Tidewater in 1907 -- N&W

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Sat May 17 19:36:35 EDT 2008

[This posting is out of chronological order with my other recent postings from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph because I had to go back to the microfilm to check some details in this article.]

Why Old Road Refused to Buy H. H. Rogers' New Line From Coal Fields to the Seaboard
Control of the Tidewater railway, which is being built by H. H. Rogers from the West Virginia coal fields to the seaboard at Norfolk was offered to the Norfolk and Western railway and refused by the management of the road, according to a story in a recent issue of the New York Times. From what was learned of the offer by the Times representative it was made shortly before the recent sale of the $10,000,000 of notes by the Tidewater Construction Company, which is to finance the completion of the road. It is understood, in fact, that the refusal of the Norfolk and Western to consider the purchase was the direct cause of this note issue, the announcement of which caused so much surprise in Wall street because of the high interest rate paid on the notes.
While Chairman Fink, of the Norfolk and Western, refused to discuss the offer of sale by the Tidewater railway, it has been admitted in authoritative quarters that such an offer had been refused by the Norfolk and Western. The offer was refused not only as a matter of policy adopted by the road itself, soon after Mr. Rogers made known that he would parallel the Norfolk and Western from the West Virginia coal fields to the seaboard, but also on account of the provisions of the newly adopted constitution of West Virginia supplementing the federal statutes prohibiting the acquisition of a parallel or competing line.
With the news of this offer by Mr. Rogers to sell to the Norfolk and Western the line which he has been building ostensibly to compete with that line and the Chesapeake and Ohio in the transportation of coal from West Virginia to the Atlantic, some interesting facts regarding the early stages of this enterprise were obtained.
Mr. Rogers, it is said, having acquired the large area of coal land which he now controls in the Kanawha and New River coal fields, opened negotiations with the Norfolk and Western for the transportation of this coal to tidewater. Those familiar with the negotiations said that Mr. Rogers wanted the coal carried at a rate of 3 mills per ton mile, or almost half a mill per ton mile less than the Norfolk and Western's present rate.
Mr. Rogers, it is said, was informed that his coal would be carried at the usual rate, but for no less. His rejoinder was, "I shall build a road of my own to carry the coal to tidewater."
The Norfolk and Western was thus confronted with a new competitor which Mr. Rogers promised to build with such low grades that he could afford to haul his coal more cheaply than would ever be possible on the Norfolk and Western. The Norfolk and Western, however, preferred to see the new line built than to carry coal at a loss, and Mr. Rogers went ahead with the construction of this road.
It is the present understanding that after four years, during at least two of which work on the new line had been done on a large scale, Mr. Rogers tired of his undertaking sufficiently to offer to sell the line. Upon what terms Mr. Rogers was willing to sell could not be learned. It is known, however, that representatives of the Norfolk and Western were much surprised at the news that Mr. Rogers had borrowed $10,000,000 to continue the construction of the line. The inference has been drawn in Norfolk and Western circles that Mr. Rogers would prefer to rid himself of the undertaking upon anything like reasonable terms.
Having refused Mr. Rogers' original proposition regarding the transportation of coal, the Norfolk and Western has consistently pursued the policy of leaving him to his own devices in the matter of this new coal line, believing that the Norfolk and Western had in the long run relatively little to fear as a result of his plan to have his coal carried to the seaboard for less than the Norfolk and Western was willing to take it for. In this attitude the Norfolk and Western was backed up by the Pennsylvania railroad whose late president, A. J. Cassett, is said to have taken the position that it would be better for the Norfolk and Western, in competition with the Tidewater railway, to carry coal even at 2 mills per ton mile than to yield to Mr. Rogers' proposal.
It is said that Mr. Rogers, who according to some of those who have followed the history of the Tidewater railway, undertook the enterprise out of pique, is now discovering that in an effort to get back at the Norfolk and Western he is forced, against his will, to spend more money than he had expected. The road is now not more than half built.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
March 5, 1907

[Is it true that in the later stages of construction of the Virginian "....Mr. Rogers tired of his undertaking...." and preferred "...to rid himself of the undertaking...?" If so, could that have been because of declining health? He died in May 1909 before completion of the Virginian in July of that year.]

Gordon Hamilton
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