Posts Tagged ‘E Hunter Harrison’

Panel Discusses Pros, Cons of PSR

August 20, 2020

The precision scheduled railroad operating model might seem to be the same at all railroads that use it, but panelists said during the Midwest Virtual Rail Conference that there are differences from railroad to railroad in how the model is practiced and the consequences for shippers.

Panelists said some shippers have benefited greatly by the use of PSR by Class 1 railroads, but others have suffered.

In some instances it is not the model itself that caused that but the lack of adequate personnel that railroads have to support their operations.

That latter point was emphasized by Dan Sabin, president of short line Iowa Northern.

His the 253-mile railroad interchanges with three Class 1s practicing PSR, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific.

When the late E. Hunter Harrison implemented PSR at CN and CP, a byproduct was staff cuts that resulted in the loss of institutional knowledge by experienced local operating personnel.

Those positions were either eliminated or replaced with inexperienced people who have proven difficult to work with.

Sabin said CP has a responsible marketing team, but its interchange service is unreliable. As a result, some of his customers refuse to route freight via CP.

CN personnel, Sabin said, have a condescending attitude that reflects a lack of understanding of the benefits of traffic growth that can come from working closely with short line railroads.

Of the three Class 1s that Iowa Northern works with, Sabin said Union Pacific is the best.

He said UP kept experienced local operating people in place while reducing bureaucracy at its headquarters.

It has focused on Iowa Northern’s role of providing first- and last-mile service, has communicated well, has assigned a liaison who can get through any department at headquarters within a day, and has been open to suggestions Iowa Northern has made.

“They adopted a lot of their operations to fit what our customers needed and showed an incredible amount of appreciation for what we are doing with them. They are making changes quickly to identify and rectify service issues,” Sabin said.

Tyler Dick, a lecturer and principal research engineer at the Railtec program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Harrison sought to combine elements of two opposing strategies in railroading.

One approach, known as hold-for-tonnage, is to hold onto freight cars in yards until enough of them have accumulated to operate one train.

The other approach, known a schedule adherence, seeks to use shorter trains to provide more frequent service with shorter transit times.

In Harrison’s vision, PSR sought to provide consistent, frequent service to reduce terminal dwell and transit time but doing so with long trains and reduced rolling stock requirements to minimize costs.

Hence PSR practitioners seek to operate general-purpose trains instead of dedicated single-commodity trains.

PSR also has changed the way local service is provided. Rather than use multiple crews on the same shift, railroads are using one crew per shift that shares motive power.

This might be a more efficient use of assets but it comes at the cost of service flexibility.

Dick said PSR also did away with the practice of locals gathering traffic, taking it to a yard and then sending it to a hump yard for classification into blocks organized by destination.

Under PSR, there is more emphasis on pre-blocking outbound traffic at origin or local yards.

That has meant less need for sorting with hump yards, which in turn can be converted to flat-switching in order to reduce costs.

In short, Dick said PSR simplified traffic flows and switching requirements while maximizing train size and minimizing dwell time.

Yet he said PSR is not one thing but a collection of actions that change operating practices and culture.

Peter Swan, an associate professor of logistics and operations management at Penn State Harrisburg, said PSR has resulted in more efficient railroads that use less equipment and have reduced the variability in transit times by reducing the use of hump yards.

That has benefited some shippers and been useful to the railroads during the COVID-19 pandemic-related changes in freight traffic.

On the other hand, Swan said, other shippers are in worse condition because they’ve seen their transit times get longer and they now need a larger car fleet to compensate for that.

That has particularly been the case, he said, with freight originating on light-density lines that have seen reduced service frequency.

Swan cited the case of an unidentified short line that used to receive 50 cars three times a week from a Class 1 connection. Now it receives 150 cars once a week.

He noted that short lines fortunate enough to have their interchange located in close proximity to a busy Class 1 terminal might see five day a week interchange on a reliable schedule.

PSR has also resulted in Class 1 railroads forcing demurrage and accessorial charges onto shippers. Railroads used to bear those costs.

“Normally in a service business you try to provide some service the customer wants,” Swan said.

“Under PSR the railroads provide a service and the customers can take it or leave it to a large extent.”

Rail Executives Insist PSR is a Growth Strategy

November 27, 2019

Critics of the precision scheduled railroading model have zeroed in on the cost-cutting measures that have followed in the wake of its adoption.

E. Hunter Harrison

Employee headcounts have been reduced, yards and service facilities have been closed, and fewer and longer trains are operated as a way to decrease the number of crew starts.

All of that saves money, which looks good on the balance sheet.

Yet during the RailTrends 2019 Conference held last week, executives of CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific insisted that PSR is not about cutting your way to greater profitability.

They said PSR is a traffic growth strategy even as they acknowledged that they have sought to adopt the philosophy of the late E. Hunter Harrison of having a “lean” operating structure.

CN CEO J.J. Ruest said adopting PSR leads to just a one-time cost-cutting exercise that by itself doesn’t lead to volume or market share growth.

“Precision Scheduled Railroading helps you to fix your costs one time,” Ruest said. “But it does not really address how you’re going to grow after that.”

He said the challenge for the industry is not just having an efficient railroad but creating a product that’s appealing to those who ship by highway instead of rail.

Harrison brought PSR to the Illinois Central and later Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and CSX.

He died in December 2017, nine months after taking over as CEO of CSX and implementing the PSR model there.

Mark Wallace, the executive vice president of marketing and sales at CSX, worked with Harrison at CN and CP.

He told the conference that PSR is a blueprint for providing better service and that will enable railroads to increase their share of traffic volume.

Currently, railroads have just an 8 percent slice of the $980 billion transportation market.

“Truckers have been eating our lunch for decades,” Wallace said. “The uncomfortable truth is that many former and potential rail customers have, however reluctantly, demonstrated a willingness to pay a premium for the superior reliability offered by the trucks.”

Wallace said CSX is seeking to grow and not shrink its business and it believes it can do that by diverting traffic now moving on highways to rail cars.

“Recapturing just a tiny slice of the overall transportation spend can be a very big deal for an individual carrier,” he said.

Considering that CSX’s share of the overall transportation market is slightly more than 1 percent, Wallace said a quarter or a half a point of market share in would mean “billions and billions and billions of dollars of opportunity.”

John Scheib, the NS chief strategy officer, echoed the point that PSR has resulted in a more efficient operation that is poised for growth.

He said NS yards and main lines are much more fluid because it has reducing switching and is moving tonnage on fewer but longer trains.

“All that yields a capacity dividend, which means we can move more freight on the same assets,” he said. “We can sell that. And we do want to sell that.”

CN has been practicing PSR the longest of the North American Class 1 carriers and has also become the fastest growing.

It has adopted a strategy of becoming more of a supply chain partner with its shippers. That’s important because manufacturing and natural resource traffic is declining in some regions of its network.

One railroad executive who worked with Harrison at CN did offer a word of caution about cost cutting as a component of PSR.

If you cut the management ranks too deeply there will be fewer people around to hunt for shipping business.

Eric Jakubowski is now the chief commercial officer at railroad short line holding company Anacostia Rail Holdings. He said some Class I railroads have reduced management too deeply.

Sales forces have been slashed and trainmasters are spread too thin.

“These are people who had relationships, these are people who could solve problems, these are people who could go chase opportunities,” he said.

Harrison often said that a railroad practicing PSR would offer service was that was so good that it would sell itself.

Jakubowksi is skeptical of that thinking. “That’s a problem,” he said. “You can’t replace front line managerial people who are empowered to make decisions with people sitting at corporate headquarters running spreadsheets.”

Hedge Fund Sells CSX Shares

October 23, 2019

A CSX manifest freight heads west through Fontanet, Indiana, on the St. Louis Line on Oct. 12, 2019. Longer and fewer trains have been the rule since the carrier adopted the precision scheduled railroading operating model under the late E. Hunter Harrison.

The hedge fund that brought E. Hunter Harrison to CSX in early 2017 has sold most of its stake in the Class 1 carrier.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Mantle Ridge LP has sold nearly $1 billion of its stock in CSX.

The newspaper said it learned of the sale through filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

CSX bought back 4.7 million share of its stock that Mantle Ridge had held.

However, Mantle Ridge principal Paul Hilal has retained ownership of 3.4 million shares of CSX stock and continues to serve on the company’s board of directors.

Hilal had recruited Harrison to be the CSX chief executive officer even as he was still CEO at Canadian Pacific.

Harrison came to CSX after a failed bid by CP to merge with Norfolk Southern that drew opposition from NS management and various U.S. public officials.

At CSX Harrison implemented the precision scheduled railroading operating model. He died on Dec. 17, 2017, less than a year after taking the helm at CSX.

Mongeau Appointment to NS Board of Directors Seen as Helping The Carrier Make Smooth Transition to PSR

September 25, 2019

The appointment of former Canadian National CEO Claude Mongeau to the board of directors of Norfolk Southern is linked in part to his experience with the precision scheduled railroading operating model, an analysis by Trains magazine concluded.

Mongeau had experience with PSR during his time at CN between 2010 and 2015 after replacing E. Hunter Harrison who has brought PSR to CN.

During his tenure at CN, Mongeau focused on forming close partnerships with shippers, including frequently speaking with them about their supply chains.

Trains noted that CN considers itself to be a supply chain partner and not just a railroad.

During Mongeau’s time at the helm of CN, traffic there grew 17 percent, which was more than double the industry average.

Revenue rose by 52 percent and the operating ratio fell to 58.2 percent.

Mongeau also sought to rebuild relationships with shippers who were miffed with the disruption and rapid rate of change that Harrison imposed when moving CN to the PSR model starting in 1998.

The analysis observed that NS has been seeking to avoid the type of quick changes that Harrison introduced at CN and later CSX.

NS has sought to work with shippers before making operational changes.

However, NS has angered some shippers by implementing what they view as more restrictive demurrage and accessorial charges that the carrier said are designed to move railcars faster.

Comparing them to unpopular baggage fees instituted by the airline industry, Trains said shippers consider the NS charges to be a money grab and that federal regulators are reviewing the fairness of them.

Reduced Workforce Follows PSR Operating Model

June 29, 2019

Although reducing the workforce is not often a stated objective by railroads practicing precision scheduled railroading, the Class I railroad employment figures reported every month by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board show that it has been a byproduct.

Since February 2017, employment at U.S. Class 1 railroads has fallen by 4 percent.

It was in March 2017 that the late E. Hunter Harrison became CEO of CSX and began implementing the operating model with which he is often associated.

An analysis by Trains magazine concluded that although railroad employment typically ebbs and flows in tandem with changes in traffic volumes, the STB figures suggest that Class I railroads are moving more traffic with fewer workers.

The analysis noted that rail traffic in May 2019 was 24 percent higher than February 2017 according to figures released by the Association of American Railroads.

Harrison had introduced PSR railroading at Canadian National and Canadian Pacific before he took over CSX. Before he went to Canada, Harrison had implemented PSR on the former Illinois Central, which later was acquired by CN.

In the past couple of years, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern have adopted the principles of PSR, which Trains said makes likely additional workforce reductions through the end of 2020.

At CSX, the workforce has fallen by 18 percent since it went to PSR. During that same period, the workforce at NS fell by 8 percent

Most of the positions cut at CSX fell into the category of executives, officials, and staff assistants, whose ranks were thinned by a third.

CSX also has seen a 29 percent cut in professional and administrative staff.

Some of the CSX staff reductions began under former CEO Michael Ward.

Beyond the office, CSX has cut its maintenance-of-equipment force by 22 percent by closing car and locomotive shops and reducing the work performed at surviving facilities.

Train and engine crew employment at CSX has fallen by 16 percent while the maintenance-of-way headcount is down 11 percent.

NS is expected to make similar reductions as it phases into operation its own PSR operating model known as TOP21.

Since last September NS has pruned its workforce by 5 percent with 11 percent of that coming from the ranks of executives, officials, and staff assistants.

Professional and administrative staff has fallen by 7 percent, transportation department employment other than train and engine crews has fallen by 9 percent, and the number of train crews is down by 6 percent.

NS expects its workforce to shrink by 3,000 positions, most of it via attrition by the end of 2020. That would be a reduction of 12 percent from its current employment.

PSR Principles Being Adopted by NS

October 25, 2018

Count Norfolk Southern as the latest member of the precision scheduled railroading club.

The Class 1 railroad revealed this week that it plans to implement its own version of the model, which was popularized by the late E. Hunter Harrison at Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and CSX.

However, NS CEO James Squires said the carrier will only use PSR “as long as it improves customer service and enhances shareholder value.”

During a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Squires said NS is “looking at everything out there including elements of PSR that are complementary to our strategy.”

He said the railroad has recruited people with PSR experience and will pursue aggressive goals aimed at reducing the operating ratio and improving the bottom line.

NS Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Wheeler said the company has begun what he termed a “clean sheeting” process as part of developing a PSR plan that is expected to be implemented in phased in “cadences.”

NS officials said the company plans to reveal more details about its transformation to PSR at an investor’s day on Feb. 11, 2019.

The decision by NS to adopt elements of PSR and the expected move by Kansas City Southern to do likewise will leave only BNSF among Class 1 railroads not practicing some form of PSR.

Union Pacific announced a month ago that it is moving toward PSR and plans to implement it gradually.

Squires was cagey when asked if NS would engage in the type of major workforce reductions and downsizing of locomotive and freight car fleet that CSX has done.

“But suffice it to say that our goal is to produce a railroad that provides a more consistent service product at a lower cost,” he said.

Squires also emphasized that NS will do what it can to minimize service disruptions, something that plagued CSX when it rolled out PSR in 2017.

NS expects to reduce the number of freight cars on the road at any given time by operating a higher-velocity railroad.

The D.C.-to-A.C. locomotive conversion program will continue and NS will buy new locomotives as needed.

However, Wheeler indicated that NS will adopt many elements of PSR that CSX has implemented.

This will include merging unit trains with merchandise trains and operating longer trains seven days a week. Currently, some NS trains do not operate daily.

Wheeler said NS has already begun overhauling yard and terminal operations, including creating more blocks of traffic in local yards to allow those cars to bypass major classification yards.

He said NS is working with customers and short lines on improving blocking.

Wheeler said the new NS operating plan will be built from the local level up to the network level.

Also like CSX and other railroads that Harrison has overseen, NS will encourage faster loading and unloading of freight cars by increasing demurrage charges.

Moody’s Examines Pros, Cons of PSR

October 22, 2018

The decision of CSX in 2017 and Union Pacific this year to embrace the precision scheduled railroading model means that most of North America’s Class 1 railroads are practicing it.

Only Norfolk Southern, BNSF and Kansas City Southern have eschewed it – at least for the time being.

The concept of precision scheduled railroading is widely believed to have been pioneered by the late E. Hunter Harrison at the Illinois Central Railroad.

Harrison later implemented the concept at Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. He was well on his way to putting it in place on CSX before his death in December 2017.

Wall Street has fallen in love with PSR because a centerpiece of it is reducing costs to drive up profitability and stock prices.

At CSX, management has touted how it is moving the same volume of traffic with fewer employees and fewer locomotives and freight cars.

Railroad executives who favor PSR love to talk up the efficiencies that it brings.

But shippers, those folks who make railroads possible by paying them to haul freight, might be less enamored of PSR.

Moody’s Investors Service is one of North America’s leading debt rating agencies.

The analysts at Moody’s are not opponents of PSR. In fact a recent report by Moody’s about the operating model concluded that service levels have improved at railroads using precision scheduled railroading.

But the report issued a key caveat that Wall Street seems to overlook or downplay.

Shippers may not like how they are being forced to conform to the railroad’s interests rather than the railroad seeking to serve the interests of shippers.

“The model’s train schedule is established with the primary objective to enhance the efficiency of railroad operations,” Moody’s said in a report about PSR. “This narrows the scope to accommodate customer needs and may cause customers having to adapt to the railroad’s train schedule.”

The report quoted an unnamed railroad executive as saying that Harrison’s PSR approach is to set up schedules and tell the customers that they need to work around the trains that are scheduled, not the other way around.

As CSX encountered severe service issues when it implemented PSR too quickly in 2017, Harrison repeatedly relied on the mantra that service would improve and shippers would have better service than they had before.

That may seem true when viewing the service metrics that railroads like to measure themselves against.

One of those is operating ratio, which shows what percentage of operating revenue is used to pay operating expenses.

Lowering operating expenses has become the rage in the railroad industry in recent years, even among carriers that do not practice PSR.

CSX has bragged about how its operating ratio in recent quarterly financial reports has dipped below 60 percent. There was a time when an operating ratio in the 70s was considered in the industry to be a good performance.

Overall, Moody’s spoke favorably about PSR, but acknowledged it “is not a panacea for service problems.”

The report noted that BNSF does not practice PSR but “has maintained good service levels that to date exceed its average 2013 levels.”

Yet, BNSF is a privately-owned company and, Moody’s noted, some metrics that mean a lot to its owner, Warren Buffet, mean far less to Wall Street investors looking for short-term gains.

Buffet is known for his belief in long-term growth, which is often seen as lacking among practitioners of PSR.

“A material reduction in capital expenditures concurrent with the implementation of precision scheduled railroading may affect the railroad’s ability to maintain good service levels over time if sustained too long.” The Moody’s report said.

Ex-CSX President Looks Back on His Time There

October 2, 2018

Long before E. Hunter Harrison became CEO at CSX, the railroad’s management team was already studying the precision scheduled railroading model and had adopted some of its principles.

That was the message that Clarence Gooden, the CSX Transportation president who retired after Harrison became CSX CEO, told the North East Association of Rail Shippers last week.

Gooden said CSX adopted such practices as laying off employees, mothballing locomotives, closing some small yards, and shuttering 11 of its smaller car and locomotive repair shops.

CSX under former CEO Michael Ward also began running longer trains in an effort to reduce train starts and improve crew and locomotive utilization, and increased its use of distributed power.

Although CSX closed a couple of the 14 humps it operated at the time , Gooden said the carrier should have closed four or five more humps.

The moves during the Ward administration were in response to the Great Recession of 2008 and a sharp drop in coal traffic.

Coal provided a 53 percent profit margin and when it declined, it was a major blow to the CSX balance sheet.

Losing coal traffic cost CSX $1.5 in revenue as the domestic utility coal market collapsed over a five-year period.

Gooden expects CSX to take another hit in lost coal revenue starting in 2023 when a wave of retirements of coal-fired power plants is expected to begin.

He predicted that CSX and NS alike will spin off or close many of their coal-dependent routes.

Although intermodal traffic might pick up some of the slack left by falling coal traffic, Gooden said intermodal traffic is not nearly as profitable as coal.

The Eastern railroads might have to live with higher operating ratios due to declining coal traffic and an increase in intermodal business.

Gooden spoke favorably of the changes that Harrison introduced during his less than a year at the helm of CSX before his death.

But he also defended the accomplishments of the railroad during the Ward years.

From 2004 to 2017, CSX’s stock price went from $5.13 to $36.88.

Other achievements that Gooden cited included making the hiring of veterans a priority, launching an ad campaign promoting the efficiency of rail transportation, having the distinction of being the safest Class I railroad.

At the same time Gooden said CSX should have adopted technology much faster. He said automating yard operations and taking advantage of the operational benefits of positive train control will be a focal point for reducing costs.

Gooden also believes that CSX should have developed closer ties with short line and regional railroads because of their importance in feeding traffic.

Searching for a Balanced Portrait of EHH

August 27, 2018

I’m not sure I’ll spend $28 plus tax to buy Howard Green’s book about E. Hunter Harrison titled Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison.

More than likely I’ll check it out from a library.

Reviews of the book at the Trains and Railway Age websites suggest it would be worth the time to read Green’s book.

If nothing else, I’m curious if Green created the balanced portrayal I’ve been seeking about Harrison.

Harrison is someone about whom there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground although the editor-in-chief of Railway Age, William C. Vantuono, came close to that in an overview written shortly after Harrison’s death.

Much has been written about Harrison over the years in the railroad trade press and business press in the United States and Canada.

No other living railroad CEO approaches the stature of Harrison. Not even Charles “Wick” Moorman the retired CEO of Norfolk Southern and Amtrak who is much revered by railfans has the larger than life eminence that Harrison had.

The cover story of the August 2018 issue of Trains focused on Harrison’s time at Canadian Pacific. A sidebar story asked whether Harrison was the most misunderstood man in railroading.

That piece quoted only railroad executives or investors who had been part of Harrison’s inner circle.

They had some interesting things to say about Harrison, but, of course, they tended to adore him. That’s no surprise. They owed much of their career success to Harrison.

Keith Creel, who followed Harrison into the CEO chair at Canadian Pacific said,”if  you knew him, you loved him. If you didn’t know him, you probably misunderstood him.”

CP chairman Andrew Reardon said that behind Harrison’s gruff persona was a heart of gold.

Mark Wallace, who served as Harrison’s chief of staff at CN, CP and CSX, said Harrison’s charitable nature was overlooked, pointing out that since 2014 CP contributed more than $12 million to charities, including children’s hospitals.

Harrison’s “heart of gold” might be news to the thousands of men and women who lost their jobs due to his cost cutting and obsession with running an efficient railroad.

Creel had it at least half right. Some loved Harrison but others didn’t and it wasn’t because they misunderstood him.

Actually, his adversaries and critics understood Harrison quite well. Perhaps it is Hunter’s supporters who need to understand a few things.

Therein lies the challenge of assessing Harrison’s legacy. What you think of Harrison hinges on how his edicts, personal style and management philosophies affected you.

If he made you a lot of money, you think Harrison is God. If he laid you off, you think he is Satan.

Harrison achieved great success, but at what cost? Harrison is not misunderstood so much as he had the ability to attract attention in ways that few can and do.

To fairly assess Harrison’s legacy will take an analytic mind and an ability to see past the love and hatred that he engendered in so many.

It also will take time, which has a way of putting things into context and helping authors to take the longer view.

All great men and women have abilities and drive that average people lack. They are able to parlay those things to great advantage by seizing the opportunities that come their way and creating opportunities where none seem to exist.

Harrison may have been the genius that his supporters claim he was and at the same time the ogre that his critics considered him to be be. Somewhere between those extremes is another portrait. Maybe Green was able to show that and maybe it is a story still waiting to be told.

I’ll be looking for that when I finally get my hands on Green’s book.

Book to be Out Soon About Harrison

August 15, 2018

As the CEO of four Class 1 railroads Ewing Hunter Harrison was a larger than life figure known to friends and foes alike simply by his middle name.


Harrison has been deceased for less than a year and the first book about him is set hit the shelves on Sept. 18.

Howard Green has written Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison, which is being published by Page Two Books of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Green, who worked for the Business News Network of Canada, interviewed Harrison while he was the head of Canadian National and later Canadian Pacific.

“He’s just a fascinating story,” Green said of Harrison. “I’ve never met anyone like him.”

The 289-page book is based on interviews with 75 people who worked with Harrison, competed against him, or were part of his family.

Work on the book began two years ago and Green said he spent 170 hours talking with Harrison. He also attended the last “Hunter Camp” training seminar days before Harrison died last December at age 73.

A review of the book posted on the Trains magazine website said Green’s book portrays a colorful and complex self-made man who reshaped every railroad his headed but triggered controversy in the process.

“Everywhere he went there was thunder and lightning,” Green says.

The book focuses on the entirety of Harrison’s life, starting with his upbringing in Memphis and how he worked his way up from laborer to CEO of the Illinois Central and later CN, CP and CSX.

As a youth Harrison was rebellious and seen by many as a bully. The son of a Memphis police officer, Harrison for a brief time hung out with an older Elvis Presley.

The Trains review described the book as primarily oriented toward personalities, boardroom politics, and corporate strategy. “It’s clear that Harrison became increasingly focused on investors as he moved from CN to CP and, ultimately, CSX,” Trains correspondent Bill Stephens wrote.

During his career, Harrison was a workaholic who developed a reputation as a demanding boss who felt little remorse for all the employees who lost their jobs at the railroads that he oversaw.

Green said that Harrison’s American citizenship worked against him during his time at CN and CP because he wasn’t part of the small, clubby Canadian business scene and wouldn’t have tried to fit in anyway.

He made no effort to learn French, one of Canada’s two official languages, other than the phrase “Bonjour, y’all.”

Harrison had few close friends and Green quotes Harrison’s sister, Mary, as saying that her brother had “no life,” that it was “nothing for him [at a family gathering] to spend hours pacing on a conference call  . . .  There’s no day off. There’s no vacation. There’s no downtime.”

Yet when he died 700 people attended a tribute to his life. During his career, Harrison also developed a devoted following of railroad executives, some of whom spoke at their mentor’s memorial service.

Harrison was cremated and his ashes scattered about the Memphis railroad yard where his career began.

Green reveals that Harrison might have taken the helm of CSX in the early 2000s had a strategy by CN to obtain an ownership stake in the Florida-based Class 1 railroad worked out. At the time, Harrison was CN’s chief operating officer.

Although Harrison never held a grudge against CN after it declined in 2009 to extend his CEO contract, he did have hard feelings about Norfolk Southern, which Harrison and CP unsuccessfully sought to acquire in 2015-2016.

After becoming CEO of CSX, Green said Harrison reportedly said he wanted to “kick NS in the nuts” by capturing 10 to 15 percent of its traffic.

Green also reveals that Harrison’s health problems prompted an intense debate with CSX management ranks as to when and what to disclose about it.

By the time Harrison agreed to be part of an effort to oust CSX CEO Michael Ward, he had become a very wealthy man, saying that during his time at IC, CN and CP he was paid $500 million.

Harrison had three horse farms and three homes furnished with all of the lavish fixtures and trappings you might expect someone of such immense wealth to have.

Yet his real home was out on whatever railroad he happened to run at the time.

Railway Age columnist Frank Wilner in reviewing Green’s book likened Harrison to a railfan except rather than making photographs of trains EHH was barking orders to subordinates.

Harrison’s antipathy toward railroad labor is well known and been well documented. Many of the employees of his railroads loathed him in return.

But shippers also easily found themselves the targets of Harrison’s tirades. It may be that a railroad would not be a railroad without shippers, but Harrison viewed shipper demands as impeding his goal at the railroad of making money and lots of it for stockholders.

To that end, Harrison was less of a railroader than he was a rapacious capitalist who happened to work in the railroad industry.

Green described Harrison as “an unsentimental efficiency wizard who’d risen to the top by lopping expenses, maximizing the use of assets, and creating enormous value for shareholders [by] making the trains run on time. Investors came first. For him, the game was capitalism, pure and simple.”

Green concludes by saying that Harrison transformed four publicly traded companies, which the author found to be a rare fete.

But as accomplished as Harrison was, he didn’t live long enough to realize what may have been his most craved goal, the establishment of a true transcontinental railroad.

In concluding his review of Green’s book, Wilner observes, “Surely, [Harrison] possessed the ego, perhaps fueled by sharing initials with one of history’s most notable railroad barons—Edward H. Harriman. That Excalibur of railroading remains for another visionary.”