Letter: Federal Barge Lines
As a former employee of Federal Barge Lines (FBL) from 1972–1979, I very much enjoyed the article by Dan Hubbell in the December 17 issue titled “Federal Barge Lines Helped Spawn Modern River Industry,” whereby he chronicled the history of the company from when it was formed in 1918 and owned by the federal government.
I especially enjoyed the part where Mr. Hubbell describes how many of the railroads back then strongly objected to government-owned barge service in the 1930s onward. While some railroads eventually relaxed their views on this, that general negative and competitive feeling toward barge lines persisted for many years—even long after FBL was sold in 1953 to the private interests of Herman T. Pott and St. Louis Shipbuilding & Steel Company.
The president of FBL in the 1970s was Peter Fanchi. Mr. Fanchi strongly believed that there would be a multiple benefit for shippers and barge and rail carriers alike in establishing joint water-rail rates on certain moves. In fact, in 1974, Mr. Fanchi appeared on a segment of the CBS television show “60 Minutes” with the president of the St. Louis based Frisco Railroad, Richard Grayson, to debate the issue. However, to my knowledge, nothing ever happened after that with regard to barge lines and railroads working together.
That concept is still worth exploring today—especially as the container-on-barge service continues to grow.
Stephen K. Rauch
St. Louis, Mo.