of the Harri
man lines, strong as they are, that constitute the essential strength
of the system. Lock at their map and study the network of their
branchings throughout California. It is there stubs and spurs, these
elementary splnal-prccesses of traffic, that are the real backbone of
the Harriman lines.
Characteristics' of Harriman
The recent movement of the lines toward Seattle and the Puget
Sound country has been merely the doing what should have been
done twenty years ago, the carrying out of Union Pacific plans that
failed at that time because the road bad no Harriman to put them
through. Tbe Union Pacific should have been in Seattle then, and
gees there now because the traffic interests at that point justify an
entrance. On the other hand, in central Oregon the Harriman lines
are pursuing quite another policy lu building branches where the
traffic is all to be developed; for It Is the railway, not the newspa
per, nor the six-mule team, nor the schoolmaster, that is the real
western pioneer. The railway comes before the factory, brings with
it the plow, opens tbe mine and sounds tho tragic knell of the reced
ing forest.
Mr. Harriman is today the most discussed man in American
railway affairs. No man in the railway field has been more bitterly
assailed, and concerning none has it been more difficult to glvo to a
reflecting reader an intelligent estimate. He is so new even today
as a great power in American railroading that it is too
soon to offer anything like a final word. He has been
described as a man cold and suspicious. But Mr. Harrlman's
early training was that of a stock broker, and in such a calling tbe
very first requisite of success Is secretlveness. Mr. Harriman has
mastered secretlveness, and in Wall street has reaped its benefits.
He knows his Wall street thoroughly Indeed, it Is not too much to
say, better than Wall street knows Itself. But in the execution of
great strategic plans in wider fields secretlveness may cease to be an
advantage; it may become a positive disadvantage. Had Mr. Harrl
man's financial associates had at times his complete confidence his
success in putting his plans through would have been correspond
ingly greater. In this respect he has In some degree suffered.
Mr. Harriman as a financier is widely known. It Is hardly re
alized that he has so long been a practical railway man. In 1890
Mr. Harriman was living in Chicago as vice president in charge of
operation of the Illinois Central. As far back as 1884 he was a di
rector, the controlling spirit In the road's policy. He thought at
one time of taking the superlntendency of the Northern division in
order to strengthen his knowledge of actual railroading. His earli
est railway venture was the buying of a little eastern road which he
knew would be wanted some time by the Pennsylvania. And it is
worth noting that his first move in that instance after becoming,
with his friends, the owner, was to borrow money enough to make
the road a good road before he sought a buyer.
It is not a matter for surprise that under a brusque manner one
will find in Mr. Harriman an inviolable regard for his word. Mr.
Harrlman's' word is good. If one gets bis promise it is a promise
that may safely be slept on. With a home life that is described as
ideal, he is not without thought for the army of men la his railway
work, and he has in consequence a devoted following in them. One
of his employes chancing to mention to him a rather serious opera
tion that was to be performed on a member of his family, Mr. Har
riman showed the liveliest solicitude, and asked to be informed as to
the patient's condition and progress after undergoing it. Several
days intervened before the operation was performed and the matter
of informing Mr. Harriman was overlooked. But he had not for
gotten. He sent telegram after telegram from his Oregon camp
asking for details and conveying sympathy.
Undertakings On a Large Scale
His undertakings in whatever direction are on a largo scale.
Between Omaha and San Francisco two large bodies of water and
but two interposed obstacles to his straightaway railroading the
Great Salt Lake and the bay of San Francisco. He is now (1909)
across both with his locomotives. The traveler is familiar with his
thirty-four miles of track over Salt Lake. It is a cut-off that does
away, in the track curves of the old line around the lake, with eleven
complete circles. His engineers have worried the government for
permission to bridge the San Francisco bay waters, and his freight
trains are ready to run over Dumbarton Point bridge from Oakland
into San Francisco. To cross Salt Lake he drove 635 lineal miles
of piles some of them 110 feet long; built a mile of trestle a week,
and spent $8,000,000. But be did away with 1,515 ' t of grade
rise and fall that burned up coal and motive power for him. When
he had bridged the bay of San Francisco he spent $8,000,000 more
boring, with two miles of tunnels, through the breastwork of hills
that hedge San Francisco City on the south, and in doing it built for
a four-track line. To elbow his way through the hills back of
Omaha he hns but recently run a seven-mile tangent,
moved 4,000,000 cubic yards of earth, made a single
2,000,000 cubic yards fill and changed twenty miles of track into
twelve miles, with two-thirds the curves and nearly half the grade
rise taken out. Between Reno and Ogden he has abandoned more
than enough railway to reach from Boston to Philadelphia. He has
replaced it with a line fifty miles shorter, and one that cuts out
thirty-five complete circles of curves and 8,054 feet of grade hills.
1 1 1 j,.niir
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His Grasp of Detail
The grasp of details underlies all. He possesses an aptitude
for operating a railway that amounts to genius. Ho is a natural
born railway man. His suggestions to men like President Hanra
ban of the Illinois Central, President Underwood of the Erie, or to
Mr. Kruttschnltt, are the amazement of these men, who have spent
their lives in making railways. For example, every good railway
has small branch lines, vital to It in that they supply freight truffle.
The public living on such lines demands a passenger service that
must be run at a loss. A branch line passenger train turning in
gross earnings of 30 cents a mile eats heavily into tbe freight profits,
and every American railway man hfs bad occasion to worry over this
difficulty. Motoring one day In France, Mr. Harriman said, point
ing to the machine in which he was riding, "Why not try something
of this kind on our Nebraska branches?"
Every one of our railway men bad thought of the branch-line
difficulty, but it was Mr. Harriman who thought of the solution. The
result was a railway gasoline motor passenger car to take the place
of tbe locomotive and tbe two heavy and nearly empty passenger
cars of a train, with their two expensive crews. A company was
organized which makes these carfc and they are now used on the
Union Pacific and other railways. Mr. Harriman has been first in
declaring that our present track-gauge of four feet eight and one
half Inches is Inadequate to present-day railway needs; that we must
come to a six-foot gauge. Some of our railways started out with
such a gauge two generations ago. It was more than they could
stand then, but it is' what is needed today; and only the appalling
cost of the change prevents its adoption.
At tho head of an army be would have made an interesting
figure. He has even in time of cankering peace organized an indus
trial army whose numbers have totaled 114,000. And, unusual as
his achievements have been, there are inevitably others to follow.
If he lives he will put a bore through tho Sierra Nevada mountains
and ran his trains through it with electricity already he Is electri
fying parts of his present lines. His ambition, reduced to a sen
tence, is to make his system of railways so perfect that he can handle
bu&iness and still make a little money on margins that would leave
absolutely nothing for a railway less efficient.
What does such an effort mean to the public? Cartalnly the
efficient railway helps its public to the forefront of industrial ac
tivity. And every step that reduces tbe expense of operation reaches
In the end tho public purse, just as every was to of working capital
ultimately comes out of It. If these be industrial benefits, there is
no better practice among our railways today than is ehown in tbe
lines controlled by Edward H. Harriman.
mi .
Locomotive Cost Per Mile
For every mile run on the Union Pacific last year:
Repairs and renewals of locomotives, cost $10.70
The engine men, cost , 9.0$
Tbe engine house expenses wett 2.51
Cost of fuel was SO. 38
The water supply cost 1.23
The lubricants used amounted to t, 28
Other supplies aggregated 84

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