Author Topic: Government Control of the Monson: The USRA  (Read 8993 times)

Roger Whitney

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Government Control of the Monson: The USRA
« on: February 09, 2012, 12:28:57 PM »

         In a letter from Supt. Morrill to Charles Wier, treasurer of the Monson Railroad whose corporate offices were in Lowell Mass, Morrill indicates that a letter from the USRA “relinguishes this road from government control”.  This letter was dated July 3, 1918.  Lets take a brief look at what was the USRA.
         The United States Railroad Administration (USRA) was the name of the nationalized railroad system of the United States between 1917 and 1920. It was a huge experiment with nationalization of an industry, and was deemed necessary because of  the looming World War.
         On April 6, 1917 the United States entered World War One.  It quickly became apparent that there were a lot of inadequacies in terminals, trackage and rolling stock all across the nation.  In December of 1917 the Interstate Commerce Commission recommended federal control of the railroads to ensure efficient operations in the transportation of war material and on December 26, 1917, President Wilson issued the order for nationalization.
         Huge changes came quickly. Terminals were shared, costly passenger services were cut back, assets were pooled and even ticketing was standardized. On March 21, 1918 the Railway Administration Act became law, and Wilson's 1917 nationalization order was affirmed. The act provided that control of the former owners would be reinstated within 21 months after the peace signing (which in this case was November 11, 1918). The USRA's authority ended on March 1, 1920.
         So how did the government takeover effect the Monson in the six months under USRA control?  Probably not much.  There is very little reference to this in the letterpress correspondence.  Notice that control was relinguished five months before the armistice in November of 1918…I wonder why.  According to correspondence, the ICC seemed to try to exert a much greater control over a longer period of time than the USRA ever did.

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Government Control of the Monson: The USRA
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2012, 05:26:31 PM »
Taking control of the nation's railroads in 1917 proved to be a much more difficult job than anyone in the government expected. The railroad industry used different accounting practices and rules than any other industry, for example, which gave the USRA fits. USRA officials had their hands full trying to manage the movement of war material on the major railroads, and they were pretty quick to realize that small railroads like the Monson did not require their attention.

In one of the auxiliary buildings at the East Broad Top Railroad's shop complex at Rockhill Furnace, Pa., there is still a poster on the wall notifying everyone that "This railroad was under the control and supervision of the United States Railway Administration, W.G. McAdoo, Administrator." I remember being rocked back on my heels the first time I saw that sign.

Eric Larsen

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Re: Government Control of the Monson: The USRA
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2012, 06:54:04 PM »
Not to get too political but Wilson would probably love what our government has become now....  I never thought about the USRA in terms of him but now that I see it posted here it doesn't surprise me.