locked Fairfax Harrison and Federal Control 1918-1920

Bill Schafer


Bill Wright, who is working on the definitive history of Washington Union Station, raised an issue I was not aware of. He mentioned that Southern’s president, Fairfax Harrison, was one of five U. S. railroad presidents not asked to be federal managers of railroads in their regions when the USRA took over. 

I did some checking with the Southern News Bulletins of the time (which were published continuously throughout federal control) and came up with this poignant note to employees from Fairfax Harrison. From the tone of the letter, he sounds like he’s bidding his final farewell. I’m not sure that he knew when, or if, he would return to the helm of the Southern.

Does anyone have any data on why Harrison did not get the federal manager’s job of the Southern Railroad Lines? E. H. Coapman, Southern’s VP-Operations, was the federal manager for the duration. 

—Bill Schafer

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