Many people are concerned that railroads are not what they once were, and hope they will “come back,” or be more like railroads in Europe. As followers of business news and railroad company stockholders know, North American railroads today are strongly profitable haulers of large quantities of long-distance freight. Unquestionably, they are not what they once were, when they served almost every town across the country, carried express packages, and operated a network of passenger trains. Current railroad financial success stems in part from shedding many of those old local services, combined with an almost complete absence of government price regulation, and changes in how freight moves. Presenter Bill McKnight will set the stage by briefly exploring the history of railroads, but most of his presentation will describe what the railroads of today do, how they do it, and what role they play in our economy. This presentation will also touch on Amtrak, VIA Rail Canada, and metropolitan commuter authorities.
William McKnight worked on both the shipping side of freight movement while at Ford Motor Co., and on the carrier side of the business at Grand Trunk Western Railroad. He belongs to state and national history groups and has presented classes on various railroad history subjects at their meetings, as well as at Elderwise.