Watch Your Language: C&NC Railroad
“Rail Cars Have Towns Singing Freight-Train Blues” blares the headline in The Wall Street Journal, Monday, February 23, 2009 (page 1, jumps to A12). It seems that, with the huge slowdown in the economy, there’s also a slowdown in the need for rail cars. Most railroads have few places to store extra cars except on sidings spread all across America, for example, the small town of New Castle, Indiana. The train tracks often run within 25 feet of homes. Now those tracks are filled with empty, seemingly abandoned rail cars and the neighbors aren’t happy.
What C&NC said:
The WSJ contacted Spencer Wendelin, an executive with C&NC Railroad, who, according to the news article, has “little sympathy for the angry residents.” “The railroad, I’ll guarantee you, was there a long time before they bought their houses,” he [Wendelin] says.
The WSJ notes that “some folks have begun to worry that some of the rail cars appear to be listing and might tip over.” To which, according to The WSJ, Mr. Wendelin dismissed the fears as “completely unfounded concerns, based on both history and physics.”
Pressed for some kind of answer about the cars, which were becoming targets for vandals and roaming children and adults, and upon being asked when the cars were to be moved, Mr. Wendelin was quoted as saying, “If you can tell me when the economy is going to turn around, then I can give you an answer to that question.”
It appears to be no more Mr. Nice Guy for the town of New Castle, Indiana.
What C&NC meant:
Up yours . . . New Castle, bird to follow. Can’t you see that we’ve got problems? We were here first. You knew what you were doing when you put your house next to the railroad track.
We’ll move these cars some place else when we can. In fact, now that you’ve griped publicly, you can bet that we’ll clear out Ponsford, Minnesota before we’ll clear out New Castle, Indiana.
What C&NC should have said:
First, let me apologize on behalf of C&NC Railroad for inconveniencing those along our rights of way, where these surplus rail cars are now being temporarily stored. Clearly, we would much rather have the cars in service, moving goods and products to markets across America.
We have established a toll free telephone number, 1-555-SO-SORRY (1-555-767-6779), for residents in the various towns where cars are currently stored to contact us regarding excessive graffiti and cars that may appear to be leaning or becoming unstable. We have several teams of inspectors who will go to those sites, assess the situation, and meet with home owners to explain what actions, if any, can be taken, or what may actually be transpiring.
This railroad has had these tracks in place for seven decades, well before any of the houses that currently lie along them were built. We recognize that we are interfering with what used to be the normal lives of our neighbors and we’ll do what we can, under the circumstances, to alleviate their concerns. The reality, though, is that, in fact, these cars must be stored somewhere and mostly in places like New Castle and other smaller towns. We know this is a difficult request to respond to, but we are asking every community along our lines to bear with us as we move through the economic dislocation we and all of America are now experiencing.
You can believe me when I tell you that our number one goal is to get those cars filled with merchandise, products, produce, livestock, or manufactured goods, and get them on the move to future customers. Perhaps, on this, we can all agree.