Presidents Day - Teddy Roosevelt an ATSF Man?

On this Presidents Day (a.k.a. President's Day, Presidents' Day, or Washington's Birthday), CSR reflects on the work of so many great presidents in American history. In terms of conservation, Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt is nearly unmatched. A rugged outdoorsman and bold leader, Roosevelt worked diligently during his years in office (1901-1909) to set aside lands for conservation. All told, Roosevelt set aside 230 million acres (930,000 square kilometers) into conservation spaces. This included formation of 5 national parks, 18 national monuments and 150 national forests.

What, then, of this image of T.R. on the fireman's side of an ATSF steam locomotive?

During 1903, Roosevelt went on a multi-state, multi-month whistle stop tour, traveling through many western states, including Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, California and Nebraska. The multi-month journey employed trains on many rail lines, including the Union Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific Railroad and, as evidenced through this picture, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.

This image depicts Roosevelt in Redlands, California, sometime around May 1903, in the cab of an ATSF steam locomotive with a crew member behind him. The locomotive is most likely an early 4-6-0 type steam locomotive built with Vauclain Compound pistons.

Roosevelt was quite popular with train crews, having been inducted as an Honorary Member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman in November 1902. That said, it is certain that railroad management had a different view of the President, as one of his lasting legacies upon the industry was strengthening the ability of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate tariffs the railroads could set.

This was achieved through the Hepburn Act of 1906, which gave the ICC right to set maximum railroad rates, among other items. Not only applicable to the railroads, it had jurisdiction over bridges, ferries, sleeping cars, express companies (e.g. Railway Express Agency), oil pipelines and shared terminals. In the end, the Hepburn Act, and predecessor Elkins Act of 1903, may be the most important legislative actions the railroads faced in the first 50 years of the 20th Century, and both were championed by Roosevelt. This regulation too may have contributed somewhat to the increased and unregulated growth in the trucking industry, something which took off post Second World War.

It was this trucking competition and overbearing regulation which contributed significantly to the downfall of freight railroads, but following passage of the Staggers Act in 1980, which effectively "deregulating" freight railroads, the industry has never done better.