I was going over the line on an important tour at one time with G. H. Burroughs, superintendent of the Western Division. We were on his pony engine, with seats at the front, alongside the boiler, so that we could look directly on the track. Burroughs sat on one side and I on the other. He kept on commenting aloud by way of dictating to his stenographer, who sat behind him, and praise and criticism followed rapidly. I heard him utter in his monotonous way: "Switch misplaced, we will all be in hell in a minute," and then a second afterwards continue: "We jumped the switch and are on the track again. Discharge that switchman."
Major Zenas Priest was for fifty years a division superintendent. It was a delightful experience to go with him over his division. He knew everybody along the line, was general confidant in their family troubles and arbiter in neighborhood disputes. He knew personally every employee and his characteristics and domestic situation. The wives were generally helping him to keep their husbands from making trouble. To show his control and efficiency, he was always predicting labor troubles and demonstrating that the reason they did not occur was because of the way in which he handled the situation.
Mr. C. M. Bissell was a very efficient superintendent, and for a long time in charge of the Harlem Railroad. He told me this incident. We decided to put in effect as a check upon the conductors a system by which a conductor, when a fare was paid on the train, must tear from a book a receipt which he gave to the passenger, and mark the amount on the stub from which the receipt was torn. Soon after a committee of conductors called upon Mr. Bissell and asked for an increase of pay. "Why," Bissell asked, "boys, why do you ask for that now?"
After a rather embarrassing pause the oldest conductor said: "Mr. Bissell, you have been a conductor yourself."
This half century and six years during which I have been in the service of the New York Central Railroad has been a time of unusual pleasure and remarkably free from friction or trouble. In this intimate association with the railroad managers of the United States I have found the choicest friendships and the most enduring. The railroad manager is rarely a large stockholder, but he is a most devoted and efficient officer of his company. He gives to its service, for the public, the employees, the investors, and the company, all that there is in him. In too many instances, because these officers do not get relief from their labor by variation of their work, they die exhausted before their time.
The story graphically told by one of the oldest and ablest of railroad men, Mr. Marvin Hughitt, for a long time president and now chairman of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, illustrates what the railroad does for the country. Twenty-five years ago the Northwestern extended its lines through Northern Iowa. Mr. Hughitt drove over the proposed extension on a buckboard. The country was sparsely settled because the farmers could not get their products to market, and the land was selling at six dollars per acre.
In a quarter of a century prosperous villages and cities had grown up along the line, and farms were selling at over three hundred dollars per acre. While this enormous profit from six dollars per acre to over three hundred has come to the settlers who held on to their farms because of the possibilities produced by the railroad, the people whose capital built the road must remain satisfied with a moderate return by way of dividend and interest, and without any enhancement of their capital, but those investors should be protected by the State and the people to whom their capital expenditures have been such an enormous benefit.
XIX. RECOLLECTIONS FROM ABROAD