Synopses & Reviews
Visionary Railroader chronicles the life of a key figure in the history of rail travel in the United States. As president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Jervis Langdon Jr. had the opportunity to put progressive concepts into practice.
In 1964, Langdon took charge of the Rock Island, and by the time he left in 1970, he had spearheaded major improvements for this struggling carrier. The same year, he became lead trustee for the bankrupt Penn Central and three years later assumed the presidency. From his role in passing the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 to his work on creating the quasi-public Conrail, Visionary Railroader examines the impact of Langdon's active life with clear text, unique representations of media of the day, and select family photos.
President Bill Clinton has groused to friends that history will never rank him among the greatest presidents because he never had to confront a major war or an economic catastrophe during his tenure. Barack Obama will have both and, with it, the chance to go down in the annals as a monumental goat or savior.
And so it is, as well, with industry. As Clemson University historian H. Roger Grant writes, when the American railroad industry imploded in the '60s and '70s, Jervis Langdon Jr. was well positioned as president of the Rock Island and later the Baltimore and Ohio Railroads to play a role in national rail reorganization.
Like other successful captains of industry, the challenge of fixing a broken organization trumped material gain for Langdon, as was evidenced when he joined the board of the troubled Delaware and Hudson. "As one of 'Jerv's boys' from the B&O, Bill Collins, D&H vice president for administration and strategic planning, put it: 'Jervis did not come for glory or for coin.'"
Langdon's proven track record, so to speak, made him a logical choice to become lead trustee for the bankrupt Penn Central, whose presidency he took over three years later. He was instrumental as well in passing the federal Regional Rail Reorganization
Act of 1973 and in creating the quasi-public Conrail.
An interesting sideline the author came up with is that Langdon was related, on his father's side, to the prominent Elmira, N.Y. family which produced Olivia "Livy" Langdon, Mark Twain's beloved wife and mother of their three children.Steve Goddard, author of Getting There: The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail in the American Century, www.historywire.com, January 1, 2009
"Grant has developed an extremely well-researched and well-written account of Langdon's development, both as a person and as a railroader... the story of an important railroad man who has not been adequately covered in previous books.... A valuable addition to railroad history." --William D. Middleton, author of When the Steam Railroads Electrified Indiana University Press
"... succeeds handsomely in telling the story of an important railroad personage." --Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun, October 5, 2008
"[T]his book will provide a valuable guide to future scholars studying the history of railroad management, coporate strategy, and regulation." --Technology and Culture, January 2010, Vol. 51
"Visionary Railroader is an enjoyable account of a fascinating individual.... Grant's work might be just the ticket for understanding the convoluted evolution of the twentieth-century railroad industry." --Business History Review, 84.1, Spring 2010
"... this is a book for any railroader... or anyone else interested in the life of a raliroad executive who truly loves trains." --Rush Loving Jr., RABO News and Notes, October 2008 Indiana University Press
"[Langdon] was a remarkable man and we are fortunate to have this interesting biography." --www.bookviews.com, January 2009 Indiana University Press
"Roger Grant's biography is well written, and tells us not only about his work as a railroader, but as a child, student, and family man. Importantly, the details of Langdon's tenure at B&O, Rock Island, and Penn Central add insight into the histories of those railroads." --Railroad History, Spring-Summer 2009
"Eminently readable, Visionary Railroader is both well written and well organized." --Civil Engineering, April 1, 2009
First book-length biography of the "doctor of sick railroads"
About the Author
H. Roger Grant, Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Professor of History at Clemson University, is author of 24 books, most of them on railroad history. He has written company histories of the Chicago and North Western, the Chicago Great Western, the Erie Lackawanna, the Georgia and Florida, and the Wabash railroads. He lives in Central, South Carolina.
Table of Contents
1. The Making of a Railroader
2. Railroad Lawyer
3. B&O President
4. Running the Rock
5. Rerailing Penn Central
6. Still Railroading