During the 1980s, three major events—a change in focus, deregulation, and a merger with Frisco Railroad—boosted Burlington Northern’s railway earnings and radically transformed the work of departments and specialties.
First, company officials realigned corporate objectives to focus on increasing investment in resource development, a move they made to improve earnings from BN’s vast holdings in timber, oil, gas, and underdeveloped land and minerals. At the same time, deregulation allowed them to restructure work rules governing operating and maintenance employees. Finally, uniting with Frisco Railroad initiated a major leadership change and introduced new standards, work methods, and technology that greatly reduced the size of the work force. Further restructuring and increased investment in non-rail businesses, as well as the shift of resource units to shareholders that resulted from those actions, left BN’s railroad company as an independent unit.
This, the second book in a two-volume series, evaluates the initiatives and strategies the company employed to reach the ambitious goals it set in the early 1980s, and examines the profound cost of their departure from BN’s founding culture, character, and values.
Earl J. Currie spent forty years in line management of operations and maintenance in the rail industry, including as BN’s Senior Vice President–Maintenance and Transportation.