N&W in 1911--Freight rates

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Sun Nov 7 20:54:47 EST 2010

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
April 15, 1911


The Bluefield Telegraph is kicking on a fifteen per cent less rate of freight from the middle west to Roanoke than to Bluefield, and expresses inability to grasp the fact that the road can afford to make a cheaper rate to Roanoke.
This is simple enough. It doesn't cost anything to haul a car from Bluefield to Roanoke. The car runs by gravity, and engines are hitched to Bluefield trains merely to maintain a schedule. As the cars must come here for repairs, the company estimates that it saves an amount equal to the 15 per cent reduction to bring them here, and gives the shippers the benefit. That is the advantage of living at the bottom of the hill instead of on the top.--Roanoke World.

The fine sarcasm of the World in the above remarks is somewhat marred by the qualification that the cars are taken to Roanoke for repair. If it did not intend to be sarcastic it made a very poor argument, and its deductions about the down hill pull are not sound, for a car of sardines can be shipped from Eastport, Me., to Lynchburg, re-shipped in less than car load lots, and can be put down in Tazewell, Va., cheaper than they can be shipped from Bluefield, and cheaper than even Roanoke can put them down at Tazewell. Now, it must be remembered that Lynchburg, Roanoke and Bluefield ship those cars uphill over the Norfolk and Western through Bluefield to Tip Top, Va., the highest point on the Norfolk and Western, and from there they run down hill to Tazewell, as Tazewell is considerably lower in altitude than Tip Top, which is some two hundred feet higher than Bluefield, and still higher than Graham, Va., through which town the cars pass en route to Tip Top and Tazewell. So the hill position is not a rule that works both ways and is not a basis to consider in the making of freight rates.
Then again, before the present editor of the World took his enviable seat Roanoke lived on a freight rate hill and lived there for years until one day a few of Roanoke's leading merchants went to the Chesapeake and Ohio with a proposition which was that the Chesapeake and Ohio could have the biggest part of Roanoke's business if that road would give Roanoke a better freight rate. The result was that the Chesapeake and Ohio, though it does not enter the Magic City, made a new rate to Roanoke and shipped over the Norfolk and Western from Lynchburg, rebating to the Roanoke merchants the difference between the new rate, which was secret in those days, and the Norfolk and Western rate.
It was then that the Norfolk and Western cut down Roanoke's , metaphorical hill and quoted a rate to compete with the rate the Chesapeake and Ohio had made, with the result that Roanoke today has a fifteen per cent better freight rate than Bluefield has, and in some cases much more of an advantage.
Bluefield is closely watching the fight between the New York Central and the Pennsylvania and when the time comes, if Bluefield loses its suit, it may be that Bluefield freight will come via the New York Central, the Virginian and the Norfolk and Western even with the same freight rate.
Gordon Hamilton
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