SERIOUS PROBLEMS FACE RAILWAYS IN WAR CRISIS
Professor Cunningham Suggests Adoption of English System of Transportation.
Professor William James Cunningham, of the Business School, who is an authority on transportation, told a CRIMSON reporter in an interview yesterday of some of the problems which would confront the railroads in case of war and what steps have been taken to meet these problems. The national defence committee of the American Railway Association was established on February 16 at an executive meeting of that organization. This committee is divided into an Eastern, Central, Southern and a Western District. These divisions will co-operate with the officers of the Federal Government in connection with the work of the Council for National Defence and will correspond to each of the four military departments of the country. The chairmen of these four division committees, with Fairfax Harrison, president of the Southern Railway, as general chairman, constitute a special executive committee for this work.
"After next Monday," Professor Cunningham said, "what will happen is conjectural, but I suppose that the railroads will be grouped into districts and that there will be some kind of unified, centralized control, possibly in some respects following the English plan. The roads in England are privately owned and after the declaration of war, they were nominally taken over by the Government and were operated as a single unit by a committee made up of the general managers of eight or ten of the principal roads. There was no change whatever in the personnel of the officers or of the staff, but the management was centralized and the roads were operated as a unit by certain army officers acting through this committee of general managers.
"This was a two-sided bargain. On one side the railroads agreed to perform all the services required by the Government without charge and without any accounting; on the other side, the Government guaranteed that the net returns to the railroads would not be less than that during the year directly preceding the war.
"There are several links in the chain of railroad transportation. First, the capacity of the terminals and the loading and unloading points; second, the capacity of the running tracks and sidings; in the third place, the number of cars and locomotives available; and finally the number of train crews that can be had.
"The weakest link is unquestionably the first, that is, the question of terminal trackage. The American roads were built for commercial purposes, with no thought of military strategy. This committee is working out plans which will involve the use of alternate routes in moving large bodies of troops and supplies. By this means one road will be used for the transportation and another line will be used for the return of the empty cars. It is part of the work of this committee to determine what roads are best fitted to make up this circle of transportation. The British had this problem so well worked out that they were able to despatch trains every ten minutes for 36 hours."