Amherst Railway Society - meeting - January, 2019Date: Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Between 1967 and 1972, six major Northeast railroads went bankrupt and the collapse of freight and passenger rail traffic in the east was imminent. Congress stepped in and passed the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1974 which provided interim funding to bankrupt railroads and created the Consolidated Rail Corporation - Conrail. Operating as a government-funded, private company, Conrail began running trains on April 1, 1976, but with a mandate - revitalize rail service in the Northeast, and operate as a for-profit company. And that is exactly what they did. With the help of the Staggers Act, Conrail turned its first profit in 1981.
By 1983, Conrail was the fourth largest freight hauler in the United States. In 1987, Conrail was returned to the private sector in what was then the largest public stock offering in US history, raising $1.9 billion. In the spring of 1997, Norfolk Southern and CSX agreed to acquire Conrail through a joint stock purchase, splitting most of the company’s assets between them. With Surface Transportation Board approval, Norfolk Southern and CSX took control of Conrail on August 22, 1998. On Wednesday, January 9, photographer, author, and columnist Brian Solomon will recount his experience watching and photographing Conrail in the 1980s and '90s. “Conrail was a classy railroad,” says Solomon. “It was a well-managed, tight operation. They ran on timetables - they were doing precision railroading over 20 years ago. And, they knew how to grow traffic.” From an enthusiast’s standpoint, Conrail was just plain fun to watch. They ran a lot of trains, and they looked good, too. Their equipment was clean and painted regularly.Solomon’s presentation will focus on New England, but will include other parts of Conrail’s operations as well. Brian Solomon is a photographer, columnist for Trains magazine, and the author of over 60 books, mostly on railroads. Solomon is a resident of Monson, Massachusetts. Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.