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Formed in 1980 as a holding company for the Chessie and Seaboard Systems and several other eastern railroads, CSX in 1986 merged these several ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of CSX

Overall customer rating: 5.000

Complex History Told Very Well, Great Pix

by metra2 on Feb 24, 2007

I just finished reading Brian Solomon's CSX and thought it an excellent work. Though not large or cumbersome, the book manages to meld the impact photography of a coffee-table book with a common-sense, well-researched history of the many predecessor railroads that united in the early 1980s to form CSX. Buttressed by selected archival photographs and documents from the past and stunning color photographs in the modern era, author Brian Solomon gives us interesting and well-written rail history. In particular, we hear about and witness the now long-gone railroad companies that echoed through the past: the Louisville & Nashville, the Clinchfield Line, the Seaboard Coast Line, the Chesapeake & Ohio and its 1963 captive, Baltimore & Ohio; as well as lesser players like the RF&P, the Georgia Railroad and the Western Maryland. By the turn of the 1980s CSX's immediate predecessors had emerged: two mega-systems called "The Family Lines" and "The Chessie System," were united. The moniker "CSX" emerged as much from the workers as from management: "C" for Chessie, of course; and "S" for Seaboard. According to who's speaking, the "X" stands for nothing, just a placeholder, OR that it means"and more in the corporation also[like the logistics system CSX Intermodal]"; OR that the "X" means the synergistic effect of Chessie and Seaboard, united. At any rate, the modern moniker was finalized in 1986. It's also the corp's stock-market symbol. But it doesn't stop there. In 1997 the other big eastern U.S. megasystem, the Norfolk Southern, engaged in a prolonged bidding war with CSX over the Northeastern railroad company called Conrail --which had begun its existence in 1976 as government-run rail to deal with the ashes of the Penn Central's bankrupt and broken lines but was restored to profitability in the Eighties and scheduled for takeover in the Nineties. In 1997 NS and CSX carved up Conrail's intercity lines to hook onto their own systems. (Conrail exists today only as a switching and expediting railroad service on the edge of several Eastern and Midwestern big cities.) The two rival carriers got pretty much what they wanted -- but at the breathtaking cost of approximately twenty (that's a "B") Billion Dollars combined. CSX and NS then emerged as the only two American-owned megasystems serving New England, the Northeast, the South (including Appalachia and its coal), and the industrialized Midwest. During the intervening ten years NS and CSX have managed to retire the huge Conrail debt and start making money. Which means, happily, that those "roads" are solvent at a very crucial time. After a period of relative decline in the 1970s and early 1980s, North American megasystems are rife with new and lucrative "genres" of trains: like unit trains, which trundle a common commodity (often coal) between mine (usually in Wyoming) and user (perhaps a power-generation facility)--after which the whole train, empty hoppers and all, returns to whence it came. Despite the return "water haul", this has proved to be not only easier but cheaper than marshalling (gathering) every coal car individually in a rail yard. "Intermodal" trains involve piggybacking the trailers from truck tractor-trailers and placing one apiece on special railroad "sled" cars; the even more modern Intermodal mode consists of the colorful "shipping cubes" (officially COFC) that have come from abroad, get taken off the supersize ship and put on the train at a harbor like Brooklyn or Long Beach, California--after which the railroad can ship 'em, often stacked one on the other, again in special cars with names like "wells," pretty much anywhere along its system or a connecting railroad system. (You may even have seen some of those pretty cubes riding on the flatbed of the big-rig trucks.) Eighty-car express "Autorack" trains carry cars and trucks in special three-tier covered shipping cars -- if you need to get a lot of vehicles from the factory to warehouse, it's cheaper than trucking. Let's not forget the occasional Amtrak passenger train, with heritage names like "Silver Meteor" or "The Empire Builder" that use their own locomotives and staff but nonetheless have to pay the "host road" to run its equipment over their line. The challenge to the rail systems now is upgrading and expanding infrastructure that was thought excessive just a few years ago but is seriously overburdened now. Railroads are hustling as fast as time and money will allow to buy more environmentally friendly locomotives, turn single- into double-tracks, and install the new high-tech signalling equipment that increases the number of trains (and amount of freight with it) that can be carried over a route. Insofar as possible, the final three chapters of CSX are set in the present (2005) and discuss some of those infrastructure challenges all the American mega-systems face. The photos document ultra-modern locomotives and procedures. You'll also hear about the acquisition and disposition of rolling stock, in particular diesel locomotives, and with some specificity -- up to and including the rosters of those engines by number. Rail fans will adore this; general readers will tolerate it because they know that modern railroading is an interesting subject for any consumer, businessperson or shipper in addition to rabid rain fans and rail professionals and workers. At nearly thirty-seven dollars retail, CSX is not cheap for its size but considering that you're getting a good history book and a well-chosen, if relatively brief, coffee-table type photograph book with some really stunning visuals, without the bulk and in one package, I think it's worth the price. And of course, Alibris excells in putting you, the consumer, in touch with vendors of used books. Based on the merits of CSX the book, I am looking forward to reading other Brian Solomon books. Along with others, Solomon has written or co- authored a number of books in this series, called the MBI Color Series. As you might suspect, many titles in this series document one railroad or system at a time: already there are volumes for Canadian National, Illinois Central, Conrail itself and many others. Others are coming out soon.

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