United States. Railroad Administration.

The public be pleased. The railroad bureau for brickbats and bouquets. online

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From an address recently dtticzrcd by the ReV. J. F.
Wdnmann, of Philadelphia.

'"TAKE the case of a railroad con-
A ductor or engineer. Suppose a
man has ta take a train of coaches from
New York to Washington, leaving New
York, say, at 6 a. m. Anyone can readily
see that his task may be contemplated in
two entirely different frames of mind.
" He can say, as the bell rings and rouses him in what seems
the dead of night, ' Hang it all, it's time to get up again; noth-
ing but the same old grind; I hate railroading anyway; I
think I'll quit; this isn't a job; it's a life sentence.'

" Or he can do something else. He can press a button
somewhere inside himself and in a flash see the whole situa-
tion big before him, pulsating and tense in its human interest.
He can see the great 'system' with which he is connected;
its multiple* life. He can see the huge overarched shed with
its breathing trains; he can see his own engine or train, and
as he contemplates what by this time has begun to shape
itself in his mind as an opportunity a smile can be seen break-
ing out on his lively face it is his engine, his train; he can
see the three hundred souls, mere or less, waiting to be
taken to Washington, each with a living interest, hew and
with what fraught God only knows; and it's uf> to him to la\e
that big human thing to Washington I Once more he smiles
and, thanking God he has a share in human things, in the
work that needs to be done, he presses his hat down on his
head and 'beats it.'"

Printed for distribution among the United States
Army of Railroad Men with the compliments of

Director General of Railroads.







'Actuary to United States Railroad Administration.

As you fall unconcernedly asleep in a Pullman car, which, with
all its drawbacks, is the least uncomfortable means of traveling at
night on land that has as yet been devised, did you ever reflect upon
the number of persons and the complexity of the organization upon
which you are dependent for the safety and luxury in which you are
able to make your journey? The engineer and the fireman, the con-
ductor and the brakemen, the Pullman conductor and the porter, the
steward in the dining car and the waiters are all more or less in evi-
dence, and of their presence and the service they render you may be
more or less conscious, but behind them and directing their activities
is an unseen host of others upon whose vigilance in the performance
of their duties your life and comfort depend.

There is the train dispatcher and the telegraph operators, the track-
walker who patrols the right of way day and night, and the section
gang who must always be ready to repair any defects, the switchmen,
and the inspector who used to go about tapping the car wheels with
his tell-tale hammer at the end of each division, the " hostler " who
takes care of the engine and the machinist who repairs it, the car clean-
ers, the iceman, the commissary chief who provisions the dining cars,
the ticket agent and the station master, the " red cap " and the baggage-
man ; if any one of these fails in his appointed task, the passenger is
almost certain to suffer or be inconvenienced. Back of these again
there used to be the executive officers, the president, the various vice
presidents, the general manager, and the superintendent, with scores
of other functionaries who were the objects of relentless public criti-
cism if their subordinates were careless or inefficient. Now that the
railroads are under the control of the Government the operative duties
of the railroad president and the vice-presidents devolve upon a
Federal manager and his assistants. They are in turn responsible
to a regional director, who is the representative of Director General
McAdoo at Washington; but in other respects the operating organ-
ization is not much changed and, because some people, forgetting
the exigencies of the war, assume that the Government is omnipotent,
they are now disposed to be more, rather than less, exacting in de-
manding perfection of service from the machine that is called the
American railroad system. Composed, as this machines is, of literally

89295' 18


millions of mechanical parts whose functioning depends upon the co-
ordinated watchfulness and care of thousands of fallible human be-
ings, it is really surprising that more accidents do not occur, and that
the reaction of man upon man does not result in irritation oftener
than is the case. When we consider that a loose spike, a defective
rail, a misplaced switch, or a misread signal may precipitate a train-
load of people into eternity, and that an innumerable number of
spikes, rails, switches, and signals, to say nothing of the air brakes,
couplings, electric wires, and steam and water supply pipes, with an
engine having about 15,00(5 separate parts that make up a passenger
train must all be as they^ should be if we are to reach our journey's
end successfully and on time* it is little shore of marvelous that travel
is as safe as it has become and that under the strain to which they
are subjected railroad employees are not oftener careless and impa-
tient. It is greatly to the credit of the executive officers who through
three generations had built up the fabric that is called the American
railroad system that they should have succeeded in developing the
esprit de corps by which the men under them were animated. This
had been accomplished in the face of many difficulties, including
especially a mass of hampering legislation in 48 different States; and
when, in order to meet the exigencies of the war, it became necessary
for the President to put the transportation agencies of the country
under the control of Mr. McAdoo, his first care was to preserve and
increase the spirit of idealism in the performance of their duty that
was characteristic of the Americans who had become proud of being
called " railroad men."

There were not wanting those who predicted a speedy decline in
what has come to be called the " morale " of the railroad army, and
there were some who, professing to discern such a decline, persuaded
others to look through glasses that were darkened by a defeatist self-
interest in the failure of Government control.

The Director General, confident as he was of the loyalty of the men,
did not share this pessimism, but feeling nevertheless that it was his
duty to ascertain whether it had any basis, he determined, with his
customary directness, to ask the public to tell him frankly how and
where the service could be improved.

Accordingly he issued an order establishing a Bureau for Sugges-
tions and Complaints, and on the 3d of September, 1918, the follow-
ing notice was posted in every station and passenger coach under the
control of the United States Railroad Administration :

To the public:

I desire your assistance and cooperation in making the railroad service while
under Federal control in the highest possible degree satisfactory and efficient.

Of course, the paramount necessities of the war most have first consideration.

Our gallant sons who are fighting in B'rance and on the high seas can not be
adequately supported unless the railroads supply sufficient transportation for
the movenu'Mfc of troops and war materials and to keep the war industries of the
Nation going without interruption.

The next purpose is to serve the puhllc convenience, comfort, and necessity to
the fullest extent not incompatible with the paramount demands of the war.

In order to accomplish this, criticisms and suggestions from the public will be
extremely helpful, whether they relate to the service rendered by employees and
officials or impersonal details that may convenience or inconvenience patrons of
the railroads. It is impossible for even the most vigilant management to keep
constantly in touch with local conditions and correct them when they are not as


they should be unless the public will cooperate In pointing out deficiencies and
disservice when they exist, so that the proper remedies may be applied.

I have therefore established a Bureau for Suggestions and Complaints In the
Director General's office at Washington, to which the public is Invited to resort.

Aside from letters of complaint and suggestion, the public can render a genu-
ine service by sending letters of commendation of employees who are conspicu-
ously courteous and efficient in the performance of their duties. Nothing pro-
motes the esprit of a groat organization more than recognition from time to
time of these employees who perform their duties faithfully and commendably.

It is requested that all communications be brief and explicit and that th
name and address of the writer be distinctly written.

Also give the time of day or night, the number of the train, the name of the
railroad, and, if possible, the name of the employee whose conduct is complained
of or whose services are commended, together with such other information as
will enable me to take appropriate action.

Please address r' ,_,

W. G. McAooo,

Director General of Railroad*,
Bureau for Suggestions and Complaints,

Washington, D. 0.

To deal with the letters which this notice was expected to elicit, five
trained men were selected and put under the direction of the writer.
They include Ballard Dunn, assistant actuary to the United States
Railroad Administration and formerly special representative of
president's office, Union Pacific Railroad, Omaha; J. F. Jarrell,
formerly editorial writer on Kansas City Times and Topeka Capital,
and later with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad as editor
of its industrial and agricultural publications and in general charge
of publicity matters ; T. T. Maxey, formerly of the Chicago, Burling-
ton & Quincy Railroad as advertising agent; E. H. Lamb, formerly
general agent of the Chicago & North Western Railway at Sacra-
mento, Gal.;* and Frank F. George, formerly secretary to the actuary
to the United States Railroad Administration.

This Bureau for Suggestions and Complaints, which a newspaper
man has facetiously dubbed the " bureau of brickbats and bouquets,"
is Mr. McAdoo's latest application of his motto "The public be
pleased." It has now been in existence long enough to make it pos-
sible for those in charge of it to draw a cross section of the composite
public mind as revealed in the many thousands of letters that have
been received.

The writers of these letters unconsciously divide themselves into
two classes one comprising those who are temperamentally cen-
sorious, and another which includes the people who believe that praise
is a duty and that "criticism is best defined as an emphasis of tho

The rhyme which runs

Between the optimist and pessimist the difference Is droll,
The optimist the doughnut sees the pessimist the hole

finds fresh application in not a few contrasting letters upon the same
subject, but between the two extremes there are many who are evi-
dently inspired by a public-spirited desire to improve the service that
the railroads are trying to render and a patriotic willingness to
subordinate their own convenience and comfort to the primary pur-
pose for which the railroads were taken over, namely, the winning of
the war.


this latter class is in a very large majority is one of the reas-
suring facts revealed by the experience of the Bureau for Suggestions
and Complaints.

Some of the newspaper writers who have been vociferous in pro-
claiming the discourtesy and indifference of "Uncle Sam's railway
employees " would perhaps be surprised at the number of letters of
-commendation that have been received, and while a few of them are
no doubt the result of auto-suggestion, it is evident that as a class
the men and the increasingly large number of women who compose
the " railway army " of the United States are loyal and enthusiastic,
anxious and willing to give the best that is in them to the work in
which they are enlisted. Perhaps a story written by a newspaper
reporter who started out to find the discourteous railway employee
and failed describes the experience of not a few disappointed pessi-
mists. This reporter was named John C. Baskerville, and his story
was published in the Des Moines (Iowa) Record. It follows and is
reprinted as a spontaneous tribute to the many railroad employees at
Des Moines and elsewhere who deserve a word of praise for their
self-control under conditions that are irritating.


[By John C. Baskerville.]

Because of so many rumors that railway employees had adopted an attitude
of " the public be damned " since the roads came under Federal control, the
young reporter set out to investigate on his own hook.

He selected the most pretentious-looking ticket office in Des Moines, entered,
and approached the bar beg pardon; desk, I should say falteringly. He
asked for the manager. The clerk smiled, but courteously summoned a busi-
nesslike-looking man with rimmed spectacles.

"What is the best way to get from Des Moines to Skeedunk Hollow, Mo.?"
asked the young reporter.

Although the businesslike agent had never heard of the place, he searched
through big volumes and many maps, finally locating the place in question. He
located the railroad it was on, looked up the connections, gave the hours trains
left Des Moines, and went into detail to the rather dull-appearing youth on
the other side of the desk.


Unlike the clothing salesman or jewelry-store clerk, he did not insist upon an
Immediate purchase of a ticket, and when the young man turned away, stating
that he had heard of that place and wondered how he would get there if he ever
wanted to, the agent was still smiling and courteous.

From this office the young man forsook the offices of Walnut Street and
sought one in the vicinity of Seventh Street. Here he inquired how to get to a
remote spot in South Dakota. Although there were not as many men in the
office to wait upon the public as in the- other, he was required to wait his turn.
But his questions were answered courteously, and the greatest of care taken to
direct him with regard to all details of the journey.

He retraced his steps to Walnut and entered another office. He was delayed
somewhat by a large, overgrown, superfed human crab, who was vociferously
attempting to provoke the genial and accommodating agent to wrath by criti-
cising railroads in general, and expounding upon the way he would run the
roads if he were doing it.


This time the reporter was interested in Pullman berths from a point outside
of Des Moines to the far West. He asked the agent to make the reservations,
assuming ignorance of the fact that the Director General had prohibited all


offices wiring for berths except at the expense of the purchaser. 1 This fact was
explained by the agent, who volunteered, however, to make out the wire, send
it over, and telephone results, although the expense would have to be met by the
person resenting the berths.

It so happened that the young reporter had once or twice had occasion to buy
Pullman tickets before not having always been a reporter hut never had he
been shown such attention and accommodation.

So far Dotliing but failure had rewarded the search for the "public-be-
damncHl " attitude among the railway men. But he was not discouraged. He
decided to beard the lion in his den, and call upon that high and mighty, the
manager of the division.

He was informed that the manager was out at the time, but still greater
wonder the chief clerk, generally considered to be more fierce in his natural
instincts than the manager himself volunteered to give \vliat information he
could on the subject, calling in the general freight traffic manager to assist.


What was to be done? Failure stared grotesquely into the face of the young
niHn who had started in pursuit of success. But additional thought brought one
more chance to light That night he would visit the station when it was most
crowded and seek more Information.

When tiie limited trains became due, the reporter took his place in the long line
of ticket purchasers before the window at the railway station. When he reached
it, his questions and numerous desires pot two clerks to work searching records,
maps, and rate schedules. There was no complaint from the men behind the

lie then went out among the trains and people on t,he tracks. He selected one
brakeman who had been handling hundreds of suitcases and dozens of babies, in-
cidently answering some thousands of questions, who stood mopping- his brow, as
the train was almost ready to start. He held a letter, previously prepared, out
to the man, asking that he mail it on the fast train at the junction with an-
other line.

This last card he was certain woiild give him the necessary data for his story.
It would surely be the last straw for the brakeman with the " pnblic-be-damned "
attitude, since he was getting paid by the Government

The brukeman took the letter, obligingly agreeing to mail it at the point
mentioned !

Then the young reporter went to the office and wrote a different, but better,
story than he expected to get.

Apropos of the foregoing, it m-ay be appropriate to mention a letter
from a man who says that " I know that many will complain of the
discourtesy of railway employees to the public r but I desire to file a
complaint in regard to the discourtesy of the public to railway em-
ployees," as emphasizing the need of reciprocity in politeness in a way
that many travelers would do well to ponder, for it is undoubtedly
true that some of the questions that railroad men have to answer
and some of the demands made upon them are absurd and exasperat-
ing to a degree that even Job would have resented.

Of the letters received, probably three-fourths complain of condi-
tions that are presently unavoidable or of regulations, the reasonable-
ness of which is not apparent to the casual traveler who fails to
appreciate or understand the complexity of the railroad machine or
the necessity of protecting the public against the ignorance, careless-
ness, and selfishness of some and the dishonesty of others who feel
that it is no sin to evade the payment of their f ares or " get the
best of the railroad."

What may be called the conventional complaints relate chiefly to a
few subjects, which are dealt with, as follows, in the order in which

1 Since this newspaper story was written arrangements have been made for the free nst
oi railroad wires in making telegraphic reservations of Pullman accommodations for con-
tinuous journeys. When thus reserved, however, those reservation* must be paid for.


they seem uppermost in the public mind and have elicited the largest
number of letters.

They are:

1. The crowded condition of the stations and cars and the delay
encountered in purchasing tickets. Under this heading there may be
considered practically all the complaints which arise as a result of the
unprecedented increase in the passenger traffic of late and the short-
age in the ticket-selling forces that is the result of the draft and the
high wages which have attracted many experienced railroad men
into other positions where they can, for the present at least, earn more
than it is possible for the railroads to pay. The enormous increase in
passenger traffic with which the railroads are now contending is not
perhaps generally appreciated. The complete comparative statistics
for June, 1917, and June, 1918, are not yet available, but a statement
wjiich includes the passenger traffic of 208,988 miles of railroads out
of a total mileage of nearly 300,000 miles shows that 3,621,088,633
passengers were carried 1 mile in June, 1918, as compared with
3,049,S03,()35 passengers carried 1 mile in June, 1917. The increase
of 571,285,028 passengers carried 1 mile is equal to 18.17 per cent, and
if it be assumed that the average journev of each passenger was 50 *
miles, which is probably an approximation to the fact, we shall be
justified in concluding that the railroads reporting had to carry 11,-
425,700 more persons in June, 1918, than during the same month in
the previous year, and that there was an equal increase in the number
of tickets sold. As the roads reporting include only about two-thirds,
but the most important two-thirds, of the total mileage in the United
States, it is not improbable that there, was an aggregate increase of
15,000,000 in the number of persons traveling and the number of jour-
neys made throughout the United States in the month of June, 1918,
as compared with June, 1917. This means an increase of 750,000 in
the number of persons traveling each day. The average passenger
car will seat 50 people, and to carry 750,000 persons 15,000 cars filled
to capacity would be required. They are not to be had. They could
not have been built even if they had been ordered. The labor and ma-
terial necessary are unobtainable. According to the figures of the In-
terstate Commerce Commission there were (excluding parlor and
sleeping cars) only 40,870 passenger cars of all sorts in the United
States in the year 1916, and the necessity of crowding these cars in
order to transport those who now desire to travel will at once be ap-
parent even to the statistical tyro.

An average of about 1,100,000 troops a month is now being carried
by the railroads on orders from the War and Navy Departments. A
great many other soldiers and sailors are traveling on their own ac-
count and at their own expense. The mothers, fathers, wives, sweet-
hearts, and friends- of these men have also been traveling to visit them '
at the camps at which they were stationed. The high wages that are
being paid in industry generally, and particularly in the shipyards
and munition factories, the agricultural prosperity that is the result
of $2 wheat and 30-cent cotton have made many of those who were not
previously in the habit of traveling feel able to " take a trip," and they

i According to tho figures of the Interstate Commerce Commission the average journey
per passenger in 1910 was 34.73 miles, which figure, if applied to the returns for 1918,
would indicate an incroase of over 21,000,000 in the number of persons traveling during
the month of June, 1018, as compared with June, 1917. Inasmuch, however, as this year's
figures include the movement of many troops over long runs, I have preferred to avoid an
overestimate by assuming that the length of the average journey was 50 miles.


have yielded to the impulse. Concurrently the force of ticket sellers
has been depleted by draft or resignation to accept other and better-
paid positions, and those who were left have had to deal with the un-
precedented increase in the passenger traffic that the figures given

Under the circumstances it is not surprising that sometimes long
lines of people are to be found waiting at important ticket offices.
It is not possible for untrained men to sell railroad tickets. This
work requires a knowledge of routes, rates, time tables, and connec-
tions that can only be acquired by experience and an ability to make
change promptly and accurately and to be self -controlled when tired
or exasperated that can not be learned in a minute. In an effort to
meet the public demand the United States Railroad Administration
has opened schools in some of the larger cities for the education of
women as ticket sellers, and not a few graduates have been passed
from these schools- into active service, but the number of women who
have applied for this instruction is not large, and after making
allow ances for the drain that will be caused by the pending draft
it seems unlikely that the ticket-selling force can be appreciably in-


Online LibraryUnited States. Railroad AdministrationThe public be pleased. The railroad bureau for brickbats and bouquets. → online text (page 1 of 2)