Riding the Rails
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When Robert D. Krebs joined the ranks of Southern Pacific Railroad in 1966, the industry had been in decline for decades, and the future of trains was in peril. Despite these obstacles, Krebs fell in love with the rugged, competitive business of railroads and was determined to overcome its resistance to change and put rail transportation back on track. By the age of 40, Krebs was president of the Southern Pacific Railroad and had also served as chief executive of both the Santa Fe Railway and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway companies. Riding the Rails: Inside the Business of America's Railroads details Krebs's rise to a position of influence in the recovery of America's railroads and offers a unique insider's view into the boardrooms where executives and businessmen reimagined transportation in the United States.

1. The Making of a Railroader
2. Breaking In, Breaking Bones
3. The Apprentice
4. Blue Streak Nights
5. A Railroad of My Own
6. My Time in Purgatory
7. The Big Texas Thicket
8. The Merger That Wasn't
9. The Fight for Santa Fe Southern Pacific
10. Just a Railroad Again
11. Santa Fe's Grand Finale
12. The Tumultuous Birth of BNSF
13. We Become Our Own Railroad
14. Building the Super Railroad



Publié par
Date de parution 22 janvier 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253031877
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


George M. Smerk and H. Roger Grant, editors
Inside the Business of America s Railroads
Robert D. Krebs
Indiana University Press
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2018 by Robert Krebs
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Krebs, Robert D., [date]- author.
Title: Riding the rails : inside the business of America s railroads / Robert D. Krebs.
Description: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, [2018] | Series: Railroads past and present
Identifiers: LCCN 2017027384 (print) | LCCN 2017015152 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253031877 (eb) | ISBN 9780253031860 (cl : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Krebs, Robert D., [date]- | Southern Pacific Railroad Company. | Executives-United States-Biography. | Railroads-United States-Management. | Railroads and state-United States.
Classification: LCC HE2754.K74 (print) | LCC HE2754. K74 A3 2018 (ebook) | DDC 385.092 [B]-dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017027384
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
1 The Making of a Railroader
2 Breaking In, Breaking Bones
3 The Apprentice
4 Blue Streak Nights
5 A Railroad of My Own
6 My Time in Purgatory
7 The Big Texas Thicket
8 The Merger That Wasn t
9 The Fight for Santa Fe Southern Pacific
10 Just a Railroad Again
11 Santa Fe s Grand Finale
12 The Tumultuous Birth of BNSF
13 We Become Our Own Railroad
14 Building the Super Railroad
FROM TIME TO TIME , someone I have just met asks me, What did you do for a living? My reply always is that I spent almost four decades working for railroads. I m sure that conjures up images of an engineer behind the throttle of an Amtrak locomotive or, if they re my age, a switchman hanging off the side of a boxcar swinging a lantern.
Invariably, the next question is, So what did you do? My reply, as succinct as I can make it, is that I started out as an assistant trainmaster on the midnight shift, ended up being the CEO of the railroad Warren Buffet eventually bought, survived two mergers and one restructuring, and watched the American rail system go from a dying industry to the backbone of our country s economy and the envy of every other country in the world.
This transformation, which I was fortunate to be part of, started soon after I went to work for Southern Pacific in 1966. There were bankruptcies, then deregulation, then restructurings, and mergers. While not always in the public eye, there were episodes that were just as fascinating as anything in Barbarians at the Gate , the story of KKR s takeover of RJR Nabisco.
At times during my career, someone would say, I hope you re taking notes because you should write a book about this! Over the years I have been tempted to give it a try, and I can thank Marian Pawlick, a dear friend of Anne s and mine in Lake Forest, for finally inspiring me to do so. After reading the book Marian wrote about her exceptional life, I got up the courage to say to myself, I can do this!
Thanks are also in order to journalist and friend Fred W. Frailey, whom I called immediately once I decided to undertake this task. Fortunately for me, he agreed to help. The two of us spent a year collaborating on the project that has become Riding the Rails . It is as much Fred s book as it is mine. My daughter Elisabeth put her masters in journalism degree from the Medill School of Northwestern University to good use as my editor in chief.
This book is devoted almost entirely to my railroad career. There is precious little mention of outside activities and my family life, which took a back seat to my career. The best decision I ever made was to ask Anne Elisabeth Lindstrom, a Swede who was on her way back to her native country when we met, to marry me. She said yes, and I know our three children will agree when I admit that it was Anne who raised them. I didn t realize at the time how demanding and important that job was, equal to anything I ever did at the railroad.
Finally, over the span of nearly four decades I crossed paths with tens of thousands of rail managers and workers-senior staff, line managers, union leaders, trainmen and engineers, clerical forces, mechanics, and maintenance-of-way workers. While I wasn t very good at acknowledging it at the time, they all made sacrifices, took risks, and did things they didn t want to do, in order to facilitate the rail industry transformation. To all of them, Thank You!
ON MY SECOND DAY as an acting assistant trainmaster for Southern Pacific Transportation Company there was a message to see Charlie Babers. I then occupied the lowest rung on the railroad s steep management ladder, and Babers was the assistant superintendent of the San Joaquin Division. I was thinking he probably wanted to welcome me to the job.
My first day had been interesting, for sure, supervising the loading of potatoes into refrigerated freight cars at sheds in three small towns just north of Bakersfield, California, in the verdant Central Valley. Early that afternoon, at the start of my shift, a brakeman got hurt and I had to drop him off at a hospital in Bakersfield. He said he was fine, so I left. Then I cruised out to Cawelo, the first station, where I discovered we had a car of onions to pick up but no waybill for it. Of course, we couldn t ship it if we didn t have a waybill. I got on the railroad radio and wasn t very nice with the clerk in the office, telling him I needed that waybill now. Later, I watched empty refrigerator cars being spotted on sidings for loading the next day. The sun was up before all this got done and ended my sixteen-hour day.
The next afternoon I went to see Babers, who seemed to be in charge of things because the division superintendent, W.C. Morris, was a godlike figure I seldom glimpsed. Babers was a railroader s railroader, six-foot-six and about 250 pounds, with a voice and manner equal to his proportions. I walked into his office in Bakersfield, thinking he was going to tell me what a great job I was doing. I saw my personnel file open on the middle of his desk and begin having doubts.
Babers didn t waste a moment on pleasantries. Krebs, he began, I see you went to Harvard. To me, you re a stumblebum. You re a smartass. And you are just like a locomotive-if you don t work, I am going to replace you. Exact words. I was close to tears. What the hell did I do? Eventually, he told me.
I was aware of FELA, the Federal Employers Liability Act, which protects railroaders injured on the job, because I had broken my wrist getting off a moving freight car early in my two-year stint as a management trainee. What I didn t know was the cardinal rule of railroad managers: when employees are hurt, you don t just take them to the hospital or a doctor; you stick with them as if you were their own mother. You need to find out what is going on, because later you might have to testify that this guy didn t really get hurt or that he was soon walking around and saying he was fine, only to sue the railroad later. I did none of those things I was supposed to do. Then Babers overheard my brusque conversation with the clerk on the radio, delivered with the impatience of a Harvard Business School graduate.
So first day on the job, I had impressed the second-in-command of the San Joaquin Division as rude and clueless. This could have been the start of a short and swift downhill slide right out of railroading. But I respected Charlie Babers and listened to what he said. He never had to dress me down again. As years went by, we became friends. Ultimately, Charlie worked for me. A lot would happen in my life between that afternoon in Bakersfield and the day I would propose that he become general manager of SP s Pacific Lines, the half of this big railroad that lay west of El Paso, Texas.
The Making of a Railroader
1 NOT UNTIL AGE twenty-three did I even imagine working for a railroad. I was born in 1942 in Sacramento, California. My dad, Ward Krebs, was a banker, working for American Trust Company, which later became Wells Fargo. He was the great-grandson of people who came west by wagon train during the Gold Rush and settled in Hangtown, also called Old Dry Diggings, which is the present town of Placerville, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. My mother was Eleanor Duncan Krebs, whose relatives hailed from Scotland and came to California by way of Canada. I was their only child.
Railroading was absolutely, positively not in my blood. Try as I might, it s hard to think of any interest in or experiences with railroads during my upbringing. Like all boys in that era, I had a Lionel train set my dad and I would set up at Christmas. And I recall going to Sacramento to see my parents board Western Pacific s California Zephyr streamliner for a banking convention in New York City. Maybe I had a short train ride or two as a kid. If I did, it wasn t memorable.
But there was one connection I should note between my childhood and the life I would later lead, because I hated it. When I was in third grade, my father was transferred from Sacramento

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