Re: Making money with a railroad
Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>
Thanks everyone for the responses.
Geez, what an arcane system - no wonder railroads went out of business.
I realize that the ICC had a part to play in maintaining that byzantine system, but I recall from White's book on American freight cars that the railroads were quite capable of coming up with bizarre systems on their own, decades before there was an ICC.
From a business standpoint, I can't see how it was tolerated for so long. First off, it created - nay, required - a "priesthood" to interpret the rate structures for everyone else. This amounted to large group of non-value added employees that drove up costs. Secondly and maybe most importantly, it denied cost certainty to the customers. With all the options, the prepaying, and the collect charges on top of the unpredictable nature of actual delivery, a small to medium business not only didn't know when something was going to show up, they didn't know how much they would be charged when it got there. Were there any champions of the idea that "carrying 100 tons 100 miles costs the same whether it's coal, flour, or steel" before, say, the 1960's?