THE PROGRESS OF THE ORIENT ROAD
A few months after the Guardian Trust Company receivership, I went to London to see some friends who had been interested with me in the Southern road, D. J. Neame, J. C. Taylor and Lewis Rendall, men without whose aid I fear my task would have been hopeless. Mr. Neame and Mr. Rendall were the foundation of our English Finance Committee; and Mr. Taylor, a most competent man, became secretary. I spent six months in England forming the London Finance Committee and the Voting Trust, and before I returned to the United States I had interested with me every man in England, except two, who were interested with me in the Southern road. Never had any man better men back of him, all high-minded and honorable. My great desire was to bring honor to them and their name. How I struggled for the goal in anticipation of their "Well done, faithful servant!"
Had I worked for England and her colonies as I have for my country, honor and respect would have been my inheritance, and as I see the honor and co-operation my countrymen have received in Canada in developing that part of the British Empire, I wish that when I lost the Kansas City Southern I had at once gone to Canada and helped in its development and thus saved these financial cannibals from committing such crimes. Englishmen would never destroy a solvent trust company, with its hundreds of stockholders, for the sake of smashing one man. It is difficult for anyone outside of this system to understand how or why men will destroy solvent banks in a panic, as Untermeyer says they do. When the Barings failed, England put them on their feet and left them with their name still honored.
When in England the effort was made by New York bankers and a number of my friends to prevent my English friends from joining me in this new road, Mr. Walter Chinnery, a man of great influence, accepted the vice-chairmanship of the Finance Committee. This was an inestimable help to our company. Both Mr. Walter and Mr. Harry Chinnery have been of great help in overcoming this New York bombardment, and words cannot express my gratitude for Mr. J. S. Braithwaite's work since he left this firm. At the same time I wish to express my regret that these "respectable scoundrels" have been the means of bringing to these good people such hours of worry over this enterprise.
In 1902 the work of grading was under way in Oklahoma, and the townsites of Carman and Fairview opened. The lot sales in both places were a great success.
The first rail was laid east of Chihuahua, Mexico, March 20, 1902. This was the banner year for the road.
In other countries people do not look on matters the same as they do in the United States. Here we have for years seen rich men slug anyone they wish and take any enterprise they covet. Then to cover their misdeeds, they have the impression given out by their willing tools that their victim was a poor business man anyway, and could not succeed. Yes, a poor business man! How good a farmer would you be if every day when you were cultivating corn you had one or two Indians endeavor to take you from plow and scalp you? Would you be a good farmer? Could you succeed in cultivating corn and at the same time guard your scalp?
Notwithstanding any obituary notices sent out by these cannibals of finance, my business judgment was limited to the hours between the attacks of this battery of evil.
Take the court record of the tobacco and oil trusts. Think of the hundreds of our good American business men ruined. Take the record of the bloody trail of this business juggernaut car, a list of the crushed, with no way for them or their families ever to regain one cent they have been robbed of. Were they to go to court, before the could win a verdict for the losses caused by these unfair business methods, this system would drag out the trial for years and cost them, as in the Guardian case, more than their original loss.
After Mr. Dickinson came with us, we solved the problem of
building the line over the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, and graded and finished this section. We extended the track from
Wichita to near Fort Stockton. We built east of Chihuahua eighty-one miles. We built in from
Topolabampo eighty-one miles. Cities sprang up rapidly. The population of Sweetwater and San Angelo doubled and trebled. When the road went into receivership, it was at least sixty per cent to seventy per cent finished. The last two years we had grown very tired of the opposition. We had also suffered from crop failures for three years. The new territory and towns we had started, in place of increasing, decreased. The
drought in 1910 was the greatest in twenty-five years. Had the crops been as good as they promised to be this year, our history would have been very different.
What a wonderful people we should be, and what a wonderful nation we should be, if we were more kindly; if we understood that the success of one is the success of all; if in place of opposition of men who try to build up our nation, we had a few kindly acts and encouraging words!
It is needless for me to say to my stockholders and friends that there is probably nothing in this world that would give me greater pleasure than to finish the railroad into Kansas City, and connect to the Pacific, giving to the four thousand person interested in our road the profits that are sure to come with the completion of the enterprise. To have been able to finish the railroad to the boundary of Texas, to have built there the great industrial city which I am sure could have been built, to bring this great blessing to the people of western Texas and the state of Texas, certainly would have been to me almost compensation enough for the designing and building of this railroad. But, my good friends in Texas, I did my level best, and I know you all believe it. The financial interests in New York decided that Stilwell and Dickinson must be defeated and they have done all in their power to see that this was done. You were entitled to my work. I love your great state, and I much regret you should have been deprived of the help of these two men, who so much enjoyed working for Texas. The seeming government is Washington, but the real government is Wall Street. And you people of this great state, until matters change, are powerless to have any railroad built in Texas unless these men of Wall Street consent to allow it.
Before I finish my chapter, I was to picture to my readers the Orient road as I see it:
The Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railroad is one of the greatest enterprises of today; it opens an empire of wealth; it opens one of the treasure houses of the world in the mines of Mexico. It will build a port that will rival any on the Pacific coast; it shortens the line across the continent; it makes a great short-cut to the west coast of Mexico, Central and South America. On the line of this road, when finished, there will be three smelting centers---the smelters now at Chihuahua, smelters at the border and a smelter at the coast. The lumber of the Sierra Madre Mountains will find a market as far north as northern Oklahoma. It will supply all the ties for western Texas. Along the line of the finished road will be great plants treating the ore from the dump heaps placed there in the years of long ago; along the road will be two or three cities which will equal Cripple Creek as mining centers.
The port of Topolampo will be one of the great cities of the Pacific; it will have its line of steamers to the Orient, Central, Central and South America, New Zealand and Australia. The early vegetables oranges, etc., which are one month earlier than those in California, will come in train loads to Chicago and eastern markets, and the one hundred miles of the Fertie River Valley, as rich as the valley of the Nile, will contribute great earnings to the road. The hundreds of thousands of acres of level land east of Chihuahua will be irrigated, and the cultivation of sugar beets and cotton furnish northern Mexico with all these products it can use.
The connections at Del Rio for the City of Mexico, at Chihuahua with the Mexican Central and the Mexican Northwestern, and the connections with the Southern Pacific of Mexico on the west coast, put the Orient into direct connection with all the important roads of northern Mexico. Its valuable conract for fixed minimum rates for ninety-nine years in Mexico, its freedom from snow and its low cost of operation on the six hundred miles in Mexico, give the road great strength. I am convinced that the road will, in two years after it is completed, if completed by people who wish to develop it, earn gross, eighty-five hundred dollars per mile, making net between five million and six million dollars per year. Within five years its earnings will be at least twelve thousand dollars per mile and its net earnings nearly ten million dollars per annum. (There are any number of van den Bergs who will deride this, but if I happen to be president of the Orient, this is what the earnings will be.)
The future of the Orient road as a money-maker can be fairly estimated, but its blessings, when finished, to the territory it serves, cannot be measured in dollars, The wisdom of the idea has been passed on by some of the greatest minds of the railroad and financial world and by all the leading men of Mexico. Its wonderful strength when finished is its weakness, as it is so revolutionary in transportation possibilities that is has antagonized the billions invested in other roads. So there have been erected for its officers great hurdles to jump. Nature has combined with them in three crop failures; and panic and insurrections have added to the difficulties; and, yet, in the face of these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, nine hundred miles were constructed and over two hundred miles of grade were finished. And had not the banking interests old New York prevented the placing of the five million dollars of bonds in France, and had not the trouble in Mexico prevented further sales of bonds, there would have been no receivership and the officers could have finished the road. None of these conditions can be laid at our door; we honestly did the best in our power and achieved wonderful results in the face of conditions that would have caused others to give up long ago.
I leave the Orient road, if it is my destiny, having done all in my power day by day. All the promotion bonds paid me by my contract I have used for the good of the road in hundreds of ways, as well as part of my salary. In addition, I have used thousands and thousands of dollars of my income from commissions paid me in lieu of salary from the Trust Company. I did wish to win in this fight; I did wish to gain fair compensation for my work. For such great work a man is entitled to have enough to retire on in comfort in the twilight of life. But I used all I received from the Orient outside of my living expenses in endeavoring to the best of my ability to save the enterprise. In the panic of 1907, I three times saved the road, during sixty days, and this cost me over eighty thousand dollars personally. I did not and do not begrudge it. I am sure that Mr. Dickinson all around me in those dark days will bear testimony that I left no stone unturned and that no one could have done more to save the investors of the Orient road.