Tom’s Raritan River Railroad Page
The Fight to Save the
Once upon a time there was a little short line railroad in
the heart of
The story begins, as we all know, in the late 60’s with the problems faced by the local railroads at the time.
The loss of major industries on the east coast
The almost complete loss of Coal as a commodity
The competition by trucks with the State and Federal funded interstate highway system
The duplicate and triplicate routes that redundantly connected all major cities on the east
The mandated movement of commuter and long distance passengers trains
The lack of efficient policy to abandon unprofitable routes
The lack of an ability to set and manage their own freight rates.
By 1973 the US Congress quickly came up with a plan to nationalize the bankrupt railroads, but the Associations of American Railroads proposed a much different plan for a government funded private company. President Nixon quickly signed the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 which basically created a bigger and more powerful version of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), named the United States Railway Association (USRA) to oversee the Bankrupt Railroads (PC, RDG, LV, L&HR, CNJ) and all their subsidiaries (PRSL, NY&LB, Allentown Terminal Railroad, etc, etc) and come up with a plan to consolidate them. That plan was eventually called the Final System Plan, and it was released in 1975.
The final system plan called for the government to create a private company consolidated from the bankrupt railroad companies. This Consolidated Railroad Company (Conrail) would be funded under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 signed by President Ford.
Even though the Raritan River Railroad was not bankrupt,
they were included in the Final System Plan anyway. The
With future revisions of the FSP, by late 1975 it was clear that Conrail was coming and they expected to assimilate the Raritan River Railroad. It was also clear that the Raritan River Railroad didn’t want to be a part of Conrail. They wanted to stay independent. They were not in financial distress, managed their line and their customers very well, and basically just wanted to be left alone.
In Late 1974 or early 1975, the USRA and Conrail came in and
commandeered all the financial records from the
Even the management of the little
The Final System Plan explained in great legal detail
exactly what was going to happen to the Raritan River Railroad’s lines. But surprisingly, the USRA’s
plan had left out a few major branches.
The day after Christmas, December 26, 1975, the Raritan River, acting quickly in their best interest, actually filed official motions to “Discontinue Service” on these lines that according to the Final System Plan, were not included in the merger. The day after Christmas, December 26, 1975, Bob Kipp was a very busy manager. He gathered the troops, and started writing letters. Lots of letters. He wrote letters to every customer on the line and the townships they served, and he explained that if Conrail took over, they were going to loose service since they were not in the FSP! Needless to say, the customers and local municipalities were very concerned! Bob wrote the Governor of New Jersey, the ICC, USRA, New Jersey Department of Transportation, even the US Congress was now going to get involved in The Fight to Save the Raritan!
In a separate reply back to Bob Kipp, the ICC even backed the RRRR for issuing these notices. The RRRR explained to all the customers that if Conrail comes in on April 1976, their branches would not be serviced by Conrail as per the FSP. Needless to say, the customers were outraged.
And well, it actually worked. Somehow, April 1, 1976 came and the Raritan
River Railroad was not included in Conrail!
The RRRR withdrew their “Discontinuation of Service” announcements. I believe that with every customer on the
line supporting their cause, with the omission of certain branch lines from the
FSP, and with a local independent management and board of directors, the
By 1978 though, it was clear that even if the
Conrail needed to find a way to consider the assimilation of the RRRR an “in-house” transfer. If Conrail could prove that this was basically just a management reorganization, “a limited transaction”, then they wouldn’t need the formal ICC review which was required, and then they could just assimilate them. I feel they were afraid of the ICC review, which, if it took the customers’ opinions into consideration, would basically back the RRRR.
So what was stopping them up to this point? I think it was an ownership issue. According to the public documentation
available, Conrail filed for the exemption in January of 1980, and it was
granted, for 90 days. It states as this was “just a merger within a corporate
family” because “Conrail controls the
So, it seems like sometime in April 1979, someone sold off their remaining stock to Conrail, allowing them to assume full ownership of the RRRR. Once Conrail had “full control”, they applied for the exemption, to eliminate the ICC review process and ignoring the complaints of the customers from allowing the merger to take place. And as we all know, the merger did take place in April of 1980.
So that seems to have been it. Someone owned stock that Conrail needed to assume full ownership. Once they had the stock, then they could merge. It took Conrail 3 years to get the stock, and another year to get the exemption passed to allow them to merge. That’s why the Raritan River Railroad didn’t merge with Conrail in 1976 like most of the other lines.
Who Owned that last piece of Stock?
But the story doesn’t end here. With a lot of research and document review, I believe I have found who had that last bit of remaining stock that Conrail so desperately needed to complete the merger.
Bob Kipp still lives in South Amboy on
Bob Kipp was the last Vice President and General Manager of
the Raritan River Railroad. Bob started
with the company as an accountant in 1956, and next year was voted as Treasurer
and Secretary of the company until 1965.
In that year Bob Kipp was offered the position of General Manager when
Harold T. Filskov decided to move to
In the end in 1980, Bob closed up the South Amboy office and the Parlin and Milltown stations, gave Conrail the keys, and took everything home that Conrail didn’t want.
Remember the RRRR Door Glass from South Amboy office; Bob had it in his basement for 25 years. Financial reports from the 1930’s, as well as tonnage reports from the last 50 years…all in Bob’s basement.
Bob Kipp had piles of documents that he saved from the RRRR. All in order, all saved, and all original. And in the pile of documents from 1979, in between the official coorespondence between the shippers and the USRA, was this little hand written note from April. The first time I read it, I didn’t know really what it meant. I didn’t understand the significance until I read how it all ended for the RRRR, that it was a stock issue.
In the collection of Bob Kipp (Last VP and General Manager of the RRRR 1956-1980) I discovered a hand written memo, written on a small blank paper, with the date of April 22, 1979. It says:
H Filskov says that Wachenfeld had called to say that HF‘s stock
would be purchased – 2 checks
See Fig.1 below.
Memo regarding H Filscov stock purchase
This document was in a sequential pile of papers from the 1979 time frame. To understand the memo, you now need to know who H Filskov and Wachenfeld were.
Richard B. Wachenfeld was from the
CNJ and was the President of the RRRR from 1968 to 1976. He was probably, more or less, still the
president of the RRRR until 1980, but technically from 1976-1980, D.A. Swanson
from Conrail is listed as President.
(According to Rails up the
H Filskov is harder to explain. The Filskov family had run the Raritan River Railroad from 1916 to 1965, when they passed management control to Bob Kipp 1965-1980.
Thorvald Filskov 1916-1939
Harold Filskov 1939-1960
Harold T. Filskov 1960-1965
Bob Kipp was the last VP and General Manager, getting control of
the Raritan after Harold T. Filskov left and went to
The HF in the memo could refer to either Harold, or his son,
Harold T. It is not clear, but very
believable, that after running the
If my path is correct, the Filskov family had the stock and sold it to Conrail in April of 1979, clearing the way for Conrail to get the exemption they needed, to assimilate the Raritan River Railroad. The end. That was all they needed.
And so the
Long Live the Memories of
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