Collected from MANY sources
“Hunter is a legendary railroader, and for good reason,” Lee Klaskow, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said in a 2017 interview. “The Canadian railroads have some of the lowest operating ratios, which is driven by his philosophy — precision railroading. He wrote the playbook on efficiency.”
In his 2005 book, “How We Work and Why: Running a Precision Railroad,” Harrison laid out his core principles for running a rail carrier: service, cost control, asset utilization, safety and people. The volume is still required reading for anyone getting into the industry.
“This book is about running the best damn railroad in the business,” he wrote. “Run a tight ship, and you can expect a reasonable return; manage it badly, and the sheer weight of assets will sink you.”
In his four-and-a-half years as CEO of Canadian Pacific, Harrison transformed the carrier from the worst-performing major North American railroad to the second-best — trailing only his former employer, Canadian National. When he left Canadian Pacific in January 2017, the company’s market capitalization stood at about C$28.2 billion ($22 billion) — about C$15 billion more than when he took over.
“We’re going to do more with less,” Harrison told investors at a presentation in December 2012, less than six months after taking over Canadian Pacific. “We’re going to make those assets really sweat.”
Harrison cut staff and pushed the railroad to run longer and faster trains to reduce fuel and labor costs. He also revamped the executive team, while closing several hump yards — used to separate and sort rail cars — and inter-modal terminals in cities including Chicago and Milwaukee to set the stage for potential land sales.
“Professionally, Hunter was unmatched in this industry. He will go down as the best railroader ever, plain and simple,” Keith Creel, president and CEO of Canadian Pacific, said in a statement. “His legacy will be felt at our company forever.”
CP will lower its flags to half-mast across its network to honor Harrison, said Creel, who worked under Harrison at three different companies.
CSX, spurred on by its shareholders, hired Harrison two months after he quit Canadian Pacific and approved picking up the $84 million payout that he left on the table.
Ewing Hunter Harrison was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on Nov. 7, 1944. He began his career in 1963 as an 18-year-old carman-oiler for St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Co., lubricating train wheels while attending the University of Memphis. He moved to Illinois Central in 1989 as chief operating officer, joining Canadian National when it acquired the Chicago-based carrier in 1998.
Harrison was twice named “Railroader of the Year” by Railway Age magazine — in 2002, while serving as Canadian National’s chief operating officer, and in 2014 for his role at Canadian Pacific — becoming one of only a handful of executives to win the award twice.
It was a script that echoed his move on CP, but this time no battle for the boardroom was required. CSX investors, who saw their shares soar by 35 per cent on news of his intentions, threw their support behind him and he was named CSX’s head in March.
Anthony Hatch, a railway consultant in New York who first met Mr. Harrison in 1990, said the railroader was one of the industry’s revolutionaries – skilled at squeezing efficiencies out of a network of tracks, yards and customers that spanned thousands of kilometres.
Read more on the fantastic career of Hunter Harrison