This is the movie commissioned by the Penn Central Railroad bankruptcy trustees to try to convince members of Congress that the railroad desperately needed a cash infusion or some other federal intervention if the railroad were to survive.
Think of it as the social media of its day, a corporate movie commissioned as a way of educating elected officials who had little time or inclination to actually visit the railroad to find out what was going on.
In fairness, there are some anecdotes I’ve heard about the making of this movie, including the fact that some of the really bad conditions just wouldn’t cooperate with the filmmakers. So instead of showing actual “standing derailments” (derailments caused by crossties so rotted that the rails just spread apart under the weight of the freight cars), they actually had to stage some of them.
There is a scene of a car derailing as it moves down the “hump” track in a classification yard, and I’m told it took more than one take to get it to derail.
Despite these moviemaker tricks, the facts were pretty bleak for Penn Central.
And the movie did help convince Congress to do the only right thing.
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Take control of the company and the other bankrupt railroads, and make something new. Conrail. And considering what the car companies are asking for as an INTERIM solution for just the next three months ($15 billion), Conrail was a bargain at $7.6 billion — all in.
That’s pretty much where the auto industry should be headed. Even as I was preparing this blog entry, I came across the daily agenda in the previous entry showing that GMAC is still taking folks out for expensive breakfast meetings, even as its owners go begging the taxpayers for a handout.
Enough bailout money, we need to nationalize these turkeys and impose a Conrail style solution once again.